Thursday, December 12, 2013

They're Baaaa-aaack!!!

November 13 - 30, 2013
Clarke's Court Bay, Grenada

Woo hoo! Deana and Troy have finally come back to us! Okay, so they've REALLY come back to their beloved home on the water, Storyville. Still, having last seen them in St. Martin eight months ago, we've been suffering from some major separation anxiety! We hopped into a taxi with Dave and Lisa to play "welcome wagon" for Deana and Troy as they got off the plane, and Lisa even thought to bring a cooler with a few cold Stag beers for them. (She's such a great hostess!) We shared big hugs and a few tears as we finally got to welcome our friends to Grenada, and it took Miss Luna all of two minutes to remember us and give us slobbery kisses. Deana and Troy had some serious work ahead to get Storyville back into cruising shape after being closed up on a mooring ball for so long, but they managed to get over to our neighborhood just in time for the Thanksgiving festivities.

Before celebrating Turkey Day, however, we had a more "local" offering to celebrate: RUM! We attended the 4th Annual Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival, which was held on the 22nd & 23rd of November in Grand Anse. The festival showcased beers and rums from all over the Caribbean and included beverage tastings, cooking-with-rum demonstrations/tastings, recipes, cocktail-making contests, a steel pan band, and a live Soca band to round out the evening.
We apparently missed the beer tasting on Friday, but thoroughly enjoyed the rum and food sampling on Saturday afternoon. We had an opportunity to try rums from Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, Dominica, Jamaica, Suriname, and the US, and were hard-pressed to choose a favorite. We had such a fantastic time that we ended up closing down the festival. Our taxi driver seemed a bit impatient, but we sure had fun. Who knows? We may have to stick around for next year's festival! Interested? Save the dates: November 21st & 22nd, 2014.

As if November hadn't been a crazy month already, we still had American Thanksgiving to celebrate. (Why "American" Thanksgiving? Because both Grenadian and Canadian Thanksgivings were celebrated here in October.) Clarke's Court Bay Marina hosted a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner, transforming our normally-casual cruiser bar into a lovely spot with tablecloths, candles, and floral centerpieces. They provided turkeys, stuffing, and gravy for a small fee, and 60-70 cruisers brought mouth-watering salads, veggies, breads, starches, and desserts to share. We were full to bursting by 3pm, and couldn't think of eating another bite till the next morning. One thing's for sure: we cruisers can cook!

Our second Thanksgiving feast was held the following Saturday, when we made a huge turkey and ham dinner - complete with 16 sides and desserts - for our Grenadian family.
Eslyn graciously offered her home and downstairs apartment, where we filled two ovens and half a dozen stovetops with turkeys, crescent rolls, soups, veggies, and casseroles for four solid hours. We began serving around 6pm, and the get-together lasted well into the night. Troy even brought out his guitar to entertain the last of the group, and we ended up spending the night at Eslyn's. We had some serious clean-up to do... :-)

December is shaping up to be yet another busy month, with concerts, island tours, hashes, Christmas and New Year's celebrations, and get-togethers we don't even know about yet. Rumor has it the family is planning another oildown on the beach, and Lisa is organizing a movie and ice cream day out with the kids once they're out of school. We'll definitely stay in Grenada through New Year's, and will begin slowly moving north at our first weather window in January. Til next time...

Thanks again to Lisa & Deana for sharing their pictures with us!

Please enjoy more photos here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grenada: Putting the "TIRED" in RETIRED!

November 1 - 12, 2013
Clarke's Court Bay, Grenada
Yes, we know...we've used the "[insert beautiful island here] puts the TIRED in RETIRED" line before, but sometimes we get a little reminder than we're not in our 20s anymore. Between island tours, happy hours, nights out with the family, hashes, potlucks, dominoes tournaments (don't laugh - Mexican Train is a blast!), and marathon shopping buses, we sometimes feel like we're burning the proverbial candle at both ends.
We thought that maybe life would quiet down as nearby anchorages emptied out. (Even though hurricane season officially lasts until November 30th, a quiet 2013 in the southeastern Caribbean meant that many cruisers began leaving Grenada in late October and early November.) Silly us - we should've known better!

