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.