1st - 9th August
The days are just flashing past so here's an update on the first week of August. Our long weekend off in Turtle Bay was lovely although we weren't quite on our own after the second night! We spotted turtles on our arrival and at least one popped its head up each day but it wasn't quite like Grande Anse in Martinique! We took the dinghy ashore for an explore and clambered over fallen palm fronds searching for freshly fallen coconuts with no luck but we did find a little hut looking rather forlorn and abandoned with a lone pepper plant outside and some very scrawny banana trees. No treasures on the beach either! On Saturday night a party boat turned up but luckily left early heading in the direction of Scotland Bay. We've been advised not to go anywhere near Scotland Bay at a weekend as the party goes on all night finishing at 7am! This was confirmed by Maaike and Huip on s/y Madeleine when they arrived in the anchorage on Saturday morning. They asked us if it had been quiet during the night as they had been in Scotland Bay and the noise from the competing party boats had been horrendous. On Sunday another party boat turned up in Turtle Bay at lunchtime but thankfully they disappeared at 5pm and we were left in idyllic tranquility - only Madeleine and Ocean Rainbow in the anchorage. On Saturday night we had enjoyed a sundowner with Maaike and Huip and then on Sunday we combined our resources for a shared supper with them on board Madeleine - a veritable feast washed down with a few drinks, then it was home for a relatively early night ready for our trip back to Chaguaramas and the lift out.
All went smoothly. Ocean Rainbow was lifted and placed on the hard - no out of the way parking slot for her... she was positioned right in the middle of the road between two lines of chocked boats. Just a tad awkward for the cars driving down to their boats but very convenient for us giving easy access to the swimming pool, Cafe Feel Oh! with good WiFi, and the marina office and chandlery.
One of the trials of living on the hard is the necessity to climb up and down a 15ft ladder just to get access to your home. Then it's up and over the stern into the cockpit and down the companionway steps by which time you've totally forgotten what you were going to collect! Still, we are fit and there's not much wrong with our balance either! While on the subject of negatives at night, we have a slops buckets to contend with too .... It's a bit like high rise camping. Maybe that dreamed of holiday in Treetops on safari should be crossed off our 'To Do' list!! Oh, and then there's the heat. We spend most of the day hot, dirty and totally dripping in perspiration. We drink absolute gallons of water and intersperse that with salt/sugar drinks to keep us hydrated. Alcohol is avoided! We don't like being on the hard very much!!!
However, w managed to do a whole load of jobs during our 5 days. We serviced all the stopcocks, removed all traces of salt from the hull and waterline blue stripe. Polished the sides as best we could with only upturned empty oil drums to stand on - actually James did the lion's share of the polishing work as Claire was definitely under the weather with dehydration. We oiled the chain and remarked it using rubber chain markers rather than electrical ties which just seem to disappear with no warning. Defrosted the fridge. We had one of the Brompton bikes in use (James' still needs some maintenance and he wasn't feeling strong enough to tackle that one this week!) - this speeded up our movements between the various yards, shops and facilities available. Chaguaramas is very convenient from that point of view. Everything is within easy reach, everyone totally delightful, helpful and with a wealth of experience. Transport is reliable and cheap and, had we wanted it, a hire car was extremely reasonable. Claire went on a "Jesse James" shopping trip to PriceSmart and stocked up on bulk items like tinned tomatoes, mushrooms, loo rolls, pasta, beer and LLB (stands for lemon, lime and bitters and is one of the vital ingredient for Ocean Rainbow's almost world famous rum punches!). The advantage of travelling with Jesse is that you are taken back to your boat with all your purchases so no need to carry stuff from the bus stop to the yard. A big bonus when you have a lot of shopping.
The main reason for lifting out was to have a condition survey done by Bastien Pouthier, Naval Architect, Associated Marine Design (Cell: + 1868 683 9528) and we enjoyed having him on board. He was very knowledgeable and helpful, checked out the boat and all the systems, went up our mast happily and checked out the rigging (not normally required for a condition survey) and then agreed to turn the report around in 3 days. His prices were the most reasonable we had found between Carriacou and Curacao and we would highly recommend him. Suffice to say Ocean Rainbow was described as a solid, well equipped boat, well maintained and in above average condition and we were described as knowledgeable and proactive in terms of prevention maintenance. Ah, we hear you say, no wonder they thought Bastien was a good surveyor!
