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TOBAGO

Charlotteville, TOBAGO   

Breakfast ashore 

Lyda's softshell crabs, with Jody & Bruce (s/v CaVa)

Tobago's national bird, cocrico - it's legal to kill and tasty to eat!

Helping fishermen pull nets; our anchorage in background

A young French cruiser

Our fresh caught lobster dinner

Secluded Pirates' Beach

TOBAGO, AUGUST 19 - SEPTEMBER 14, 2004:  We make a 22-hour overnight passage from the Grenadines southeast to Tobago in favorable easterly winds but against 1.5 - 2.5 knot current the whole way, creating a bumpy and wet ride for us.  After slowing down during the night, we arrive just at sun up.

We arrive in Tobago (not related to Tobago Cays), our first time here.  Tobago,  which has exchanged hands more than any other Caribbean island (about 30 times) was shuffled off to Trinidad as part of a political deal.  They are now an independent 2-island country.  Other than that, there is very little similarity between these two English-speaking islands, either geologically or ethnically.  We were told Tobago and Trinidad are friendly to a point, although Tobago feels like they do not get their fair share of the oil production revenues.

Tobago is a small (116 sq. miles) mountainous island with a population of 47,000 people.  Although a lovely get-away destination, tourism is still light and it is not a big hangout for cruisers only because it is usually a struggle to get here against the wind and strong currents, and untenable in winter months.  Things, and people, are unspoiled here for the most part as they still think of themselves as a colony:  crime is practically non-existent, locals greet you ("yeh mon") on the street as if they know you, nobody wants or expects anything (i.e., $) from you, and there are birds (like parrots) galore all over the place.

At sunrise we arrive in the large (2 mile x 1 mile) bay at Charlotteville, TOBAGO, on the northwest coast, and anchor in deep 50 ft. of water.  It's always fun pulling into an anchorage and recognizing boats - here, there are two boats, CaVa and Pastime, we know from St. Maarten, and a couple other boats we know come a few days later.  The bay is surrounded by steep, thickly forested mountains with hanging rain clouds and deep waters, good snorkeling and several secluded beaches nestled in between rock outcroppings. 

The woods are filled with boisterous  birds, including lots of parrots, seen regularly flying around.  Tobago boasts 210 species of nesting birds, way more than any other small island, and is one of the best places for bird watching aficionados.  Once we awoke at 3:00 a.m. to a lively 20-minute conversation among the hillside inhabitants.  Although Tobago's national bird, the raucous cocrico (rufous-vented chachalaca), a rather large brown nondescript bird, is protected by law, it's habit of eating agricultural crops makes it legal to shoot it if it's in your yard - it's suppose to be mighty tasty, too.  Parrots also have a similar reputation for destroying crops (wasteful creatures - they take one bite of a fruit and move on to the next), and thus it is legal to kill or export parrots, although legal hassles make the latter not a profitable option.  

Tobago is a primary nesting area for the endangered leatherback turtles obtaining a length of 8 ft., and the loggerhead, oxbill and green turtles.  We missed seeing them as nesting season is March - August.

As in most Caribbean islands, goats, sheep and cows wander around seemingly impervious to vehicular traffic.  If you hit an animal, it's your fault for hitting it but the owner's fault for letting it roam near the road.  Typically, the animal's owner pays for your car repairs and you pay for the livestock loss.  In Tobago an added caveat is if you hit, for example, a cow, you should physically take hold of the other cows until the police come.  If the owner does not pay for your car repairs, then you get possession of ALL the cows you hold.  Of course the owner will want the others back, so this pretty much guaranties your car will be repaired at owner's expense.  We hear this law is enforced, and also helps to keep animals away from roadways. 

We found the people of Tobago exceptionally friendly.  But even more unforgettable is how very helpful (read 'not lazy') and pleasant every person is here - probably more so than any other island we have visited.  Trying to get a boat part shipped in, a customs official spent half an hour on a Sunday afternoon making phone calls for us; another official a few days later did the same thing. 

