Monday, 26 November 2018

26 November Diving Bonaire

Once we had the formalities completed and Jackster on a mooring we could start diving. David brought out the 15hp outboard to give us extra oomph carrying gear and for faster travelling to and from the sites. We don't use this often preferring the lighter and more efficient 10hp for day-to-day use. Now with the extra oomph we'd be able to put the laden dinghy on a plane as we zip up and down the coast and across to Klein Bonaire. But, before could don kit and submerge we needed to purchase our dive tags. All water surrounding Bonaire to a depth of 60m is a protected park. To finance the maintenance and keep the reef healthy with mooring balls, clean ups and wardens we all pay; $10 a night for a mooring ball, $25 for an annual dive tag and $10 a year for snorkellers, swimmers and other water users. I think it represents very good value and hasn't increased in price for at least fifteen years. I first came to Bonaire on a dive holiday in 2003 and paid $25 to dive.
I would rate the diving here as easy and rewarding. The water is 27c, visibility 30m and current negligible with plenty of sea life to observe; healthy hard and soft corals, eels, scorpion fish, the usual suspects, anemones, shrimp, and we're told, seahorses and frog fish. We didn't see the last two.

Squat shrimp

spotted anemone shrimp

I have to admit I didn't take any of these underwater photos. I've lifted them from All pics were taken here though. When I first met David he used a state of the art video camera and I had a stills camera. We loved documenting what we saw and then my camera died and the interest in using the video camera waned until we now dive to look at fish rather than dive to look at fish through a lens. I think we see more and are better divers for not having the diversion. Deciding whether to replace the UW camera I had to ask myself why take photos when professionals do a far better job? My end use was to post in the blog. We have talked about replacing the expensive kit with a compact GoPro. Perhaps one day.
fire worm

snake eel

In the meantime I've borrowed to illustrate what we found in two weeks' diving. Down at 30m we were mobbed by huge silver tarpons cruising the reef, followed by darting tuna and trevally. There were a couple of boat hulls to peer in to. Coming up to the mid range we paused to watch shrimp in anemones and discover Scorpion fish lying inert on the sand and at the top of the reef were snake heels hunting under rocks, big eyed porcupine fish pretending to be invisible and lots and lots of nooks where a seahorse might lurk or a piece of coral crying out for a frogfish to rest on. No seahorses. No frogfish.
If you're coming to Bonaire on a yacht and want a site close to the mooring field, leap off the back of your boat and go exploring, or south of the entrance to the marina is a buoy marked 'Something Special'. I read a glowing report of what was seen in one dive, shrugged it off thinking not so close to all the boat traffic and relegated it to a quick late afternoon dip. What a surprise we had! Variety of species, health of the coral. It was good enough to go back for two more dives.
We would have liked to do a lot more diving but David was suffering with sciatica, a leftover from the haulout and hauling heavy scaffolding planks around, causing him too much pain in his leg to enjoy the swimming. Lugging heavy tanks and kit in and out of the dinghy wasn't helping him to recover so we've opted to suspended our underwater breathing until Aruba – the island after Curacao and about two weeks time.

14 November Bonaire

mooring field

Bonaire is so lovely, so nice. It was an easy three day downwind sail from Trinidad which brought us to the Kralendijk mooring field on a Sunday morning. All moorings were occupied and anchoring is strictly forbidden in this island national park. We continued north and in to the Village Harbour marina to tie alongside on the super yacht jetty. The marina office is closed on Sunday's so we had to wait until the next day to organise a berth until a mooring ball became available. Marvellous Mavis waived the fee for our Sunday on the superyacht dock and only charged us $0.85 per foot per night plus 6% tax for a slip.
over 55'? Proceed to the big dock
On Sunday afternoon we'd taken the dinghy in to town and met the crew of a boat we knew from Trinidad in the island boutique brewery. A chance meeting which happened to be a lucky meeting. They were leaving at dawn on Tuesday morning and suggested we could take the mooring they were on. These mooring balls are in such high demand people are out cruising in their dinghies before the sun rises waiting to pounce as soon as a boat drops their lines. It was very cut throat.
Clearing in is taken care of in one office in the centre of town. There are no charges and the officers are super friendly. What's not to like about Bonaire. The buildings are painted bright colours. The town is clean and there is diving in warm, clear water.
Polly has her manservant take her out

