Over the last month we learned why cruising sailors call Grenada “Camp Grenada”. The Southern end of Grenada is a cruising sailboat mecca with many large, protected anchorages, and a well-established social scene and support services. In some ways, it was similar to the scene in Martinique, but more so. Martinique had a few activities per week open to anyone – Grenada had activities every day. Plus, we found the sailors in Grenada to be the friendliest we’ve met. We immediately made new friends from all over the world and were welcomed to join the fun.
The Social Scene
Grenada’s morning cruiser’s net runs Mon – Sat and sets the stage for the day’s activities. There’s so much happening that you need to pick and choose which activities you participate in or you’d never have a moment to yourself. We fairly quickly settled into a regular schedule.
- Volleyball on Monday and Wednesday nights
- Taffy’s Open Mic Night on Tuesdays
- Hash on Saturday
- Hog Island barbecue on Sunday
- Yoga on some Mondays and Thursdays
And there are lots of other weekly activities that we never did or only did once – steel drum band, bingo, another open mic night, guided mediation, Tai Chi, dominoes, movie night…
Most of the activities are ashore by one of the four main anchorages – Prickly Bay, Mt. Hartman, Hog Island, and Clarke’s Court/Woburn.
We anchored at all of them at some point settling on Clarke’s Court right by the Hog Island bridge for the last two weeks. We traveled to most of the activities via dinghy, parking the dinghy at Secret Harbour Marina in Mt Hartman and walking over the hill to Prickly Bay for activities there. This included making the initially treacherous trip inside the reef between the Hog and Mt. Hartman anchorage. That was until we learned that the suspicious looking pole with the scraps of cloth and solar lights strapped to it was actually an aide to navigation. Head for the pole, pass it inside as close as possible in a direct line about 50 feet off the headland and you’ll be between the reefs and won’t go aground. No problem!
Volleyball + Beer
Monday and Wednesday brought Beach Volleyball at 4pm, a casual evening of exercise and beer organized by Mark, a Silicon Valley escapee and great guy who has lived on his boat in Grenada for most of the past few years. Mark brings the volleyballs and keeps the mood light and not too competitive, even though he’s something like 6’6” and can hit a volleyball from half a court away!
Whoever shows up counts off to make 2 or 3 teams. If the teams aren’t evenly sided after a game or two, people swap to make the teams fair. If people come late or leave early, teams swap around. Very casual with an attitude that winning is good, but having fun and a close game is better. We generally played two games, then broke for beer and water bought in buckets of ice from the bar next door at the Secret Harbour Marina.
Taffy’s: Much More than Bad Candy from the Shore
Tuesday was Open Mic Night at Taffy’s restaurant. Doug finally got his chance to perform again. Each performer gets 3 songs, and maybe an encore. Other performers jump in and play along. Doug played keyboard and guitar and sometimes sang.
He was joined by a cast of others depending on the song/night – Erin, Andy and our visiting friend Steve on vocals, our friend Sandy on guitar and vocals, our anchorage neighbor Tom on pipe whistles or guitar, plus backing music on drums, guitar, and sax. Add to that people in the audience with maracas and tambourines and others who come up to the mic to sing backup vocals. It was a ball!
Taffy’s is a family-run bar and restaurant on the water in the town of Woburn, owned by Brit Taffy, wife Sue and son Leslie. And it’s a great example of Grenada’s laid back and friendly nature. If you want food, you call Sue by around noon so she knows how much to cook. When you arrive, you let Taffy know you’re there and start a tab under your name. When you’re ready to eat, you tell Leslie which of the 3 nightly dinner options you want and he brings it to you. When you leave, you let Taffy know, he tallies your tab and you pay. But only after a chat and a few good laughs!
Want to see a video of Doug, Sandy, Tom and the gang playing at Taffy’s? Here you go!
Grenada Hash House Harriers
Saturday was Hash Day. I didn’t know before we got to Grenada, but Hashing is an international activity for “drinkers with a running problem”. Its roots lie with three British expats in Mayasia in the 1930’s looking for fun, social, and physical activity. Hashing is now practiced in some 110 countries.
By Saturday morning, you call Shademan (more about him and the other local drivers later) to schedule a pickup at one of the marinas. He picks folks up in his van and drives to the Hash location somewhere on the island – it could be 15 minutes away or over an hour. The location might be a field somewhere, it might have a few buildings and a bathroom, or it might just be an open area where tents where set up. About 200 people show up from all over the island – locals, sailors, medical students (Grenada has a large med school), and families.
Before the Hash starts, there’s an opening ceremony of sorts. They explain the hash callouts – “OnOn” being the most popular, indicating “this is the way to go”. And anyone with new shoes chugs a beer (or water) out of their shoe. Doug made the mistake of wearing new shoes to our first hash.
Then we’re off on a miles long run/hike/walk. We have no idea before we leave where the path will go, how long it will be, or how hard. We just follow a route marked by piles of shredded paper on the ground (environmentally friendly as it quickly disintegrates).
At times, there’s a large circle of shredded paper indicating a choice of paths. Only one is correct, the other will eventually lead to an X on the false path. The hashes we did were 4 – 5 miles each, with varied terrain from dirt paths around village houses, black sand beach, mangroves, steep paths through forest, roads, and cow pastures.
And when we finish, there’s plenty of cold beer and dinner for purchase. The highlight of the closing ceremony includes a beer shower for all the first time “hash virgins”.
