Thursday, December 26, 2013

Goodbye Trinidad…

December 21st 2013

Position 10° 40.733’ N
             61° 37.937’ W

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

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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