Thursday, January 17, 2013

The New Year with Zeynep and Deniz

Not too early in the morning on New Year’s Day, we got out of the docks, and headed towards Moliniere Point, to see if we could take a mooring for the day. Thankfully there were no cruise ships, and we were able to see one free ball. 

We got tied there, and swam all day in the gorgeous sun and calm waters, completely sheltered from the east and north winds. At last Deniz and Zeynep were contended, this was what they came here to have. 

Oh well, nothing could be done before, at least they were able to enjoy one day. We decided to stay for the night. 

After it got dark, Deniz had the crazy idea of swimming, seeing the sea sparkles under the full moon. None of us were up to it, but he did swim, and we watched the sparkles he and Al made, Deniz from the sea, Al from the boat platform. I thought it was cool, but Deniz found it magical.  I was glad, that at least he had one such night.

Next morning Deniz swam again before we started to get back to Belmont. We had planned to anchor at our usual place, from where they were to take a taxi to their hotel at the Grande Anse beach for their last night, since their plane was to take off the next morning, around 7:30 am.

When we got close to the harbour, Al decided to dock at the club fuel dock for a minute, to get them out, and anchor later. They were ready to go, and it would be much easier to unload the luggage, albeit small, to land, rather than taking the dinghy. I alerted the club attendant by vhf, and he told us to proceed. As we were getting close to the fuel dock, another boat headed there just before us. While we were looking, the attendant told them to back off it seemed, since they retracted, and gave way to us. Good thing we had called ahead.

Later that day we went over to the posh Grand Beach Resort, which was on the beach of Grande Anse, to have dinner with them. They were happy with the resort, which was quite big, with three swimming pools, large gardens; exotic flowers all around. 
We would have a good time walking about, if only it did not rain. Oh well, we made the most of it, and did walk and explored the area reserved for weddings. We know where our children are going to be married; the only things left are the spouses!

Deniz had made a joke, and wrote to his and Al’s old buddies, with whom they keep constant contact, that anyone planning to come to Grenada they should for the second week of their planned trip. Apparently they enjoyed themselves only in one week out of the two, for all the expense and trouble of getting here! For us, it was fun all around.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Year’s Eve

Monday was the morning to dock at the Grenada Yacht Club, to which we applied to become members, to be close to land on the New Year’s Eve. We had asked around for the best party to celebrate the coming year, and learned (from young people) that it was at the REX (Grenadian by Rex Resort). So we made reservations, and arranged Richard to pick us up just before 8:00 pm, and bring us back to the club around 2:00 am. Deniz did not think we could last that long, but we would play by ear.

Docking at the club was quite a challenge, but Al got it right! Just look at the picture and wonder how we got squeezed into that spot which almost touched two other boats form both ends. When we got tied up, I started to worry about leaving that spot, but wait until that moment comes. 

We filled our water tanks, did some clean up, even did some shopping (Zeynep and I walked downtown to see the souvenir shops, Al bought champagne). The day passed quickly, and we got ready for the night. I had made a mistake of telling Zeynep before that I wear something new every New Year’s Eve, so brings a blouse every time she comes to visit. This year, I was able to pair it with a sarong that I had bought from Bali, Indonesia, which I liked so much that I could not bring myself to wear it to the beach. They looked perfect together!

We looked good, felt even better, and rode the 10 minute drive. The resort looked fine, but we saw a line-up at the large restaurant area, which did not appear to be moving at all. When Al inquired, he saw that some groups in front of us were waiting to be seated. There were some empty tables, but the large group of seven could not be accommodated somehow. The hostess was having trouble getting a table for them, which took for ages. The questions asked by the clients were not answered in any logical way, but we were seated eventually, and managed to get our drinks and food (open buffet) at the same time. The personnel seemed overwhelmed by the twenty or more tables eating at the same time. Oh well, we finished eating, and were eager to check out the music, which was to start at 9:00 pm. It did, with so much power, that we could not stay in the vicinity, but had to sneak away into the nice back yard, form where the music was no longer noise. 

Everything nice and dandy, we found good arm chairs to sit… and the rain started. First we thought of imitating an old couple sitting under a big tree, to be protected. Are you kidding, how could some leaves stop the torrential downpour? No luck there, we had to come in, and find a spot sufficiently far from the DJ with the speakers, stationed beside the expected dance floor, which was the atrium, open at the top, facing the stage, where a band was to perform later.

The DJ kept on increasing the volume of the mediocre music he was playing, so only a few kindred spirits tried to dance in the hallways. Al and I tried some too, but it was too boring. The dance floor was awash with rain. Poor Zeynep and Deniz used the only pair of ear-plugs I could find at the boat, and supplemented one ear with tissue-paper. We sat at the lobby, as far away from the noise, waiting for the band to appear, a very well-known Trinidadian band according to the hotel personnel. After two hours, the band did come to the stage, and set us springing from our seats and out the door immediately. Their noise was triple of what it had been, and not bearable inside. On the other hand, well-dressed people started to pour in through the lobby, paraded in front of us, some of whom even went as far as the dance floor, despite the rain. Thankfully, Zeynep slept through some of the most irritating parts of the music. 