Saturday, 17 November 2018

8 November Farewell Trinidad

Phew the Big Clean Up is almost done. Seven days of srubbing, cleaning, washing and re-stowing of tools and we're ready to leave Trinidad.
she's a winner!
When we arrived we estimated we'd be here for a couple of months and do you know what? Two quickly turned in to three. Friends recommended Peake Yacht Service as a good place to haul out and now we agree with them. All the staff from office to yard have been nothing but polite, helpful and accommodating during our stay. Daniella, reservations manager, never blinked or said no when we delayed our splash date three times. While we were there the yard purchased a passenger van and hired a driver to take guests to and from the airport and to take us to the supermarket and in to town for shopping trips. I asked for a lift to a mall where there is a Radio Shack outlet. No problem. There were six of us in the van that morning; a couple to pick up a hire car, the mall for Radio Shack and supermarket, Movietown to buy storage boxes and then a stop at the post office for me to send a parcel to the UK. All with a smile.
Peake's dock
Perhaps one of the nicest surprises was that when a boat launches, Peake's will give you five days complimentary on their stern to dock with water and electricity included. This was what allowed us to do our post haul clean up. It also gave the canvas guy time to complete our new bimini.
But now we've been to Customs and Immigration (no clear out charges), spent our last TT dollars on a couple of bottles of duty free gin and it's time to go.
As we motor towards the western boca / pass we do the final commissioning of the auto pilot. For the first three attempts to align the compass we get an error message. Why? David has the book and I have the helm. We swap jobs and discover an we have an operator error. The person who had the instruction book didn't realise two pages had flipped over and was reading the instructions for a different model. Oops. Next try worked first time and we were on our way to Bonaire.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

24 October Wet, wet, wet

Haul out on a rainy afternoon

We choose to haul out in Trinidad in September to do our boat work while it was hurricane season further north. We knew it would be the rainy season, but what we didn't know was that this was to be the wettest summer ever recorded in Trinidad. And we were here for the largest earthquake for more than 50 years.
At the weekend 210mm of rain fell in one day – the same amount as a hurricane would produce – on to already sodden land causing widespread floods on the east end of the island. Houses were underwater, cars washed away and lives lost. On the boat we took shelter inside while a lake formed under the boats.
polishing topsides

big steps for a little lady

wet, wet, wet

I was told at this time of year the winds normally come across the Atlantic from Africa. This year they are coming from the south east, straight up the coast of South America as the ITCZ, or doldrums, sit higher than usual. Odd weather patterns, floods around the world due to global warming.
The consequence for us has been that our list of jobs has taken longer despite getting up at dawn to begin work knowing the rain was most likely to begin in the early afternoon. Afternoons were given over to any work which could be done in the shelter of the cockpit. I took off for a trip home to the UK and enjoyed the warmest and driest October on record while David developed webbed toes.
All work from the rub rail down is now completed and we are fitting a secondary linear auto pilot, a Raymarine Evolution 4000; bigger, stronger and superior control computer. We're not decommissioning the old Raytheon, that's to be kept in tandem as our back up system with a switch to enable us to move from one to the other as required.
new anti foul
Once the autopilot is in we move on to the headsail furler and mainsail furler rebuilds with all new bearings and seals, new Amel decals to fit. Oh, and there's a new bimini ordered.
Doing a good job, or if working with David, a perfect job, can't be hurried. After all, Jackster is worth it all.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

27 August Taste of Trini Tour

 Jesse James is alive and running the Members Only taxi and tours service based in Power Boats yard. He's not a bank robber. He's a very nice man who does a full day Taste of Trinidad tour for groups of cruisers. It's an island tour with history and stories and multiple stops to pick up samples of as many different flavours and dishes as you can possibly eat. We began the day with bakes at 8 o'clock from a stall at the entrance to Peake Marina and ended at 7pm with pork stew, chicken, beans, vegetables from a restaurant in Port of Spain.

in the mini bus

How it works is Jesse give each couple, or single, a plastic plate, plastic cutlery, a plastic cup and napkins. When we reach the roadside food stall he hops out and buys one or two portions of each food which is then divided between us. Sometimes it was a mouthful, sometimes two mouthfuls each. On the day we went we tasted about 70 items from breakfast, through to lunch sitting by a sargassum covered beach on the east coast, fruits, drinks (no coffee) afternoon pastries and cakes, pre dinner fried chicken and dinner. The cost was was TT 585 (£67) each. No one said Trinidad was cheap.
Here are the photographs with captions where I can remember what it was.  Apologies for the blurred images - not easy to take a shot on a moving mini bus.
coconut bake, pumpkin, chow mein

