The Neighborhood

Grenada is a small island, about the size of Martha’s Vineyard, but looks larger, because of a mountainous interior, well-watered by northeast trade winds.

We landed at Point Salines, on the southwestern corner of the island, and took a twenty minute cab ride north to the capital. St. George’s harbor opens to the southwest, and has two branches: the deepwater Carenage to the north and a yacht-deep Lagoon to the east. We found our ship in the Carenage – where tall ships used to be careened on the beach to scrape, paint, and repair their bottoms.

St. George’s is built along the sides of an old crater. An old fort, built by the French, stands guard to the west. That’s where the leaders of the next-to-last coup were murdered in 1983. The murderers, deposed by US Marines, reside in a prison up the hill back of town.

On November 18, 1867, there was an earthquake in the Virgin Islands to the north, which caused the water in St. George’s harbor to drop five feet. The reef in front of the Lagoon appeared, and then disappeared, as the water rose four feet over its normal level and sloshed three or four times into the Carenage, wiping out many of the boats and buildings there. Fortunately, no one was lost in the slosh, but there is an underwater volcano three or four miles off Grenada’s north coast. It’s name is “Kick ‘Em Jenny,” and she is the southernmost active volcano in the Lesser Antilles.

Jenny’s summit, 4,300 feet above the ocean floor, rises and falls, but is currently 580 feet below sea level. Sailors pass over it without noticing, but it has erupted 10 times since 1939, sending six foot tsunamis into northern Grenada and the southern Grenadines. The last time it boiled was in 1979, flooding Grenada’s beaches with dead and rotting fish.

Grenada is one of the Windward Islands, on the easternmost arc of a long string of volcanic protuberances. The trades blow in from the east and north east, which puts Grenada and Barbados (further to the east) to windward of the other Antilles, which arc up torwards Cuba. Those further west and north (like the Virgins) are called the Leeward Islands, because ships sailing downwind from Europe reached them later. The Windward Islands are also called the Lesser Antilles, because they are dwarfed by the Greater Antilles of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Jamaica.

We will sail north through the Grenadines to Martinque – a former French colony, which will put the prevailing winds on our steerboard side, if you happen to be a Viking. For the most part, we will be in the lee of the islands, sheltered from the trades and deep sea swells. But not, of course, from Jenny – the old troll under our sea bridge.

Chris

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