With the hull inspection for the survey complete we were then able to antifoul. Well it seemed silly not to take full advantage of our time on the hard and we are now hoping that we won't be coming out of the water for another year. On Friday morning Claire did the last load of washing so we now have clean rags and clean clothes! James collected the new solar panel. We have invested in another one to boost our power on sunny windless days by another 90 watts giving us a total of 290watts - it should certainly help to keep down the number of hours we have to run the engine to keep the batteries topped up. On the last day, we had a mega thunderstorm with torrential rain which rather slowed down our morning but we managed to get ourselves ready for our return to the water.
We also a bit of a drama on Thursday when we asked for the chocks to be repositioned so we could paint underneath and found that they had dug into the boat to such an extent we could see the Gelcoat. Not a happy situation. The yard manager very quickly found his resident expert who came and did an excellent repair job but it was highly annoying. As a result when we splashed they actually changed all the plastic protectors on the hoist straps to make sure that the antifouling wasn't damaged on our return to the water. They also allowed James plenty of time to use the last of the antifouling paint on the bottom of the keel and he was able to give another quick splash of paint on the places where the chocks had been placed.
As soon as we hit the water we set off for Turtle Bay again and a night all alone in the bay. Wonderful. On Saturday morning however we had a bit of a drama as the fridge stopped working!! It wasn't the first time we had fixed it, so James was quite confident that he could sort it out. Sadly, this time, it was beyond his capabilities. We called up another cruiser and asked advice - Kool Keete was our man, we were told. Amazingly he was available on the Saturday, if we could get ourselves back to Chaguaramas by 11.30am. We weighed anchor and made a hasty return to Power Boats where we moored stern to in a fairly challenging little slot. Not our most elegant parking! Kool Keete arrived and methodically ran through all the possibilities causing the problem. In the process he explained very clearly to us how our fridge worked. A great help, a really delightful elderly gentleman who actually managed to fix everything for us and now the fridge is working better than ever. Long may it last because without a fridge our meals would be a lot less fun to prepare and rather dull. As soon as Kool Keete was finished we slipped the mooring and headed back to Turtle Bay where we spent the rest of the weekend - not exactly on our own, but it was lovely and we could swim and relax.
We head back to Chaguaramas to see if our passports have been returned from the U.S. Embassy and to have a small alteration to our canvas work and then it's off north. We're hoping to make Tobago but it may well end up being Grenada ......
10th - 16thAugust
Well plans are just that, plans! Ours have changed again and we are still in Trinidad because we decided to stay to listen to the Nereid Rally briefing on the 16th, and then head for Tobago. Claire's passport actually arrived on Monday afternoon but we had to wait until Tuesday for James' passport to turn up. DHL were really helpful and the guy who delivered the passports couldn't have been nicer. The whole delay had been caused by the online application failing to record the whole address to which the passport needed to be returned. All DHL had to go by was Claire Short, Western Main Road, Chaguaramas and there was only our UK phone number. The moment we phoned to ask about the delay they identified the packages, retrieved them from DHL in Port of Spain and then delivered them to Power Boats (which was the vital ingredient missing from the address). All's well that ends well and we both have 10 year visas for the U.S.
Our canvas is also finished. Kay turned it all around for us on Monday morning. We are now leak proof, rain proof and sun proof. We have new sail covers for the mainsail and the staysail which are easy and quick to take off and put on. The Bimini canvas is really flexible thanks to Kay's imagination and skills. Her workmanship is really neat and we are altogether very pleased. It wasn't cheap but then again good quality workmanship rarely is, and we did pay to have extra waterproofing and protection from '303' so the canvas should last for years.
Since we were in harbour for Monday night we decided to go to the jam session where we had a great singsong, then on Tuesday we stocked up with vegetables ready to set off but coincidence struck in the Internet room, as James met Gill from Resolute of Thames who, on over-hearing that we planned to sail to Guyana on the Nereid Rally, invited us for a sundowner to hear about their experiences from the previous year's Rally. It then turned out that Colin was not only a retired army officer but his last job had been in Stavanger (our last posting). The world can sometimes seem a very small place!! We had a marvellous evening with them reminiscing about our time in Norway and comparing sailing stories as well as war stories.
