Saturday, December 15, 2012

Grenada Police

We took a minibus the other day as we usually do when we have to go to places on the island. It is inexpensive transportation, though sometimes filled to the rim, always zooming like a bullet, weaving its way in the traffic on the narrow streets. I mostly close my eyes and try not feel claustrophobic. There are times that I enjoy the ride, especially in the mornings when outside is a bit cooler and inside not so full. 

That day, our driver, a middle-aged, rugged islander, was trying to fill the bus so, on the look-out for customers. His helper showed a young woman waiting on the side, but the driver said “police”, and kept on going until the bus stop, not more than a hundred meters away. After waiting for a couple of minutes, and realizing that the woman had no intention of walking up, he backed the bus to where she was standing and let her in. While I was thinking the move as counter-productive, the police car that must have been following us, passed us and signalled the driver to stop at the side. Two young police men came out, and told the driver and his helper to come out and wait. No licence/registration was demanded. One of them took his time filling two forms in triplicate, for the driver and the helper, and handed a copy to each. We learned afterwards that each was fined 150 EC, for accommodating customers who did not care about bus stops. It turned out to be not so smart a move, knowingly defying the rule. I guess he thought the police would not fine him because it was the woman’s fault. 

This was the only time we saw a police stopping a driver. Usually the police presence is felt in the crowds around the market, tourist shopping areas, places where school children gather.

I felt sorry for the driver, who silently waited and became extremely subdued afterwards while driving. The policemen on the other hand, looked so self-satisfied and in humour that they created a contrast. Power is a dangerous thing!

A Christmas Fund Raiser For The Disabled At The Grenada Yacht Club

On Sunday, December 2nd, we thought of having lunch at the Grenada Yacht Club. We like yacht clubs, and had applied to become members. Not that it is necessary to use the facilities, but because we prefer belonging to them. 

Anyway, we hopped into the dinghy and made the short ride over there. When we got to the main restaurant/bar area, which is very spacy and breezy, with partial view of the bay, we saw that there was quite an activity going on, volunteer islanders with red/green aprons running around, loading long tables with big trays of food. All the tables were already set with white table cloths and flower centre pieces; everything looked nice and formal. We asked the bartender if it was a private function, but she assured us that we could stay, and contribute to the charity by buying tickets for the food, and pay the bar for the drinks. There was a couple making nice music at a corner. Tickets turned out to be 35.00 EC, food smelled excellent Perfect setting for us!

We were the first customers around 12:15 pm. So we settled at an inner corner, and watched the hustle and bustle of the volunteers, still carrying the trays of food to the serving stations. People started to trickle down and settled at the tables. While we were eating, an elderly sailor asked us about the function, then came and sat with us, bringing his wife. We had a nice chat, and learned that they came from Trinidad the day before, reaching Belmont, St George’s around 10:00 pm. They had rain all the way for 16 hours, and needed food, drinks, showers, etc. The club is perfect for their purpose, since food and drinks are cheap, showers free, unlike the marina just at the other end of the lagoon.

We learned from the couple that they were from France, gallivanting all over the Atlantic down to Brazil. They had spent three months there, but had to leave at the termination of their visa. Apparently since France does not allow non-Europeans to stay there longer than three months, Brazil does the same to French; tit for tat. Their sail to Trinidad had been long and arduous, because of high seas and strong winds, but they had no choice. He also strongly recommended Trinidad as a place to safely leave the boat for the hurricane season, because of its being located below the hurricane belt and having facilities more plentiful and cheaper than most islands in the Caribbean. When we questioned him about the crime rate, which we had heard from other sources to be quite high, he just gave the French “pah”, and said that he had been leaving his boat at Chaguaramas, Port of Spin, for the last five years without any incidents. Food for thought for us!