We spend a very relaxing 2 weeks in Charlotteville, eating the best rotis in the Caribbean (at Lyda's), hiking, snorkeling, beach BBQ, reading and enjoying the serene environment.  (A "roti" looks like a burrito filled with meat and curried vegetables such at potatoes, chick/garbonzo/channa peas, and candied mango; a "buss 'n shut" is served with the "skins" on the side so you build your own.)  A 6-ft manta ray lives in the bay and occasionally skims by boats.  Dinghying back from snorkeling, several dozen dolphins were frolicking in the bay.  Jumping in the water trying to get a closer look, a friend saw 2 of them descend past him together in a tight vertical position, apparently doing a mating ritual.  It would be very easy to stay here indefinitely.  The village is a main street along the water's edge, with the basics available except an ATM machine.  A 90-minute, US$1.50 scenic bus trip through the mountains and along the east coast into Scarborough gives us access to big city amenities. 

While here, we found out that we recently qualified as Commodores in Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA), having lived aboard for at least a year and having made a passage of 1,500 miles.

 

 Buccoo Bay, TOBAGO

Donston Johnson from Buccoo Point, a big help during Ivan

 

 

 

 

Old storm diagram, but point can still be made:  Move ARGO to SOUTH side of storm - the cleaner side - and that's where we were during Ivan.  [Editable file deleted, thus stuck with this one.]

 

 

 

 

Steve - resting (temporarily)  under mosquito-netted lumpy bed after Ivan passed

Even though we are south of the "hurricane belt", which passes through Grenada (north of Tobago), we stay alert to weather forecasts.  The last hurricane to hit Tobago was 41 years ago in 1963Hurricane IVAN holds the record for forming as a tropical storm, and turning into a hurricane, further south than any other.  Tropical storms/hurricanes then turn to a northwest course avoiding this area.  Ivan, however, was not turning northwest as expected.  (In fact, the National Hurricane Center's predictions were off every step of the way on Ivan.) 

Tobago's anchorages are not protected, and the idea of being anchored in deep 50 ft. water in Charlotteville did not appeal to us.  Remember from Charlie and Earl, we want to put out as much "scope", or ratio of anchor chain to depth, as possible.  On Monday morning, the day before Ivan, ARGO and 4 other boats decided to move southwest to Tobago's southern end to put more distance between us and Ivan's intended track.  The best anchorage is Bon Accord Lagoon, but a couple of the other boats, which draw at least a foot less than we do, hit the bottom and coral as they entered the Lagoon.  We decided this was not a time to attempt the Lagoon's entrance with Ivan bearing down within 24 hours.  We went instead into Buccoo Bay, although not well protected, is somewhat hidden behind a reef, and set 2 anchors.  As we went to bed that night, Ivan had turned to the north. 

We get up at 5:00 a.m. to find that Ivan's turn to the north was only a temporary jaunt, and that it is still on a due west coarse.  Although on this course it would pass north of us (putting us on the "cleaner" side) we were still predicted to experience hurricane force winds (more than 75 mph near center) as the eye passed within 48 miles of ARGO.  We set a 3rd anchor, took off some canvas, left the sails alone (time did not permit removing them), and packed up the important stuff like passport, boat papers, insurance cards, money, credit cards, computer et al, VHF radio, flashlights, binoculars, camera, rain jacket, clothes, shoes, clean underwear, etc..  Next time I would include the first aid kit and the GPIRB.  Not having been to shore here, we dinghyed to a dinghy dock and unloaded our bags feeling like a vagabond, not sure where we were going. 

Turns out we landed at little guest cottages, and we took a room to store our stuff in and stay overnight.  The local guys helped carry our heavy dinghy and outboard up on land and tie to trees; carried gas can, anchor etc. to our room.  The "bar" was opened up and Steve "repaid" the helpers with beer.  You'd be amazed how far a beer will go in these places.  Anyway, a very small price to pay for such big help.  After exchanging "yeh mon" with everyone, we hung out with them watching the wind pick up, trees bend backwards and the corrugated tin roofs start to fly off like boomerangs.  As we watched ARGO through the binoculars buck violently like a bronco (is that where Buccoo Bay gets it's name?), we were prepared to lose her - her bow and jib roller furling were going all the way under water.  As Ivan passed, the wind would shift and ARGO would swing around on her anchors.  It is always a concern whether one anchor can trip up another anchor . . . and set the boat free. 