November had barely begun when we hosted a going-away Mexican night for Island Dream aboard Pipe Muh Bligh. Pat and Darnell were anxious to see Trinidad & Tobago before heading back north, and we couldn't let them leave without a real send-off. We hadn't done a Mexican potluck in quite awhile, and Darnell had the brilliant idea to re-start the tradition. We had a dozen people on the boat, complete with Ke 'Ola Kai, Island Dream, Bad Kitty, Blues Breaker, and Graunya. Besides our usual dishes of enchiladas, Mexican cornbread, guacamole, and such, Vee from Blues Breaker upped the ante with yummy margaritas...complete with massive fishbowl-type margarita glasses! All of the food was fantastic as always, and we found a few new recipes that will definitely make a re-appearance.

The next day, Clarke's Court Bay Marina hosted the 2nd Annual Junior Regatta.  Lisa, Gary, and Stacy volunteered to be on the race committee, so we got to watch these talented youngsters race from the perfect vantage point of the committee boat.
Gary kept time on our Mickey Mouse look-alike "official" clock, while Lisa and Stacy played scribes. Local kids, ages 6-17, raced in Lasers and Mosquitoes (similar to Optimists), and there was even a "Big Men (& Women) in Little Boats" race for the cruisers. From what we heard, the cruisers had a whole new appreciation for the kids in the boats; they were a lot harder to sail than anyone imagined!

We had an absolute ball the following week at our first-ever dinghy concert, held on a barge near Le Fare Bleu Marina. The band was made up of local Grenadians plus a Swiss singer, and they kept the party going until the rain shut us down just before sunset. We managed to get there early enough to get a front row seat (or tie-up, as it was), and we loved watching the concert up close and personal. There's supposed to be another one in this rate, we may still be in Grenada for it!

The next weekend, we attended Papa Steve's 88th birthday party.  How much do we LOVE this family? We finally had the opportunity to meet the last of Teresa and Steve's children, their daughter, Eastlyn. She, along with her husband, Dean, and son, Marcus, came up from Trinidad to help celebrate Papa Steve's birthday. We can only imagine how much it meant to Steve & Teresa to have all six children together again, and we were honored to be invited to such a special "family-only" event.

If there's one thing we've learned about Grenadian traditions, it's this: one night of celebration is NEVER enough! With that in mind, we joined the rest of the family the following morning for a cookout and pool party at Kenny and Lisa's lovely home. Kenny, Lisa, and their son, JJ, live on a hillside with gorgeous views of the valley and Egmont harbor, and we felt absolutely spoiled by their kindness.
After stuffing ourselves silly with chicken, hot dogs, burgers, kabobs, and salads, we hopped in the pool for a cool-down. We weren't sure who had more fun - us or the kids!

We also had a chance to spend more time with Eastlyn and Dean, along with Richard and Jonelle, when they came aboard Ke 'Ola Kai and Pipe Muh Bligh for happy hour and dinner a few days before their departure. We had a great time showing them the boats, and had a cockpit party to introduce them to the "real" cruiser lifestyle.
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Eastlyn, Dean, and Marcus a few days later when they returned to Trinidad...but not before another going-away party at Grandma Theresa's and Papa Steve's, of course! It may be awhile before we get to see them again, but we love knowing we'll have family to visit once we head south.

It's hard to believe we've had such a busy month already, and yet November isn't even half over. The next two weeks have even more fun in store, with the return of Deana and Troy on Storyville, a Caribbean rum festival, our 7th wedding anniversary, and TWO Thanksgiving celebrations.  'Til next time!

Please enjoy more pictures here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

Clarke's Court  Bay, Grenada
October 1 - October 31, 2013

Can someone PLEASE tell us how three months have gone by since we first arrived in Grenada? We started off the month of October with a great story from some friends of ours who hadn't realized that their visitor's visa had expired. Oops! They threw themselves on the mercy of the Grenada Customs and Immigration folks, and after a few closed-door sessions (and a bit of sweating on our friends' parts), were given another extension. Hmmm... maybe it was time for us to check our own visas. Whoa! We arrived in Carriacou (officially part of Grenada) on July 8th, and our visas were set to expire on October 8th. Fortunately, we noticed this around the 4th, and were able to get renewed in the nick of time.

