Thursday, December 26, 2013

Goodbye Trinidad…

December 21st 2013

Position 10° 40.733’ N
             61° 37.937’ W

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

View Larger Map

Ann & Lavinia - on 'Ann Louise
picture by Bill Miller
Dec. 6th. Up extra early this morning, our friends Bill and Ann on ‘Ann Louise’ are being hauled today and we are going to help them leave the marina, take a last short cruise around the bay and then help them with lines at the haul out at Peake Yachting Services, LTD. We cast off the lines at 07:00 and cruised out into the bay. Bill wanted to run all his machinery and do a thorough check of all systems to make absolutely sure everything was working correctly before ‘Ann Louise’ was blocked off in the yard. It is good to know everything was working correctly to start with as after several months on the hard mysteriously things happen and at least this way one has a starting point! There is a lot of preparation, the watermaker needs to be pickled, and the holding tank needs flushing and cleaning with detergent and freshwater.

Me on 'Ann Louise'
picture by Bill Miller
When on the hard Bill runs his generator and engine and flushes all the salt water from the cooling system to minimize corrosion by the salt. This is super worthwhile as it considerably lengthens the life of the heat exchangers and oil coolers. An air conditioner was placed on top of the pilot house roof in one of the two ventilation hatches to provide dry cool air to the boat while just sitting. A couple of fans strategically placed ensures circulation throughout the boat. Lastly a power cord provides current to the battery charger to maintain the batteries which keep the boats services running, refrigerator, freezer, bilge pumps and fans. At Peake Yachting Services they have a small hotel and restaurant complex so those who don’t or cannot stay aboard have accommodation available. Bill & Ann chose this amenity.

Once ‘Ann Louise’ was in her parking place HT and I walked back to Crews Inn, about a mile and a half walk. Arriving back at ‘Partners’ hot and sweaty, it is still ‘summer’ here with temperatures still approaching the 90°F mark, we went inside and the first thing was to turned on the A/C…oh no! There was a problem, the A/C system relies on water being pumped through the air-conditioning unit and therefore needs a constant supply. When I check the overboard discharges there was little water coming out which indicated that there was a blockage. Unfortunately Chaguaramas harbour suffers from floating and submerged garbage which flows in and out with the tide. Obviously one of the plastic bags, which we see frequently, must have been sucked into the through hull restricting the water flow. Immediately I called Rodney McLean, our diver. Rodney was miles away, ironically having his car A/C fixed, he couldn’t come until tomorrow…okay, so we came to terms with no A/C and as an alternative decided to go for a swim instead. The swim did the trick and cooled us down. Right around 4 o’clock Bill and Ann arrived, we had invited them over once they had finished all the necessary chores on ‘Ann Louise’, so we all enjoyed a cold beer and a snack to finish off the afternoon. A good day…

Sunday 8th. HT plays Mexican Train Domino’s and Sunday is the day. At 1 o’clock she leaves for the weekly gathering of the cruiser who indulge. While the domino’s goes on I get a little time alone to watch the Sunday afternoon American Football game. Yesterday was the first weekend of the season that there has been a televised game while it was snowing. A stark reminder of where we are, still applying the sun screen in 90° weather and swimming in 84° water! This is our first year where we will have completely missed a winter of any kind. People think that living in Florida, as we both have done for over 30 years, that we don’t experience a winter. Well, we don’t in the sense of getting snow but we have had frost and usually do get a couple of cold snaps each year. Down here in the southern Caribbean summer is relentless and the humidity, although a little less now, never goes away. The Earth’s rotation will put the sun over the Tropic of Capricorn on the 21st December, the Southern Hemisphere’s mid-summer, and then will begin a slow return to being over the equator by March 21st. It will be overhead here in Trinidad on May 1st over the Tropic of Cancer June 21st and again over Trinidad on Aug 10th as it again completes its seasonal cycle returning to being directly over the Equator on September 21st. Anywhere between the two ‘tropics’, Cancer and Capricorn, have the sun directly overhead twice per year. The Caribbean enjoys constant summer with only a slight change in pressure gradients which bring the stronger winter Trade winds that the sailors look forward to and calmer summer doldrums which more suit us trawler types. Temperatures vary, both day and night, by only 4 – 5 degrees year round.

Bill & Ann flew out to Atlanta and their home in Roswell today (Dec. 9th). They returned to some cold bleak weather unfortunately, something none of us cruisers in the Caribbean are used to anymore. We made reservations for the evening of Parang at the Wheelhouse Pub on Thursday which will mark the beginning of the Christmas season here in Trinidad. Following, here in Chaguaramas, will be a charity auction and BBQ put on by the cruising community for the poor and less fortunate, which will be on Friday. Then there are several more events leading into the week of Christmas. Trinidad celebrates the Holidays in a big way with most businesses closing down on the 20th and not re-opening until the 6th January. I think we can look forward to plenty of music, steel band and the like, between now and the New Year. Trinidadians or Trini’s turn to celebration and music easily, they are happy people by nature, they are very polite and need little excuse to dress up. Carnival is coming and it seems to me that The Christmas Holidays are a warm-up to Carnival which peeks in February. Here are some of the costumes to look forward to during Carnival time…we won’t be here!

