We had a perfect sail down from Carriacou to St George’s in Grenada. The wind was steady on the beam, until we got in the wind shadow of some of the higher ground on Grenada, but with plenty of time before dark, we stayed with the sails and made our way sedately to Camper Nicholson’s Port Louis marina.

We took advantage of their half price ‘Carnival Special’ and for a very reasonable £19 a night we had the security of knowing that the boat and dinghy were in a secure and guarded berth during the carnival weekend, when things notoriously ‘go missing’!. It also meant we could walk into town and see as much of Carnival as possible.

Stamen and Durita moored up just in front of us on the Super Yacht dock and we spent a day settling in and getting used to the luxury of a swimming pool and poolside bar, good wifi and a laundry that actually got clothes clean!

On Saturday afternoon we dodged the showers and headed for the ‘Panorama’ steel pan band competition at the National Cricket Stadium. The bands had from 50 up to 80 players aged, 9 to 70, with as many as 170 pans. All these pans of various sizes were mounted on numerous small wheeled floats, that had to be manhandled across the muddy outfield, up a steep ramp and onto the stage. Despite the toil of getting everything in place, the performances were incredibly energetic. We stayed to hear 5 of the 9 bands………Marcus had nearly lost the will to live by then……but we did hear the winning band. I loved it!!

Steel Pan Band.

Steel Pan Band.

On Sunday things were eerily quiet and we spent our ‘day off’ doing jobs and socialising. We had an early night ready for a 4am start to experience ‘J’ouvert’ which is a contraction of the French Jour ouvert, or day break.
We got up, very bleary eyed, and made our way towards the loud music to join the several thousand revellers. We had been warned

to wear old clothes and to coat ourselves in baby oil to make washing easier! We were also told that if we stayed on the pavement we would be relatively safe!, but if we walked in the road we were fair game!! We walked along with the crowd…….in the road, of course, and got hugged and danced with by locals covered in engine oil and paint. It was a shame that I didn’t take the camera, but probably just as well! By the way the baby oil trick worked a treat.

This is an extract from the Spice Mas site that explains a little of the J’ouvert tradition.

“…the traditional Jab-Jab or Devil Mas bands emerge from the darkness of the night to parade freely through the town.”
Blackened with stale molasses, tar, grease, creosote or mud, and wearing little more than their horned helmets, these masqueraders in previous times set out to terrify onlookers with their grotesque appearance and repulsive dances.

In modern times, the traditional Jab-Molassi have mutated into other creatures of colour, with Blue, Yellow and Green Devils joining in the early morning parade. These colourful devils are much more playful in character, wanting only to dab a bit of their body paint onto unsuspecting bystanders, as they dance through the streets to the rhythms of the accompanying drums, steel bands and calypsos from huge DJ trucks.

Having drunk and danced our way all the way to the town, Marcus and Stamen decided to walk all the way back……Durita and I opted for the water taxi and bed!

I’ve managed to copy a few shots of J’ouvert from the internet:-

Crowds of very happy, colourful and oily people.

Crowds of very happy, colourful and oily people.

Painted ladies.....carnival style.

Painted ladies…..carnival style.

Some Jab Jabs about to be driven away by the dawn.

Some Jab Jabs about to be driven away by the dawn.

Monday afternoon and we were all up and on our

way to the stadium again to see the Fancy Mas Bands parade on the stage for judging. The costumes are amazing and must cost several month’s wages. We watched them get ready in the street, mixed in with some of the morning Jab Jabs who were still celebrating.

Still up and carrying his bucket of oil!

Still up and carrying his bucket of oil!

Gathering for the parade.

Gathering for the parade.

On the judging stage at the Stadium.

On the judging stage at the Stadium.

It's all about spectacle.

It’s all about spectacle.

Here are some of the amazing ‘feature’ costumes. They were supported by hundreds of other members of the dancing ‘bands’.

'Colours of Carnival' one of the band's theme.

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After a long day and a lot of partying, I was the only one left standing to walk to the gates of the marina at midnight, to watch the Night Mas parade down the hill on its 4 hour journey from Grande Anse into St George.

The Night Mas as it came down the hill.

The Night Mas as it came down the hill.

