Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Art of Shopping

With my wife on her deathbed (not really, it just seems that way) with a very bad cold, I get a rude awakening to another world . . . the shopping bus. At home when we’d run out of something, I’d just jump in the car and head down to QFC in scenic downtown North Bend to satisfy my whim. Here it’s a little different.

Each morning on the VHF 66 Grenada Cruisers Radio Net there is an announcement of the “shopping buses.” This is something I’ve always ignored. Except today I’m hungry. Now I’m not the type of guy who looks like he’s missed a lot of meals in his life, but seriously, when you get a craving on the boat you typically want to eat it NOW. Oh what I’d do for the McDonalds drive-through and their $1 hot fudge sundae right now.

So back to the shopping buses. Since we have no mode of transportation except our dingy (and how many big supermarkets are on the water anyway?), I motor into the Secret Cove Marina dock and join the line of minglers waiting for the shopping bus. These are typically mini vans run out of each major anchorage about once a week.

Most do an “essentials tour” that includes stops at the ATM, Ace Hardware, Budget Marine, CK’s (more about that later) and the IGA.  Since I’m a newbie to all this I opt for the direct bus to the IGA under the assumption that’s about all I’ll be able to handle in a single day.

I’m girding myself to listen to a good hours worth of “cruiser gossip,” but strangely today’s bus is all guys. It’s a little unusually to see one or two guys on the shopping buses, but today is a “boy’s day out.”  The gossip is replaced by great guy talk like how to rewire a circuit without getting electrocuted, the best way to change an oil filter while laying upside down with hot oil dripping down your cheek, and how many times you can hit your finger with a hammer before it starts bleeding.

Our express bus heads straight from Secret Harbor to the large IGA store at Spice Island Mall, about five miles away. As the bus winds through the narrow roads I review the grocery list I hurriedly put together using the Notes app on my iPhone. I try to do the math of the bulk and weight of everything I have to buy versus the two Costco insulated bags I have to haul it all back to the boat in.

The topic of “shopping while cruising” is worthy of a book, but the short version is it’s quite an adventure at the very least. In Florida and Puerto Rice we rented a car and went to Costco’s and WalMart SuperStores, filling the trunk with six months of stores. I remember Meryl asking me to pick up some chips and I quickly came back with a query of “corn or wheat, salted or unsalted, natural or adulterated” and so on.

"The Pink House" in Staniel Cay, Bahamas.

What they don't have at "The Pink House" they may have at "The Blue House."

In the Bahamas we’d roam the village streets to find “the pink house,” the local one-room grocery store where we’d be excited if they simply had one thing on our list. On most of the islands, including a large one like Grenada, you still need to know “when the boat come in” because in the two or three days before the boat comes in there will be a very sparse selection of foods, especially fresh vegetables. And the day after the boat come in the place will be packed. In Grenada the boat usually comes in late on Thursday and the Secret Harbor shopping bus is early Thursday morning. I’m sure there’s some perverse logic that I’m missing here.

The boat arrives on Thursdays at Staniel Cay and the first thing off is the beer. The guy in the red shorts wants one.
Even though we get to the IGA at the respectable hour of 10:00 am, it’s still packed with locals, yachties, and medical students from the nearby St. George’s Medical School (they all look so cute in their little green scrubs). I immediately head left for the Produce section and quickly realize that I don’t recognize half the veggies on display.

“Excuse me Madame, what are these bowling-ball-sized green things?

     “They are paw paws.”

“Madame, excuse me again, but what is a paw paw and what do you do with it?”

You finally give up any sense of “coolness” and ask a million questions about this and that. I’m amazed when I pass the condiments section and see my old friend Heinz Ketchup on the shelf. Now we don’t need any but it’s reassuring to know that it’s sitting there waiting for me in my time of need. The same can be said for Miracle Whip, although I’m still bereaving the death of Tang (you have to be really old to understand that one).

I probably asked a question of each of these ladies in the Produce section of IGA.

