Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just nutz...

 The constantly changing weather has been driving me batty. It has been truly difficult to get the masts done. Forecasts are only accurate out past the day and sometimes they change in an hour from sunny for the next two days to expect a half inch of rain by noon! Normally I would be much more easygoing about this sort of thing, but I said I would do the varnish on the masts and I am really feeling bad about not getting them done.

I finally had a good shiny day and had to go for it. I was really proud of one of the best varnishing jobs I had put down yet. Never mind that it was in winds gusting from 8 to 15. I had to really hang onto my brush up there. The waves were hopping the boat all over the place and I felt like a tether ball swinging around at times. But, I pulled it off and got down to the deck right before dark. It felt good.

It rained about 30 minutes later (fairly hard too). The next morning I got up hoping it had time to skin over, but instead found a surface with more craters than the moon. It was what it was. I had to give it a day to cure up a bit and sanded it all back down.

A few days later another lucky weather break came in and I managed to put down another semi-decent shiny coat. Best of all it didn't rain today. All should be good tomorrow!

Richard and Lani(owners of the boat) have since returned and I am winding up my stay down here. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to get the other mast even started. He will just have to hire that one out I guess, or I will have to fly back down here and do it. I'll wait till it gets a bit drier in the season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The tour continued....

Our little tour group from the other day finished out the day seeing some of the major flavors of Grenada. One such stop was a Nutmeg weigh station. It was barely operational these days, but it was still used. This particular stop once employed about 150 people. Now, thanks to Ivan, there are only 15 and we saw about six of them sitting at a table playing cards. The farmers would drop off their product here and the nutmeg(and mace) is dried out for a while in long trays, eventually shelled, sorted, bagged and shipped of to the rest of the world. Grenada was one of two major suppliers of nutmeg to the world. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan (a cat 3 storm) wiped out about 90% of the nutmeg trees here on the island. Since it takes so long for the new trees to grow and produce, the crop has yet to come back.

Throughout the island are other reminders of Hurricane Ivan. Hundreds of houses like this are all over the place. Owners simply left and never came back. Our guide says someone still probably owns them, and in some cases the original occupants have died and the families do not want to bother with the house.

A spontaneous stop was a little roadside shack called Mark's. Mark must have been our guide's brother-in-law or something but he seemed to know everyone anyway. Mark makes his own Spiced Rum and really good rummy punch and serves it up right there on the street side bar. We all had a great time hanging out and tasting his samples. I think also he enjoyed the group because he gave us the bottle we were sampling from for the road. 

Next was a Cocoa Plantation of Belmont Estate. Hurricane Ivan also wiped out most of the cocoa crop on the island but this plantation still survives partly because it is one of the oldest and largest. The cocoa bean comes out of the fruit is actually white and kinda slimy. All these are tossed into bins and allowed to ferment for about a week getting turned every couple of days. The slimy coating comes off and the beans turn rich brown. This is when the cocoa develops most of it's rich flavor. 

Then the beans move outside to be dried in the sun on long carts for about another week. Workers frequently walk through the beans, shuffling their feet to break up beans stuck together and evenly dry the whole tray.   Everything is on rollers (even the huge roof) so it all is rolled under covers for a unexpected passing squalls. They process some of this cocoa into their own chocolate bars. Grenadian chocolate has a reputation of being some of the best in the world.

By some coincidence our tour started with a visit to a rum distillery (we sampled), stopped at a midpoint for some more samples (Marks), and pretty much ended with a tour of another distillery. River Antione Rum Distillery (est 1785) is the oldest on the island and still uses sugar cane from it's own fields to make it's rum. The key feature of this distillery is the huge water wheel that they still use to grind up the cane and press out the sugar water. They use some of the leftover dried cane to fire the boilers, but out guide said they are moving away from that because it just burns too fast. They use wood now and what bits of cane they don't burn is returned back to the fields as compost.
Yes- we sampled here too. Our tour van was indeed a very fun bus that day.