Sunday, July 30, 2006

18 dinghies stolen here so far this season

July 30, 2006              Sunday
Coral Cove Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Nothing particularly interesting happening with us.  Our eldest son said our description of a marina sounds like an RV park and that about sums it up.  Judy is ready to move on; seems like three weeks in a marina is about all she tolerates.  But we need to force ourselves to sit here until at least mid-September.  The insurance company says we must stay here until November 30; but that is not possible, as other cruisers are now learning.  We arrived July 8, so we must leave by October 6.

One can only stay in the country for 90 days.  But many countries popular with the cruising community do not strictly enforce the 90 day limit.  One can apply for an extension of an additional 90 days, but that is proving quite difficult to obtain.  One can also leave the boat here (in a marina or boatyard only) and fly to another country; however, the Trinidad and Tobago immigration and customs officers will not tell you in advance that you will be allowed to re-enter the country.  They can deny you re-entry unless you have been out of the country for a minimum of 30 days.   As a result, many people are leery of flying home for a couple of weeks – they might not be allowed back into Trinidad and Tobago.  The officials here are not particularly cruiser friendly, which somewhat surprises us because the cruisers bring a significant income source to this island which has led to quite an increase in local employment.   Also, the T&T government is blatantly corrupt from the top down.  That doesn’t help the situation.

Friends on another boat planned to stay here for 6 months.  Their first 90 days ends on August 8.  The immigration and customs officials have given them a court date of August 15, at which time they will learn whether they can stay another 90 days or if they must leave the country that day.  The one week extension was granted to allow for the court date.  As their boat is in the midst of several major repairs, it will be very inconvenient if they suddenly are forced to leave the country.  This is so strange because they were in Trinidad last hurricane season and there were no problems in obtaining an extension allowing them to remain in the country beyond the initial 90 days.  We have no idea why the local officials are harder to deal with this year than they were last year.

So far this season there have been at least 18 dinghies and outboards stolen.  This sounds rather petty; but to replace a dinghy and outboard usually costs at least $5,000, more if you want something fancy.  We paid for additional insurance coverage for our dinghy and outboard; so if it gets stolen, we should only have to pay $1,000 for replacement.  We keep our dinghy up on the davits and locked with a cable.  The outboard is kept down inside the locked stern lazarette.  We are so fortunate to have this huge lazarette locker; other boats don’t have such large storage spaces.

Last night a boat in the boatyard at our marina was broken into.  Don’t know yet what was stolen but the 2 guys were caught on video walking past the guard shack entering the boatyard and they never appeared leaving.  So they must have exited by going over the fence in an unmonitored area of the boatyard. Seems like either a boat is boarded or broken into or a dinghy is stolen about every 2 days lately.  Probably to feed a drug habit.  We are glad that we installed our security alarm system before we arrived here.  BTW, our alarm system is the talk of the marina by all the other cruisers.  Everyone loves this system and how well it works.  Bill should become a sales rep for the alarm company.

On Wednesday, 3 sailboats in the Power Boats boatyard fell over due to the winds.  Heck, the winds weren’t all that high.  Seems to us that the boats simply were not chocked properly.

A note about the people of Trinidad.  Slavery was abolished here a very long time ago, way before the US got around to doing it.  Because workers were needed and the freed slaves did not want to work in the sugar fields, etc., (understandably, since they had just been freed from that requirement), approximately 150,000 people were brought over from India to fill the jobs.  This was a very long time ago.  As a result of racial inter-marriage during the past two centuries, the people of Trinidad have very distinctive appearance.  Some are quite beautiful or handsome.  The Indian influence is seen throughout the island.  It is particularly notable in the local foods.  There is a Muslim community and a large Hindu community.  The Hindu Celebration of Lights is supposed to be very beautiful and interesting.  We will be gone before that occurs this year.

It has taken 58 years for it to happen, but Judy actually now enjoys early mornings (or at least tolerates them more cheerfully).  Going to bed by 10:00 p.m. each night probably has a lot to do with this change of acceptance of mornings.  It is very enjoyable to sit in the cockpit very early in the mornings as the sun rises and before the heat builds for the day, and enjoy a cup of tea (she still misses that morning black coffee even after not drinking it for 8 months) while watching all the birds flitter about the harbor.  The parrots fly in formation somewhat like geese.  They are very loud birds and tend to fly mostly during early morning and late afternoon.  There are a wide variety of birds here and some are quite colorful.  Some smaller bright yellow birds come down onto the decks of the sailboats, have no idea what they are.  The parrots never land on a sailboat or mast; they just fly overhead in formations.  It is rare to see a single parrot, they usually fly in groups of 3, 5 or 7.  Funny.

Oh, another cruiser has been suffering nausea, dizziness and loss of appetite for weeks.  She thought she was seasick from all the rolling at these marina docks; she visited and ENT doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong.  She finally got a diagnosis.  She has a parasite, one often found in bottled drinking water because bottled water does not contain chlorine.  Anyway, based on the doctor’s counsel, she was able to purchase Flagyl over the counter here.  That is a prescription drug back in the US.  A week’s worth of Flagyl cost here a whopping $11 TT; that is about $1.76 USD.  Makes us wonder why we bothered to fully stock a medical kit before leaving the states.

There is a tremendous amount of rolling in this harbor, even tied to a marina dock.  We are docked on the travel lift so we face bow-to most of the roll, rather than beam-to like all the other boats at all of the marinas.  Normally, we have experienced a pleasant movement – except during the tide changes.  At both low tide and high tide each day we experience the roll.  The depth where we are docked is only about 15 feet, and the tide swing is 3 ½ feet; so that is a significant percentage of water depth change.  And it happens over about a 20-30 minute period each time the tide hits a low or high.  So this morning our boat was rolling like crazy.  Bill checked and the fenders were getting messed up by the wooden dock.  There were some loose nails that were just tearing up the fenders.  These fenders are more than 3-feet long and cost about $250-$300 each.  He dug around in our stern lazarette and found that we own a fender board.  So he nailed down all the loose nails along side the dock by our boat; rigged 3 of our fenders onto the life rail; and then put down the fender board with 3 additional fenders between the fender board and our hull.  These fender boards are used often in Europe where the tides are significantly larger than what we are experiencing here in Trinidad.  It seems to be working great so far today.

