Trinidad - Part 2

1st July 2003 - 16th September 2003

So, having come to Trinidad planning to stay about a month, after three months we found ourselves back at the Immigration Office, asking for an extension to our stay.   It's the kind of place that grows on you.   On the way here we had heard scare-stories on the radio and from other cruisers, many of course who have never visited the place, about safety and security, the unbearable humidity and rain,  and arrived convinced we wouldn't be staying longer than absolutely necessary.   

When we finally got here, however, we discovered that, although the crime rates are high (one murder every 36 hours and one kidnapping every 48 hours in a population of less than a million), the population on the whole is one of the friendliest we've encountered, making it even worth tolerating the rain.    In any case, it rains far less often here even in the rainy season than in Wales but when it rains, boy does it rain!    With the water collection hoses we had fitted on our new awning, we can fill our 200 gallons of tanks to overflowing in a serious downpour and if we don't remember to take the hoses out of the tank filler pipes, we wash out the bilge and set off our musical bilge alarm as we start to fill the boat with rainwater.....

Since our re-launch, our base has been the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association (TTSA), a small and friendly yacht club.   With our temporary membership, we were able to keep our bikes ashore in their bike shed, which has been handy with TTSA being located a couple of miles from the main centre of Chaguaramas.    There are a couple of drawbacks here though.   After a heavy downpour a lot of rubbish gets washed into the bay on the tide, mostly a horrifying quantity of plastic bottles and yes, we have seen more of those stray flip-flops floating by too.   Where do all the stray shoes come from?

Another problem is the three nightclubs on the shore of the bay.   On a good weekend only one is open and we at least get deafened only by one lot of music.   On a really bad night, all three are blasting out different music at high volume and when combined with the local fishermen playing Indian music on their boom-boxes on the shore, it becomes an unbearable cacophony.   One one occasion we could even feel the vibration from the noise through our masts!   In a way, this issue is good  too because it makes us take up our anchor each weekend and explore other anchorages, which stops us taking root at TTSA and gets us using the engine regularly which is always good.


The bay at TTSA is teeming with fish.   The Captain's latest hobby is trying to catch as many of them as he can, sometimes even roping the First Mate in to assist.    Our success rate is high, in fact too high and our fridge is too small to cope, so many other people in the anchorage have been reaping the benefits of free dinners too!     Albert Battoo of Offshore Adventures, a newly opened and well equipped fishing tackle shop in Chaguaramas, has been invaluable in advising us on the best type of lures and bait to use and where to fish and has even taken Phil along as crew on a fishing charter, to see how the really big fish are caught.  Mostly we fish in the bay at TTSA from the dinghy but returning from a weekend away, Phil caught a whoppa from the big boat too, which fed everyone at the potluck barbecue.


One evening, to get a taste of the pan (or steel band) music, we took a trip to a pan-yard concert by the Exodus Pan Band, winners of the Panarama competition at this year's carnival.    We were lucky to have the opportunity to experience the vibrant atmosphere of a performance by such a talented band outside of carnival time and it was quite a contrast to some of the dull pan performances for tourists we'd seen in other islands.   The whole stage was alive with colour and the lively movement of the band members.   Even the President was there.  Sorry we forgot the camera!

One day soon after, we were alerted by a radio call from the yacht club about 3 miles down the road of the imminent arrival of a nasty squall with 35+ knot gusts of wind.   The warning gave us a couple of minutes to try and get some of our sun-awning down, to minimise our windage before the squall hit.  Unfortunately that wasn't quite long enough by the time we reacted to the warning and the first gust took the boat sideways and lifted up the awning.   We managed to get the awning down and lashed to the booms immediately afterwards in the driving rain, checking all the time that our anchor was holding but the pole that supports the awning was bent like a banana and beyond repair.   Things became quite stressful as boats in front of us started to drag but luckily the owners managed to get back before any damage was done.  

The bent pole hadn't cost us anything, as we'd cobbled it together from bits of stainless tubing left from our wobbly bimini, so we decided it was time to do the job properly and buy something more substantial, so we bought a 12 foot length of aluminium pipe.   Of course we'd gone to the warehouse by bike, so Chaguaramas was treated to the amusing spectacle of Phil cycling back to TTSA with a 12 foot pipe lashed to the crossbar of his bike, like a jouster!

Talking of amusing cycling adventures, we've been making the most of the flat and lush countryside of the Chaguaramas National Park.   It's not a long trip to cycle to Macaripe beach on the north coast and one day we set off with our friend Mary off the boat Maude I. Jones.   When we got to our destination, about five miles away, suddenly one of the pedals fell off Christine's bike.   The pedal resisted all attempts to be fixed back in place and fell off again after only a hundred yards each time.    So, stranded five miles from our base in the middle of the countryside, we finally managed to set up a "towrope" for Christine's bike using the only thing available.   This was the security cable Mary used to lock her bike up which was only about one metre long.    The return trip was quite hair-raising, as being towed along directly behind Phil's bike, Christine was unable to see the road ahead to anticipate what was coming up and the road had frequent speed bumps!    We made it back safely and the bike was taken to Kerry Jones' bike hospital, where the diagnosis was made.    When reassembling the bike after storing it in the forepeak for over a year, we had put the left pedal on the right side of the bike and vice versa.   The threads are different and whilst pedaling, Christine had slowly been stripping the thread which held the pedal on the bike.   An expensive mistake as the whole gear wheel and pedal unit had to be replaced.

