Trinidad: October 15 - November 2, 2007

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

After being so reluctant to come to Trinidad, we are really enjoying our time here.  We have been extending our reservation to be able to see more the island, to attend concerts, to take a few trips, and to get our medical exams done.  We are impressed with the health care here.   It is free for everyone at the public hospitals and clinics, but the lines are often long.  A number of private hospitals and clinics are also available.  We used them for our lipid test and were able to walk in and get our lab work done immediately with no doctor's order.  Barb was pleased with her doctor and got her to write both of them a request for a bone density scan.  It only cost $65 for the doctor visit and associated lab work and $65 for a bone density scan.  The lab and scan results were ready the next day.  It looks like we won't need to visit our doctors back in Savannah anymore.

Things are really getting busy down here since all the Snow Birds who left their boats on the hard in Trinidad are returning.  We understand that it will stay busy until the end of the year.  The marinas are fully booked since boats are being launched every day and need slips to use while the boats are prepared for the cruising season.  Many of the folks we have gotten to know over the past two months have already left to start cruising north or west and new people are arriving every day.  Our original reservation ran out weeks ago.  Crews Inn has been very accommodating and somehow keeps squeezing us in to their full marina.  Fortunately, some of the folks with reservations are delayed in getting their boats launched for various reasons and we have been able to use those slips.  Supposedly our luck is running out on October 29th and we'll then head to Tobago to join up with cruising friends Linda and Steve on Seaman's Elixir who spent the hurricane season in Grenada.

Parang Concert

Through Jesse James, a Trini who runs a cab/shuttle service and various Trini tours/excursions, a group of yachties arranged to be taken to a parang concert at a restaurant one Saturday night.  The band was Los Parranderos de UWI, the parang champions for 2006 who are from the local University of the West Indies.  Cf.  Parang is a style of music that is associated with Christmas, but the songs sound nothing like North American carols.  Instead, they are sung in Spanish and feature a peppy beat that invites dancing - basically party music.  During an intermission there was a dance contest for a dance that featured a waltz step.  Only five couples competed -- including only one yachty couple.   Yup, Barb and Chuck.  (Nope, we didn't win.)  There was also a maraca (known in Trinidad as a shac-shac) playing contest, and fellow cruiser Devi (Artic Tern) was the only yachty to enter. (Nope, she didn't win either -- but it was a lot of fun.)

Photos marked with (*) are by Steve (Receta)

Parang band




*Awesome maraca player

Steve (Receta) documenting the performance

Some of the yachties that attended


*Taking pix of the yachties

Devi getting a quick lesson before entering an amateur maraca contest

*Devi in competition

*Barb and Chuck in dance competition


Hike/Float in the Guanapo River gorge

Another one of Jesse James' trips.  We drove up into the mountains, and then parked the car high up on a ridge.  Our guide, "Snake", had some snakes tucked into bags in his car trunk, so he showed them to us before we began the hike in case we ran across any on our hike.  Two benign species and the deadly fer-de-lance, said to have caused more deaths from snake bites than any other species.  "Snake" milked some venom out of the fer-de-lance, and then drank down the extracted juice, demonstrating that it is only poisonous if it gets into one's bloodstream.   (He was confident that he had no lesions in his mouth.)  We walked down an extremely steep tar road for over a mile -- too steep for our van to negotiate back up.  It petered out at a cocoa house:  a remnant from the plantation days.   The house features a roof on tracks that can be extended out to the side.  Back in the cocoa harvesting days, the tracks would be extended, the roof rolled onto the track off the house, and then the cocoa laid out on top on the ceiling to dry in the sun.  If it should rain, the roof was rolled back onto the house in order to protect the cocoa.

When the road ended we continued down on a narrow path through the rain forest for about 30 minutes until we reached the river at the bottom on the gorge.  There we hid our backpacks and donned our life preservers and began slogging down through the river bed.  Soon we were in a narrow gorge with water-worn walls of stone.  Knowing we would be wet, we had opted not to bring our normal cameras, and instead brought a cheap disposable waterproof film camera.   The results were quite pitiful but we were able to borrow some photos from others who did have small waterproof cameras.  We must have been an unusually fit group, because when we got to the point where there was a path back through the woods to our packs (and lunch) at about 1 pm, "Snake" proposed that we instead take another branch of the river upstream to a waterfall, about 1 1/2 hours away.   We would then turn around and come back down to our path, so lunch would be sometime after 3 pm.   No one said "nay", and so off we went.  Took us only an hour to get to the waterfall, which turned out to have a nice pool.  We lingered awhile, swam briefly, and then retraced our steps down over the slippery slabs of rock along the river bed.   We each took several falls when we misjudged the traction of boulders and our feet flew out from under us.  Suddenly sitting down on hard rock can be a brain-shaking experience, but neither of us suffered permanent damage.  :-)  Just as we got back to our original river and the path, it began to rain hard, so we slogged up and down through the rain forest along a path that featured slippery slopes and muddy rivulets.  It was still raining when we reached our packs, and still raining hard when we reached the cocoa house.  We ducked under an attached lean-to, and ate the most delicious sandwiches ever created.  It stopped raining just in time for us to face up to the ascent up the steep tar road.  Up at the van, we changed out of our very wet clothes and piled in for descent back down to civilization.  Chuck tried to work on a crossword puzzle, but for some reason kept falling asleep.  Jesse stopped at a roadside stand and treated us all to doubles.  Yummy.