Judy has a cold and feels terrible.  It is a crappy, rainy day.  A great day for watching DVDs or reading and doing absolutely nothing.

Like we said earlier in this post; just not much going on with us.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Answers to some readers' questions

July 23, 2006   Sunday
Chaguaramas, Trinidad

A couple of people have posted inquiries on the message board.  Rather than answer there, thought I would post a couple of answers on the blog page.

Barbara had asked if any foods had made us ill yet.  Not really.  I was very sick all one night when in Grenada, but  could not identify any particular food as a source.  I had drunk some fruit juice about 16 hours earlier that day and possibly that was the cause, but not likely.  It was not a local juice, but was a standard box type fruit juice like you buy in any supermarket.  I did not eat lunch that day and then had red wine and cheese and crackers for a late dinner.  Bill had the same wine & cheese and he did not get sick, so don't know what caused the problem. 

Bill has not had any gastrointestinal problems at all since moving aboard.  Of course, he is not nearly as adventurous in his dining choices as me.  Everyone who knows me, knows that if there is something different or unusual on a menu in any restaurant, then I will try it.  I am not so adventurous in purchasing raw food products, especially meats.  Still haven't purchased any "sliced cow's feet" or "pig trotters" or any of the other strange animal parts that are sold in all the island stores.  I actually cannot imagine what they do with the sliced cows hooves; seems to me that if you boiled them for a broth that you would get glue. 

We have not yet ventured to the fresh market here in Trinidad -- because the maxi-taxi leaves our marina at 6:30 a.m on Saturdays for that trip.  That is a little early for us; not sure there is anything we need to buy that requires being dressed and out front that early in the morning.  Anyway, from what we have been told by other cruisers, this fresh market is not just produce like one would expect.  They also put whole cows and pigs and sheep/lambs/goats laid out on tables; and slice off what you want to buy.  Flies and no refrigeration and all that smell simply does not sound very appealing to us.  So we are sticking to supermarkets and cuts of meat that we can identify.  I do plan to buy some texturized vegetable protein (soy) the next time we make a trip to the supermarket.  I have heard that you can make decent tacos and pastas with it as a substitute for ground beef.

Liz had asked if we had found that there was anything that we thought that we needed that we found that we did not need.  That is somewhat of a hard question to answer since we have only been living aboard for less than 3 months; there may be things on board that we haven't used yet but will use later.  I would have said that the manual food processor that I bought was a waste of money and space, but then last Sunday I used it for the first time to julienne carrots and zucchini to make Spring Spaghetti for the weekly marina pot-luck dinner (which was a huge hit, BTW).  That little processor made perfectly shaped julienne pieces in minutes, whereas it would have taken me more than an hour to manually cut all those carrots and zucchini into tiny strips; and my manual cutting would not have looked nearly so uniform in size.  Today I plan to cook potatoes au gratin with green chiles and polish sausage for the weekly pot-luck, and will again use that manual food processor to slice the potatoes uniformly.  I am sure that there will be many uses for it and we had the extra space, so I am glad that I brought it.

The only thing that we think was somewhat of a waste is the Globalstar satellite phone.  I would recommend it for anyone cruising near-coastal US and northern Caribbean, but the reception deteriorates the farther south you go.  Could not tell you how many dropped calls we have experienced.  It is extremely annoying.  If we had it to do over again, we would have bit the bullet and purchased an Irridium phone in the first place.  The Irridium phones are much, much more expensive both to purchase and for the minutes used; but the Irridium does work world-wide.  The Globalstar simply does not have a large enough service coverage area.  We had planned to use this Globalstar for maybe two years (throughout the Caribbean and also on the western coast of Central America

We planned to then sell this one and maybe purchase an Irridium phone when we started out in the Pacific, ONLY if we had actually used the Globalstar often enough to substantiate the cost of another satellite phone.  Most cruisers actually do not carry a sat phone in the Pacific; they just use an SSB (which is like a HAM radio for marine use, called Single Side Band). 

We have a good SSB.  We use it to listen to the various weather information services and have listened to a few of the cruiser nets on the SSB, especially the one we call the "Murder and Mayhem Show."  This is actually called the Caribbean Safety and Security Net.  It is broadcast each day at 8:15 a.m. as a means of letting all cruisers know of any thefts, robberies or other security problems anywhere in the Caribbean.  We also can send and receive text-only emails via the high-frequency radio.  We have subscribed to two weather services that send us an email each day at 6:30 a.m. providing the weather forecast for whatever area we are visiting.  As long as we can get an SSB connection, we can receive weather reports.  One service also sends us personalized weather forecasts if we request one for a specific passage.

Can't think of anything else that we brought that we wish that we hadn't -- other than way too many clothes; and we knew at the time that we were bringing too many clothes.  We just couldn't see throwing away perfectly good clothes as long as we had space onboard to store them.  I still have probably 9 large plastic storage ziplock bags of clothes that I have not even opened, all stacked in the bottom of my hanging locker (which is HUGE--it is as big as many land-home closets).  However, I do wish that I had brought a few pairs of mid-to-high-heel sandals.  There have been a few occasions when I would like to have worn something nicer than boat shoes.

I am not looking forward to the pot-luck at the marina gazebo tonight.  Bill volunteered to do the charcoal tonight, so we have to go; but I have been sequestered inside the boat for the past 2 days trying to avoid some very tiny mosquitoes.  They aren't bothering Bill at all, but I know they will literally eat me alive tonight.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Dead camera; bad movie

July 17, 2006    Monday
Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Our digital camera has died.  Darn thing will not power on.  This is very annoying because we took some great photos yesterday of the guy cleaning our standing rigging.  Now those photos will be lost unless we purchase another camera that takes compact flash and can read the one from our now-dead camera.  Judy had noticed recently that she sometimes had to push the power button several times before the camera would turn on, but she thought she was pressing it too lightly.  Guess this is our first equipment failure due to the salt air in and around a boat. 

We decided to pay someone to clean our standing rigging – for several reasons.  First and foremost, we simply did not want to do it ourselves.  We would sunburn too badly doing that job; assuming that we could even manage that exertion in the full sun all day.  So we contracted with a guy named Winston to do this job. 

