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Port of Samana, Dominican Republic

Overview Map

Samana is one of the least visited areas on the Caribbean’s most visited island.
This port deserves a lot more traffic.

An Overlooked Port of Call

Although the Dominican Republic is the most visited island in the Caribbean,  cruise ships from U.S. ports are amazingly sparse.  From what I’ve been able to determine online, only 3 cruise lines are scheduling stops at the Port of Samana in the coming year: Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Norwegian Caribbean (NCL).

Strange, considering the Port of Samana is the entryway to one of the Eastern Caribbean’s few remaining unspoiled regions. Furthermore, each winter thousands of humpback whales migrate to the Bay of Samana and provide the unusual opportunity to view these titans at unusually close distance. That’s a shore excursion not possible anywhere else in the Caribbean.  Also available here are waterfall treks, zip lining and (according to Conde Nast Traveler) one of  the world’s 10 best beaches.

The Samana Peninsula, among the few Caribbean areas offering an authentic island experience, remains largely undeveloped,  without the same-same of most other island ports. But why are there so few cruise passengers to enjoy all this?

Port Location
The Port of Samana is located on the Samana Peninsula, on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. In terms of size, the Samana Peninsula is larger than many other Caribbean islands. From the town of Sanchez near the start of the peninsula to the road’s end at Las Galeras is about 40 miles in length. The spit of land is about 10 miles wide at its widest point.

The Atlantic Ocean borders the peninsula’s north coast; the Bay of Samana flanks its south shore. The Port of Samana is located at the capital of Samana Province and its largest city, Santa Bárbara de Samana, often called Samana or Samana City.

Some cruise lines prefer to call this stop Cayo Levantado Port after the small island in Samana Bay (a popular day excursion) over Port of Samana. Regardless, your ship ends up at the same anchorage in the Bay of Samana.

Main Area Attractions
The Samana Peninsula is one of the least developed parts of the Dominican Republic and has terrific eco travel opportunities. Some of the beaches here are superb. Playa Rincon, for instance, was rated one of the world’s 10 best by Conde Nast Traveler. Samana City’s main attraction is a unique one: the chance to get up close to humpback whales–better than you ever will in Alaska—but in warm weather during winter months. Horseback riding, ATV rides, offshore fishing and waterfall treks are just a few of the other varied shore excursions.

Docking Facilities
The cruise ship anchors in the Bay of Samana between one and two miles from Samana City. Ship tenders shuttle passengers back and forth to the tender pier, a trip of about 10 minutes. Restroom facilities are available at the tender pier.

Local Transportation
The town of Samana is small and can easily be explored on foot. However, mini-van taxis are available near the tender pier, their rates posted in U. S. dollars. Rates are based on eight passengers and include a 2 hour waiting time at your destination. Additional time is billed at $20 per hour. Taxi drivers sometimes want to fill their cab with eight passengers before departing, which could cause delay. Rental carsalso are available.

Tourism Information
The Ministry of Tourism has representatives in the taxi dispatch and information booth outside the tender pier.

Money Matters
Local currency is the Dominican peso. Its symbol is RD$ to distinguish it from the U.S. dollar. Each peso is divided into 100 centavos (“cents”). Some small stores may provide change in pesos. Credit cards are not widely accepted. ATMs and banks are close to the cruise pier. Banks include such familiar names as Scotia Bank and Banco Popular. (See current exchange rate)

Internet Centers and WIFI
Although Samana is an out-of-the way location, free internet and wifi are available at many restaurants and other establishments all over Samana City.

Samana Cruise Ship Dominican Republic

At the Port of Samana, ships anchor off Samana City and tender
passengers ashore, a journey of about 10 minutes.

Samana City Sights

Cayo Levantado
A small offshore island about 10 minutes from the cruise pier, is a popular day excursion for swimming, snorkeling and beach BBQs. Also called Bacardi Island because of the 1970s rum campaign filmed on its beautiful beaches.