With the official stuff done, it was time to get back into fun mode. We'd initially anchored in Prickly Bay after returning from the Carriacou hash to take care of a few boat projects (not to mention that pesky immigration thing). We had a serious incentive, however, to get back to our friends in Sago Cove in a hurry: Pat and Darnell on Island Dream had invited Three Belles and us to a lamb roast. Yummy! The only catch? Pat and Darnell were in the midst of varnishing, and asked if we could host dinner aboard Pipe Muh Bligh. Talk about a no-brainer!  We enjoyed a fantastic night with Pat, Darnell, Carl, and Riva, and managed to have way too much food as usual. Thanks again, all!

Wouldn't you know, Pat and Darnell's varnish work got us looking at our own boat. (Damn you, Pat!) Our nav table was looking dreary, and our companionway stairs were down to bare wood. We were also planning on taking our Grenadian family up to Carriacou at the end of the month, which meant we had to start varnishing soon if we wanted to get ten coats (yes, TEN) on the staircase in time for boat guests. Three Belles loaned us a heat gun that took the old varnish off like a potato peeler, but Stacy also managed to add a few "leopard" (read: "burned") spots in the processs. Oh, well...we decided to go for the six-foot rule. (You know, as long as it looks okay from six feet...)  Our social calendar seemed to crank up around the same time, so there were quite a few mornings where we got up at oh-dark-hundred to get a coat of varnish on before leaving the boat. (I know, I know - queue the violins.) Twelve days later, we finally had ten coats on our stairs and seven coats on our nav table. If you have to question the math, you've never varnished before. :-) 

Sometime around Day 4 of varnishing hell, we rented a car with Island Dream to explore the island. What a blast! Rasta-mon Donald picked us up in our SUV for the short drive to the police station, where Pat got his official Grenada driver's license (mandatory if you rent a car here). From there, we headed up Grenada's west coast to Concord Falls. Located just south of Goyave, Concord Falls offers visitors an easy Kodak moment if you're in a hurry. For the more adventurous, there's a two-hour hike to the upper falls. We chose to admire the lower falls alongside the road before continuing on to tour stop #2, the Nutmeg Processing Station in Goyave.

Goyave's Nutmeg Station processed over 3 million pounds of nutmeg before Hurricane Ivan decimated Grenada's nutmeg trees in 2004. Today, the output is back up to about 1.5 million and growing as new trees reach maturity. Our tour guide took us through the facility, past drying bins and sorting stations. The smell was heavenly, and we enjoyed a bit of history going through the 75-year-old building. If you want to read more about the harvesting process, click here.

After a quick lunch stop in Grenville, we headed north to Belmont Estate, a 17th century plantation that is now a 400-acre organic farm and an extension of the Grenada Chocolate Factory. We've been told that tours of the original GCF site must now be organzied through a local tour company, but Belmont Estate offers an outstanding alternative. Our guide showed us the fermentation room, where we watched farmers delivering harvested cocoa beans and saw "wet" beans fermenting under a layer of banana leaves.
From there, we walked through the drying room and then on to a small grove of cocoa and cinnamon trees. We ended the tour in a small museum, where we saw a video of the chocolate-making process (still done in the old Grenada Chocolate Factory building) and enjoyed a sample of cocoa tea and the chocolate itself. The Belmont Plantation was a lovely stop to learn more about the harvesting and drying of cocoa beans; maybe next time we'll hire a local tour guide to see the other half of the chocolate-making process.

Our last stop was Rivers Rum Distillery on the north side of the island. Opened in 1785, Rivers is the oldest functioning distillery in the Caribbean. Even today, Rivers rum is produced using the original water wheel brought to Grenada from London over 200 years ago. Sugar cane is crushed via rollers powered by the wheel, and the cane remnants are dried and used as both a heat source to fire the stills, and as fertilizer for the cane fields.
The juice travels through pipes, where it will be boiled, fermented, and distilled, all of which is still done using original 200-plus year-old equipment.  Be warned, though: Rivers rum is not for the faint of heart! Rivers rum is 75% alcohol, or 150 proof. Anything less than that gets distilled again until it reaches an "acceptable" level. You also won't find Rivers anywhere but Grenada; they don't export it because they can barely keep up with local demand! We've heard people swear that Rivers' purity means no hangover in the morning. Neither of us can get past the taste, so we guess we'll have to take their word for it. For more info on the distillery's history and operation, click here.

