So far this month has been mostly admin! On Wednesday we went to the lighting shop and purchased LED lights for the cockpit and then were directed to a short cut so that we could pop into ACE the hardware store and buy a container in which to mix oil and fuel for Tommy. As you’ll see from the photo, not exactly an authorised pathway but it cut out a 20 minute walk in the heat!! After that we caught a bus into St Georges where we found the Post Office – not quite what we were expecting – and the dentist. Dr Josie Du Bois was the most efficient dentist ever and she managed to repair James’ tooth in just 20 minutes with no pain and James didn’t even feel the injection going in! How did the tooth get damaged? James was cutting fishing line with his teeth!! Moral of the story, use the right tools for the job! After the dentist we made our way back to the harbour via Sendall Tunnel. A great short cut that avoids the climb to the top of the town and then back down to get from the fishing harbour to the cruise ship terminal (where the dentist is located) and vice versa. Wish we’d found it a bit earlier in the day!! When the tunnel was first constructed it was only one way for commercial traffic and men but the ladies were allowed to travel both ways and until a recent landslide you could still see the notice saying ‘Ladies Only’.
Thursday it was hair cut day for Claire (back to the shorn lamb style), James met with Ricky and purchased a new WiFi booster – the one that Peter had helped to install had blown! All was successful and we have once again joined the 21st Century and have WiFi on board. Needless to say we have been socialising and on Wednesday night Tommy performed his first official duty – he went to collect Andrew and Chele Simpson (Shindig) and bring them over for sundowners. Sadly Chele wasn’t too well so stayed ashore but Andrew (of PBO fame) joined us which was fun as he is a fount of knowledge and information. On Thursday night Peter (Mandalay) and Marcus (Island Kea II) joined us for sundowners. Marcus is currently repairing his engine and was in desperate need of some light entertainment to take his mind off his struggles!
On Friday we joined with Andrew and Chele and went on an island tour with Matthew who picked us up at Timbers at Spice Island Marina. It was a great day and we learned so much about the island. The highlight of the tour was the visit to the rum distillery at River Antoine where the white rum that is produced has such a high volume of alcohol you can’t take it on a plane (75%)! We didn’t buy a bottle but we did have a sip – rocket fuel. The only disappointment was that the factory was not actually running, had we visited on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday we would have been in luck! However, it was fascinating to look at all the machinery – some from Derby and still working with its original parts.
We went to the Belmont Estate to check out the chocolate but you can’t actually see the chocolate being made just watch the process of growing, harvesting, drying and preparing the coco. We drove up to the prison – why do prisons in the Caribbean always have such good views? Visited Annandale Falls (small compared with most we have seen) and rather spoilt by hassle from locals asking for money, drove through lush rainforest with trees laden with nutmeg, mangoes, bread fruit and papaya and along the coastal road we saw almond trees plus the inevitable smelly, rotting Sargasso weed heaped up along the beaches on the east side. We stopped at a spice shop where we were introduced to all the locally grown spices. Matthew had explained to us that the nutmeg industry had been devastated by Hurricane Ivan. The tall trees had been uprooted in the winds and not replaced as they took too long to grow and bear fruit. A real shame as nutmeg collection and processing had provided a lot of jobs on the island. We also went to the old airfield to see the Russian aeroplanes – one was an Antonov 42 – left behind after the American invasion on 1984. The airfield is now used for drag racing! And, on the return drive we went through Grenville which is a very, very busy town! Colourful, noisy with narrow streets full of people, buses, animals and cars …. we were told that the shops didn’t shut until the evening so after 4pm the streets got even more crowded! A really great day out (and we had a lovely lunch too at the restaurant by River Antoine), we now feel we have seen the island.
To round off the day we went ashore to Prickly Bay Marina and the Tiki Bar where a steel band were playing. They were excellent and it was lovely to hear them in action as we had passed their practice studio in St Georges the day before.
