September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle

By Liz Tosoni

Having studied Chris Doyle’s Sailor’s Guide to the Windward Islands before our arrival in Grenada, Tom and I thought we had a pretty good notion about what we were going to find, but were truly taken by surprise at the amazing proliferation of vegetation and the sheer, natural beauty of the place. Feel Free has transported us to countless landfalls and this one definitely ranks high on our list of “memorable” ones.

The Windward Islands are at the southern end of the huge necklace of Caribbean islands sweeping in a wide arc from Florida to Venezuela. To get there from the many other British possessions, you had to sail to windward, hence the name.

Now just picture a small, mountainous, tear drop shaped, verdant island with bountiful tropical forests, crystal waterfalls cascading into cool, clear pools, an abundance of flora and fauna, lots of indented bays and harbours and you have Grenada. It is the Spice Island of the Caribbean. The literature from the tourist bureau says that the aromatic scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger waft in the balmy air as you stroll through markets or wander rainforests and it’s true. No wonder as there are more spices here per square mile than any other place on the planet.

The state of Grenada is actually comprised of three main islands: Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Grenada is the largest, at 120 square miles, Petite Martinique is one square mile. The tiny nation gained full independence from Britain in 1974.

Volcanic eruptions from the sea gave birth to the island aeons ago. Arawak Indians made it their home first, having canoed from the nearby South American continent, all the way up the Caribbean chain. Then came the Carib Indians who were the inhabitants when Christopher Columbus sighted the island back in 1498. Passing Spanish sailors were reminded of a region of southern Spain on seeing it and called it “Granada” and somehow the name stuck in one form or another as it changed hands over centuries. The British were the ones who gave it the current pronunciation (Gre-NAY-da) and spelling. “Morne des Sauteurs” or Leapers’ Hill is a cliff where the last of the Caribs, 40 sad brave souls, including men women and children, jumped to their deaths rather than submit to European rule. The French and British battled it out until 1783 when the British won and began importing large numbers of slaves to develop an agricultural economy.

One of the things I find interesting about world cruising is learning about local spices and herbs and how they got to the different areas. 1843 was probably one of the most important years in the history of this wee nation as it was the year that nutmeg was introduced, taken albeit clandestinely, from the Banda islands of Dutch-occupied Indonesia, the only place in the world where it grew. Grenada proved to have ideal soil and climate for the little nugget, which was considered nearly as precious as gold at the time, for its healing, preservative and flavour qualities.

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Emily 10 months later in which over 80% of the houses and buildings were damaged or destroyed, the hardy nutmeg tree still thrives and the island is the world’s second largest supplier of nutmeg and mace, the lacy red covering on the shell. Nutmeg is used in Indian curries, puddings, cream sauces, sweet breads, peas and beans, eggnog and many milk drinks. Tom is sure the design for the modern bicycle helmet came from the shape of the half nutmeg.

The boat jobs on our “to do” list were growing when we arrived in green Grenada. We’d been on the move since leaving Barbados and had put aside many chores, so we hunkered down in Prickly Bay, a large and well protected harbor full of cruising boats. Now when I say “hunker down” I don’t mean “sit back and relax” as you might think. I mean that we found a really good spot in the harbor and set the hook well so that we could settle in and get to work. When I tell non cruisers that “cruising is a full time job” they often look at me blankly. “Yeah right”, they say to themselves. Well, if they were a fly on the bulkhead of Feel Free while we were in Prickly Bay, they’d soon learn the meaning. We were whirling dervishes, busy from dawn to dusk. Here are some of the jobs I did: cleaned the boat stem to stern (where does all the dust come from?), major laundry, took inventory of stores, made courtesy flags, baked bread, repaired and put in place sun shades, re-stitched the dinghy cover, re-organized lockers. Together, Tom and I removed the large furling jib from the head stay, bagged it and dropped it off at a sail maker for re-stitching (that darned UV cover again), then we picked it up when it was ready and raised it in calm conditions. Among Tom’s jobs were: fixing the gen-set, repairing dinghy pads and handles, changing the engine oil, replacing zincs. The hull under the waterline was beginning to develop a healthy garden of plant life so both Tom and I regularly dove on the bottom to scrub and scrape away the fuzzy growth. Grenada has two excellent chandleries so we stocked up on many marine items we hadn’t been able to find for months.

Grenada has a very active “yachtie community” with a morning “net”, barbeques and potlucks, book swaps, organized island tours, etc. With its marinas, haulout facilities and easy sailing among picturesque islands, some boats make it their base and stay for years on end. Of course at sunset there were happy hours at “De Big Fish” or on the beach to network with old friends and new. Recent pirate attacks on boats between Grenada and Trinidad were a hot topic of discussion as many were heading that way next, a passage of about 80 miles. Some were actually having stainless bars fabricated for use on hatches and companionways, to prevent pirate and robber attacks. Never in all our years of sailing, with the exception of “Pirate Alley” in the Gulf of Aden have we had such concerns so it was a bit of a shock for us. In most places around the world we didn’t need to lock up, but things are different in the Caribbean we were quickly finding out. One morning on the net there was a report from a boat about being robbed of two computers and other valuables while the couple was ashore for dinner the previous evening. They were in Grand Mal Bay on the west coast, the only boat at anchor when the theft occurred. Lesson learned.

On our rest days we would head for the hills to take advantage of the great hiking on offer. Our first hike was to Mount Qua Qua with pals “the Djarrkas” (GB and Sarah) and “the Ascensions” (Gord and Ginny).

Despite blustery weather and fog, we did manage to take in some splendid views and get up close and personal with some of the 20,000 species of plants.

Subsequent hikes were with German friends on Eiland (Mike and Uli) and Lucky Palima (Edgar and Hella), finding us meandering along muddy trails and steep inclines to Seven Sisters Falls, Concord Falls and Mount Carmel Falls. We salty sailors relished those cool pools of glorious fresh water, our skin tingled with delight, glowed with the refreshing comfort the waters provided. With no one else around, it was like arriving at our own personal wilderness spa.

The teacher in me couldn’t resist joining the Saturday morning tutoring sessions with the Mount Airie Education Program, organized by one of the yachties who is based in Grenada during the winter months.

Anyone interested in helping kids, aged 7- 14 with their reading, writing or arithmetic, can take part in the program every Saturday morning. Not only is it a great cultural experience, it’s worth it for the bus ride through the pastoral countryside to get to the community center, in the shade of a huge mango tree on the edge of a large sports field.

It’s impressive to see how yachties in the Caribbean contribute to the local communities. The Carriacou Children’s Education Fund (CCEF) for example, was conceived by a group of cruisers in 2000 and sponsors an event every year to support needy kids with uniforms, books, supplies, hot lunches (Meals from Keels), technical upgrades to computer labs, and scholarships to the community college. Last year, their annual event raised almost $20,000. One woman, Ann Wallis-White, who happens to be a charter broker, has over the past 30-plus years, “begged, borrowed and got donated” thousands of books that have been distributed to Antigua and other Caribbean islands such as Dominica, Bequia, Grenada, St. Vincent and Union Island. Wallis-White has partnered with a non-profit group called B.I.G. Books (Books for International Goodwill), recycling books for the benefit of people as well as the environment. Like someone said, “It’s the detours in life that can be much more rewarding than the well planned route.”