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Cruising Grenada

Cruisers with a zest for something different will be delighted by Grenada, a.k.a. “The Isle of Spice.”

July 17, 2010
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Grenada

When I first visited the Caribbean, about 15 years ago, I didn’t get it. On land and at sea, I was disillusioned. Where were the warm, friendly people I had heard about, and why didn’t I feel safe venturing much away from the marinas? When we anchored out, why did I feel like I’d be launched onto the sole from my berth? I tried to like it—I wanted to like it—so I returned twice, to the Leeward Islands and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. But sharp-rolling anchorages alternately kept my appetite and sleep at bay, some environs left me uneasy, and the residents came off as reserved, even a bit detached. Maybe I had bad luck or maybe I just hadn’t seen enough to find the great spots.

Over the years, I tended to paint most of the Caribbean with the same proverbial brush. Having friends with similar experiences didn’t help. Still, I figured thousands of cruisers couldn’t be wrong.

Earlier this year, I finally found my corner of the Caribbean: Grenada. The island has a handful of pleasant bays, and its protection from hurricanes makes it more than a winter destination. Equally important, the people are naturally warm and welcoming.

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Grenada, a.k.a. “The Isle of Spice” due to its wealth of spice crops, is the southernmost of the Windward Islands and the largest of the Grenadines. It’s 100 miles north of Venezuela, bordered on the north by St. Vincent and on the south by Trinidad and Tobago. Though Hurricane Ivan wreaked destruction in 2004, Grenada is outside the hurricane belt. (As one resident told me, “One in 49 isn’t bad,” referring to Ivan being the first—and worst—hurricane in 49 years.) Even though it misses most storms, there are more than a dozen publicized hurricane shelters around the island.

To be clear, the waters are not flat calm. Even in the preferred cruising grounds of the southern coast, it presents a fair share of winds and seas. Trade winds in winter can easily exceed 20 knots—a bonus if you’re sailing! My five-day visit in January luckily saw calm winds all but one day, but there was still a good chop as we headed south and then east from Grand Anse, along the west, leeward side. However, the various bays along the south are tucked between peninsulas, so they offer pretty good protection.

If you like to drop the hook and stay put, venturing out only via dinghy, Prickly Bay is the place to go. Located two peninsulas east of Port Salines, home to the international airport, it’s a perennial favorite, especially with liveaboards and long-term cruisers. The entrance is fairly wide, though there are some reefs toward the eastern side. It’s not just the relative calm of the anchorage that will please you. In between making friends with the other boaters and locals, you’ll surely take note of the pretty villas rising up the slope of the hills, plus a few resorts and developments at the water’s edge. One in particular, Prickly Bay Waterside, will feature private homes that architecturally mimic megayachts, with their “bows” pointed out over the water. And yes, they’ll be complete with docks for the owners’ real yachts.

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If you’d rather be docked yourself, Prickly Bay is also home to Spice Island Marine (www.spiceislandmarine.com). Customs and immigration are conveniently on site, as are fueling, a chandlery, a restaurant, and a bar. Spice Island Marine also contains a working boatyard, with a 70-ton TraveLift, electrical and wood shops, a sail loft and rigging shop, plus other services.

As pretty as Prickly Bay is, the calm waters of the lagoon bordering Grand Anse, on Grenada’s leeward side, draw boaters, too. Here you’ll find the Grenada Yacht Club (www.grenadayachtclub.com) and the brand-new Port Louis Marina. The Yacht Club, host of an annual billfish tournament, has slips for 44 boats, and on-site fueling. Port Louis Marina, started by developer Peter De Savary and now owned and operated by Camper & Nicholsons Marinas, has nearly 400 berths, with a dozen dedicated to megayachts. A restaurant and bar are on site, with retail and provisioning shops, yacht charter and sales offices, and fueling facilities opening within the year. Both marinas are a short taxi ride from historic St. Georges, the capital, which has its own picturesque waterfront. Don’t be surprised if you happen to get the same taxi driver twice and he remembers you. And don’t be surprised if locals smile and wave as you pass; it’s their nature.

Even with increasing services to attract boaters and tourists, Grenada is underdeveloped— a blessing. The government has learned its lessons well from observing those Caribbean nations where towering hotels, sprawling golf courses, and other manufactured niceties have started to overwhelm native charm.

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It’s that preservation of character that has me planning a return trip. I also keep thinking about the proud displays of the Grenadian flag, and what the colors represent. There’s gold, for the sun’s warmth; green, for the fertile soil and landscape; and red, for the people’s vitality and fervor. A few Grenadians gave me another, unofficial explanation for the red: It’s the color everyone is on the inside. Idealistic? Maybe. But Grenada genuinely made me feel welcome, and I can’t wait to go back.

Eats and Drinks
Good eatin’ in Grenada.

Best Eats: BB’s Crabback. Perched over the harbor in St. Georges, this laid-back spot is owned by Brian Benjamin, a.k.a. BB, who’s also the chef. His personality is as big as the flavor of his dishes. You’ll find familiar offerings like prawns, and local favorites like barracuda, and some named in honor of BB’s kids. www.bbscrabback.com

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Best Place For Chocoholics: Belmont Estate. A plantation dating to the 17th century, Belmont Estate grows and/or processes many different foodstuffs, including cocoa beans. Staff can show you how the beans are sorted, walked on (yes, walked on, by women only), dried, fermented, and turned into dark, organic chocolate. Buy a few bars—you won’t be disappointed. www.belmontestate.net

Best Beach Bar: Roger’s Bar, Hog Island. Hog Island is within Woburn Bay, east of Prickly Bay. The seas en route dictate taking your boat, not your RIB, but you can drop anchor off the island. Every Sunday, locals and cruisers drive their dinghies straight up onto the beach to enjoy music and drinks.

Best Provisioning: St. Georges market. Each day except Sunday, this open-air market offers every fruit, vegetable, and spice you can imagine. Spend time talking with the vendors, and they’ll readily share recipes and warm smiles.

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