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by Dan and Jan Ahart

Chapter Thirty-Eight

While in Grenada, we rode at anchor in Prickly Bay for five days in the company of about 30 other boats. The bay is on the southern side of the island and is large and well protected. There is a single marina, with haul out facilities for about 20 boats and the staff is very friendly, plus it is only about a mile from a large shopping center, so provisioning is very convenient. The marina restaurant and bar were very popular meeting places for the cruisers. Prices were very reasonable, the food was very good and a band provided music on weekends. One afternoon, while I was on the telephone, the actor, Morgan Freeman sailed in single handed, on his ketch named Afrodisiac. By the time I got off the phone, he had gone into town, but he apparently was very friendly and visited with all the cruisers hanging around that day. I was told that he is an avid sailor and frequently shows up at various marinas in the Caribbean.

One day we took an all-day tour on a minibus with eight other cruising friends. We saw the city of St. George's from the hilltops, where our guide pointed out the major landmarks, then we continued up a narrow mountain road to the national park where we stopped to view a mountaintop crater lake and tour the visitors center. On the way out of the mountains we drove by various plantations growing nutmegs, limes, grapefruits, bananas, mangoes, papayas, cocoas, cashews and other export crops. We also toured a nutmeg processing facility. There are many steps involved in grading and aging nutmeg before it is ground for production of the spice. We also learned that a red inner lining between the outer shell and! the nut is the source of the spice, mace. Processing the nuts requires a great deal of handwork and women do virtually all of it. The sorting, grading and aging of the nuts is conducted in a huge wooden building that is nearly 100 years old. We were also very intrigued by cashew trees, which produce a fruit that looks very much like a small red delicious apple only it appears to grow upside down. The fruit is edible and tastes rather like a plum. The cashew nut hangs from the bottom of the fruit - one nut per fruit. Each nut is hand picked and roasted. With so much hand labor, it is easy to understand why cashews are so expensive! Banana production is also interesting in that one stalk produces one bunch of bananas. After harvesting, the stalk is cut down and used for cattle feed. A new stalk then grows from the roots. Bananas destined for export are covered in plastic bags to protect them from birds or insects that might cause a blemish on the skin of the fruit.

The countryside is so hilly and the hills are so steep in places it is a wonder that any crops can be harvested at all. All fieldwork is done by hand and most of the workers live in small communities of three to five houses perched precariously on steep hillsides. Electricity has recently been extended throughout the island so everyone has that convenience. And water is no problem because of the ample rainfall. We saw many people bathing and washing clothes in the numerous streams. The roads were narrow but well maintained and mostly constructed of concrete.

We left Grenada on June 17, 2001 and had a very pleasant overnight sail to Trinidad. As the sun rose, we noticed that the sea had changed color subtlety from its usual blue to a more greenish hue. The Orinoco River, in Venezuela, flows into the Atlantic just south of Trinidad and deposits incredible amounts of silt into the ocean, which in turn supports algae in such abundance that the sea takes on a green tint. We anchored in Chacachacare Bay, which is on the south side of the island by the same name, which in turn is just west of the main island of Trinidad. The island has only one inhabitant today, who maintains the lighthouse atop the mountain. However the ruins of a former leper colony can be visited. The island is absolutely beautiful with lush green vegetation and very high hills. The bay is 90 feet deep in places and clean. We could see the bottom clearly through 25 feet of green tinted water close to shore.

The next day we went ashore and walked around the old leper colony buildings. Most are in very dilapidated condition, but we could still identify the individual residences, the hospital and administrative areas. Our guidebook indicated that nearly 30 years ago and within days of the announcement of an effective treatment for leprosy, the facilities were abandoned. There seems to be no interest on the part of the government to restore or develop the island for other purposes. Memories of the terrible suffering that occurred there are probably too fresh in everyone's mind to think of preserving any reminder.

Trinidad is an amazing place. It has ample oil reserves and is a member of OPEC. Because of cheap energy, a huge tourist business and a very complete shipbuilding and yacht service industry, the standard of living is one of the highest in the Caribbean. English is the local language, but one must listen carefully to understand the locals. Their accent is clearly British, but with an interesting cadence and sometimes a French sounding emphasis on certain syllables. It is very pleasant to listen to in that it has a singsong rhythm about it. Trinidad was originally settled by the French, but was taken over by the British in 1868. After the British took over, many Asian Indians immigrated to the island and merged their culture with the English, French and Africans already there. The Asian Indians probably contributed the odd cadence and singsong sound of the local speech.

One night we took a tour bus to the leatherback turtle beach. The female turtles come ashore and start laying eggs between April and August. A single female might make as many as three separate trips to the beach per season, laying as many as 80 eggs per session. Our tour bus picked us up at 1800 hours and transported us across the island to the turtle beach sanctuary. We arrived at the beach about 2000 hours and waited in a ranger pavilion where we were briefed on proper beach behavior. No bright flashlights for instance and no loud talking. At 2200 hours the rangers (all volunteers) let us on the beach. We walked the beach until nearly midnight, when we finally saw the first of three huge turtles. Each turtle is on the beach for about an hour. She digs a large pit lays her eggs and then covers them with sand. The rangers tag or re-tag about 800 turtles per year. Tagging has shown that turtles do not always return to the beach where they were hatched. They seem to range from the Florida Keys to South America. We also observed about 50 hatchlings (from eggs laid six weeks earlier) digging out of the sand to begin their very precarious lives in the open sea. Stay tuned.

Dates: 2001-06-17,
Locations: Grenada, Trinidad

The Ahart Odyssey 1999-2004 Dan and Jan Ahart. All rights reserved.