Posts Tagged ‘Trinidad’

Trinidad Work Update

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

We had some work completed by Keate in Chagaramus Trinidad. We paid him to help fix the motor on the DC5000 Seafrost unit. I had been of the belief that many of the smaller countries and places have the key operations to keep most anything working and working often better than  new.  I was wrong.

I’m now of the opinion that yes in the small out of the way countries and places they can keep anything working, anything that they really, really, know. Once you break out of that mold then the cards go back on the table and often come up in non useable order.

We had the motor fixed and it came back not working. Keates took it and then secured the brush holders (that weren’t fixed)  and I had covered my bets during that time and ordered a new motor from Seafrost and some extra brushes. They arrived about the same time Keates had brought back the motor…fixed.  He actually had fabricated some brushes that work almost. But the motor still got hot.  When I put in the “real” brushes purchased for the motor it ran close to specs.  So I used the motor and hoped to get some “significant” time back out of it.

Well now we know exactly how long it lasted. About 9 months with little use.  My conclusion, when in paradise, don’t try any shortcuts unless you need the item  to make some tracks to where you can have what ever you need fixed, fixed correctly.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Trinidad Business’ (From a cruising sailors perspective)

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

One of the difficulties of cruising is the constant “need to know” about resources. When at home where you work you talk to fellow employees, where you play tennis you speak to the people at the courts,  where you worship you ask friends at church. On the road; ahem, ocean, those relationships aren’t there. You do ask other cruisers, when you meet a local and gain some trust you ask them; but all that comes at a price. Mostly the cost is time; it takes time to establish a relationship, to garner their knowledge. So in an effort to simplify that task for other yachtsmen visiting Trinidad I hereby submit my take. Please understand this is my experience and the wind in your sails may differ.

While we completed some required boat maintenance in Trinidad we acquainted ourselves with quite a few businesses. Below is a list of those we utilized and our perspective on them.

Alpha Canvas: Carlos the owner was prompt in an appointment to give us a quote. He patiently explained what we needed and we chose Alpha Canvas for our work. The work progressed smoothly at first, then seemed to slow down. Part of the issue as we understood it was that he just couldn’t get the supplies. He needed some Regatta Canvas for a replacement awning and in the 8 weeks after we had contacted him couldn’t get any on the island or seemingly sent to the island. A friend on another boat was awaiting closed cell foam and Alpha never was able to secure that product in the time he was there. To our understanding all the other Canvas shops were out of closed cell too. In my opinion if you want something completed and you have requirements out of the ordinary you need to bring the fabric or foam with you to Trinidad. Alpha’s  workmanship was excellent. Timeliness was not what we had hoped for. Everything that we could be expected to have completed by the time we left was. However; it was not completed in the time frame as we had discussed in our initial visit. Carlos is on the board of YSATT and seemed to be doing a great deal of work for them and the cruising community as a whole. The timeliness may fix itself if the safety and security situation and the demands of YSATT ever settle down. The last thing prior to our leaving was work Alpha did on the main awning. As well as repairing it he had it clean and they added some coating to it. It looks almost as good as new. If only he would have completed it sooner; I would have given Alpha the smaller awning to do too. We would use Alpha again, we would bring our own supplies.

Asa Wright You can find info about this Nature Center in an earlier post.

Budget Marine These chandleries can be found throughout the Caribbean. They’re better then the local WestMarine in the states in that they actually have supplies boaters need to keep their boats running. We were there almost weekly. One difference in the Trinidad chandlery  was that you paid the Value Added Tax (VAT). Most countries in the Caribbean ask that you bring in the ships papers to the business and since the material isn’t staying in the country you’re not required to pay the VAT.  The people at Budget were friendly and we continued to shop there for needed; mostly common supplies.

Cold Keate: We hired Keates on a recommendation of another cruiser. By Trini standards he was pricey but I will say he eventually did the best he could to solve our problem, and the problem was 95% solved. There just were no replacement brushes for the motor in Trinidad. He’s currently studying for another career so I’m not sure he’ll be doing refrigeration work in the up coming years. He knows the local places to make things happen and this in and of itself is a big plus for a cruiser. In a pinch; I would call him again. (766-6541 or 627-4033)

Crews Inn Marina Really a Marina / Hotel complex. This is the only true marina in the Chaguaramus area. All the others are associated with boat yards.  The staff was always courteous. However; even though the marina was 1/2 empty,  it still is EXPENSIVE. There were no discounts and no incentives to increase their business.  Electricity while fairly priced on the island was highly priced at 23 cents US / kilowatt hour. Water wasn’t charged. The prices are US prices and the while the service is as friendly as any place in the US there were some things that I would expect of a US Marina that wasn’t provided here. The WiFi was often iffy and sometimes down. This doesn’t sound like much,  but for cruisers WiFi  is a principal in communicating with those from the motherland  and managing funds. Crews Inn “shrugged” their shoulders when the WiFi wasn’t functioning correctly. They offered no return for the inconvenience. The ice machine spit out cubes so slow that the day would advance quickly before you ended with a bag for the boat. Fortunately Crews Inn  started bringing ice in a large cooler; however, then inconsiderate guests would put their drinks in the ice to cool them down not caring that others were using the ice for their drinks. Security was reputed to be quite good and yet there were two thefts at the marina while we were in town. Their response was to hire an evening security guard. Hopefully that reduces the security issue to zilch.

Coast to Coast We rented our Air Conditioning unit from them. They were prompt, they explained the remote and how to use it. We paid for a month, extended a month and then when we needed to extend it a week or so longer he said to let him know when we were leaving and he would pick it up and bring the bill. The price we paid for an older unit was $100 US / month. We felt he was fair, professional and we would most certainly use him again if we’re back there.

Dockyard Electric: This small chandlery usually didn’t have what we needed. But they were always interested in being helpful and once they had what none of the other chandleries had and once they saved me a trip across the bay. They are within walking distance of Crews Inn Marina.

Fabric Shopping (Port O Spain) Those of you who want material I have a hard time imagining any place better to find it. We bought some new upholsery fabric, W/ bought fabric for some swim wear, and fabric for a couple of dresses. In a couple of city blocks there must be 20 stores or more all catering to fabric.  A paradise for the seamstress or the individual that wants something new and different.

The Falls at WestMall A US style mall with a Caribbean flavor. We found a Cold Stone Creamery there that has been the only place in the Caribbean that knew how to make a thick milkshake. Unfortunately for me they didn’t have any malts nor knew anything about them. They also had two very good bookstores that had books at US prices. No discounts but at least they’re not marked up 30% above the list price. The mall is right next to the IGA grocery store so who ever does the shopping gets the ice cream. Sweet. 🙂

Fortress Woodworking We used them to complete two small projects on the boat. Their prices were reasonable and they were prompt. We had two other cruising friends that used them for larger projects than ours and  all of us were totally satisfied. We were in the marina where their shop is and I can’t say if that had anything to do with the prompt work. I would definitely use them again.

Griffith, Ko . We hired Ko (Cow is how his short name is pronounced) and his crew for painting our bottom. They did an excellent job. Some of the description of our relationship is reported in my cost comparison blog.

Govia, Chris Chris was recommended to us by a fellow cruiser: Charles on Phaedrus. Charles has been cruising / chartering down here for 15 years and has known and used Chris all that time. Chris did an encellent job. I understand he does quite good varnish work but we didn’t utilize his services there. He waxed our 30 year old hull. Although he was doubtful he could get it looking good again he brought it back quite well. He wasn’t satisfied at his first go at it and changed some products that ended helping. In the end he was as  happy with it as we were. We paid him $500 TT / day for 3 days. He quoted a job price. That’s quite high for workers in Trinidad but since he did such a great job the price was well worth it. I would use him again anytime. Local Phone (756-9499).

Hi Lo / IGA A very good all-purpose grocery with almost everything you could want. Not the cheapest but almost anything you wish is available.

LP Marine A chandlery that has what most don’t. This store caters to the things not found elsewhere, pumps, lubricants, tools, etc. I visited them several times during our stay and the store manager was always helpful. Prices were equal to or better then the other chandleries.

