Trinidad: January 8-February 8, 2008

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

Three weeks after our arrival from Norway/London, Chuck was still coughing.  After two weeks he was much much better, with the clogged head and lungs gone, and just a tickly throat remaining.  He even got back to running, albeit at a pace that is at an all-time slowest.

In other medical news, Barb and Chuck have seen a dentist in order to get their teeth cleaned.  Other cruisers quietly suggested that we should just turn on our heels if we got in to the office and were not happy with the "cleanliness level".  They need not have worried.  The office was brand spanking new, and better equipped than any dental office we have ever used in the States.  All the latest equipment, including a flat screen mounted to the pedestal that also housed the tray, the light, and the "spittoon".  A nearby cabinet hides the x-ray machine and a reader.  The technician inserts the exposed film into the reader and immediately the x-rays are visible, since the screen is versatile.  The screen displayed very sharp TV -- with a full choice of cable channels -- during the procedure, but became a computer screen displaying the x-ray images at the Doctor's command.  Very impressive.  Barb sailed through the cleaning, conducted by the young and impressive Doctor himself, since dental technicians may not currently clean teeth here in Trinidad.  Chuck was not so fortunate, and had to return for two sessions of something called "deep tartar removal".  Not so deep as to require that he worry about whether or not there are holes in his underwear, but sufficiently deep that his gums were deadened, with only one side of his mouth done during an appointment. 

We had somewhat of a hassle getting repairs completed for Tusen Takk II.  Just as soon as we got back from Norway we initiated three separate items with three separate businesses:  repair of our high-amp Balmar alternator; repair of our Sea Recovery water maker, and removal and cleaning of the heat exchanger for the John Deere propulsion engine.  Finally, after a month everything is about complete.  The least worrisome was the alternator --  the parts were ordered fairly expeditiously, and the unit has been repaired and is now tucked away onboard as a spare.  The unit was completely rebuilt, and cost about $700 US.  Echo Tech has our entire water maker on their bench, and for the longest time professed to not know what was wrong.  They attempted to contact Sea Recovery headquarters in California for advice, but there were long delays caused by poor communication between the two.  We got involved, and were also plagued by poor communication.  When we finally got a diagnosis from Sea Recovery, their best guess was that the problem was with the feed pump.  Echo Tech was convinced that was not the problem, but again poor communication probably mislead Sea Recovery.  We got involved again, and finally, to our surprise, learned that Sea Recovery was willing to send the relevant portion of the feed pump, and also, since the Echo technician didn't agree with the diagnosis, a rebuild kit for the Energy Transfer Device, all at no cost since the unit was under extended warranty.  Goodness, we hadn't realized that, and were resisting having them send the feed pump because it would be an expensive unit made much more so by the enormous freight costs.  The package arrived, and Echo Marine got to work immediately after Carnival, and found that the new feed pump resulted in no improvement.  They used the seals to rebuild the ETD, and presto shazam, the unit works.  As this is written the water maker is due to be re-installed on Tusen Takk II on Monday, Feb. 11. 

Instead of just taking the heat exchanger core out of the manifold, the mechanic opted to remove the whole manifold.  This had the advantage of also removing the exhaust elbow, so that it could be examined and cleaned as well.  But he badly underestimated the weight of the whole thing.  It took three of us to just barely get it out of the engine room.  Somewhere along the line, either in the removal or cleaning or transport back to t he boat, the filler neck that receives the "radiator" cap apparently got squished.  Not a lot.  Not visibly.  But apparently enough so that the cap no longer sealed.  So after many attempts to repair it with pliers, a new neck was ordered.  Another long delay because the neck was not in stock locally, and then Carnival conflicted, and then the day-after-Carnival day-off-to-recover-from-Carnival conflicted.  Then we got word from Crews Inn that we had to vacate our slip because our reservation was up and another boat needed the spot.  Oops.  We cannot move, since we cannot run the engine without spewing anti-freeze when the engine heats up.  The part arrives and we are promised that they will install the new neck at 9:30 AM, which would make it possible to still leave at the 11 AM checkout time.  When they have not arrived by 10:45 AM, Barb worked her wonders with the dock master and he offered to shuffle things around so that we could stay in our slip.  I bet -- no; I know -- I could not have done that.  Anyway, the mechanics finally showed up about 2 PM and the new neck was installed.  Guess what?  The cap still leaked.  Only then did the mechanic notice that the rubber seal on the cap was depressed.  He ran off and got a new cap, which they did have in stock, and the leak was banished.  Meanwhile, we have extended our stay at Crews Inn until February 14.  Then, unless some other impediment arises, we will finally begin our trek northward again.

