Savannah to Antigua

Antigua

Deshaies

Isles des Saintes

Bequia

Grenada

St Barts

St Maarten

Grenada

A potted history.

Grenada has had a turbulent history, dating back to when the Caribs arrived and killed off the peaceful Arawaks. Despite what some of the crew think, I am not old enough to remember those days, nor even when Columbus sighted the island on his third voyage, in 1498.

I will look at the more recent history that I can remember. I first came to Grenada in 1972, when it was still a British Colony. There were few yachts visiting then. I was sailing on board Cariad, which at just over a hundred feet on deck was deemed too big to get into the lagoon, and we were able to anchor stern-to in the Carenage, among the sailing cargo vessels.

Trading sloop

Most of the sailing cargo vessels have disappeared, but a few remain.

Carenage from Fort George

The Carenage from Fort George.

I returned on my own boat in 1973, and we lay in the old GYS marina, inside the lagoon. GYS fell into disrepair, until hurricane Ivan finally removed the remains. Now a new marina, Port Louis is being built on the site, and is already open to large yachts.

Port Louis from Fort George

Port Louis Marina on the site of the old GYS

In 1973 there was already talk of Grenada becoming independent from Britain. Rumours abounded that money changed hands and favours were bought and sold, before the right to Independence was granted the next year. Eric Gairy became Prime Minister.

Gairy was well know to the "yachties", as he ran a bar and disco from his house overlooking the lagoon, and every evening he could be found playing music and selling drinks, while by day, he tried to run the country. He led the country into a dark period. There was little money for paying the bills, and Gairy ruled more as a dictator than as Prime Minister. He enforced his will by his not-so-secret army, the Mongoose Gang. They were to be truly feared, and several friends left the island, abandoning everything, to escape the wrath of the Mongoose Gang. Grenada was a scary place to visit at this time.

Eric Gairy became obsessed with UFOs and trying to contact other civilizations, if they existed. While he was away at one of these meetings, the New Jewel Movement, led by Maurice Bishop, mounted a coup and took over the Government. He had Marxist-Leninist ideals and formed close ties with Cuba.

We returned to Grenada during this period, and the island felt much safer, and people seemed better off than under the despotic Eric Gairy. Although I am far from being a Marxist, I had to admire what Bishop achieved and I believe he was very sincere. On one visit we were able to meet with two of his cabinet members. They too were very serious and I think, well meaning.

The outside world was becoming a little wary of the Cuban connection, and via them, the Russian influence. However, trouble came from within the party. Bishop's Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, possibly at the behest of his forceful wife Phyllis, illegally arrested Bishop and declared himself in charge.

Bishop was very popular, and mass demonstrations demanded his release. Coard and his cronies took Bishop and several members of his Cabinet to Fort George, and summarily executed them. Many more people were hurt jumping off the wall of the fort to avoid being shot.

Fort George

Fort George on the top of the hill overlooking the town.

Inside Fort George

Inside Fort George, where Bishop and friends were executed.

In memory

Commemoration for Maurice Bishop and friends

 

After Bishop's death, the military took control and imposed a four-day curfew. Any civilian found outside of their home was subject to summary execution.

The death of Bishop caused international outrage and resulted in the American-led invasion in October 1983. We were approached by CNN asking if we would sail down from St Lucia to Grenada with a camera crew to film the invasion. We declined, and waited for the dust to settle before we made our next visit.

The Americans bombed a few strategic buildings before the landings began. Some buildings, such as the old Parliament Building are still in ruins.

Old Parliamnent building

Ruins of the old Parliament building.

The post invasion years brought tranquility and relative prosperity to the island. In September 2004, Grenada suffered one more kick in the teeth, and got hit by the very strong hurricane Ivan. It did terrible damage to buildings, crops and infrastructure, and when we returned just one year later, they were still struggling to get repairs made and many roofs still were covered by the ubiquitous green tarpaulins.

Now we are back in 2009 for the 35th anniversary of Independence. The island seems more prosperous and more stable than ever before, with several new construction projects under way. Let's all hope Grenada's dark days are behind them.

New invaders

Now Fort George looks down peacefully at the new invaders coming to Grenada.

 

St George's Click on the picture for some pictures of St George's town.

 

Market in St George's Click on the picture for some pictures of the market.

 

People of Grenada Click on the picture to see some of Grenada's colourful people