Members Only The consummate cruisers taxi service. Owned and operated by Jesse James he’s referenced in a couple of my other posts. ( Asa Wright, Bamboo Cathedral, Pitch Lake, Rincon Waterfalls,  )He’s also the Cruising Station Host for SSCA in Trinidad. He is worth his weight in Gold and we would definitely use and enjoy his company again.

Marine Warehouse: Disorganized. Yep. Great place to to save money. Yep. But the caviet is that you have to plan ahead. Here you can order supplies from the states with the claim to fame of this business is that they save you lots on shipping. Often if they’re running specials you can have items shipped in for Free!  All prices are US; you pay no VAT and they do all the customs work. Sherri the manager is leaving to start a similar business in Secret Harbor Grenada was the hub that held the wheel together. Can’t say how it will be in the future; but for us they definitely served a purpose. They’re housed in the same place as Alpha Canvas; just across the drive.

Peakes Hardware / Yacht Chandlery A boat yard chandlery. Peakes was helpful and had products that Budget Marine didn’t. They’re not larger than Budget but they have a second Hardware Chandlery also close to the Port O Spain. Although people in both stores aren’t as friendly and up beat as at Budget they did take time to answer questions and help us find what we needed; often suggesting one of the other chandleries if they didn’t have it.

Powerboats: This yard was where we hauled and I have a great amt of detail in my price comparisions blog and in my hauling blog.  The people were friendly and quite courteous. The security was excellent. I was privy to seeing the security setup when I worked with one of the network guys on the WiFi. The security setup really is top notch and they were IMHO as of this writing a very safe yard. We rented an apartment during our stay there. The apartment was cleaned daily and had a modicum of dishes, plenty of hot water – for showers  🙂 , and twin beds. It was air conditioned.  They had internet in the room (supposedly) but the speed was miserable. I worked with one of their network guys (outsoureced) who couldn’t really solve the issue. I connected up to an ethernet wire in the apartment but the cable  went to a router and then connected wirelessly to another access point (AP). Unfortunately I discovered that from one AP to the next there was a sailboat mast dead middle of the airspace. They launched the boat and I had a quite good internet connection for  3 hours, then they  put another boat in it’s place and the speeds went back to being  slower than an old dial up modem!  Most people in the yard had difficulty with the Internet unless the boat was the first nearest to an AP.

Their yard shop is well maintained with prices the same or better than anywhere else in Chaguaramus. If you hire one of their contractors,  and they’re doing the work you don’t pay any VAT. You purchase all the supplies separately. This can add up to a good savings.

One boater that had an issue with a contractor informed the yard and the yard manager Brent got on the phone and was working on making the situation right. There were no additional cost to the boat owner. I would use Powerboats again if I’m in the area; I would make sure they tie the straps together however. 🙂

Maxi Taxi’s Although this is not a single business this is the main method for cruisers wanting to do a little more on their own. As of this writing it cost $1.00 US / person to ride from Chaguaramus to the Port O’ Spain and the same on the return trip. We were informed of watching out to make sure none of our drivers take a different route and go into the neighborhoods as that is where you can have some safety issues. We were told this was mainly on the Red Bus routes and never heard of any cruisers having an issue with the Yellow Bus lines. Only Yellow Bus’ run from Chaguaramus  to Port O’ Spain. If you’re on one the first time expect a wild ride. The  buses are small mini vans that hold up to about 12 people and sometimes they’ll be full. They’ll stop at any road to pick up anybody till their full. Pretty locals usually get the front passenger seat. Some Buses are in excellent condition and like new; others are one pot hole away from being retired. Some have natural AC; others have AC driven by the engine. Some drivers are vying for the Indy 500 while others are babying their vehicle making sure it will run another day. Once while picking up some more passengers (I was sitting immediately behind the driver) everyone on the bus heard a “BANG”.  A few seconds later the driver reached out his window and straightened up his mirror. His comment “Glad it didn’t break”!

MovieTown: We spent some great evenings there. We made it the night out. This theater rivals any we’ve been to in the US. You can order food and drinks and take your purchase into the theater. There are a couple of food venues on site. The seats all rocked back, plenty of leg room, comfortable, clean and enough of an incline that never were we behind a head!  After the movie we would eat at one of the 6 or so restaurants in the surrounding mall.

Ottley, Sean A hard worker. Shawn however mumbles and although W/ seemed to understand him I would have to ask him to repeat what he wanted. He cleaned our Stainless Steal on the boat and did a better job than we would have. He sanded our Teak and did an adequate job. He painted the dinghy and oars and did an adequate job (it sprinkled some so that could be a factor). He worked a good solid 7 hours per day in the heat and never complained. I would hire him again for the jobs we don’t really like. He’s young, energetic and always willing  to work. He has a few of his own ideas and it’s best to stay near to ensure he’s doing the job to your satisfaction. We paid him  $400 TT / day which he really, really wanted everyday. We hired him first for the job to see how hard he worked. He was worth every dollar. (783-2963) or you can often reach him through Crews Inn Marina as he’s on the docks checking for work.

Price Mart: Is a club membership store similar to a SAM’s club in the states. One great thing about this store for cruisers is that the membership card is pro-rated. You pay for a years membership and when you are ready to leave you can turn it in; they’ll pro -rate the time left and refund you the difference. This store is next to MovieTown so we could easily pick something up on movie night if we desired.

Same Crew Woodworking: This group of woodworkers had in the past worked for Fortress Woodworking. We saw the work that Randolph (the owner) had done on another cruiser’s boat and she had bragged about him.  The work was excellent. We contracted him for new Meganite Tops and the two small repairs. He was difficult in keeping contact with as we didn’t have a phone. We did use email and eventually had the new tops made. We’re quite happy with the tops. He never followed up on the two smallish projects and thus we used Fortress. The quality of the work was very good. If I had any large jobs I would contact him for a bid, but IMHO I would favor Fortress as they weren’t afraid of the small stuff and did us proud. Also I would make sure I have a phone.

Just as in sailing; boats a few hours apart may have completely different weather; others contracting any of the above individuals may have entirely different results. I hope any are better then our even though for the most part all our experiences were positive.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Psychotic Trinidad

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Don’t get me wrong, we truly enjoyed Trinidad. But during the time there my neck was sore. I had to keep looking over my shoulder.

Every Trinidadian we met was pleasant. Every Trinidadian we met was nice.

We listened every am to  the Cruisers net broadcast on VHF channel 68.  After some basic preliminaries the line of the day was “Is there any medical,  emergency, or priority traffic: come now”. Silence was good. In the 8 weeks we were there, 20+  times someone chimed in. There were 20+ dinghy’s and their engines stolen and two boats boarded (their owners were away). When one boat arrived and took up a mooring in front of Peakes, they were told to take their engine off the dinghy and stow it inside the boat. They laughed. They hauled the dinghy up on davits, chained the dinghy and engine to the boat and couldn’t see that they would need to take any more measures. In the am their dinghy and engine were gone, the chain left hanging.

We stayed in the Crews Inn Marina believing it would make the boat projects more manageable (and it did) and we also hoped that the security they had would keep us safer. Two of the incidents; a  $48k inflatable dinghy with engine and a boat boarding occurred to other boats in the marina.  Three more incidents occured in the Coral Cove Marina / Yard. Mostly small stuff but anything one losses to theft is felt in the gut.  In Coral Cove the incidents occured often during the day when an owner ran to the LP Marin for some supplies. Leaving the boat open for as little as 10 minutes put one at risk. Fortunately we were across the bay in the Powerboats yard during that time.

There is a group of business people that have created an organization called YSATT.  YSATT has been working for months with the government on trying to address safety for the cruising boats. Cruisers are a fickle bunch. Safety is a huge concern and because cruisers are mobile and connected through VHF, Ham / SSB radios, and the internet, they have good access to issues concerning any one anchorage or country and they can easily move. We’re told by the business people in Chaguaramus that receipts are down about 50% this year for business’ in the recreational boating community – down almost across the board.

