Cheshire Cat in Trinidad

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


An unexpected side trip to Trinidad on Cape Adler; a birthday; Bill's visit

Carol, Deirdre and Tom celebrate birthdays together

Here we are in another adventure! (Mike keeps telling me not to get us into things and threatens to refuse any more adventures. I plan to ignore him). We're in Trinidad!

We've sailed here in Cape Adler, a South African built Crossbow 40 and a big change from our Cheshire Cat. The boat had to leave Venezuela for 45 days to comply with local regulations, so we took the opportunity to see Trinidad. Mike has had to work very hard getting all the boat systems up and working and has been making loud grumbling noises. I really can’t blame him – he has had to spend hours crawling around the engine and generator, testing all the systems, and then fix lights and pumps and electronic equipment. He is finding it very hard work in the heat and humidity.

Trinidad is a busy little commercial port as well as a winter home for the yachts, so we see many different ships come in to the wharf and docks nearby. There are a couple of oil rigs sitting out in the bay as well, apparently in from Venezuela for servicing. The last ones we saw were in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Sourcing boat parts here in Trinidad is a lot easier than anywhere else we have been – there are lots of marine businesses here and many, many more boats than we have seen in a long time. This is the island where most people come to re fit and to leave their boats when they go home as it is safely out of hurricane country. There also seem to be lots of boats for sale.

Chagaramas is normally a busy place but it is even more dynamic at present as there are lots of yachts here that were damaged or salvaged from hurricane Ivan.

Ivan was an appalling disaster, we feel we were so lucky to be safe and sound and away from the devastation secure in Venezuela. We had spent all the previous hurricane season in Grenada and could easily have been there again this year as it was purported to be safely out of the hurricane belt.

We were in Los Tostigos when Charlie went north of us and in Margarita when Earl went by, but neither of those did much damage to the southern Caribbean. Ivan was stronger and in an unusually low latitudes, tracked right across Grenada, pounding the island, decimating the trees and the vegetation and flattening buildings, leaving almost everyone homeless and without electricity, telephones, food and water. The valuable nutmeg trees and small holding will take years to recover.

The cruising community here and in Venezuela has collected anything that can be used to help in Grenada and delivery boats loaded down with donated supplies have made frequent trips to the island. Things like tarpaulins, foam boat cushions, food, clothes, tools and utensils – anything that could be found that might contribute to the hundreds of families that have lost everything.

We’ve just missed seeing friends from Serendipity that have had to return to UK because their boat sank during the hurricane and took their whole life away – after cruising for over 30 years and raising their children on her, they have lost everything. The boat has however, been re christened and relaunched and will be home to another adventuring family now. Mike and I are so thankful we chose to move further south for this season.

Another boat we knew and have found here in Trinidad is a Cabot just like Cheshire Cat. We heard that it was sunk in Grenada and that the owners were safe, but the boat has turned up here with all the other salvaged vessels. It is very sad looking at her – everything on the decks has gone although the hull looks in remarkably good condition. We have heard that the current owner bought it from the insurance company for 400 Trini dollars – just over 50 US dollars. Night Owl another salvaged boat that belonged to Pam and Chas and is now under repair with a new owner.

We haven’t visited Trini before – it's incredibly green and pleasant even if it is a little on the hot and humid side. Luckily for us we have found a number of old friends - mainly cruisers that we first met in Bermuda and “up island”, so feel quite at home. We can also stock up on grocery goodies we normally don’t see on the shelves in the local corner shop. Things like decent marmalade, piccalilli, good cheese, and good old Canadian President’s Choice chocolate biscuits. Treats!

Bill came to visit for a couple of weeks as we had hoped to escape and visit Tobago but unfortunately there was too much work to be done here, so we stayed put. Once again we have to thank Bill for all the help that he gave us - particularly with electrical work – and installing a fridge.

Pole dancing

I celebrated a big "O" birthday here along on the same day as Carol from Indigo, and Tom from Annie B. We had a fabulous evening with lots of food and music in the Coral Cove cabana. I even managed a little pole dancing!