Saturday dawned bright and early but no sign of American celebrations for 4th July, no mention on the net (local radio information channel) of any party ……. no problem, Peter on Mandalay organised an alternative party for us! After a morning spent on the ‘shopping bus’ (a bus organised for the yachties to get them to the various shops they need to visit frequently; chandlers, bank, grocery store and liquor store) Claire was in dire need of some relaxation! Peter produced wonderful frikkadelle, Bjorn from Torunga made an excellent potato salad and we produced an extraordinary ‘goo’ that was served with sausages. It wasn’t Claire’s most acclaimed culinary success … an amalgamation of breadfruit, aubergine, seasoning peppers and onions that disintegrated into goo and was then topped with cheese grilled to make a crispy topping. Tasted good but the texture left something to be desired. We had a bit of a singsong but there was no opportunity to mount a raiding party to an American boat as no one else seemed to be partying!! Shame! A fun evening though and one to remember.
6th – 15th July
he week has passed with its normal share of the mundane and the dramatic! We went ashore to Timbers and met up with Andrew Simpson to have a tour of Shindig. A very roomy, functional and speedy looking yacht. Her sister-boat (i.e. Andrew’s first boat) was in a cradle just one away from Shindig on the opposite side of Freebooter …. definitely an elite corner of the boatyard! Claire started to make Tommy’s sun hat which will take some time as the sewing machine Marcus (Island Kea II) lent her wouldn’t take the UV protected thread so the hat is being made by hand! James had to go in search of a new invertor as we managed to blow our new one – or at least we thought we had! Actually, it turned out that it was our 12v socket that was causing the problem and the invertor was fine. Bjorn (Tarounga) came over for coffee one morning and checked out our electrics with us which was very kind of him and rather reassuring as he approved our set up. In his working life Bjorn had been a marine engineer in the Danish merchant Navy so is incredibly knowledgeable. He and James also spent some time going over the settings for Whizz (our wind generator) and we now think we have the optimum settings for the quietest performance – although quiet is a relative term in high winds but we have eliminated the ‘screaming’ noise that we found so alarming.
We managed to complete our US Visa application forms and load up photos of ourselves that the ‘machine’ would accept. What a performance! Now we have to pay for the visas in a bank in Trinidad in cash and then we have to book an interview!! No idea how long the process will take and not actually so sure that we need the visas for this year anyway with our proposed route from Curacao to Belize with the OCC Rally.
On Thursday afternoon we set off for Trinidad in the company of Exbury II (a lovely Belgian couple, Albert and Josie, who had made the trip over 25 times). The conditions were lovely and we had a great sail. The westerly current meant that we had to keep a keen eye on our progress to stop us being swept down on to the Venezuelan coast and we had to make sure we avoided Hibiscus and Poinsetta the gas rigs anchored off the coast of Trinidad. It was a brilliant night with the Southern Cross, Jupiter and Venus so close. We approached Trinidad just as dawn broke and were rewarded with a fabulous sunrise. Pirogues from Venezuela came hurtling past us but no one bothered us, in fact the Trinidadian Coastguard were very evident in their patrolling and we were virtually escorted into the Boca de Monos by a very smart frigate. We then motored into Chagauramas Carenage where we picked up a buoy having failed to get our anchor to catch in the bay. (Tried 3 times before energy ran out!!) The next hurdle was immigration and customs where all the crew had to turn up. We duly pumped up Puddle and set off for shore only to meet Josie coming back the other way …. She’d been turned out of immigration for wearing a sleeveless top and was returning to get a T shirt with sleeves! Honestly! Below you will find a list of prohibited forms of dress as far as immigration are concerned! It’s a really old fashioned place, very quaint if it wasn’t for the extraordinary amount of paperwork associated with old fashioned bureaucracy!! Still we cleared in after an hour so not too bad really and then we had a bit of an exploration and caught a bus to Port of Spain (an attempt to pay for our US visas at the Scotia Bank as per the instructions – failed as the banks are all shut on a Saturday unlike Grenada where they are open in the morning!).