Shipwreck Museum located next to the cruise tender dock features an exhibit of artifacts recovered from shipwrecks by Deep Blue Marine, Inc., the company with the exploration and rescue concession for underwater explorations in the DR. The museum is equipped with a modernized conservation lab with a well-stocked gift shop specifically added for cruise ship passengers. The exhibitions, which do occasionally change, have included objects from Le Scipion, a French warship that fought in the American War of Independence (Revolutionary War), as well as other major historical wrecks. The museum is located next to the  cruise ship tender dock.

Shopping  Whenever a cruise ship visits, an open air market comes alive along the Malecon, the walkway semi-circling the port. Even if you aren’t planning to shop, a stroll along the Malecon has a festive air when the tents are full of jewelry, paintings and various handiworks. When cruise ships are absent, head to the Town Park off the waterfront where vendors sell arts and crafts at a bazaar-type market. Vendors take cash only. They may not have change for US$ dollars, only pesos.

Whale Museum & Nature Center
This small museum, about a mile from the cruise tender pier walking the waterfront on Av. La Marina, explains the migration pattern and life habits of the humpback whales that travel to Samana Bay each winter. A highlight of the museum is a skeleton of a 40-foot humpback. Open daily 9-2 Monday to Saturday. Admission fee about US$2; 809/538-2042

Cayacoa Beach
You have to share Samana City’s main public beach with guests staying at the Hotel Bahia Principe Cayacoa., A 20-30 minute walk from the cruise pier, you reach the hotel and beach by following the waterfront route.

Cayo Vigía
You reach this small island behind the Cayacoa hotel using a long footbridge. Cayo Vigia obviously has experienced better times but the walk is worth the view for photographing Samana City, the port, and the bay. You also can take a swim here.

La Churcha
Located a few blocks off the waterfront on Calle Duarte, this landmark church was brought from England and reassembled piece by piece in the 1820s. Originally a Methodist church, it is now home to the Evangelical Church of Samana. The Sunday services are celebrated with gospels.

Map & photos from Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Maasdam’s Hands-On Cooking Class

Part 2—Chef Joseph makes his class more fun than recess

Last night the ship rocked and rolled like a 60’s band without any music, unless you count the water in the pipes sloshing back and forth. But despite the waves, I’m on my way up to deck 7 for a hands-on cooking class with Chef Joseph Caputo.

I enjoyed the free cooking demonstration with the chicken soup so much I think this $29 hands-on cooking class will be a lot of fun. There are 13 of us gathered in the Culinary Arts Center as Chef Joseph explains what we’ll be making.

Linda O"Keefe              Linda O"Keefe
Chef Joseph                                 Explaining the crepe pan

He says, “This is my Grandmother Angela’s manicotti recipe. I’ve been making it since I was 7. It is a tradition for my Italian family to have manicotti for celebrations such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays. My grandmother would get up before dawn and start making the tomato sauce, the crepes and the filling. Since the crepes aren’t very big, it was easy to eat 5 or 6.”

Linda O"Keefe        Linda O"Keefe
Blanched, peeled plum tomatoes                                              Fresh eggs

Chef Joseph quickly organizes us into 4 groups. Assignments are handed out. My group begins seeding tomatoes as others start cracking eggs and whisking in flour and milk. Another group is busy mixing the cheese filling.

Chef Joseph watches us closely and offers advice to make sure everything goes well. Before long, it’s time to start cooking the crepes. This is the part I’m nervous about. Chef recommends using an electric skillet set at 250 degrees for the crepes. He says that’s the best way to maintain an even temperature.

Linda O"Keefe              Linda O"Keefe
Bad crepe, good crepe                Pouring the crepe mix

My turn comes. I slowly pour in about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and flatten it out with the back of a spoon. In a little over a minute, the  thin crepe is ready to be turned and is done. Now I wonder about all the fun things I can make with this recipe.