Because of the security issues the boating community has been working with YSATT and has created a nightly  patrol of the anchorages (there are two). This is boaters  and business people filling in where in most countries the government handles the safety of it’s citizens and guests. One story a cruiser relayed to me was that of the Coast Guard who one night came to show up. The YSATT security boat talked with the CG and the CG assured them they would be on duty the rest of the evening. Just to make sure, the YSATT group slowly motored away, checked the security of the other anchorage  and slowly and quietly returned to where the CG boat was now anchored. All the members of the CG on the boat were sound asleep! Yep, makes one feel good. NOT!

Finally after meeting with the various CG officials for about 3 months  they were informed that YSATT  was meeting with the wrong group. The CG wasn’t the ones responsible for securing the anchorages.  One would have thought that responsibilities such as this would have been brought up during the first meeting.  So now YSATT is attempting to meet with the responsible agency. So much time wasted and so much bad press. Much of what has been happening has been reported in the local newspapers as well posted online in the Yahoo Group and reported to the Police.

As of the time we’ve left YSATT  set up a meeting with the country ministers responsible for security and safety around Chaguaramus.  Unfortunately Tropical Storm Tomas was brewing near by and the meeting was “Canceled”, not postponed. Who knows if the meeting will happen.

There is Room at the Inn!

There is Room at the Inn!

The business community is deeply concerned about how security is effecting the cruising community as it directly effects their livelihood and the health and well being of their families. The business’ in Chaguaramus bring in 100’s of millions of dollars every year that otherwise would be spent in other countries. Fortunately for the Trinidadians Venezuela is currently not cruiser friendly and so in Trinidad the business’ are  still hanging on, some by a thread. Those that wish to gather more details of the issues in Trinidad may wish to join and puruse the Yahoo group for Trinidad Cruising Sailors. In there you will find reports from the various newspapers adding light to crime to cruisers and find records of the government sitting on bench. Anytime a group of private citizens must take into their hands what the government is to do IMHO you have a poorly functioning; possibly self serving government.

Remember:  Both W/ and I thoroughly enjoyed Trinidad. Everyone we met was positive and helpful. Jesse James of MembersOnly Maxi Taxi should wear a crown as he is singularly the best representative for Trinidad we met. Carlos of Alpha Canvas is working as hard as humanly possible to bring the government to the table and help them understand the plight of the business’ and cruisers. Stottlemeyer is working on the public image in the Caribbean Compass. However, in Trinidad, the government is making the lives of these and the thousands of other hardworking Trinidadians difficult.  Too Bad. As much as we’ll miss the people, sights and sounds of Trinidad, we’re glad to be out of there.

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Grenada Here we Come!

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Powerboats Yard

Powerboats Yard

We left Trinidad after all our boat projects we completed and we had a wx window. Neil on Early Out casually informed us of a disturbance that Chris Parker said would strengthen in the next day or so; however, our trip would be overnight and if we couldn’t sail, we could drive (motor 🙁 ).

After a nice lunch at the Crews Inn Restaurant with Lee and Sharon on Allegro we paid our bill and cast off the lines. The boat was in the best shape she’s been in since leaving New Port Richey, FL ; at least that is what we had thought. We cast off and motored out the cut and out of the only harbor we’ve been in in Trinidad.

Chagaramus Commercial Port

Chagaramus Commercial Port

Wendy Driving

Wendy Driving

There we headed N around the bend and looked for the magic 12 nm mark that our friends on Coho told us about. Gordon said that Trinidad effects the Trade Winds for about 12 nm. After a couple of hours of motoring and close to the 12 nm magical  line we felt that there might be enough wind to sail. There wasn’t a lot of wind, but we had left a little early anticipating a light breeze  (as per the GRIB files).

Shutting down the engine to sail is always a joy. One of the true high points of the sailing life. Engines are a necessary evil. When you need them they are so valuable. When you don’t, they are just so obnoxious. With the engine off and the sails pulling,  the boat takes on a life of it’s own. It breathes the air, it moves to the sea as a dancer moves to the music. We are not on the boat, we are not in the boat, we are one with the boat.

There are a couple of things to miss between Trinidad and Grenada, Oil wells, ships, and Pirates. Fortunately there haven’t been any pirate attacks here in almost a year. To aid the small boats crossings between Grenada and Trinidad the Trinidad Coast Guard has an email address that boaters are encouraged to use to inform them of their float plan and they are said to keep watch on your trip. We never saw them. That doesn’t mean they weren’t around. Our friends on Lison Life were boarded by them when they made the trip, another cruiser we knew of was met by them approx 10 nm from Trinidad and escorted in. It’s nice to know they’re there, and it was nice to make the passage without any interference by either the CG or Pirates.

Oil wells are another matter. Texas has so many and there are some unlit wells. Wells are always to have lights  but some unused wells  have automatic lights and most things automatic eventually fail. However, the wells here are occupied and have full crews so they’re well lit. We could see them for 15 to 20 miles at night. Easy to avoid them.

Ships are however different from wells. They move, they are many different light configurations, such as towing, being towed, fishing, anchored and simply going like a bat outta hell somewhere. Not to worry. Before we left the US last year we installed AIS (Automatic Information System) that reads boat positions (on ships), speed, course and destination. It is sweet.  So I went to fire that system up and connect it to the computer; viola, NOTHING!

What? Nothing! Oh No! W/ loves that system. Oh! Oh!  I fiddle with it for a good 15 minutes before I give up. One system we worked on in Trinidad was the VHF. Before I purchased a new radio I had done diagnostics on the old one and that most likely meant I disconnected the AIS from the VHF system and never remembered to connect it back up. Put that fix on the list to complete in Grenada. Fortunately this is not a high traffic route like Panama, Yucatan Straits, or the Gulf Stream off of Florida.  Tonight we won’t have AIS and fortunately we only saw two ships out there.

Anyway; we were sailing,  the Sun had set so I went below to get a shot at the first off watch. I tossed and turned and W/ said I slept some. Ok; maybe I did. I arose about midnight and we figured we needed to run the generator to recharge the refrigeration. So on the generator went. Check the water flow; Good. Wait for the generator to warm up and then start the refrigeration compressor.  The Generator warms up; I get ready to turn on the refrigeration compressor and the “Hi Temp”  light comes on. W/ quickly  checks the water flow and none. Shut the generator down. I look bewildered.  We wait 10 minutes and try again. Engine comes on, all goes well, the engine warms up and then alternator kicks in; the “Hi Temp” light comes on again and the raw water flow stops!  Damn! Damn! I can’t believe it. Fortunately we’ll be in and anchored by the am and I can solve the issue then.  That’s two major systems not working! Damn!

W/ goes down for some R n R.  Generally we do 2 hours on and 2 hours off but in short passages where we’ve an over night it is more as we feel.  She gave me close to 3 hours and I figure to do much of the same. But as one hour goes by and the wind has shifted a bit we’ve gone off course. We have a rule that neither of us leaves the cockpit without the other on deck. Yeah we have Jack Lines that we tie into them offshore and always at night –  but still we want another person up on deck. She and I can sleep easier knowing that the other isn’t taking any unnecessary risk. So I rouse her for a couple of minutes and I go to adjust the wind vane for the course we want. All’s  adjusted she now falls back to sleep and I settle in for a gorgeous evening sail.

Two hours later I wake her and we switch. I get an hour or so before we’re close enough to land that we both need to be on deck. Remember; for boats, land is the dangerous stuff. We’re close enough, and it’s too dark to actually enter the harbor. We reduce sail area and thus our speed drops so we hope to arrive at Sun rise. We pull in the Jib and sail on the Main only. This drops our speed from 5-6 kts to 2-3 kts. We slowly approach land. As the Sun rises we’re able to see the harbor and markers for the entrance.

Markers in any of the islands are always suspect. We follow them some and use them for guidance; but, mostly we use the charts and in this case our old tracks in and out. We had been in and out of this harbor twice so I still have our GPS tracks in and out of the harbor. We follow the track in that led us out and we thankfully enter Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada. Once we’re clear of the reefs I scramble down below and dig out our Q flag signaling that the boat is under a Quarantine until I can go ashore and meet with Health, Immigration, and Customs officials.