Chris, our Watermaker service guy here in Trinidad, is coming today as we are going to change all the watermaker clear plastic hoses. Over the years, with standing water remaining in the lines, they have turned black inside! HT is adverse toward this and feels that ‘black’ mean bacteria so ‘new’ is the answer. There are about 40’ of hoses that carry the water from the membrane to the water tanks. When I looked at doing the job myself I decided that the contortions I would have to perform and the fact that the hoses disappeared into ‘dark’ holes and didn’t seem to immerge again worried me and therefore I decided Chris, the expert, would be the right choice. He said the job wouldn’t take more than an hour or two so we will see; he’ll be here in an hour! Chris was right! The hoses were all changed to a stronger reinforced type of hose and in less than two hours…total cost US$96 including all materials! HT is happy. 

Monday next sees the carpenter on-board ‘Partners’ to prepare the battery boxes for the five new Lifeline batteries which will be arriving next Wednesday from Florida. Dennis from Goodwood Marine is going to install the new Victron 3000kw inverter and its control panel, plus he will be rigging up a switch to enable the older Xantrex, we have, to remain as a redundant spare. If all goes well we should have a new inverter/charger/battery system in place by Friday the 20th. The Victron inverter/charger and control panel was purchased using Marine Warehouse as the local supplier Caribbean Marine wanted to charge US$800 more for the hardware.

Chris Parker, our weather forecaster, is telling us that there is a possibility of a slight reduction in the Trade winds beginning on the 23rd which will give us calmer seas and enable us to cruise north up to Grenada in a little less discomfort arriving Christmas Eve and in time to spend the Christmas Holidays there. We are ready to get back to cruising and swinging on our anchor in the beautiful clear blue waters. I am picturing our dinghy in the water swinging at the stern of ‘Partners’ ready to take us, once again, on missions of exploration and to take us to idyllic swimming and snorkelling sights…can’t wait. In case some of you are wondering, the weather at this time of year at these latitudes is middle to high 80°s (31°C), even 90° occasionally, during the day and mid to high 70°s(26°C) at night. The water temperature is in the low 80°s (28°C). In other words we can wear our bathing suits from morn until night and never have to worry about being cold! In fact we jump off the swimming platform several times a day to cool off!

Some of you who read this drivel may identify with this account:- 

Yes, it is that time of the year and yes, today is the day. The day I have been waiting for now for almost a year! It is the day we put up the Christmas tree and lights! Oh! You are thinking I look forward to that day too… First we couldn’t remember where the little boat sized Christmas tree was stowed, eventually after eliminating several other ‘hiding’ places we found the stash, on the starboard side of the flying bridge in the cowling locker. First, I realized that whomever placed the black garbage bag containing the tree in the locker did it in such a way that getting it out was prohibited, as all the branches now were acting as barbs! Eventually after much wiggling and reaching in, with one’s arm completely disappearing in the hole, the bag immerged. Wonderful! It contained the lights too! Ever since we decided that today was that day I have been visualizing the lights…probably mysteriously, during their almost 12 months of dormancy, several of the bulbs will have ‘gone’ thus rendering large parts of the strings to be ‘dark’. Oh and the other picture in my head is of this perfect ball of lights or should I say knot of lights. You all know, right, you carefully coil the light strings thinking you will get it right this year and make the roll which next year will be easy to unroll…wrong, it never happens. True to form this year was like all others, bulbs blown and the perfect balls of knotted lights! Lavinia did a beautiful job inside ‘Partners’ and the wreaths, old cards and Christmassy trinkets’ placed all over the boat, I mean every cabin, made for a festive aura to permeate throughout. The Christmas spirit had arrived! Wait a minute! Don’t get lulled into this festive wonderland yet, the lights haven’t come into play! In addition to interior decorations the exterior of ‘Partners’ needs her Christmas dressing. Lavinia started with gentle suggestions of how ‘we’ should arrange the lights but pretty quickly into the conversational banter Lavinia’s suggestion seem to change and the suggestion quickly turned to orders! Guys do not misunderstand your spouses ‘suggestions’ they are carved in stone and are not really negotiable! The orders are to run strings of twinkling lights around the whole flying bridge deck. Now folks remember this is not one of those cool frosty mornings with clear skies and ‘huff’ emerging with every breath, this is Chaguaramas, Trinidad where winter doesn’t exist and the temperatures have reached 88 -90°F ten out of the last fourteen days, its hot! With tie wraps in hand and Polaroid’s on up we went, the first chore to untangle the ‘balls’ and do it in such a way as not to damage any more bulbs. Stress has already set in and the Polaroid’s have already captured beads of dripping perspiration obscuring clear vision…there is no point in using ones T-shirt to wipe them as it too is laden with sweat. Soldier on fellow, get the show on the road, show her you are the man she wants you to be and not the man you have changed into over the years of marriage the two of you have endured; don’t be a ‘Grinch’, smile and impress her with your fortitude and endurance. We, together, gradually worked our way around the perimeter tie wrapping the lights to the rail and finally an hour later the job was almost complete when it was realized that we would need an extension cord. Guess what? Extension cords are stowed in the largest locker and are the farthest back and at the bottom of same…gradually I removed all the items obscuring the route to the indispensable prize, 25 minutes later I immerged, now so wet with sweat that if someone grabbed me I would be like a bar of soap and slip right through their hands. Back up top I went but without Lavinia, she had been overcome with heat and had retreated to the comfort of the air-conditioning and a nice cool drink! I finished off and made the last few adjustments and the job was finished. I climbed down the stairs to the aft deck and began to enter the salon “Stop! Don’t come in here dripping sweat all over the carpet”. “Okay”, I said. I thought about this situation for a moment, I mean a nanosecond. I wanted to get out of my dripping sweaty T-shirt and pants, get my swimming shorts on, grab a beer and go to the pool so I could cool off. I mean I was consumed with this necessity nothing was going to stop me! “Can you pass me a beer please?” “What, at this time”. It was 11:30. “Yes, I want a beer and I don’t care what time it is, I want it!” I made a dash for the bathroom quickly donned my swimming shorts, grabbed a towel and the beer, I was ready. “I’ll come with you, can you give me a minute?” What, I am thinking, now I have to wait while HT gets ready and she is nice and dry, comfortable and relaxed after her retreat to the air-conditioning some 20 minutes earlier! I waited!