 At the frozen meat section I start to see things involving various parts of a pigs’ anatomy that I’m not sure I want to ever eat, or at the very least even know about. The fish section is similar. I find solace in the Spices aisle since Grenada was known as “The Spice Island.” Lots of great smelling stuff even if I don’t know what most of it is.

The bread section is problematic. No squishy soft breads here. They don’t seem to use a lot of preservatives in the bread so it’s pretty much buy it and eat it. On the French Islands you can buy incredible baguettes, but here they are kind of hit and miss. Finding the English muffins and bagels takes a while since they keep them in the freezer section, not in the bakery.

In the “There is a God” section I find several boxes of my favorite (and difficult to find) Wheat Thins. Meryl usually buys one; I buy four.

The cleaning section, normally one of my favorite aisles, has some amazing finds. Various bug and cockroach sprays that I’m sure were banned in the US years ago line the shelves. And where can you buy 24% muratic (hydrochloric) acid? Reminds me of an especially gruesome episode of Breaking Bad.

Milk is a problem since they don’t seem to drink much milk in the tropics. The IGA is one of the few stores that has quarts of real 2% milk, probably because of the high percentage of Americans attending the nearby medical school. Normally we buy the long-life milk in the Tetra packs which is OK in tea but not that great in cereal.

The ice cream section is especially sad, since it’s all sitting there waiting to be eaten but there’s no way it will make it back to the boat in the 94-degree heat. As a matter of fact I have to carefully budget my time so that I get all the frozen foods at the very last minute and get them into the Costco insulated bag (without being accused of shoplifting) so I can get them up to the checkout counter in one piece.

As I approach the check-out counters I realize my timing is bad since the lines stretch around the corner. I forget tomorrow is Grenadian Thanksgiving and a holiday. It’s not for eating turkey, just for thanking America for saving them from the Cubans and Russians.

As I finally reach the checkout counter and begin to stack my groceries on the conveyor belt, I restart the mental math of “X” amount of groceries into “Y” amount of two Costco bags. Doesn’t look good at this point. Good think Meryl has stuffed some extra smaller bags inside the Costco bags. Doing my best imitation of a box boy I try to get all the cold stuff into one bag, and save the eggs and bread for the top of the second bag which I can’t close anyway.

Another rude awakening is pricing. Those wonderful Oreos I saw on the shelf are about 3x the price of the local cookies. The problem is, with the exception of certain vegetables and fruits, there aren’t a lot of locally produced foods. Live and learn.

It's pushing 11:00 am and I rush down the mall pushing my cart with the one forward wheel spinning sideways (why do they always do that?) trying to catch the 11:00 bus departure time. I whiz by a group of guys sitting at a fast food place as I fixate on the red mini van parked out in front, only to arrive and find it empty.  Turning around and looking back inside the mall I see the guys quietly sitting and staring at me. Sheepishly I wheel my cart back in the air-conditioned confines of the mall and take a seat. I ask what time the bus is leaving, and forgetting about the concept of “island time” realize I have a few more minutes while the driver rounds up the rest of the passengers. I make for the little take-out counter remembering that: 1) they serve the only frozen yogurt in town, and 2) Meryl isn’t with me. I savor the frozen delight of the cool yogurt sliding down my parched throat waiting for someone's wife to come running over saying "you'll ruin your lunch."

Piling all the bags into the second seat of the mini van, and all the guys in the back, we slowly head back towards Secret Harbor with one more stop at CK’s Foods, kind of a mini Costco that seems to be popular with yachties. As we enter and I see the racks and racks of El Presidente, Stag, and Carib beer it becomes clear why this is a favorite stop with the sailing crowd. I’m pretty much shopped out so I just roam the aisles trying to find the elusive gallon size of Pace Picante Sauce with no luck.

The ride back reverts to more guy talk:  “So how many times have you climbed to the top of your mast and dropped the single nut you were trying to attach to the bolt that holds your rig together?”