Once anchored we use a halyard to  remove the dinghy off the back of the boat.  I row ashore and walk across the hill to Customs in Prickly Bay. Therein I complete the formalities and return to the boat. In Mt. Hartman Bay there is some boat movement as there are many who believe that the storm Neil told me about was strengthening and some were adding more ground tackle while others were moving to the dock. We simply left our awnings stowed and added more chain. We’re  good…. we hope. 🙂

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Yard Costs: Trinidad vs US

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

One personal goal of my writing this blog is to shed light on the cost of “Cruising”. There are a great many factors that effect the bottom line, food, touring, marinas, and most important if you want to keep the water out of the boat and the boat working well, maintenance.

Some annual maintenance requires the hauling of the boat. Either haul the boat or pay constantly to have someone clean the bottom. Oh! You can do that yourself, if you like to do shallow dives often in dirty water and scrape hard stuff  off the hull with the little crawly creatures now needing to locate new homes (most often you) as you’ve dislodge their current ones.

So we haul. We like to haul close to annually as then we get a good chance to look over the boat bottom, lubricate and clean seacocks as well as ground plates and the prop. If we keep up with the work through out the year we should spend little time in the yard.

This year we hauled at Powerboats in Trinidad. You can get more detail on our hauls at the last two yards: Pitman’s (2008 )in Tarpon Springs, Fl and Hartges (2009) in Galesville, MD by checking out my blog entries. I’ll do a little more summarizing here – mostly related to the costs between the US and Paradise.

Cost of Hauling, Prepping, and Painting the bottom:  Pittman’s $1764, Hartges $1364, and Powerboats $1909.05.  In Pittman’s the running gear was sand blasted, in Hartges I had to pay extra  to have the prop bead blasted and painted with my own paint (cost $240) , and in Trinidad I purchased a gallon of Muratic Acid that they acid washed the metal with.

I had the hull waxed at each yard: Pittman’s was $336, Hartges was $436, and in Trinidad it came to $320.97. To add another small comparison a friend had his boat (about our size) waxed in the water in Antigua and spent close to 2k! Ouch!

Of the best jobs on waxing it was here that the contractor took excellent care to make sure the hull looked as good as it could. On none of the wax jobs did we have the hull compounded. I know both Douglas at Hartges and Chris (at Powerboats) compounded  some spots lightly. We had sanded and compounded the hull prior to our initial launch 3 years ago and the hull won’t stand much more of it.

We put on different paint in Trinidad. It’s the Island 44 by SeaHawk and you can’t purchase it in the states.  All reports by Caribbean cruisers reported it to be the best. Our contractor here did a test patch on our hull prior to putting it on. I don’t think any of the US yards ever did a test patch relying only on what the manufactures said.

Where some yards “get ya” others play; IMHO,  fair. Pittman’s charged us $42 / day to be on the hard while they did the work and while they “took their time” to do the work; I didn’t think that was fair. They didn’t start the biggest project till the smaller ones were completed and had they done so we would have been finished almost two weeks  earlier. It all adds up.

Hartges did not charge us any storage as they were doing all the bottom work and we were back in the water within a week. It’s my opinion that if the yard is contracted to do the work you the owner ought not be required to pay for any storage!

Powerboats charged us nothing for the first 5 days, then $2 US / day for water and electric there after. Their rate sheet shows 35 cents US / measured foot there after if you stay on the boat; which for  cruisers is  generally true. Powerboats did however have apartments for rent for $55 US / day if you’re boat is in their yard and we availed ourselves of that option.

So there you have it, On the East Coast of the US from the Chesapeake to Florida to Trinidad. Good deals are hard to come by. Each yard has a way of extracting money from you, some fair and some seemingly not so fair. We felt we had the best value for the money in Trinidad. The best work in Trinidad and almost the fairest prices. I say almost; I really, really, really hate when yards charge for “rigging” like bowsprits and davits. The way they stack boats into places in todays market means that none of those items really  effects  them. I would rather see them charge / lb or for sq foot, the  multi’s and displacement hulls would all be on par. But; I’m not the one setting the prices, I’m only the one that can move to a different location and haul somewhere else, if I don’t like the rates.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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On da Hard in Trinidad

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

A week ago we left the comfort of the marina and moved to Powerboats. Mostly a boat yard with some slips. We were lucky enough that they had a large travel lift and we didn’t need to remove the backstay. The last time we had  hauled  I had asked if they had a scale so this time I asked the same thing, and again they said not.  Somewhere I’ll get the actual weight of Elysium. But not this time.

I showed Mike (our travel lift operator) the picture of our  boat on the travel lift last time we hauled and he needed to see what the bow looked like. We were lucky enough that I had the printer out so I was able to print out a copy of the bow of the boat. Hauling went smoothly till they began to clean the bottom.

Slipped Strap

Slipped Strap

They hadn’t used a tie between the two straps. While the yard manager Brent was there with Diane on Jabulani, Mike the lift driver, and some crew cleaning the few barnacles off the bottom, the forward strap slipped and the boat’s bow moved about 6″ lower while all the rigging shook like a dog shedding water. In that second, our emotions took a Magic Mountain roller coaster ride. One of the things about Powerboats is that they’ve NEVER  dropped a boat. Today was too close for everyone!  Brent immediately grabbed a large rope and they proceeded to tie the two straps together. The boat didn’t slip on the rest of the trip to her spot on the ground. (In the picture the strap moved from the right most chainplates to the left most – about 1 meter along the side of the hull).

After they had cleaned the bottom of hard stuff (about 95%) they moved the boat to a center isle and put her on stands for the sides and blocks for the keel. Then lunch. I couldn’t believe that they would let the bottom dry before they pressure washed it but they did. After all; this is the Caribbean.

During lunch we discovered that an apartment had come available so we grabbed it.  Our reservation was for tomorrow and today we were lucky. The boat didn’t HIT the ground and tonight we would sleep in relative comfort. We’d much rather be on the boat in the water but on land being on a boat we considered to be one step below primitive camping. While we moved out of the boat they pressure washed the bottom. That evening we were to meet Chis to discuss the cleaning and waxing of the hull and we connected with another contractor nicknamed “Cow” that had a crew that would clean, prep, paint the bottom. Things were happening.

One quite major difference between yards here in Trinidad and the States is that in Trinidad the yards let you hire most anyone you want and then they simply take a percent of the amt.  Powerboats took 10 %.

Check out the Waterline

Check out the Waterline

Then too, none of the contractors have any real supplies. So when for example Chis came to wash the boat I walked with him to the Boat Shed and we purchased what he needed. Fortunately Phedreus (whom we met at a cruiser buffet ) loaned Chris (whom he’s known for 15 years) a polisher. So I purchased some cleaning supplies and a new buffing pad. I helped Chris move some A frames and a large 2 x 12 to move for working on the boat. Chris began the arduous task of first washing, then cleaning, and polishing the boat. All in all, he did a much better job than last year. However in defense of last year, had the yard manager not pulled the man working on our boat off the job I think the job would have come close to how well it looks this year. Remember too; the boat is after all – 30 years old!

Chris worked through the weekend, Saturday washing and cleaning most of the hull, Sunday he began to clean off any oxidation left and put on some wax.  By mid afternoon he wasn’t happy with the results on the forward quarter so I suggested he quit early and Monday we’d purchase him any of the additional supplies he felt he needed. Monday am he was there bright and early Trini time (about  8 to 8:30 am) and he and I walked to the Boat Shop and purchased some 3m hull cleaner and a buffing pad. He started working and by about sunset he was almost done. We shared a beer and admired his work. Tomorrow he would finish and I would release his pay from the yard and then we’d be after the last project left to outside contractors.

Friday  I had contacted Fortress Woodworking about fixing the rub rail and replacing the teak slat on the bow sprit platform. Immediately Friday they sent someone over to look at the job and Saturday I would get a quote. Saturday in the am I received a very fair quote for the two pieces and they proceeded to fix the rubrail (remember when the Cruise ship threw me up against the seawall in North Carolina) and the slat we lost off the bow sprit in the storm coming to Trinidad. Saturday afternoon the two pieces were replaced and I was quite happy with the work. That is a surprise to W/ because few contractors seem to be able to work to my expectations.

