6 January – Exploring Grenada


January 17th, 2018


Caribbean – Windward Islands, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019

Written by

Richard Farrington

No comments
clip image013
By Richard. Posted on January 17th, 2018 in Caribbean – Windward Islands, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019.

12:00N  61:45.9W

We cured the New Year hangovers with a roadtrip to the north east coast of Grenada and the Belmont Estate.  Before Hurricane Irma in 2004 destroyed much of the island’s plantations, nutmeg was the major crop.  But nutmeg trees take nine years to reach maturity, whereas cocoa trees only take four, so the islanders adapted the business in order to get the cash flowing faster and Grenada Chocolate was established.  The Belmont Estate used to grow cocoa for other producers to turn into chocolate, but in the last two or three years they have set up their own chocolate factory.  clip_image002

Our guide Jason eyes up some ripening cocoa pods…


… whilst the girls help dry the cocoa beans with their delicate tootsies.  Apparently its like treading the grapes!  Note the wonderful colours in the tree behind.

The journey north was colourful.  The national flag is a gaudy mix of red, yellow and green and you see the colours daubed on rocks, paving stones, houses and just about anything that doesn’t move (including dockyard mateys).  The really interesting thing is that the landscape, the tropical vegetation in particular, is largely made up of the same colours: a vibrant mix of flame trees, palms and bougainvillea, much of it growing wild with an extraordinary array of fruit-bearing trees of every kind thrown in.  Their fruits and nuts were on display at the Belmont Plantation where our enthusiastic guide Jason exposed our ignorance of exotica as gently as he could.  Did you know that the almond nut sits inside a massive kernel?  Or that mace is the skin of the nutmeg?  The biggest surprise for me at any rate was the cocoa pod itself.  How on earth did anyone work out that you could get a bar of Dairy Milk out of a thing looking a bit like a withered pineapple full of slippery white seedy things the size of a Quality Street toffee? A mystery, but I for one am hugely grateful to whoever it was that left them in a pile somewhere to go rotten, absorb natural yeast, ferment and then dry out into things you can grind up and add milk and sugar to.


Birds of Paradise… in paradise?

We had a fine lunch there too, in a setting clearly aimed at the cruise ship industry but blissfully empty on New Year’s Day!  The chocolate was extremely expensive, but we bought some anyway and sat suitably focused in order to eat it.  Once again, it was interesting to compare the business with the Scottish whisky distilleries that we saw last year.  A niche product which, if marketed and developed carefully, could be a boutique brand alongside Lily O’Briens in Waitrose (or Edgecumbe Coffee for that matter – did you know they make awfully nice coffee?).  But it lacks the backing of a major player and I have not seen much evidence here of that type of investment from the superyacht owners.  Interestingly, the original developer of the land in the 18th century was Scottish… the same exodus of talent that established port lodges, sherry bodegas, Madeira and a coaling station in Mindelo?

The following day we still had the car, so we went to a well known waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest where we were surrounded by cruise ship people and watched some local fellows jumping off the side of the cliff into the water.  Julie and Lizzie went swimming there and got quite a shock when one chap nearly landed on top of them. The locals were keen to help the tourists part with cash, but not in an aggressive way.  One of the water jumpers asked me about the lump on my forehead – he had one too and we had a great chat comparing bumps.  Not many Europeans would be quite so bold or curious with a complete stranger and I liked him all the more for that.  Then we pushed on to the Westerhall Rum Distillery.


Julie and Lizzie getting ready for a dip

Westerhalls market their rum hard in Grenada, but their visitor facilities are pretty basic and I’m not sure that there’s a major presence outside the Windward islands.  We were given a tour of the ruins of the original distillery, which ceased production in the nineteenth century.  We were not allowed anywhere near the modern distillery and the ‘museum’ consisted entirely of the contents of somebody’s house – broken furniture, old typewriters, milk bottles and faded photos.  Nothing to do with the history of rum on Grenada at all.  A shame really because the setting is beautiful and the rum’s not bad.  But we were not impressed with the setup and I for one will support Clarke’s Court Rum instead.  We dined that evening at BB’s Crabback restaurant in St Georges – good quality Caribbean cooking right on the water’s edge on the harbour at St Georges. 


Training the new bowman

We departed Port Louis Marina on 3 January, Lizzie’s last day.  We went out to anchor off Grand Anse Beach and took the dinghy ashore to Umbrella’s for lunch – apparently the pulled pork sarnies are pretty sublime.  The weather was glorious so we made the most of the beach and swimming off the back of the boat before getting a Number One Bus to the airport.  Small world – Lizzie’s old English teacher from school was on the same flight – some compensation for leaving her bottle of Clarke’s Court chocolate rum in the bilges!


Hands to bathe!

The following day Anna took Matt off to the Seven Sisters waterfalls, which she proceeded to jump down with the help of a guide, whilst Julie and I went in search of an ophthalmologist to investigate some anomalies in her peripheral vision.  The place was still shut for Christmas, but we managed to get an emergency appointment.  Some laser surgery is required, apparently, so we now need to engage with the insurance company in UK to determine the way ahead.  The options are interesting: fly home, fly to Miami or trust the local provider.  Nothing much will happen for a week as the surgery does not reopen until 11 January…

On Friday we moved a couple of miles up the coast to Flamingo Bay where the locals told us that the snorkelling was good.  Not as spctacular as Tobago Cays, but it was good to get in the water and explore.  I think Matt relished telling his family back in Yorkshire that he was swimming in 30oC whilst they endured the snow! Later in the afternoon we sailed round the south west corner of Grenada and up into Prickly Bay, where we picked up a buoy for the night.  Prickly Bay is famous for its beauty and the smart houses that line the shores – the Sandbanks of Grenada.  Rumour has it that Mick Jagger owns one of them, but it’s safe to say that he didn’t spot us.  On the way in, you pass the International Medical School; most of the students are from USA and it achieved some notoriety in the early 1980s as the pretext for an American military invasion to ‘safeguard US Nationals’ – and coincidentally overthrow a Government… Not sure if there are any opthalmologists hiding in there.


St Georges Medical School

There’s a nice little marina complex with a dozen or so berths, plenty of moorings, room to anchor and a boatyard, chandlery, sailmakers/riggers and a restaurant too.  Oh, and the home of the Royal Grenada Coastguard.  Many years ago I was involved in refurbishing the Guyana Coastguard, a few hundred miles south of here.  The setup at Prickly Bay reminded me of that adventure, except that the Grenadians do have some working boats (15m RIBs) and a viable presence around the coast.  I sense that they are more of a police force than a safety and standards organisation.  Their jetty was surrounded by abandoned vessels of all kinds, so we kept a safe distance off!


Observing the Coastguard base from the safety of the bar

We had lunch at the restaurant on Saturday and then took Anna and Matt round the corner to the airport.  They returned to New York, where the temperature was an eye-watering -16oC…  The nest is empty again, but we feel rejuvenated by the girls’ time onboard and ready for 2018!