Then it’s time to load back onto Shademan’s bus for the ride home, and a stop at a rum shop (a small, roadside, open type bar) along the way. If you’re feeling adventurous, you order the “under the counter” rum – local, high proof rum soaked in a bottle full of herbs. One of the rum shops even had a tent outside, where the proprietor’s wife cooked the best chicken any of us had ever eaten, cooked in a small kettle over a propane burner. Maybe it was actually amazing chicken, or maybe it was the under the counters talking. Most likely both!
During our short hash history, Doug and Erin started the tradition on Shademan’s bus of singing on the way home. So fun with a bus full of different nationalities (one bus had American, French Canadian, English Canadian, French, German, and Danish sailors). Everyone seemed to know classic American 80’s pop tunes… and Frere Jacques!
Hog Wild Sundays
Sunday’s bring the weekly barbecue on Hog Island, a little island connected to mainland by a bridge. Hog has a small beach where folks pull up their dinghies.
There’s a volleyball net half in the water that makes for a funny game. There’s Roger’s Barefoot Bar – a bar shack than sells a mean rum punch in very small cups. A souvenir shack, run by Sean, who sometimes gives out shots of under the counter rum to shoppers. A few big grills run by folks that sell everything from lobsters to burgers. And a small stage where there’s usually a band playing.
Folks gather in the afternoon at Hog and enjoy a relaxing afternoon socializing with other boaters and locals, listening to music and eating. Not a bad way to start the week!
Throw Me Under the Bus
Given the number of people living on boats in Grenada, a support structure has developed. A set of locals, mostly drivers with buses (really vans, but they call them buses) provide most any service you might need. The most active drivers, Grenada ambassadors really, are Shademan, Fast Manicou, Survival Anchorage, and Chico. The drivers call into the morning VHF net and announce their services. You can join trips to the local grocery store, city shopping on the weekend, boat store, Taffy’s for Open Mic night for those in anchorages too far to dinghy, the hash, etc. And you can always call the drivers on VHF or phone to schedule your own trip. They also offer other services – pickup, fill, and return your empty propane tank, drop off bulk groceries like beer and wine, bring fresh lobster to your boat, scrub the bottom of your boat, etc.
The drivers are definitely a part of the local color with outsized personalities always ready to offer their take on current events. We were there during the elections and got different perspectives on each party and candidate. But they also really take care of the cruising community. Chico was my favorite after he spent the day taking me on different errands. He always walked in with me to each store to make sure I got to where I needed to go. And even waited while I got a blood draw at the local lab. He’s a lovely ambassador for the country!
Friends, Friends, and More Friends
By the time we made it to Grenada, we had made many friends along the way and many boats ended up in Grenada. So, plenty of time was spent catching up as new friends arrived. We also had been “buddy boating” with friends Sandy and Jeff since we left Martinique. Buddy boating happens when you find friends going to approximately the same places over a similar timeline. You end up sailing together and hanging out along the way. It’s much more informal than vacationing together – there’s no commitment or need to do the same thing. But fun to have friends traveling together and nice to have another boat looking at weather and discussing when to leave and where to go. Sandy and Jeff were great buddy boaters and saying goodbye was sad.
Our friend Steve (friends since the early 90’s!) also visited us in Grenada. It was great to catch up with him and share the lifestyle. In classic Steve style, he fit in immediately and joined in all the fun – Hog Island, volleyball, day sails, Taffy’s, snorkeling an underwater sculpture garden, and sampling the amazing local cuisine.
Cuttin’ Through the Island with Cutty
While Steve was with us, we did a day tour of Grenada with Cutty, the most amazing Grenadian tour guide, historian, and naturalist. Cutty picked us up in his bus and headed inland. He was full of stories and information as we drove through the island. And he was forever stopping at the side of the road and leading us into the brush to see and taste everything growing there.
We sucked the huge, sweet seeds of the cocoa pod, ate wild apples, and learned to identify cashews, mangos, nutmeg and tons of other crops.
He also took us to a waterfall for a swim, to a local chocolate factory, and to a rum distillery. And maybe the best, a visit with some monkeys.
McGyver Lives On
While Grenada was mostly fun, we did do some repairs. And happily, Doug did not leave his inner McGyver in St Lucia. Right before Steve arrived, our generator broke. Yikes! No generator = no water maker. Not what you want with guests arriving!
After trouble shooting alone and with Jeff, and talking with the generator help line, Doug identified the issue as a known issue with one of the generator circuit breakers. In a repeat McGyver move, Doug installed another jumper wire as a bypass – this time, with an inline fuse. And voila, the generator was back working!
Doug also trouble shot and fixed our solar panels. Turns out that two of the four were never actually working due to poor wiring connections. And they now are working better than ever. They even create enough power that we can now make water off the solar panels (no generator) while still charging the batteries during peak sun hours. Woo hoo!
Finding My Peace
A common theme in many of our early blogs was my lack of patience and how boating was helping me to chill out. And I can now report that after 9 months, patience has settled in. We all had a good laugh one day when it all became clear. First, Doug and I went on a big shopping trip the Saturday before Easter Sunday. The store was packed full of Easter shoppers with lines up the aisles to check out. Doug and I waited forever, and it was all fine, no stress. We chatted with other folks in line and didn’t sweat it.
That evening we went to what we heard was going to be a great dinner out. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its billing, which was surprising since we ate better in Grenada than any other island we’ve visited. We ordered a nice bottle of white wine. They served a warm bottle of cheap wine we could buy at the grocery store at home. They were out of the good one. Most of the food was average, and Erin’s lobster mac and cheese side was frozen in the middle. No problem. The kids were shocked that I didn’t get mad, didn’t demand new wine, and I didn’t ruin the evening. It was still a beautiful setting on the water and we were enjoying the evening together.
I think this sailing thing has officially calmed my soul!