I've learned a lot in the past few months. About tropical storms and hurricanes, that is.
Like how, in the Caribbean, you don't get your plain old garden-variety storm. Oh no, down here we get tropical waves, tropical depressions, tropical storms, and tropical hurricanes. Each seems to bring tons of wind, buckets of rains, and brilliant night skies filled with sheet lightning. And as far as I can tell, the only difference is in how much force and energy is behind the controls.
All of these weather systems seem to get spewed off the west coast of Africa and all seem to make a direct beeline for Grenada! Once they're heading in our direction, it's a little like a game of Russian Roulette: will we get a direct hit, or will the storm veer northward, thankfully avoiding us but unfortunately devastating some other poor developing country that's barely recovered from the last big hit and ill-equipped to deal with another?
So far we've had two close calls: Dean and Felix. We hunkered down in the mangroves in a protected bay on the south coast of Grenada for Dean, who was already a category 2 hurricane as it approached us. Thankfully Dean decided to head up-island, hitting St. Lucia and Martinique instead, although we still experienced a good amount of wind, rain, and electricity. We stayed in our usual anchorage for Felix, who was a mere tropical storm at the time, but Felix was a strong brute and indeed kicked some sailboat butt for a while!
If I weren't so scared at the time, I probably would've appreciated the marvels of Mother Nature. In what men would probably call true female mood swing fashion, She went from dead-calm-there's-not-a-whiff-of-a-breeze before the storm, to holy-mother-of-god-all-hell's-broken-loose as She passed on by. But I was too scared at the time, and the only thing I was appreciating was how well Skipper Jeffrey was keeping things under control!
Other than being on 24/7 storm watch, things are pretty much the same here: I'm still living on Jeffrey's sailboat in the Caribbean. We're still waiting for J's paperwork before we can head to Venezuela. I'm still writing this bloody bleedin' book on Volunteering in Latin America, although I'm now down to the last chapter and final edits.
For a change of scenery, we occasionally sail north and spend some time in Carriacou. It's the next island up, about a 5-hour sail from Grenada. It's much quieter there, and breezier which thankfully keeps the otherwise oppressive heat and relentless mossies at bay. And I find it a more peaceful environment in which to write. But unfortunately there aren't many decent food stores in Carriacou, so when the boat's larder nears empty, we grudgingly return to Grenada. Last time we sailed south to Grenada, we were luck enough to catch a good-sized fish (either tuna or bonito, not sure which!) to supplement our food stores.
We've also done a few sightseeing excursions around Grenada, including the Grand Etang rainforest, which unfortunately was mostly destroyed by Hurricane Ivan a couple years back, Annandale Falls, Caribs' Leap on the north end of the island, and we attended Fish Fry Friday at Gouyave which is known as Grenada's fish capital. Most recently we toured the Rivers Antoine Rum Factory, which has been growing sugar cane and producing rum on Grenada since 1785, and Belmont Estates, an old cocoa plantation and supplier of the organic cocoa that goes into Grenada Chocolate Company's dark chocolate bars. Got free samples of both rum and chocolate in one day!
I took in a few events for Grenada's "Carnival" which took place in July/August, and I also did my first "hash" a few weeks back, which is a group walk/run that's organized by the worldwide Hash House Harriers. I believe Grenada hosts a hash every couple of weeks, and it's a big social thing while at the same time an opportunity to get a bit of exercise and see different parts of the island.
I've noticed a real change in the cruising community since I last spent any amount of time on a sailboat in the islands. Years ago the sailing community mainly consisted of older/retired couples, single men (woohoo!), and groups of people doing sailboat charters. These days, there are still all of the above, but in addition you see lots of families. Young families with babies and young children, and dogs and cats onboard. Living in close quarters while sailing around the world seems to really strengthen these family units. The kids are all home-schooled, plus kids and adults alike get incredible lessons in geography and history as they travel around, plus everyone gets a better appreciation for how other people in the world live.
So, except for the occasional tropical storm and hurricane, all continues to go well in the islands. I'm looking forward to heading to Venezuela, but in the meantime...what can I say...life's a beach!