North to a Cruisers Paradise – Carriacou

There is a volcano under there!

If the south coast of Grenada with its cruisers social events, happy hours, taxi tours and evening entertainment is the cruising equivalent of a holiday camp then its northerly neighbour Carriacou is a quiet paradise. Part of the same country along with the island of PM (Petit Martinique), Carriacou is a thin twisting volcanic outpost in amongst coral reefs. To reach it by boat from Grenada you have to sail round the exclusion zone of a live underwater volcano! Much less mountainous Carriacou permits the trade clouds to pass over the hills and is therefore drier, lacking in rain forest but makes up for this with an abundance of sandy beaches and apparently has more rum bars than petrol stations (we’ve only seen one of the latter and there must be at least ten bars in shacks along the beach here alone). Temptress dropped the hook in the sheltered curve of Tyrrel Bay, dark sand and palm trees fringe the translucent sea, for the first time we could see the bottom where we’d anchored. Most of the bay is only a few metres deep unlike Grenada’s bays where the choice is usually out of soundings, ten plus metres or a tiny fringe of five or less.

Sunset Tyrrel Bay

 Ashore shoes are almost unnecessary as most of the cafes, shops and vegetable stalls front the beach. Everything a cruiser needs is here – customs & immigration recently relocated from the main town Hillsborough to the local boatyard, haul out facilities, sail repairs, fresh veg, cheap beers and cafes so not surprisingly there are probably a hundred boats either at anchor or on the scattered moorings. Some are charterers on a couple of weeks’ vacation; others long term live-aboards who spend most of the season here whilst yet others like ourselves are passing slowly through. Every type of vessel from a wreck of a tug to the intern island ferry, from a smart J105 “Jab Jab of Cowes” (on a mooring next to us, a useful object to swim out to and back) to cruising boats like Temptress, from wooden gaffers to huge catamarans, some slowly mouldering away other’s brand spanking new, some over fifty feet long others only just making twenty. The Grenada cruisers net reaches these parts too so we had some inkling of what to expect.  The Lazy Turtle does pizza’s and the Gallery Café breakfasts and local crafts. In between there are several rum shops (bars) and local food establishments (huts with a BBQ serving chicken, fish or oil down)

Kevin wondering if he can have a new toy

Main Street Hillsborough – looking towards town
One of several BBQ shacks in Hillsborough
Main Street, Hillsborough – looking out of town

We arrived late Thursday afternoon. Friday we completed some chores; a pile of laundry ( a pink job) and an engine check (a blue job). The latter revealed a leaky injector and a blown fuse on the engine extractor fan, explaining the diesel-ly smell that recently has plagued us in the saloon after the engine has been running for a while. The laundry was simply an hour or so of elbow grease followed by reading in the cockpit for another couple of hours while it dried but the engine issues will take a little longer to solve. The sparse chandlery here hasn’t got the right size fuse and it took until Saturday morning to find a number for the local mechanic who won’t be working until Monday. Saturday we purchased some fresh veg from Rufus a local farmer who sets up his stall on the beach road once a week – lovely fresh basil, green beans, a bag of spinach, some sweet potatoes all harvested this morning and a lb (no metrication here) of sapodillos (an extremely sweet segmented fruit looking like an over large kiwi on the outside with flesh and flavour more mango-like) – total cost 23 EC$, about £5.

Hillsborough Bay from Main Street

Then we took the local bus (think minibus with reggae music) to town – Hillsborough – for 3.50EC$ each so Kevin could find himself a haircut and I could find a pharmacy as having been feeling a bit under the weather for a few days I appear to have tonsillitis if peering at my throat in the heads mirror is anything to go by. The first pharmacy was a window in a wall inside of a supermarket. Though helpful the assistant had little on her shelves beyond that you would find in a European supermarket; vitamins, rubs, painkillers and plasters. Round the corner in the next street was a proper chemist shop with a helpful pharmacist who found me a throat spray from his shelves and directed his assistant to give me some Strepsils…I was a bit bemused when she opened a large sweet jar and counted out five strips of two lozenges each, so taken aback in fact that I failed to notice how much they cost but at least my throat is more comfortable.

Hillsborough is the local shopping mecca – white goods, carpets, replacement windows, hardware, supermarkets, clothes and more; every business seems to sell some assortment of these and if you look in through the open door you are instantly greeted and urged in to take a look. We peaked in Patty’s Deli – lots of lovely foody things but no bread left unfortunately. Everyone is friendly, the barber was listening to the BBC World Service and owned up to being an Archers fan! The anchorage though looks quite rolly as the trade wind swell works its way in from the north so we’ll stick to the bus ride rather than taking Temptress round.  A bus ride here is always eventful, on the way back we made a detour so that the young mother and daughter who had ridden down with us earlier could collect a heavy sack of rice from one of the stores before heading back to the bus terminus in case anyone else wanted a trip to Estrelle, Harvey Vale or Tyrrel Bay!

Follow the seahorses to the beach in Hillsborough

So here we are back on the boat, Kevin turned some of our surplus of Spanish onions left over from our Transatlantic into a surplus of French Onion soup a la Delia (Smith, one of our two big cookbooks on board, the other being the delightful Nigel Slater). It was his first attempt at traditional French cuisine and made an excellent late lunch. This evening we’ve been invited to join a cruiser drinks and supper event but as the crew of Blue Zulu  Steve and Mags, who invited us, only knew the time to rendezvous (5pm at the Lambi Queen Restaurant jetty) we are in the dark as to what and where. Plenty of time before then for a swim and a shower, we are getting into the Caribbean lifestyle – everything shuts at lunchtime on Saturday and doesn’t re-open until Monday morning so the cruisers just hang out (lime) once the Saturday shopping is finished.