The inn keeper had the internet and TV up, so we could see Ivan was still tracking towards us, then the island lost power late morning as Ivan was just approaching the north coast of Tobago.  By early afternoon, we had sought out alternate shelter under the main building in a corner.  We were prepared to run for the shower stall around the corner if glass began to break.  As it turned out, even though Ivan was less than 50 miles from us, we probably saw only 50 - 55 knot winds (56 - 63 mph).  See storm diagram at left.  By mid afternoon, we saw the wind shift and knew Ivan had passed us, the worst was over.  We know how lucky we were.  Many of the locals, however, are too young to know the power of a hurricane and so they thought it was just an interesting phenomenon and good excuse not to work. 

This was the very first night we have spent off ARGO since leaving Houston one and a half years ago:  our "romantic get-away" consisted of no electricity, no water, a lumpy mattress and rain blowing in under the door!  However, they did cook a very nice dinner (rack of lamb) for us and another couple, served by candle light!  We returned to ARGO the next day and found that all 3 anchors held and she was dry inside.  Great relief.

 

GRENADA

Domino affect; most jack stands were not tied together

 

 

 

 

 

St. Georges Lagoon: boats piled up onshore or sunk, lush green hills now bare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friend's boat holed during Ivan in Grenada, arrived in Trinidad via barge

Hurricane Ivan Devastates Grenada

Via our single-side band radio, and our onboard email, we hear of Ivan's direct hit on the south coast of Grenada and the widespread damage and destruction of 90% of the island.  Ivan was a Category 4 system with sustained winds of 120 mph (104 knots) when it hit - the last direct hit by a hurricane here was in 1955, and not another for a half-century before that.  Unfortunately, many of our friends were in Grenada (considered "hurricane safe" by insurance companies and cruisers) and either lost or have severely damaged boats.  Only a handful survived without any damage. 

There were approximately 700 boats in Grenada before Ivan, about half of these were hauled out in one of the two boat yards and the other half afloat in marinas or anchored/moored in harbors.  Out of the 197 boats at Spice Island boatyard all but a very few fell over, and only 3  were able to float afterwards, we hear from a friend who owns one of those 3 boats.  Among all the boats afloat in Grenada before Ivan, approximately one third ended up sunk or aground.

Several catamarans and trimarans we seen literally flying through the air great distances, clipping masts that stood in their way in half - one catamaran took out 3 boats' masts in its airborne travel.  (A pretty compelling argument why not to stay on your boat.)  One friend saw a neighboring boat break loose, wash out to sea with the outgoing current, only to see it return later with the incoming current, miraculously missing his boat, reefs and other boats on its round trip journey.   

Grenada's infrastructure was almost completely destroyed:  It lost all electricity and communications services, water supply became contaminated, no gasoline or diesel available, and police, emergency services and medical facilities were damaged beyond effectiveness.  Grenada instantly turned into a lawless island, with rampant looting ashore as well as of unattended boats, relief supply barges from other islands being hijacked by armed pirates, and the US and British governments telling everyone to leave asap as they could not provide security or protection.  The prison was heavily damaged so all the really bad guys were walking the streets, too, including several of the men (serving life sentences) responsible for massacring the prime minister and his cabinet before a firing squad back in the early 1980's.  Gun shots were a common sound, and scary, as Lower Woburn (near Hog Island / Clarkes' Court area) is home of a mafia group.

The day after Ivan, the Grenada Rescue Effort was formed and able-bodied cruisers in Grenada started assembling lists of  boats and crew, and their status (afloat, aground, holed, sunk, toppled over on land, etc.), throughout the 10 or so harbors, marinas and boat yards.  A concise, alphabetical listing of 800 boats in the Grenada area with their status is [was] available on the internet.  Reports are that at least one cruiser lost his life when his boat broke loose and was taken out to sea, his body washing to shore later.  (About 40 Grenadians lost their lives.)     

Simultaneously, cruisers in Trinidad quickly formed the Grenada Relief Effort, collecting such things as diesel, gasoline, food, water pumps, tarps, items to patch holes in hulls, etc.  Cruisers sailed to Grenada loaded down with supplies.  Another cruiser, s/v Zingano, took his catamaran with a high capacity water maker, anchored offshore Grenada and made water 24-hours a day for cruisers for a few weeks.  Other boats laden with full diesel tanks and gerry cans went boat to boat giving fuel as needed to run engines and generators to keep batteries charged. 

