It's May! It's May!
It’s Mango Season! One of the boat service providers has a huge mango tree in her yard so she gives these out to customers. What? You have to pay for mango in the U.S.?
This year, May is the beginning of the end of our sailing season. First Allegro went to Trinidad. Then, after another week in Bequia, we checked the weather, and Bill said this week’s weather is good for sailing south. Next week’s is bad. So… I guess ware going to Trinidad a bit earlier than we had planned.
God love Trinidad. They have had their borders closed for the past 2 summers, so we haven’t been here since October of 2019. My list of boat projects for the great craftsmen there has grown and grown. As has the government’s love of paperwork. The entry to Trini has always meant about 45 minutes in Immigration filling out 6 forms in duplicate or triplicate (with carbon paper to help speed the process along) followed by 30 minutes in Customs filling out 3 forms in duplicate. Compare this to the French islands where you go to a local shop and fill out one page at the computer and the leave. Now they have added an on-line portion: a 12-page form on line to apply for a “travel permit” which requires uploading your passport, vaccination record, boat registrations, and the results of the covid test you had taken not more than 72 hours before you arrive (if your sail down took too long, well, sucks to be you). Then you file your “float plan” with the Coast Guard and send that, your travel pass, and copies of all the things in it (passport, vax, test, etc.) to your marina. Then you can sail for 19 or more hours to come visit the island. So, that’s what I did – three times, mine, Mark’s, and our friend Rob’s. Woe unto those who enter Trinidad waters before the hour of 8:00 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. Trini is (I think) the only Caribbean nation that doesn’t charge you an entry fee UNLESS you enter “outside of business hours”, including weekends. The “overtime penalty” (even if you come into the office during working hours) is steep. Oh, and St. Vincent also penalizes you for weekend or holiday entry/exit. So, that means you don’t want to clear in or check out Saturday or Sunday. So, we had our covid test done (we had to go to the hospital for it – proctored self-tests are not acceptable) and we cleared out of Bequia on Friday and sailed to Chatham Bay on Union Island, still part of St. Vincent and about 4 hours south of Bequia, on Saturday. We spent the night there and at noon Sunday Kalunamoo and Miclo III left for Trinidad. We waited until 5:00 before we followed them. (They arrived about 20 minutes before we did.)
We had a delightful sail. We caught all the currents between islands going our way (we caught no fish though). We had 15 – 18 knots* of wind most of the way down, the waves were small, all in all, a great trip. Roxy went between 8 and 9 knots most of the night. Going that fast, she sounds like a freight train. We saw bioluminescence in the froth of our wake – like lightening under the sea – there were intermittent clouds but no rain. We came into Trinidad waters about 8:15 Monday morning. Then we had to wait for the “health officer” to come to the boat yard to check our papers and give us our Health Clearance which would allow us to go to customs. You’d think that he could have come on Friday, after we submitted all our stuff, but no, he waits until we are sitting in the bay. About 2:00 we are told that we can come get our papers and begin the customs & immigration process. It was 4:45 before we were done clearing in.
* a “knot” is sailor talk for a nautical mile (NM) which is equal to 1 minute of latitude, or 1,852 meters, or 1.151 “statute” mile.
May 11, 2022
We hauled out today. Getting 16’ wide Roxy into the 17’ wide take-out well, with a 12-knot cross wind, is harrowing. But, as usual, Mark did it without a scratch (lucky placement of bumpers). In the well at 11, in the travel lift at 12, in “our spot” in the yard by 12:30, at which point everyone broke for lunch. At 1:00 the lift guys came back and got us settled in. By 2:00 we had our air conditioner and stairs. Mark has connected us to shore power and we are sitting pretty. Today and tomorrow I have a stream of workmen coming to see what wonderful things they can do for us and to help us empty our pockets. We are willing donors.
Living “on the hard” is different. Roxy is always on the edge of the yard by the fence (10’ tall chain-link fence with concertina wire across the top), just on the end of the Budget Marine parking lot. Their security lights shine right into our cabin. And going to the bathroom really requires planning because we can’t use the “head” on the boat, we have to go down the stairs to the bathrooms across the way. (It's 160 steps down the stairs and across the lot) (That's 320 steps every time I have to pee!) On the other hand, we are plugged into shore power so our freezer is at -2 degrees F and all our outlets are powered, all the time, not just when the generator is running. Our friends are nearby – and you know that is the most important thing, and I do a lot more walking. So, it’s a little inconvenient, but it really is great.