As soon as it struck 12:00 pm, the fire-works started, just in the front yard of the resort. We were there to watch, breaking our necks to look up, and drowned in their smoke. Al took a video of the show, which lasted close to half an hour. 

It was time to call Richard, who responded immediately, and took us back to Ruyam II. The streets were crowded, especially when we came close to Port Louis Marina. They were getting ready for a party as well, and people were still pouring in and out. When we reached the boat, we sat at the cock-pit, listening to the music coming from across the lagoon (far enough to deem it kind of pleasant). We had our American champagne, and entertainment, much better than the one we paid for. Oh well, it was an experience!

Land Tour

Later that day we called Richard again, to get him come to Port Louis instead of Prickly bay for us at 9:00 am sharp. He said he would give us a call at 8:30 regardless, to see if we were really going. I guess he had a point.

We told him to take us to Concord Falls, where we would swim in fresh water, then to Belmont Estates, the cocoa plantation, and Rivers Rum factory, which we estimated to take the whole day. 

Since Concord Falls is situated close to the north of the west coast, we were to pass through St George’s. So Al thought that we should pass by Fort George as well. Richard did not agree, he said Fort Frederick was more spectacular, towering the bay from higher ground, and more interesting, being much larger and better preserved. We had no idea, so consented. Of course Richard was right, we all were glad to make it there. The buildings were all intact, with a portion now used as a small night club. And the view was incredible; I could see as far as the end of Prickly Point to the south!

There were two cruise boats in town, so the major attractions were swarming with mostly elderly people. Arrival of new buses limited our time spent there, which was a good thing, we had a long terrain to cover.

We made it to Concord Falls, in an arduous ride through the narrow and winding road parallel to the west coast. As soon as we reached the entrance to the falls and saw the numerous parked buses almost blocking the road, it started to rain. While we hesitated on what to do, Richard promised to take us to a better spot to swim later, and persuaded us to abandon Concord altogether, pointing out that the natural pool would be full. We listened to reason, and back-tracked the whole way, to tackle the high mountains to reach to the east side of the island, where Belmont Estates are located. It was another long and arduous trip, which took some hours. 

On the way, we stopped at the souvenir shop at the top of a mountain, which we had seen on our previous trip. Zeynep made some purchases as gifts, and posed with one of the ladies carrying colourful baskets on their heads, etc. 

While Deniz and Zeynep were busy, I asked the proprietor if there were any good restaurants around there. He showed us a building down in the valley below, but we could not make out the name. I asked Richard, but he was adamant that Belmont was the place to eat. Oh well.

At last, around 1:00 pm, we were seated at the restaurant of the Belmont, famished and tired. It is a very nice setting, open all around and breezy and quite big, with open buffet for food, but appetizer and dessert were served by young girls. The previous time we had been there, we were early to start, so the service had not been bad, but I did not like the food that much. Selection is limited and some of the stuff not that tasty, but is adequate at best, for quite a lot of money.

This time, there was a huge group (15-20 people) from the cruise ship, who came right after us. While we were endlessly waiting for our appetizer to come, they attacked the buffet, and finished whatever was left. So we had to wait some more for the kitchen to replenish the food, and some more at the line-up, since the group had still precedence and insatiable appetites. They were Germans.

I made the mistake of asking for coffee with the dessert, which extended our lunch period at least half an hour. It was not a good experience for me, but our guests were polite enough to refrain from complaining. Even Richard expressed displeasure, agreeing with my misgivings.

Anyway, that was over, we went on to a quick tour around the stations for fermenting/curing cocoa beans to be prepared for the chocolate factory, a bit further up. Al gave them a call, but learned that none of the managers he knew from previous visits were there to admit us. So, no tour of the factory.

We went to the rum factory, and had a quick tour. Unfortunately the plant, which had not changed for several centuries, was not in operation on that day. All the workers were gathered at the office to get their pay checks, so we could not see them in action.
It was getting late, and we still had a long way to go. Richard, as promised, took us to Seven Sisters Falls. As the name implies, it consists of seven water falls at varying heights of the mountains, some of which are more accessible than others. Richard told us that we were to go to the easiest one, only a twenty minute hike from the road. 

When we came to the cut-off point, he drove into the hiking trail, to reduce our walking time, since it was getting dark. I think it was around 4:30 pm, and we were in a dense rain forest, high up in the volcanic mountain. We left the minibus at a crude bridge, in which Richard had no confidence, and started the hike. We first walked on a marked trail, winding down for a while, then up a bit. Did I mention that it had been raining quite heavily for some time?

