Some of you can prove you are legit grown-ups because you recognize that song, about… wait for it…CAMP GRENADA! (Although they pronounce it differently in the song than actual Grenadians do. In case you wondered, to a local it’s gre-NAY-da – not gre-NAH-da. Now you won’t sound like a noob when you come for a visit.)
Anyway – Camp Grenada is an apt theme for the last few weeks of our lives. There are some cruisers who take offense at this term, because they want us all to Take Boating Seriously. But we like the name, because cruising in Grenada does feel a bit like going to camp. You have to do some required things (like fix all the breaking stuff and keep your cruising permit current and cook meals), but you also have lots of fun electives! So this blog post is about the “Summer Camp” that’s available here in Grenada when you’re waiting out hurricane season.
Beach Boot Camp
Those who know me well are all too familiar with my Crossfit obsession. (Shoutout to WeareIII, the best gym ever!) When people ask me what I miss most about home, the easy answer is “My kids, my church, and my gym.” Regular exercise was just one of the things I let slide when we started cruising… until we visited home and I discovered the weight-increasing effects of less Crossfit and more Cuba Libres. (Yikes!) So I returned to Gratitude on Oct 2 with a renewed resolve to get back into good health habits.
Around the same time, I saw a post on the Grenada Cruisers Facebook page from a woman who wanted to start a Beach Boot Camp. HURRAY! I was SO excited about the chance to get back into group fitness. And it did not disappoint. What we lack in barbells and tire-flips, we make up for with SAND AND SALT WATER. Burpees in the ocean. Pushups with the surf washing up your nose. Sit-ups on the sand that fill your swim shorts with grit. Jumping air squats that splash your neighbor. And while that may sound unpleasant to you, it has been HEAVENLY for me! It’s just so much more fun to exercise with other people. So between boot camp, some running, and more-club-soda-less-rum-punch, my swimsuits are feeling not-so-tight anymore. Yay!
Another huge accomplishment has centered around getting our Advanced Open Water diving certification. One of the things we dreamed of doing while sailing was diving on our own, from our boat. But I did not feel confident in our experience and training level to try that early on – plus we were on a steep learning curve with our sailing skills. So we took some time this month to complete the e-learning for an advanced certification, and this week we completed the required dives. I am very happy about this – we learned a lot, got to practice our skills, and saw some cool wildlife in the process. I love diving even more now than I did before. We also added the certification for using Enriched Air tanks, which will give us even more flexibility on future dives. Now I am hopeful that we can buy some air tanks and start doing some simple diving right off the back of Gratitude, as conditions allow.
Lion Fish Hunting
Speaking of diving! Did you know that lion fish are an invasive species in the Caribbean, and that most countries down here have declared open season on them? Shortly after we returned to Gratitude from our visit home, we heard an announcement on the cruisers’ radio network that a local dive shop would be participating in an island-wide lion fish hunt. Score! We had a spear, but we had never used it – this was the perfect opportunity. So we called ScubaTech (our dive shop) and signed up. This was the same shop where we’d scheduled our certification dives, so it was also a good chance to get to know the fine people there. Josh, Jae, Curtis, and Eveline were loads of fun to dive with, true professionals, and they taught us a lot.
Lion fish are amazingly arrogant. You can approach one, spear in hand, and they don’t spook. Don’t move at all. They are sort of the honey-badgers of marine life. 😜 So you have lots of time to set up your shot, but you’d better make it a good one, because these suckers are kind of hard to kill. If you get a direct hit, you have to follow through by thrusting the spear into the sand or rock behind the fish – if you don’t impale them thoroughly, they will wriggle off the spear and escape. Josh told us he’s seen lion fish before with obvious spear wounds, swimming around and hanging out in the coral like, “Oh, nothing, just my insides hanging out.” (Yuck.)
Fortunately, there were not many escapees on our hunt. It was somewhat challenging, both because of learning how to use the spears, and also because of a strong current on the reef. Andy and I had never dived in such a swift current before, so we had to practice using our fins to keep ourselves steady while making a shot. But it was worth the lessons, because we killed over 20 fish in our first hour. That might not seem like a lot (especially when you consider that a lion fish will lay over 80,000 eggs before it dies), but every little bit helps bring balance back to the reef.
The other notable thing about this hunt was that we saw first-hand the power of a lion fish sting. Our guide Josh was cutting the spines off of a fish to prepare to stash it in the carrier, when the fish twisted and landed not one but THREE stingers in Josh’s finger. I have rarely seen someone in as much pain as Josh was on the boat ride back to shore – doubled over, at the back of the boat, trying not to curse. We got him back to the shop and continued diving with the rest of the crew. We know he was eventually okay, since he was the instructor who later led our certification dives… but after seeing the pain he had to endure, I have a new respect (and loathing) for lion fish. Made me glad we killed a few.