Unfortunately, on the Maasdam the Culinary Arts Center stage is in the same room  (and behind the screen) of the ship’s movie theater. Things start to get a little crazy when we realize our time is almost up and we’re not done. People are coming in to watch the movie and the screen isn’t down and the the curtain hasn’t been drawn to hide the kitchen from the audience. Our group isn’t ready for their prime time.

Linda O"Keefe               Linda O"Keefe
Stirring the sauce                           Almost ready

The sauce is done but we’re still cooking crepes. When the crepes are done and laid out on the work stations, it’s time to stuff them. I put the filling at one end and from there I begin rolling, ending with the seam side down. Another team member spoons sauce into  a pan  and I place the filled crepes into the sauce. Someone else sprinkles cheese on the top. My crepes are ready for the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Linda O"Keefe      Linda O"Keefe
Mixing the cheese filling                     I did these all by myself

Linda O"Keefe      Linda O"Keefe
Filling and rolling takes a while              Time to start on the salad

Now we tackle the salad dressing. The greens are combined with roasted walnuts, blue cheese, dried cranberries and a light citrus vinaigrette dressing. Chef Joseph warns, “The salad should be dressed not drowned!”

This is his own special dressing that he is sharing with us. Since he’s now bottling it for sale, I won’t give away any secrets. But it is delicious.

Linda O"Keefe                    Linda O"Keefe
 Chef Das takes a break                      Chop, chop, chop!

Maasdam’s Pinnacle Grill Chef Das stops by to join the fun. He gives pointers to several  about how to cut properly and not add extra protein to the salad.

I take pictures, roll crepes, laugh, drink wine and try to take notes. I find out I need a silicon spatula and a ceramic knife to make life in the kitchen easier. This session also helped me realize I will be back in my home kitchen in a few days. I hope my end result there will be as magnificent as this cooking session.

Linda O"Keefe              Linda O"Keefe
Chef Das and Chef Joseph       Chef Joseph serves up the goods       

  by Linda O’Keefe         

(I also look forward to the magnificent results, Tim O’Keefe)    

Curacao Shopping

Maasdam Cruise

A few stores actually carry some interesting items

Bon Bini (warm welcome) to Curacao, largest in both size and population of the ABC islands of the Dutch Caribbean. Curacao boasts an amazing array of colorful Dutch architecture that blends well with the natural beauty of the dry, rugged island.

The floating market where locals gather to buy their fresh fruit and vegetables is a work of art in itself. Oddly enough, this line of floating produce platforms is only a short walk from stores such as Benetton, Diesel and Lacoste Boutique. Curacao has done such an admirable job of blending traditional with new, the transition is barely noticeable as you walk through Willemstad’s different shopping districts.

But since the Maasdam is docked on the Otrobanda side, my first stop is there, at the relatively new Renaissance Mall located inside Rif Fort. The large oblong open area within the Fort’s walls is lined with a mini-mall consisting of open air cafes, business offices, coffee bars, restaurants, boutiques and upscale shoe stores such as Birkenstock. The shade trees and table umbrellas provide a unique ambiance that reflects island life. It’s also home to the recently built Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino.

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Courtyard at the Renaissance Mall

Leaving the Renaissance Mall, I pass a group of local vendors selling paintings, clothing, bags, hats and the usual array of touristy artifacts. Unlike other islands, there is no harassment or pressure from any of the locals wanting to make a sale. Not a single “Hey lady, come take a look—it cost you nothing!” What a pleasant surprise.

Later, back on board the Maasdam, I will overhear several people discussing the gifts they found at this group of vendors and how pleased they were with the variety of merchandise and the prices.

I still have yet to explore the Punda side, so I walk the Queen Emma Bridge connecting Otrobanda to Punda. I come to love this bridge because of the way the whole thing is able to swing away on huge hinges and go from perpendicular to paralleling the Otrobanda shore. Warning blasts warn when the bridge will close and guard rails come down to stop pedestrians whenever the bridge opens to allow freighters through. Yet a few hapless tourists (cruise passengers?) seem to get stuck on it. I can’t help laughing when I see them impatiently waiting to get off.

