Well, we are still here in Chaguaramas in Trinidad, working like crazy on the boat and we haven’t been anywhere or done anything else really.
We haven’t even been into Port of Spain proper, only a couple of suburbs where we have done some shopping. We will get out and about again soon but work must come first!
As we said last month, Trinidad is a much bigger island than Tobago. It is 50 miles long and 37 miles wide, with a population of about a million. At it’s closest point it is less than 7 miles from the Venezuelan coast.
Trinidad was discovered and named after the Holy Trinity by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498. He reported seeing Tobago but didn’t land there. Amerindians were the original inhabitants. It was held by Spain for over three centuries, although there were many immigrants. The total population of Trinidad in 1797 was 17,718, and consisted of mixed-races, Spaniards, Africans, French republican soldiers, retired pirates and French nobility. That same year General Sir Ralph Abercromby and his squadron sailed through the Bocas and anchored off the coast of Chaguaramas. The Spanish Governor Chacon decided to capitulate without fighting so Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population and Spanish laws. This led to an influx of settlers from England and the British colonies of the Eastern Caribbean.
It was originally a sugar cane colony and later supported vast cocoa plantations but since the 1950’s petroleum has come to dominate the economy. There is a growing middle class and the population enjoys many ‘western’ benefits in education and health services.
Indo-Trinidadians make up the country's largest ethnic group. They are primarily descendants from indentured workers from India, brought to replace freed African slaves who refused to continue working on the sugar plantations.
Afro-Trinidadians make up the country's second largest ethnic group. The majority are descendants of the Colonial slave labourers who were brought in the last few years of Trinidad's Spanish Colonial era, and the beginning of the English colonial period. The experience of slavery in Trinidad was limited in that the island was very sparsely populated.
The White population is primarily descended from early settlers and immigrants. About half are of British origin, and the remainder are of French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German heritage. The recent census counted 11,000 British, 4,100 Spanish, 4,000 French, 2,700 Portuguese, 2,700 Germans and 600 Jews. These numbers do not account for the significant numbers of people who have at least some white ancestry but identify as Black or Indian.
There is also a large minority of Chinese, also descended from indentured labourers, also Syrians, Lebanese and mixed race Caribs, descended from the original inhabitants.
All in all, a virtual melting pot of cultures and traditions!
Unlike most of the other Caribbean islands, both Trinidad and Tobago have frequently escaped the major devastation of hurricanes including Hurricane Ivan, the most powerful storm to pass close to the islands in recent history in September 2004. Let’s hope this trend continues while we are here!
We have bought a couple of cheap mountain bikes from the local Court’s department store in St James. Our last ones totally rusted up and we gave them away in Mindelo. It took Mike a couple of days to put them together and they are basic but only cost the equivalent of £70 each so we are mobile again! It does make a difference to us to be able to jump on the bikes to visit various chandlers and workshops, and if they rust up again in a years time we will have had good use out of them.
Pat was especially pleased to have her bike when she had to pick up a parcel from the local Post Office. It had come from the USA via the US Mail Service and took about a week and a half to get here. We had ordered a few other things from England and had a ‘Red Cross’ parcel from Sheila but after our experience in Tenerife with the computer going astray, we didn’t have much faith in the British and Trinidadian Post Office so we paid the extra and used DHL. It was well worth it. Sheila’s parcel was picked up on Friday afternoon and delivered to the Customs Office here in Chaguaramas by Monday afternoon! The same result with two other parcels from the UK.
Getting back to the US parcel, we were informed that it was ready to be picked up at the Post Office so Pat pedalled along the road to it.
Post Office lady. “Sign here, please”. The form was duly signed, after showing passport, ship’s papers and immigration papers. “Take this along to the Customs then bring it back to me and you can have your parcel”. Pedal, pedal.
Customs Officer. “Here is your form, duly signed and stamped by me. Take it back to the Post Office”. Pedal, pedal.
Post Office lady. “ Thank you. Here is your parcel. Take it round to the Customs Office”! Pedal, pedal.
Customs Officer. “Please open the parcel in front of me on this desk here, and show me your passport, ships papers and immigration form”.
Pat. “This has a big sticker on it saying “Opened by Customs, Port of Spain (airport) . Why do you need to open it again”?
Customs Officer. “Because I have to see that the contents are spares for a ‘Yacht in Transit’ (therefore VAT-free), and that it is being picked up by a bona fide person from a yacht which is in transit”.
Pat. “But the Customs at the airport have already opened it and have seen that the contents are spares for a yacht (water filters), and the lady in the Post Office has seen my passport, ship’s papers and immigration papers”.
Customs Officer. “I still have to see them myself, because some people, not you of course, have things delivered which are not on the list of ‘items not liable to VAT for crew of yachts in transit’, personal things, not spares, on which VAT is payable”.
