Huddling together on the south coast of Grenada
Camp Grenada is the nickname for the Caribbean’s most popular hurricane hole. Grenada in the West Indies is the place to be because it sits below the line that most marine insurance companies have drawn in the ocean for where you can stay and still be covered June through November. It also has the best chocolate in the Caribbean. Grenada is not as protected as some other harbors in the Caribbean. If a blow comes through, this is not the best place to be for a lot of reasons. But statistically, storms tend to land north of here more often than not, so we all huddle together on the south coast of Grenada and call it home for six months.
And the camp part? That speaks to the hundreds of boats here all organizing and gathering to pass the time, explore, get projects done, and, of course, party a little. There are lots of different cliques just as any camp would have. There are the kid boats, with lots of under-10, barefoot, bleach-blonde tykes running in sun-kissed and largely unsupervised packs. There are the retirees, two by two on tidy boats, never missing a happy hour. There are the singlehanders, muscular and friendly, often on boats equally strong, but small; here today and gone tomorrow. And there are the expats, those who call this place home now, officially or unofficially, some on land and some moored forever.
There’s one key group that makes Camp Grenada possible, and that’s the Grenadians themselves. Imagine having this many outsiders flock to your tiny island home. They all want stuff. So much stuff. We want laundry done and boat parts sourced, Halloween candy and groceries delivered to dinghy docks, and we want it all with a smile. And you know what? It happens. The people of Grenada could not be more accommodating, patient, and gracious to the throngs of cruisers who buzz about.
When we arrived in June, we tuned into the morning net (daily cruisers’ discussion on the marine radio), and quickly learned the characters and routines. Nicknames and WhatsApp numbers are passed about, and you get dialed into who will fill your propane, who bakes the best bread, and who can give you a lift to the marine chandleries.
Sitting in a Grenadian traffic jam on the way back from running errands with other cruisers, I queried the group about what makes Camp Grenada special. There was talk of book clubs and morning yoga and dive trips. They mentioned the waterfalls, rum distilleries, spice farms, and chocolate factories. Oh, and don’t forget Wednesday Wing Night, the Hash (a weekly group hike/ run), open mic at Nimrods, and the treasures of the fish market.
Our driver Dexter spoke up. He said, “I want people to know that Grenadians are the nicest people in the Caribbean, and we are so happy to have the cruisers here. I want people to feel safe and welcomed.”
We all agreed. I asked him about why he makes an effort to work with the cruising community.
“I know how hard it is to do what you do, sailing here. I was adrift for five days in the Caribbean Sea and almost lost my life. I have respect for the ocean and for people who cross the sea.”
Wait, what?! He proceeded to share a harrowing tale from his youth. He and some friends ran out of gas on a day trip, and ended up five days adrift, losing one friend to the sea, but thankfully getting rescued by the Coast Guard and a passing cruise ship.
“I learned that you need to be prepared if you go on the ocean. So, I am happy to help you all do that. Every day that you wake up is a gift, and I see that you cruisers understand that.” I asked if he ever went boating again after that?
“I am just not meant for boats. But that’s okay. I’m happy on land with my garden.” He doesn’t just drive a taxi; he also grows the best cucumbers on the island.
Hearing stories like this while crammed into a minivan taxi is just as memorable as the tales told around a fire at camp.
A hurricane hole is a funny thing. It’s a spontaneous, temporary community that forms as quickly as it dismantles come November. “Which way are you going?” is the million-dollar question. Some are heading west, some are heading north, some are making a loop to end up right back here, and some are staying in Camp Grenada for more hospitality. And more chocolate.
We are holding over a few extra weeks to wait for weather and fix a few odds and ends. It’s quieter here now, not quite the high activity buzz of camp. While we’re impatient about getting underway again, I can’t help but be okay with one more Wing night, one more round of samosas from Harry at the farmers market, and one more errand run with Dexter. And of course, some more chocolate.
by Cindy Wallach
About the author: Chesapeake sailor Cindy Wallach is cruising the Caribbean with her family aboard their St. Francis 44 catamaran Majestic.