I really love Christmas, all us men do, but I for one and some of you too, if you are honest, do not like the ‘putting up of the lights job’, am I right?

Enough of this frivolity… (December 21st) the inverter and five new batteries are in. We are off to the fuel dock tomorrow to fill up and should be shipshape for our passage to Grenada Monday or Tuesday. I say Monday or Tuesday as we are waiting for a final weather forecast on the sea state to make the decision. With the recent strong Trade Winds the sea swells have been in the 10’ range with an additional 4’ – 6’ of wind chop on top! There is now a moderation in the wind so we are waiting for the swells to drop down to 6’ so we don’t have quite such
an uncomfortable ride. As of today it looks like Christmas Eve will be the time we will leave giving us an overnight passage and an arrival in Prickly Bay on Christmas morning.  

The Bocas (Dragons Teeth)
Goodbye Venezuela too!
We have put in our order for some duty free liquor and wine, always a good thing! We have said our goodbyes to the great crowd of cruisers and ‘locals’ here in Trini, we have had a great time here, good work performed, and will return. Our apprehension about visiting initially due to the publicized crime statistics, in particular the murder rate, passed quickly as we saw that there is very good security on the Chaguaramas peninsular and particularly in the Crews Inn complex. The crime seems to be close to or around Port of Spain and is among gang related activities, in particular drugs. We felt free to walk the area without concern. While we have been here there was one pirate attack off the Paria Peninsular of Venezuela where a sailing boat bound for Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela was boarded in broad daylight and robbed at gunpoint. Although roughed up and pistol whipped the crew of two survived and were able to return to Trinidad. We have concern with our upcoming trip to Grenada as when we leave the Boca’s of Trinidad we will, for a while, be in waters only 6 miles from the Paria Peninsula. We are considering hugging the northern coast of Trinidad heading in an easterly direction until we feel we have put sufficient distance between us and Venezuela. There are two large gas wells just off the coast of Trinidad, the Hibiscus and the Poinsettia wells. Poinsettia is the most easterly of the two and we think we will go far enough east to clear it as we turn north towards Grenada. We’ll see.  

To close HT and I wish all of you who read this blog a Merry Christmas, a healthy and Happy New Year…

Goodbye, for this season Trinidad…Hello Grenada!
Sunrise as we enter Prickly Bay, Grenada
Prickly Bay

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More from Chaguaramas

November 26th 2013

Position 10° 40.733’ N
              61° 37.937’ W

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

View Larger Map
Victron 3000

Hello again from Chaguaramas, yes we are still here! Although impalpable it looks like our upgrades to the electrical system on board ‘Partners’ is again going to eat into our cruising time. Let me explain the techno here. After arriving last Tuesday Nov. 19th from Charlotteville, Tobago I consulted Dennis Moseley from Goodwood Marine here at Crews Inn Marina, Dennis in turn seconded Brian Sellers from Caribbean Marine to consult with me as to the solutions for my electrical problems. It came as no surprise to us that the problem was not, as usual, simple. Problem number one was the inverter, our Freedom 20 Xantrex, which was getting old and had been repaired once before while we were at Sopers Hole on Tortola, BVI. Problem number two we knew from a year ago, the Delta gel filled batteries we had on board ‘Partners’ when we bought her, where at the end of their lives. A combination of these two things was causing the Xantrex Inverter/Charger to work too hard for too long and had overheated the charger and ‘cooked’ the fan.
Inverter/Charger control panel

The engine room is a very hot environment with an average temperature of 110°F/43°C and the inverter requires a fan, which is temperature controlled, to keep it at a temperature where it can function. Due to the battery condition they were taking three times as long as they should to charge and obviously were putting way too much work load on the charger. It didn’t take long for Dennis to give us his diagnosis…”the batteries are shot”. The five 8D batteries we have provide two banks of batteries, one bank, with two batteries, for main engine starting and to provide power for the bow thruster, another bank with three batteries supplies power for the house services. Our house bank provides 600 amp hours of which a maximum of 300 (50%) are usable. Our boat is an amp hog and consumes 20 amps per hour. All these factors considered one needs enough amp capacity and enough charging power to avoid having to be tethered to the boat for hours at a time while the generator replenishes the negative amp drain. In our case initially we were tethered to the boat, as I put it, for 8 hours a day, four in the early morning after the night’s amp usage and again in the evening to replenish the day’s amp drain and prepare for getting through the night again. Some of you readers are probably saying what draws all the amps at night? Well, the refrigerator and freezer, as on most boats, are the big amp hogs and they run 24/7 so day or night they don’t discriminate! For the first partial solution we installed 430 watts of solar panels which have really help us and freed up 2 – 3 hours of generator time per day, this too even with the batteries being at the end of their lives. What we plan now is 5 new Lifeline 8D batteries of 255 amp hours each. What we will do is also eliminate the two banks of batteries and combine them. This will give us a total of 1,275 amps (each of the Lifelines is 255 amps) and with the help of a Victron Cyrix Battery Combiner,

which isolates one of them when the voltage has reduced to 12.7 volts, resulting in always giving us enough power to start the main engine. Brian from Caribbean thinks that we can install all 5 8D’s on the port side of ‘Partners’ which is fine and will help with our listing tendency to starboard. It will also free up some space on the starboard side for storage. The Victron inverter/charger will be give us the opportunity in the future to ‘stack’ another Victron inverter thus increasing our inverting capabilities and the battery charging. Another feature of the Victron is that it can assist either the shore power or the generator with excessive start-up loads by using inverted power from the batteries.  