All this time we were doing small projects of our own on the boat. Remember most all the big projects were completed while we were at the marina. However; some projects that we wanted to do were best done when we weren’t living on the boat. W/ will deny this; but know that I had continually harped on her to put more and more coats of varnish on the wood as we refurbished the boat. She’ll deny that she didn’t put enough on!  There were three pieces that had been getting a lot of wear and tear, two edges on the table, one fiddle on the refrigerator, and a fiddle on the sink island. We added some drop cloths, taped all around the pieces and proceeded to sand the wood for recoating. We added approx 8 coats of varnish and a final top coat to the pieces. It looks good and I sincerely hope we receive more then 2 years out of this job.

We also greased all the seacocks, cleaned the engine room, greased the Autoprop, varnished the rub rail (where the repair had been done), did a final double wax added to the waterline, painted the prop with Prop-Kote, replaced the black bleeding border on the solar panels, and went though and re – organized a few lockers.

All the while we gently kept after Cow and making sure we could splash Friday. His guy was wet sanding the bottom and they were making progress; slowly, but progress none the less. Monday at the end of the day he was to grind and begin the repair of the keel. Tuesday the damaged area wasn’t ground out yet. Now he said Tuesday at the end of the day he would grind the damaged area. Wednesday it wasn’t ground out yet. Now he said Wednesday pm he would grind the damaged area of the keel, Thursday it wasn’t ground out. We were getting a little concerned for a Friday launch.

We chose Cow from two recommendations. Diane on Jubalini and John and Jeri on Peking. Cow guaranteed  his work and he was meticulous to say the least. But what we didn’t know was that he works best under the “pressure” of a launch date. We would have liked to have all our work completed a day early, not an hour early. Still, he finally had one of his guys grind out the damaged area Thursday am and he completed the repair that afternoon. The epoxy hadn’t kicked enough that it could be sanded and fared by the pm and the guys; really one of them, were now putting on the bottom paint and had  just masked off the damaged / repaired area. One guy “Mike” put the paint on while 5 guys (and W/ ) were liming away. (Liming is the Trini term for hanging out with some drinks and telling lies). We purchased some beers for the guys; Chris (our waxer) showed up, Johnny our wet sander and we all hung out to watch Mike roll on the paint;  perfectly. Johnny picked up a brush for the detail work and they rolled on two coats that evening. Mike was getting ready to put the third coat around the water line, on the forward edge of the keel, and the leading edge of the rudder when Ma Nature decided work today needed to stop as she dropped buckets of rain upon our heads. Mike said he’d show up at 7 am (Chris indicated that 7 am was Trini time and would he would really be around about 9 am),  we all wandered our respective ways  chuckling.

Friday am I took the paint to the boat at 7 am. No Mike. About 7:30 am (not bad for Trini time) he rolled in and began to put the last of the paint on.

We were getting concerned. The patch wasn’t finished and they wanted to haul us earlier then we had requested. Fate though would intervene.

We dogged Cow to get the repaired area finished  and eventually we had a barrier coat on the patch and paint was going on too. The pads had been moved and the crew wanted newspaper to put under them in the new spot. I found some old Compass’ Magazines and that sufficed. The last thing to do was to lift the boat and paint under the blocks. Mike (the travel lift operator) pulled up about 2 pm to lift the boat for paint. We were getting real close to splash time, or so we thought.

Ready...Set..... Wait

Ready...Set..... Wait

Mike (the painter) came by and put the last two coats on the keel and the repaired spot. We were ready to go.

We’re ready to go. We’re ready to go. If I say “We’re ready to go” will it happen?  Currently there is a bottle neck at the intersection between the isles and the pit (where they slowly lower the boat to the water).

Another contractor was using a smallish crane (a Cherry Picker) to remove some outdrives from a 35′ cruiser. He ran out of fuel. No problem, just get some more fuel and off they go. Or so they thought. He puts fuel in and the crane won’t start. They get a diesel mechanic to have a look. Still won’t start. They bleed the fuel lines. Still won’t start. They bleed the lines again, they end up with 4 diesel mechanics trying to get this crane started so they can move it. Still won’t start. Two of the front supports are down. Dragging  it away isn’t really an option here. Mike (the travel lift operator) suggested that we would be here for the night and that they might comp the time. Damn well better in my book. So I trudged up to the office (they had just closed) and luckily got inside to speak to the lady there. All the rooms were occupied. Damn!  Spoiled food?  We don’t have any refrigeration on the boat when out of the water. She kindly called the Grocery and they said we could keep it there. OK. Back to relay the info to W/ and hope for the best.

As the Sun set and the crane was still blocking the way we spoke with Brent about leaving us in place for the night,  and he came with us to set the boat back down on blocks while keeping her in the slings. We had the food stored in a cold bag (hopefully nothing will spoil but if you don’t here from me in a week or so you’ll know what happened). We plugged the boat back into power and ran the rented AC unit on deck that we have. We showered and had an invite with some friends on Peking, A beautiful motor sailer with the emphasis on motor.

There we shared some laughs with two single Englishers (Susie on Spirited Lady) and Roger (on Golden Fleece), Kaia and Gary  (on Kaia’s Song) and of course the owners John and Jeri.  Peking and Kaia’s Song are heading towards Venezuela while we’ll head past to the ABC’s and Golden Fleece and Spirited Lady will be hanging in the Caribbean.

After a great evening of laughing and ribbing we departed with light in hand. We walked  a slightly wavey line as we made it back to our boat hanging in the slings, fell into bed and slept dreaming of being back on

Early am....Movin

Early am....Movin

the water. I find it interesting that while we’ve been on the water so much now that even when the boat is on land both W/ and I have commented that it seems to move. Morning came and with that and a light breakfast  on the table we were interrupted by a knock on the boat. Mike was ready to splash us.

He lifted her up and began the slow process of moving like the Shuttle to the launch pad down the isle two 90 degree turns and then a lowering into the water. Out of curiosity I went to check the blind side for him and immediately yelled; “Stop! Stop! Stop!”. Fortunately he stopped about 10-20 cm away from a catastrophy; not for us but for another boat owner. Our boat wasn’t being threatened but the support of the lift was about ready to clip the sprit on a motor cruiser on the hard. I’m sure the travel lift would have either knocked the boat off it’s stands or just busted off the sprit. Neither option a good thing. So he manuevered around the protrusion and off we went at the awesome speed of  about 1-2 kph.

10 minutes later we were swinging over the pit and both W/ and I breathed a sigh of relief. The boat was lowered and floating just like she was intended to do. I jumped aboard, checked the thru hulls, checked the stuffing box, and once I was sure water was staying outside the boat  I started the engine. We tied off lines, the lift pulled away and both of us were ready to go back to Crews Inn.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Nothing Wrong when it’s Asa Wright

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

We left today at a reasonable hour.  Jesse from MembersOnly picked us up around 9 ish (Caribbean time) and we stopped at a road side stand for another taste of Trinidad. There we tried all the treats (food) and quenched our thirst.  W/ found the food interesting as she doesn’t mind any “vegetarian” delicacies, but I loving some form of meat on my entree’s. Neil (Early Out) and I discussed how adding a little meat here and there would make it a worthwhile meal. 🙂  Guess I’m to damned of an American that I’m always looking for a way to change or improve something as opposed to simply accepting it.

Asa Wright Plantation

Asa Wright Plantation

Another hours drive winding our way up through the mountains and we arrived at the Asa Wright Nature Center. Here we would spend the night, eat some more Trini dishes, look for a Toucan (W/’s  wish), walk the trails and enjoy the interior rainforest.

We choose our rooms by lottery. We were never asked:  Would you like AC, Would you like a twin or double, Would you like a view of the trees or the vista? The keys were laid on the counter and  we picked one up. Luckily I ended up  picking out a key to a room that had half a vista and half trees, but no AC, and worst of all….  twin beds. Of well, I could survive one night alone in  bed. 🙂

Of the 4 1/2 couples that went I think we had the best view, another  couple ended up with the only  AC, and a singleton had a double bed. Go figure!

