Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Farewell Trinidad

Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad
10 40.6N 61 38.3W

So exactly 3 months after we arrived in Trinidad we are leaving today bound for her sister island Tobago, and some clear water, sandy beaches and snorkelling.

It's been a hectic 3 months here, first slipping the boat and heading "home" for a month, and then returning for 2 months of boat maintenance and upgrades.

Boat wise we have achieved a lot, Linda spent weeks stripping off the varnish that simply couldn't cope with the endless round of sunshine and salt water, the varnish had looked lovely for a month or two and then been a pain ever since. We are now trying teak oil, it will need to be applied to the natural teak about once a month, but takes maybe an hour for all the external woodwork, it may work it may not, but it will be a break from varnish. While she did that I worked throug a list of hundreds of small jobs, oil changes, rewiring, improvements here and there etc etc.

The biggest change to the boat was installing our new arch at the back and mounting solar panels and a wind generator, this gives us alternative power to supplement the diesel generator and we cam hoist the dinghy up at night with the motor attached to keep it safe from thieves and barnacles, the latter more of a problem so far in the "crime ridden" Caribbean!

So what are our reflections on Trinidad:

  • A great place to get boat work done - all the facilities are close at hand, the workmanship excellent and the prices reasonable, of course all that boat work means dirty polluted water and lots of noise!

  • Wonderful people - Almost without exception Trinidadians are friendly, helpful, fun loving people. We have both travelled a lot and have never been anywhere where not once did someone try to overcharge us because we were foreign. At the market, on the bus, in a taxi same price for everyone and they even force change on you when you think the fare is more than it is!

  • Party Central - Trinis love to dance, (or have sex with their clothes on to music is perhaps more accurate) each time we went out we met lots of locals of all ages dancing, grinding, singing and most of all laughing. We went to a very trendy new club in Port Of Spain all ages from 20-60 were there all dancing together and sharing a beer or cocktail. We are very tempted to return for Carnival in February, it's the 2nd biggest in the world behind Rio, 4 days of non stop being Trinis!

  • Safe - all we heard before coming were warnings, based on the murder rate here. Sadly for Trinidad there is a drug and gang culture here with attendant shootings, this gives it a murder rate on a par with a medium sized US city, eg Charleston but of course the cruising community thinks that makes it dangerous for us. The reality is if you avoid certain suburbs at night, and don't try to set up your own rival drug gang on someone elses turf you are as safe as anywhere and a lot safer than several other hurricane destinations eg Venezuela. One dinghy theft in Chaguaramas in 3 months versus 3 boats arriving from Venezuela having been boarded by armed men and robbed of eveything en route, plus the huge number of attacks in Venezuela in that period - I know what I prefer.

We have had a great time, made some good friends and got a huge amount of boat work done in a safe, happy place. But we can't wait to jump in the sea and not wake up to diesel and plastic bottles floating in the water!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lepers & Venezuela

Chacachacare Island
10 41.3N 61 44.7W

We have just had a week away from the rigours of Chaguaramas Bay to celebrate the new davits and the end of the major repair works for this season. Obviously things will go wrong and break, but no more "improvements" for us!

Chacachacare Island was used as a leper colony until 1984 which is shockingly recent, but the fast growing jungle has rapidly reclaimed most of the buildings so other than the odd roof and an abandoned church there is little to see. We learnt that Leprosy was not even that infectious so there was really no need to even have these colonies, and that it was still a problem in the 80's because the initial drugs were met by a mutated strain and it was only with multi drug therapy that they finally found a cure.

What it does have which is a great change is water clean enough to swim, which after 3 months on a boat in tropical heat without swimming has been wonderful. We were anchored by ourselves for much of the time and enjoyed the peace and quiet after the endless noise of Chaguaramas bay.

We walked up to the lighthouse which has excellent views out over the Bocas to Venezuela (see photo), amazing to think we are only 6 miles away from South America. Sadly this is as close as we will get this year, there has been a lot of crime directed at yachts this year there and 3 boats have limped into Trinidad in the last couple of months after being boarded and robbed by 6 men armed with semi automatics just off that lovely coastline you can see above.

Trinidad on the other hand remains peaceful and crime free as far as the cruiser is concerned, but I wouldn't want to be a drug dealer in Port Of Spain, 400+ murders this year on an island of just over 1m people (still a lower rate than Baltimore though interestingly for all the cruisers reading this).

Back at the lighthouse we picked mangoes and avocadoes from the trees and ate them at anchor watching the birds and dolphins, much more waht we signed up for.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dodging Hurricanes & Fitting Davits

Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad
10 40.6N 61 38.3W

We are now safely back on a mooring after a very eventful week!

In order for Mitchell the welder to fit our new davits we had to come into a marina for a few days. First disaster was a minor misjudgement on the way in and we made very slow contact with the boat in the next berth, normally not a problem but sadly on this occasion due to various freak reasons we bent their pushpit quite badly and so more work for the welder and a nice bill for us!

The next few days passed uneventfully, just lots of hard work in the blazing sun getting everything fitted on the boat, while I worked with the welders Linda finished working on the teak using the abundant fresh water to wash it all ready for the new coating as we have given up on varnish. Because of the 3 hurricanes in the Atlantic this week we got out of the usual rainy season weather pattern and had endless sunshine which really helped Mitchell get the work done, even if we all fried!

By Friday the welding was done and by Saturday night we had installed the solar panels and wind generator so were feeling very happy and ready to spend Sunday doing a final clean up before going for a sail.

Sunday dawned clear and sunny but at lunch time we got a pretty strong system of squalls through associated with Hurricane Ike and within 15 minutes we went from all well in the world to fighting tooth and nail to keep the boat in one piece. Chaguaramas Bay is well protected from the prevailing winds, but these storms set up a big swell that came rolling in from the SW and straight through the marina. Matsu (and all the other boats) started to roll and surge in the pen like a mad thing. The force of the waves was astonishing, rigs were clashing as the boats rolled, and then the boats on either side broke their mooring lines. We dashed around madly in the lashing rain retying them before they could crush us, and then we had to stand on the dock watching Matsu fight against her lines, hoping that nothing more would break or else she would be pounded to a pulp against the dock.

After 3 hours of hell it subsided enough for us to get out of the marina having astonishingly not sustained any damage. Several other boats had broken cleats, damage to rigs etc etc. One miracle was that every canister in the galley was on the floor, but the lids stayed on so rather than a soup of flour, rice etc etc we were intact!

We picked up the mooring and fell into bed exhausted but relieved. Oh yeah and I think we have davits.
Posted by Picasa