There were thousands of people marching/dancing/walking festooned with glow sticks in various shapes and sizes following the speaker lorries, which were still blasting out the two songs we heard all day.
On Tuesday there was the Fancy Mas In the afternoon. We dinghied across the harbour to the yacht club for lunch and to await the procession.
It was billed to start at 1pm…….that’s GMT ……. Grenada Maybe Time….. At 3pm we heard the music getting closer so we went and found our vantage spot just by the judging point for the individual feature costumes.
These were the same ‘bands’ that we had seen being judged at the stadium, but this time they paraded from near the marina right into town.
As the last band passed we followed the crowd. Marcus kept going, but I ducked out at the yacht club and headed back to the boat for an early night.
What a great weekend.
Grenadians really know how to party and every event was a family affair. Although a lot of rum and beer was consumed, the crowds were always good humoured and there wasn’t a single disturbance…..we only saw three police officers and they were manning a road block!

On Wednesday, with the boat back together and all systems Go, we got ready to set off for Carriacou to take part in the annual regatta ……..not on our boat, but on another cruiser’s boat.

Durita, our Faroese friend, joined us for the sail up to Carriacou. She had flown down from there on an errand of mercy a couple of days before, accompanying a very sick cruiser who had collapsed on his boat with internal bleeding and was barely alive. By the time her patient arrived at the hospital he was in an even worse state, due to the time and stress of traveling. Medical emergencies are not the easiest things to deal with when you live on a boat. First he had to be manhandled from his boat to a dinghy, …… onto a bus acting as an ambulance, ….into the clinic on Carriacou which had no blood transfusion capability, ……back in the ‘ambulance’, …..onto a six seater plane to Grenada, then into another ambulance to the hospital. Thanks to the persistence of Durita, who is a ‘flying’ nurse back home in Norway, Tony, the patient, eventually was given a blood transfusion that no doubt saved his life. It turns out that the hospital initially said they had only two units of blood………it later transpired that there was more blood, but they were saving it for emergencies!! In the meantime the cruising community arranged a ‘blood drive’ and some 20 or more Yotties rolled up their selves and gave an armful. It appears that once it was clear that their stocks would be replaced, the emergency blood was released and Tony could be operated on. It is now two weeks on and Tony is recovering ashore in Woburn……..Durita removed his stitches on Sunday.

Now back to the Carriacou regatta……well almost!

We motored out of our anchorage in Grenada and headed north, only to be rudely interupted by the engine’s hot water alarm and what,at first, looked like low oil pressure.
Out came the sails and on went the thinking caps.
Marcus, who is now intimately acquainted with the ‘Beast Below the Boards’, quickly discovered that the problem lay in a lack of coolant, so with funnel, hose and a gallon of water, we filled the radiator and set off motor/sailing again. This process had to be repeated three times as we beat our way up to Tyrrell Bay and dropped anchor under a full moon. The following day a miscreant hose clamp was detected and replaced, the radiator was drained and new coolant/antifreeze was administered. Since then this patient too has made a full and speedy recovery!!

Carriacou reminds us of the Scillies with its village community feel and low tech approach to life. The regatta was organised around a course whose turning buoys were rocks and small islands……a little local knowledge allows boats to almost touch the rocks!

The Sisters. One of the turning marks, with Stamen in the foreground.

The Sisters. One of the turning marks, with Stamen in the foreground.

The Friday race was a two hander around the island and started in biblical style with a bolt of lightning and thunder and a curtain of rain that made it impossible to see any of the boats.

Luckily we weren’t involved until Sunny Saturday……..we turned up on the day and sailed on Captain Frank’s boat ‘Samahdi’. A good time was had by all and we came 5th out of 10, once the handicap system was applied. The crew were Frank (Capt), Dave (First Mate), Emma, Stamen, Marcus and Me.

Under way and in with a chance!

Under way and in with a chance!

Saturday night saw the Samahdi Crew entertaining the drinkers and diners at The Slipway with piano, recorder, bongos, egg shaker and voices. Another great evening.

There were no races for cruisers on Sunday, but the local workboats had their races, so Stamen and Durita, Dave and Emma and Marcus and I borrowed ‘Scrappy’ from the Flying Buzzard and set sail around the headland towards Hillsborough to watch the races.