 We started descending through a narrow and slippery ghost of a trek, some of which was carved into stairs, some only had stones to be used as such. I always find going down harder, since controlling one’s speed requires more vigilance. After going down, up and through some fast moving streams by hopping on slippery stones, we started to hear the roar of the falling water. There we were, at the edge of a small pool, fed by a cascade of a powerful water fall. We left our clothes at a crude bench at the side, and jumped into the water. Although the air had been quite cool on the way, as we went down into the valley, we felt warmer, either from exertion or lack of wind. Anyway, the cool water felt so good!
We saw that Richard was sitting on a rock, watching us. We asked him to join us; but he was not crazy, why on earth would he swim in such cold water? Crazy or not, we were quite refreshed after the long day. We were of course mindful of the trek to return to the minibus, but going back always feels shorter. We bundled our clothes on our backs, and started the hike back. As I thought, we got to the bus in no time. Zeynep and I told all the guys to get lost, so that we could change in the bus. After we returned, Richard confessed that he chose the most spectacular rather than the convenient one to take us. Oh well, after reaching safety, we were grateful.

Richard brought us back to the dinghy just after sunset, so the ride to the boat was done in semi-darkness. It was a long but interesting day, quite a change from the previous week. I think our guests had a good time, although it was kind of tiring.
The next day (Saturday), we took it easy, and did some shopping, having depleted our stocks during the holidays. Sunday we walked up the Fort George, to see the less spectacular view, at the entrance of the St George’s harbour.

The Second Week

After being stuck a few days at Prickly Bay during the holidays, we thought of making a land tour, which we knew would cheer all of us up. At 10:00 pm on Boxing Day, I urged Al to call Richard, our new driver, to take us from the Prickly Bay Marina. During the day, we had docked there to fill our diesel and water tanks, and encountered a funny story. I was sitting at the fore-deck, filling water, and saw a serious man in a dinghy, driven by a young islander man, who greeted me pleasantly. After five minutes, the dinghy returned, the islander was laughing his head off. He explained that the man had found out after eating at the marina restaurant that, his dinghy was nowhere to be found. He asked the marina owner, a nice Italian man, to help out. So he got his helper to give a ride to the cruiser, to search for his dinghy. Apparently as soon as they rode away, the cruiser saw his dinghy tied to his boat. The man’s partner/friend/co-sailor took the dinghy to the boat, leaving the man at shore without saying anything. We joined the islander in laughter. The marina owner emphasized that, theft of a dinghy would be the last thing to suspect in Grenada. First of all, islander fishermen and water taxi operators use robust wooden boats with very powerful engines; what would they do with our little inflatable devices only fit for a joy ride, maybe.

On Thursday, the 27th, we woke up early to get ready for our road trip; however, Zeynep declared that she did not feel well that morning. We immediately called Richard to reschedule, and he consented. All of us were concerned about Zeynep’s health, and Al suggested returning to the St George’s harbour, so that we would be close to the hospital, not that Deniz would consider a hospital visit in Grenada. It seemed that Zeynep has some discomfort once in a while, which would pass during the day, without any outside intervention.
Nevertheless, the engines fired up, anchor weighed, and we cleared the exit from the bay, and then suddenly the port engine started to beep shrilly, and stopped. Al did not kill the engine, but cut off the electric supply. We started the one hour trip with one engine. There was ample wind, so Deniz unfurled the genoa, which helped a bumpy ride until Saline Point, the south-west corner of the island. After that we had to turn north-east, almost on to the wind to reach the anchoring area. And of course, the anchor was also out of commission, being operated by the port side engine. I suggested picking up a mooring ball, but that was a later concern, after we get there. Deniz was somewhat disappointed with Al, he pointed out that we had forgotten about sailing, and used the engines to keep our route, instead of going with the wind, and tacking when necessary. With a lot of direction from Deniz, we zigzagged our approach to the bay, and furled the genoa, being quite close to some mooring balls. Deniz and I were ready to pick up the ball which was a couple of feet away from my hook, when the starboard side engine stopped, and we started drifting away, onto the moored or anchored boats around.  While Deniz suggested immediately pulling up the sails, Al miraculously started the port side engine, and made the final push to the ball. What a relief to be able to pick it! Apparently throughout the trip, the port side engine had been idling along and started when needed it.

 After securing the boat, the first thing to do was to find a mechanic. Al made some phone calls, first to Ron, our friend/advisor from Island Water World chandlery to get a contact number. Well, it was the holiday season, the mechanics were busy, etc., etc. Nothing could be done for at least a week or more.

It was up to Al and Deniz to diagnose the problem, so they opened up the housing of the port engine first. Al wanted to jump in as soon as they took the top off, but Deniz urged him to wait in order to prevent burning his feet. Good thing he waited, and immediately saw that the alternator belt was shredded! Al was prepared; he had acquired some replacement parts at the Joma marina in BVI, before starting our passage last year, including belts.  They quickly installed the new one, and passed to the starboard engine. Same story there. It remains a mystery why the second belt was also destroyed at the very last moment.

After installing the belts, the moment of truth came when Al started the engines one by one. They purred like kittens (rather lions) while uncovered. Music to soar ears!