And speaking of the Carnival. Trinidad has one of the largest celebrations in the world, second only to Brazil.  Everything comes to a head on "Carnival Monday" and "Fat Tuesday", but there are many many preliminary events, including Calypso Monarch competitions, Extempo competitions, King and Queen competitions, pan band competitions, visits to the mas camps, visits to pan yards, and so forth.  All told, we signed up for ten events, out of a possible twenty-seven that was listed by Jesse James.  And there were even more events that could not be booked through Jesse, including all-night fetes and contests for Groovy Soca Monarch and Power Soca Monarch. It was  a very interesting (and expensive) couple of weeks!

 Mas Camps

"Mas" is short for "masquerade".  We visited a number of mas camps, getting an up-close look at how the costumes are made.  We signed up with one of the "bands" -- "groups" would be more accurate -- associated with one of the camps.  We joined them for J'ouvert, which means "day break", but is also known as "dirty mas".  This is the start of the official Carnival.  It begins at 4:00 AM on Carnival Monday and runs for 4 or 5 hours.  We wore costumes provided by the band run by Trevor Wallace.  Part of the ritual of J'ouvert is that no one avoids being painted; it was our duty upon seeing a "clean" person to ensure that they were liberally baptized in paint, mud, or oil.  Wallace provided a big truck with music, drinks, and security, and those signed up with him (along with many non-costumed "crashers") marched along near the trucks.  The costumes for J'ouvert were reasonably priced; the costumes for Fat Tuesday, also known as "pretty mas", on the other hand, were very expensive, ranging from $300 (US) on up to over $1000 (US).  The King and Queen costumes were even more expensive.  We didn't incur these expenses, since we didn't march in the Fat Tuesday parade -- instead we paid to watch the parade from a grandstand.  Chuck (and Steve, Receta and Don, Asseance) paid an extra $60 (US) to get photography certification; that permitted him to photograph at the many competitions and events.  Actually the photographer's badge became a magic pass for incredible access.

Wallace's band consisted of a number of sub-sections for J'ouvert, each with its own theme consistent with the overall theme of "shipwrecked".  We chose the "mutiny" costumes.  We took delivery of our costumes through Jesse James, and were surprised by the "bonus" in the bottom of each of the paper bags containing the outfits.  Four lubricated color condoms.  Jesse uses Wallace because he avoids going downtown where things get a little wild.  Or maybe more than a little wild, since every J'ouvert participant found the same surprise with their costume.

J'ouvert costumes available at the Wallace mas camp

Mr. Wallace explaining J'ouvert

Part of his rapt audience

Some of the costumes available from the Wallace camp for Fat Tuesday

Barb, Yani, Ann, and Heather try on some of the headdresses

Completed headdresses stored on the ceiling of another mas camp

Most mas camps now feature costumes of "beads and bikini" --but the McFarland camp features costumes which tell stories (like carnivals of old)

Each camp has a "theme" -- this camp's theme is Mexico

More Mexican-themed costumes

Kiddy Carnival

The Red Cross sponsored a Kiddy Carnival at Queen's Park that everyone said we should go to.  We were somewhat reluctant -- how many "cute" kids could we stand?   There were large groups, and Junior King and Queen contestants.   Contests for everything, with different categories by age.   We stayed for the whole thing, and had a marvelous time.   Once again the photo passes were invaluable for Steve and Chuck.   (For more Kiddy Carnival pictures, click here.)



