I returned to Grenada 25 years later. The first time I was Down Island was on the Great St. James, an 85′ Motorsailer, as first mate. After dropping off our month long charter, I rented a purple Honda Elite motor scooter and buzzed around the island on the left side of the road.
We arrived on the Spice Island to spend a two-week vacation from our jobs and the tedious long New England winter. For the first week we rented a house and car in St. David’s Parish, just a stone’s throw away from La Sagesse on the southeastern side of the island. We had a week of seeing Grenada by land and then the second week by sea.
Driving on the Island was nerve wracking. Getting passed and honked at on switchbacks put me on the defensive. We visited St. Georges first thing in the morning, walking past the long line fishing boats secured to the quay and the taxi drivers hustling us for a fare. “No thanks, just walking.” I’m sure that we resembled cruise ship passengers.
The chocolate making at Belmont Estate was worth getting lost (several times) trying to find. Fortunately the locals waved us in the right direction on the signless washed out roads. Somehow we found ourselves in Gouyave (the fishing village on the west coast). We also spent a great afternoon in Petite Bacaye, where we had a fantastic lunch. Another fun but curious visit was to John’s Fete (a local guy we met along the way), where he and his neighbors were cooking an iguana stew with dough dumplings. We sampled the goat, pig, and chicken curry instead and washed it down with some cold Caribs. Our new friend Dave (a retired teacher from PA) who had lived on Carriacou 40 years ago with his young family came along…which leads me to the second half of my story.
We loaded our provisions and belongings onto Pandora, our 47′ bareboat charter sloop in True Blue harbor. We set off to Carriacou the next morning and headed northeast, along the lee side of Grenada. The east to west currents, driven by the trade winds, were strong and our passage north was long and an uphill slog. Needless to say, we were grateful to get our anchor set (after dragging the first time) in Tyrell Bay. A day of recovery and a dry out was due the next day. We did some de salting and clean up on the boat the next morning while boat watching the rest of the anchored cruising fleet. I snorkeled to see where the reef was that was glaringly visible on the GPS.
We did a bit of sight seeing in the mangroves by dingy to take a look at the protected oyster beds and walked about by foot. We met a friendly local guy who ran the island doggy day care. He was obviously a dog guy and had a Rottweiler, 2 labs, and a couple of other mixed breeds. We chatted about his dogs and how he came about acquiring them. On Grenada, pregnant dogs were everywhere and milled about freely. On Carriacou, only the goats ran free. “Don’t leave the gate open,” said the sign at the day care.
From Tyrell Bay, we went around the corner the next morning past Mabouya Island and to Sandy Island, which provided good snorkeling and is a pretty spot. Hillsborough was our favorite 2-day stop over. Although Hillsborough is a busy commercial port (ferry from Grenada, cargo ships, fishing vessels, and passenger excursion ships, and yachts) we found good provisioning, a bakery, deli, fresh fruits at the open market, ice, and even a fish market.
We decided to take the bus to Windward, which was worth the trip on the narrow, steep roads. Our “bus” driver played the radio loud while the brakes were squealing at every turn. We felt like part of the island community with Moms traveling with their children, a cook carrying a propane tank to refill, and women with colorful hats heading to market. At Hillsborough we picked up some of our favorite plantain chips, some fresh mangoes and a ripe pau pau for breakfast.
Later that day we took the dingy “Caribe” down to Paradise Beach in L’Esterre Bay to the Hardwood Cafe (Dave and Polly’s recommended place). A mobile bakery truck just happened to be making its rounds so we picked up fresh sweet roll, coconut drop, a salted fish cake and cheese/potato danish.
We departed for our return trip back to Grenada, this time with apparent wind abaft the beam. Around Kick em Jenny we hit a 9.5-knot top speed. It was a great ride until we reached the flukey west coast of Grenada and then our average speed dropped by half. We were escorted by a pod of porpoises for a portion of our passage. We stopped in Grand Mal for the night and then the next day pressed on to Prickly Bay. Around the Pt. Saline corner is a head wall of wind and waves to get through. We got our mainsail down after heading up on the lee side of Prickly Point, and then scouted out the anchorage for a proper place to put down.
Just as we were about to leave the next morning we had the surprise of seeing a sea turtle swimming toward us them dipping down underwater. We had heard there were many in this area but this was the first one we saw.
Bottom line is that we loved our time in 12 degrees north latitude and would welcome the chance to sail Down Island again.