Monday, August 21, 2006

Carnival in Grenada! - Pan Band and Jouvert pics by David Hartman
This Sunday morning in St. George's, we had a very civilized breakfast consumed to the sounds of various church services going on ashore. Nothing like last weekend.

I figure that Carnival in Grenada is carefully planned to span the outer limits of the people's ability to party: Friday night, the SOCA contest; Saturday night, Pan Bands contest and a concert; Sunday night and Monday morning, Jouvert (Joovay); and Monday and Tuesday are parade days. There was also a Calypso night in there somewhere. We went ashore and joined in for some of it, and had a great spot for watching the rest of the activity, less than a 1/4 mile from shore, and we were definitely within range of all the music going.

We were keen to hear the pan band competition on the big sports field about a half a mile from the lagoon, and I'd heard that we could buy tickets at the movie theatre. Ads or radio promotion would mention the location of the show, but not the price or the time. Ditto for all the events. In the afternoon, Kim (from Amanzi) and I went round to the theatre to try to get tickets. Yes, the man said, this is where you get tickets. But no, can't get them now. Maybe later. Maybe around 7 o'clock. When does it start? Maybe around 8. How much? Don't know. We did get tickets at about 7:30, walked over to the Tanteen grounds and went through security that was perfunctory for us, and rather more careful for the locals. Grenada is gearing up for World Cricket next year, so they're testing some new security and safety routines now.

The crowd was a lot like a Kiwanis festival crowd, only bigger, more relaxed and in more of an open-air party mood. Beer tents, food and snacks at the back of the field. (Kiwanis organizers, take note. Also note that you should have more than two portapotties for a crowd this size.) Lots of stage mothers crowded up near the front as their community's pan band came on, lots of waving of scarves and hollering encouragement. The bands themselves, some of which included kids as young as about 10, were relatively reserved as they arranged the pans onstage -- smaller bands carried the pans on, bigger groups rolled platforms on stage. Then they waited for the nod from the judges, then the whole group gave a formal bow, then man, hang on to your hat, they just took off. This is high energy stuff. You might think that pan music is limited to a pretty general kind of tinny tinkley music to entertain tourists, but no way. This bunch had the dynamics, the musicality and the theatre of the thing down to an art. There was interaction on stage, there was lots of movement, there were incredibly complex arrangements, and they all finished their pieces with the whole group just leaping about with joy. As my Auntie Mary would say, "who has more fun than us?" That seemed to be the theme for the evening.

The next afternoon, Kim and I headed over to Grand Anse for "Catholics Can Cook" and had a great afternoon at the biggest church supper I've ever seen. All kinds of traditional food and drink, hundreds of people. We met some lovely people -- Kim talks to everyone, so there's no trouble meeting people when you're with Kim -- and ate everything from breadfruit pie to salt fish and rice.

Sunday night the party started gearing up ashore on the lagoon road. Five or six trucks loaded with speakers, and I mean loaded, front, back and sides, with room for the DJ in the middle, lined up about a hundred yards apart, and the space in between started filling up with people. Get ready for Jouvert, the real start of the Spice Mas Carnival. The party, and the deafening music, went on all night. We gave up trying to sleep and came up on deck at about 4 am to watch the crowds. Thousands of people dancing and jumping, all of them slathered in paint -- lime green, bright red, yellow, and some completely covered in what turned out to be used engine oil. The trucks boomed out the music, different songs from different trucks, until all we could hear was a general throbbing all around us. The boat was vibrating. Put a hand on your chest and you could feel your chest vibrating. How they took it ashore, I dinna understand. We watched through binoculars as the sun came up and the dancers continued to party. And they know how to party like a whole community here. All night we heard the disembodied voice of the guys with microphones on top of the truck, reminding people to "BEHAVE YOURSELVES! BEEEHHHAAAAVE!" and throughout the festivities, you heard people reminding each other with one word to stay chilled - "BALANCE!" Maybe that's how they manage to party for four or five days and nights at a time.

By mid-morning on Monday, the painted crowds were beginning to disperse, very slowly, and gangs of people armed with large rakes and garbage bags came along and cleaned up the bottles and other detritus. Paint splashes are everywhere in the street.

After lunch, the speaker trucks were back, and we watched the lagoon road slowly fill with people, this time in brightly coloured costumes. Groups formed up, and slowly, slowly, slowly made their way over the hill in a long line to the Tanteen field where the judges were. It wasn't the official parade day, just the judging. The parade was the next day, and seemed pretty much the same, with the costumes slightly the worse for the wear. (We watched the parade and bought beer from one of the roadside bars that were hastily erected for Carnival. This one was decorated with a flea-market-load of nautical trash and paint-by-number paintings of maritime scenes, including one of Yarmouth Light and Cape Forchu.)