Of course, we also managed to spend some quality time with our Grenadian family. Darnell treated everyone to real Louisiana gumbo (let the good times roll!) at one of our beach get-togethers, and we even got to eat it out of our very own callabash bowls. Thanks to David and Richard for making them for us!
The next afternoon, the family came out to see Ke 'Ola Kai and Island Dream, ending with a day of fun, food, and swimming on Pipe Muh Bligh. We set a new record for ourselves: 20 people aboard Pipe! The kids and grown-ups alike had a great time in the water, and Kathleen and Rory even managed to get some kayaking in before the sun went down.

The only disappointment was that we didn't get to take the family up to Carriacou as we had planned. Mother Nature decided to disrupt our plans with four days of heavy wind, rain, and seas - not the conditions you want when you're introducing people to sailing. Hopefully we'll have another chance to go before we head north again. If not, we know we'll be back here next summer! Til next time...

Feel free to enjoy more pictures here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We Are One Fam-i-leeeeeeee!!!

Grenada & Carriacou
September 1-30, 2013

If there's one thing that cruising has taught us, it's that our cruising family is every bit as important, supportive, loving, and loved as our blood relatives back home. We spend as much time together as we did with friends and co-workers combined in our previous lives; and in addition to emotional support, we count on each other for everything from security to boat parts to mechanical advice to recipe ideas to ice cubes for a happy hour drink (love you, Island Dream!). We've had the good fortune to travel with our current cruising family for (depending on the boat) six months to two-plus years now, and we love them all. Admittedly, it's been less common for us to get as close to a local family in our travels, mainly because a) we don't stay in one place for more than a few days or weeks, and b) we tend to frequent places that offer free wi-fi.

Grenada has become the exception to the rule. We've been adopted by a local family who treats us as their own. We met two brothers, Richard and David, at the "King of the Grill" BBQ contest, where they generously invited us to join them at their weekly family get-together the next day. We arrived at a local beach not far from our anchorage, and found ourselves surrounded by four generations of family members, plus various friends and extended family.
We must've met 30 people that day, and we struggled to remember names, who was married to whom, who was related to whom, and the like. A huge pot was set up on a wood fire, and we were told that lunch would be fish broth. Now before you start envisioning some watery bouillon-type of dish, you should know that "fish broth" is more of a stew. It typically includes carrots, onions, potatoes, hot peppers, seasonings, whatever fish are available - some whole, some cut up, and always including fish heads for flavor! - and of course, dumplings.
Grenadian dumplings are much drier and firmer than their American counterparts; they're supposed to "pop" when you bite down on them. Richard and David's uncle, Rubin, and his brother-in-law, Dog, showed me how to make the dumplings, rolling the dough between our hands into finger-sized sections before tossing them into the pot. "Next week, YOU make the dumplings!"

We joined them again the following Friday at Rubin's restaurant, where his wife, Virginia, and sister, Nester, were busy cooking barbecued chicken, pork, and fish, along with yummy fried "bakes". Most of the family members that we'd met the previous Sunday were hanging out at Rubin's, and we all agreed to spend Sunday with them again...this time, for Grenada's "national dish", an oildown. Oildowns are a bit trickier than fish broth, since the coconut milk that forms the base must cook down until there's almost nothing left.
We got to the beach around 9:30 Sunday morning, and began cutting up the vegetables that would go into the pot: breadfruit, carrots, seasoning peppers, potatoes, callaloo, and more. Coconut flesh had been shredded ahead of time, and was soaked in water and strained to make fresh coconut milk (no cans here!). For the meat, Rubin added a bucket of pre-seasoned chicken, turkey, and pig parts - feet, tails, name it.
Curry and turmeric were added for seasoning, and everything was loaded into the pot. (I even got to make the dumplings, although Rubin added the water so I woudn't end up with a sloppy mess.) Once the coconut milk boiled down, the oildown resembled Grenada's national flag: the yellow of the curry, the orange of the carrots, and the green from the callaloo. And the taste...heavenly!