While we were talking, some islanders came and greeted us warmly, for no apparent reason. The French sailor started to praise the people of Grenada, in comparison to the French islands. He thought that the people in Guadeloupe and Martinique were not so polite or friendly. He said that they did not have to work, since the French government was giving extensive social benefits for large families. His opinion was that men’s virility was their new tax bracket at those islands. That was his opinion. We knew nothing about their politics, but our limited bad experiences in both of the islands made us laugh at his comments.

He also mentioned their plans for the near future, saying that they were going to sail up to Brunswick, Carolina, leave the boat there for a while during a visit to France, then come back and cross the Atlantic and spend some time in Turkey.  Apparently he had been to Marmaris and Fethiye before, and his daughter was living in Marmaris at the moment. We were pleasantly surprised and told him we were originally from Turkey. Of course, Al related all his sailing adventures around that area with his high school buddies, no end for discourse. 

In the meantime, a steel band comprised of twenty plus drums of different sizes and shapes was being formed next to us. We watched the continuous bustle of young boys and girls bringing the pieces to mount on tripods. After half an hour of hard labour, the group started their music. The sounds and rhythms they created were incredible. Our friend had something to say about the band as well; apparently steel band tradition was started in Trinidad after the WW2, young Trinidadians making use of the steel oil drums left by the American navy. The only thing we knew about the issue is that Trinidad steel bands are famous. It seems that their neighbours are continuing the tradition, and doing a very good job of it. It was a pleasure to listen to them.

Fort George

At the north side of the entrance to the St George’s harbour, called Carnage, there is a small hill with two prominent buildings; the hospital at the bottom and the fort at the top. We decided to climb hundred some steps around the hill to get to the fort the other morning. It was quite early and no cruise ships in view, so perfect timing to have a private tour. When we approached the little gate, two women who were chatting while sitting nearby came to meet us. One of them took the 5.00 EC admission fee, and advised that we would have a guide for free. Guide, Tanisha was a young and pretty girl, very professional and articulate. 

She told us about the history of the fort, which had been built in the 1600’s by the French, but taken over by the British later on, and was named Fort George, after the king. She told us that some buildings were still used by the Grenada police. The one with the best view, overlooking to the sea which used to be the jail, was turned into a fitness centre for the police members. The building at the top had lost its roof to the hurricane, rare in Grenada, but had been devastating for some buildings and most of the rainforest on high elevations. It seems that the forest could not yet recover from its effect. Tanisha mentioned that Grenada government has been trying to find funding to revive the Fort for some time. I hope it will happen soon, since it is a lovely spot, with overreaching vistas to the sea and land behind.

Tanisha also showed the courtyard where the old revolutionary president Maurice Bishop, his wife and some ministers were killed, with the bullet holes and all. (A very sad story; which I am going to write about after doing my research.)

As we were coming down, I asked about an unfinished steel construction adjacent to the hospital. We saw it from different angles, and had been speculating about its purpose. Tanisha explained that it had started as an addition to the hospital, undertaken by a Chinese company (probably as a gift from the Chinese government). After the six stories were up, it was found out that the ceilings were not high enough to accommodate Grenadians. A dispute ensued, but the builders did not back down and left the skeleton of the building as it was and left the island. Apparently dismantling the structure was going to cost too much, so the hospital was left with that eye sore.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The First Guests of the Season Arrive

Al arranged Francis to pick us up to go to the airport, to wait for the two young ladies. One of them, Aida is the daughter of our dear friends Christina and Bahadir. She lives in New York, USA; the other is her friend Carolina, who is based in Den Haag, Netherlands. They both work for the United Nations, and spend most of their time in war zones like Afghanistan, Darfur, Sudan etc., etc. They had worked together in the past, and wished to see each other for a mini vacation. All they wanted was a place warm to unwind and do nothing. Ruyam II looked as the perfect place, and we were delighted.