Not a lot of organized movement in this parade, though they did move, sooner or later, down the road and over the hill toward the Carinage, but the level of energy that they maintian, dancing, dancing, dancing, is incredible. And these just aren't teenagers! The parade includes the whole community, from 4-year-old bumble bees, to seniors in costumes it's hard to describe. Picture an elderly gent covered with dots of paint, a feathery headdress and a very, very short shiny skirt with a ruffle. Picture four or five of them, and they're all full of beer or rum. Imagine a bevy of 50-60ish women with attitude and acres of spandex and feathers. Everybody's doing the same dance: winding. "De woman in front, and de man in back" as the song goes (the man faces her back) and then it's push the hips together and "wind!" (pronounced with a long "i"). Like I said, Canadian high school dance chaperones would have a heart attack. Fun to watch, hard to do. We boaties tried, and only Tara got a thumbs up from the local sitting behind her. He also cracked up laughing, but we like to think he was laughing with us, not at us....

Woke up the next morning to relative quiet. The buses tooting their horns, the trucks blasting theirs, everyone on their way to work. We went back to sleep.

(Pictures to follow - for more on the Carnival events and a pile of pics and a couple of quicktime movies, go to Amanzi's site at

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Carriacou high points -- mostly about food. This is the kind of place where there's not a lot of imported stuff. If you had a garden and a fisherman in the family, you'd do a lot better than than the optimistic white cruiser lady who wanders from store to store with her list in hand. There's several small grocery stores, and they all seem to carry liquor, some nasty wine, beer, soap, powdered milk, pickled pig bits, chainsaw chicken, and salt fish, but very often I go in with a list, and come out with a hunk of pale yellow cheese that's just labelled "cheese." Vegetables and fruit are generally sold elsewhere -- on the street, at the market, from cars -- you just have to find it. So imagine our delight at finding real pizza at the Turtle Dove in Tyrell Bay. It's really, really good. We should know, we ate it three days running. Callalloo and bacon is my favourite.

More food (no laundry stories - I've given up on laundry): Patti's Deli in Hillsborough has been open for about two months. What a treat - sour cream, prosciutto, real potato chips! Christine and Hilda (see below for photos) and various sisters and sisters-in-law run the deli in the same place that Christine's grandmother Patti ran a bakery. They've done lovely renovations, and it's so pleasant to visit and shoot the breeze and pick up special bits and pieces that you think you deserve. Baked stuff, and all sorts of nifty delicacies. And there's a great bakery across from the Shell station in behind a house where you get long soft baguettes (you only get real French bread in the French islands) that invariably bend themselves into squashy sections in your shopping bag by the time you get off the bus.

We also bought a little boat in Carriacou.

We'd been having discussions about the drawbacks of the inflatable and even though I've been driving it a lot more lately, I've maintained my fear and loathing of the motor. As if to prove my point, one morning after the regatta was over, I flipped the dinghy. It started in gear with the choke out and zoomed briefly and noisily along the side of ND until it reached the end of the painter and flipped over, effectively shutting down the motor. Not the best way to start a day. There was no damage to either boat or operator, but all the contents of the dinghy, including me, were flung emphatically and speedily overboard. Neighbours rounded up the stuff that was floating away while I got back on board and we all managed to turn the damn thing over again. Randy spent the rest of the morning overhauling the motor. We recommend this gunk called Corrosion X -- very helpful in these situations. David helped us fish up all the dinghy bits from the bottom, 17 feet down.

The very next day, Randy discovered this beautiful ten and a half foot sailing/rowing dinghy upside down on the beach in Carriacou. We asked at the nearest beach bar, and Scraper, the proprietor and well-known local Calypso singer, said "Sure, it's for sale." Obviously, it was meant to be. After vigorous negotiations over the price and the value of the boat and its accoutrements, we agreed on a price that was a lot lower than the one he first suggested. Once we'd done the handshake and gone up to his bar to buy him a drink, he said that he was selling the boat for a lady who now lived in Barbados, and she wanted him to donate the money to the local church. That's nice, eh?

Now we're the proud owners of a really beautiful antique that needs a great deal of TLC and cosmetic upgrades. Leaks, doesn't it? I think I pulled a muscle bailing before we could haul it up on the foredeck. It came with two great sails, and Scraper's son has gone off to hunt up the mast, the rudder, the daggerboard and the seats, and we'll sort out getting them shipped from Carriacou to Grenada.

It's such a pretty little boat -- once Carnival is over, we'll get it tidied up and in the water, and put our Lunenburg oars to good use, and I'll really learn to sail. I say we deflate the damn rubber dinghy and haul the evil motor up and store it someplace where the sun don't shine.