So, what have we been doing for the rest of the week? We've been on holiday! Total RnR (rest and recuperation)! And where better to go to find peace and tranquility than an abandoned leper colony. We took off for Chacachacare (pronounced Shaka-sha-kareh) and tucked ourselves up in Stanislas Bay at the foot of the Nunnery where Colin had said there was good holding. It was idyllic and we were totally on our own. Unfortunately a squall blew through and we found that we were rather too close to land for comfort and on a lee shore, so we decided to weigh anchor and head to the other side of the bay to Coco Bay where the prevailing wind would push us off shore if the anchor didn't hold. Again we were totally alone and enjoyed a really calm night. In the morning we took off in the dinghy back across the bay to explore the abandoned buildings on the south shore, all in varying degrees of decay but you could imagine life as it was back in 1924 when the leprosarium - also known as the Hansenian Settlement - was founded. We left the exploration of the Doctors' houses and hospital which are located on the north side of the bay for the next day. Nature and termites are relentlessly reclaiming all the buildings but there are still enough left standing to give a good idea of how the settlement functioned.
Surprisingly, in a clearing set back from the Coco Bay shoreline we found a Hare Krishna temple which had been dedicated to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Hanooman Sajeevani Mandir as recently as April 18th 2015. It was home to hundreds of vultures which struck us as rather macabre as well as a bit eerie as, when a vulture takes off in an enclosed wooded area there is a very strange wailing sound created by its wings. Spooky! The most interesting building of all proved to be the hospital which seems to have been abandoned without even removing patient records. There are phials of medicines and charts and records strewn throughout the first floor of the building, even an old petrie dish, but the ground floor is empty apart from an ancient bed on a turntable. It does seem a shame that the whole settlement has just been left to rot but maybe one day someone will be brave enough to construct a holiday home on the site of an old leper colony.
We returned to Chaguaramas on Sunday having caught up on our sleep and we are now ready to plan our trip to Tobago and then on to Guyana with the Nereid Rally.
16th - 23rd August
We had a very informative Nereid Rally meeting at Sails Restaurant and met a few other participants as well as the Rally organiser, David Matelicani, which was great. The Minister for Tourism in Guyana, Cathy Hughes, had flown over specially to tell us about her country and there was also a representative from the Mayor's office from St Laurent di Maroni in French Guiana. Our visit to Suriname is rather more low key as they recently had elections and yacht rallies are not uppermost on their list of important jobs!!! Colin and Gill from Resolute of Thames joined us for sundowners that evening and gave us loads more information. They are now back in UK and we hope that we might meet up again next year.
We have booked our plane trip to go and see the Kaiteur Falls so a treat awaiting us once we have made the passage to Guyana. The passage is just under 400nm in a straight line but we are anticipating doing considerably more as we will have a westerly current against us as well as the prevailing winds which mean we will probably have to tack a fair amount. All good for the muscles! Our progress will be tracked by a 'yellow brick' so we'll put the link on the website once we have it.
As a bit of an aside, we have wondered why there have been so many caged birds in weird and wonderful locations around the boat yards and shopping malls. Claire finally found out from Douglas. Apparently the birds are trained to sing and their repertoire is improved if they are able to hear lots of different noises! Douglas has won prizes with the elder of these two birds - the one on the right - and the youngster is just learning the tricks of the trade. It doesn't seem quite right but the birds are in excellent condition despite the fact that they are caged.
We had lovely supper on board Piano on Monday night to chat about the Rally. Lots of questions answered and also a chance to get to know the folk currently signed up and in Trinidad. A real bonus of the evening was to find out that Rick on Duplicate is a computer whizz. He very kindly agreed to come over to check out our satphone connectivity for sending and receiving weather GRIB files. On Tuesday morning Rick and Mandy duly arrived for coffee and cake. The boys did computers - with a little help from Claire! - and the girls nattered.