The guy's shopping bus . . . the girls don’t have a clue what they missed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Chance to Give Back

Since we have been in Grenada Walter & I have been involved in volunteering for the Mt. Aires Young Readers Program.  It has been by far the most meaningful activity for us while here in Grenada.

The Mt. Airy Young Reader's Program was established in 2006 by Mrs. Jeanne Pascal and recently celebrated its seventh anniversary. This program is intended to assist young Grenadian students who need extra attention in improving their reading skills. Each Saturday morning, these children—typically 25 or more—gather up at Mr. & Mrs. Pascal's beautiful mountain top home where their garage has been converted into a large well-equipped classroom.  This program is entirely reliant on volunteers and donations from the Grenada community.  However, in August 2008, the cruising community learned of the program and has been very proactive in volunteering their time each Saturday in order to provide the children with the one-on-one attention they need.

One of the assistants hands out the books used
Each week starts with Margy on S/V Inspiration announcing volunteer opportunities on the VHF CH 66 radio net.  She organizes and coordinates 14 volunteers to be picked up each Saturday morning.  A local mini-bus driver, Keith, volunteers his time and we all pay a small fee to help with gas. As we arrive Jeanne is always there at the gate to greet us with a big smile and a hug.  She is such an inspiration to watch as she runs the program with just enough strictness to keep the children respectful and paying attention, always a challenge with younger kids. The children all come voluntarily and are delightful and full of enthusiasm. 

There are lots of educational games for the children following their reading time.

We start off the morning in a big circle holding hands and say the Lord's Prayer and sing a few songs. As we clap and sing "Go Read A Book." the children learn how simple it is to open their world by learning to read.  Mrs. Pascal then divides the kids into reading groups.  Sometimes you are one-on-one with a student, which is ideal, and sometimes you have up to three children -- usually of similar reading ability. Next you head off to find a comfortable and cool (with the mountain breezes blowing through) spot to read together.  

My favorite age is the 5- and 6-year-old girls.  They are so sweet and love to wrap themselves around your arms as they read.  They are also fascinated with the lighter colored hair of most of the cruiser women, and like to run their fingers through it while you read. But it can be difficult to keep them on task

Some are excellent young readers while others struggle with each new word.  Each week it is wonderful to see the effort and progress they are making.  Mrs. Pascal is always trying to open up new horizons for the children by reading a book about Black American hero's like Jackie Joyner Kersee, Arthur Ashe, and Maya Angelou.

At first we felt ill-equipped to be teachers but soon realized it was more about the overall experience and bonding with the children.  Each week we got better at keeping them on task and relaxed and enjoyed our time with the children.  

One picture is worth a thousand words...
Meryl working with three young girls.
Australian Christine is hard at work.
Walter working one-on-one with one of the older boys.

Following the reading and play time we again sit in a big circle and the children practice their spelling words and time tables.  They stand up say the word, spell it, and then make a sentence using the word.  The times tables are recited - one three is three; two threes are six, etc. up to 12.  A story may be read and a few announcements made before it is time for a little punch and a snack.  Jeanne makes sure there is enough for all the children and volunteers too.

It is amazing what a difference a group of volunteers can make in a community.  We are so thankful we have had the opportunity to be a part of the Mt. Aires Reading Program and are going to miss the children when we leave Grenada.  Hopefully someday we may return to see them again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sewing Up a Storm

Fortunately, for those of us hanging out in Grenada this hurricane season we have not seen much storm activity.  This is said "knock on wood" as we still have a couple of weeks to go until hurricane season is officially over on Nov. 1st (water is too cold by then to generate water vapor needed to form tropical lo's).  To pass the time, I have been busy sewing away, trying to make our "floating home" more comfortable and functional.  Living on a 44' sailboat with three sails, offers many a potential sewing project.

Earlier in the year, I was hesitant to ship my Elna sewing machine back home and purchase an industrial sewing machine, but I soon realized my little Elna simply couldn't handle the heavier fabrics found on sailboat and having an industrial machine would help with sail repair and maintenance. We we ordered a Sailrite LSZ-1 Ultrafeed sewing machine that was on sale along with a package of special accessories.  Now I can make anything! Well almost anything. It's amazing how it can power through eight layers of heavy Dacron sailcloth or two or three layers of leather or strapping material.