Thank you Lewmar for building electric winches and thank you Amel for installing them on this boat!!  Winston had to be raised up the masts at least 8 times yesterday.  With our electric winches, all we had to do was press the buttons.  Usually this is done by hand-cranking the winches, and your arm gets tired; and it takes much longer to raise someone sixty feet up in the air.  Then we took turns lowering him by slowing releasing the halyard from the winch by hand.  This manual process is very easy.

Winston would first paint the standing rigging with a corrosion remover, then rinse each piece of rigging with a sponge and lots of fresh water.  Now all the stranded wire cables that are used to support the masts look like bright and shiny stainless steel.  Look like new again.  To do this, he was hanging around is strange positions using his feet and arms, sometimes lying out flat to extend his reach to the outer cables.  And we had taken photos of him doing some of these gymnastics while sixty feet up in the air.  Shame the camera decided to die this morning before we got those photos onto the computer.

Winston then waxed both masts and all shrouds.  We decided to have this done because the boat is three years and we are certain that this type work has been previously performed.  This is preventative maintenance that we hope will extend the life of both the masts and standing rigging.  Keep the rust at bay.   This entire job cost us only $180 USD

We have also contracted with Winston to clean and polish all the stainless above deck.  Weather permitting, he will do that job this week.  Our boat does not have the standard wimpy lifelines and stanchions that are seen on most sailboats.  We have a stainless steel solid life rail and heavier stanchions and connections at the toe rail.  So there is a good bit of stainless to be cleaned and polished.  We planned to do this work ourselves, but he will do the entire job for only $100 USD.  Let’s see; sweat in the sun all day and get a backache and blackened hands and sore legs and sunburned, or pay someone $100 to do it for you.  Easy decision as far as we are concerned.  (But we will do the topside waxing ourselves.  That we can do under shade awnings.)

BTW, it is exceptionally humid here in Trinidad; it is their rainy season.  At least we came here from hot, humid Houston.  Those people who came here from drier climates like Dallas are really having a hard time adjusting.  We are very fortunate that our boat is air conditioned, most of the boats down here are not.  Those poor people are dying in this heat and humidity.

Tony and Linda on S/V Amazing Grace, the friends we met in Grenada last month, are hoping to leave here within the next week as weather permits and if they can find someone to buddy sail with them.  They are going to Los Testigos ---- and we are so jealous!  No one sails to any part of Venezuela alone; it is just too dangerous.  They plan to visit many of the islands off the northern coast of Venezuela and the ABCs.  We hope that we run into them again somewhere along that route.  Los Testigos also is our next tentative destination in mid-to-late September, depending on weather, of course.  But we then plan to spend the month of October in Puerto La Cruz on mainland VZ (near Barcelona), before we visit the Aves and Los Roques and the ABCs.  So Tony and Linda might be so far ahead of us by that point that we might not see them again in the Caribbean.  We would leave with them right now except for the fact that our insurance does not cover us that far north.

The insurance companies are making a huge mistake by forcing everyone to this one location.  One good hurricane in Trinidad with all these boats jam-packed into this area would be devastating to the marine insurance business.  It would be far worse that the damage sustained by the boats in Grenada during Hurricane Ivan because there are lot more boats forced into this one area now.

Bill is drilling holes in our boat again.  He is working on our plumbing project today to install the new faucet/spigot for the desalinator.  That involved drilling holes beneath the galley sink into the engine room, and drilling a hole in my Corian sink to install the new faucet.  He is also re-plumbing the drinking water filter that we installed back in May during our haul-out.  Now the filtered drinking water will be dispensed by the same faucet that will be used to taste test the desalinated water.

Wish we had a working camera for this project.

July 19, 2006   Wednesday
Chaguaramas, Trinidad

We only thought we would do our own topside waxing.  Winston quoted a price of only $250TT for this job.  That is only $38.76 USD, too low a price for us to still want to do the job ourselves.  Again, we are so lazy.

Tomorrow we plan to attend a lecture on the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) which is being presented by the authors of the ABC Cruising Guide.  Nice coincidence that these people are now anchored here in Chaguaramas and are offering this lecture.  Of course, they plan to sell their book at the same time; but we already purchased a copy when we were in Grenada

Then we might go see the Pirates of The Caribbean sequel.  The “entertainment” portion of our cruising budget this month is already way more than we had budgeted.  Guess we will make that up when we are anchored places later in the year.  Being docked in a marina in a relatively urban setting is causing us to spend more money than normal.  It is hard to say no whenever someone invites you to go somewhere.  We have decided not to do any of the normal tourist tours here in Trinidad.  We have seen a rainforest before (and there will be much better ones at other destinations during our travels), and we have seen hundreds of turtles in the ocean so there is no real appeal to watching some walk on a beach.  The other two “attractions” here in Trinidad are the pitch lake and the swamp tours.  Now, as two people who grew up in Beaumont, TX, right on the Louisiana border; we are quite familiar with swamps.  We truly cannot imagine why anyone wants to visit a swamp and be eaten alive with mosquitoes.  And neither of us wants to see a huge lake of tar; stinky stuff.

And, speaking of stinky stuff, we had to replace the seals on the sea water pump for the forward head today.  It had developed a tiny drip; took Bill four attempts to finally get it working correctly.  It is an electric pump with a macerator instead of the usual hand-pump toilet that most boats have.  Luckily, we had several repair kits as spares; because the first kit contained a defective seal.  Time to order more to keep on hand for the next leak.

Tonight we went out to dinner with Linda and Tony from S/V Amazing Grace.  It was Tony’s birthday.  Had a lovely Italian dinner and enjoyed visiting with them.  Their departure to Los Testigos has been delayed a few days because the weather is predicted to be less than desirable for that passage.

July 21, 2006  Friday

Yesterday we attended a lecture about the ABCs.  Didn’t really learn much more than is written in the sailing guide, but glad that we went.  Always good to hear first-hand knowledge.  They did tell us about a good hurricane hole on the northern coast of Venezuela should we need to run from a storm while in either Aruba, Bonaire or Curacao.  And they gave us good info for what wording we want to get on our zarpe when we leave Puerto La Cruz.  (A zarpe is the departure clearance papers when you leave a port, specifically a Spanish speaking port.)