We attended the Dimanche Gras (see several sections down) on Saturday night, and got back to the marina at about 12:30 AM.  Jesse warned us not to go to sleep.  At about 3 AM Jesse picked us up and we were off to Trevor Wallace's mas camp.  We encountered a horrific traffic jam along the way, caused by a police road block -- they were looking for vehicles with weapons or drugs.  Seemed indifferent to the drivers openly drinking beer as they drove.  A quick breakfast at the camp, a quick smearing of paint, and shortly after 4 AM we were off to "chip" through the streets of St. James and Woodbrook.  "Chipping" is a shuffle performed to the beat of the bass of the music provided by either a live pan band -- or, in our case -- a sound truck featuring a whole battery of large speakers.  The sound truck also pulled a trailer that was loaded with large containers of mud and smaller containers of paint.  There was a separate truck that had soft drinks, beer, and rum.  Booking through Jesse garnered us a wrist band that signified that we could be served from the drink truck at no extra cost.   So there we were, in the dark wee hours of the morning, drinking beer and chipping along the streets.   We had another "breakfast" -- served from the sound truck -- at about 7 AM, and then more chipping along the streets, arriving back at Wallace's camp at about 10:45 AM.   Jesse James and several of his drivers/maxis were waiting for us there.   Concerned about the upholstery in his vehicles, he clothed us in large trash bags, with strict orders to keep our arms inside.   (For more J'ouvert pictures, click here.)

Yani and Chris (Magus)

Devi, Hunter (Artic Tern) and Ann (Receta)

Steve and Ann (Receta)

The trailer containing mud and paint

Heather and Don (Asseance) back at the Wallace mas camp

Jesse preparing Asseance for their ride back in his van

All set for our ride back


Pan Band Yards

On two separate nights part of our expedition was to visit the separate established "yards" where pan bands are headquartered and practice.  Here are some of the pictures.

Most members of most bands are either East Indian or Black ...

... but a few are white locals

... and fewer still are cruisers

Member of a band whose yard was in a lot adjacent to a bar

Another interesting band member

Bands also have various percussion instruments

Some bands feature single pans only

The pans are mounted on wheeled frames. Most players stand on the ground, but a few are elevated -- like this one.

Barb enjoying the practice

Chris at another venue enjoying the sounds

Chuck at the "Phase II" pan band yard


Pan Band Competitions

There were a whole series of competitions for pan bands -- some based on how many pans any given player used, and some based on how large the band was.  The preliminaries occurred all over the island -- the semi-finals and finals all occurred in the Port of Spain area.  We attended a number of the competitions.  At one of the single-pan preliminary contests Chuck didn't yet have a photo pass, and so had to photograph from behind the band.  The bands were each assigned a number, and they lined up for blocks in the closed-down streets in accordance to those numbers.  When it was their turn, they wheeled their band into the area adjacent to the spectator seating and in front of the judging stand.  Note that each band also had one or more "flag waivers" that pranced around during the strictly-timed performance.  There were over 30 bands competing the night we were there.  When we left at 10:00 pm only the first ten bands had played.  The other 20 had a late night ahead of them with the last band probably playing around 3:00 AM.

A band getting into position in front of the judging stand

Another band moving into position

Three pan-holding frames in all for this single-pan band

One of the band's flag waivers performs for the judges

Later, with photo pass privileges, Chuck could move about more freely for the contests.

The "single" pan finals were held in a street, in the same location as the preliminaries, above.

The "conventional" pan finals were held at the Queen's Park venue.   The large assembly area off beside the raised stage was itself fascinating, with its own large collection of food and drink concessions, and with its large crowds.  (There was a charge to get into the stadium seating, but not to get into the assembly area.  Therefore many locals gathered in the assembly area to watch the widely-spaced bands run through last-minute practices before reassembling on the stage for the official competition.)