We went to the airport around the modified landing time, but ended up waiting more than an hour for their arrival. At last people started to trickle out, but Aida was not coming out. After some time Al s cell phone chimed. I heard him saying just Ruyam II and Port Louis. Apparently the Grenada Customs Officer asked Aida where she was going to stay. When she mentioned the boat, what is the name, where is it located? After some discussions with the officer, they were able to call Al.

It was a breeze after they came out. The airport is not too far from the marina, so we got there in no time, and they got settled. 

The marina is quite modern, since it is operated by Camper & Nicholson, a well-known name in the field all around the world. The marina in Cesme, Turkey along with many others elsewhere belongs to them. The facilities are impressive; girls especially liked the showers, which I have to admit were the best I have ever seen so far.

Next morning we returned to our place to anchor. The water looks pristine, but could be a little polluted from the debris floating away from the shore east of us or from the boats near us. The sea so vast and the current so strong at all times, I hope the impurities were dissipating by the time they reached us. 

I do my aquatic exercises every day (without immersing my face).  The girls mostly did the same. I urged them not to swim far away from the boat because of the strong currents, and they complied, thankfully. All they wanted to do was to get a tan without burning, so they were careful with their sun blocks, but spent most of their time on the trampoline, chattering away mostly in Spanish. Aida learned Spanish from her mother, and Carolina is from Colombia. 

After lazing around for a couple of days, they were ready for a bit of sailing, so we sailed up to Guayave (pronounced Guave), located at close to the northern edge of the west coast, but could not anchor there for lunch. We were headed for the small beach, close to the fishing boats at the Guayave bay, but another catamaran in front of us attracted our attention and told us by vigorous body language that we should not go there. We could not understand why, but we complied. This was our second unsuccessful attempt to get to Guayave, the first was in last April, when we had a rental car. We went very close, but could not find the detour for the short stretch in the main road washed away recently. I am determined to get there one day, rain or shine!

Aida helped me undertaking captain’s orders while under sail, and I hope they had a good time. Carolina was a bit ticked off when both Al and I insisted on everyone wearing PDF s (life jacket). She was only off the hook when she promised to sit at the cock-pit and not move around. Carolina is a fearless dare-devil, and looked at me with surprise when I exhibited caution. She made fun of me a lot. I guess the work she does for UN kind of requires a sense of adventure and brashness, but I think she brinks on the reckless side a bit. I was impressed by Aida’s more down to earth and reasonable courage coming from confidence in herself. I have to give it to them that they did not argue with me, and endured my misgivings politely, realizing that any shadow of a risk bothered me, due to my sense of responsibility. Anyway, we were back at our spot early in the afternoon, and we all jumped into the water immediately.

Fort Louis Marina

We were expecting our two guests on the 17th, so we made arrangements to stay that night at the marina, for easy access. The day before we went to the marina to see where to dock, talked to the dock master, and reserved our spot, which was a long dock in front of the office, and close to the parking lot, very convenient to unload the luggage etc. 

Saturday morning Al fired up the engines around 9:00 am, I weighed anchor after half an hour and we slowly proceeded towards the dock. Murphy’s Law never fails; the dock which had been deserted for the whole time was halfway occupied by a yacht, docked from its starboard.  We were prepared for the port side, so Al turned around in the limited space, and slowly approached the dock. Luckily two deck hands were waiting, and received the lines to pull us in. My anxiety level increases every time we dock and I have a sigh of relief after we get tied up. However, this time breathing became impossible, since the boat behind us was constantly belching carbon monoxide on us. As we were docked back to back, their idling engine was sending its fumes directly onto me while sitting at the cock-pit, our living space. After a short discussion with the owners, Al learned that the captain was working on the engine room, and they had to run the engine for the generator to keep the air-conditioning. The lady of the house promised Al to turn the engine off shortly. They turned out to be very nice people, notwithstanding my first impression!

We got the water hooked up, and started heavy duty clean-up. When we find shore water we get crazy, and wash and re-wash every corner of the boat. This was the second big cleaning attempt, to get our bot ready for our guests.