The Petite Martinique Sailing Regatta

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Petite Martinique Petite Martinique, north-east of the mainland of Grenada, certainly lives up to its name of ‘petite’. Its tiny size of 586 acres and population of 900 means this small island community is tightly-knit, and every part of life is connected to the sea. Old traditions continue despite the steady influence of American TV and social media, and contact with family members in New York, Toronto and London. With its location in the south of the Grenadines, there are regular day-to-day connections with other Grenadine islands like Union and Bequia, which bypass the informally regulated boundary between Grenada and St.Vincent. Speedboats, mail boats and sailboats whizz up and down between all of these tiny jewels of islands on a regular basis. Petite Martinique is often overlooked as a place to experience when visiting Grenada. With one main concrete road and just a handful of cars and trucks, life is dominated by the sea. The early morning whirr of engines alerts you to the fishermen heading out to sea for their daily catch, and the commuter boats taking passengers to work and to school in Petit St.Vincent and Carriacou. The high speed ferry, the Osprey heads south from the main dock twice a day, to Carriacou and Grenada. Sometimes men are out at sea for months on end, either higher up in the Caribbean chain, like St.Maarten or Martinique or, because their skills and experience in sailing and fishing are highly in demand, across the world to far-flung places. Teenage boys set off proudly to Carriacou or Union Island in their own speedboat; one they’ve lovingly hand-built and painted with help from friends and family, newly fitted with an engine. Babies have been born on the boat taking their mother to the nearest hospital in the neighbouring island of Carriacou! Petite Martinique and Carriacou are famous for their skills in boat-building, and if you are lucky enough to be there at the time of a boat launching, it’s a wonderful experience. The launching of a new boat is a communal event, a beach party of sorts, with the men helping to push the boat in the water to a backdrop of cheers and excitement. Preparations would be made days before, animals killed and cooked for the ‘Saraca’ or feast. This is a traditional communal feast of African origins, including a mixture of rolled white rice, rolled coo-coo (corn meal), stewed peas, ground provisions and a variety of meat (goat, pork, beef and chicken). The women are responsible for organizing the saraca, while the men prepare the boat for the launch. The boat is strapped on each side with ropes and pulled manually. When the boat is finally into the water, the people give a great big cheer. Then drinks and food are handed round as thanks for the help and hard work of launching the boat. PM (as it’s known colloquially) folks are descended from a variety of peoples: mainly West African, French and Scottish. It was named by a Mr. Pierre, a French man who came from Martinique in the 18th century, and its northernmost village named Madame Pierre in honour of his mixed-race wife. He was said to have set up sugarcane and cotton plantations, and remnants of history display themselves in an abandoned ruin of a mill or a tuft of cotton sprouting from a tree. Ancestor worship and other African traditions, despite or maybe because of the influence of the Catholic church, still live on in the rain ceremonies in a place where water is a scarce resource, the scattering of rum on the ground during a boat launching and the traditional African dances at a ‘saraca’. The Petite Martinique Whitsuntide Regatta is a good chance to take part in a local Grenadian festival that showcases the unique skills of its community. It’s spread over the four days of the Whitsuntide weekend in June. Local people look forward to displaying their impressive racing skills on the water, against teams from the mainland and other islands, and generally letting their hair down and having a good time. Boat racing goes on in the mornings, leaving plenty of time for a few drinks and some chicken and rice at a beach bar, having a swim on the little beaches in Sanchez, and dancing on the sand to the pounding bass of a DJ set. There’s also a wide variety of land-based activities to accompany the sailing, from laughing and beer drinking contests on stages set up on the beach, to a cultural show in the main school yard, a beauty contest and parties that go on into the night. Or you may just want to pull up a mat under a tree, and watch the festivities with a cold beer in hand. There’s a good range of quality drinks available in the little bars and the supermarkets on the island, with everything from Heineken to Guinness to fine French wines including champagne! If you want to stay in PM for the whole weekend, or just a night, then there are a few guest houses, homestays and apartments. A double room (one en-suite) at Millennium Connection Guest House can be booked through and Melodies Guest House is right on the sand on the main beach near the dock. There are a few small eateries, serving local food including fresh fish. The main restaurant is Palm Beach, a family-run restaurant with outside seating and a sea view, again, close to the main dock.You can walk around the is land easily, or if you are in a hurry, you can take a taxi from the dock to Kendeace at the other end of the island, or up a steep hill past the Catholic Church to enjoy breathtaking views of the Grenadines. It’s more than easy to hire a taxi boat to an uninhabited island for a private picnic or take the chance to go snorkelling around Petit St.Vincent or Carriacou. You may well have the chance to see turtles swimming or flying fish skittering across the surface of the aquamarine water, and if you’re very lucky, a dolphin or two. This year’s Whitsuntide Regatta starts at 6pm on Friday June 6th, with the Cultural Opening at the Primary School hard court, and goes right through the long weekend until the evening of Monday June 9th with the Prize Giving Ceremony on the beach. For more details see the Petite Martinique Whitsuntide Regatta page on Facebook or on the activities page of the Homestays Grenada website.

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