Bill was off running errands today while Judy sat in the cockpit, immersed in yet another book, when the sea water alarm sounded.  The alarm quit before she could even get to the electric panel to turn off the air conditioners, but she then turned off everything anyway.  When Bill returned, we spent the rest of the day cleaning out the sea chest.  Rather than having a separate thru-hull for each device that uses sea water, our boat has only one large thru-hull that services a sea chest, which then sends the sea water to the various devices that require sea water.  This includes all three air conditioners and the two heads (toilets) and the generator and the desalinator water maker and the engine.  So, we have only one sea water intake hole in the boat instead of eight separate holes in the boat below the waterline.  This is considered a very desirable thing; fewer possibilities of water intrusion due to thru-hull valve failure.  But it also means that if that one sea water intake is unusable, then obviously you cannot use anything that requires sea water.

The sea chest intake was totally clogged with barnacles.  We cleaned the strainer and the walls of the intake/chest, but we had to hire a diver to clean the outside part of the intake below the ball valve.  He also found a plastic bag clogging the intake.  No wonder we were receiving insufficient water flow!  Good news is that the diver cost us a whopping $15.50 USD.

Chaguaramas harbor is absolutely filthy.  It is the dirtiest harbor we have ever seen.  There are plastic bottles and plastic bags and just trash floating everywhere, like these people just don’t know how to use a trash can.  It certainly isn’t the cruisers throwing all this plastic crap into the water.  There is also an oily sheen floating on the surface almost every day.  Don’t know where that is coming from.  Yesterday a cruiser was on the VHF asking where to report a diesel spill.  No one responded.  Guess no one down here reports diesel spills to any regulating authority (and as Bill says, no one here gives a darn about it).  In the states you are required to report even the most minute diesel spill immediately to the Coast Guard, even before you begin to clean it up.  This is strictly enforced and the fines can be tough.  You can lose your captain’s license if you even see someone else spill diesel and you don’t immediately report it.  Here, no one cares and no one wants to hear about it; and certainly no one wants to deal with cleaning it up. 

On Thursday there was a robbery of a maxi-taxi nearby.  Two cruisers got on the maxi here at our marina, headed toward the city.  The maxi stopped at the biggest marina and picked up two more cruisers.  When they reached the little village between the harbor and the city of Port of Spain, two island guys on the maxi pulled out guns and robbed everyone.  Supposedly, one of them had a TEC-9 with an extended clip.  Then those two guys exited the maxi and were picked up by another guy in a small car.

This is the second robbery in the area since we arrived here on July 8.  The other robbery was an older man walking alone on the main road.  A car with four guys pulled up and jumped out.  They beat him up a bit and stole his bag, containing his wallet and passport and boat papers.  Poor old guy barely spoke English.  There are also dinghies and generators stolen about twice a week around here.  The saying is "lock it, lift it, or lose it."

We have decided not to carry wallets any more when off the boat.  Judy hasn’t carried a purse or wallet since St. Thomas, but Bill has continued to carry his wallet most of the time.  But he is going to start carrying some cash in one pocket and a single credit card in another pocket.  No point in carrying several credit cards and a debit card unless you plan to use those on a particular trip to a specific store or bank.  No reason to carry them all the time.

Oh yeah, after we cleaned out the sea chest yesterday, then Judy started hearing a beep every 30 seconds inside the main cabin.  Bill couldn’t hear it, but it was driving Judy crazy; and she couldn’t find what was beeping.  After opening every cabinet door and floor locker (and waiting at least 30 seconds), she eventually found a carbon monoxide alarm with low batteries.  It was inside a cabinet beneath a few dozen kitchen towels; not sure we even knew we had a carbon monoxide alarm.  Anyway, we replaced the batteries and mounted it on the back of the wet locker near the nav station and companionway. 

We bought our first Trini DVDs.  These cost $10TT ($1.55 USD) each.  We bought the Da Vinci Code, Flight 93, Good Night Good Luck and Once Upon a Texas………?...    We watched the Da Vinci Code last night.  Way too much French for us, as we don’t know a word of French.  And the subtitles were in Russian!!!!!   If Judy had not read the book, we would have had no idea what was going on in that movie.  She tried to explain the plot to Bill as the movie progressed.  Now we are curious to know if the film contained all that French dialogue when it was released in the states, or did they give English subtitles for the French (all the detectives).  The only subtitles we saw were in Russian and that was only whenever the language was Latin (the monk and the priests).  All in all, a very confusing movie.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Do It, Do It, Do It; Mighty Sparrow

July 13, 2006  Thursday
Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Several people have emailed me with requests that we continue posting to our blog even though we are just sitting in a marina for the next few months.  So we will try to post at least weekly.

We were saddened to learn this week that the husband of Judy’s eldest niece was killed in a car wreck on June 21st.  He apparently fell asleep while driving and veered into the path of an 18-wheeler.  It will be hard to be a widow at age 26 with two children; so our sympathies go out to Tonya, and especially to Kayla who has lost the only father she has ever known.  The other child is too young to understand what has happened.

Trinidad is not what we expected.  Not sure exactly what we expected, but this isn’t it.  This morning Judy told Bill that everything here is just too much.  Too many boats in too many marinas and too many boatyards.  WAY, WAY, WAY TOO many people talking on the VHF radio.  It is auditory overload all day long.  And there are not nearly enough VHF channels available for use because they reserve 7 channels for Trinidad Coast Guard and customs and other governmental people.  Then there are all the oil and gas platform workers using several of the channels.  And the North Post Station uses a few channels.  So there just aren’t enough channels left available for general public use.

Very few people use their dinghies here because there are so few places where you can tie up.  So most everyone uses the water taxis.  They cost only $5TT (I think).  You hail one on the VHF radio to come pick you up and tell him your intended destination.  A water taxi usually arrives within 2 minutes.  Then when you have finished with your errand, you hail him again.  And this goes on all day long for hundreds of people with multiple destinations.  We get tired of hearing this radio chatter all day, but if we turn off the radio then we would have no way of knowing when one of our friends is trying to contact us.  So it is an annoyance that must be tolerated, but it begins to wear on your nerves by the end of the day.

