Monday, February 11, 2013

Grenada Cast Guard

We seldom see the Grenada police, but the coast guard is another matter. Lately we had many encounters with them and I am impressed. Their main center in the south is at the Prickly Bay, next to the Spice Isle Marina, where their various size powerful boats are stored. 

The first time we saw them in action, we were lazily lying on our front trampoline, reading and looking around. A medium sized boat came near a mono-hull anchored almost in front of us, which was owned by an older gentleman. The boat, Santa Lucia, had a prominent Norway flag, and some other smaller flags, which we discerned one of them to be Spanish, though not the others. 

Anyway, two islander coast guards called out to Santa Lucia, whose door was open. When they could not get an answer, they had a discussion with another boat close-by, and left. We were kind of curious, and started to examine Santa Lucia. Al noticed that the dinghy was tied at the back, but its engine was dismounted and taken to the boat. Al thought that the owner was probably getting ready to move away. We wondered why the coast guard would be interested in that man, whom we had seen puttering around the boat alone and having drinks with friends. About half an hour later the coast guards returned. One of them started snorkeling and diving around Santa Lucia, and quit after half an hour. The boat left, and came back with two scuba divers this time. They dived and searched the waters for an hour more, but did not seem to find anything. In the meantime, an elderly couple came to Santa Lucia, looking around and straightening the inside of the boat, I presume. They stayed at the boat for several hours, and left in the evening, after locking the doors and hatches. We learned afterwards that the body of the owner was found a few days later, along the east cost of the bay. Poor soul, he must have fallen into the water, dead or alive, sometime in the morning. Unfortunately we were out shopping that morning, otherwise we would have seen the incident, and maybe could have helped? I really felt for the poor man; although he was alone, he had good friends apparently, who must have alerted the coast guard, and looked after his property after he was gone. The next day, coast guard came back pulled Santa Lucia into their compound, awaiting the owner’s next of kin I suppose.

Then we spent two nights at the Moliniere Point, tied to a mooring ball, and got a visit from the coast guard. The nice islander guard reminded us that that area was marine protected, and charged some money for the ball. Al told him that it was our third time there, but nobody had come before to collect any fees. He did not comment. He also did not show up the next day, so the fee was for the whole week- end. (They think they are protecting the area, which is the outer portion of the bay, housing RUBIS oil storage facility. The morning we were about to leave, an oil tanker came to the bay, and anchored. While I was releasing the moor lines, I noticed the oil floating on the surface of the sea. The tanker of course was the culprit, out of reach of the law!)

We came back to Belmont and anchored close to an old mono-hull called Twostep II. We know the name, the first boat of a Canadian couple, the Shard s who went around the world and published their experienced in the boating magazines, books and videos. I had read that they had sold Twostep and got a bigger boat made to their specifications.
We saw the owner, another solitary elderly man, puttering around on his own, and going around in his wooden dinghy, a smaller version of the standard rowing boat. I could not ascertain if he had bought the boat from the Shard s.

Next morning after breakfast Al looked up and saw that Twostep was too close next to us. The wind was blowing really hard all night, and his anchor had dragged. His dinghy, which was tied to his back, was caught in our anchor snubber, and pulling the boat towards us. Al immediately asked me to bring the boat hook to untangle the dinghy, and afterwards jumped into our dinghy to help the man. He profusely apologized, indicating that his engine was somehow not starting. We assured him that it was not his fault, but it was kind of lucky that he stopped when he was caught up with us. Al pushed him with our dinghy, a safe distance away from us, and dropped his second anchor to get him stop there. After that day, we greeted each other while passing. The other day Al saw the coast guard coming to his boat and taking him somewhere. Al speculated that he must have asked for their help, and maybe they took him to a hospital or something. His boat was deserted for a while, although his dinghy disappeared and reappeared several times, but he was not anywhere to be seen. Last night his boat was quite close to us again, but downwind from us, and I could not detect any lights, although his hatches and door was open. This morning his boat looked quite a distance from us, then we noticed that coast guard had come and pulled Twostep II to a mooring ball, and tying it. The anchor must have dragged again, and the coast guard was there in no time!