After unloading and loafing  in our rooms for a bit  we joined back up at the main house; which at one

Sweet Trail

Sweet Trail

time was a plantation home, for a brief orientation and then a what I had hoped was a short hike. With camera in hand we defended the stairs and followed the trail to the right, hoping as the guide said to come upon the waterfall in about 10 minutes.

Somehow I need  to learn not to listen to most people. Oh, it could be that I wasn’t really listening, or that the map was a bit confusing and the trails weren’t well marked, or it even could be a bit of all of the above. We choose the trail called Discovery and were adopted by Susie (the singleton in the group who is also a consummate solo sailor) and we three ambled down towards what we hoped was the waterfall. We heard birds, we looked for birds, we eventually saw some birds but at this moment we were gazing up into branches waving in the wind

What are we looking for?

What are we looking for?

with nothing flittering about. We walked for about 30 minutes to a Y in the trail. One way; the trail lead farther away from the Center while the other paralleling the river took us closer to Asa Wright. Still hoping to get to the falls we choose the river route which we now know as the Adventure Trail and the map say’s it is a two hour hike. Yikes!  But the hike on we did, Susie with two 6 million dollar knees and us with our toned tennis body’s slid and slopped along on a trail barely visible on the side of the hill.  We paused several times for bird watching and ended up mostly bird looking as we still were unable find them. Although the map didn’t seem to show all the twists and turns of the trail I was pleasantly surprised at various times to see plastic tied on the trees that I was assuming were trail markers. Finally we came to another split in the trail and had a sign post that confirmed our position. As we were still about  two hours away from “High Tea”  (as I understand it a true British Treat), we choose the route that would hopefully lead us to the waterfall.

As we descended the final slope we came across what looked like a bridge and heard the sound of rushing water.

W in the Second Pool

W in the Second Pool

Gorgeous! We were the only three here. Us and the illusive birds, most likely some fish, some crawfish too I’ve heard and the cool clear water rushing down the mountain side with a  small 15 meter pool under the falls. Susie and I availed ourselves of the cool water while W/ choose a misty place on the shore to rest.

Rejuvenated and refreshed we began our ascent of the mountainside back to Asa Wright. There upon we found anther Y in the trail and Susie (the truly adventurous one) wanted to go the “long” way back. So W/ and I followed and finally  we came upon two areas where we actually saw some birds (sorry no Toucans). The area is called a lek?  and the birds hang out here to perfect their flirt. Elders teach the youngster how to woo the opposite sex and when the mating season arrives the birds congregate in this area to display their style; hoping to secure a place in the genetic line of immortality.

Eventually we reach the Nature center were I forgo the “Tea” and order a cold Carib

Veranda

Veranda

(Local Beer), then choose some incredibly dry english cookies. W/ has corraled one of the Asa Wright Ornithologist and asked about Toucans setting her on a task of looking through the spotting scope for one. We rest on the Veranda watching the birds come in for their evening feed. Some are simply beautiful, one a bright blue with yellow feet; another an iridescent blue, then the worlds smallest humming bird, some  South American Crackles (we first met the Crackles cousin in Texas while visiting my mother and stepfather), and a bird we called Yellow Feet.

Finally what I had been waiting for; a bell sounded and we were all called to dinner. It was lamb with potatoes, salad, a desert like pudding and some other sides that I did try but don’t remember. Finally, meat!  It was the best meal I’d had today. Albeit; in my book, dinner was served quite late. We were called to dinner about 8 and for W/ and I as cruisers we find that’s just close to our time to retire.  It’s dark at 8 and on the boat we tend to be slaves to the light; much like the birds.

After a good dinner and exchanges of various stories we retired to our bungalow.

At first light we clean up and thought we would be the first on the Veranda. To our dismay, we were the last of our group. W/ again found another of the Ornithologist to be on the lookout for the illusive Toucans.  They brought out food for the birds and we learned and I quickly forgot many of their names.  After breakfast there was time for another hike.

Not Your Friendly Pet

Not Your Friendly Pet

While one of the Ornithologists was putting out Bananas for the birds a larger reptile decided he too wanted to be fed.

Some went on the Oil Birds hike (for a small slight fee) and others like W/ and I went our own way, in search of the other pond and water fall.  The Oil Birds got their name because the young remain in their nest so long they end up with an enormous amount of body fat. The early settlers would  kill one of the young, skewer it on a stick and light it with fire. The bird had such a hight fat content that the torch would stay lit burning the fat.   BTW, the Oil Birds aren’t used in this maner anymore.

After breakfast we did have a pleasant hike along the road coming entering Asa Wright and there we came across the short trail down to what the Nature Center calls their Pool. This pool was under the falls has a man made dam that looks like at one time the owners of the plantation wanted to harness it’s power.  We only cared about the cool beautiful place and here W/ choose to be the first (and actually today only one) to get wet. So she went swimming and enjoyed the refreshing water while I wandered around the falls taking pictures.

We arrived back at the center in time for a quick lunch and then the afternoon we were climbed aboard the silver horse carriage and rode home. Once Stanley (our driver for the return trip)  arrived and we were loaded, Susie took over and asked him if he could go the Northern route back through Maracus beach. Off we went, remote; you betchya, shear drops off the side of the road; yep, winding with a lot of switchbacks, that’s the only way. Two hours later we had rounded what seemed like every curve in Trinidad we reached  the highway on the North Coast.  There we passed small towns and enjoyed the view looking N towards Grenada.

As we left Maracas Bay and rose up the mountain side we looked back to see a full rainbow arching from one end of the beach to the other.

An hour later passing over the Northern Range of mountains, down through Diego Martin, we arrived  back to  at Chagaramus. We said Goodbye and dragged our tired bodies back to the boat. Once there, I was most certainly asleep by dusk.

Sorry this has taken so long. We’re at Power Boats and the Internet here is for a 4th world country, not even a third world!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Lemons to Lemonade

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Remember the advice; what do you do when life serves you up a bunch of lemons? Make Lemonade!  Not always sure one has a choice.

rinconalone

Rincon Waterfall, Trinidad

We had planned a hike to  Rincon Falls; a 250 foot water fall in the middle of the rain forest on  the North Coast of Trinidad. Unfortunately for me the planned departure was 6 am. While I’m usually awake and often times moving about at that hour; having something scheduled was not a situation I was overly fond of. But there just wasn’t much of a choice. The trip was 2-3 hours by Maxi Taxi and then a 2 hour plus hike on what Jesse described as a challenging 8 out of 10, Hang out at the falls, swim, rib each other and walk out. All this was with a guide (owner operator of Hike Seekers) called “Snake”!

To make matters worse, the night before; actually about 3 hours before, a huge squall blew through; moving commercial boats off their anchor; private yachts were dragging their mooring balls  into other private yachts and then the rain came. Out the aft hatch I watched as sheets of rain on the other end of Crews Inn Marina was being blown horizontal!  I was sincerely hoping someone, anyone would question the sanity of going on this trip today and cancel. In this case I would be happy to follow; but my male genes just wouldn’t let me be the first to “quit”.

Jesse (owner and operator of MembersOnly) showed up promptly at 6am and had already began chiding me for being late (a couple of minutes), all in good fun. We picked up two more groups of fools located at

Our Group o' Fools

Our Group o' Fools

other boat yards and headed out of town, down the coast, across the island to the North Coast Road and then East into the Rain forest.  Along the way we picked up “Snake” (Lawrence is his real name) who teaches tropical survival strategies in the military.  The forest isn’t just  his friend, it’s more like a part of him. We signed waivers that yes we could swim, yes we were in good shape, yes, we would not seek our own way and we would follow the leader and yes we all could leap tall buildings in a single bound (at least I could 🙂 ).

One thing we had been advised to do was wear long pants. 🙁  I hate long pants and so I chose to ignore that little piece of advice. Fortunately today that choice wasn’t going to come back and bite me in the arse; literally!  The pants were to protect against stinging insects and thorny plants. No trees plummeted to the earth on our hike arousing the local wasp residents so I was blessed with zero crazed wasps, the shrubs were not my predator,  and walking in amongst a group who liberally and without abandon lathered themselves with bug spray kept the majority of flying critters out of my aura.

