May = Trinidad and Tobago
May began with Lee’s birthday (Allegro). I made a cake for him. Unfortunately, Allegro is in the U.S. Virgin Islands, so Kalunamoo came over and we had a party for him with out him. We had to eat the whole cake by ourselves. (Not all at one sitting though.)
On May 2 we left Bequia and sailed to Tobago. We have sailed into Trinidad 5 times but never been to the sister island of Tobago. We have a number of friends, Jim and Stephanie on Hero, come to mind, who have been here and love the island, so we decided we would be here one way or another. Most of the reason we haven’t been here is it’s so difficult to get to. It is well east of the rest of the Caribbean (except Barbados) so you are fighting with the wind from the east. Also, it is smack in the equatorial current, which is also moving east to west. So, playing the current and the winds, at first it looked like we wouldn’t even make it to Trinidad. Then later it looked like we would actually just sail right into our intended destination. The reality was the we hit the shore kind of in the middle of the island and then had to work our way east. Once we were near the island we still had east winds, but the current was down/gone, and the wind was light.
Trinidad’s bureaucracy never ceases to amaze. I know I should get over it and just expect the most bizarre requirements, but they come up with so many doozies, that it boggles the mind. We know that clearing customs and immigration in T&T is a matter of filling out multiple antiquated forms (how many stowaways, how much plague, how many died) in triplicate or quadruplicate, using honest-to-goodness carbon paper, but we have never “cruised” in Trinidad. In all the other multi-island nations; Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and of course the French island of Guadaloupe and les Saintes, wherever you enter and clear in you are then free to travel to any of their ports, on any of their islands, and may clear out at any of the customs & immigration offices. What a concept!! Our first obstacle in Tobago was the immigration officer. She wasn’t there. Her office is in another town (Scarborough) but we were at the opposite end of the island (Charlotteville). Instead there is a phone number on the door. I called it. It rang a long time. The customs officer wasn’t there either, but when I called him he answered and came to the office very quickly. He called the immigration lady for us and made an appointment for the next day. Then he took us to the health officer - in another building in another area of town.
The next day (Thursday) we went to the office at 10:00. Mark had to be there, but all they did was see that he was there. He waited in another room. The first thing she asked me was if I had all the copies of all of my paperwork that I needed (boat documentation, passports, and one of their forms). Of course I didn’t. So, I sent Mark to the library to make copies. I filled in all the forms and as we were coming to the end of the clearing in process the woman told me that we would need to come back to Charlotteville to clear out when we were leaving. I was a bit surprised by this and said “even if we’re going to Trinidad?” She said, yes. I said something like, but we’ll be at the other end of the island by then. She made an exasperated noise and did some paper shuffling and then folded some paperwork in 3, stapled it shut, and handed it back to me and then said we don’t need to come back at all, just go to Trinidad. Then I went into customs. More forms. He needed a copy of something of mine and guess what?! He did it - using the copier sitting in the office between customs and immigration. (**bitch**) One of the pages he gave me is called a bay-hopping permit. It allows us to travel to other bays on Tobago. But wait!! Not all the bays, just the bays on the west end. If we want to go to the east end of the island we have to go to Scarborough and get a bay-hopping permit for the rest of the bays. Oh, and by the way, regardless of what the woman in immigration said, we have to come back to Charlotteville to clear customs.
Wednesday, 10 May
Tobago is a eco-tourism paradise. The bays have great snorkeling, with scads of fish and corals and the island is a lush forest of hiking trails and waterfalls. The woods are full of birds. Yes, our Trinidad parrots are here, but there are about 5 other birds that we hear calling and squawking and making a racket in the trees. It’s wonderful.
There are lots of taxis who will take you on an island tour, and tour guides who will take you on specific tour packages. We are trying to pick which we will do. Meanwhile Mark has been hiking up hills and along roads and trails and having a great time. We have been snorkeling and seeing lots of fish and corals.
Charlotteville is a nice village, maybe 300 people live around here. It has a reasonable grocery and a couple of tiny markets, a produce stand, and a nice restaurant - with a very limited menu; fish, chicken, or shrimp, grilled and served with delicious sides of beans, rice, salad, and some vegetable.
And this week it has an itinerant preacher. About 7:00 you can hear his group tuning up their guitars, keyboard, and whatever instruments, while he says “test, one, two” twelve times. Then he gets going. It must be hard on your ears in town, it’s really loud in the anchorage. He is a full-on Arsenio Hall in Coming to America. Full of the “Love of Jeeezus” offering salvation to true believers. At first we thought it was a Sunday thing (cause the show started on Sunday) and it was kind of entertaining from aboard, but when it happened again on Monday and Tuesday, we figured that he travels from town to town spreading the gospel. And it wasn’t entertaining anymore. It’s full on annoying when you are trying to read and he’s going on and on.