Port of Spain is a very busy city with a mix of old and new. We bought fruit in the local stalls but the main fruit and veg market is further out of the town so we didn’t get there. We spent our time wandering around Independence Square area and left the full City exploration for another day. We then headed back to the boat for an afternoon’s catch up sleep. That evening we had a spectacular storm with lightning and thunder resounding around the hills – very glad we were tucked up and safe and not trying to sail. We collected 4 buckets of water for washing which was a real bonus as we are not going to be able to swim in this harbour, it is so dirty and oily. When we were in Prickly Bay we commissioned the watermaker (needless to say that took far longer than expected but it was successful and the water was lovely) however, now that we are in Chagauramas we have pickled it again! There’s no way that we can use the water here as it will ruin our membrane in days rather than years!
On Sunday we had Exbury II over for sundowners. Albert and Josie were full of information for us and so very knowledgeable after their 30 odd years sailing around the world. They recommended a couple of places where we could anchor and enjoy clean water again so we are now focussed on getting our shore based jobs completed so that we can move on. On Monday we joined Jesse James on one of his famed ‘Taste of Trinidad’ tours and spent 12 hours touring around the island and learnt so much about the culture, food, politics and history of the country. The food sampling was extraordinary and we don’t think we have ever had so much to eat on one day! All variety of hot and spicy, mild and creamy, fresh and tangy fruit and vegetables were passed around the bus as we drove from one food stall to the next on our route around the country. One of the funniest moments was when Jesse stopped and, after warnings to be quiet and discreet, invited us all to crawl under a fence into a parkland area where we could pick coco pods, grapefruit, oranges and portugals! It was funny to see our faces as we worked out whether we really wanted to crawl under the fence and effectively ‘steal’ fruits. Needless to say the land belonged to Jesse’s Uncle but it was fun and a couple of the folk on the bus proved themselves to be extremely law abiding citizens. The Shorts, on the hand, didn’t hesitate to ‘scrump’! When we finally made it home to Ocean Rainbow we could barely move and we didn’t need feeding for a further 24 hours!
Tuesday morning Kay came to measure up for our new bimini with detachable side panels and sail covers and the rest of the day was spent doing the wretched laundry! It certainly piles up and in Trinidad it’s back to the good old launderette so Claire spent over 2 hours watching the machines go round! Still, everything’s sweet smelling again and dry. We are having some fairly torrential rain so drying clothes on the boat would be a real chore as they’d be in and out all day so we used the driers to make life easier. In the evening we went ashore for a ‘jam session’ which was great fun. Claire is really getting into the swing of things and is hoping that by Christmas she might have increased her repertoire to include songs post 1975!!! Wednesday was a shopping day and admin day in preparation for a week or so at anchor while Kay does our canvas work.
Before leaving we managed to download all David and Trudy’s ‘jam session’ music onto our iPads so now we can have our own little music sessions on board OR!! If you come to visit, bring ear defenders!!! Many thanks to David and Trudy (Persephone) for all the tips and help. And, we popped on board Exbury to have a guided tour and enjoy a cool soft drink before heading back to OR.
16th – 20th July
We slipped our mooring buoy on Thursday and made our way over to Gaspar Grande in search of an anchorage near Kay’s home on the island. We found an ideal location in Corsair Bay but the holding was really poor so if there had been any kind of wind we would not have been able to stay. As it was, we had to re-anchor and realign our chain on a number of occasions but we never left OR without one of us on board so we felt confident about staying. Kay, in the meantime, had been to purchase the canvas and had started on the work. She and Colin, her husband, came on board on Friday morning and, while Kay did the first fitting of the bimini, Colin and James spent the time chatting. James then went with them to use their WiFi and do some banking chores (like paying for the canvas work!!). He then went ashore with them and picked up a few more veggies before returning home to OR. In the evening the Kay and Colin came over for a sundowner and Colin even had a swim. We had a lovely time and thoroughly enjoyed their company.