Next post - Grenada Carnival photos!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Maybe it was knowing that Nancy D had a clean bottom and a shiny prop, maybe it was greed for the glory (and prizes), or maybe it was the rum talking, but shortly after we arrived back in Carriacou, Nancy Dawson was entered in the Round the Island Race. Everybody was racing -- these two boys offered to race us from the boat to the yacht club dock.

We had planned that regatta week was going to be all R&R for us after the hard-working week at the boatyard. Actually, it wasn't all hard work -- we did blow some of the money we'd saved doing all that work and, showered and shaved, went over to the BelAir Plantation restaurant and had a great meal. In typical Caribbean fashion. The first bottle of wine we ordered was corked, and the rather sweet waitress inadvertently dumped a glass of it on me, then the skies opened and the staff had to run around closing all the curtains of the open-air restaurant. It rained so hard they had to move our table several feet toward the middle of the restaurant. They did provide a bottle of bug spray on each table, but no candle, so Randy and I shared a single pair of glasses to read the menu. The food was very good -- callaloo soup is full of vitamins when you're craving greens! -- and the second bottle of wine was lovely. Walking back to the boatyard by the light of the moon, we were greeted at the gates by the hounds of hell: boatyard dogs barking like they were going to eat us alive. The security guy at the gate calmed them down and let us in. One of the dogs is called Ivan the Terrible, and the other black demon dog is Sweet Pea. Both are very benign during the day -- Sweet Pea would come and sit by our boat and watch the work progress -- and RS opines that they're both small enough to punt over the fence. But they are serious about security at the yard -- I asked a couple of little boys to return some beer bottles to the store for me, and the security guy stopped them at the gate and sent them back. I had to write them a note.

Getting back in the water was uneventful. They're very careful and professional, cleaning the slings, lining them with plastic, lots of guys to handle lines. We picked up a mooring for an hour or so to sort ourselves out, and then we positively zoomed back to St. George's with big grins. Nancy just slid through the water, and we figured that we'd picked up another knot and a half of speed by ditching the barnacles and the slime.

Stocked up again in St. George's at C.K.'s Cash and Carry, only in our case, it was cash and delivery. We bought bulk stuff, heavy stuff at really good prices, and then, once again, blew our savings eating lunch at the yacht club while we waited around for the 11 am delivery that didn't arrive until 12:30.

Zoomed off to Carriacou and enjoyed a great sail until we lost the headgear on the roller furling (AGAIN), and had to rig the staysail. Just before we got to Carriacou, we were joined by a huge squall, and I finally browbeat Randy into dropping the main, even though the squall mostly passed us by, as he predicted. Cruisers' potluck at the Yacht Club with lots of chainsaw chicken on the bbq (chainsaw chicken: a Caribbean staple -- looks like the method used to cut it up, and describes the utensil most often needed to eat it with).

Stewart and Tara from Mange Tout came by the next day and helped haul Randy up the mast to repair the jib (his turn) and that paved the way for David (on Amanzi) and Randy to enter the Round the Island Race. They left in the morning and there were a lot of sailbags on the deck that I don't recall ever seeing before. SB retired to Amanzi and very happily spent the day with Kim and I don't think we talked about boats for a single minute. We took the dinghy out to the finish line and applauded their early arrival, and then we sat at anchor and did the wave and applauded all the other boats as they arrived. Over to the Turtle Dove for pizza and beer to await the endless handicapping and finally the results: Nancy Dawson in third place in our class of 18 boats.

The next day, Kim and David crewed for Tara and Stewart and they tacked and tacked and tacked through the lousy current at one end of the course until they sensibly retired and came back for beer and Mexican food night on ND. Sunday, we went over to Hillsborough to watch the workboat races. These are local boats, though some come from as far away as Bequia (we met up with Alick and Selma who made our awning), and the starts go right from the beach and it's mayhem. They have guys pushing from the water, people leaping in at the last minute, and collisions are almost a given. The streets of Hillsborough were one huge party, lots of music, lots of beer, lots of dancing. We headed back to the quiet of Tyrell Bay about mid-afternoon, but the Amanzi and Mange Tout folks stayed for the dancing and the rum punch. Apparently the dancing was very exciting. Can't imagine what our high school dance chaperones might have thought of it.

The Mange Tout crew dragged themselves out for the third race the next morning, lots and lots of wind, and damned if they didn't have a brilliant sail and an early finish followed by champagne. Kim and I made them a flag, KMT (for Kiss My Transom!) and they flew it in triumph. Over to the yacht club for the prize-giving that evening, and we all came home with third place prizes, thanks in large part to our tactician, David from Amanzi. Canvas kit bags, good bottles of rum, a case of beer, great gift certificates for the Mange Touters, and best of all, a polo shirt for Nancy Dawson proclaiming our "3nd" status (this editor thinks it's a gem).

Back to St. George's tomorrow to gear up for Carnival and the Pan Band contest. I'm starting to feel my age

See below for all the regatta photos.

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