We understand from stateside family and friends that Ivan's destruction of Grenada was barely covered in the States.  To help put it in perspective, we have compiled emails and log from several friends who were in Grenada during Ivan.  We recommend reading their chilling accounts, both during and after Ivan, from emails and personal log - Hurricane Ivan Journal Excerpts.

 

GRENADA

Spice Island boat yard

 

 

 

"Flying machine" (catamaran) upside down; note grounded & sunken boats in background

 

 

 

 

 

Unloading emergency supplies off a Trinidad Relief boat

Store Bay, TOBAGO

  Local shoemaker making hat chinstrap for Deborah

  Hurricane Ivan casualty left untouched by locals in virtually crime-free Tobago

 

  Roachees, our award-winning tour and bird watching guide

"Can't you see the bird, it's right there?"

  Colorful blue crown motmot with it's distinctive segmented tail

Tobago, continued -

It was unfortunate we were not able to enjoy Buccoo Bay more.  It is known for their annual Goat and Crab races at Easter.  Sunday School was invented here - its for the "parents" and entails a big street party every Sunday night with lots of food and music and drinking.  Sadly enough, we were not able to attend Sunday School.  We made good friends in short time, and have sent coveted Houston Texans t-shirts to those who really helped us out here in a time of crisis.

The day after Ivan we moved a little further south to Store Bay and anchored in front of a nice beach and resort area, with easy access to laundry, internet, stores and more.  Captain Phil (he's known for his own commercial brand of West Indies hot sauce down here called "Capt. Phil's Wreck-tum Fire" - say it out loud) organized a beach cookout with fresh caught kingfish.  From here we took a day tour of Tobago, seeing sights so far missed.  With our knowledgeable personal guide, we hiked through the rain forest for a bird watching outing, seeing many, many different species of birds.  Not being big bird watching enthusiasts, we very much enjoyed the concise but fruitful experience.  We also hiked to a waterfall, and along the way passed a large grove of trees and bamboo filled with squawking parrots.  By the way, bamboo is the world's largest grass growing 6 inches a day during season. Unbelievably huge, tall stands of bamboo attractively cover the northern part of Tobago.  Some are now bent in half from Ivan's force.

We learned some interesting things about Tobago, most of which probably apply to Trinidad also.  Each and every town or village has its own Medical Center providing free medical care.  In fact, foreign visitors are also entitled to use these free services.  Welfare is available to those citizens needing it, however, each and every person receiving welfare has to "earn" it.  They perform supervised services such as cleaning up beach areas and roads (within a couple of days of Ivan, crews had picked up debris and fallen palm fronds, branches, trees, etc), etc.  When there is nothing else to do, they build small parks along roadways or on scenic hillsides, including benches and landscaping.  Consequently, there are a lot of these parks all around, adding to the appeal of this small island. 

Many religions are practiced here (human sacrifices not allowed, our guide told us), but we have noted a lot of Seventh Day Adventists - they do not work on Saturdays.  We also were told that Tobago is a popular place for Europeans, especially Germans and Dutch, to have homes.  Harrison Ford also has a house here.

Store Bay does not have any dinghy docks, so this is one of those places where we have to beach the dinghy.  Unfortunately, there is quite a big surf here.  Unequivocally, we had our worst dinghy landing and, subsequently, worst dinghy launch ever (could call it "crash 'n burn" or "surf 'n turf" or "surf 'n submerge").  Going in, a big wave caught us and pushed the dinghy sideways as Steve is attempting to pull us up onto the beach - this resulted in him getting run over by the dinghy (outboard is off, of course, at this point).  In town he kept getting funny looks as we couldn't get all the sand out of his eye lashes and eye brows.  Leaving the beach later with 2 other dinghies, we were first out, Deborah and another gal pushing the dinghy out - just as a big wave caught the dinghy and dunked both of them completely.  It was picture worthy as they surfaced looking like drowned rats with straw hat and sunglasses hanging limp.  Oh well, already wet, they assisted the other 2 dinghies by swimming them out beyond the breaking waves.  We learned here that timing IS everything!

We had planned on spending more time in Tobago, and anchoring in several other anchorages, but unfortunately Ivan changed that.  We encourage anyone considering visiting Tobago to do it, as it is a unique place in many ways.