I have just heard some bad news; the shipment of the batteries from Miami, FL is delayed due to the ship leaving later than originally thought, the culprit the Thanksgiving Day holiday, all this means that the batteries will unlikely be available before the 18th or 19th of December. The two firms I am involved with here both close down for the Christmas Holidays on the 20th December and don’t re-open until the 6th January! I spoke to them to see what they could do to help me. Brian and his crew are going to prepare ‘Partners’ engine room to receive the batteries and inverter/charger ahead of time and they promise to try and get the installation complete by the 20th! This is the islands Mon and Trini in particular so I am not holding my breath. This morning I walked up to the Marina office to see if they could extend my stay through to the middle of January just in case, we are currently booked through Dec. 15th, the answer was NO! Trinidad is a really popular place and marina space is always hard to find. Charmaine, the lady who is trying to help me here at Crews Inn, is going to work on my request and “see what can be done”. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. 

Barb and Chuck Shipley from ‘Tusen Takk II’, a 48’ Kadey Krogen North Sea, have been here in Chaguaramas and along with Bill and Ann Miller on ‘Ann Louise’ another 48’ have been able to get together for a mini Krogen convention. During the get-togethers we talk, guess what? Yep, boats and boating of course! During one of these conversations we were talking about solar panels and I re-told our story of fitting the two 215 watt Kyoceras on top of our pilot house roof. Barb and Chuck wanted to do a similar installation and were considering doing it while they were in Trinidad this year. I mentioned Alan Reynolds who is now a friend and had done our installation up in Carriacou. Alan is now back in Grenada working full time for a while for one of the local firms. I suggested that if Chuck and Barb could cruise up to Grenada they may be able to enlist Alan’s help with their project. Chuck and Barb inspected our installation and liked what they saw so a few emails and phone calls later Chuck and Barb had decided to employ Alan to do their installation. 
Tusen Takk II's solar panels
Today is Nov 25th and I have just heard from Barb that they are now in Tyrrel Bay, one of our favourite places, with their three 145 Watt panel successfully installed and working! The news was accompanied by a glowing report of satisfaction for Alan. Bravo Alan and thank you for taking such good care of our friends! I love it when a referral works out for everyone.

Ann Louise coming into Crews Inn
Ann Louise, Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Nov. 26th Bill and Ann arrived in the marina today back from Tobago with ‘Ann Louise’. We have made a plan to spend Thanksgiving together on board ‘Partners’ which will be wonderful, Lavinia couldn’t imagine not cooking a turkey with all the trimmings to share! Ann is making the pumpkin pie and Bill is bringing some champagne! We will have a feast and as usual eat and drink too much, watch the football game and fall asleep I expect! We’re looking forward to a super day. HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chaguaramas, Trinidad & Tobago

November 21th 2013

 Position 10° 40.737’ N
              61° 37.939’ W

 Chaguaramas, Trinidad

View Larger Map
Our good friends, John & Carol
Well, hello everyone, we are back...Our trip to Florida was terrific and enabled us to see so many people. John & Carol, thank you, your hospitality was so generous and without you opening up you home to us the trip would not have been as comfortable or affordable, we are in your debt. When we arrived in Miami we immediately drove to Georgina’s apartment in the heart of downtown Miami and a big hug ensued. As I have said before cruising is the best but I still miss being able to see my children. 

Georgina & David
We spent a couple of days in Miami and had a fun day visiting the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show on opening day; we spent all the time there with the Krogen brigade talking about our trip and plans for the future. We spoke too with a couple just about to close on a 39’; their enthusiasm to ‘get started’ reminded HT and me of when we began, they have no idea of the wonders they have in store! The feeling of getting ready to cruise is so exciting, they, like us when we bought ‘Partners’, are still working and will cruise locally getting some miles under their keel and getting their feet wet, not literally I hope! If you are a cruising boat owner candidate talk to Kadey Krogen you will find them understanding helpful people, the ones you will need as support when it is your time to venture out into the unknown. The boats too are the most seaworthy and liveable trawlers.

Sunset shortly after leaving Trini
This was a 'green flash'
Once in Sarasota and having settled in at Carol and FOJ’s we made several phone calls to arrange to see friends and family, so many people to see in such a short time. The main purpose of the visit was to attend to annual medical check-ups and obtain a clean bill of health for the coming year all of which we actually accomplished, yes! 

Our nomadic free lives as cruisers is just the best, having become used to all the rules and regulations which one is exposed to as a member of society on land it could be hard for some to adjust to having to run their own lives and make all their own decisions. This thought crossed my mind whilst visiting Florida. We have truly become our own ‘men’, we run our own lives, make all our own decisions and have minimal rules and regulations to abide by...could you handle that? Seriously though, it is a question which someone dreaming about adopting this lifestyle has to address. The thought even worried me as my thoughts turned to when our cruising days are over and I have to re-adjust to a ‘dirt’ based life I might actually find it difficult...I know I won’t like it! Just sitting in a marina here in Chaguaramas waiting out the hurricane season for a couple of months, with TV, air-conditioning and no worry of dragging the anchor, even a daily newspaper, is scary as it has reminded us of all the things a lifestyle on land can provide and force one to ‘drift’ into. Such a waste of time! Could you cope with freedom and self sufficiency? Oh! By the way you won’t miss a single one of those treasures you think is so hard to part with, and all that ‘stuff’ you accumulated over a lifetime won’t be missed either. We went nearly nine months without TV, can you imagine that? It was wonderful…we missed so much crappy, depressing useless ‘news’, thank goodness, which otherwise interferes with and messes up a perfectly good day! You will really feel free! Another tip to those seriously thinking of taking up the cruising lifestyle, get a decent camera and learn how to use it because the memories the pictures will provide are going to be your most treasured possessions!