Tuesday we took the public bus to Scarborough. It’s a really nice bus and for $8TT (about $1.10) each way you can sit in air conditioned comfort in comfortable seats for a two hour ride up and down mountains and around hair-pin turns while you watch the coast go by. Scarborough is the “big town” here. A real grocery store, a shopping mall, and of course the customs and immigration office. We stopped by to get our bay-hopping pass for the east end of the island. After the officer gave me our pass he told us that now we have to come back to Scarborough to check out before we go to Chagauramas. PLEASE PEOPLE!! Make up your mind. He also sent us to immigration - don’t ask me why - where we spoke with the woman who had cleared up in the week before in Charlotteville. She told us we don’t have to come back to her before we go to Chagauramas, she has already cleared us out of Tobago. I am so confused. The next item on the agenda was to get some doubles. It’s amazing to us that there isn’t a double stand in Charlotteville, but there isn’t. So we got some doubles, did some produce shopping, and decided to take the 2:30 bus back. About 11:30 we passed the bus stop asked the people waiting there to confirm that there was, in fact, a 2:30 bus and we were told, no. Either 12:30 or 5:00. So I called the office and ask and was assured that there is, indeed, a 2:30 bus. So we went to the botanical garden - a bunch of mango trees with a palm tree or two thrown in for good measure - and the to KFC for lunch. Trinidad loves KFC. It’s a little different than in the U.S., but not enough to go Gaga over (in my opinion). But Mark wanted Trinidad KFC. So we ate our chicken and mac and cheese (they didn’t have Cole slaw!!) and went to get the 2:30 bus. At 2:45 a bus came but it wasn’t the bus we needed. I did ask the driver and he told me no, there isn’t a 2:30 bus. The next bus is at 4:30. At 4:00 we went back to the stop and there were 100 people milling around. The bus came at 4:45. First on were the school children - they do this every day and know how to elbow and push their way in front of the people who are right by the door - like us. We guess that the bus has 45 seats. There were about 70 people on the bus by the time we finally go on. It was so nice that the young people were comfortably seated while the old and infirm were left standing or sitting on the floor. We were not amused. About one hour into the two hour ride Mark and I finally had seats.
Such is live on a Caribbean island.
Thursday, 11 May
We left Charlotteville and motored over to Bloody Bay. It seems that every island nation has a Bloody Bay - a place where the indigenous people kept to their death rather than submit to being enslaved. We didn’t see any sign of plunging citizenry, but a quite bay with abut 6 fishing boats on moorings.
(We later learned that the bay isn’t named after plunging citizens, but after an especially bloody battle between the French and the English some time in the 1700’s.)
Tuesday, May 23
We sailed from Tobago to Trinidad last Thursday. Friday Roxy was hauled out and set on dry land. Within half an hour of being in place we had an air conditioner on board, pumping cool into our hot boat. Sweet relief. Now comes the line-up of workers to pamper Roxy, make her pretty, and safe. We found a problem that we didn’t even know we had. When we connected to shore power the 110v lights and outlets on the port (left side, looking forward) side of the boat come on, but the lights and outlets on the starboard side do not. We haven't needed an electrician aboard before. We have one now.
Sunday, bright and early, I did a load of laundry and had it hung to dry by 7:00 a.m. At 7:30 it started raining. Monday afternoon it was still raining and my laundry was still wet. I brought some of our things inside to dry, but they didn’t really. By 9:30 Tuesday morning I was ready to give up and put things into the dryer, so I took everything down. At 10:00 the sun came out so I rehung everything. By 11:00 it was all dry. All I had to do was threaten to put things in the dryer. Now, at 3:00 p.m. it is raining again. Ahh, Trinidad in the wet season….
Being “on the hard” has its pro’s and con’s. Unlimited power, water, stability, air conditioning, all are good things. Up and down shaky stairs (or worse, a LADDER) all day, especially at 2 a.m. for the bathroom, 89 degrees, and drenching rain get under your skin. But on the whole, we enjoy being here. We have a group of friends who all come here and we have our weeks well laid out. Thursday night we have a barbecue, everyone brings a dish to pass. Friday nights there is a jam session. (Mostly Bill from Kalunamoo and Ian who lives in town. Sometimes I can be convinced to embarrass myself with my ukulele.) Saturdays we go out to dinner, and Sundays is Mexican Train Dominos. And this year the group is growing. We have encouraged a number of our friends to come to Trinidad for the summer. This year there are about 10 Salty Dawg boats new to Trinidad. It will be fun introducing them to the island and our good times. We will do our best in the 10 more days that we are here.
Next stop, USA.