Pat (after a second’s thought). “How do you know that this parcel of spare water filters is the same parcel I have just picked up from the Post Office? I could have swapped it for a parcel which was full of things that I should have paid VAT on”?
Customs Officer. “No , I have to see it and enter it in my book and see your papers”. The same officer had already seen all of Pat’s papers previously when she picked up a DHL parcel. The couriered post goes direct to Customs and it still has to be opened again but there is less pedalling to do, so our advice is - “courier it”!!
The parcel from Sheila did contain a variety of items which probably should have been exciseable but when that one was picked up, a different officer was on duty and was interested in the couple of dozen ‘El Lobo’ T-shirts we had ordered. He asked “Who are these T-shirts for”?
Pat. “Oh, we give them away to people we meet”.
Customs Officer. “Which people”?
Pat. “Oh, children, Trinidadian children”.
Customs Officer. “My son is 10. Can he have one”?
Pat. “Of course”. Hands over a T-shirt.
Customs Officer. “OK, you can take your parcel”!
We’re sure we should have paid something on that parcel but losing a child’s T-shirt instead of paying out money was well worth it!
Now to some more serious news. Mike has been working non-stop on grinding and sanding the hull ready for antifouling and also trying to touch up parts of the hull above the waterline. He was on the scaffold trying to straighten out the bent rebar caused by the jet ski when he overbalanced and fell to the ground with a thump! Pat heard the bang from inside the boat and shouted, “Someone has dropped something overboard”, not realising it was Mike! He had fallen really heavily from about 6 ft and hurt his wrist, elbow, shoulder and more seriously, his already gammy hip! He was unable to move about at all for a few days but is now managing to work again, although he is still in pain from his hip. Our friend Barbara from Dream or Two will sympathise!
We have also had the masts lifted and we are rubbing them down and repainting them. We have some rewiring to do in the masts too. We have bought a snazzy new combined anchor and tricolour sailing light which has LED’s instead of filament bulbs. This should save on power at anchor overnight and while sailing through the night. The anchor light has a light sensor too so it comes on automatically at dusk and turns off at dawn. Very handy if you are away from the boat as darkness falls. We are also rewiring the main VHF radio as it only seems to work intermittently, sometimes not transmitting and sometimes not receiving!
Mike will give you more details of the work in progress on his page this month
We have ordered a replacement solar panel which is 85 watts, 30 more than the one we lost overboard, and costing about the same. We have also decided to get a new wind generator as well. The Aquair we have at the moment is fine but the new one is high powered so with both wind generators going and the four solar panels working we should find a difference in power while at anchor.
We have had a surprise visit from Martin from Barbados. He works as a ship surveyor and had to inspect a ship down here in Chaguaramas. The company had arranged an hotel in Port of Spain for him and we suggested he might stay with us overnight so he wouldn’t have to travel up here the next morning but he politely declined. There is no comparison between sleeping in a spacious air-conditioned hotel room and a hot, untidy boat. The weather here is still very humid and we have had three electric fans going constantly!
We have been playing a fun game of dominoes called Mexican Trains each Sunday afternoon. It is very popular with the Americans here and they have made us very welcome. There is quite a community spirit here in Chaguaramas. every morning at 8.00 am there is a radio net broadcast which covers a range of topics including weather forecasts, help and assistance required regarding services and spares, social events and ‘treasures of the bilge’ - free and swappable boat items. It is illegal in Trinidad for cruisers to sell anything but goods may be exchanged for barter between boats. There are some bargains to be had!
Pat needed a haircut last week so went into St James. She found a hairdressers that advertised ‘Unisex Clippers’ so went in and found an old fashioned barbers shop with three hairdressers clipping a queue of male customers.
“Oh, I must have the wrong place”.
“No, come in. We do women’s hair too”.
“OK then”, and took a seat.
The hairdresser, a big lad with ‘rasta’ dreadlocks, placed a tissue round Pat’s neck and a cape on her shoulders then, while talking to his girlfriend on the phone, proceeded to use clippers and gave her the shortest cut she has ever had! He was very meticulous going round her ears and neck with the clippers and even used the razor on her fluffy cheeks!
Everyone says it looks ‘cute’ and Pat consoles herself with the old saying ‘ the difference between a bad and good haircut is a fortnight’!
She was a bit upset this morning though, when a man passing said, “Excuse me, sir”, as he went by. She was wearing her Sunderland cap though, so she may have looked a bit masculine from the back!
Bye the way, “Hooray, hooray, hooray. We are still in the Premier League”!
Only one comment about Newcastle.
What is the difference between the Premiership and my garden?
There is a magpie in my garden! Ha ha!
Well, that’s all for now folks.
There are a few photos below but not as many as usual. We intend to do a couple of trips next month so hopefully there will be something of interest to show you, instead of just boatyard pics!