We enjoyed seeing some of our friends, unfortunately we didn’t manage to see everyone we wanted to but enjoyed the time with the ones we did manage to see. We saw four of our children Jennifer, Lavinia III, Christopher and Georgina, Bryony in Norway we hope to see next year when she comes to Florida for a visit with our three grandchildren; we plan to celebrate the Easter Holiday together in Miami, we hope? We didn’t see Anthony, my eldest son but as you all know he has just returned from Trinidad to his home in Jacksonville after a vacation with us onboard ‘Partners’. 

Palm Trees at the base of the rain forest
Our new Splendide/Ariston
Washer and Dryer
Our new washing machine and dryer are now installed and fully operational, Lavinia seems very pleased with them and as you can see from the picture they look good too! A new heat exchanger, which we brought back with us from Florida, is fitted to ‘Stonewall Jackson’, so we are ready to cruise! All the jobs for this year are complete, the machinery is serviced and we have taken on fuel. The question now is where to go! We have discussed going to Tobago for many months now but there have been some developments: - a boat in Bloody Bay, a remote anchorage on the north coast of Tobago, was boarded and robbed; the incident involved shooting although no one was shot. These types of violent crime are, unfortunately, part of life anywhere and we as cruisers do see our share occasionally. The incident has made us rethink our desire to visit the island as, with the exception of Store Bay, most of the anchorages are remote which makes it easier for perpetrators’ to operate. Also the trade winds have returned and are building slowly towards their ‘Christmas Wind’ strength; most of the Tobago anchorages are known to be rolly and the later in the year one goes the more roll one has to endure. Sooo, all things considered and after hearing from our friends Bill and Ann on ‘Ann Louise’ we have decided to go! They are in Charlotteville and tell us how beautiful it is and have endorsed that it really is like the Caribbean was 20 years ago. Passing on a visit to Tobago while we are so close has turned out to be impossible. Jan and Steve on board Sealacious have sailed to Tobago just a few days ago. Judy from ‘Fairwinds’ also encouraged us to go, in fact she insisted on it! Thanksgiving, this year, will be spent in Tobago! Our friends Bill and Ann plan on being there until Dec 5th when they are then returning to Trini to be hauled out while they return to the US for Christmas. Thanksgiving should be fun and with quite a crowd! We will then cruise to Grenada and begin to plan for a destination where we can spend Christmas with friends here in the islands, our first on ‘Partners’. 
Looking back at Chaguaramas
North Coast of Trini just before sunset

Nov. 21st. We left Chaguaramas, Trinidad last Sunday afternoon and had a wonderful full moon overnight cruise in benign weather – directly to Charlotteville, Tobago. Upon arrival after ‘checking in’ with customs and immigration, we went for a short walk around the tiny town during the walk we met 'Squeezy', the local musician who also is a good salesman! He sold us far too many lemons and Grapefruits, we then went back to Partners for breakfast. Unfortunately we quickly discovered that our inverter/charger was not working, a repeat of a problem we had back in May in Culebra! For us to be at anchor we must have means to charge our ships batteries. Charlotteville is remote, with no yacht services, so quickly I decided we must return to Chaguaramas! So, back to Customs and Immigration to ‘check out’ then off we sailed at 4 pm. Again, fortunately, the passage was relatively calm…so, in total we traveled 160nm in 2 days with very little sleep and are stuck back where we started from, awaiting more repairs! We have talked with Dennis at Goodwood Marine and he is advising us of the options. I will report on the repairs later on. 

North Tobago
Charlotteville, Tobago

Arriving at Charlotteville, Tobago
The anchorage in Charlotteville
 Due to this turn of events we will spend Thanksgiving in Chaguaramas and hope to cruise north into the Grenadines for Christmas. We wish everyone ashore and afloat a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving.

A blow hole that facinated us - Tobago

The Sisters, Tobago - nothing east of these until Africa! 2,550 NM

Saturday, October 5, 2013


October 5th 2013

Position 10° 40.749’ N
             61° 37.899’ W

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

View Larger Map

Port of Spain, Trinidad
 It is Wednesday 11th September and our friends Bill & Ann Miller are returning to their boat Ann Louise in Trinidad today! I had mentioned before we have not seen Bill & Ann since we had to leave them behind in Culebra, Spanish Virgins in order to seek help with our broken generator, so this was an exciting day! Coincidentally, it so happened, that Crews Inn Marina, our home here in Chaguaramas, was holding a Managers cocktail party that evening. Perfect! We contacted Bill & Ann and suggested they met up with us at 17:30 so we could all go together, enjoy the cocktail party and then celebrate their return and catch up. The day was filled with boat chores, laundry, dusting and still putting things away which we had pulled out from their storage places for Anthony’s visit, extra pillows, sheets etc., Lavinia did most of this while I spent most of the day in the ‘holy place’ futzing around polishing fuel, cleaning racors, changing fuel filters and generally ‘inspecting’. I did find two hose clamps that had fatigued. All the important hoses attached to the through hull sea water feeds such as the ones to the engine, generator, water maker and air conditioning all have double hose clamps for security. Everything else looked good although I have ordered new mounting brackets for the main engine heat exchanger and also end gaskets and zincs. The zincs disintegrate and pieces of them collect in the ends of the heat exchanger which can restrict sea water flow. In other words I am in preventative maintenance mode getting ready to cruise again!