We leave Store Bay at 4:00 a.m., and finally with wind and current going with us, we make a pleasant overnight passage southwest to neighboring Trinidad . . .

 

 

TRINIDAD

 

 
NORTH COAST: rugged beauty SCOTLAND BAY: secluded CHAGUARAMAS:  only partially visible, lots of sailboats here!

TRINIDAD, SEPTEMBER 14 - DECEMBER 11, 2004:  Trinidad is a high island and we are able to see it from Tobago on a clear day.  We run along the entire length of Trinidad's north coast, with it's sheer cliffs and thick forests, and go around it's northwest point into Scotland Bay for our first night.  Normally, we would be required to go into a port of entry to clear into customs and immigration immediately (Trinidad & Tobago are very strict about this), but due to all the damaged boats coming from Grenada, they have been very lenient in their enforcement of timely clearance.  Scotland Bay offers a secluded anchorage with parrots and howler monkeys "disturbing" the peace and quiet.  Unfortunately, the pretty scenery is marred by the sight of floating trash - lots of plastic, styrofoam - that comes and goes with the tides, and litters the beach.  We had heard this from others before hand, but was still sickened by this sight.  As it turns out, trash is prevalent all along Trinidad's coasts.

A short hop the next day puts us in Chaguaramas, a dominant yachting service center in the E. Caribbean.  Being below the "hurricane belt", many cruisers store their boats here during hurricane season, and/or do major boat repairs and maintenance here - services and labor prices are substantially less than in the US.  Consequently, this is a natural place for the boats damaged by Ivan in Grenada to come - an overnight passage south.  Most marinas, haul out facilities, boatyards, chandleries and marine services are located around a bay, all within easy walking/dinghying distance.  This is a great place to have a bike and we borrowed s/v Remedy's bikes as needed.  Other services including laundry, internet, banking, post office, communication, restaurant, bar and public transportation are readily available at reasonable prices.  Port of Spain, Trinidad's main city, is only 15 miles from Chaguaramas, providing typical big city amenities.  It is easy to get from Chaguaramas to Port of Spain via the maxi-taxies that run frequently and cost very little, and so we have made numerous trips in to the city for shopping, errands, sightseeing, and dentist/doctor appointments.  Trinidad boasts its world-renowned Carnival - many cruisers will stay here until afterwards, but we will need to be further west by February 2005.  It's easy to see how cruisers can get stuck here for many months - just another Hotel California!

We arrived in Chaguaramas and hauled the boat at Coral Cove Marina the next day to do boat maintenance and repairs.  We lived on the boat while "on the hard" for 2 months:  We did rent an air conditioning unit (our boat's A/C unit is water cooled so can't run on the hard) as it is HOT and VERY HUMID here.  It is the rainy season now so an afternoon shower is typical.  We did have a good location next to the forest, so parrots were a common sight (and sound) in the early morning and evening hours.  Other than climbing up and down the ladder, and certain bathhouse needs, it wasn't bad. 

Trinidad is known for its huge fabric industry, with a section of downtown devoted strictly to fabric and upholstery stores.  Prices are very, very cheap and many cruisers take advantage of that to redo their boat's upholstery and canvas.  At one of the marinas, "swimsuit Debbie" and "Bernice-the-dress'n'shirt-maker" come weekly and custom make clothes, all you do is provide fabric, and a sample to follow if desired.  Deborah had several swimsuits, wraps and sundresses made, typical cost of swimsuit: spandex fabric US$4 + labor US$20.   Not bad for a beautifully made custom swimsuit.  We also had some other things made, too, including some shirts for Steve.

Yachties in Chaguaramas are very lucky to have Jesse James ("Members Only Maxi-Taxi service, it's a name only"), whose reputation extends beyond the E. Caribbean.  He caters to the cruising community like no other: regularly scheduled shopping trips (some free) to various stores, malls and the open produce market (Sat. 6:30 am departure), tours (or come up with your own and he'll make it happen), drivers for personal use, airport drop-offs/pickups, reservation/ ticketing/ transportation for events, etc., etc.  Anything you want he can do for you, and at very reasonable prices.  He has been very instrumental in the Grenada Relief Effort coordinating supply shipments and gathering contributions from his church community.  Jesse's wife, Sharon Rose, runs the office and they are always accessible in person, by VHF or by phone.  We all seriously wonder when Jesse sleeps, as he is very much a hands-on guy, which ensures that everything goes smoothly - and it always does.  (Jesse caught a short snooze while we bird watched at Asa Wright.)  He is truly an amazing person, and one of the nicest and sincerest people you'll ever meet.  Thank you, Jesse, for making our experience in Trinidad safe, easy and most enjoyable!