Grenada might have the finest fleet of taxi drivers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They, with few exceptions, are friendly, funny, and always ready to help you, whether you need a ride somewhere or have some other problem to solve. Cyril will take you out for sushi or on an island tour. George not only drives a taxi but rents mooring balls, fills propane tanks, and cleans barnacles off of sailboat hulls. ShadeMan (Patrick) runs shopping buses, organizes river tubing outings and pub crawls, or will take you to the hash every Saturday. (What’s a hash, you ask? See below!)
Here’s Harold, who drove us back to the marina after our flight back to Grenada:
And we can’t neglect to tell you about Ace Ventura. Ace drove us to dinner with some friends, and as pulled out of the marina driveway, he loaded up the music videos on his iPad setup. Which led to a group discussion of music with Ace, in which he proudly shared with us the infamous Reggae Shark. (Yes, we were driving down the road collectively watching YouTube. That’s Grenada for you. I will clarify that Ace was watching the road and not the iPad, once he got it set up.)
Never heard of Reggae Shark? Allow us to introduce you.
Dinners with Friends
There is no lack of nightlife in Grenada, even for those of us who don’t shoot pool or drink ourselves into oblivion. The Lightship, where Ace drove us that night, used to serve as a floating lighthouse in the early 1900s and has now been reincarnated as a restaurant and nightclub. We heard a very talented singer/songwriter that evening, as well as some poetry. It was a bit strange – the poem was a rant against rum production and alcohol consumption… in a bar. Nevertheless, the audience was most appreciative, and the singer was amazing.
Where do I begin to describe hashing? I’ll start where hashers describe themselves: “Drinkers with a running problem.” A hash is a weekly run, every Saturday, through the bush (what Grenadians call their native rain forests), followed by lots and lots of beer and deafeningly loud SoCa music. And oildown, the national dish. The hashers have a wicked sense of humor and malice when it comes to planning the run: the more jungle, mud, river, and ocean they can take you through, the better. The trail is marked with shredded paper (the “hash”) that sometimes points the way, or sometimes forces you to choose one of two possible ways. One of those choices is false, which you might not discover for another quarter mile, at which point you have to backtrack. If someone sees you backtracking, they will yell out “Are you?” And you reply, “On back!” if you’re on a false trail, or “On on!” if you’re on the right one. At the end, the triumphant finishers find many excuses to douse each other with beer. (3 Caribs for about $5 USD – so it’s cheap both to drink and to pour over your friends’ heads.)
One other small adventure we had was a side trip to Barbados. It’s too far north to take Gratitude without violating the terms of our insurance agreement, so we booked a flight from Camp Grenada to Bridgetown and spent some hotel points on a nice room on the Atlantic side of Barbados. Which turned out to be not-so-suitable for sightseeing (too far away), but was really nice for getting some pampering. A king-sized bed! Full-time air-conditioning! A pool and a spa! The views were pretty, too. We also got in one morning of diving, with a shop called Eco Dive in Bridgetown. The owner, Andrew, gave us both some very helpful feedback on ways we could improve and showed us how he uses iMovie to edit his dive video footage.
Now I have to get a new camera. Seriously! Not just because Andrew got me thinking about videos, though. During our lion fish hunt my trusty Olympus Tough TG-3 got flooded and ruined. I was very lucky that the photo of Andy with his trophy survived. Since then Andy’s been taking video with his Sony, but we haven’t taken any stills, because that’s kind of how we’ve divided the labor – I take the closeups and he captures the action. (That’s a pretty good metaphor for our relationship, now that I consider it.) I’ve been doing a lot of research and considering the options, but I suspect in the end I will just go with the latest Olympus Tough (a TG-6 now, I think). I already know the menus, and the latest version has some cool new features. And really, I am not going to learn a complicated camera with a crazy-expensive waterproof housing. I believe I will always be a point-and-shoot gal, and the Olympus lets me get some pretty decent photos with a minimum of gear.
Lest you think Camp Grenada is all fun and games, we must also share our Ice Maker Redux. Remember when Andy went to all that time and trouble back in July, in St. Maarten, to track down and repair a water leak in our ice maker? The fix held… but the compressor went out. We found it, crazily enough, because some sort of electrical wonkiness made our microwave conk out if we ran the Ninja Foodi. Andy the Genius traced it to the ice maker outlet, and discovered when we unplugged the ice maker all the other appliances played nice again. So we had our first experience using a broker to have something shipped to Grenada.
When you need a boat part in Grenada, it’s usually easiest and cheapest to try and buy it here, mostly because of the Byzantine customs process that your shipment must go through to come into the country. But for a big appliance, it’s often worth the trouble so that you can get the brand and features you want. We’d been avoiding it, but a friend down here recommended a broker who would handle the customs process for us (a necessity, as we learned earlier this year trying to get our satellite receiver back from a warranty repair). So we used the broker – and with only a minimum of hiccups and miscommunications and “island-time” accommodating, we got a new ice maker! Andy is my hero, once again – the next best thing to having air conditioning on this boat is having ice for my water! (And, ahem, other beverages.)