We put our dinghy in the water today and went goofing off around the harbor.  Just to get out of the boat.  Then we went over to the large marina across from us and checked out their shops.  They are one of the few places where there is room to tie off about 8 dinghies.  We were quite pleased to learn that they have a very decent little grocery store, much better than the little store in our marina.  Heck, this is almost like being back in the states.

On Tuesday we took the free van from our marina to a shopping mall in Port of Spain.  It was just like being in a shopping mall back in Houston.  That night we took the van to MovieTowne and saw Superman Returns.  That theater complex is just like one at home – stadium seating and 10 or 12 big screens.  Tickets are $25TT for evening movies; that is $3.88 USD.  The complex also had all kinds of familiar fast food establishments:  Burger King, Subway, Quizno’s, Long John Silver’s, TCBY, etc.  This is the first time we have seen any of these type eateries since we left Houston.  The only other fast food place we have seen in the entire Caribbean was KFC, and that was only in Grenada.  There are many KFC joints down here in Trini.  We have not visited one yet.  We ate dinner Tuesday night at Ruby Tuesdays.  It was great but a lot more food than we have become accustomed to eating at one meal.

This afternoon we walked down to Budget Marine to shop for items needed for two boat projects.  They didn’t have what we wanted, so we continued to Peake’s Chandlery; then to Power Boats Boat Works; then back to Budget Marine; then way down the road to Echo Marine; and then back again to Budget Marine.  This was the most walking we have done since moving on the boat.  At least the land was flat this time.  And we still did not get all the items we need to finish either one of the boat projects.  We hope to take a maxi-taxi on Saturday and try some more shops down towards Port of Spain.  This will be our first venture on a maxi-taxi here in Trinidad

Oh, and we got a gift today from someone who was having his boat hauled out on the travel lift that we are docked next to.  This guy had a Magma propane grill that he didn’t want anymore, so he asked if we would like to have it.  Of course we would!  This is a slightly larger grill than the one we have, and much nicer than ours.  We have a somewhat smaller Magma propane grill, so all our attachments, etc., will work with this gifted grill. It looks brand new.  The man said he decided that he is just not a grill kind of guy.  He was from Switzerland, so that doesn’t really surprise us that he prefers not to cook on a grill.

We have met some really nice people here in our marina; one couple in particular.  They are teaching us to play Mexican Train dominos.  Okay, I can hear our kids and brother and sister-in-law laughing their heads off over that statement.  We never in our wildest dreams thought we would ever play dominos.  (Judy’s dad played dominos all the time; it never appealed to her in any way.  And anyone who knows Bill will recognize that he is in no way a game type person.)  But Mexican Train is a big past-time with the cruisers, so we figured we might as well learn how to play.  When in Rome…….

 July 14, 2006   Friday

This is something that we talked about this week and planned to mention on this blog, but Bill beat Judy to the draw and already emailed it to several family members.  So some of you have already read the following:

It seems more and more like we are in some kind of old-fart retirement community.

- Most people play dominos
- There are domino tournaments
- There are bridge tournaments
- There are scheduled buses to the mall
- They make sure all of the people get back on the bus before leaving
- There are signs around the marina telling you what you can and cannot do and what time you can do it.
- It seems most conversations are about where you can get the most for less
- People complain about everything

Where is the damn concrete shuffle board?

I long for that time when we were all 20 - 30 something where the women would sun around the pool in bikinis and the guys would drink beer and talk about the women.

I guess the only difference between a retirement community and this place is: When we get fed up with all of this crap, we can and will leave and get pounded around in high seas acting like we are teenagers.


Here is another note about the VHF radio for those readers who are not boaters.  The proper procedure for hailing another boat is to say their boat name three times, followed by your boat name two times.  Sometimes this sounds rather funny because of the pronunciation; sometimes you cannot understand at all what is being said, especially when people try to get too cute when naming their boats.  Here is an example of a few hailings that we have heard here in Chaguaramas:

Tixie-Lixie, Tixie-Lixie, Tixie-Lixie;  Dommabomba, Dommabomba

Amazing Grace, Amazing Grace, Amazing Grace;  Alleleia!, Alleluia!

Wasabi, Wasabi, Wasabi; Caliente, Caliente

Mobely, Mobely, Mobely; Bagheera, Bagheera

Anger Management, Anger Management, Anger Management; South of Reality, South of Reality

And my all-time favorite:
Do It, Do It, Do It; Mighty Sparrow

Now, our boat name causes somewhat of a problem; we were actually surprised that the Coast Guard allowed us to use this name for our boat, although there are eight US documented boats on file named the same.  The reason we thought the name we had chosen would be denied is because there is a mariners’ navigational hazard VHF hailing call:  Security, Security, Security.  You are supposed to make this call to bring unusual navigational hazards to the attention of other boaters.  For example, if you saw a semi-submerged container lost from a freighter floating somewhere; or if there is a sunken vessel in waters shallow enough that it could cause a hazard to other vessels transiting through that area.  The correct pronunciation of the advice to mariners hail is Se-cur-i-tay, not Se-cur-i-tee; but it surprises us how many people do not know the correct pronunciation.  We have heard it pronounced incorrectly many times the farther south we have gone.  When we checked in with Trinidad customs, the officer did not like the fact that our boat is named Security.  But there wasn’t anything he could do about it because we have our USCG official documentation that reflects that the name of the boat legally is Security.

It does cause others to hesitate when hailing us.  They normally say “sailing vessel Security, sailing vessel Security; whatever, whatever.”  Not one person has hailed us by repeating our boat name three times as is customary.  This is one of the reasons that Judy is lobbying for a name change for this boat.  Plus, Security sounds really tight-ass.  We need a name that more correctly reflects our feelings about living aboard and sailing to different locales.  If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to send them to us.  So far, Bill is not buying into the idea of changing the boat name but maybe there is some name that will change his mind. (Note: we later changed the name to BeBe)

A diver has just arrived to place a black bag over our prop since we will be sitting here at the marina for several months.  This bag is supposed to prevent the barnacles from growing on the prop as they did in Grenada.  We might hire him to also wax the topsides of our deck smooth areas and polish the stainless steel life rail and stanchions.  We are so lazy; most people do this type work themselves.