My sewing station is my favorite place on the boat with fresh ventilation from the two overhead hatches.
Before leaving for Trinidad we took our damaged genoa sail over to a local sail loft for an estimate of repairs to the leech line, the long aft edge of the sail.  We were shocked to learn that a simple repair would be over US $750.  We took the heavy sail back to the boat and hauled it up on the deck (no easy task from a dingy bobbing up and down in the waves). We then carried the 44 lb. Sailrite up to the foredeck and set it up on the hard fiberglass case of the life raft.

With Walter's help, we slowly feed 35 ft. of the sail's leech through the Sailrite and I carefully sewed a long length of 6 inch-wide Dacron repair tape over the ripped leech.  It was hard work, but the working conditions were great with a 85-degrees, a gentle breeze blowing, and a spectacular view of the crystal-blue water of Prickly Bay. A couple hours later we had a working genoa, and best of all, we had already almost paid for the sewing machine.

On the boat there are always numerous projects in various states of repair.  Walter is amazingly versatile and has just enough knowledge to fix most things. Well, except maybe the genset! I am pleased to contribute my expertise in an area different from Walter's even though it is considered a "pink job."

One of my latest projects here in Grenada was to make a Sunbrella cover-up for the area under our companionway ladder.  We store our ditch kit, emergency supplies, desalinator, the Sailrite, and other stuff and it is an eye-sore.  With a zipper and Velcro cover it is now easy to access and helps keep everything covered and contained when the boat is heeled over while sailing.

Hot knife cutting Sunbrella for the storage cover

Sitting on a small swing out seat while I stitch the cover.

So much better.
I also have been working on a water catchment set up to get fresh rain water into our tanks.  We have a Hatch-Hoodie over the fore deck that has some potential for rain catchment, but I made a custom rain catcher to fit our aft hatch area that has collected a modest amount of rain water in the heavier downpours.  It will need to be revised and made larger, but it's good to have some design challenges.

Not sure what the next big project will be but with all the tropical heat down here sun coverage is paramount so we'll see what comes next. 

Forward Hatch Hoodie funneling cool air under and down the hatches and also a rain cover so you can keep the hatches open.
First attempt at water catchment over the aft hatch.
The white PVC hose goes into a 5-gallon jug in cockpit. Filled two so far - every little bit helps.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Losing our Virginity

At age 66, I'm no longer virgin. I've done my first Hash. Now before Hank Schrader, the DEA agent on Breaking Bad, goes ballistic, let me explain. It's not that kind of hash. This is much more complicated.

When Meryl first started flying for Pan Am, fellow flight crew members shared fond (and many times weird) stories of running in Hash's in Asia. Since Meryl and I were both active runners at that time, we really wanted to try a Hash, but the opportunity never came up. So here we are some 45 years later and we start hearing stories about Hash's in Grenada.

The Hash's, held about every two weeks, are announced on the morning VHF 68 radio net. Since we've gotten very little aerobic exercise since we've been on the boat, we were a little reluctant to sign up. Images of struggling up muddy jungle slopes in the stifling heat also discouraged us, as did stories of the "rituals" following the race, especially for first time Hashers.

Shademan has the Hip-Hop cranked up on the stereo while we listen to 12 different conversations in French.

Running out of excuses, we finally called our friendly taxi driver, Shademan (named because he always parks his non-air conditioned van in the shade), and told him to sign us up for Saturday's Hash. We put two water bottles, a first aid kit, a SAM splint, and a bag of GORP in Meryl's backpack and dingied into Secret Cover at 2:00 pm to be picked up. For some strange cosmic reason the bus was packed to the brim with French men and women, all previously picked up from other anchorages. So much for small talk on the long ride to the Hash. We did have a young American couple sitting in front of us, one of whom was a medical student at St. Georges University here in Grenada.