Crowd enjoying a band practicing in the assembly area

More crowds around another band

Youngster relaxing on one of the pan carts

A drink vendor in the assembly area (dancing to the music of the nearby band)

One of the pan carts moving up the line toward the performance stage

Another cart on the move

Yet another cart on the move

Meanwhile, back in the stands, a TV crew is broadcasting

Hunter, Devi (obscured), Ann and Steve enjoying the contest

Chuck taking advantage of his pass to photograph up on the stage during the competition

Jesse James showing the newspaper that has a picture of a number of us at one of the performances at Normandy


Senior King and Queen Contests

We saw the King and Queen contestants a number of times.   We attended the preliminaries at Queen's Park, and also saw the finals there as part of the Dimanche Gras.

Steve, Don, and Chuck had photographer passes

Looking back at the crowd (and TV coverage) from the photographers' perch

Some of the Senior King Contestants

(For more King pictures, click here.)

First place after preliminaries, but...

...costume colllapsed in semi-finals, so ...

This one was in first place after the semi-finals

view of front

view from the rear

The eventual winner ...

... taken at the Dimanche Gras show

Some of the Senior Queen Contestants

(For more Queen pictures, click here.)

Some costumes just look silly

And some women do too

The eventual winner of the Queen contest -- taken at Dimanche Gras

Dimanche Gras

Dimanche Gras was a spectacular show that featured the King and Queen finals, finals for the extempo, finals for the calypso, and several for-the-occasion acts.  The extempo and calypso pics are poor, having been taken from the stand.   But Steve and Chuck were stage-side for the devils, and the Kings and Queens.   You can see the later elsewhere in this blog.   Here are some devils:

We went to several dinner/concerts at the Normandy Restaurant.   Here are some pictures.

Concert "Under the Trees" at Normandy Restaurant, Jan. 23 -- "Pan Gone Mad '3'"

Ken 'Professor' Philmore -- opening act

'All Star' Pan Band -- main act


Concert "Under the Trees" at Normandy Restaurant, Jan. 25 -- "David Rudder and Friends"

Jacobs family -- opening act

Carl Jacobs

Mrs. Jacobs and their two daughters providing backup

The Jacobs family

His youngest daughter Trini

Steve, Ann, Heather, Devi, and Hunter enjoy the performance

David Rudder -- main act


Socializing with friends

Chris aboard TT II

Yani aboard TT II

Barb, Ann, Miss Pat, Steve, Heather, Don, Devi, Hunter, and Chuck at Miss Pat's restaurant. (Note Chuck's crooked post-dentist-visit smile.)

Carnival Tuesday

The climax of the carnival occurs on Tuesday, when all of the bands march through the streets in full costume.  Each band sponsored a King and a Queen contestant, and many of those also march.   There is a contest for the best band, and this year's winner was a repeat of last year's:  the McFarlane band with its theme of "Earth".   McFarlane's band was one of the few that eschewed "bikinis and beads" and instead adhered to the tradition of creating sections that involve costumes with relevance to the overall theme.

We didn't march on Tuesday; neither did any of our friends.   Instead, we were transported by Jesse early in the morning to a stand where for a nominal cost we could sit in the shade and watch the parade go by.   Of course, Chuck, Steve, and Don used their photo passes and abandoned the seats in favor of standing right in the streets and getting close-up shots.   Barb used her camera to take pics from the stands too, so we have a mix.   All of the marchers were "chipping" or "wining".   We have explained chipping earlier.   Wining is a good bit more provocative.   The pelvis and/or hips is/are rotated and thrust with the knees bent and the arms outstretched.    Many of the photos below feature pretty girls and women wining.   Wining is often performed with two or more people.   Front to front or front to back.   When multiple people are involved, the trick is to get the pelvic motions in synchronization.   Whereas chipping is pretty much continuous as folks are moving down the street, episodes of wining are always brief, with the participants soon separating with broad smiles.  Consequently, a couple wining bears a remarkable resemblance to rabbits quickly coupling and then parting.



McFarlane's Band

Other scenes from Carnival Tuesday

(And for still more, click here.)