Looking to find stores that carry more than the usual same old tourist fare, I turn to the left after reaching the Punda side. As I walk the busy waterfront street, dodging traffic and steady streams of pedestrians, I see Maravia, a jewelry and sculpture shop. Unfortunately it is not open but peering through the window I can see beautiful works of turquoise and bronze. According to a sales clerk in one of the other stores, Maravia customizes all her artwork, both jewelry and sculpture, and everything is handmade.

Walking into Little Gifts, I expect to see displays of mugs, t-shirts, shot glasses and the like. Am I wrong! Instead, there are racks of washed soft white cotton eyelet dresses, skirts, blouses, tanks, capris and shorts. The material is 100% cotton so it will shrink some, admits the clerk, but everything is no iron. Little Gifts also carries children’s sizes as well. The price of every piece of clothing I ask about is $39, with kid’s prices half that. A truly perfect store for a little gift.

Down the block, I walk into Ackermans, a fabric store with bolts of cloth hanging from the ceiling to the floor. Bright colors, stripes, plaids, and brocades–you name it, Ackermans probably has it. But you’ll be interested in the merchandise only if you can sew.

Maasdam CruiseWith my sewing abilities ranging between little and none, I next visit The World’s Closet, a small boutique with some the most unusual jewelry I’ve seen so far in the Caribbean: Bracelets, necklaces and earrings, all reasonably priced between $5 and $150 for designs I have not seen anywhere else. The World’s Closet clothing is more typical of an upscale department store in the U.S. in terms of variety, quality and prices.

Iguana Too is a small store combining the usual touristy fare of t-shirts and hats but also an ice cream bar. Although the one-price $16.96 t-shirts are of higher quality than usual, at this point I am so hot and tired I would buy a big bowl of ice cream, pay the t-shirt price and find it reasonable.

Maasdam Cruise   Maasdam Cruise
Iguana t-shirts                                                 Christmas placemat from Mr. Tablecloth

Trying to watch the tummy, I bypass the ice cream and head over to Mr. Tablecloth where Battenberg tablecloths, runners, placemats and napkins abound. I feel like I have been transported to tablecloth heaven: every size, shape and style, along with Christmas décor. A 14 x 20 table runner is $28, regular placemats are $6.50 and Christmas placemats go for $9.50. A beautiful silk placemat with rose colored sequins can be yours for $35. Pillow casings and cushion covers are also available at Mr. Tablecloth.

A few doors down are several Jewelry stores. Freeport Jewelers and Gifts carries the complete line of Tag Heuer sports watches as well as Italian gold designs by master John Hardy. Also in stock are Hublot Big Bang watches and diamonds by Hearts on Fires that claims to use the world’s most perfectly cut precious stones. Freeport Jewelry also carries more upscale jewelry and watches along with crystal and porcelain. The prices are not outrageous and I see some items on sale.

As I head back to the ship, the sun is setting but I notice Queen Emma Bridge is not open. So I take a ferry instead. It drops me off close enough to the Maasdam for a leisurely stroll back to my stateroom. Exhausted, I desperately need a shower after another day of window shopping. Nothing of interest yet we can’t usually buy at home, or almost every other port.

By Linda O’Keefe

Curacao Photo Tips

 

cur cover-1

Willemstad appears like a wedding cake on steroids

Willemstad, the capital of Curacao, has to be the prettiest port in all the Caribbean. Dating back to 1634, it boasts hundreds of mansions and commercial buildings in the classic Dutch  style.  This distinctive architecture gives Willemstad considerable cultural and historical significance, which is why UNESCO in 1997 declared the entire city a World Heritage Site, one of few such designations in the Caribbean.

The Dutch buildings typically are painted in bright blue, green and yellow and often framed with white trim, reminiscent of cake frosting. Willemstad contains many outstanding  subjects like these, best photographed at only certain times of day. Here’s my guide about what to shoot, when and where; including the green and white building locally known as “the wedding cake.”