The next weekend, we invited a few of the family members aboard Ke 'Ola Kai and Pipe Muh Bligh for a happy hour/boat tour. Grandma Teresa, the family matriarch and long-time teacher of great cooking, sent the family to us with a huge batch of homemade ginger-curry-pumpkin soup. Thank you, Teresa! Between the soup, our appetizers, and the chicken wings Rubin brought for us to grill, we had plenty of usual. We had a terrific time hanging out with Dave, Darnell, Nester, Rubin, David, Richard, Popo, and Dog, but later learned that we'd made some other family members jealous. They wanted to come see the boats, too!

After having been fed fabulous local dishes for two weeks, we decided it was time for us to feed the family for a change...or so we thought! We'd agreed to do an American-style barbecue on Sunday, but first Rubin and his family invited us to have breakfast at his house that morning. Virginia and Nester had also agreed to teach me how to cook some local dishes, so we met Richard at the dock at 8am for the short drive to Rubin's. We walked into Virginia's kitchen to some amazing smells, along with towel-covered bowls on every available surface.
There were bowls of dough ready for shaping into coconut bakes, batter for fish cakes, coucou batter (Caribbean polenta) ready for frying, flaky fish souse (made of saltfish, onions, and seasonings), and pots of cocoa tea (think "hot chocolate on steroids"). We kneaded, fried, and strained to our hearts' content, and joined the rest of the family for the feast on the front porch. How were we ever going to eat again at the beach that afternoon??  Well, we had to - we had MEAT to cook!

As for that barbecue... Back in California, Lisa's family was famous for grilling meat on pitchforks. After a bit of a hiccup with the butcher (who was supposed to bring us 15 pounds of meat but only brought four...oops), we managed to gather six pounds of sirloin along with potato salad, BBQ pulled pork, Caesar salad, chili beans, rolls, and pina colada cheesecake for Darnell's birthday.
We were a little worried about whether we'd have enough food for everyone, but we shouldn't have bothered; the family brought a dozen more dishes, from callaloo lasagna (thanks, Kathleen!) to homemade pizza to rum-soaked fruit cake. They even had a pot of fish, conch, and octopus broth simmering on the fire. Do we know how to eat, or what?!

We spent the next couple of weekends doing more of the same, with Friday nights spent at Rubin's restaurant and Sundays spent cooking out at the beach. Between learning how to play the "local" version of dominoes (as opposed to the cruiser fave, "Mexican Train"), eating Virginia's stewed surprises ("manicou", a.k.a. possum, and iguana), and trying Rivers (kill-me-now) rum, we really started to feel like locals. As Nester told us one night, the family adopted us, and we adopted the family. What more could we want?

In addition to cookouts with our new family, we also managed to attend a cooking class at True Blue Bay Resort and even made it to a couple of hashes in September. Lisa and Dave were "de-virginized" (hash-wise) up in Goyave, and we, JoHo, and Ke 'Ola Kai (unfortunately without Lisa - miss you!) all sailed up to Carriacou for the annual hash weekend up there. Okay, so Rene was the only one who actually hashed...but that's another story!
The hash get-togethers were a lot of fun, and we felt like we did some good at the big beach clean-up on the windward side of the island. We also got to spend some quality time with JoHo before saying a temporary goodbye; they'll be heading north over the next few months while we stay in Grenada through the end of November. We've all made plans to be in St. Martin for the Heineken Regatta in March, so hopefully we'll see them again then.

In the meantime, we're looking forward to next month when we get to bring our Grenadian family up to Carriacou to celebrate David and Kathleen's anniversary, Grenadian Thanksgiving, and Brianna's birthday. If we're REALLY lucky, Sherwin will even have his floating bar ready for a grand opening...or at least a sneak preview!

As the song goes...We are one fam-i-leeeeee!!!!

