National Geographic : 1948 Jan
Carib Cruises the West Indies Had it not been forCapt. John B.Griggs, Jr., USN, Commander ofthe Naval Oper ating Base, it wouldhave been difficult torig the boat in Trinidad. We were towed into aslip atChaguaramas Bay to lie dwarfedby afloating drydock capable of repairing acruiser while divers re moved our cradle andderricks lifted the masts into position. Trade Winds Blow True and Fair The distance fromTrinidad toGrenada is 90 miles, so we made anafternoon start in order to make a daylight landfall. All sailing in the West Indies isgoverned by the Trade Wind, which is practically always from the easterly quadrant; that is,somewhere between northeast and southeast. We were lucky. The wind was due east, putting it nearly onthe beam. Carib tossed her head with pleasure. It is hard for a sailor tobelieve that aboat is an insensate thingof wood and metal: you come to believe thatithas moods, personality, and even a mind of itsown. On this passage Carib's spirit matched mine. Carrying full sail we boiled through the night, slamming into the seas to throw sheets of warm spray which glittered in themoonlight. The powerful lightonChacachacare Island had hardly disappeared astern before we sighted the light onSaline Point, Grenada. At 4:40 in the morning, just twelve hours out, we hove to offSt. George's Harbour to await daylight. Wehad made afine passage. Distances between the islands are short; this was to be our last night run for three months. Should your dreambethe same as mine and I really believethat tosail asmall boat to tropic isles is themost common ofhuman dreams-I can onlywish you anintroductory landfall identical toours. The morning sunfirst silhouetted, then gradually illuminated,Grenada, agolden light creeping up the mountainsides. Beyond water of an incredible bluelay white beaches and waving palms. As we rounded a point guarded by aweath ered fortress, the town sprawled around a semicircle of hills, looking like astage set (Plate VI). Even today Ifeel that Grenada is the most beautiful ofthe Caribbees. This has been called the "Spice Island." Quantities of cocoaand nutmeg are grown here. The air is frequently scented by cocoa beans drying in thesun (Plate VII). A planter told us of anamusing letter received from his agent in London: "Send us more mace and don't bother togrow so much nut meg" it read-but mace isafibrous tissue which covers the outer shell ofthe nutmeg! Most ofthe island isfertile, the hillsides and valleys covered with thick vegetation. There isone exception, Saline Point, aflat peninsula tothe southwest. The umbrella of clouds that usually hangs over the peaks of the Windward Islands skips this corner. Its annual rainfall isbut 30inches, compared with 70inches for the town ofSt. George's. In 1946 Belvidere, only afew miles away, had anunusual rainfall of 156inches. Approaching Saline Point, our car, after passing lush greens, emerged from arain curtain into aparched brown semi-desert (Plate V). An excellent road belts the island. One day we drove tothe town ofSauteurs tolunch with the Rev. Father Brian Proudman, the parish priest. During the war hehad been an"aerial bishop," Royal Air Force slang for chaplain. Before his church lay aburial ground whose tombstone inscriptions date back 200 years. From the bluff could beseen the smaller islands ofthe Grenadines, purple outlines on the blue water (page 6).As we looked out, Father Proudman said: "This spot iscalled Le Morne des Sauteurs or 'Caribs' Leap.' Inearly days the island was inthe possession ofthe French, who systematically slaughtered the Indians. The last remnants retreated here and held out for some time. Finally, the legend goes, the French discovered an unguarded path through aswamp; asthey closed in,the Carib war riors threw their women and children over this cliff, then leaped after them." Carnival inGrenada We were fortunate tobeinGrenada for Carnival, the big event ofthe year inthe Windward Islands. Weeks ofpreparation culminate inThe Day. Even before dawn bands begin toparade the streets, maskers falling inbehind. Inthe afternoon the entire population ofthe island congregates atthe race track near St. George's, and prizes are awarded maskers and musicians. At the time of our visit aqueen had been elected by popular vote; this year aking will beselected. Each may choose aconsort. The costumes ofthe royal court were elaborate, and the monarchs presided with great poise and dignity (Plates X, XI). Inthe selection of carnival dress, Grena dans let their imagination run wild. Cos tumes ranged from grotesque homemade masks and sackcloth capes tocolorful dresses symbolizing the latest achievements ofdistant scientists, such as "Miss Plastic Cooker" (Plate IX, right).