Background:
St. Ana Bay divides the city of Willemstad into two distinct sections. Punda, on Willemstad’s east back, is the older district and contains the government offices, the more upscale shopping and most of the best photo opportunities. The cruise ship dock is on the west bank, known as Otrobanda, which also has quite a few good photo subjects.

Start from the ship’s top deck
: This high vantage point gives you many unusual perspectives. In the morning, the light is on the Otrobanda side, which is at your feet thanks to the cruise dock location. Photograph the city from bow to aft, taking both wide angle and telephoto shots. Most of Punda will be still in the shade, though you may have good sun on the famous floating market—also your first photo stop. If the ferries are running, take one across St. Ana Bay to Punda. The Otrobanda ferry terminal is next to the cruise ship dock and the Punda ferry dock is just down from the floating market. Leave the more distant floating bridge until later.

curacao from ship-13          curacao from ship-14
Always shoot verticals and horizontals

Floating Market This iconic landmark, near the customs house, consists of a line of wooden Venezuelan boats displaying the city’s freshest fish and produce. The market, open before daylight, is covered with mostly plastic tarps to protect the produce, the sellers and the shoppers from sun and rain. To begin, concentrate on what each boat is selling as possible photo subjects. Don’t overlook the people, too. Locals at the floating market are accustomed to photographers, yet it never hurts to ask.

floating market-2      floating market-1

After reaching the last of the boats, take the bridge immediately on your left. This will allow you to use the morning sunlight, which is on the back of the boats, not on the produce side. This is a better view than you would expect, with lots of color and sometimes action, too, as men row small boats shuttling produce between boats. To take advantage of the  sun when it does shine on the colorful exhibit of fruits and vegetables, return about two hours before sunset. You may have to wait a short while for the sun to get at the perfect slant but better to be early because tall buildings block the sunlight far too early.

Scharloo: The bridge from which you photograph the floating market in the morning also leads to a neighborhood of wonderful old mansions in a section known as Scharloo, also part of the World Heritage Site designation. To be honest, I have photographed this area only in the afternoon since sunlight is on “the wedding cake” mansion only in the afternoon. There are equally good subjects morning subjects as well, though I can’t document them.

If you have plenty of time, take the first road on the right you encounter. To be honest, the number of photo subjects on this walk are few. However, after a short walk you will reach a yellow mansion on the left I consider one of the best reconstructed buildings on the island (afternoon shot). This street ends at a main thoroughfare where you’ll see some excellent architectural styles as well.

cur wedding cake-1   cur scharloo-1
Which of these mansions is the “wedding cake?” The green one.

Once you reach the main highway, go left; then take the first road on your left. Among the first buildings you’ll encounter on this street is an oblong, elaborately decorated green and white building introduced to me by a tourist board rep as “the wedding cake.” You will find no sign designating it as such.

On the Maasdam cruise, the building is undergoing some renovation; so no telling what it is being turned into or what it will be named. Continuing on this street, you’ll encounter old mansions in all the popular colors—purple, blue and yellow, all on the right. Those on the left have the morning sunlight.  The first road this street intersects with will take you back to the floating market if you go left.  But feel free to explore the rest of this relatively small district.  

Queen Emma Bridge:
Affectionately known as the “swinging old lady,” this floating pontoon bridge is the only route for pedestrians to cross the channel dividing Willemstad. The city uses a floating bridge instead of a permanent structure so cruise ships and huge oil tankers can transit in and out of St. Ana Bay. When a ship needs to enter or exit, the bridge disconnects from Punda and almost its entire length swings to the Otrobanda side.

While it is quite a humbling sight to be at the waterfront when one of the huge tankers passes through, the prime location to capture the giant ship with Willemstad in the background is from your ship’s highest deck.