The anticipation of this lifestyle is exciting, just talking about the possibilities of where we can go next for a visit and to explore pricks the hairs up on the back of one’s neck! While we were together with Bill & Ann we discussed going to Tobago for a while, apparently people have told us it is like the Caribbean was 20 years ago, exciting! Many of our friends are in Tobago now, the ones that we met in Mayreau and Carriacou and those who don’t have insurance companies that require them to be below 10° 50’ N for the hurricane season i.e. Trinidad. Some have already sailed back to Grenada which provides good hurricane protection in the many clean clear water bays on its south coast. Grenada really is the cruisers favourite island for the hurricane season. We are looking forward to Tobago and Grenada and also catching up with cruising friends. You can’t imagine how exciting it is to cruise into a port, even a remote anchorage, and see a boat you know. In other words it is not only the travelling to places unknown, meeting the local people and sampling their culture which is our motivation it is also all about the great people we meet that make up the cruising community.

We paid our first visit to the Long Circular Mall and the Malabar Meat Store. Jesse James runs a
Very modern Cinema
Academy for the performing arts
Traffic jams!
The National Museum of Trinidad & Tobago

maxi (the name for a bus in Trinidad) every Tuesday to this mall which is very big and contains a True Value grocery store as well as all the shoe, clothes and electronic stores one would find in any Mall back in the US. We had not eaten so made our way to the food court for some breakfast. What we noticed was that the usual fast food restaurants we found in the Falls Mall at West Falls where we went last week like MacDonald’s and Burger King were absent, instead all the vendors were local franchises with only one exception, Subway. All the choices looked good especially the Indian food counters...I can eat Indian food any time of day. I remember when I was at sea, we had Goan stewards and a mix of Indian and Pakistani crew so enjoyed their food any time I wanted. Chapatti with ghee and strawberry jam for tea, yum!
September 19th. The past few days has seen many of our sailing boat cruising friends unexpectedly arriving here in Chaguaramas, ‘Out of Africa’, John & Jo, ‘Sealacious’, Steve & Jan also Doug & Meyka on ‘Banjo’. Unfortunately ‘Sealacious’ suffered a breakdown of their transmission and ‘Out of Africa’ accompanied them from Granada to Trinidad, after their successful sail down, ‘Out of Africa’ towed them through the Bocas into Chaguaramas harbour. Judy, a friend we met in St. Kitts, flew in from Tobago where her husband Sherman and their boat ‘Fairwinds’ is anchored. She is here on a visit to see her friend Meyka on ‘Banjo’. With this many cruisers who know each other all in one place a get-together is inevitable and sure enough last night John, ‘Out of Africa’ arranged a pot luck barbeque at Coral Cove marina so we could all get together and have fun. We took our friends Bill & Ann along to meet everyone and a good time was had by all.

The latest ‘chat’ is about a flotilla of boats heading further south to Guyana and Suriname, both these destinations are remote and unexplored; Guyana in particular is trying hard to encourage yachting in their country and is promoting the country in the hope cruisers will come. We discussed whether we should go and decided that this year is a little soon for us. I want to get a few more miles on our new day tank just to make absolutely sure we have reliability back in our propulsion system. Guyana and Suriname as I said before are both extremely remote and both require river transits in strong tidal conditions. Engine stoppages are not what would be needed here! It seems that every year there are one or two cruises planned for this trip so we will consider going next year. In the meantime we are making ready for our cruising season and replenishing the supplies we will need. Spare engine parts have been ordered from the US and will arrive in the next ten days which will enable me to finish the servicing in the ‘Holy Place’ and put us in a ‘go’ state. We are still exploring the refuelling options open to us including a trip to Venezuela where diesel is only US 4c per gallon; we could take on 500 gallons there costing US$20! The FM is not keen! The price to locals in Trinidad is US .91c per gallon but to visitors is US$4.54! Much black market fuel is available at the lower price and we will probably get some delivered, everyone seems to get it without consequence. The saving is too high to overlook. I will write more on this later.

Lavinia, Judy and Meyka went on a day trip to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, Judy is an avid birdwatcher and Trinidad is a unique place for seeing a huge variety of birds and other flora and fauna. The Asa Wright Centre was created over 38 years ago and has received much acclaim since. Please take a moment and check the link here you will be fascinated... there is a lodge where one can stay and it is our plan to spend two or three days here next year when we return for hurricane season. It is US$150 per night per person which includes accommodations in a beautiful room with three meals a day and tea in the afternoon served on the terrace which overlooks the jungle and rain forest. Doesn’t that sound relaxing and civilized? Credit for the bird pictures published here goes to Judy Sundin the Birder of the group!

