Lucy and the New Dawn Traders

Fare Traded by Sail

Category: Grenada

Rum and spice and all things nice

Shore leave in Grenada – On the hunt for rum and spice and all things nice… like chocolate!

Racks for drying cocoa beans on the Belmont estate

Our main priority on arriving in Grenada was to find the famous ‘Rivers’ rum from the River Antoine estate on the north of the island.

We got a little lost weaving our way through the mountains in the centre of the island on the treacherous pot holed roads narrowly missing speeding maxi taxi’s as we went. We stopped off briefly to view the crater lake, a dark murky lake with some absolutely humungous fish in it.

While searching for the Rivers distillery we happen chanced upon the Grenada Chocolate company, an organic cooperative on the Belmont estate.

The estate is nestled in the hills to the north of the island. Much of the production process is as it was in the early 1900′s.

Magic cocoa beans

Grenada Chocolate also happens to be the chocolate brand that the tall ship Tres Hombres is currently sailing back to the UK.

After a delightful meal, tour and discussions with the estate about future cargo we found our way to the River Antoine Estate, home of Rivers rum, a truly unique place.

This water wheel has powered the rum production on the river antoine estate for over 200 years

It’s cooperatively run, renewably powered, organic rum distillery using 100% Grenadan cultivated sugar cane. The cornerstone on the boiling house proudly states 1785! A voyage back in time for all the senses.

The sugar cane pulping machine is powered by the water wheel

Sugar cane, grown on the estate, is crushed in the water-powered cane mill.

The fresh-pressed juice flows down a wooden sluice to the boiling house, where it is cooked in cast-iron pots over an open fire of dried cane stalks and wood.

Organic Sugar cane grown on the estate and harvested by hand

The waste bagass (waste cane stalks) either powers the furnaces or returns to fertilise the soil as mulch. Nothing is wasted.

The sugar cane is twice crushed to extract the juice on this british origin juicer powered by the water wheel

As the juice is ladled from pot to pot to thicken the sweet liquid, tempering lime is added to precipitate out the unwanted impurities and to promote the fermentation.

The sugar cane is boiled and natural yeasts enter as the sweet liquid passes through the ponds on route to the fermentation tanks

The juice is boiled a few hours, then the thickened liquid is ladled into another sluice that directs it to the fermentation tanks on the second floor of the still house.

The estate is cooperatively owned by 97 workers

The fermentation of the boiled sugar cane is carried out by local yeasts floating around in the air over an 8 day period. Once all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol, the wash is drained from the concrete tanks to the pot still below.

The fermented liquid is then heated by a fire built directly under the copper pot with the alcohol-rich vapor condensing by cooler waters from the stream that also powers the mill. The fresh rum hand is piped to the sight glass on the ground floor of the still house.

Bottling is a very high tech process

The hydrometer in the sight glass indicates the alcohol content of the condensed liquid. Depending on its alcohol content, the distiller directs the liquid to one of the three concrete cisterns in the floor. Not all of the liquid is fit for consumption but since it contains some alcohol that can be recovered it is used to fill the vessels in the next distillation. Little is wasted in this operation.

The finished product with its hand panted label.

On a large chalkboard in front of the sight glass, the depth of liquid in each cistern is recorded. Gallons of alcohol are calculated and entered in another column. Daily production is only about 35 gallons, but you can see the raw rum to be bottled is between 150 and 153 British proof, or about 87% alcohol by volume. I think Rivers is the strongest rum in the Eastern Caribbean. It certainly knocks your socks off leaving you reeling for a few moments while the sweet vapours of the sugar cane condense in your mouth. Not a rum to be consumed in large quantities!

Couldn’t resist adding this picture of the cute litter of puppies we found nested in the waste sugar cane bagass.

We also paid the nutmeg processing plant a visit on the west of the island. Nutmeg is my all time favourite spice and I use it in good measure in much of my cooking. Nutmeg and mace are the principal export of Grenada, the 2nd largest exporter after Indonesia.

The drying racks at the processing facility in Guayave

Production, processing and export is managed by the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association with farmers on the island getting a guaranteed price for the crop according to weight and quality.

There are 3 processing stations around the island.

We visited the the facility at Gouyave. Again we were engulfed in the heady scent of spice as we got the low down on the island’s principal crop.

Naively I hadn’t realised that nutmeg and mace are products of the same plant with the Mace forming the red fibres which envelop the nutmeg. Nutmeg is now making it into an assortment of food and drink onboard. It’s a key ingredient in our rum punch for starters. But makes a great addition in bbq sauces, dressing and stews. It also has a variety of medicinal uses.