Crew that went of the "gorge" expedtition

Getting ready for the hike/float

"Snake" showed a harmless garden snake

"Snake" with snake

"Snake" with fer-de-lance snake

Milking snake

"Snake" showing plant

Snake breaking open a sprouting coconut to share the edible contents

Steep road down to the river

The cocoa house with its retractable roof -- at the end of the tar road

The path hits the river

Our first plunge down a rapid

Barb about to jump down a chute in the gorge

Group takes a rest break

Bats along the wall in this stretch

Chuck about to go down a chute

Ann, Lavern, Snake's assistant & Barb

Floating down the chute

Rose about to enter the chute down

Riding down the chute

Tricky climb

Climbing down a chute

One of the streams we followed led us up to this falls

So good to relax

Group at the falls

Famous Jesse James playing in the waterfall

Jesse James back up the tar road and at the van -- toally exhausted


Bottom Painting

The original plan was to have all the work done by the crews at Peake Yacht Services, but in the end we had them just do the cleaning: 1) wash and scrape the bottom and 2) sand off the "footprints" of the barnacles that had affixed themselves to the hull, 3) wet-sand the entire bottom, and 4) completely clean the rudder and prop.   Then we applied two coats of Seahawk Islands 77 Plus, which we had purchased in St. Martin.   Kind of a mistake, because we bought "dark blue", and ran out of paint before we had applied the intended extra half-coat on the upper part of the bottom.   Trinidad doesn't import dark blue.   Next time we will purchase 8 gallons instead of 6.   And maybe next time we'll let them do the painting -- there is an awful lot of real estate on the bottom of a 48' Krogen North Sea and it only cost $250!  Oh, and we applied Prop Speed to the rudder and propeller and also to the spare propeller which had been resting in the cockpit after getting repaired at a local Prop Scan.

While painting we discovered what we thought was salt water very slowly seeping out of a plug at the top of the kedge, and therefore preventing its painting .   Chuck thought he would drain it by opening up the bottom plug.  Was he ever surprised when he realized that it was some some type of oil! The Krogen owner's manual doesn't have any information about what type of oil would be needed and Chuck couldn't figure out what purpose it could serve.  He made a quick call to Tom Button, the VP of Operations at Kadey-Krogen, and discovered that the kedge is filled with vegetable oil so that it does not rust from the inside.  Barb made a trip to the local grocery store and bought the cheapest vegetable oil she could find and Chuck filled the kedge again and insured it was sealed.  That was one of the easiest mistakes to fix. 

We found life on the hard at Peake to be more comfortable than expected.  We had a window air conditioner installed in one of the fly bridge hatches, which kept things quite cool.  We had running water, working fresh water toilets, and electricity, so what more could we want.  Actually, climbing eight feet up a ladder to get into the boat was not much fun and all the dirt and dust from the boatyard was a bit unpleasant, but it was nice to be able to sleep in our own bed and not in a hotel room.  We stayed on the hard in the boat yard a few extra days because we didn't have a slip at Crews Inn reserved and we had the river gorge trip planned.  We didn't want to anchor in the deep anchorage nearby which is known for poor holding and then be gone all day for the gorge trip before we had a chance to ensure our anchor was well set.  We have discovered that we are too big and heavy to use any of the moorings in the area.  Thus, we have to anchor in over 50 feet of water.  Fortunately, the nice folks at Crews Inn keep finding us a slip to return to so we don't have to anchor. 

We had the boat freshly waxed when we got hauled for the bottom paint -- bad mistake!  Chuck must use fiberglass cleaner to get the boatyard dirt and paint residue off of many areas and will have to rewax those areas.  Another lesson learned is to not wax the boat until after the bottom has been painted. 

Boat about to be hauled. Note diver taking a ride on travel lift. He insures that the straps are in the right place before the boat is lifted.

Boat being scraped - not too bad for being in Chaguaramas for the last six weeks and for it being 18 months since it was painted

Barnacles being scraped

More scraping

Now being pressure washed

Boat now on the hard. We hired the sanding done on the boat

Now we start the priming.