They also had two dogs, a big one and a little one. The big one, a 6-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Draper, which I remember were bred to hunt lions and used as guard dogs by the Rhodesian military, was comfortably wrapped around my left leg for most of the ride. As the van went up the hill, he slid back and wrapped around both of my legs to keep from sliding all the way to the back of the bus. He had feet like snowshoes. I kept remembering these dogs make German Shepherds look like Park Avenue Poodles, so I tried to stay on his good side with gentle scratches to the head. Nice doggie.

Mike Cowan, the Hash Master, calls for all Virgins to come forward. "Now don't all come down at once, no pushing."

The Hash was held on the east coast of Grenada about an hour and half north of Prickly Bay.

The Hash was about an hour and half north of Prickly Bay in the small village of La Poterie. As we arrived we saw a ramshackle collection of shacks, consisting of a rum shop, a small grocery, and a BBQ tent. About a 100 people were milling around on the street. We got out, left a spare set of clothes in the van, then found the check-in lady who pulled out a special clip board labeled "VIRGINS" and had us sign in. She said it was very important for us to also sign out when we finished, which got us to wondering about whether there are still people roaming the jungle after the last Hash. We also paid the exorbitant race fee of 2 EC (about 74 cents US) to another lady walking around shaking a small basket full of coins.

Close to race time, the Hash Master called for all the Virgins to come forward. Being a very rule-based person, I was the only one to step forward, but eventually about 15 others (including Meryl) showed up. We'd heard rumors about the initiation so I quietly took my glasses off and put them in my pocket. The Hash Master welcomed us, recited a brief set of cryptic instructions and kept asking if someone could hand him a beer (more about that later), but surprisingly, no beer could be found. He then talked about the two trails, a walker's version and a runner's version, and finally set us off behind the cook tent looking for the the walker's trail.

A word about Hash's. According to WikiPedia:

Hashing originated in December 1938 in Selayang Quarry, Malaysia, when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British paper chase or "hare and hounds", to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend. A. S. Gispert, one of the founders, suggested the name "Hash House Harriers" after the Selangor Club Annex, where several of the original hashers happened to live, known as the "Hash House" where they also dined.

Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and finding the trail, harriers reaching the end of the trail would partake of beer, ginger beer and cigarettes. The objectives of the Hash House Harriers as recorded on the club registration card dated 1950:
  • To promote physical fitness among our members
  • To get rid of weekend hangovers
  • To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
  • To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
Well, that pretty much sums it up.

For our Hash, the two hares had taken off early and left a trail marked by small clumps of shredded computer paper. Our job was 1) to follow that trail, 2) not get lost on any of the false trails that the hares can set, and 3) come back alive.

Clumps of shredded paper mark the correct trail.

Once we were sent off by the Hash Master, we noticed the walkers took off at a very brisk pace. So much for our idea of a casual stroll through the woods. The crowd was a mix of about 60% Grenadians and 40% yachties and ex-pats. Trying to keep up running or walking with most Grenadians is an exercise in futility (they are great athletes) so we set our own pace walking through a lightly forested section of foreshore and finally breaking out onto a beautiful long stretch of beach, all the while following the clumps of paper along the trail set at roughly every 10 - 20 ft.

Looking ahead we could see the crowd starting to disperse and someone yelling out "Paper, Paper?" which was a cry of "does anyone know where the trail is?" This is the tricky part. Hashing has a devious side and is not just a jaunt throughout the woods. Sometimes the trail is easy to find and sometimes not. If you are uncertain of the trail, you yell "Are you?" to other Hashers, who will respond with "On On" if they are on the trail, or "Checking" or "Looking" or the dreaded "Lost."

Beautiful stretch of normally secluded beach near Levera. "On-On."

Finally the crowd, like a pack of hounds who had been sniffing for the trail from side to side, centering in on some new paper clumps further ahead and off we went. The trail followed a beautiful, desolated stretch of beach that we would have never found on our own. We got passed by some, but we held our own fairly well (except for a pair of long-legged blonde Brit ladies who continued talking the entire Hash while passing us on cruise control).

