those of you who have tuned in late and wonder why we keep ending up
in Trinidad, its simple; we just enjoy spending money on boat maintenance!
Seriously, most of the insurance companies now require that cruising
boats be located below 12.5° north latitude for the hurricane season
of June 1 to Dec 1. This makes Trinidad with its extensive boat storage
and maintenance services the likely destination. A number of boatyards
and marinas have sprung up in the Chaguaramas area and the summer season
will find over 600 boats at any one time either stored or moored. Over
the years the work force has grown and there are an unlimited number
of services available, all at very attractive prices, compared to the
States or other islands. Of course the catch is that all the money saved
is spent on new found projects and improvements. VIVA fell prey to this
condition, and for the past three months has undergone numerous improvements,
repairs and upgrades.
our return in August, the first month was spent on the hard at Power
Boats, one of the larger boatyards in the area. For those of you who
have experienced the boatyard liveaboard life, crawling up and down
ladders for that midnight potty run, we can only add heat, humidity
and the usual daily rainstorm. What made life a little less bearable
for Steve was that he contracted some sort of virus, complete with high
fever, headaches and aching joints. After ruling out Dengue Fever, we
decided that is must have been West Nile Virus along with "oldageitis".
Fortunately, it was over in about a week and it did provide a good diet
regimen. The only thing that really saved us was the little cabin top
air conditioner we were able to rent from Cosmos Marine Services. Cosmos
is a Trini entrepreneur, who has definitely found his niche with the
yachties arriving for the summer season. While unheard of in California,
air conditioning is mandatory in this climate for our small cabin area
with all the rain and humidity. I don't know how we survived the previous
summer without it.
The first couple of weeks were spent on the usual yearly maintenance of bottom painting and hull waxing; and in addition we had removed both the rudder to replace the bearings and the mast for inspection and minor repairs. As we mentioned, there is a good work force available in Trinidad, both skilled and semiskilled, but one must definitely be prepared to function on the Trini time schedule. Our workers arrival time (if they indeed did arrive) was directly related to how much "liming" they did the night before. As Carnival draws closer, the nightly partying accelerates and the entire boat projects slow to a snail's pace. With one exception, the quality of work was quite good. For a less than $300.00 labor we were able to have our cutlass bearing, shaft seal and coupling replaced, muffler replaced, valves adjusted, injectors serviced and heat exchanger removed and cleaned,. Our engine has never run better or cooler. Fortunately, Duncan our mechanic was a family man so he always showed at least by 11:00 AM!
After finishing our boatyard projects we moved into Coral Cove Marina and our next great discovery was Tony Tinto, an all around wood and fiberglass refurbisher. We had met him earlier when he was refinishing the teak decks on CHARIS, and were able to contact him to completely sand, refinish and recaulk the 18-year old decks on VIVA. Tony was an incredibly hard worker and the job took over a week, toiling in that hot sun. However, Tony did fall prey to the occasional nights of "limin", so we never knew what time he would show up for work. Fortunately, he had contracted for the entire job and it all worked out for the best with VIVA's decks now like new.
Our one exception occurred when Pam decided to have the galley area refinished. We hired the local wood shop to strip, sand, epoxy and revarnish the area, feeling that a professional could do a better job in the tight quarters. Unfortunately, Benson, the man they sent aboard was obviously still at the apprentice level of Woodworking I. He did a decent job of stripping the old varnish and rough sanding, but when it came to finish sanding and applying varnish, he was way out of his league. Our first clue came when he showed up for work forgetting half his materials, consisting only of tape, sandpaper, brush and epoxy or varnish. He then had to return to the woodshop via bicycle to fetch the needed items, showing up an hour or so later. The next clue came when he mixed the two-part epoxy into a plastic container, setting off a chemical reaction with the sponge brush and container. He then proceeded to epoxy the blue masking tape into the wood, which required a half a day to chisel out. Finally, with the galley all torn up and two weeks of on/off labor, we decided the galley looked worse than ever. After five coats of epoxy/varnish, which looked like it was applied with a whisk broom, Pam decided to finish the job herself. Benson for whatever reason never showed up to be fired and within a day, Pam had completed the job, which now looks better than any professional. Fortunately, the wood shop did not charge us for all of Benson's on-the-job-training.
Between projects, we were able to enjoy a few of Trinidad's other attractions. For Pam's birthday, we took a one-day trip to the Asa Wright Nature Center. This lovely old coffee/cocoa plantation is located on a 200 acre estate high in the rain forest, which includes a beautiful drive through the forest and along the North coast. After a beautiful rain-soaked hike (yes, it does rain in the rain forest), we were served lunch on the verandah of the old estate house overlooking the valley and ocean below.
A stay in Trinidad would not be complete without at least one spectacular music venue, and our stay happened to coincide with the World Steelband Festival. We attended the semifinals and finals with two 5-hour concerts and nine different bands from around the world. It was truly incredible to hear such intricate classical numbers played by a 60-piece steel orchestra. However, we can definitely say we have had our fill of pan music for a while.
Finally, after emptying our wallets on all the "good deals", it was time to move on, and we again decided to finish up hurricane season in Venezuela. At the end of October, we departed for the 90-mile sail to Islas Los Testigos, buddy-boating with a young couple from California. This pristine little group of islands with clear water and white sand beaches is inhabited about 150 fishing families. After weeks of heat and rain in Trinidad, Los Testigos made for a perfect stop. It was great to again be in a drier locale with cooling trade winds.
After a week of beachcombing and swimming, we sailed on to Porlamar, Isla Margarita; and since we are now caught up with our travelogues, we'll continue our journal from this location.
All the best,
Steve & Pam