Thanks again to Jolanda, Lisa, & Darnell for sharing their pics! Enjoy more beach pictures here. Enjoy more hash pictures here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Enjoying Grenada's South Coast

August 19 - August 31, 2013

Now that the Carriacou Regatta and Grenada's Spice-Mas (a.k.a. Carnival) are over, you'd think things would quiet down. Not so much...

After a short stop in Prickly Bay, we moved over to Mt. Hartman Bay to join JoHo and to check on Storyville. Dave and Lisa joined us in Mt. Hartman, while Pat and Darnell headed over to Clarke's Court Bay. While it may sound like we were spread out all over the island, that's the beauty of Grenada: three of the four "cruiser" bays on the south end are joined by an easy dinghy ride. Prickly Bay is the exception, but can still be accessed by the others when the waves die down.

Anyway, we dropped the hook in Mt. Hartman just in time for the full moon...and that meant a dinghy drift! If you've never heard of a dinghy drift, think of it as a tailgating party for boaters. You make a drink for yourself and an appetizer to share, and you hop in your dinghy to join the party. A bunch of dinghies are rafted (i.e. tied up) together, and then you turn off the motors and float wherever the current takes you. If you get too close to a dock, an anchored boat, or (in our case) a passing ferry, a couple dinghy captains start their motors and move the whole raft out of harm's way. Perfect! We, JoHo, and Ke 'Ola Kai joined a bunch of other boats who were anchored in Mt. Hartman Bay, and Island Dream, Minx, and Blues Breaker all joined us from Clarke's Court (the next bay over). All in all, we had something like 15 dinghies rafted together. That must've been close to a record!

A few days later, we were "de-virginized" at our first hash. The "Hash House Harriers" are self-described "drinkers with a running problem", and have chapters all over the world. Thanks to the two universities in Grenada along with cruisers looking for some exercise amidst beautiful scenery, there are typically 100-200 walkers and runners at any given hash. Many of the local taxis run special trips from the anchorages to the hash spots, and there's always a party after each hash. Our first hash ended up being quite close to both our anchorage and the universities, which meant we had even more people attending than usual. For some reason, it also meant that the trail was TWICE as long as normal! Our backsides were thoroughly exhausted by the time we finished the walking trail - did we mention there are some HUGE hills in Grenada?? - but it made the cold Stag at the beer tent taste even better.

It took a couple of days to recover from the hash, but we were soon donning our walking shoes once again for a hike up to Grand Etang Lake and the Seven Sisters waterfalls.  Thirteen of us crammed into a tour van, and we were off for some spectacular views of Grenada. We enjoyed lush vegetation along an easy path to Grand Etang Lake, while the trail to the waterfalls was a bit more of a challenge.
Even with the walking sticks we were given at the top of the trail, two of us slipped on the muddy path in the first few minutes...and they certainly wouldn't be the last! We grabbed onto tree branches, rocks, and vines as we made our way downhill...then uphill...then downhill again - anything to keep ourselves upright. The forest was gorgeous, and we crossed a stream to the waterfalls about an hour later. The pool was...ahhhh...refreshing? Brisk? Freaking COLD???
But it felt great to rinse off after our muddy trek down to the falls. The real excitement began as we started our way back: we were hit by a torrential downpour! Sheets of rain turned the muddy trail into a moving stream, and we watched our every step as we tried not to slip going back. We were soaked and filthy by the time we reached the van, and were amazed that our tour guide, George, even let us in. Muddy or not, we had a terrific adventure. We highly recommend the trip to anyone coming to Grenada!

We finished off August in BBQ heaven, thanks to a local event known as the "King of the Grill" contest. Amateur and pro grill-masters came from all over the island to offer their best barbecue recipes. You could get BBQ ribs, chicken, and chops, along with local dishes like breadfruit croquettes and grilled pumpkin.
We stuffed ourselves silly, and Rene even got to dance with the night's entertainer who was famous for singing one of the popular Carnival songs. "Lambi Queen" Sherwin joined us from Carriacou to celebrate his birthday weekend, and we ended the night hanging out with a few locals who invited us to join their family for a beach cookout the next day. Can't wait! Til next time...

As always, another big thank-you to Jolanda, Darnell, and Lisa for sharing their photos.

Enjoy more pictures here.