After about an hour of walking along the beach the trail climbed a short headland and disappeared into an open bamboo forest area. We continued along a short stretch of river then slowly ascended a hillside up to an pasture area where we walked by several somewhat surprised cows. As other walkers passed us we heard strange bits of conversation ranging from physiology (the med students), epoxy (the cruisers), and local politics (the Grenadians).

Breaking out of the forest we came upon a small paved road with a split for the runners to continue on a trail to the right (that ironically went around the local rum distillery). Aside from the two talkative Brit ladies and a 10-year-old Grenadian girl who casually passed us like we were standing still, we pretty much had the road to ourselves.

The trails converged about one mile ahead with the runners charging in from the right hand side and disappearing up the road.  Coming over a short rise we could hear the din from the finish line. No plastic tape to burst through at the finish, but we did have to check our names off the Virgin list so none would have to go out searching for us.

Boxes and boxes of oil-down and BBQ chicken.

We quickly grabbed "three for two" Stag beers ($3.70) and found a chunk of concrete to sit down and rest. It was now approaching dusk and walkers kept pouring into the finish area. We headed over to the tent area and bought two local favorites, an oil-down (long, hard deep-fried dumplings, chicken, pig's somethings, and plantains) and BBQ chicken for $3.70 a piece.

As the majority of the walkers finally arrived, the Hash Master grabbed the microphone and thanked the hares for setting such a great course, then invited all the Virgins up to the podium area. This time more people showed, although I still took my glasses off and put them in my pocket. The Hash Master announced that we had "lost our virginity" and were now Hashers.  He asked us to gather in a group hug to congratulate ourselves, and that's when the shook-up beers came out. We kind of knew this was coming, but the cold beer actually felt good on our already sweat-soaked jerseys.  It was still about 85 degrees out, so anything to cool down was welcome. We did get our official Loss of Virginity certificates, so that was cool.

The festivities continued with the Hash Master asking two guys to come up and kneel before him. This is called a "down-down" and was admonishment for being SCB's (short-cutting bastards), having been seen taking a short cut on the trail. They had to drink something gross out of a pail and had the requisite beers poured over their heads.

These two are actually getting rewarded for something good they did; image what happens if you screw up?

Next a very tall girl and her friend were called up for something she had done well (it was very noisy so we're not sure what) but she still ended up with a toilet seat over her head and a beer shower.

Although it didn't happen on our Hash, we're heard if you show up in new running shoes you'll be forced to drink your beer out of your new shoes.  Naturally all this is done in fun and with a full dose of sardonic British tradition.

We ran into our buddy Travis from Tai Chi class and several yachties who we knew by sight. All in all it was a wonderful event. Fourteen of us, beer soaked and sweat covered, crammed back into Shademan's mini van for the hour plus ride back to our marinas.  I have to say the bus ride was way more physical than the walk. I sat further in the front this time on a very uncomfortable jump seat listened to two French ladies have a very animated discussion about something French and apparently important. I kind of missed the warmth of my buddy, Draper the 60-lb. Rhodesian Ridgeback, on my feet (he probably couldn't handle the smell).

But the important thing was "I was no longer a Virgin."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Dark Side of Cruising

Fun in the sun. Adventures on the high seas. Laying under the palm trees. This would be a typical description when asking someone about "the cruising lifestyle."

Unfortunately there is also a dark side to cruising, one that no one wants to talk about. It rarely warrants an article in a cruising magazine, and certainly doesn't show up in the Tourist Board videos. It's called crimes against cruisers.

In St. Martin it was the frequent dingy and outboard motor thefts. In Nassua it was muggings on the side streets. And now in the Windward Islands, a violent machete attack and a broad daylight burglary. We want our world to be perfect, but it isn't.