Several of our weekends away have been spent at Chacachacare Island, an ex-leper colony about 10 miles from TTSA.   On our first visit there we arrived midweek and found we had the whole island to ourselves.   Anju was the only boat in the anchorage and we could explore all the deserted ruins in complete peace.    All the buildings were still standing, the nuns' residence, the doctors' houses and the buildings where the poor lepers lived and many of the buildings were of very sturdy and stylish construction.   It was really quite eerie, like a ghosttown.



Chacachacare Island - View from the lighthouse and one of the doctors' houses.




Chacachacare Island - The Lighthouse and Nuns' Residences.


Like most anchorages around Chaguaramas, the holding in Chacachacare isn't very good.   During one weekend visit, a nasty squall blew through the bay.   We were lucky and found we had chosen the most sheltered spot in which to anchor, protected from the worst of the wind and rain by the headland on which he nuns' residences are located. 

Friends on a French Canadian boat, Yellah, weren't so lucky.   Anchored on the opposite side of the large bay inside the horseshoe shaped island, they'd taken the full force of the wind and swell and their anchor had dragged.    When the weather calmed down and we were finally able to go and help Jacques and France, together with Graham from "Ellida", we found they were well and truly aground, with their keel jammed amongst the rocks and the hull of the boat pivoting around the keel.    Earlier rescue attempts by two local powerboats had failed and left both Yellah and the two assisting boats damaged when the tow ropes had parted.    Finally a large boat arrived from the Trinidad and Tobago Coastguard and Yellah was finally dragged to safety.   They had been firmly stuck and it took even the large and powerful boat five minutes to free them.    We were worried that the hull may have been damaged below the waterline and when Jacques dived to have a look, he said that the bottom foot of the fin keel looked as though it had been sandblasted but luckily no water was coming into the boat.   They were understandably shaken up.   There but for the grace of God...............


Christine's birthday was celebrated with a weekend at Chacachacare in company with Graham and Liz from "Ellida" and John and Ann from "Sundowner", who had just arrived in Chaguaramas and were easily talked into joining us.    Sammy, the ship's cat on "Sundowner", showed us just what a seasoned seafarer she is (see photo).

Phil's famous curry was eaten aboard "Anju" to celebrate and several bottles were drained. 

John, Ann and Sammy from Sundowner off to explore Chacachacare Island.

On other weekends we explored different anchorages.   Scotland Bay is a lovely calm bay just around the corner from Chaguaramas and we spent a pleasant time there listening to the strange calls of the howler monkeys living in the surrounding wilderness.    Exploring with the dinghy, the water was so clear that we saw a turtle swimming below us.   At around 3 pm, however, nasty black biting insects invaded the boat, forcing us to hide inside behind our insect screens, which was a shame.

We also spent a peaceful weekend at Monos Island in the Turtle Bay anchorage.    Anchorage may not be an appropriate description as on inspecting our anchor, we found that the bottom of the bay was so hard that our anchor was just sitting on top of the rock seabed and not really dug in to anything at all.    We'd already re-anchored once and on taking up our anchor found a huge boulder jammed in our anchor, which we'd collected whilst dragging across the anchorage.   We're so glad we bought the biggest windlass possible!   Definitely not an anchorage for windy weather!

Of course the work on the boat had to continue as well.   We couldn't have fun all the time!   Phil did a wonderful job of heightening our anchor locker in the forepeak, which successfully stopped the anchor chain from jamming every time we took up the anchor.   We also spent a couple of days in Coral Cove Marina again, whilst having our engine mountings changed.   We began repainting the deck between downpours.   The generator, now christened "Princess Genny" demanded frequent attention too and one occasion was threatened with the "deep six" overboard.    On that occasion when we turned the key to try and start the generator up, there was a weird whistling noise, the alarm lights would get dimmer then brighter again and the hour counter began to turn at a crazy speed.    For two days we were baffled.   We'd checked all the wiring connections, taught ourselves how to check diodes and relays and worked our way through the entire wiring diagram looking at anything else we could think of to check.   Finally after putting the whole thing back together and still having no luck starting the generator, following advice from the manufacturers in the UK, we discovered that the battery was in poor condition and although we'd previously checked the voltage, it didn't have enough power under load to start the generator.   Now isn't that what the battery condition indicator should have told us? - Aargh!  In 10 minutes we'd connected the battery cables to the engine start battery and the generator started straight away.   It was a really unpleasant way to spend a couple of hot days, couped up in the engine room, hence the "deep six" threat.


It was in the midst of all the chaos surrounding the generator repair that one of our pet guppies decided to give birth.    It was incredible when the babies just kept on popping out.   In the end we counted 13 but only 4 survived.

We've also been adopted by a pet spider, christened "Mr Jumpy" due to his acrobatic leaping skills.   After our scary spider incident in Venezuela you'd think we'd have been put off resident spiders but so far Mr Jumpy shows no sign of growing to immense tarantula like proportions and does a good job eating those biting insects!   He recklessly put his lack of swimming skills to the test recently and had to be rescued from the guppy container, somewhat traumatised by the experience.

Friends of ours warned us, "It's easy to go broke saving money in Trinidad", they were right!  By mid September we finally decided it was high time for us to move away from all those chandleries and fishing tackle shops!

Good luck spotting the 4 baby guppies!

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