Candid Cruising: Grenada
Of all the Windward Islands, Grenada has the most charm. Not because the topography is different. It's pretty much the same as you'll find in the entire chain; a mountainous core surrounded by some plains and rolling hills, some with steep descents into the sea.
Grenada is nice because tourism is a sideline. At least that's our theory. As we went further north up the chain we expected to find the same open and friendly engagement once we had broken through the surface with a casual personal question, direct eye contact and a patient I-have-time-for-you body language. Not so, but that's for each locations page.
A local craft pulled up on the beach at Hog Island
Grenada Marine in St. David's. The staff are helpful and the facilities are not too third world. Our experience wasn't too bad (2010), but we have heard some negative feedback from other cruisers who have been there. Tales of gross oversight (boats full of rainwater after being worked on), missed deadlines and overcharging were the most frequent complaints. One owner had ordered nearly $40,000 of work six months prior to arriving in Grenada; he expected to do a few minor things and then splash. Instead, he had to pay for 16 nights at a hotel for his wife and daughter while the yard started the to-do list. He was not a happy camper. But, we have heard some positive things lately (2012) so things may be looking up for Grenada's big boat yard (Spice Island's travel lift is less than 25' wide, where as GM's is 32+).
Stay close to town if you need parts. Transportation on Grenada is far worse than one would expect. It tripped up the US Marines in the 1980s and it's still not much better. Traffic is left hand British with a nice touch of goats, kids and insanity. Like China, there is method to the madness, but it takes some time to adjust from U.S. or Canadian standards; renting car isn't necessarily a good option. Taxis are incredibly expensive. Busses are a cheap adventure, but take all day to get anything done. And good luck if your package is large -- you'll be holding it on your lap, knees jammed into the forward seat while crammed in four across on a bench seat designed for three. This, all the while, accompanied by ear-splitting beats that fancy the driver.
Bring key parts with you. Have the receipts in your carry-on, along with your boat papers, ready to declare and show customs at the airport. Put all the parts in one bag, if possible. It's fast, it's easy and only 5% duty, far less than the 30%+ they charge for most import items valued over a couple of hundred EC dollars. It's true that you can get quite a few sailing-specific parts once you are there. Budget Marine and Island Water World have an incredible selection of sailing-specific parts considering their remote locations. However, in looking around, 98% of the boats in Grenada are sail, so I guess it makes sense. I was able to find parts that I considered to be esoteric and found 4 variants sitting on a shelf ready to go. Budget Marine is a better run operation, but stocks fewer parts on hand.
Get connected. There is a vibrant cruiser community in place and at work on your behalf. They arrange potlucks, shared busses that go where you want and stop for as long as you want for a fraction of a taxi ride and numerous other activities. They also know were to find anything and everything. Listen to the net on VHF 68 at 8:30am, Mon-Sat.
La Sagesse Nature Center is an outstanding get-a-way. If you just need some space, peace and quiet this is the place. The owners, Mike and Lynn, go out of their way to accommodate whatever weird requests you have -- different towels, a 220 to 110 transformer, rides to Grenada Marine, etc. Their restaurant is pricey, but really good.
St. David's - Decent holding in mud 4-6 meters. Muddy bottom. Squirrelly wind patterns, with some cross-waves, but more sheltered than you would expect just looking at the chart. The only reason to go there is if you are getting hauled or splashed at Grenada Marine, which would be a mistake, unless Spice Isle is full and you have no other choice. Google Map
Clarkes Court Bay - Decent holding in mud at 8 meters against the east shoreline by Whisper Cove Marina which is a quaint friendly establishment. Also tuck in under the eastern bluffs on the seaward side, just north of Calivigny Island. Winds are swirly there, but you're more protected. Google Map
Hog Island - probably the best Grenadian anchorage. Good holding in mud, outstanding swell protection, good wind protection. A great piece of paradise. Google Map
Sunrise at Hog Island, Grenada. One of the best anchorages in the Windward Islands.
St. Georges - mixed holding in 8-10 meters. We saw many people drag around trying to get a set. Exposed/open so wavy at times, rolly at others. A roadstead anchorage is the most accurate description. The only real plus is that you can dinghy right into the Carenage, tie your dinghy and do your shopping without having to suffer through the bus zoo. Google Map
What to Buy
Some things are cheap in some places and outrageous on the next island up. Cecil and Rosey sell good and inexpensive produce on Mondays and Thursdays at several locations (Grenada Marine, Clarkes Court, Spice Isle). Look for a brown minivan or an announcement on VHF 68.
While in Grenada stock up on:
- Nutmeg Syrup. A simple, local concoction and outstanding on French Toast. You won't find it anywhere else.
- Honey. Local and fairly inexpensive. It gets much more costly farther north.
- Nutmeg. This should go without saying. It's cheap for a few more islands, but cheapest here.
- Rockfigs (small banana like things). You really can't stock up since they only last a few days, at best, but you'll not find them much farther north. If you do, they aren't as flavorful for some reason.
- Papayas. You'll find these everywhere, called 'paw-paw' locally, but they are cheapest here.
- Grapefruit. Cheaper in St. Lucia, but you'll need some to last you through the Grenadines, where they are twice the price.
- Canned goods. Tomato products, beans, etc, to your taste. IGA in St. Georges has fair prices on them. The costs go up considerably until you get to IGA in St. Lucia, where they are about the same.