On Wednesday we picked up our last few bits and bobs ready for the Guyana passage, filled our water and fuel tanks to capacity, checked out from Customs & Immigration and headed up to Scotland Bay for the night ready for an early start to Tobago. Shortly after anchoring in Scotland Bay we had a torrential downpour with thunder and lightening which put our new canvas arrangement to an extreme test ... pleased to say that we stayed nice and dry. The rain really was heavy and we managed to catch 3 buckets of water in less than half an hour! We then watched the continuing rain drain away as we had no need of it with full water tanks! In the grey light of Thursday's early dawn we weighed anchor in Scotland Bay and headed out through the Boca de Monos Channel and along the north coast of Trinidad. The conditions were rather murky so we didn't get a good view of the beaches along the coast, there wasn't any wind to start with so we ended up going further out into Galleon Passage than we had planned chasing the wind. The downside was the current but we did have some lovely sailing in between the calm and squalls. Our final run into Tobago was fabulous, creaming along at just under 8 knots & it was almost a shame to have to douse the sails as we entered Store Bay but picking up a buoy in the dark under sail didn't appeal! At 1am, we then did a textbook pickup of a buoy, which was very gratifying as we were being watched by the crew and guests of the super yacht Lady B who were in full party mode.
When we surfaced on Friday morning we found Tobago well and truly in party mood as it was the start of Independence Weekend celebrations for them. Store Bay was also hosting the party for The Great Race so before we realised it we were surrounded by motor launches (Gin Palaces) of varying sizes rafting alongside each other preparing for the Great Race. The Great Race is an annual event for power boats in three categories, under 60mph, under 80 mph and over 80mph. In amongst this mêlée were the jet skiers with one particular young child all in pink who couldn't even get her feet on the foot plate of the skidoo she was so small. The speed at which she travelled had to be seen to be believed, the boys couldn't stay with her. If it wasn't so dangerous we would have applauded her. She is definitely going to make her name is some sort of speed sport unless she kills herself beforehand!
Saturday dawned and The Great Race starting in Trinidad had its the finish line in Scarborough, Tobago. In previous years the finish line had been Store Bay but this year the Government had decided for political reasons that it was to be in Scarborough, the capital. However after doing a tour of the bay in Scarborough all the power boats came back to Store Bay to meet up with their 'mother ships' and celebrate. The hot favourite Monster sponsored by Peakes Yard came in first. Sadly Vortex, which was giving Monster a good run for its money for the majority of the course, suffered engine failure and had to be towed into Tobago. A bit ignominious but they arrived to great applause and trumpeting of horns. It was great to see all the boats at close quarters having seen lots of them practising at one point or another while we were staying in Trinidad. Our old friend Baccanal from Gaspar Grande came second in the under 80mph class, Rush - the boat that woke us at 0700 as it went out on a practice run each morning in our last week in Chaguaramas - came second in the over 80mph class. No, we're not going to become petrol heads but it was interesting to see the boats racing!
Now we are going to explore Tobago. We have met an American couple, Bill and Judy from Charbonneau, who joined us for sundowners on Saturday night and agreed to share a tour of the island with us. We are also going to go on a glass bottomed boat and explore Buccoo Reef. It's always fun to explore with another couple so we are looking forward to it and will report what we find!
24th and 25th August – Sightseeing in Tobago
On Monday afternoon we joined up with Bill and Judy from s/y Charbonneau and went on a glassboat tour to Buccoo Reef. This is a protected marine area and we aren’t allowed to take our own dinghies in, we have to go with on an official trip at a cost of TT$100 per person – which we felt was very reasonable for a 2½ round trip including soft drinks and some nibbles – we found we could also have had rum punches courtesy of some of the other passengers but you’ll be pleased to read that sense prevailed and we didn’t!! Once we were loaded into the boat, given our safety brief: put on life jacket and jump out of the open windows (!), we were off. At times we were surprised the propellors didn’t touch the bottom we appeared so close to the sand but our Captain obviously knew his job. We skirted around the top of Pigeon Point and then out onto Buccoo Reef, where we stopped for a snorkel. The parrot fish were huge and the coral quite different to other islands in the Caribbean but for the variety of fish, Bequia is still our favourite. We then moved on to the Nylon Pool which is a very shallow area in the middle of the reef with coral sand that is supposed to make you look 10 years younger – sadly it doesn’t seem to have worked for us!! After that we went off to No Man’s Land and the Lagoon where yachts are allowed to take refuge in a hurricane. We had a swim off the point (taking care with the fairly fierce current that sweeps past) and then it was back on board for the return journey. It was a lovely trip with crystal clear blue waters and golden sands as far as the eye could see.
