Bonjour de la Martinique
08 December 2016
With the hurricane season officially over (let's hope the hurricanes know that), it's time to start exploring again.
It's hard to believe that last season we took several months to travel from Martinique, south through the Windward islands, down to Grenada, and yet just 24-hours after leaving Grenada to head north, we were back in Martinique. And what a 24-hour journey we had, dodging thunderstorms, getting soaked through by torrential rain, going really fast then having to motor as the wind died away.
We made landfall in the delightful anchorage off the village of St. Anne before heading into the busy yachting centre of Le Marin a mile away to do some provisioning and boat jobs.
Martinique is officially a Province of France and so, everything you can do and get in France, you can here too. The currency is the euro and they use the metric system. After spending months further south, where we got used to eating lots of chicken and Caribbean curries, it is heaven to be here and stock up on all kinds of French food and wine. Another good thing that the French do is laundry. Whether in mainland Europe or in the Caribbean, you can always find wonderful launderettes that actually clean your clothes. I never thought, when I was a career girl, that I'd end up writing about laundry, but there you go and thank you France!
When we were here earlier in the year, we replaced the boat batteries, which are doing a fine job. This time around we needed an expert to look at our fridge. Patrice came on board, diagnosed that we had too much gas in the system, took some out and it has never worked better. We also needed to get our rigging inspected at the request of our new insurance company. That was done very efficiently and quickly by Gaetan at Caraibe Greement, who signed it all off and the insurance company are happy.
We are now back at anchor in St. Anne waiting for the weather to settle to allow us to start journeying north, through the Leeward islands and on to pastures new. In the meantime, fresh baguettes, cheese and wine are keeping us going.
Refrigeration - Patrice Fougerouse, Fraicheur Service, above Caraibe Marine.
Rigging - Caraibe Greement, in portacabins to the left of dinghy dock in Marin marina.
Island Touring with Cuddy
17 November 2016
As our time in Grenada draws to a close, we decided to join some fellow cruisers on one of the best rated island tours run by Cuddy, who knows his island well.
The day-long trip started with grey clouds and rain but that didn’t spoil Cuddy’s enthusiasm or ours as he kept pulling up at the side of the road to point out, show us and let us taste the abundance of fruits and spices growing everywhere on the island – it’s not called the Spice Island for nothing and as Cuddy said, ‘There is no reason for anybody here to go to bed on an empty stomach’.
We learnt how the bark of the cinnamon tree curls as it dries into the cinnamon sticks that we are familiar with. We’d probably walked past loads of fresh ginger on our hikes but picked straight from the ground, we saw the whole plant for the first time. Golden apples are now in season, and they taste similar to a cross between an apple, pear and nectarine, and are delicious. Did you know that cocoa beans, fresh from the pod before they are fermented and dried, feel and taste like furry lemon sweets.
The day brightened up as we continued our tour across the island to the Annandale Falls and the Grand Etang National Park for a view of the Crater Lake. Our lunch-stop was at the St. Antoine Rum Distillery, where we had a delicious buffet lunch on a terrace overlooking the sugar cane fields before touring the distillery.
The afternoon saw us visiting The Grenada Chocolate Company before we toured the north of the island passing through the town of Sauteurs (French word meaning leapers), where in 1685 the Caribs leapt to their deaths from the cliff rather than be enslaved by the French, and then on to Petit Anse with great views north to Carriacou.
The sun was beginning to set as we drove down the west coast, stopping to admire centuries old petroglyphs (stone carvings) on the way. We certainly packed a lot into just one day but it will be a day that we shall remember for a long time to come.
Cuddy. Tel: 473 407 5133. Air-conditioned, comfy minibus. US$25 pp (based on 8 adults) + entrance fees approx.. EC$10 and lunch EC$35.
The Grenada Chocolate Company
16 November 2016
Grenadian trinitario cocoa beans are a major crop on the island and are the main ingredient in the Grenada Chocolate Company’s delicious range of organic chocolate.
Founded in 1999, the idea was to create an Organic Cocoa Farmers & Chocolate Makers Co-operative, making the first ‘Tree to Bar’ chocolate. Nestled in the lush cocoa groves, the factory is solar-powered and very small scale, so small that they had to create many of their own processing methods and manufacture small scale machinery. ‘Big Ron’ talked us through the process of how the cocoa beans are fermented, roasted and ground and how the cocoa butter is then squeezed out in presses before sugar is added to create the perfect bar. They are wrapped and packaged by two ladies who sit at a small table all day surrounded by chocolate. Only pure, dark chocolate is produced as no dairy product is added to obtain milk chocolate.
We left feeling as though we had just visited a real-life Willy Wonka chocolate factory but even Willy Wonka couldn’t have made a better bar of our favourite, Salty-Licious, Caribbean sea salt in 71% chocolate.
Grenada is also home to another chocolate factory – Jouvay Chocolate. If you ever get the chance, you must sample their 60% chocolate with nutmeg.
River Antoine Rum Distillery
15 November 2016
Since 1785, a giant water-wheel (the oldest working water wheel in the western hemisphere) has been turned by the waters of the River Antoine to provide the power needed to crush bundles of sugar cane in order to extract the all-important juice needed to make strong White Rivers Rum.
The juice is heated through a series of huge copper kettles before being left to ferment naturally prior to then being twice distilled. The distillery hasn’t changed much since 1785 and is very labour intensive but the authenticity of their product is very important to them. Their strongest rum, at 75% proof, is too potent to be transported by plane, which was lucky for us being on a boat!
After the tasting, at the end of tour, we also bought a bottle of their chocolate liqueur rum, delicious after dinner, cold from the fridge.