Our funniest encounter with the coast guard involved a young man on a catamaran. While we were coming into Belmont the other day, we passed by the catamaran, and saw that the young man was doing something at the foredeck, buck naked in broad daylight. Al exclaimed and I looked, not for long mind you. I guessed that he was European; they do not mind being nude on water, neither do we. Anyway, we saw the man (wearing shorts) in his dinghy, having a heated discussion with a couple on a mono-hull. Then he raised one of his oars like a weapon, and started shouting for a while, then went back to his catamaran. I saw the lady of the mono-hull jumping in her dinghy, and whizzing by towards St George’s bay. A while later the mono-hull started to prepare to leave.  At the same time the Coast Guard vessel came to the anchorage slowly sailing around and checking out the boats there, especially the catamarans, ours included. Then they sailed away towards Grande Anse.  The lady on the mono-hull suddenly jumped in her dinghy and rushed after the Coast Guard vessel. A minute later the coast guard approached the catamaran with the nude guy, having its sirens on, and boarded his boat. The guy rushed inside to put on his shorts, and came out to answer questions (I presume). He went to the coast guard boat, then came back and brought out a rectangular bag (his boat papers probably), and was taken by the guard to Carenage, St George’s. We wondered if the coast guard was responding to a complaint from the lady; however their response was swift and forceful. later, they brought the naked guy back after a couple of hours. The problem was not major it seems, but at least some form of law enforcement was made known to the guy. A good thing!

Back At Belmont

Immediately after getting the clean bill of health for the engines from Matthew, we filled our water tanks, using our double filters (amazing!), we came back to Belmont. The water seemed crystal clear after Prickly Bay. The living organism growth on Ruyam II in two weeks was incredible. Under the swimming ladder a forest was growing; around the propellers and on the sail-drive covers two whole communities of barnacles and shellfish. We had to get to work and clean those areas. Poor Al used his snorkel for an hour to scratch them out, doing some damage to his hands. Thanks to the new coat of paint, Ruyam II’s bottom is free of all that! (Unlike last year, which got cleaned thoroughly, and quite expensively, I might add). 

We did our shopping and cleaning, and were sitting happily in our cock-pit, watching the sun go down, when we started to rock like crazy. If there are no northerly swells, rocking happens due to some power boats, usually the water taxis running along, but they are not too bad. This rocking was continuous, and we saw the culprits. Tens of power boats, the monstrous pleasure-crafts used for fishing sword-fish and such in the ocean, were coming towards the harbour, one after the other. Their wakes were as monstrous as their power and speed. The boaters did not seem to have any idea about the damage they do to the anchored boats just outside the harbour; or they did not care.  It took all of them almost an hour to vanish into the harbour, the rocking a bit longer. Later we learned that they were here in Grenada and had come from all over the Caribbean for the annual Big Fish tournament that takes three days.

Same thing early in the morning the next day. Al was adamant that we should not endure it one more evening, so we decided to eat out in Carenage, where we can go directly by dinghy. But of course, by the time we got underway, they started filing up at the entrance to the harbour, and we had to cross their path to go to Carenage. The wakes were so high that I thought we were going to be toppled over while hitting them head on. Al had to slow down, and both of us yelled with the top of our breaths to get them to slow down, but they showed no sympathy, they did not even understand what we meant! Al swore to them which also ticked them off.   

Anyway, we crossed over, fearing our lives, and got to the other side intact, thankfully. We had a nice meal at BB’ Crab Shack (a little on the expensive side if you ask me), but at least free of the constant rolling. By the time we got back, all the power boats were docked at the yacht club, which was sponsoring the event. I guess the owners were assaulting the hospitality establishments around there, which might be a good thing for the local economy. Oh well.