But back to Queen Emma Bridge itself. Photograph this Caribbean one-of-a-kind throughout the day since the background will change from Otrobanda in the morning to Punda in the afternoon. When you walk its length, take varied horizontal and vertical images that include people as well.  Also shoot the bridge on show to capture the side of it to show the series of pontoons that keep it afloat.

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Queen Emma Bridge with Otrobanda in background

You’ll notice electric lamps placed in the middle of the series of metal arches that line the bridge. These lights do not provide enough illumination for an interesting night-time photo subject compared to when the metal arches were wrapped with strands of  seemingly brighter Christmas-type lights. Now, that was a picture worth taking. Maybe this new lighting system will be, too. I just didn’t have time to experiment and see the results.  

Punda waterfront: The waterfront’s main commercial street is the iconic image of Curacao. Its narrow but tall series of buildings were built by Dutch merchants who made built them so high because they served as offices, warehouses, stores and living quarters. Each of the adjoining buildings this a different color, most in bright shades but some also surprisingly bland. The best known is the bright yellow Penha building, definitely worth photographing as a single subject while on the Punda side.

cur punda day-1        cur punda nite-1

Best time to photograph the entire line of buildings is the afternoon, the later the better.

Your best straight-on view is from the Otrobanda side. Be creative. Shoot horizontals and verticals. If you use a wide angle lens to capture all the buildings in a single frame, sky and water will dominate the picture and the buildings will look like miniatures. Now is the time to take advantage of your camera’s panorama mode. Or stitch together a series of close-in views for a panorama in Photoshop.

On this 35-day voyage, the Maasdam does not leave until after dark. Unfortunately, the sun sets sooner than I expect and I miss the chance to shoot the Punda at twilight from the Otrobanda side. The lights on buildings are not as bright as the photo above indicates. I used a slow speed with a tripod.  This is the one time that having a lot of water in the photo is a good thing since it reflects the lighted waterfront and makes the picture far more interesting. This is another good opportunity to make or stitch together a panorama.

Finding other photo subjects
: There are many more good picture opportunities on the Punda and Otrobanda sides to find on your own. Such as Punda’s Fort Amsterdam, worth visiting in morning and afternoon. And the fort at the mouth of St. Ana Bay on the Otrobanda side, both AM and PM. Finding unexpected and special locations is what travel photography is all about.  

Grenada Harbor Walkabout

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St. George’s looks like brand new after Hurricane Ivan

Grenada (pronounced “Greh-NAY-dah”) so reminded early Spanish sailors of the beloved green hillsides above their home port they named it Granada (“Grah-NAH-dah”). The spine of a steep hill divides St. George’s, the island capital. The harbor side of the hill, known as the Careenage, is the most picturesque.

The cruise dock is located on the wrong side at the Esplanade, which has been developed extensively due to the fairly recent opening of the cruise port. The most obvious way to walk over the hill is by sidewalk.

No thank you. The streets of St. George’s are so steep that during the annual carnival, steel band platforms have had to be winched up and down the main roads because motorized vehicles had difficulty hauling and breaking with such heavy loads on the dramatic inclines.

The easiest access to the Careenage is to go through the hill, not over it. The Sendall Tunnel, was built in 1895 a shortcut to avoid contending with all the hilly ups and downs, is not a walking route most visitors would consider since the narrow one-lane road is used mainly by vehicles. This being the Caribbean, islanders figure if cars and minibuses can use the tunnel, they can, too. And do.

I urge Linda to follow me into the tunnel and walk on the right side, hugging the wall. Vehicles go only one-way in the narrow confinement, and it happens to be towards us. Good! That way we know if we might be run over and press ourselves into the tunnel wall when it looks like we might get clobbered.

Foot traffic in the tunnel goes both ways and we sometimes have to stop to wait for a minibus to pass but with most cars it’s possible to pass the person coming the other way. We should have no problems unless we encounter a tourist with a rental vehicle hogging too much of the road.