On Oct. 3rd near Union Island, about twenty miles north of us, Mike and Christina were enjoying a quiet evening meal down below on s/v Rainbow, which was anchored off Frigate Island (about one mile offshore from the nearest village). Christina heard a noise and stuck her head outside and saw a vertical shape against the lifelines. Popping down below to ask Mike if he'd left his towel on the lifelines, she then popped up again and was attacked by an unseen assailant.

All she felt was the machete blade slicing through her left cheek and jaw. Falling back into the cabin she was cut again on the back and was bleeding profusely. Her partner, Mike, sprang up to catch Christina, then grabbed a long kitchen knife and went topsides. A brief scuffle ensued and Mike stabbed the assailant several times and was cut himself.  As the assailant fell into the water, Mike could make out two more guys sitting in the wooden boat by their swim ladder.

Mike's immediate concern was Christina and getting her to medical care. He radioed a Mayday, but only one boat was nearby and they had pulled up anchor and left. He then got cruisers in Grenada to relay a radio message to Rescue One, a privately funded rescue organization who mobilized (this organization is really just a few guys) and arranged for medical and police to meet Mike and Christina when they arrived in Carriacou, Grenada, about 8 miles to the south of Union Island (part of the country of St. Vincent).

We caught all this happening live as we listened in on VHF Channel 68, the hailing channel in Grenada. It was frightening to hear the urgency in Mike's voice as he tried to get first aid advice and pushed his engine to the limit to get to Carriacou as fast as possible.

One of the Rescue One volunteers, Mark on SeaLife, did an excellent job talking with Mike and marshaling medical resources for Christina when they arrived at Carriacou. Other cruisers helped out with communications and trying to contact nurses/doctors on other boats. Christina made it to Carriacou and received emergency medical care and was later flown to Grenada for additional medical services.

The police caught three 15-year-old boys. One of whom, the one who wielded the machete, exhibited no remorse for the attack.

Four days later,  s/v Soulmatie was anchored about 400 yards to the north of us in Prickly Bay. We had just met Larry and Tracy at Trivia Night two days before when our combined team took a stellar third place in the competition. While they were ashore on Sunday afternoon playing Mexican Train dominoes with other cruisers, three locals swam or paddle-boarded out to their boat, took a sharp object and cut through the thick wood surrounding the lock and forced the companionway door open. They then spent a leisurely time ransacking the boat and taking two computers, two Kindles, and a variety of other items and cash. They spent a lot of time wrapping all the loot in baggies, garbage bags and finally, a shower curtain. When Larry and Tracy returned to their boat and saw the damage, their initial fear turned to anger as they remembered two nearly finished novels, both backed up to the other's computer, were now gone forever, along with all their financial information, history, letters, photos, and such.

Ironically earlier that day many cruisers saw a local guy on a surfboard slowly paddling around the anchorage. A security call went out and many of us watched him as he passed various parts of the bay. Larry and Tracy's boat was nearby, so I made a point of watching the guy as he crossed that area of the bay and another cruiser picked him up after that. Was he involved? Was he a spotter? Who knows. The point is this happened right under our noses in broad daylight.

When reading about incidents like this on the web or in magazine, our first instinct as cruisers is to think "it couldn't happen to me."  But when it happens nearby or to friends our yours, you realize it can happen to you.

Mark on s/v Sea Life welcomes over 200 cruisers attending the security meeting at Port Louis Marina.

Christina on s/v Rainbow bravely recounts the vicious attack on her and Mike at Union Island.

A couple of days later the cruising community in Grenada got together, 200 strong, during a meeting at the Port Louis Marina. Mike and Christina gave a short talk and then Larry and Tracy related the details of their theft. The accounts were sobering and it was silent in the room as Christina related her harrowing experience. From 100 yards away the scars and stitches on her face and back were a grim reminder of reality. During the meeting cruisers shared suggestions and related stories of their own.

Since there is no true Coast Guard in Grenada and the police presence on the water is very limited, you quickly realize that as cruisers, all we have is each other.  Our VHF and HAM radios are our lifelines to the world and now we leave them on all night long in case someone needs help.