Another thing I neglected was footwear that could be immersed.  Now if you remember on the Pitch Lake hike I had neglected the same thing (that time it was due to ignorance and a lack of paying attention) and survived; that was luck,  this time it was because of  a lack of understanding. I had brought a full change of clothing but had not brought another pair of shoes for wading. Within the first hour we had  forded  two streams.  Fortunately they were shallow and since 99.99% of all river rocks are smoothly rounded I simply took my shoes and socks off and went barefoot.  I had  learned hiking the Appalachian Trail that the goal is to keep your footwear dry and try as I might, I did a pretty good job of it.

A Hike in da Woods

A Hike in da Woods

We followed Snake thru the farmland reaching deeper and deeper into the rain forest all the while waiting for him to reach out and grab a 20′ Boa from a tree and show us his stuff!  I’m not the most loving towards the denezon of Eden so while the others were hanging close to him I was slowly held  back. W/  secretly admits an intrigue with snakes; not me, no way. I don’t even want to eat them; even when Snake describes them as being a delicacy!

Most of the hike was what I would call easy, and the drone of putting one foot in front of another was punctuated by some well planned stops to take in local

Coconut Bread

Coconut Bread

knowledge. We ate Coconut Bread (the growing part of the inside of the coconut – I still prefer the coconut meat), we had some green tangerines, robbed a farmer of some products much like a green bean, and tried a leafy plant that would make a good base for a salad. Finally we reached an area of interest.

We had  heard the falls for a good 30 minutes by now; catching only glimpses of it and we ended up  on a hill seemingly about 1/2 way up the falls . But; not for long. Snake slid down the hill with a rope and he and Jesse tied off the ends so as to

Going Down?

Going Down?

provide a handrail – rope rail for the rather quick descent to the base of the water fall. I carried up the rear; not being a pushy sort and just for fun letting others seek and illuminate any dangers or pitfalls. They  made it down; all of them, including W/ so I worked my way down the rain forest staircase and to the large rock base at the foot of the falls. The noise was deafening requiring a heightened voice level but the sight of 250′ of falling water was magnificent. We had a gourmet meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (fortunately W/ listens well and knew to bring food), with a splendid desert of Nutty Bars (one of my all time favorites). Then it was up to me to lead the way into the pool. I slid down the rocks to the edge of the water, removed my shoes, and socks (sorry

Yep! Cold!

Yep! Cold!

girls that was all), and slowly worked my way into the pool.

One of the greatest things about water in the tropics is that it is NOT glacier or even snow fed. That means that we won’t turn blue and die a quick death by swiming in this water. However; I’ve lived in the tropics or subtropics my adult life and even 70 degrees water temp is  COLD. I think the water may have been about 75 but I wouldn’t bet on it. All I know is that as I entered the pool I had difficulty breathing steady. Yet it wasn’t long before the water felt quite refreshing and I could swim out to the base of the falls. In the middle of the pond we could stand up and after Jesse showed me that yes indeed you could climb the rocks up under the falls, I too joined him for a time behind

Cool Literally!

Cool Literally!

the water. As warm and humid as a rain forest is; half naked, wet, and behind a 250′ wall of dropping water  I was getting chilled. I swam out, back to W/ (who BTW didn’t go for a swim), dried off and had some more desert. I love deserts!

We soon had the group back together and began our ascent up the hill with the rope Banister. At the top we spread out (against the rules) and began our return to civilization. While we attempted to stay in voice contact some had gone on with the intention of finding a dropped pair of glasses while others plodded steadily on and Snake somewhere bringing up the rear. BTW – they found the glasses! I feared Snake might seriously get lucky and find that Boa out sunning at that time of day.

Half way to the first stream Snake caught us and was in great spirits. While most of the group dragged on he stepped confidently looking for a creature without legs. And finally, finally he found one. Albiet a small one, but he found one. He called it a False Coral Snake. It was about the size of a night crawler that those of us as kids would catch in the evenings hoping the next day to land that trophy fish. He played with it, he put it in his mouth – yes in his mouth! And while everyone thought he would actually eat and swallow the

Just like Linguini?

Just like Linguini?

creature he let it go to fend for itself another day. Thankfully the group then moved on, grazing on any Tangerines or Coconuts found.

By now we had descended enough to cross the first stream but the crossing

Tired?

Tired?

was much slower this time. Without the allure of the falls in front of us; with the soon to be experience of a 2-3 hour ride home, some of the group took this opportunity to bask (fall) in the stream and hang there for  a bit. Yes; there were those that said they just wanted to cool off; but I seriously have my doubts. They were putting off the inevitable; but they were enjoying the playing  in  the stream bed to the fullest.

Not a 1/4 mile away we crossed the last stream and many of the same who had just removed themselves from the other stream took it upon themselves to again fall down, lay down, sit, down, and soak up the aroma, then experience of the day all right in that one spot. Snake however was no where to be found!

Jesse goaded us on, the last trek back to the 4 wheeled horse was upon us and we all plodded into the pasture where the Van was grazing. Guys on the left, Gals on the right; we changed into dry clothes and slowly found a seat in the van where upon we were to sit dazed for two hours and make our way home. As we motored slowly down the drive out to the main road Snake appeared.

But fear not; he held no creature that could sell a woman an apple; he held six gorgeous flowers he’d cut from the rain forest for the women. Jesse told him to meet us at Richards Bake and Shark for there we could find sustenance and libation.

Richards Bake and Shark is one of Trinidad’s “famous” places. Hammerhead shark is cut into filets and fried, then there is a table of toppings (about a dozen) that one can put on your sandwich. We all had one

Jaws: I Win!

Jaws: I Win!

plus drinks, then spent a few minutes unwinding and reliving the day. The Maracus Beach is said to be the most popular in Trinidad with cars backed up for miles trying to get there. Richards too is overwhelmed by people on the weekends with lines often exceeding 300 feet. Today we were lucky, today we ended up eating within minutes. Today it didn’t rain, it was cool in the morning, sunny at the falls, refreshing in the streams, enlightening on the hike. Today we ended up with Lemonade.

Our Day’s Hike in Pictures

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Trinidad, A Good Day

Friday, September 24th, 2010
Jesse of MembersOnly Maxi Taxi

Jesse of MembersOnly Maxi Taxi

Yesterday we woke up early, ate and readied ourselves for a full day trip down the coast of Trinidad. A group of us hired the Membersonly Taxi service run by Jesse James (that’s his real name).  We were going to visit a wildlife sanctuary called the Wild Fowl Trust (hidden in the middle of an Oil Refinery), and to a place called Pitch Lake. Pitch is best considered emulsified asphalt. Our cruising guide described Pitch Lake as a large expanse of 20+ tennis courts in total disrepair. Not a good omen.

We wove through the burrows and towns along the coast south, passing through Port O’ Spain,  national stadium, the first cematary of Trinidad with a locked gate – where people are dying to get in 🙂 , and discussed the days agenda.  Jesse had flipped our itinerary so that we would go to the blacktop lake in the pm. The reason, there is a large group of tourists going to the Wild Fowl Trust later in the day and this will avoid them.  We’ll then be the only group.

Jesse knows Trinidad and understands the people and the place. We trusted him and what ever he figured would be the best, so we accepted his decision. We arrived at the Trust and met our Tour Guide, Rissa. She’d completed her graduate degree in England and was back working in this Eden hidden in amongst the plumbing, the tanks, and the oil being cracked into a variety of products.

There was a pond which the trail wove around with  aviaries for, Ibis, Macaws, Parrots, and Ducks. A variety of birds flew in for the safe place in which no hunting was allowed. One focus of the Trust is the breeding and releasing of birds back into the wild.  It was an overcast day and near the end of our tour the

Circumnavigating da Pond

Circumnavigating da Pond

skies slowly opened dripping water till the damn broke and we were  under a waterfall. There we found our own sanctuary in the A frame Learning Center where we had begun our tour.  After several small purchases made by the group we scurried aboard the Maxi and headed off to Pitch Lake, stopping first at a local place for lunch.

