Trinidad: Oct 28 - Nov 11, 2009

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

Working Hard On the Hard

We wrote ahead and asked for Tusen Takk II to be moved out of secure storage and into the regular boatyard where it could be accessed by workers and owners alike.  In addition to overseeing the application of anti-fouling paint by a crew from Peake Yacht Services, there was much for us to do.  My to-do list contained over 20 items.  Those readers contemplating a cruising experience might wish to see the list by clicking here.  We also removed the automatic dishwasher before we left, and commissioned the construction -- while we were gone -- of a cabinet (in the vacated space) with drawers for silverware and pots and pans. 

Suffering from sore ribs (see story below) I delayed for several days installing a new seal in the dripless shaft seal assembly.  Unfortunate, that, for it turned out that the housing for the seal was broken, and so I had to make a call to the USA for a new housing.  While I was at it, I decided to replace everything, meaning I decided to order a complete kit which included the rubber hose that connects the seal housing to the shaft tube.   Except when I made the phone order I forgot to tell the lady to be certain to label the package "Yacht in Transit", and so when the package arrived -- rather than being directed to the customs office in Chaguaramas, where it would be exempt from duty -- it was deposited in a warehouse at the airport awaiting payment of a customs fee.  Straightening this all out took several calls and several trips to local offices and leaving paperwork at Peake for pickup by FedEx, and, of course, at least three days of delay.  

While installing a new seal would have been relatively easy -- there are extra seals stored on the shaft -- installing a new hose and housing requires removing the shaft from the transmission, sliding the shaft back, and removing the mounting bracket from the end of the shaft so that the old housing/hose can be removed and the new housing/hose slid on.   The first two steps (releasing the shaft from the transmission and sliding the shaft back) turned out to be remarkably easy, especially since I had the able assistance of Hunter.  The last step is a bug-bear, since there is a nut inside the mounting bracket at the end of the shaft that requires a special socket.   A socket that is not part of Tusen Takk II's current resources, nor that of Sam Stone, the local shaft guru.  A socket that the local machine shop promises to manufacture but that is apparently not of a very high priority.  Will Tusen Takk II ever be splashed?

New drawers being installed -- before getting their correct brushed-effect coating

Installing a new radio/DVD/CD/MP3/Ipod player

Hunter working on shaft seal while Chuck -- with sore ribs -- supervises

Troublesome nut on the end of the shaft

Biking Blues

All has not been work and travail, however.  Barb has been attending Devi's (Arctic Tern) bi-weekly early-morning yoga sessions held at TTSA.  That freed up one of the mountain bikes that she and Hunter are renting, and so I joined Hunter for some vigorous bicycling experiences.   The first day was a day of experimentation to see how my knee reacted, so we stuck to mostly-level out-of-the-way paved roads.   The knee did just fine, and so the next day we went half-way up a 5-mile climb to the top of the mountain range just north of  Chaguaramas.  Then, an exhilarating coast back down and then over some of the roads of the previous trip, but with a major detour into the woods for some off-road experience.   What Hunter didn't know is that I have NEVER done any off-road biking.   How hard can it be, I thought, reinforced in that idea by encountering a dozen young kids and two accompanying adults that were gathered for a trip along the trail.  When the winding narrow trail came to a dry creek bed, it plunged down into the bed and then turned sharply to the left to avoid rocks and trees on the other side.  Hunter said "go here", and plunged down.  He got too far to the left and his pedal hit the bank and he took a minor spill.  He was out of sight by the time I got up my courage to plunge down.   Avoiding turning too soon and replicating Hunter's experience, I went too straight and feared hitting the unpleasant far side.   So I braked, and promptly went "ass over teakettle" over the handlebars.   Landed on my right side and felt a horrible pain in my upper chest.  Cursing the inventor of off-road bikes, the creator of this particular trail, and yes, maybe even Hunter, and not necessarily in that order, I continued along, just barely making it up the eventual ascent out of the creek bed, after which I soon mis-piloted and ran into a sapling on the edge of the trail.   This stopped me rather abruptly, and I was still picking myself and the bike up (and cursing loudly) when members of the youth group cruised by as pretty as you please, all full of concern and solicitation.  (Damn little twerps.)  By this time Hunter had realized I was, shall we say, lagging a bit, and so he had stopped and was waiting for me.  He was surprised to hear of my spill, and promised to announce any further plunges ahead of time so that I could be better prepared. Soon we reached another precipitous dip into the creek bed.  Once again Hunter went first and soon disappeared.  Once again I braked on the descent and went ass over teakettle.  Once again I landed on my right side, and once again it hurt like hell.  Once again I was profanely proclaiming the depths of my displeasure when another flock of solicitous twerps sailed through.   Once again there was a steep incline back out of the creek bed.   But just to add a little variety, this time I didn't make it all the way up, and nearly took another tumble when I and the bike stopped on the incline.  As we continued down the trail, I couldn't help but reflect on the foolishness of masculine pride.  Common sense would have had me pushing the damn thing down the trail until we got back to a nice level asphalt road, but here I was putting my sore ribs back in the face of danger.  It was about this time that I finally realized -- I may be dumb, but I'm not STUPID -- that I should NOT be using the front brake on the steep descents.  Pretty obvious, once you think about it, right?   Most people might have figured it out after ONE trip over the handlebars, but it took me two hard landings to come to that realization.   (I have no similarly simple solution to the problem of saplings suddenly leaping out in front of the bike.)