July 15, 2006  Saturday

Yesterday afternoon we cleaned out our sail locker and auxiliary anchor locker which are located on the bow (or bows for the correct nautical terminology, even though there is only one bow).  Apparently someone had sailed at one time without tightly securing the deck hatches for these two lockers – could have been us or could have been previous owner.  Either way, there was a small amount of old sea water down in both lockers.  Lovely smell. 

The anchor locker on the port side contained two anchors which have never been used, rope rode for both anchors, anchor chain for both anchors, and our asymmetrical sail.  Luckily, the sail was inside a sail bag and still sealed in a heavy plastic shipping bag so there was no water intrusion.  The anchor chain had been in cardboard boxes, which had disintegrated into a mushy, smelly mess. 

The sail locker on the starboard side contained the forward ballooner sail (size of a 150 genoa) (not in its sail bag) and the mizzen ballooner (properly packed in its sail bag), the storm sail (still sealed in its heavy plastic shipping bag), and sheets (ropes) for all three sails.  The forward ballooner sail had been used and not repacked into its sail bag.  It was wet with old sea water, and the bright red and blue colors had faded and stained the white sections in many places and mildew was starting to form.  Good thing we opened this locker now and didn’t wait another month because the entire sail locker would probably have been full of mildew.

These lockers are watertight, so we emptied the contents and sponged out the sea water.  Then Bill washed the interiors with fresh water and dried everything.  Cleaning the mushy cardboard out of the links of the anchor chain was a laborious process.  Cleaning the forward ballooner was kind of fun.

We spread the sail out over the deck and draped as much as possible over the mainsail boom; we tied it down as best we could on the windward side of the boat.  Then we washed the entire sail with fresh water, twice.  Then we flipped the sail and did the same for the other side.  This sail is a light-weight sail and we did not want to spread it out over concrete or rocks, so the best place to do this cleaning seemed to be on our own boat.

After the sail was cleaned, we raised it on a halyard and tied off one corner; so it was flying like a huge flag.  We did this to dry the sail; did not want to pack it away with any moisture still present.  Of course, just as it was almost dry; it started to rain.  So we quickly pulled it down inside the forward hatch into our forward cabin – affectionately known as “the library.”  Judy put towels under it just in case it might fade; certainly did not want to stain the upholstery or the carpet.

Today we went into Port of Spain on a maxi-taxi.  Tony and Sandy of S/V Columbine accompanied us to show us how to get around the area on the maxi-taxis.  We walked a bit around downtown and then happened upon the street of local produce vendors and meat vendors.  Don’t think we will be buying any meat down there; we are more the supermarket type (less flies and less smell); but we regret not bringing our canvas shopping bags for some produce.   

We ate lunch downtown and then took another maxi-taxi to yet another marine supplier that is located halfway between Chaguaramas and Port of Spain.  They had the correct type faucet/spigot that we need for our watermaker project.  What a relief.  That is what we had walked all over creation searching for a few days ago.  We want to install a diverter valve and spigot so that we can dump the first few gallons of desalinated water down the sink because it contains very high salt content.  We want to then divert the desalinated water to our water holding tank, and to collect the last few gallons to use as bottled drinking water.  The last few gallons is always the best tasting water.  Bill has quite a little plumbing project to do.  We are very pleased with the faucet/spigot that we bought today, and look forward to having this job completed.

When we returned to the marina, Tony and Sandy came over to our boat and we sat in the air-conditioned saloon.  We had a very enjoyable afternoon playing Mexican Train dominos while eating mango and peach sorbet with brownies.  We are both surprised that we are enjoying playing this game, at least with Tony and Sandy.  Don’t think we will ever want to play with any of the serious players.

Monday, July 10, 2006

On to Trinidad

July 8, 2006, Saturday
Coral Cove Marina,  Chaguaramas, Trinidad       Traveled 85 NM

We left Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada, at 7:00 p.m. last night, when there was still sufficient light for us to see the reefs near Calvigny and Hog Islands.  Winds were predicted for 15-20 knots, decreasing to 10-15 knots this morning.  The first 10-15 miles off of Grenada has a notorious "washing machine" effect; not at all a pleasant place for sailing.  We steered course of 181 degrees for 90% of the passage; actual winds experienced were 25 knots with frequent gusts of 30.  Seas were 8-9 feet for three-quarters of the trip.  About 2 hours outside Trinidad, the winds finally decreased to 15 knots and the seas moderated down to 4 feet.  This coincided with being in the lee of Tobago, about 85 miles to the east of us. 

There is an equatorial current that runs 1.5-2 knots curving NW up between Tobago and Grenada, which makes for a somewhat rough passage with waves across beam rolling the boat for most of the trip.  We had less than an hour of normal sailing after we got out of the washing machine effect south of Grenada before we encountered the current effect.  Once we got south of that current then the sailing was quite nice, but it was a miserable trip down to that point.  Bill got truly seasick for the first time ever.  He had gotten queasy for the first time when we sailed from Carriacou to Grenada in early June, but that was probably caused by heat and the fact that he was sitting behind the dodger with no wind.  This time, it was plain mal-de-mer caused by rolling and bouncing so much in the rough seas.  But once he threw up, then he was okay enough to continue to function for the rest of the trip.  Darn good thing, because about 5 hours into the trip Judy succumbed to seasickness with gut-wrenching dry heaves and she was useless until we finally reached the calmer weather.  Every time she would look at the chart or sit at the helm, she would start heaving again.  Bill finally gave her one of the seasickness pills that came out of our liferaft supplies when we had it serviced in St. Thomas.  We have no idea what these pills are, as the label is in French and we don`t recognize a word of it.  Anyway, that pill put Judy sound asleep in the cockpit for almost 2 hours.  When she woke up, she was fine and the weather was calming down.  By that time, Bill was exhausted and he finally got to sleep for a bit.

So, all in all, this was our worst passage so far, as measured by physical comfort.  But those final two hours were wonderful.  That is what sailing is supposed to feel like.

I know a few other sailors are reading this blog.  This information is for them.  The paper charts indicate the Hibiscus gas platform on the north side of Trinidad; it is recommended that you pass east of the Hibiscus in order for the best angle of approach to the cut into Chaguaramas.  This gas platform is not shown on any electronic charts, at least none that we are aware of.  Anyway, for those who might be interested, there is not just one platform; there are at least three. 