Our aft deck view
Yesterday Sept. 20th we spent most of the day in the engine room
replacing the sound proofing material on our generator sound shield box. Back in Carriacou Jim from ‘Sweet Chariot’ had given us some insulation material which we glued in the panels which did cut down the noise considerably but not to the level proper sound proofing material does. Anyway, Budget Marine, here in Chaguaramas, happened to have proper sheets of sound proofing material so we bought two. It is not a difficult job; just a time consuming one and the removal of the old insulation material was the hardest part. Let me tell you, the 3M aerosol spray on glue works! Once off we cut all the pieces we needed for the panels and began to glue them on. It took four hours in the end which for us now is considered a full day’s work! The rest of the day, after clean-up, and a long cool shower was spent watching the Americas Cup racing on the television, having cocktails at 5 o’clock and then enjoying a lovely dinner al fresco under candle light on the ‘back porch’. Our aft deck is facing the coffee shop and restaurant complex here in Crews Inn so we have ‘life’ to watch across the marina canal as we relax.

A word on the difference between sub-tropical and a true tropical climate...the temperatures in the summer time are pretty much the same but the climate here is equatorial and hardly has any change, there is a wet and dry season however. When the sun is out one really feels the power, the feeling of burning is ever present and is apparent immediately one becomes exposed; the humidity is thicker and it is easy to see how the pace of movement must be slowed to avoid exhaustion. Frequent submersion is a daily requisite and enables a revival to continue activities. We are lucky as cruisers to be able to take a cool refreshing dip right off the back of our boats. One becomes used to the constant presence of sweat, yes, stickiness is your companion and quickly you realize that the dress code that you planned for when you packed your suit case is quite different. Here in Trinidad we are only 60 miles from the Orinoco river delta, one of the great rivers of the world and the third longest in South America, third only to the Amazon which runs from Peru, Columbia and finally through Brazil and the ParanĂ¡ which flows from Brazil through Paraguay and emerges as the Rio de la Plata in Argentina. The region is tropical and quite different from the eastern Caribbean Island chain, having lived in Florida for the past 33 years one tends to think that it is ‘tropical’ well it isn’t, here the same plants are bigger and more spectacular, the wild life is far more exotic and there is a feeling of being an intruder to natures prolific accomplishments. Nature as most people know it is larger than life here, the jungle is always close; as one drives through habitation, a small village or town, it is only a minute before one is back to being accompanied on each side of the road by the impenetrable undergrowth of the rain forest and jungle. Trinidad is developed and Port of Spain, the capital, is a sophisticated grand city with wide boulevards and distinctive architecture that one would associate with any other established historic city of the world. Civilization as we know it abounds, shopping malls, cinema complexes and the trappings of wealth are evident. For long now the nation of Trinidad and Tobago has prospered from natural resources which include oil, natural gas, pitch, coffee, sugar and most other agricultural cash crops which are fuelled by the equatorial climate. Trinidad is a Caribbean ‘heavyweight’ is an influential Caricom member and is certainly very important to the development of the Caribbean islands.

I have just risen from the edge of my chair where I have been ‘glued’ for the past two hours watching the America’s Cup finale, wow, unbelievable...the comeback of all time. I think that the odds one could have received two weeks ago against the American boat winning and retaining the cup would have been huge but they did it! This is one of the most exciting events I have watched in years...well done USA ‘Oracle’!

Lavinia and I have decided to return to Florida for annual medical checkups and a visit to friends and family, so we have reserved flights to go on the 29th October returning November 12th. We are in a great marina where we feel ‘Partners’ will be cared for in our absence plus the timing is right so the tickets are booked. Our friends Carol & John in Sarasota have kindly offered us a bed so we are all set. With the internet it is possible to do so much, and we have a good connection here, appointments have been made with doctors, dentists and arrangements to see family and friends are all planned. We will fly into Miami and stay with our youngest daughter Georgina for a couple of days so we can go to the Ft. Lauderdale boat show on the opening day, Thursday 31st before driving across to Sarasota. We are excited; we have a short list of ‘essentials’ that we will go shopping for while there, things which are hard to find in the Islands. We will have been away cruising for nine months, which incidentally seems like no time at all and already we are realizing how important it is not to waste time; life is too short and the opportunity for adventure is small so we intend to use our time well, packing in as much adventure, exploration and travel as we can before we fall apart with old age! Yes, there will come the time, sadly, when we physically can no longer continue with this dream. Hear me folks, get out there and make it ‘your time’ as soon as you can! Tempus fugit!

Ann at the Saturday Market
meeting a very excited vendor!
Yesterday four of us bought tickets for the government bus, a large single deck air conditioned nice bus, and ventured into the heart of Port of Spain and the Saturday farmers market. We set off at 7:30 AM to travel the 30 minute journey from Chaguaramas to Port of Spain costing TT$2 each way, the equivalent of US$0.32! Bill, Ann, Lavinia and I laden with our backpacks and insulated shopping bags were ready for this experience. The market, only held on Saturdays, is huge, I am guessing that it covers at least three acres and has a thousand vendors all with their own stall nicely laid out and set up with the produce they have. Most of the market is vegetables, but there is an indoor section where there is a fish and meat market too. One of the main undercover barns contains a vast selection of clothing vendors as well. I don’t think I can remember ever seeing such a large market and it was bustling. The vendors, unlike many places we have visited including America, were controlled and did not hassle you to buy their wares, instead they were friendly and all, say “Good Morning” as you approach, it was very welcoming and definitely made us feel relaxed and able to stop and ponder each vendors wares. We bought shrimp, tomatoes, watercress, avocados, fresh lettuce, potatoes, spring onions and much more. As a cruiser getting fresh produce is not always easy and in most of the islands the produce is not grown there but arrives by ferry which only comes occasionally, so here in Trinidad we are indulging! From the bus station to the market was probably a mile walk which was, with empty bags and backpacks, easy, the walk back was a different story, however! Because of our excitement at seeing the choice we bought too much of course. A few steps into the walk back I couldn’t help imagining having a camel of two to carry our load which would have been wonderful! We made it and all by 9:30! The bus was on time at 10:00 and we were on our way back to Chaguaramas arriving at 10:30. For lunch it was such a treat to have a fresh watercress, vegetable and citrus salad with a little fresh blue cheese sprinkled on the top, Um!