I gotta say, I’ve not yet really cottoned on to the local foods in Eastern Caribbean. We had Rotis. A kind of meat pie spiced with a great deal of curry wrapped in a flaky pastry.  I ate gingerly (yes I did) and drank heartily.

After the group was fully gorged we drove on to Pitch Lake, a lake of black pre-blacktop road bed material. As we arrived the town took on a fairy tale look with houses sitting catewampus, roads rolling, electrical poles all leaning at different angles. We parked in the lot of the museum to meet our guide. She informed us to put on shoes that could get wet could be destroyed.  I didn’t bring any, actually putting on a new pair of socks today. Ha; did I ever screw up!  So off we went on a cloudy drizzly day to look at and walk on a lake of pitch.

The lake is mined and the first stop was at the pump house. There they’re pumping water out of the lake as first the water gets in the way of mining and second the lake is below sealevel (not sure about that one) and the water floats on the pitch.  Then on to the mining activity station which for us was fortunate that it was not running (thank you rain).  The miners drive large machinery out on the lake and mustn’t stop, else the lake would slowly consume the equipment as the density of machinery is greater then the density of pitch.  They mine the top two meters or so in an area approx 1/30 of the lake. Then they rotate to another section leaving the first for a month. The area they’ve mined and left alone will slowly refill, allowing them to mine from the same location the following month.

Even though they let the lake refill the lakes content is slowly being depleting and as pitch is removed from the lake the town

Lowering Surface

Lowering Surface

and surrounding countryside is effected. (Geology of Pitch Lake) Residents were offered a buyout a few years ago as the ground their homes are on, the roads they drive on, and everything about them ends up slowly moving. As in anything having to do with masses of people, some took the move in stride and others chose to stay. We asked about health issues and were told of none known; actually some areas of the pitch are said to have healing properties. Some but not all. As one man almost died years ago in the lake, somehow he had stood in one place too long and began to sink. He had sunk quite deep by the time others had found him and came to pull him out. He had sunk up to his arm pits and it took a good bit of time to remove him and to clean off the pitch it took another good bit of  “diesel” fuel. Yeah, the pitch is best thought of as “Cool Tar”.

The Middle is Quicktar

The Middle is Quicktar

We strode the rest of the way around the lake, learning not to step in the crervas’ but to stretch across them. The crevas are where the  actual pitch can be found.  What we were walking on was a semi dried pitch that could be thought of as ice on top of the lake. So through the water we went; I was carrying my shoes in one hand and camera in the other, stepping gingerly making sure I wouldn’t be the first to fall. (I wasn’t – Neil on Early Out was the first 🙂 ) Back at the museum we cleaned up, gathered the group and began a long journey home.

The journey was lengthened by the constant stops Jesse made. As we discussed things he would hear someone say  they liked “Hot Sauce”, so we pulled up next to a street vendor and picked up some freshly made; then someone would mention they needed some fresh vegetable and again we stopped at another local stand for fresh veggies. We wound through traffic jams (there appears to be a law in Trinidad that everyone at a certain time must get in their car and drive somewhere), tried to beat a couple of the jams by choosing roads around them and soon we were within sight of home when one of our group mentioned Ice Cream.

Another stop was put on the itineary and we pulled up (actually backed up in the oncoming traffic lane, to another street vendor for some locally made Ice Cream.  A sweet top to a great day. Back at the ranch; oops, marina just after dusk, we were both in bed and counting sheep before I’m sure Jesse James put his steed (the Maxi Taxi) to bed.

For a Picture Tour of the Day

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Headless

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Yep, I’m headless. Well, to be more accurate I’m half headless. Our aft Lavac head is totally out and we’ve been working to get it all  back together. I thought I would have this completed in a weeks time or less. It’s now been almost 10 days and the head is back together. But; not perfect. I ran some fresh water through there yesterday and 4 little screws that hold a

Almost Plugged

Almost Plugged

valve on the pump for the Lavac Head leaked. I used the rebuild kit on the pump and she “should” be like new. I’ve never been really successful at rebuilding that pump. Because the pump is 99% plastic I’m always warry of over tightening the  bolts.  This is the 3rd  time in 2 years.  So I’m trying a “cheap” fix. I pulled the offending screws out, put a little 5200 quick set on each one and put them back in. I’m really, I mean, really hoping that works. Otherwise I have to pull the pump which means disconnecting two hoses (and with PVC sanitation  hose it is almost impossible to install ), remove the pump, fix the leaking screws – I figure to get some new longer ones and screw them into the hose end that leaks. The screws hold the rubber check valve in place. Then check the pump and reinstall it.  To complete the project I pulled all the plumbing out from the head to the the anti-siphon loop (See pic for 1/2 clogged fitting). Also we had to pull the base off the head as the plastic base had cracked. Another Lavac problem area. I JB Welded (essential stuff for a boat IMHO) the area after enlarging the crack and put it all back together again.  Finally, finally,we have our aft head functioning again.

Then onto our new Victron battery charger install. While I install this charger I will also put in the new Uniden VHF radio. For some weird reason our currently installed Uniden will send fine but will not receive.  I purchased a spare emergency antenna to diagnose the problem and ended up with the same results.  I’ll send the radio back to Uniden for repair and get it back somewhere down the line.  I hope the new one actually lasts longer. we’re replacing it with the newer version of the next model with the same footprint. This allows (dare I say it) an easy switch out. We also stayed with the same radio as we have two wireless mics that connect to that radio and I would hate to throw them out as well if we would switch radios. The wireless mics are nice to have in the cockpit when we’re traveling!

But; don’t fret. It’s not all work here in Paradise!

We’ve gone on one hike, went to a Pan Concert, told lies with other cruisers, availed ourselves of the local transportation, gone to Port O’ Spain, and been shopping several times.

Starlift Concert

Starlift Concert

The Pan Concert IMHO wasn’t a good value for the dollar or time well spent. But we both enjoy Pan music and enjoyed spending some time with the other cruisers and locals.  The concert was on  Trinidad’s  Independence day (The country is now 42 years old) at the Starlift Armory (they don’t call the place an Armory in Trinidad but that’s the best description).  The Starlift Pan Band played a couple of songs and by then it was time for us to go. We had arrived about 3 hours early and due to other activities,  scheduling transportation, our having been there already 5 hours and being tired:  we left early. Oh well. There will be more Pan bands in our future.

Last week we went on a hike up to an abandoned Tracking Station. The trail is called the

Abandonded Tracking Station

Abandoned Tracking Station

Bamboo Cathedral (with the worlds tallest grass-Bamboo)  and the hike on a paved road with a gentle incline  providing  a relatively  easy walk. The stand of Bamboo is about 150 years old. We (the men) followed the women to the top. They were our motivator. 🙂  We passed through an amazing  forest of Bamboo. The

Bamboo Cathedral

Bamboo Cathedral

grass was so thick that when quiet we could hear individuals topple over. At the top of the trail we came upon the abandoned station (scroll down the linked page for a little for the description – don’t let the page fool ya), two large buildings and then a HUGE radar antenna (48 feet across); one we could imagine fit for a Hollywood movie set. Catch some perspective in the pic on the right by checking out W/ and Julie with the antenna in the background.  We climbed the steps on the warehouse building to hoping to have a better view. While the view was interesting it just wasn’t what we had hoped. There is so much growth in the Jungle here we barely saw the shore and any vista that we had hoped for. The

W Directing

W Directing

excitement was in going up and down the un railed staircase. (See the pic of W/ directing Julie down). From there we began to explore a couple more buildings till the descent on the same road.

After the climb down we navigated by foot to a park on the N. Coast of Trinidad. There we found a little shade in a gorgeous cove overlooking the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Lunch, Lies, and Laughter was dutifully consumed till our walk back to the rendezvous point.  Jesse from Members Only Taxi had arranged for our transport and there we had a pleasant trip back home; to the boat, to collapse and dream about a grand day.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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