The platform that is shown on updated paper charts is lit with yellow lights, with tiny red lights on top of it and solid white sea-level lights spaced a good distance around it.  It is located exactly as shown on the Imray B-6 paper chart.

About 2-3 miles ESE of that platform is another one.  It is lit with all white lights, also with solid white sea-level lights spaced a good distance around it. 

About 8-9 miles NE of the yellow Hibiscus platform is another one, or what appeared to be another one.  It was lit with white lights, with one solid red on the SW side of it.  Looked like a huge ship with dual white steaming lights and 1 red port light; but it was stationary; and the red was on the wrong side for it to be a ship.  If it was a ship, we should have been seeing a green light.  So, either a huge ship with improper lights was stopped dead out in the middle of nowhere, or it was another gas platform.  Either way, we stayed well clear of it.  We passed one mile east of the Hibiscus platform, leaving the other two platforms well to the east of us.

We arrived at the entrance to Chaguaramas about 8:00 a.m.  A catamaran arrived just in front of us.  We had been watching this boat for hours on our radar, as we got closer and closer to it.  A catamaran should have been sailing much faster than our monohull, but it wasn`t.  When we got into the cut between mainland Trinidad and Monos island, called Boca de Monos, we could see that they were starting to put out their fenders and dock lines in preparation for arrival at the customs dock.  Did they ever go slow!!!  We slowed to the point that we were losing steerage control, simply because we felt it would have been rude to go around them and reach customs dock first.  But we were polite and stayed behind them.

Three huge porpoises came up to our boat in the cut and played around us for awhile.  Biggest ones we have ever seen; a different species that what we are accustomed to seeing in the northern Caribbean.  Several porpoises were playing beneath the catamaran in front of us.  They did this for quite a while; didn`t leave until we reached the industrial traffic area entering the Chaguaramas bay.

The catamaran docked at the customs dock and moved as far forward as possible, leaving enough room for about two-thirds of our boat.  Judy docked the boat and Bill jumped off and tied off the dock lines.  Our official arrival was 10:00 a.m.; total trip 85 NM in 15 hours, but we had wasted at least an hour creeping behind that catamaran.  We later talked to the owners and learned that they had engine trouble and wouldn`t have minded if we had passed them.

We hit the ATM at the bank located next to Immigration and got $1,000 TT (exchange rate is about 6.25 TT to one USD).  We then cleared Immigration and Customs, total charge $338 TT.  We were very glad to see that our marina is located directly across from the customs dock, maybe 60 feet away.  Judy backed off the customs dock and moved the boat over to the marina dock and Bill handled the dock lines on the port side this time.  We checked in with the marina office and got our slip assignment, and moved the boat there.  Another cruiser helped with the dock lines this time. 

We really like where they have placed us.  We are alongside the outside edge of the travel lift, with our bow pointed directly at the customs dock.  There are a jillion water taxis running around this harbor.  All the other boats in this marina are docked broadside to the wakes created by the water taxis, so they roll side-to-side a lot.  We are pointed bow-to towards the wakes, so our boat rides with a very comfortable movement and no rolling. 

Something surprised us a bit about this area.  The tide swings typically 3 1/2 to 4-feet.  Normally there is a rule of thumb that the closer to the equator you are located, then the smaller the tidal change.  We were not expecting this large a variance between high and low tides.

We went to the pizza place located here in the marina for a late lunch.  After being sick all night, we were finally beginning to get really hungry by mid-afternoon.  Bill had a steak sandwich (safe and bland).  Judy wanted to try the pizza.  The restaurant is owned by an Italian guy and the pizza is supposed to be pretty good.  A one-topping small pizza (8 slices) is $37 TT.  The choices were pepperoni (don`t eat that), salami (not on a pizza, please), ham (too salty), or meatball.  So, Judy opted for a small meatball pizza.  It turned out to be just crumbled ground beef spread all over the top of the pizza.  Now, the strange thing is that this is served with dispensers of ketchup and mustard.  Never before have we been served ketchup and mustard with pizza.  Judy opted not to try those condiments, and added dried red pepper flakes instead.  We brought the left-overs back to the boat for later.  Have a feeling that we will be visiting that little Italian eatery often.  (AND THEY HAVE SALADS!!!!! which are sometimes hard to find down in these islands)

July 10, 2006  Monday

There was a pot-luck barbeque at the marina gazebo last night.  They do this every Sunday.  We met several other cruisers and enjoyed the evening.  We learned that there is a taxi/bus to the mall every Tuesday evening for movie night.  The theater has at least 2 screens and they are supposedly showing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  It costs about $2.50 US for a movie, and a large popcorn and drink costs about $1.50 US.  Total taxi, movie, snacks, and dinner should run about $20 per person.  That sounds really inexpensive to us and we will definitely be doing an occasional movie & dinner night.

Movies and food might be inexpensive, but WiFi is NOT inexpensive down here.  The best service costs $85 US per month.  We didn`t want to pay that much, so we connected with a slower service for $39.95 US per month.  And we think even that price is too expensive.

The Globalstar satellite phone will not work here.  It indicates that it is roaming; but when we try to place an outgoing call, it does not work.  I don`t know what happens if we have an incoming call.

We woke up to parrots flying overhead.  Noisy things, but really neat.  Never thought we would be in an area where parrots fly wild around us.  Area is also populated with kickadees, pelicans, gulls, and frigate birds.  Gets pretty noisy in the early mornings and early evenings, but all the birds are totally quiet during the day.   There are howler monkeys in Scotland Bay, which is off the cut where we entered Saturday morning.  Supposedly, the howler monkeys sound like lions roaring.  If we get tired of marina life during the next 2 1/2 months, then we might go over there for a few days to check it out.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

July 4th in Grenada

Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada

We celebrated 4th of July here in Clarkes Court Bay with a few dozen cruisers.  There was a little gathering hosted by a bar as their grand opening.  They plan to build a marina, but so far there is just one floating dock in place.  Marinas often are planned down in these islands but never manage to be built.  This one is called Whisper Cove Marina.  It appears to have very limited water space so I don’t see how they will have room to build much of a marina.  It is across the bay from the marina in which we are currently docked.  We didn’t stay very long.  As someone else said, celebrating 4th of July outside the USA just seems strange.

