Sunday, October 14, 2012

Isle of Spice

Lying at the south end of the Windward Islands, the country of Grenada has three main islands. The northern most island is Petite Martinique, then Carriacou, and further south is Grenada.  Between Carriacou and Grenada there is an underwater volcano named Kick Em Jenny and several smaller islands that are mostly uninhabited. 

As peaceful and friendly as Grenada is today, it is hard to believe it has such a “lively” history.   

Cave where Arawaks stored provisions

When Christopher Columbus discovered Grenada in 1498, the island was already inhabited by the Carib Indians.  The Caribs had migrated from the South American mainland, killing or enslaving the peaceful Arawaks, the original inhabitants.  

Early European settlements were aggressively discouraged by the Caribs and it was not until 1650 when a French expedition from Martinique was able to defeat the Caribs in a succession of battles.  Rather than submit to French rule, the last surviving Caribs jumped to their death off of a cliff on the north end of the island that is now called “Leapers’ Hill.”

Fort George

For the next ninety years the British and French squabbled over the island, building forts and riding around in wooden boats taking pot shots at one another.  

Black Bay Plantation ruins

Under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 the British gained control and immediately began importing large numbers of slaves from Africa to work sugar plantations.

Twelve years later, in 1795 there was a violent slave rebellion and tensions remained high until slavery was abolished in 1834.  Grenada became a Crown Colony in 1877 and in 1967 became an associated state within the British Commonwealth.  With independence in 1974 came a ten year period of political turmoil that culminated in the now famous “rescue mission” in 1983.  Since the general election in 1984 Grenada has enjoyed a peaceful democracy.

St George’s Harbor and Port Louis Marina

St. George’s is the capital of Grenada and the most protected harbor on the island.  The north and eastern coasts have no protection from the trade winds and associated seas.  

The western coast has several anchorages, but all are reported to be uncomfortable in certain sea conditions. 

The south coast has several anchorages and marinas that are popular with cruisers.

Grenada’s economy relies on tourism.  


Agriculture is Grenada’s next most important industry.  Exports include cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, cocoa, and of course nutmeg.

Petit Bacaye with the Tree Top Restaurant

There are a number of small resorts located throughout the island.

And, of course there are facilities and services for the “yachties.”

 Store at bus station

The per capita income in Grenada is $13,400 compared to $41,800 in the United States.  Grenada has high unemployment (estimates as high as 30%) that has not been helped by the economic problems in the U.S. and Europe.  Officially, Grenada has an income tax, import tax, and a value added tax or sales tax. 

 Pollie buying calabash candle holders from Thomas

Unofficially, Grenada has a thriving underground economy.  

Photo provided by SGU

On the bright side, St. George’s University’s medical and veterinarian schools are thriving in this economy.

“Janet House,” housing donated to Grenada after Hurricane Janet

The reason most of the pleasure boats spend the summer months in Grenada is that it is considered south of the hurricane belt by most insurance companies.   That is not to say Grenada is immune from hurricanes.  In 1955 Hurricane Janet hit leaving 122 dead and devastated the infrastructure.  Later, Janet caused the only loss of a hurricane hunter aircraft.

In 2004 Ivan hit leaving 50% of the 102,000 inhabitants homeless.  The popular theory is that hurricanes only hit Grenada every 50 years.  So, we are safe for another 42 years.  While I am writing this Tropical Storm Rafael formed just north of Grenada and moved north.

Aside from dubious hurricane protection, Grenada is a beautiful island with lush green mountains.

Concord Waterfall


Black Sand Beach

and spectacular beaches.  

Where, if you are lucky, you too can find a sea bean.

River Antoine Rum Distillery

Should you tire of nature, there are rum distilleries,

the fish market,

“What’s this?”

and the spice market to visit.

Although we are ready to start cruising again, we have enjoyed spending hurricane season in Grenada and plan to be back here next year.

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