We got back to Ocean Rainbow just in time to welcome Jan and Margrit from s/y Sentinel on board for sundowners. Jan had been a real star in the morning, he’d spotted James stripping Tommy’s carburettor and rowed across to help. Very kind and James learnt even more about how to keep outboard engines running smoothly. He’d only said a couple of days before that he must check the carburettor so Tommy’s “tummy ache” rather forced his hand!
On Tuesday morning we had arranged with Bill and Judy to go on an island tour with Mr Piggy from Frankie Tours & Rentals (+1 868-469-6977). We met up with him at 0830 on the beach and in true island time the tour was late starting, so we eventually got on the road with Zorro as our driver by 0930 and headed for Scarborough. Zorro entertained us with Calypso along the way. He has a very soft voice so we had to strain to hear the words but in true Calypso style he had a tale to tell and we learnt about the latest uproar in Tobago – Chinese restaurants are being boycotted because it was discovered they were using dog instead of beef in their recipes! He also sang about the politicial situation as well as making up little fun songs with us as the subject. It hardly seemed any time before we were climbing the hill to Fort King George (known locally as Forkin’ George!). Built in the early 1770s it wasn’t until 1793 that it was given its name by Maj Gen Cornelius Cuyler and it was a garrison for the British until 1854 when they left to concentrate their forces in Barbados. The bricks used to build the fort and many other landmark buildings on the island, were brought in as ballast on the ships used to take the sugar, molasses, cocoa, copra and coffee back to England. In the grounds of the fort is the most magnificent tree – a Mimosaceae Samanea Saman known locally as a Samaan – which was absolutely laden with orchids. Stunning. After the fort we loaded up again and headed into Scarborough so that Mr Piggy could conduct some business at the ferry terminal! Very Caribbean! We finally got going again but then Bill was forced to admit defeat and say that he had an agonising pain in his side which just wouldn’t shift. We turned around and headed off for A&E at the brand new hospital sited at the top of a hill overlooking Scarborough. We exchanged phone numbers and left Bill and Judy hoping that we would be able to join up at a later stage that day. A big disappointment for us all but better to be safe than have a burst appendix in the middle of nowhere!
Our trip took us out on North Shore road to Castara Bay where we headed off to find a waterfall. Not the biggest we have seen! Actually probably the smallest, but it was good to have a freshwater swim and a bit of fun in the water.
Then it was off again to have a look at the beach and buy some totally delicious sugar cake and a pair of castanets for James! Now he has an instrument for the jam sessions!!
Then it was off for a beautiful drive through rainforest to Englishman’s Bay where we stopped for lunch. Mr Piggy had cooked some crab for us all to try and we also had Eula’s fare: a bust-up roti with shrimps (for James) and a ‘lunch’ – which was stewed chicken for Claire. Both were delicious, served with curried channa (chickpeas) and potatoes, pigeon peas, rice and callalou. We then went for a quick snorkel at the northern end of the beach and saw huge trumpet fish and a couple of lobsters. The waters were quite sandy (murky) so we didn’t take any photos. Then it was off again heading for Charlotteville. The road was incredibly steep, winding up and down the valleys, taking us through some amazing rainforest and also giving us some spectacular views of the beaches. We went through Parlatuvier (where huge numbers of parrots come to roost), Bloody Bay and finally reached Charlotteville. What a lovely surprise there – Bjorn from Tarounga (whom we had met in Grenada) was in the little beach bar reading a paper! We had a chat with him and then wandered around the town (very simple) before getting back on Zorro’s bus to continue the tour.
We made our way to Speyside where we stopped off to see the old water wheel – made in Glasgow! From the beach we could see across to Little Tobago which is a bird sanctuary and well worth a visit but that is a day’s trip in itself. It was here that we saw the first signs of Sargasso weed which litters the Atlantic coast of Tobago. There are folk busy trying to clear some of the beaches but it is an uphill struggle. Zorro’s family come from Speyside so he pointed out his grandparent’s homes and the places he used to play when he was a child. Then it was off to King’s Bay and Roxborough and back to Scarborough.