More priming

Now we're painting

Running gear repainted with Prop Speed

Chuck reversing the davit cable

Chuck refilling (vegetable) oil in the kedge.

Tusen Takk II about to be returned to the water


Ann & Steve (Receta) organized a group going to a Pan/Jazz concert at Queen's Hall in downtown Port of Spain on a Friday night (10/26/07).  The concert hall was first class.   Most folks in attendance were from Trinidad.  Before the performance, Angostura Bitters was giving out free rum drinks.  You might expect that pan music would get a bit tiresome, but these performers were good, and a large pan band creates depth and richness that goes far beyond what you might have heard from a single instrument.  We were treated to Rosemary Phillips, a sexy lady who sang torch songs from the 20's and 30's,  David Rudder, a Trini that is famous for his calypso songs, Andy Narell, a balding slightly hunchbacked youngish white man with a sincere presence and an obsession with combining jazz and pan, and the award-winning (and huge) pan orchestra:  The Trinidad All Stars.  Andy got interested in pan music as a child when his father, a social worker in New York City, hit upon using pan playing as a way of engaging the youth of a ghetto.  Andy mentioned that he had sent down the music to the All Stars and that the band had practiced 5 nights a week for 6 months prior to the concert.   And many of the members are volunteers playing for no reward other than the joy of playing!  After a long set with Andy and the band and several guest artists (on sax and drums), Andy stepped out and the band played some of their signature pieces.   The crowd recognized the songs, and certainly showed their appreciation.  (The pictures below are lousy -- since flash photography was not permitted.)

So Trinidad has been fun.  But we are constantly aware -- how could we forget, with headlines in the daily newspapers -- that there is a major crime problem in Trinidad.  The robbery and murder rates are outrageous.   Elections are coming up very soon (Nov. 5), and it will be interesting to see if the populace holds the incumbents responsible.  If the newspaper coverage is any indication, political debating and posturing is as dirty and irrelevant here as it is in the United States.  But at least here, as in most civilized countries, the electioneering only lasts for months instead of years, as in the USA. 

We have mentioned Jesse James a number of times, but must again take the opportunity to sing his praises.  He provides a wealth of services to cruisers, including 24-hour passage to/from the distant airport, many tours to sites of interest in the area, and even free excursions to shopping areas.  But beyond that, he is an incredibly warm and friendly guy, and an absolute joy to be around.  On some excursions he even pulls off the road at a stand and treats the occupants of his maxi-taxi to doubles!  He has a number of drivers with additional vehicles, and they all are warm, courteous, and genuinely friendly.  I mentioned the crime problem, above.  Sometimes, even as foreign cruisers, the crime hits surprisingly close to home.  One of Jesse James' drivers -- who we have used several times, and with whom we have had enormously interesting political discussions -- was attacked just a few nights ago after he had dropped off his party.  The attackers attempted to steal his vehicle, and when he resisted he nearly lost the fingers of one of his hands when they pressed their demands with a machete.  Marlon had 7 hours of surgery to repair the damage, and at this point we do not know the prognosis.  Several of us have left envelopes with donations at Jesse's office in order to help Marlon and his family keep afloat as he recovers. 

When projects did not intervene, Chuck joined Stan (Inner Wisdom) in lifting weights in a well-equipped gym at a local training center.  Recently Barb was also persuaded to go.  Stan  brought a new camera to the gym one day, and accidentally took a short video clip instead of a photo.  Click here to see Chuck and Barb working out.

When our reservation finally ran out and there were no open slips, we finally had to leave Crews Inn.  But we didn't go far, anchoring on the outskirts of the adjoining anchoring field, out beyond the moorings and out where the water is starting to get pretty darn deep.   But we are holding just fine, and kinda liking being at anchor again.  We find we are sitting out on the deck at dusk, which we never did while at the slip.  The breezes keep us cool and we don't really miss the air conditioning we had back at the dock.  And we can now launch our dinghy, which is a very good thing, since the YSATT shuttle has not been functioning for the last several days.  Very little by way of official explanation, but the scuttlebutt is that the two operators have been fired and that YSATT is now having multiple meetings attempting to find solutions to the problems that led to the dismissals.

Photos marked (*) were taken by Stan.

Calypso artist David Rudder

Jazz panist Andy Narell and the Trinidad All Star pan group

Jacques Schwarz on sax playing with Andy Narell

The crowd going wild as Trinidad All Stars play their signature song at the conclusion of the concert

*Gym where Chuck and friend Stan (Inner Wisdom) worked out three times a week

*Chuck doing machine presses ...

*...and dumbell standing flys

Stan and Susie (who was often Barb's yoga instructor and who also worked out regularly with Stan & Chuck)

*Back at Crews Inn after a workout

Sign in gym bathroom (liming means "hanging out")