All the islands in the Caribbean make the most of public holidays, celebrating their own independence days and the national days of their previous rulers but Trinidad take the ultimate prize for the number of official days holiday in the year! This weekend they were all celebrating Eid and they came in their boat loads to make the most of their holiday homes on the edge of the bay. We had thought we were in for a really sleepless night when one house loaded itself up with about 150 young people for a birthday party. We couldn’t believe the numbers pouring off the boats into the house. There was a DJ working hard to create the right atmosphere and the young were definitely having a great time. The noise in the house must have been deafening – Mum, Dad and the dog left mid afternoon not to be seen again that day!! And, yes, the alarm bells started ringing in our heads ….. however, there were no accidents, no screams, no falling off balconies and at 6pm the young started to leave. By 7pm only the hostess and a couple of friends were left clearing up the house! We were left to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the little bay. The birdsong was wonderful and once night had fallen the fruit bats came out and swooped across the water with their wing tips just skimming the surface as they chomped their way through a zillion gnats. Ah, yes ….. there was a downside to paradise, we were eaten alive and rather than being repelled by Deet the wretched little no-see-ums seemed to thrive on it!! We considered it a small price to pay.
21st – 31st July
Back to Chaguaramas and the heat and more chores plus more fittings for the canvas. Perhaps the most tiring of all the chores is the daily cleaning of OR’s hull. The wash created by passing pirogues, tankers, pilot boats and cowboy motor boat drivers throws up diesel and oil against OR’s hull which sticks and looks horrible. We tackle the job from the dinghy with Claire hanging on to the sides of OR and moving the dinghy up the boat against the swell, wash and current while James cleans and polishes. All very tiring to say the least.
On the plus side we have managed to organise and get approval for a US visas. The process is all fairly straight forward but it is a fiddle. First we filled in the online application form, then we tried to upload passport photos (took ages and still weren’t sure if they were satisfactory so we got photos taken on one of our trips into Port of Spain just in case). We made a special trip into Port of Spain to pay for the visas. Once the payment was processed we were allowed to book our interview. On the day of the interview we took the Government Bus into town as that bus stops nearest the Embassy. We then queued for 15 minutes to get in (you can’t join the queue more than 15 minutes before your appointment). Once inside the building we had to wait 45 minutes before we were finger printed and then we waited another 30 minutes for the interview which lasted all of 2 minutes!! We now await the return of our passports and until then we are stuck in Trinidad whether we like it or not! Our Dutch friends, who had the same experience as us in the Embassy (waiting five quarters of an hour …. Maaike’s lovely way to describe the time!) … are still waiting for their passports after 10 days!
We have changed our gas cylinders to American ones so we no longer have the worry of being unable to refill our UK ones, repaired our bilge pump, organised a professional repair for our solar panel, cleaned off all the rust spots, made a couple of ‘curtains’ to hide a ‘bit of a muddle’ in the stern cabins, done the laundry, whipped endless bungee cord for the new canvas work, aired all our clothes and packed up the ones we don’t need in this head and cleaned the oven!
Claire has new specs so no longer has to panic about losing the only pair she brought out from England and in the process learnt about ‘reverse thumbing’ for Maxi Taxis! If you want a Maxi Taxi going to ‘St James’’ and not direct ‘Downtown’ then all you have to do is stand at the bus stop and reverse thumb. All the drivers going ‘Downtown’ ignore you and only the ones going to St James’ will stop! We did a ‘big’ shop which always leaves us shattered after carrying really heavy backpacks in the heat. Somehow we always seem to miscalculate the amount of space we have available in our various official shopping bags and end up carrying plastic bags too!! Oh well, keeps us fit. As does ‘noodling’ but we’ve already written a blog about that so won’t repeat it here.
We have, of course, had some fun in between the hard work. On Tuesday nights we have attended the jam sessions at Coral Cove where we also enjoy a ‘bring your own BBQ’, Thursday night we went to the BBQ at Power Boats. One night we joined Josie and Albert for supper on board Exbury , another night we went to and reciprocated sundowners with Sue and Malcolm from Piano and also entertained Maaike and Huip from Madeleine. A really special evening was spent with Colin and Kay who collected us in their motor boat ‘Flat Out’ and took us to their home on the island of Gaspar Grande. While Kay did a couple of alterations to the bimini, we went for a swim with Colin and then enjoyed a session in the hot tub. Afterwards Kay made a totally delicious ‘double crust’ steak pie with loads of vegetables followed by ice cream and homemade cheesecake. What a fun evening with a lovely couple.
August is now upon us and the prospect of more hard work on the boat as we lift out for a yacht survey! Let’s hope nothing major is found and we can set off on our adventure to Guyana as anticipated.