COLORFUL  OPEN  PRODUCE  &  MEAT  MARKET
       
Prices in TT dollars:

TT$ 1 = US$ 0.16

Peppers   Sorrel  
   
   
This large and colorful open-air market in Port of Spain has very appetizing produce.  Meat on the other hand, well, you can get just about any part of the cow or pig you want.  Pick your own live chicken and they'll pluck 'n package for you while you wait.  What service!  Sorry, no pix of that.

It is fun here as there are so many cruisers that we already knew, and have met so many new ones.  Trinidad is a typical point for a cruiser to start and end their circumnavigation.  Consequently we have met many cruisers who are wrapping up their around-the-world trip here.  They are always interesting, full of knowledge and experience and a great motivator to keep on moving!  A cruising couple put on a couple of day seminars on cruising in the South Pacific, attended by 80 people, a clear indicator of those intending to go through the Panama Canal - some slated for spring 2005 and others for spring 2006.  As the weather window for going into the South Pacific is defined, one tends to travel loosely with a finite group, so it is nice meeting these folks now. 

Many cruisers come to Chaguaramas and become obsessed with boat work, leaving here without ever really seeing the country or culture of Trinidad.  This describes us our first month here.  However, after getting boat projects lined up and going (we beat the influx of damaged Grenada boats) we made sure we got out and about.  Through Jesse, one day we visited the Asa Wright Nature Center (lots of birds) in the morning, and the Caroni Swamp for a late afternoon boat trip through the swamp to see the scarlet ibises roost at sunset.  The sky and trees are vibrant red with thousands of these gorgeous birds.  Another day Jesse took us to a pan (steel drum) factory where we learned more than we wanted to know about this Trinidadian tradition, then to the Angostura factory.  (At right:  Christophine - it's like a squash - grown on the hillside on wire trellises suspended high above the ground)

ASA WRIGHT NATURE CENTER PAN FACTORY CARONI SWAMP
       

Lots of birds to watch; "sleeping bear" is typical termite nest; ants carry leaf cuttings; Jo & Dick (Remedy), Walt & Pat (Centime) cooling off Steel pan drum factory: learning all about it from expert TOP: Tree boa    BOTTOM:  Scarlet ibis birds (red specks) come here at sunset to roost - incredible sight

The Angostura factory makes the famous Angostura Aromatic Bitters, along with rums and other food products.  This is the only place in the world where the Angostura Bitters is made - in fact, the whole process is done in 1 room only!  If you are caught taking photos there is a US$20,000 fine and 20 year imprisonment.  They mean business.  Only 5 male family members know the secret formula and mix up the ingredients.  Moreover, Angostura has a special arrangement with the Trinidadian government whereby they can import the raw ingredients into the country without declaring the contents of it.  The secret botanicals from around the world are collected in the U.K. and then sent to Trinidad.  Bitters was originally concocted by Dr. Siegert treating war injuries in Prussia in the early 1800's.  He moved to Angostura, Venezuela and began selling it in 1824, then moved later to Trinidad with their special sanctions.  It is used to flavor everything from alcoholic beverages to soups, salads, vegetables, sauces, fruits, desserts, etc..  Locals use it "medically" to treat upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and constipation (how can it do both?), and more.  There are lots of imitation bitters on the market, but only Angostura Bitters floats on the surface when poured.