Chinese Restaurant at the Prickly Bay

We love Chinese food! The best examples (probably for the western taste) can be found in Canada, especially in Toronto Chinatown. So we have a craving for it once in a while. According to Doyle, there is one such restaurant in Prickly Bay, so we decided to check it out one evening, when we had nothing to eat (!) (The cook was too lazy to whip up something from the ample pantry). 

We took our head lights (I have one as well thanks to Zeynep), and left our dingy at the Prickly Marina and walked for five minutes along the road towards town, and there it was; Chou / Choo Light (both spellings were used at different signs around the restaurant), a nice setting in the woods, about ten tables in the porch, all empty, but we were early, right before it got dark (around 6:00 pm). The owner directed us to a table, and his wife came to serve. We started chatting (Al always uses the few words he learns from every language to break the ice to talk with the proprietors). We learned that she had family in Toronto, and like us was going there for the summers.

Their food was good, and quite cheap, so we enjoyed our meal, except for the mosquitos, or whatever the gnats are called in Grenada. They are deadly, especially for me. Nothing helps, all the poison we apply on our bodies do nothing for them. Even the coil she graciously provided choked me, but not the minuscule devils. That was the drawback of the forest location.

While we were eating, three young oriental people (two girls and a man) walked in, reading the signs, and talking in English among themselves. The proprietor lady came out, and started to talk to them in Chinese. The young guy had a small camera hanging on his chest, and the girls had maps. It seemed that they were either tourists lost their way, or new in the island, who came for the St George’s University. The university is around the bay, and there is not much else in that part of the city, beside the two marinas. Anyway, they went into a long discussion and the lady showed them the direction of the city, at quite a distance from where we were, and the way quite dark. However, they started on foot with the light gait of young people.

Looking at them, I remembered our escapades in Germany, whenever we were forced to find our way in a city or in a big store, how we would turn to Turkish establishments (kebab houses) or Turkish employees of the stores we recognised from their name tags, instead of using our non-existent German. There it seemed logical and easy, but in Grenada it seemed a bit extreme, especially for people speaking English. People on the streets here are so welcoming and friendly that it is hard to believe one would feel reluctant to ask the way. It is possible that in the dark they could not spot anyone on the streets, and were excited to find a Chinese restaurant in the wilderness. Whatever it was, I found it amusing.

Engines Checked

It has been a few weeks after our guests left, and we started our routine again, at Belmont, then Prickly Bay, depending on the winds. We spent most of the last two weeks at Prickly, and used the occasion to get our engines checked by a mechanic working with the Prickly Bay Marina; Matthew. Al was a bit weary of the Spice Isle Marina, being a lot bigger and of course busier than the former, so without checking with them, asked Dave, the owner of the Prickly. 

We had to wait a few days before Matthew showed up with his young islander apprentice, but it was worth the wait. He came, a middle aged, pepper and salt haired fellow, soft spoken but sure of what he was saying. He checked and listened to Al’s rendition of the belt story. His verdict was that, the engine run smoothly, without any seizing, and the only reason for both them giving way could be their either being too tight or too loose after being changed for the routine maintenance at the end of the summer season. When Al looked at the invoices issued by Grenada Marine at St David’s, he saw that both the belts were changed in May, 2012, right after we had left, and loosened, to get them ready for being left idle for the summer months. After we came back in November, the engines were dealt with to prepare them for the “road”. 

Something happened there apparently, the belts were made either too tight or left loose. Whatever happened we do not know, but it was obvious that Grenada Marine was too busy with the overwhelming demand of their scarce resources of mechanics. The one fell for our share was not very experienced, and he was not even present at the launch! Remember our engine water supply not being connected when we were let go at the dock. Thanks to Devon, who yelled after us to get Al stop the engines, we have not burned them. 

Anyway, I am thinking of asking Raquel or Jason of Grenada Marine if we should come back from Canada at a different time, maybe a little earlier, to get more attention for the start-up procedure!

Anyway, Al was happy to hear the good news, and I felt more relaxed for our future gallivanting around the island.