Salt fish bread, salted fish

Chickpea double

meat pie

chapati, calaloo, beans, chaote

cow heel soup

macaroni pie

potato pie, beef pie

fried salt fish bake

fish pie?

aubergine, chick pea and?

tapioca ball

Jesse collecting the next taste

cassava, pasta, pork

sorrel drink

veg, barbecue pig tail, and ?

sweet and fizzy drink

lunch of duck, pork, chicken, provision

sweet, liquid peanut butter

watermelon on the east coast

doughnuts in spicy mango sauce

sugar, ginger and sugar

snack between meals

local Topic bar

fruit cale

shredded coconut cake

red and sweet

fried chicken wings

chocolate and coconut balls

And finally, for those who still had room, dinner from a restuarant eaten on your lap as we drove back to Chaguaramas at 7pm; stewed pork, stewed beef, pork ribs, mixed vegetables, chick peas, pasta salad, potatoes.

After this I couldn't eat another thing, not even a wafer thin mint, until lunch next day. Burp!

17 August Chaguaramas, Trinidad

After our ocean crossings a trip of 90nm is a short hop. The consensus is that Prickly Bay to Trinidad is best done as an overnight passage because you want to arrive during regular office hours to avoid large overtime fees. We tied up alongside the Customs dock (10°40.79N 61°37.88W) at 11.15am, did a quick change in to smart clothes, and raced up to the Immigration office. There was another boat ahead of us and despite filling in th mutliple forms before midday the lady didn't call us forward until after 12. Overtime! No. She didn't charge us anything.
Then I made a mistake and arrived at Customs before 1pm. More form filling and a charge of TT324, or U$53, for infringing upon the luncheon hour. It's a no money, no clearance system and the nearest ATM is 5 miles and a bus ride away in Glencoe. Catch 22. By a fluke of coincidence we had exactly $53 to be able to pay. Next day I borrowed TT100 from Peake Marine office to catch the bus to the Mall and an ATM.
For the first week we were anchored and for the second picked up one of the mooring buoys. The currents in the bay are unpredictable, can be nothing or up to 4 knots depending on the moon phase. We were advised not to pick up the one brown ball with a metal bar through it; this marks the mast of a sunken yacht less than a metre below the surface.
Chaguaramas is a busy harbour for oil industry support vessels who come in and out collecting provisions and gear.
For reasons unknown the anchorage is a popular spot for Venezuelan fishing boats to anchor. (It's only 14 miles to the coast of Venezuela). They arrive in the morning with eight men on board, anchor, do a lot of boat and three or four will row a battered dinghy ashore using planks of wood for oars and then they pick up there rope and anchor and depart. For fishing boats we didn't see any nets or fish....
Far more unsettling than foreign fishing boats was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which rumbled for almost two minutes. We were below and felt the boat shake. I did the meerket thing popping my head up to check and saw no tankers approaching, but what I did see was the masts of boats in the yards swaying alarmingly, rigging clanging. We felt much safer on the water. Despite this being the strongest earthquake felt in Trinidad for many years (epicentre was 70 miles away off the coast of Venezuela) there were no casualties and no boat damage. The shop, restaurant and fuel dock at Power Boats were damaged and closed for a few days while repairs were carried out.
We were 'Bonded' – shaken but not disturbed.

12 August Grenada Carnival

 The second weekend in August is Carnival. It celebrates the abolition of slavery by Britain in 1838 and the Grenadians have made this into a gloriously colourful and noisy celebration which lasts four days, from Saturday to Tuesday. Pre dawn on Saturday kicks off the party with a horde of people descending into Georgetown dressed in devil hats and old clothes. Old clothes because tradition dictates you're going to be covered in a black, oily liquid. We opted to stay in bed and hear about from those who did go.
On Saturday and Sunday the steel bands compete for best in show title. Monday is more competitions for the dance groups and floats. The grand finale of the whole Carnival weekend wraps up on Tuesday afternoon with a long, swaying, singing, dancing snaking parade of everyone who has competed, dance groups, community groups, floats, bands, kids, families, tourists.  We went and I took many, many photos. Here are just a few which I feel capture the day.