Cultural events, once again arranged through Jesse, included attending Pan Royale Steelpan and Jazz Festival, a dressy occasion outdoors at the Queen's Royal College.  It consisted of 4 diverse bands:  one band featuring some well-known, old but highly energetic, jazz guru named the Black Stallion; another was a 10-member all-female Cuban jazz band (far left) (they were entertaining to watch and actually quite good when they didn't sing); and an all-pan band (left).  Another event, Jazz in the Yard (right), was arranged by a cruising couple, Mood Indigo - Joyce is an excellent professional jazz singer, David plays the horn - and put on in the yard at the home of Michael Boothman, an acclaimed jazz guitarist and composer.  Joining the 3 of them were several other talented musicians.  This was a special treat having such a great concert in an intimate setting, and hearing Mood Indigo as their reputation precedes them in the cruising community.  A fun event was the annual talent show at CrewsInn, one of the big marinas here in Chaguaramas.  Seventeen of their employees participated in a professional-quality show with talent that pleasantly surprised the large audience of yachties.  Another was an annual local marine-industry vendor sponsored appreciation party outdoors with each preparing different food dishes and several bands playing - the food was all very good, much to our surprise, including an excellent bouillabaisse, ceviche, seafood kabobs, local curry dishes featuring goat, deer, lamb, pork, and duck, and plump cream puffs.

Trinidad's has a very large Indian population.  November 11 was Divali, the Hindu equivalent to our Christmas and New Year.  This signals the end of their financial year and the end of darkness (demons), and beginning of the new. For the rest of us, it signals the start of the party and holiday season, and ramping up for the huge Trini Carnival in February.  The Hindus celebrate Divali with the Festival of Lights, copiously decorating their houses, driveways and streets with deyas, small ceramic bowls filled with coconut oil and a big wick which burns all night, and electric lights.  Just as in the States there are neighborhoods known for their dazzling Christmas light displays which prompts car loads of sightseers, so does the village of Felicity in Chaguanas on the west coast of Trinidad.  A bus caravan of 175 yachties descended upon this neighborhood in an organized manner.  The evening activities included a swami-lead "sermon" and dance program in a Hindu temple, a sit-down typical Hindu vegetarian dinner (channa/chickpeas & potatoes, pumpkin, bread fruit type thing, candied mangoes, spicey sauces and roti skins for scooping up with the fingers) served on a banana leaf, wondering through the streets looking at lights and people watching (they are all dressed up in their fine Indian costume).  The people were super friendly, handing out bags of sweets called parasec (?), a combination of cream of wheat, milk, sugar and something else.  One bag I got had an aromatic taste to it - must have had Angostura Bitters in it.  We saw several temples including the Hare Krishnas.  Music stages were set up on several street corners.  It was pretty incredible seeing all the burning deyas, but amazingly enough never saw any uncontrolled fires or burning kids.

DIVALI  -  HINDU  CELEBRATION
       
Temple One of many lit up streets Traditional dinner Another temple
       
Deyas, "candles" Young dancers Yard filled with deyas displays Typical house with hundreds of deyas, and electric lights

 

Lime, liming:   A widely used Trinidadian expression meaning to hangout, a gathering, to party, etc.  "We were liming at the beach."

As if you haven't figured out by now, Chaguaramas is a pretty social place with hundreds of cruisers here.  Sometimes too much so!  There aren't many places you can go where you won't run into somebody you know.  Makes it a fun place, though.  Interestingly enough, there is no one hangout or bar where people lime, although, there are various "activities" and BBQs scattered around.  The daily half-hour net on VHF 68 includes extensive social announcements as well as Jesse's arranged activities, a help-needed segment, treasures of the bilge (free or for trade/barter) and other things to make it pretty easy to get into the swing of things in Chaguaramas.  We've participated in Sunday afternoon dominoes, Wednesday night Trivia Quiz, Sunday night BBQ at Coral Cove for it's "residents", and numerous other local outings.  Several friends have rental cars so have seen more of the island, including the popular north coast Maracas Beach (left, with Sue & Robert (Sunday's Child) and Jeff (Yocahu)).  We've had exceptional dinners at the popular Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants in Port of Spain (all excellent!), with free transportation provided by some of the restaurants.  We've gone to the zoo,

FUN  AT  THE  ZOO
       
Jo   Dick  
Mustard, a 9-ft. albino boa constrictor, is just a baby.  Likes to have his looong belly tickled.  Two zookeepers always present . . .  just in case he gets frisky.

botanical gardens, movies, the U.S. Embassy to vote (it was quick and easy, all we needed were our passports), local boat trip to nearby Caspar Grande island to explore large caves and swim indoors in crystal clear water. 