All aboard for the skylark!

All aboard for the skylark!

Forget the Famous Five and Secret Seven…….we were the Silly Six. We set of with lashing and lashings of cold beer and sailed on a starboard tack making good speed, but when we looked under the sail we saw it wasn’t in the right direction!! So we buttied up the dinghy we were towing and used the motor to get to shore and to the beach bar and the chicken and chips that were luring us in.

Crossing the workboats' race on the way to lunch.

Crossing the workboats’ race on the way to lunch.

On the way we passed right through the racing fleet, so we did get to see the race after all!!

Sunday Lunch........

Sunday Lunch……..Marcus, Dave, Stamen, Emma and Durita.

.......the view from our table. Can it get any better?

…….the view from our table. Can it get any better?

On Monday we had our second race and had a flying start! We rounded the first and second marks in first place!!

Leaving all in our wake.....

Leaving all in our wake…..until they all overtook us to windward.

Needless to say we dropped back through the fleet as we beat up the windward legs, but we managed to come in 4th after our handicap was applied, which meant we came just outside the prizes in 4th place overall for the weekend.

Captain Frank narrowly missing a prize:(

Captain Frank narrowly missing a prize:(

With the engine behaving itself, we were off back down to St George’s for Carnival weekend. I’m sure we’ll make the trip back up here during the summer. It is truly delightful.

I have now been back on the boat for four and a half weeks and have settled back into life onboard. It took me some days before my body clock caught up with Caribbean time and my body acclimatised to the heat!
I had a wonderful time back in Blighty and over in Ireland, while Marcus spent almost the entire time maintaining and repairing the engine and hot water system. I felt quite guilty leaving him with it all to do……..for a short time!!
We had a fantastic family gathering at my sister’s place in west Cork to celebrate my Mum’s 96th birthday.

My 96 years young Mum enjoying her day.

My 96 years young Mum enjoying her day.

The Birthday Spread in the garden.

The Birthday Spread in the garden.

Everyone gathered for the feast and celebrations went on until midnight, singing and chatting around the fire pit.

Round the fire pit .

Round the fire pit .

The weather was kind to us and Liney and Jackie managed to put 15 or so of us up overnight, so the party went on into Sunday!

This is where I slept!

This is where I slept!

The view from the garden. Look up Airbnb Dunmanway and you too could stay here!!

The view from the garden. Look up Airbnb Dunmanway and you too could stay here!!

Spending time with family when you live so far away is very precious. Being together with my two sisters and Mummy was a time to treasure.

All together at The Three Sisters cafe.

All together at The Three Sisters cafe.

My two truly terrific sisters. xx

My two truly terrific sisters. xx

After spending a week with Liney at Shiplake, we went to stay with Libby in Passage East and took part in her Best Foot Forward dance class for the over 60s and helped out with the Traces end of ‘term’ party. The work she does with dance is totally inspiring and the Traces Ensemble embody the enrichment that dance can bring to lives.

My  wonderful sister, Libby at the party.

My wonderful sister, Libby at the party.

Traces enjoying an impromptu conga.

Traces enjoying an impromptu conga.

Our daughter, Jenni, is over from Columbia, working in London at the moment and I got to see her for the first time in 18 months and we spent a weekend together, meeting up at Keith’s on Friday night and then spending two relaxing days with Carlos and Maureen

Keith's birthday Barbecue......just like old times.

Keith’s birthday Barbecue……just like old times.

Relaxing in the hot tub at the Persiva's.

Relaxing in the hot tub at the Persiva’s.

I also managed a trip to Birmingham to spend a couple of days with Dan and Becca and got to see Becca dance……..what a delight. It’s good to know I can still be useful…..I helped load two car loads of sound equipment in and out of the Yaris!
It was great to spend a little time with both of our lovely children. I do miss them……thank goodness for Skype!!

Dan and Jenni at Shiplake. xx

Dan and Jenni at Shiplake. xx

I managed to squeeze in a quick visit with Betty and Tracy, a stop over with Nigel and Bridget and lunch with Russell before my time was up and I was Grenada bound. I had a wonderful time and it was lovely to catch up with everyone. Marcus met me at the airport and it was good to be back together again. Five weeks is a long time!!