12 October 2016
Our visit back proved to be the catalyst for a huge get together of our friends.
The day started with a rendezvous at Castle Combe racing circuit where Chris Cadman was racing his 1920's MG C-type. Chris and Paula had travelled down in their motorhome with the MG on a trailer behind. The day was mostly dry but when the rain did come, it was quite a sight to see the motorhome with 12 people inside it!
We spent the night at The George Inn in Norton St. Philip where we had dinner together and caught up on all our news. We did sleep in one of the haunted rooms but luckily did not get spooked!
It has been quite a while since we have all been together and we had a wonderful time. Thanks everyone for making the effort.
12 October 2016
Time spent with family is always special.
With sister Debra and boyfriend Joe, we travelled to Penzance to celebrate Debra's birthday weekend and visit our cousin Claire and her family, Billy & Grace. A visit to Lands End had to be included, as well as into Mousehole where Chris spent many a childhood holiday. We sampled plenty of Cornish pasties and ice-cream at the food festival in Truro.
Back in Surrey, we celebrated Debra's birthday with our nephews Callum, Nathan and Adam. Big birthday next year for Deb!!!!
Angie, Wayne & Caggy
12 October 2016
We were eager to see friends Angie and Wayne, not only because it had been a while since our last time together, but because they are the new owners of Caggy a historic canal tug, commissioned by Sir Winston Churchill for the war effort in the early 1940's. Very different from their previous sailing boat!
Our visit included a trip to the Black Country Living Museum, where Caggy is moored. What a fabulous place. The whole site has been developed to replicate a 1930's/40's town with motor museum, shops, houses, coal mine and even a vintage fish and chip shop where the fish and chips were cooked in beef dripping and were the best we've ever tasted.
Chris took a nostalgic drive past Longbridge where he did his engineering apprenticeship. How different it looks now with most of the buildings re-developed for housing and shops. We also found the cottage and farm where he lived during those learning years.
12 October 2016
We started our time back in the UK by visiting sister Audra and brother-in-law Gavin who live near Bingley, Yorkshire.
The weather was great which made blackberry picking all the more pleasureable. We are looking forward to Gavin's blackberry whisky in due course. If his sloe gin is anything to go by, it will be good.
We visited wonderful Skipton Castle and the award-winning pie shop next door.
Pub dinners, walks along the canals and Audra and Gavin's delicious cooking, including Viennese Whirls as per the Great British Bake Off challenge, made for a great visit.
See you again soon!
Carnival in Grenada
11 October 2016
One of the highlights in the Grenadan calendar is Carnival; the culmination of months of steel band and music competitions that is celebrated by the entire island in 3 days of partying.
We were mezmerised during the steel band competition to see huge bands of up to 70 people of all ages bringing the National Stadium to life with their melodies. After each group, the whole set had to be wheeled off the stage so that the next group could set up. It resembled an enormous jigsaw puzzle getting everything in place.
The night Carnival showcased all the bands that would be taking part in the main Carnival event. Each band was headed by a lorry onto which was loaded massive speakers that blasted out with extra bass and from which plenty of rum was being distributed. This was followed by a procession of people waving colourful light sticks that lit up the night sky.
Pretty Carnival was the main event where participants of all shapes and sizes paraded down the road wearing costumes of feathers, beaded bikinis, gold fishnet tights and very bright colours. The main theme for the girls was very bright and very small. No matter what size, most seemed to be wearing a costume that was several sizes too small for them. It was great fun, everyone had a wonderful time and what impressed us the most was that whilst there were hundreds of people on the streets to watch, there was not one policeman to be seen, it wasn't necessary because everyone behaved properly, even those who had been making the most of the rum punches. A great example to everyone.
If you get the chance to go to Grenada, try to be there for Carnival and experience one of the happiest times of the year.
Click here for all the photos...
Hiking & Waterfalls
31 July 2016
At almost 12 degrees north of the equator, Grenada is a popular place for cruisers to be based during the hurricane season. Each morning at 7.30am there is a VHF radio Net that we can all listen to and participate in, and which covers subjects such as the weather forecast, security issues, sourcing parts/tradespeople, items for sale and arranging social activities and events. It was by listening in that we heard about a couple of hikes to some waterfalls that were being organised and we signed up.
Our first hike was to the famous Seven Sisters Waterfall, located in the Grand Etang National Park and proved to be so popular that when the minivan arrived to pick us up, it was already full but with a bit of breathing in all 21 of us got in to a van designed for 16, though I did have to sit on a guy's lap (and it wasn't Chris's!!).
Cruiser Steve led us through the lush rainforest where we clambered over rocks and trees, up and down steep and sticky mud inclines and waded through streams. We've made friends with fellow Brits, Ali & Stephen, who live on a catamaran called Manx Goose, and together our reward was to swim in the cooling waterfall before we climbed a little higher to Honeymoon Falls. The journey there was mostly through the falls themselves where we had to heave ourselves over rocks and through gullies as the water fell upon us. It was great.
I managed to get a seat on the way back and had a great view of the smoke coming off the brakes as they overheated due to the weight of us all as we headed down the mountains.
The following week we opted for two buses for our hike to Annandale Falls. In the bus were Pete, Anna and their son Sam, whom we had met in Marina di Ragusa several years ago. They had already travelled to the USA on their boat, something that we are planning too, so it was a good opportunity to catch up and pick their brains. The hike was much gentler than the previous one but nonetheless stunning as we passed areas of nutmeg, cocoa bean, avocado and mango trees. Colourful pink heliconia flowers hung from the trees near to the 30ft waterfalls, where we enjoyed a dip to cool off before the journey back.
Grenada has some beautiful rainforest and waterfalls and we are looking forward to exploring it more.