Yesterday Oct 30th HT gave me a hair trim, I sit on the dock, no hair on the boat, in one of our aft deck wooden folding chairs and she cuts away. Yesterday she forgot the razor to shave the hairs on the back of my neck and had to step back onboard to get it. What luck, the washing machine and dryer where going and the next thing I heard was “quick, we have a fire”! I rushed on board and the washer and dryer had stopped, I assumed there was a safety switch that had shut it down. The boat smelt of burning and was full of smoke, I immediately thought it was the dryer which had caught fire because of fluff which was blocking the exhaust flew and had backed up finding its way to the heating elements. I immediately went to work dismantling the exhaust pipes and cleaning them out. Once complete the moment of truth did the dryer still work? Lavinia turned on the circuit breaker and we winced as we turned on the worked just fine and because of the clean out I think it was working better. We resumed the completion of my haircut! Later in the day HT remembered that there was still washing in the machine and went to resume the cycle...oh dear, yes the burning smell was from the washing machine not the dryer! The washer was ‘dead’! We have had a problem with the washing machine; one of the stabilizer arms to the drum has broken so on the spin cycles it tends to wobble and bang! We decided to look for a Frigidaire dealer, the machine is a Frigidaire, so that if it is not worth repairing the same company can supply us with a new one; a project for today.
Tonight we have the sailing boat crowd coming onboard for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres which will be a blast. There will be eight of us, John & Jo from Out of Africa, Steve & Jan from Sealacious, Doug & Meyka from Banjo and us. We wanted to have a get-together before all of them trek off to Guyana and Suriname next week. We would love to be going with them and think we will do the passage next year.
Splendide Stackable Washer Dryer
Our investigation into the washer and dryer replacement turned out to be more difficult than just replacing the unit we have with a new one of the same. The latest version is now made by Whirlpool and is the same width and depth but is 5” good! Even with the services of a carpenter there is no possibility of gaining any height. We need something which is no taller than 65⅝” tall. We scoured the internet and after several days where the washer dryer replacement project dominated our thoughts and conversations, a decision has been made. We found that the new Splendide stacked washer and dryer units total a height of 65⅝” and should fit! The only minor problem is that the washer, which once installed, will be the lower of the two units, and will require the steps up to the salon from the lower companionway to be removed in order to load and unload the washing machine. Lavinia says she is okay with this. The steps are made to be removed and the operation is a simple one, they are just heavy and awkward so guess who is probably going to be involved in that operation? Our friends Bill and Ann used a company called Marine Warehouse to purchase and ship some items from the USA to Trinidad and the service, so they say, was hassle free and pleasant. Lavinia and I walked over to their office yesterday and talked with Fanny and the project is under way, we are just waiting to see if they can get the two units at a competitive price. The way Marine Warehouse work is they buy the items one needs and in that process make a little profit by buying at a discount and then they profit a little more from the freight charge. All in all though the prices supposedly are competitive and the big plus is the ease of the operation for us. The liability of a satisfactory delivery is all on them! We expect to hear back from Fanny in a day or two. If per chance they cannot help us, sometimes they cannot purchase the items at a price which makes sense for them and the customer, in this event we will just buy them ourselves and arrange shipping through a freight forwarder. 

October 3rd. Thursday is Pot Luck dinner night at Crew Inn. Every Thursday the resort provide a table and chairs, with table cloth, and also the charcoal for the barbeque pit, in fact they even light it and get the fire going! Eight of us from five different boats gathered for the get-together. The location, the breezeway by the bar in the hotel part of the complex is ideal as it is weather proof! The breezeway is just that, a tunnel through the main hotel building providing cover and we hoped a breeze. Cover we got although it didn’t rain, the breeze we didn’t get on this occasion! The evening was great and was filled with much food, constant conversation and concluded with an agreement to an encore next week.  
Port of Spain at night
You can see that there is plenty going on here in Trinidad and it is all too easy to get stuck here enjoying almost all the comforts of home. While at the dock we get a complimentary newspaper delivered and have the use of a gym, library, coffee shop, duty free wine and spirit store, a bakery plus a comprehensively stocked grocery store. You all are probably not that impressed...well, compare getting a small supply of grocery items and the whole operation taking 30 minutes here to a dinghy ride to either a rickety dock or a beach where one has to exert oneself pulling the dinghy up the beach so it doesn’t float away while you take the long walk to the grocery store in 90° heat! Counting the trip back to ones anchored boat this is an expedition which could take three hours or more. It is nice for a change to be in a marina but we are beginning to get ‘itchy feet’ and are talking about our cruising plans for November and beyond. We have already learnt that trying to plan too much and too far into the future is a waste of time as, because ‘Partners’ is our home and the fact that some of the places we visit we really like, affords us the option for us to stay put for a while. Usually a minimum of three months is granted by most immigration departments. You may remember me saying we liked Tyrell Bay in Carriacou and before we knew it we spent 7 weeks there! In other words because we have ‘Partners’ our little white ship and home, we can travel to and stay in places we like for a long time. It is just so exciting talking about all the places we are going to visit and the possibilities we are afforded by our choice of being cruisers. Just imagine looking through a travel brochure every day! 

This will be my last post from Trinidad this year, the next rendition will be from another island, either Tobago or Granada, you’ll have to wait and see...