There is a very energetic social life here with visits to the cinema, to local band competitions and all the other Trinidadian events; outings to nearby beaches, restaurants and local stores, dance lessons, computer seminars, domino sessions, trivia quizzes, informal “pot luck” barbecues and casual happy hour get-togethers on boats and on shore.

Rainbow over the anchorage and the yachts

Local buses or “maxi taxis” take us into town – we just stand beside the road and flag one down as it goes past – just the same as in all the other islands except that these buses aren’t allowed to crowd as many bodies inside. Besides the normal buses the cruisers have the services of special bus services running to the local supermarkets on certain days. Many of the boaters that stay here long term rent or buy bicycles – a great idea because walking is pretty uncomfortable in the unrelenting heat.

A few days ago we met a few friends in our marina cabaƱa and had a barbecue, followed by a guitar and singing session while we watched the eclipse of the moon. On another night we went to a Tikki hut located in a grassy part of one of the marinas to listen to our friend Susie from Gipsy (we met in Grenada last year) play the violin with Tom from Annie B accompanying on the guitar.

We spent a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Chaguaramas Bay and anchored off a nearby island called Chacacachari. (Chaca is the word for cotton that was grown there at one time). It was wonderfully peaceful and so quiet with just the birds and fish to keep us company. Apparently the islands here were inhabited as far back as AD 100 – 700, but Christopher Columbus was the first European to land here. He heard strange animal calls and thought that the island was inhabited by wild cats. In actual fact the strange noise was made by the indigenous ‘howler’ monkeys!

We took a trip on the catamaran "covershot"

It appears that the local Trinidadians built a spa and health center on this island in the 1800’s and that was later taken over and used as a leper colony. Dominican nuns lived on the island at the time and provided some care for the lepers, but the lepers were generally pretty much left alone to fend for themselves. When the nuns left they were replaced by ordinary nursing staff and the colony was only closed down in 1984. The island is said to be haunted by one of the nuns now, and when the coastguard took over the buildings they didn’t stay in for more than six months.

At the topmost point of the same island is a lighthouse – supposedly being the highest standing lighthouse in the world until the Russians built one on a taller hill. It is reputed to be terrific hike – but it looked to be quite a distance – uphill as well! We were too lazy in the heat to attempt it.

There are several whaling stations dotted around on various nearby islands; in one place a series of underground caverns lead to an underground waterfall and brilliantly clear pool. When we visited we swam in the cool clear water, then wandered around the collection of stalactites and stalagmites. There were lots of fruit bats there as well – not quite so charming!

Underground to the pool where we swam
in the cool water on Gasar Island

We also had the good fortune to be invited to join a trip to the Asa Wright Center – an old plantation estate and now a bird sanctuary. There we saw many of the forty species of hummingbirds that live there and also a bell bird – something I hadn’t previously heard of. We saw little Mannekin birds and marveled at the noise they make - exactly like fingers snapping. It would have been wonderful to spend more time there and to explore more of the trails in the rainforest.


There are several colonies of “oil” birds there – like the ones we saw in Venezuela (Grouchero birds) These birds live in caves and are nocturnal, just like bats, coming out to feast on local fruit only at night. We were told that the birds used to be popular and were caught for their high content of oil. The oil was collected and burned for light. The baby birds stay in the nest until they are twice the weight of their parents and were particularly highly valued as apparently one baby could burn for three or four hours. Hmmm!!

Now we are back in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela – cozily ensconced on Cheshire Cat again. Isn’t home wonderful!! We bought a number of toys for the boat – mainly a lovely brand new electric anchor windlass (so that Mike doesn’t have to haul the anchor up manually) and a second-hand radar unit. Both these items have to be installed and should provide hours and hours of fun and entertainment for Mike and me. (Nothing I like better than drilling holes in perfectly good decks – fiddling around with nuts and bolts, screws and silicone, not to mention running heavy battery cable wires through lockers and cupboards from one end of the boat to the other.) Should be a fun Christmas for us.

Our plans is to travel west as soon as we can – providing the winds and waves at this end of the Caribbean are not too strong, we will head for the San Blas Islands off Panama, and hope to go through the Panama canal in March, heading for the Pacific. Plans can change so we shall wait and see what actually transpires.

Birthday wishes - may they all come true!