Trinidad: a great spot to do odd jobs    Click for the chartlet
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After the hauling out in Suriname we needed another week to prepare the boat and say goodbye to friends and dinner parties everywhere; why do we ever want to leave? Furthermore we had to wait for a favourable tide to avoid a departure in the middle of the night. On Tuesday 5th of February it was high tide at 0700 and no heavy rain, so we casted off. Stocked up with food for two months as we now have learned that the Caribbean is 2 or 3x more expensive and and the availability of products mediocre, especially in the small villages on Tobago.

The passage was rough again. Predicted winds were NE 20 kts but it blew a little harder: 20-25 and at night up to 30 kts. Basically not a disaster, but for both our autopilots that were on strike. Even Henk, the windvane, super reliable and betrouwbaar and holds his ground in heavy conditions, but not this time. Jammed blocks and afterwards it appeared that the pendulum rudder had snapped off – yet again a problem with rudders! Anyhow we steered manually for more than 500 miles. Normally we have a watch system of 4 hours on and 4 hours off, but now we changed watches every two hours and this was still  extremely tiring. The most unpleasant thing is that one can hardly do all the other things that also have to be done. P has to do the navigation and if Henk does his job, she can do this during her watch. The same applies for JW with his cooking. Now we had to do all these things when we were off watch, i.e. when one actually wants to rest. In short: we were relived when we arrived on Trinidad (the north coast rugged and beautiful in early morning) and we got a warm welcome when we came alongside our neighbour across in Surinam. Peter is a Finnish Swede or the other way round and prepares his boat to go long lining for tuna. We were treated on tuna for lunch, delicious and certainly very easy.

It was already announced last year but now, after having changed foresails three times in the first three hours of the passage, we were fed up with it. So we altered course for Trinidad instead of Tobago to order a true old people's furling system and sail. We got a windfall from income taxes right before we left Surinam, so now you all know where your hard-earned tax money goes!
Chaguaramas on Trinidad, located just under the hurricane belt, is the place to go for hauling out and repairs: there are at least 4 travel lifts and a choice of riggers, sailmakers and specialists in marine electronics.

The giant Budget Marine store inspired us with all kinds of new ideas and makes renovating the boat very attractive. Now the boat remains in the tropics, conversion from cosy European to airy tropic style appears to be absolutely necessary. For example, we now never use the settees in the cabin, which is a waste of space. Anyway, to create more ventilation we wanted to mount the middle hatch the other way round, but unfortunately the big box on deck was in the way and we had to re-mount the hatch in its original position. (Fortunately the shops are fully stocked with marine adhesives.) So were are going to make an ventilating tent. We will also mount opening portlights above our bed and in the navigation area. The cabin will improve by replacing the table for a smaller one and widen the alongside bench to a nice spot for “chilling”. Finally we will mount more deck hatches in the ceiling and the hammock is already there.
Sounds as if it is a piece of cake, but things went a little bit wrong. There were no hatches in stock and the Trini’s appear to be extremely easy going (with the emphasis on easy), i.o.w. hard to push forward, especially with the carnival in their even after two weeks still heavy heads. But this did not apply to Trinidad Rigging as Jonas (from Sweden), had the right Furlex 300S in stock and could mount the whole system for a mere 2500 euro's. Miep was very busy receiving Valentine's presents, because Kobe, “our” Belgian electrician whom we already met in Surinam, came saw and conquered the problems with the electrical autopilot on the same day (12 euro's). And his next job on board was the installation of a battery monitor.
By the way the battery monitor solved the electrical problem with which we struggled for four years. We had several indications (saildrive anode vanished in no time; one new battery every year) that there was a current leakage somewhere. Upon replacing the same battery for the third time in 4 years, the HF-radio was the main suspect, so we mounted a heavy duty switch between radio and battery. And BINGO: switch “on” and the battery monitor tells us that we lose 0.4Ah. So that problem was solved as well.

So while the Europeans do good jobs, the local sailmaker Barrow Sails is although dirt-cheap a true disaster. The guy is never in and the manager's most important job is chasing away the customers. And Doyle, the biggest sailmaker in the Caribbean, only has an agency here through Soca Sails, so it takes 4-5 weeks before a new sail can be delivered and their prices are more than 50% higher than Barrow's...

Anyway we had our high-aspect sail altered, while we wait for the new genoa of which we still have to decide if it will be ordered at Doyle's, Hagoort in the Netherlands or in Hong Kong. P had to run after the Soca guys for four consecutive days and visit them 2 to 3 times a day. But they seem experienced and we rather support the local economy, so there is every chance that Doyle is going to be the one.
In the meantime we also found time for other things than chasing after our suppliers. On Sundays it is very busy with locals who have their power boats launched from their racks. Literally. We are moored in front of Power Boats where they have not only a travel lift for yachts, but also two forklift trucks to carry the boats to and from their three story racks, and launch them. We also had a nice time with all our friends here, and time to visit the rest of the island.

Port of Spain is Trinidad's capital. We were cautioned about street criminality, but the scoundrels were obviously not awake yet. When the maxi-taxi driver finally found his brakes when he drove nto the city, we found ourselves for the first time since years ain a glass jungle. Quite a shock. There are many new buildings under construction as Trinidad is leading in the Caricom with a booming oil business. Trinidad also has reputedly the most KFC-outlets per square mile, i.e. in the city on every street corner. And yes: the main dish in Port of Spain is fried chicken. And roti of course.
Downtown is bustling with street vendors who offer food and cold drinks, and very dirty. In no time P’s toe-slipperd feet looked like having run from a colemine. But the town has nice elements as well, for example a charming esplanade shaded by enormous trees. P liked one tree in particular but nobody knew it's name. Before Trinidad became a British colony (1797-1962), it was owned by Spain and reminiscences are still there, apart from the name. Black and light coloured granite zebra crossings inlayed in the asphalt and some pavements and even shop's floors are decorated with geometric of phantasy designs. The architecture is a mess: neo-gothic churches next to taut glass office buildings, elegant iron-work underneath corrugated iron plates. Port of Spain is well-known for its fabric shops and we bought 10 yards of canvas for 10 euro's.

Finally we topped up our gasoil tank (€ 0,16 per liter) and sailed to Grenada to finally enjoy a real holiday feeling.


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