The reality is that Grenada, and most of the West Indies, are relatively safe areas. Like anywhere, 98% of the people are good, but you have to watch the other 2% and not give them an opportunity to make you a victim.

I found an excellent book on the web that is considered THE book on violence:
Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected by Rory Miller. It talks about (available on Amazon as a Kindle download) how to recognize violent people, how to hopefully avoid violent situations, and if necessary, how to defend yourself when there are no other options. Like most cruisers, Meryl and I have reviewed scenarios of various types of incidents and talked about how we would respond and the tools we have available to defend ourselves. 

Legal means of self-defense is a tricky question as you travel from island to island, but during the meeting most cruisers agreed on the following security defenses:
  • Introduce yourselves to the boats anchored next to you;
  • Don't advertise your absence from the boat via VHF radio;
  • Don't let anyone on your boat whom you don't trust implicitly;
  • Have bright lights on the deck that can be activated from your sleeping area;
  • Have a bright spotlight or tactical flashlight to blind people boarding your boat;
  • Have a loud horn to alert other cruisers;
  • Consider stainless steel security grates on your hatches and companionway; make sure you can easily remove them to get out in a fire.
  • Flare guns can intimidate, but are not terribly effective as a weapon;
  • Machetes can be effective self defense tools if you are trained in their use:
  • Gel-type tear gas is available on some islands, but probably not legal on other islands;
  • Wasp and hornet spray is legal and shoots 40 ft through the air and can blind the attacker;
  • Educate yourself on violent behaviors and self-defense techniques; your life may depend on it.
  • Don't totally depend on DSC on your VHF radio, it may not be effective in your area.
  • Sit down with your crew to think through possible scenarios and develop a personal security plan for the boat, then actually walk through the scenarios to see if your plan works.
Again, simply reading KOMO-TV's news web page each night would dissuade any rational person from ever visiting Seattle: there's simply too much crime.

We try to keep everything in perspective down here, but we are also prepared for worse-case scenarios.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More Diversions

There seems to be an unlimited number of activities in Grenada to occupy one's time while waiting for hurricane season to end. One of the more intriguing activities was the Out of Africa wine tasting party at the home of the Consul General of Germany's house high in the hills overlooking St. George's.

As usual, Cutty picked up a group of us at Prickly Bay Marina for the circuitous drive up the backroads of St. George's to a beautiful house perched on the hillside. Margit Bluebeard (don't think there is any pirate connection here) meet us and escorted us up to the veranda overlooking the bay. Margit is the director of South African Wines in Grenada and hosts the wine tasting parties every two to three weeks.

A eclectic group of us, including two professors from the local university, a former police officer, the daughter of the mechanic for the Hell's Angels, and assorted cruisers sat in comfortable chairs as Margit brought out the first wine, a Namaqua Blanc de Blanc, and poured a glass for each participant. I wish I were more of a wine aficionado so I could wax eloquently about the guava fruitiness on the nose of the wine, but it tasted good to me. The big attraction of the evening, outside of the excellent wines, was the stunning sunset overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

As more wines were brought out, and more glasses poured, the conversation got louder and more interesting. We finished the evening with a Tribal Spear Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, which tasted very good -- especially after six glasses of the other wines. The walk down the steep stairs was a challenge for some, but a great evening all in all.

When we returned to Prickly Bay Marina, another classic Grenada event was in full swing, Bingo Night. The parking lot was packed and over 200 people, mainly locals, partied and listened for the lucky B49 to complete their Bingo card.

Daren calls out the bingo numbers to a packed crowd.

Locals love this event, especially with the chance to win big money and maybe even a cow or truck.

Grand Prize for the eventing. Not sure if you have to share the beer with your friends.

"What do you mean I've been invited to dinner?"
The big draw this evening, outside of the normal $1000 cash prizes, the pig, and goat, and the cow, was a Hilux pickup truck loaded with 20 cases of Carib beer.

We didn't stay until the end, but someone was a happy camper when the evening ended. And someone else had to figure out how to get a cow in his car for the drive home.