We went back to A&E to check on Bill and Judy who were still ‘in the system’. Bill was feeling much more like his normal self but they needed to wait for the results of some tests so we made arrangements to collect them when they got back to Shore Bay. We had used Charbonneau’s dinghy to get ashore in the morning so it was a slight complication for us to get back to Ocean Rainbow. They have a 15hp outboard engine and a solid RIB so a bit of an experience for us after little Tommy’s 3.5hp!! All was well though and we got back at 7.15pm and Bill and Judy got back at 9.30pm and we collected them from the beach. Not such a good day for them but a relief to know that Bill’s problem was manageable. Hopefully they will get to experience the ‘tour’ at a later stage.
26th – 31st August
Tobago is a lovely island and we will definitely try and return one day. The beaches and bays are unspoilt and very quiet and we only wish we had more time to spend travelling up the coastline but with the Nereid Rally approaching we were focussed on getting Ocean Rainbow ready for her next adventure. As a great reminder of the island, we commissioned Tony, a lovely Rasta beach artist, to paint a little picture of Ocean Rainbow in her idyllic mooring. We also found Neress who cut our hair – very short!! Perhaps not ideal but it is cool which is the main thing and hopefully we will both look more like our normal selves by Christmas! It is so hot that we are having to wear hats so the haircut isn’t too obvious! We invited Mr Piggy on board for coffee and fruit cake – his first time on a yacht and he was totally amazed. He now has dreams of owning his own yacht!!! We have stocked up with everything we think we will need and Claire has made a note in the log so hopefully we will find things when we want them. We did runs ashore with jerry cans to refill our water supplies and while we had a hire car we collected some extra diesel.
We also used the hire car to take us (with Bill and Judy) to the Annual Heritage Day Goat Races at Buccoo. We had a bit of an explore beforehand and stopped for lunch at Hell’s Fire Kitchen where we had delicious roti (and chips!!!) then it was on to the actual village of Buccoo to the world’s swankiest goat stadium. What a funny afternoon we all had watching the jockeys and goats race the length of the stadium. No betting is allowed at the races so it was all very friendly but, dare we say it, rather lacked the excitement of potenitally winning a few pennies! Mr A Clarke, at 80, was the oldest owner at the races and his goats did very nicely indeed, especially 'Hard to Catch'! First prize for a race was TT$1500 so worth winning. The festivities went on into the night but we called it a day at 6.30pm and made our way home.
We need to explain the Walk and Wine Race ...... in T&T (Trinidad and Tobago) you spend a lot of time 'liming' - which is just hanging out and relaxing with a beer - and you also spend a lot of timing 'wine-ing' - which entails dancing in the true Caribbean style of bottom wiggling. The ladies had a walk (when the music stopped) and wine (when the music played) rather like a game of statues. One of the daftest races we've ever seen but it caused a great deal of interest and merriment in the stands. And we also need to explain Sunday School - this is not as we know it in England!! Sunday School in Buccoo is an all night party starting at 6pm and ending around 4am ..... we didn't participate but perhaps next time!
Sunday morning disaster struck. During the night the ‘fridge had packed up and our holding plate was no longer covered in a little layer of frost but was dripping and the fridge was getting warmer. James changed the electrical connector back to the old one (Kool Keete had replaced it when we were in Trinidad) and managed to get the holding plate to cool again but the fridge was now either on or off which meant that the batteries would be under continual load – not good when you are away from the boat and unable to monitor the power consumption. We went ashore as planned with Bill and Judy to go to church but before we left Shore Bay, we saw Mr Piggy who said that he would contact his friend who was an air conditioning expert to see if he could come and check our gas pressure. On return from church we met up with Colin – another lovely Rasta – who came on board (his first time on a yacht) and he recharged the gas. That certainly improved things but the fridge is not working so we are going to have to head back to Trinidad and see Kool Keete again. Such a disappointment having managed to sail up to Tobago to find that we are now heading in totally the wrong direction. Hopefully we can get things sorted out and will still be able to join the Nereid Rally but that is not certain at the moment. Feeling just a little bit dejected although we were somewhat cheered up by being invited on board Rewa for sundowners – what a great boat they have. We are going to sail back with them to Trinidad as they have to get their engine fixed there. It’ll be good to have company – although not exactly a race as Rewa is 53ft!!!