We planned to leave this marina today and move to another bay where we could clear out of customs.  We hoped to leave Grenada about 4:00 a.m. tomorrow for the passage to Trinidad.  Weather predictions for tomorrow are winds at 20 knots and seas of 8-feet at 7 second intervals.  All the other cruisers who want to go to Trinidad are planning to wait for better weather, but we felt comfortable with that prediction for this passage.  We even paid our marina bill and cast off the dock lines – were really looking forward to sailing again. 

But as soon as we backed out of our slip, the trouble started.

The boat backed out okay; but when put into forward gear, not much happened.  Bill thought for a moment that we might have to drop the anchor to stop our backward motion and to keep us off the rocks.  But Bill powered down in forward gear (red lined it) and the boat barely inched forward.  He managed to make a circle using the bow thruster and we docked again; this time at the end of the main T-dock.

Obviously the auto-prop is fouled.  Probably has barnacles growing on it since we have not moved in a month.  Or maybe the prop is fouled by the awning bungee strap that Bill dropped overboard last week.  A diver is supposed to come out tomorrow and check it out.   We are really hoping that it is something simple like the bungee cord or marine growth; that can be solved by a diver in the water.  If it is a more serious problem, then we must manage to get to a travel lift and have the boat hauled again.  The prop cannot be removed while the boat is in the water.  Removing that auto-prop is a tough job.  Not at all sure that we could even get out of this bay without good forward power, as the entrance is a narrow space between reefs and dead into the 20 knot wind and waves.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that this is an easy fix by the diver.

While at the 4th of July celebration, we met up with another couple that we had met way back in St. Kitts.  We learned from them that the volcano on Montserrat erupted again just 4 days after Bill and I toured in the restricted zone.  We were there on May 16 and it erupted on May 20.  It threw up so much ash that airline flights were cancelled as far north as Puerto Rico.  Glad it didn’t happen while we were there.  Then, it erupted again in June.  Here is a news article about the May 20 eruption:

Montserrat Volcano Eruption May 20, 2006
MVO reported that on the morning of 20 May a major lava-dome collapse at Soufriére Hills occurred over a time period of less than three hours. Approximately 90 million cubic meters of the lava dome material was shed from the summit leaving a broad, deep, eastward-sloping crater. Pyroclastic flows traveled E down the Tar River Valley and were estimated to extend out to 3 km over the sea. Lahars due to excessive rain were produced NW in the Belham River Valley, N in the Trants area, and to the NE. An ash cloud reached 16.8 km (55,000 ft) a.s.l. by 0740, the highest reported ash cloud during the 10 years of the eruption, and traveled NW. Lithics (average size of 3.5 cm across) fell NW of the volcano. On 21 May, ash and mud fell on the northern parts of the island. Prior to the lava-dome collapse, during 12 May and 19 May, lava extrusion had continued.
The Washington VAAC reported that the ash plume from the 20 May dome collapse initiated at approximately 0700. On 21 May, the remnant ash cloud from 20 May was at a height of ~11.3 km (37,000 ft) a.s.l. along the northern coast of South America and the Southern Caribbean. An ash cloud at a height of ~7 km (23,000 ft) a.s.l. extended S of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. According to news reports, the ash cloud on 20 May forced the suspension of some international flights in areas of the Caribbean through 21 May. On 22 May, multi-spectral imagery indicated that an ash plume at a height of ~3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. extended over the islands of Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts. On 23 May, a thin ash plume was visible on satellite imagery and moved WNW.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Fishermen's Birthday (St. Peter & St. Paul) in Gouyave

July 1, 2006    Saturday

One of the other cruisers arranged a group trip on June 29th to the Fishermen’s Birthday celebration at Gouyave, which is a fishing village on the western side of Grenada about 2 hour drive from our marina.  Gouyave is the fishing capital of Grenada.  The Fishermen’s Birthday is an annual celebration that is held in many fishing communities all over the world.  It is not a specific date each year, nor is it even a specific day.  Different communities hold their celebrations on different days.  It originated as a religious celebration, the fishermen being Peter and Paul; but it really seems to have no religious connection anymore at least here on Grenada.

It was raining the day of our trip, but that was a positive thing because we would have died in the direct sun all afternoon.  The rain helped cool things down quite a bit.  They had several displays of the various fish caught that day (I have uploaded some photos), and lots of food for sale like all festivals (but the types of food were nothing like we would have back in the states).  Bill and I wandered around and finally found a tiny restaurant that actually had 3 tables and a few chairs so we could sit down to eat rather than standing outside in the rain.  We weren’t very adventurous in our meal selection—shrimp fried rice—something we could identify.

They had huge, HUGE, stereo speakers lining both side of the narrow main street; and were playing them all at full volume.  Judy had to cover her ears just to walk down the street because it hurt.  Bill didn’t feel the pain in his ears (buy, hey, we all know he is half-deaf anyway), but he could feel the vibration all inside his chest.  These speakers were way, WAY, WAAAYYYY too loud for comfort.  So loud that we couldn’t understand one syllable of what was being sung.

There were supposed to be sailboat races that day as part of their annual celebration, but there was absolutely no wind so the races were finally called off.  There was a little girl on the beach who kept posing for photos.  She had the longest and curliest eyelashes of any human that we have ever seen.  When she tired of posing for photos, she turned to our group and said:  “I am going into the sea.”  And away she went; to torment the little boys playing at the waters edge.  She was a cute little thing with lots of personality. 

We left just at dusk and it looked like things were going to really start hopping around there.  There were even more truckloads of huge speakers being delivered and set-up along the streets.  Definitely glad we left before the volume got any worse.  Bet at least half the people in that town have hearing damage.

Last night we had another Pot Luck Dinner here at the marina.  There was a large turn-out and a lot of fun. 

We took down our awnings yesterday in preparation of moving on to Trinidad.  Boy, do we notice the increase in interior temperature without the awnings.  Judy has been ready to go for days.  She is getting stir-crazy just sitting here.  It is time to go sailing!!!!!   At this time we think we will leave next Wednesday; but it truly just depends on the weather.

Tomorrow is the Fishermen’s Birthday celebration here in Clarke’s Court Bay.  We have invited Tony and Linda from S/V Amazing Grace to come over to our boat to watch the races.  We are the last boat on this dock so we have a perfect view of the entire bay.