On the next yoga day Hunter and I avoided the off-road trail.  Instead, we again attacked the mountain, and this time, with a few rest stops along the way, I made it all the way to the top.  Hunter was a gentleman and stopped w/ me, but has traversed the route often enough to now be able to make it the whole way without rest.   So when he is not encumbered by an out-of-shape companion, he now amuses himself by attempting to improve his time record.   Just so you will not think that we are total iconoclasts, you should know that we have seen both walkers and other bikers on the hill.   Indeed, Hunter reports that on weekends the road is positively busy with locals out getting their exercise.   (The approach of Carnival season -- and its associated skimpy costumes -- might be a factor.)

Things Are Going Swimmingly

When we learned that Hunter was giving Ann (Receta) swimming lessons in the Crews Inn pool, we asked to be included.  Faithful readers will recall that Hunter had already been giving us lessons at Hog Island, Grenada.   While we certainly made some progress as a consequence, we didn't feel ready to be pronounced graduates.   Seems like all of us are having a problem getting all of our body parts to automatically do the right thing.  If we concentrate very hard, we can kick properly, for example.  But then something else goes awry.   Same with angle of head or placement of hands on the power stroke.  Any one thing can look fairly good, but then the other elements don't gel.   So tactful Hunter mentions the identity of one of the miscreants, and that element is the object of focused attention, and sure enough some other aspect goes to hell in a hand basket.   Perhaps folks over 50 should just content themselves with remaining dry.   :-) Actually we are making progress on our crawl stroke and having a lot of fun in the process. 

Diesel Mechanics Lesson #62

When we returned to Chaguaramas the cruising community was abuzz with a (true) account of an interesting experience regarding diesel mechanics.  Seems a certain sailboat owner (who shall remain nameless) decided that it was time to remove his injectors and have them tested.  Since he was intending to do some cleanup in the engine room while the injectors were gone being tested, he was concerned about dust and dirt getting into the cylinders.  Then he had what he considered a brilliant idea:  he would "borrow" some of his wife's tampons, and place one in each injector hole.  Time passed, and circumstances required that the boat's location be changed.   Without a motor, they secured a tow to the new location.  The injectors were returned, and the inventive mechanic was flabbergasted to discover that the tampons had disappeared!   He went to his wife, and asked if she had removed them.   She said she hadn't, but then after a moment's reflection uttered an oath and told him that when they were getting towed, a line had passed over and caught briefly on the ignition key and the engine had turned over a few times.  Our inventive mechanic assumed that the tampons had been sucked into the cylinders, and that is when the anchorage (and then the larger community) learned of the episode, for there was much public wailing and gnashing of teeth concerning the necessity of removing the head of the engine.  Had the tampons been perhaps expelled rather than inhaled?   No way of knowing immediately, since he had long since gathered up all of the newspapers and debris that had been on the floor of the engine room during his cleanup.

Eventually he convinced himself that surely the tampons had been ejected, since air would be sucked in through the intake valves and not the injector bore, and then the tampons would be forced out by the compression stroke of the piston.

And so there the story ends, except for a package that mysteriously appeared on his vessel one day soon afterwards.   Handsome package, labeled "Diesel Mechanics Kit".   The contents?  You guessed it:  a box of tampons.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If Trinidad has its negatives, such as a paucity of suitable anchorages and a history of diesel fuel floating in the waters of the marinas, it also has its positives, such as quality medical facilities, abundant shopping, quality movie theatres, convenient low-traffic routes for cycling, addictive music and interesting cuisine.   We recently attended a concert in the parking lot of Queen's Park Oval that was billed as "Pan, Parang, and Pork".   The "pork" segment was a buffet that featured either pork or chicken, generous portions of "provisions", and free rum provided by Angostura.   The "parang" segment consisted of a set by Los Parranderos de UWI, the locally-well-known parang band associated with The University of West Indies.  Click here for more about the band.  The "pan" segment was billed "Clash of Steel, III", since it was the third edition of an annual competition of steel pan bands staged to benefit a charity.  This year there were six bands competing -- each with a session to last no longer than 40 minutes -- and we were blown away by the performance of the "Silver Stars", the pan band which won last year's major competition at Carnival.  They are a young band that dares to depart from the traditional (loud and repetitive) "carnival" arrangements that seem so dominant at these affairs.  Oh, they had "carnival" numbers as well, but their best performances were 1) a classy and nuanced rendition of a number from The Phantom of the Opera, complete with a conductor with a red cape and a half-mask, and 2) a Michael Jackson number complete with an absolutely awesome dance by a rubber-jointed slide-walking youngster that could -- I swear -- outdance Michael, may he rest in peace.  There was a panel of judges and members of the audience were also given ballets to turn in at the conclusion of the competition.   Alas, the judges were apparently "traditionalists", because another band won -- albeit by only one point.   Ann on Receta has made enquiries as to the results of the audience poll, but word is that the ballots have not yet been tallied. 

For those folks interested in cruising costs, the tickets for the event were labeled "$250", which of course was in "Trinidad and Tobago dollars", known locally as TT$.   Our cost was TT$300, which meant that Jesse James' "Members Onlyl" provided his services for TT$50.   Typical low cost from Jesse: for that sum he obtained the tickets and provided transportation to and from the venue and our respective marinas.   (The rate of exchange is approximately TT$6.1 to US$1.)

So our time here has not been all work.  We have had some trips to market, trips to downtown shopping, and some interesting meals, and have had our cholesterol checked at a local private clinic: next day results at a cost that should have the USA hanging its head in shame.   (The results, incidentally, were quite gratifying.  Barb and I have gone to a "mostly" vegan diet, and after about 7 weeks have experienced very impressive drops in our cholesterol as a consequence.   I dropped about 20 points and Barb dropped about 40, and we are now both under the magic 200-mark.  Now if we can just keep up the change in diet and ramp up -- once all of the boat maintenance chores are under control -- our exercise a bit ... )

Breakfast in the dining area adjacent to the large and bustling open market for fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, spices and more