I’ve always been wary of walking through this tunnel but the Maasdam is in port only until late afternoon and we have a lot to see. I do not tell Linda about my previous misgivings about using the tunnel on foot; she knows I have been here many times and figures I know what I’m doing. No reason to upset her.

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An exciting walk through the Sendall Tunnel

We exit into bright sunshine and only two flat blocks from the waterfront. The cobblestone street When our access street intersects with the Careenage, we stand next to the National Library, a brick warehouse is where it has been located since 1892. The library itself was established in 1846.

Many cruise ship visitors don’t come over from the Esplanade to the Careenage since St. George’s harbor remains a working, commercial hub with few attractions for tourists. For me, the harbor’s authenticity is part of its appeal, along with the old homes bordering it.
I have a long history with Grenada and the Careenage, first visiting them about six months before Clint Eastwood, assisted by other U.S. forces, invaded the island in what grateful Grenadians term “The Intervention.”

This is my first visit to Grenada since Hurricane Ivan wrecked the city, leaving most of the structures without a roof. The color of the harbor has changed dramatically.
Previously, there was a much greater variety of colors, delicate shades of yellow, beige and rose. Now almost all of the wooden buildings have been painted white, which makes them glaringly bright. Fortunately, most have reclaimed a red roof of some sort, which helps brighten up the scene.

Expecting to find more reminders of the previous St. George’s appearance, such commonality of color is a disappointment. But I’m thankful how well the town has been restored following such devastation. One battered building right on the waterfront in the center of the Careenage has yet to see any reconstruction. The stone dwelling, basically an empty shell, starkly illustrates how badly St. George’s suffered.

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A structure on the Careenage still to be rebuilt. It is a
good indicator of how St. George’s suffered from Ivan.

Several large wooden boats are taking on cargo to transport to neighboring islands. The diversity of supplies is intriguing. One boat is filling its open bow with 20-gallon propane tanks. I assume these are empty the way one man on a truck platform tosses them to the crewman on the boat. Several dozen cylinders have been loaded already and the men show no fatigue.

Another boat is loading sacks of potatoes and onions. These heavy loads have to be tossed up and caught as well. Not that I ever could do this, but appreciating this backbreaking task reminds me how out of shape I am from sitting in front for a computer for sometimes 12 hours a day. Either of these two men could probably win a championship arm wrestling contest.

grenada-13   grenada-12

About half around the horse-shoe shaped Careenage is a statue of Christ looking toward the harbor and with his arms raised skyward. This is the Bianca C Statue, which commemorates the courage of the Grenadian people in saving passengers aboard the 600-foot Italian luxury liner which caught fire in St. George’s Harbor in 1961. Three crewmen were killed in the boiler explosion. The “Bianca C” now rests in 160 feet of water offshore, one of the largest Caribbean wrecks accessible to scuba divers.

I’ve dived this wreck four times. Three were in early morning to avoid the strong current that always picks up during the day, regardless of the tides. And once I visited the ship at night where I found a green turtle sleeping in a hold of the ship. A storm before Ivan broke the Bianca C in two; what might Ivan have done to it?

In the afternoon I make the dreaded steep climb up to Fort George, which has the best panoramic overview of St. George’s for that time of day. Built by the French in 1705 to overlook the harbor mouth, Fort George is now the city’s main police station. The imposing fort supposedly still contains a system of underground tunnels once linked to other fortifications.

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St. George’s harbor from Fort George

Fort George is the best vantage point to understand how Grenada and St. George’s harbor were formed. Like many Caribbean islands in this region, Grenada is of volcanic origin. And the harbor of the capital city, St. George’s, is actually the crater of an extinct volcano. Scientists say that the crater was an inland lake before an opening was created to the sea.

So, the Careenage has a long history of violent natural forces, with Hurricane Ivan perhaps the worst in human history. Considering the havoc the storm created, St. George’s is fortunate to have bounced back as well as it has. I decide to get over all that bright white paint blinding me from the surrounding buildings. Thank heaven they and their residents are still here.

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Maasdam in front of Grenada cruise terminal