That said, we work pretty hard while we are here. Getting the boat ready to be left for 5 months isn’t as easy as just walking away. Mark flushes all the salt water out of the engine and generator, we take down all the sails and have them cleaned and inspected, all the halyards and sheets (working ropes for you non-sailors) are taken down, washed, dried, and stored away, the dinghy has to be cleaned, covered, and turned upside-down, I give the swim ladder (and Butch the Flamingo) a real scrubbing, and 100 other little tasks that all add up to being quite busy working most of the day. Meals are fun here. There are the food vendors in their tents just outside the yard. There are four regulars. For breakfast there are doubles. Doubles are two (double) small tortilla-like breads that are overlapped on a piece of butcher’s paper and then doused with a chick pea stew, sort of a curry flavor, which are then topped with various sauces (we usually choose the mango and “a little spice”) and then rolled up like a saltwater taffy. They are very messy. And very delicious. For extra decadence, Mark likes it when I put his in a pan and fry an egg on top.
For lunch there are two tents that serve up typical Trini food – stewed chicken, lamb, or pork, with sides of pillau rice, “provisions” (boiled taro, potatoes, or dashine) “macaroni pie”, “corn pie”, callaloo, and salad. Then there is Chicki who makes sandwiches using either a coconut bread (big thick fluffy bread with a tiny hint of coconut) or a “fried bake” (like a huge pita bread) for the bread and fills them with your choice of salt fish, roast beef, chicken, livers, ham, etc. topped with more wonderful sauces and veggies. If you want one of Chicki’s sandwiches for lunch you had better buy it at breakfast time because by 11:00 she is sold out and gone. All of this is so easily affordable that it doesn’t pay for me to buy food and cook. Doubles have gone up in price, they used to be TT$5, but now cost TT$6 – or US $0.89. Chicki’s sandwich cost TT$21 or $3.15. One of the full meals runs about TT$40 or $6. Such a deal!!
After a busy day of work, in Trinidad's insane heat, we are pretty well spent, but when the sun goes down, well that’s another story. IF we have energy left from the day (a.k.a. had a chance to take a 20-minute nap and a shower) we usually have something planned for the evenings.
And the workmen. So far, we have contracted for or are awaiting contracts for:
All our diesel to be removed from the boat and “polished”. Somehow, we ended up with water or something else miserable in our fuel tanks and it is messing up our engines*. Fortunately, Mark had installed a fuel polishing system about 8 years ago, so the fuel getting to the engine is mostly good, but the filters on the system have needed to be replaced three times since he installed the system, once after 6 years, because Mark felt like he should do it, and twice in the past three months. The first time he changed the filter he was tempted to just put the old one back in. This year they were full of sludge and gunk.
“Chaps” for our new dinghy – they cover and protect the inflatable tubes.
New rigging for our running back stays
Sail cleaning and storage
Refurbishing our cabin sole (the floor of the cabin)
Repainting the non-skid areas of the deck and addressing some corrosion in other areas
A number of plumbing projects (Mark really hates doing plumbing.)
New cushions in the salon
New foam in the cockpit cushions (this one is was surprise)
This is going to be a really expensive year. I keep reminding myself that it’s deferred maintenance since we did none of this kind of work for the past 2 summers, so it’s only one third as bad as it seems.
*Update on the fuel: Mark and the fuel guy figured out that there was probably nothing bad in the fuel, it was just so old that it had sort of “gelled”. Yuck. Anyway, it’s gone now and we have nice clean fuel.
One way (maybe the best way) you know you are in Trinidad is the parrots. At 5:30 they all fly to (p.m.) or from (a.m.) their roost. Their loud, fun squeaking and ridiculous way of flying is always entertaining. (Turn up the volume to really hear them.)
With the end of sailing season we have to totally shut down the boat. For Mark this means systems to clean and empty and items to be stored and locked down. For me it means emptying the kitchen and pantry of all foods. As I do this it gets a bit tense – I don’t like running out of food – but I’m on top of it.
May 9 - I gave away all my flour and sugar. I don't bake aboard. As a matter of fact, I don't think I'll buy any next season
May 25 – out of regular brown rice (still have basmati), used up the lamb chops
May 28 – out of tortillas/wraps (still have regular bread), finished the mahi-mahi
May 29 – out of orange juice, milk, (still have cream), butter* (still have olive oil) I have one egg for each breakfast (I may have to buy more eggs)
May 30 -- ate the last of the chicken in our freezer
*I found another stick of French butter in the freezer.
Anything I have left on June 4 I will give to friends or to the staff at the yard.