June 2020: The Carenage, St. George’s, Grenada

St. George’s is the capital of Grenada, and French settlers founded St. George’s as a settlement in 1650.  St. George’s surrounds a horseshoe-shaped harbor called the Carenage, which sits in the caldera of an ancient volcano. 

Like all of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean chain, Grenada was created by volcanic forces produced by the collision of the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate.  Grenada is composed of five volcanos, the youngest of which is Mount Saint Catherine on the northern end of the island.  The most recent volcanic activity occurred at Kick ‘Em Jenny, an underwater volcano 5 miles north of Grenada; during June 5-8, 1384 earthquakes with magnitudes as high as 1.8 were recorded.  Needless to say, Kick ‘Em Jenny is a marine hazard that is carefully avoided when sailing in the area!

Our marina sits in a lagoon directly south of the Carenage, so it is also in the caldera.  It is only a 15-minute walk or five-minute bus ride to the heart of the Carenage action.

The Carenage used to serve the point of arrival for both cruise ships and container ships, and I honestly can’t imagine how cruise ships managed to maneuver in such a confined space.  The harbor is about 600 feet wide and carries surprising depths almost all the way to the bank.  However, a new cruise ship terminal was built on the western coast of St. George’s, so now cruise ships dock there, and the Carenage serves solely as a shipping port.

A view of the Carenage from the southeastern side of the harbor.

The harbor itself is full of all kinds of working boats, including colorful skiffs, rugged fishing boats, inter-island ferries (for both people and goods), and small container ships. 

This inter-island ferry carries only goods and is one of the few sailing ferries we’ve seen. It is all wood, and it was fascinating to see such an old but sturdy vessel still plying its trade.

The larger boats pull alongside the stone harbor walls and tie off to bollards or rings, and the smaller boats anchor or moor a little farther out.  Fishing boats will raft together, sometimes three-deep.

These two fishing boats were rafted together in front of an inter-island ferry and a small container ship. Just a regular day on the Carenage.

 Fishermen come right up to the harbor walls, lay down a piece of plywood, and chop up fish to sell to passers-by.

The harbor carries depths of 55 feet in some places, but at the shoreline, it goes down to one foot. Fishermen will pull right up, step off of their skiffs, and clean their fish for sale.
Prefer to buy your fish whole? No problem.
In the the mood for salted, dried fish? Also available.

Because it is a working port, the shops immediately surrounding the Carenage reflect that practicality.  If you want to sip a latte and watch the beautiful people stroll by, you are in the wrong place. 

Ringing the harbor are hardware stores, a lumber store, a tackle shop, a paint store, a Pizza Hut (really?), a grocery store, a pharmacy, and other small shops.  Cars and delivery trucks park haphazardly and wherever they can, which can include the sidewalk.  There is a constant buzz of traffic and commerce.

To find the “fun” shops and restaurants, you have to venture away from the Carenage and onto bustling streets like Young Street and Melville Street, which essentially run perpendicularly to the road around the Carenage.  The streets leading away from the Carenage are very steep, hilly, and narrow.  Young Street gets so steep near the top that the sidewalk converts to stairs.  As you walk up the streets surrounding the Carenage, you are essentially climbing out of the volcano’s mouth.

I was wheezing as I hauled my out-of-shape self up Young Street. I don’t know how some of the elderly people do it. You can see where the sidewalk gives up and becomes stairs.

The sidewalks are frequently brick or stone, and there is an ankle-breakingly steep gutter that runs between the sidewalk and the road; sometimes this has a grate over it, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Woe to any car or pedestrian that veers off course and into the ditch.

Traffic wardens are stationed at each intersection and make sure traffic is flowing smoothly and pedestrians have a fighting chance.  Because these streets are closer to the cruise ship terminal and the vegetable and spice market, they are bustling with activity and full of shops that cater to visitors.

This traffic warden is at the top of the hill on Young Street. It is essentially a blind intersection, and he is kept on his toes by cars and vans roaring up the hill or careening down the intersecting hill.

While a lot of the smaller shops and restaurants in St. George’s are open for business, virus restrictions are fundamentally impacting large attractions like the cruise ship terminal (and its many mall-type stores) and the vegetable and spice market.  It’s a shame to see them shuttered, and we’re hoping that soon they will reopen.

I wish I could have gotten the front of this Christ of the Deep Statute, but he faces the water. The statue was a gift to Grenada as thanks to the flotilla of local residents who came together in 1961 to rescue nearly 700 people from the Bianca C, an Italian cruise ship that had burst into flame. For a much better picture and a succinct explanation, see www.encirclephotos.com/image/christ-of-the-deep-statue-in-st-georges-grenada/.