11 February 2017

Steel Drums and "Oil Down" - in Grenada

Everyone on the island was talking about "Ail Dung". 

-I had NO idea what to make of it. 

Turns out, it's "Oil Down", Grenada's national dish. 

In fact - it's a whole happening. 

It's Independence Day on the "Island of Spice".
Time to enjoy "Oil Down".

Everyone is decorated in Grenada's national colors, red, yellow and green.

The sidewalks are freshly painted.
Stores play national songs all week - "Three Islands, One Nation".  

Grenada became independent in 1974.
It was a French colony and a British colony.

Many names are still French:
Morne Rouge, L'Anse aux Epines. Petit Martinique. 

(Some are a curious blend of French and English - like "Lower La Tante".) 

 The British Queen is still on the currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar.

She's a lot younger in these pictures -

The best place for the "Oil Down" is on the beach. 
It's a whole day affair.

Everyone helps. The pot is HUGE. And heavy.

These guys were VERY excited to tell me about their "Oil Down"!

Made with plantains, yams, pumpkin, breadfruit, taro leaves,
salt fish and salt pork, turmeric and coconut milk - and anything else local. Cooked "down" so the "oil" of the coconut infuses the other ingredients.

As it cooks, kids play in the water.
Boys play soccer and cricket.
Moms watch babies, men hang out.

It's colorful and the atmosphere is fun.
People are friendly.

Visitors enjoy celebrating on the beach, too.

In the evening, trucks pass our house. 
They're filled with steel pan bands, playing island music from the back of the truck.

So, with a small glass of rum punch - we sit on our balcony and join in the celebration.

Happy Independence Day, Grenada!

05 February 2017

Sailing the Grenadines - How this Sailing Stuff Got Started

Somehow, this doesn't look - or feel - like France. 
It's not.

But this is kind of where it all started.

We're sailing in the Tobago Cays. 

Tiny islands. Amazing colors. 
Sea turtles. Eagle rays. Dolphins. 

A trail of starfish leads us back to the boat underwater after a snorkeling expedition. 

 We find a sailboat, a 57' catamaran, that needs another couple on it. 

We volunteer. 

With Isabelle, the French chef, and Frédéric, the captain. 
We don't even have to do the sailing - or the cooking - ourselves. 
Three others, a couple from England and one Swiss fellow, complete our crew.

It's very windy - 25 knots - but oh, the colors of the water!

We visit Carriacou. Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau. Mopion. Union Island. Eat lobster on Petit Bateau. 
Petit Tabac. Petit St. Vincent. Everything very "petit". 

Between my feet and that white beach are sea turtles. And fat starfish.

 After a sandy salty week, we return to our rented house in Grenada.
We've been here over a month.

Feels almost like home by now. 

We'd been here before. 

Spice Islands.
Near the end of the chain of Caribbean islands. 

Closer to Venezuela than to Miami.  

Originally, a few years back, we thought we'd wind up buying and living on a sailboat. 

Two years ago, here in the Caribbean, we began seriously learning about boats. 
We read. Practiced knots. Took training courses.

We passed numerous exams, and got our licenses for bareboat chartering and coastal cruising, inland waterways, monohull, catamarans, navigation, and probably a couple of others. 

We hold licenses from the UK, the US, from Ireland, France, and from the EU. 
Countless books and hours of work. 

-Not that it really meant we knew what we were doing - by any means. 

We spent time on boats in Thailand, in Greece, in France, in Myanmar, in Laos, Indonesia, and all over the Caribbean.  I counted 50 islands we'd visited in the Caribbean alone! 

(See where Grenada is on my map? WAY south.)

But: At one point, we realized that - living on a sailboat, even a catamaran, isn't for us. 
Plus,  the idea of dealing with hurricane season - that just made the decision easier. 

So we began to look at canal boats in Europe. 

We considered over 500 boats (!), mostly online. Once in France, we inspected 30 boats from the inside, (here's THAT story) and eliminated another 30 from the outside. 

I made spreadsheets.
And lists.

And - you know the rest of the story.

When I was a kid, we lived in the Virgin Islands. 

Once, I was invited to a friend's birthday party on her parents' boat. 
I was probably in first grade. 

I remember being SO impressed! 

That memory has stuck with me over the years. 
I don't think I could swim yet, but man, I wanted to jump off that boat with the other kids. 

So I did. Jumped off the boat (still a favorite thing to do-) and started swimming. 

Yep. That's when it all started.