Once again we met up with some residents who have given us the low down on speciality herbs, spices and dishes including ‘petite bum’ which is a bit like basil or mint which is added to lots of local dishes.

In between our foodie explorations we swam off the ship, had lots of little BBQ and generally enjoyed chilling out on our anchorage next to Hogg island.

Life Erratic – The most dysfunctional of family outings

Tuesday was may day with all workers on the island celebrating a national holiday. The little beach we were moored next to was swarmed  for the day with families, sound systems and BBQs.

We have been joined in Grenada by Matt and Mike. Mike is a professional photographer and has joined us to take pictures of the ship, our foodie adventures. The fo’c's’le is now a little more crowded…

Sharing with smelly sailor boys. Great. 

We set sail for the Tobago keys tomorrow. As we cruise up the island internet will be intermittent. So apologies in advance for radio silence.

This blog is dedicated to the incredible force of nature that is Sarah Mace for obvious reasons. Love you girlfriend. xx

A hop and skip to Grenada


Sunrise in Chaguaramus

We cast off from Chaguaramus at 4.30am on Saturday morning. We were scheduled for departure 12 hours earlier but experienced significant delays because of customs.

Exiting the Boca

All the way through this voyage our plans have been thwarted by bureaucracy and paperwork. In this instance the Captain was kept waiting while they decided whether we needed to be inspected to check that the cargo we had declared as sold was the actual volumes discharged from the vessel. Eventually a customs agent was called in to inspect us.

By the time they arrived it was out of hours and therefore a significant call out charge was required on top of fees already payable.  The inspector along with 2 colleagues came on board, took a look around and chatted with the Captain and Jamie for 10 mintutes.  He said that he liked the project and the idea of trading by sail but said we had chosen the wrong cargo, one that was subject to high taxes in Trinidad. Next time he said we should bring different cargo and write to the President in advance outlining our aims and objectives. He also said the reason why we had experienced such problems was that no one here had encountered a vessel registered as both a training and trading ship. This caused problems for the officials as they scrambled around deciding which rules were enforceable. The first time is always the worst time.  Next time should be better.  And the charges? £80 for 10 minutes chatting! A lot even by European standards.

After a brief sleep, the Captain roused us from our bunks to cast off and hoist the main sails. We crept out of the port in pitch darkness, the dawn only appearing once we had negotiated the Boca, a narrow strait northwards of the harbour. Overnight, the Boca is a prime fishing spot so it was necessary to have a bow watch on duty with a flashlight calling out to avoid entanglement of the ship with nets.

Once the sails were hoisted we set our course for Grenada on a bearing of North North East. The wind was an Easterly swinging to North Easterly so we were close hauled. The sails were close hauled and we were making 6 kts to our destination.

Sunset sky. I love these colours.

After setting the sails I retired back to my bunk. My watch wasn’t until 2pm so I took the opportunity to get some more sleep. The rolling motion coupled with the cool breeze coming down the hatch enabled me to sleep better than I had done for a long while.

Almost immediately Antoine was fishing again.

Antoines sexy lure

Eventually late afternoon he felt something on the line. He reeled it in to find he had caught a barracuda, not a great eating fish. He removed the hook and chucked it back in.

Ville removing the hook from the Barracuda

A little later he caught another. This time it was almost dead so he kept it. You can eat Barrracuda but you have to be careful. There is a nasty disease you can catch from reef dwelling fish called ‘Ciguatera’ poisoning. Chiguatera is a marine toxin that is produce by marine dinoflagellates and can contaminate the flesh of fish living and feeding on the reefs.

We first saw sight of Grenada around 4pm, arriving to the island at 9pm.

First sight of Grenada. Just visible on the horizon.

We anchored off St Georges for the night.

Pumping up the anchor using the windlass in St Georges bay

The following morning we sailed round to Prickly bay on the south of the island.

Damon hoisting the 'Free Pratique' flag symbolising to port authorities that our ship is free from disease

A beautiful spot with turquoise waters and beaches flanked by palm trees where I find myself writing this in a dinky little rum shack.

Prickly bay. Our anchorage for the next few days.

We have been joined by 2 new New Dawn Traders, Matt and Michael who will be assisting us in sourcing rum and sailing with us through the caribbean and possibly back to the UK.

Spicy tales and rum-antics to follow shortly!

I was kindly sponsored in sea biscuits for this posting by Pascale on behalf of Anais and Carmen, both aged 4 yesterday. Future intrepid explorers, nature-enthusiasts (mainly squishing ants and worms but keen on mud and squirrels too), cheeky chatterboxes, freethinkers & questioners of authority……………. Muchos gracias!

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