CAVES AT CASPAR GRANDE ISLAND
     
     

A group of cruisers joined another cruiser on his catamaran to visit the island of Chacachacare for snorkeling and exploring.  Chacachacare was a large leper colony and when a cure for leprosy was discovered about 35 years ago, this community was literally abandoned overnight:  We saw readable medical records, x-rays, vials and bottles of medicine, and medical equipment still in place, although nature is doing it's share to reclaim it (there is no preservation/restoration program in place).    

During our stay in Trinidad, we had an unexpected visit from our good friend Mark from Houston, a seasoned sailor and cruiser.  He had been visiting Bob on s/v Sunrise in Venezuela (while Susan was tending to her new granddaughter in Australia) and then he helped a single-handed cruiser friend bring her boat to Trinidad.  Mark's visit was cut short due to work obligations but we did show him around the area and Port of Spain in a couple of days.

We decide not to do the large cruiser group dinner for Thanksgiving (those who attended last year were less than impressed and felt rushed), but instead 8 of us (s/v Remedy, Yocahu, Quietly) have our own dinner at the Coral Cove cabana.  Jo cooked a big gourmet turkey and we had all the traditional fixings.  Jeff (right) made an impressive and delectable antipasto tray served in a Joe's pizza box that was picture-worthy.  Almost overnight with Thanksgiving, the weather has turned more pleasant - daytime high 80's and only 90% humidity, less rain - Deborah has even started to wear sleeved t-shirts again at night.  This was one "special" occasion where Steve did not have to wear long pants - all in all, he has "dressed up" at least 6 times here in Trinidad - before here, he's worn his long pants only one time in almost 2 years!  (Right, Wendy & Janice from U.K. visiting Yocahu & Quietly.)

Most of what we put on this website shows just the fun stuff, but as every cruiser, or even boat owner, knows there are lots of things that can break on a boat, and maintenance is an ongoing job.  Repairs and maintenance consume a lot of our time, and our pocket book, too.  We spent a couple of months in St. Maarten last February/March getting caught up on boat projects, repairs and maintenance.  Since then, the list has grown again, and so here in Trinidad we have spent much of our time again doing repairs and maintenance.  We hired experts to do certain jobs: Nigel Barker (left) to do jobs like repairing fiberglass dings and scratches, touch up painting and a bottom job; others to tune rigging, some electrical issues, and work on our transmission and engine.  Unfortunately, we had to replace our transmission with a brand new transmission due to a continually worsening problem since St. Maarten.  This has been a very frustrating experience for us as it took 2 marine service companies 2 months to accurately diagnose the problem, and a lot of finger pointing between equipment manufacturers and false promises.  This has ended up costing us an extra month on the hard waiting for this issue to be resolved, and in the end the whole ordeal has cost us a lot of money.  But at least we now have a dependable transmission.  In the meantime, we have cleaned/waxed stainless, fiberglass, canvas, the interior and more.  We have replaced worn lines and hardware, stocked up on more rebuild kits and cleaning supplies.  We have had the laptop repaired again, but at least this time it could be done locally.  And of course, we have been working at updating the website which has now gotten 3 months behind (due to Ivan, boat work and computer problems again) and a thousand pictures to go through.  We have fallen short on this website of showing the "down" side to cruising - I even have a note posted on the boat to "take work pictures", but always forget when we're really into a job.  Too bad, because Trinidad certainly gave us many opportunities for taking these type pictures!  Suffice it to say, they wouldn't be pretty.  (OK, I got one picture here of Steve working in the galley.)

Even as we try to leave now (first week of December), we find we have a problem with our water maker (need new membranes) and dinghy outboard (crank shaft problem), so currently waiting on parts - we don't want to leave here without these things fixed, as parts and services will be more scarce where we are headed.  

We have really enjoyed our stay in Trinidad, experiencing the island, Trini people, and the large cruiser community.  As hurricane season ends in November, unless one is staying for Carnival in February, cruisers typically start leaving now, heading either north up through the island chain, or west to Venezuela and on to the Panama Canal and Western Caribbean.  We wish we could stay for Carnival, but it is time to move on.  When we leave, hopefully this coming week, we'll do on overnight sail to Isla de Margarita, Venezuela . . .

Janice visiting from U.K.     

 

  Getting the hang of it . . .

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