4 October 2018 Chaguaramus, Trinidad
Our son Brett dropped us off at Gatwick very early on a misty morning. We checked in and walked onto the plane on time, but as soon as they had us seated, they announced that there were some delays because of the fog and that they would keep us informed. I hate being trapped like that. We had a frustrating two hour wait until the fog cleared enough to allow normal airport operations.
There was another one hour delay at St Lucia while some passengers disembarked and others got on and we arrived at Port of Spain in Trinidad, two hours late. There was a very long wait at Immigration while they faffed about with each person. I was expecting all sorts of trouble because we will be leaving on a yacht, but the paperwork that we’d obtained before we left worked well and we’re soon given a 3 month visa.
After picking up the bags, we were stopped at customs, who quickly spotted that we were yachties (how do they know?). The lady asked us if we were carrying any spare parts. There was no point in denying it, so we were taken to one side and had to go into an office to declare the items.
Strangely, they didn’t want to inspect our bags, nor did they want a list of the items - they only wanted to know how many bags contained spare parts. They explained that we will have to immediately go to the Customs office in Chaguaramus to have our bag or bags inspected. We told them that we only had one bag and that was duly noted on the form.
We’d arranged that Mike would pick us up from the airport, and despite the two hour delay, he was waiting for us. He said that it was no problem to stop off at customs - he said it was normal. While he went for his car, I repacked our bags, so that we had a few big impressive spare parts in one bag to show customs.
The route back to Chaguaramus goes through Port of Spain and the traffic was atrocious, so it took about an hour to get to the Customs office. A very nice lady took the form given to me at the airport and looked at the spare parts in my bag. No problem, everything was ok and duty free because it was for the boat. It’s a very strange system and obviously open to abuse.
We dumped our bags in our hotel room and were drinking a nice cold beer by 20:00. We collapsed into bed an hour later.
5 October 2018 Chaguaramus, Trinidad
We were up early and carried our heavy bags to the boat. The inside smelled a little musty, but not bad after three months - there was also no sign of the dreaded mildew. Even the deck and the topsides looked pretty clean. The bottom has been anti-fouled, but strangely, there are two shades of blue paint. Everything looks okay to go back in the water.
We’d been told that we were being launched at 14:00, but there was another boat “Larus” parked right in front of us. We chatted to Tim and Nancy who were surprised that they would have to be moved today - they were due to be launched on Monday next week. I went to the Peakes office who assured me that we would be launched at 14:00. There was a bit of discussion with Tim who was offered the chance to be launched today, but decided to go in on Monday as planned.
I asked the Yard manager about the two tone paint and he said that one of the tins of Jotun Seaforce 90 must have been from a separate batch because the colour was different. He said that he’d done his best to blend in the colours, but there was nothing else that he could have done. The hull looks a bit like a harlequin, but it’s underwater and perhaps the patchy look will deter Killer Whales from attacking the boat.
We pottered about for the rest of the morning doing jobs ready to launch. The anchor chain was still draped over a trestle on the ground, so I spent an hour re-marking it every 10 metres and then attaching the anchor, before lifting it back into the anchor locker. I rechecked the steering cables and checked the engine, re-priming the diesel lines, ready to start it for the first time in 3 months.
For lunch, we strolled across to the Roti Hut in Power Boats, but we were immensely disappointed to find out that they are closed on Fridays. Instead, we went to one of the food stalls set up outside Powerboats and bought a tasty meal of pork, beans, rice and provisions - a bargain for £4.
The afternoon turned into a farce. There was much confusion and by 14:00 there was a discussion with the yard workers to explain that “Larus” want to be launched on Monday and that “Alba” wanted to be launched today. They eventually understood and moved “Larus” to another spot. Unfortunately, another yacht, who was supposed to have been lifted in the morning, arrived 6 hours late and they had to haul him out before they could launch us - another hour’s delay. We finally got into the water at 16:15 - 15 minutes after their finishing time.
All went well after that. The engine started fine and I remembered to "burb" the stern gland this time. The gear lever was a little sticky at first but soon loosened up. We motored out of the dock and across to Coral Cove Marina. We always want to be bow-in to the prevailing wind, so that we get a breeze through the boat. This meant that we’d have to back into our berth, which is always fraught and more so after 3 months way. However, with the help of a guy on the dock we managed without any disaster.
We’d had the presence of mind to buy 6 cold beers before we left Peakes, so we were sinking on at 17:00. It was a long tiring day.
6 October 2018 Chaguaramus, Trinidad
We had a slow day, pottering about, unpacking our bags and tidying the boat ready to start jobs tomorrow. I dropped the dinghy into the water and was amazed that the outboard started on the second pull. We wanted to hose down the decks and clean everything, but there was no water pressure from the taps on the dock. Unfortunately, it’s the weekend, so there’s no one in the office to complain to. Glenys cracked up and washed the cockpit down using water from our water tanks.
We went shopping in the afternoon and bought enough food to feed us for a couple of days. The fridges are thankfully still working, so the drinks fridge is now well stocked with beer.
I don’t know if it’s jet lag or the weather, but both of us are finding it hard to motivate ourselves to do anything. After 3 months in the UK, we’re finding the heat and humidity oppressive. There’s no wind in this part of the bay and the humidity builds up during the morning, leading to rain in the afternoon. At least the rain cools us down a little in the afternoon, but we need two t-shirts every day.
Glenys stepped up to the mark and despite the heat, cooked a lovely Goat Curry for dinner.
7 October 2018 Chaguaramus, Trinidad
There’s still no water today and the free Wi-Fi supplied by the marina is only available in the immediate vicinity of the office, which is a good 100 metres away - not very convenient. We bought a B-Mobile Sim card, which is also useless. We paid £35 for unlimited internet and telephone calls and despite trying at different times during the day and night, we’re barely able to receive emails and load Google. We’re expecting to be here in Chaguaramus for two weeks, so we’re thinking of going to another marina.
In the relative cool of the morning, I fitted a new LCD display to our auto pilot control head. The sun has baked the old display to a point where it is barely readable, so I bought a new LCD display from Dan Gerhardt in the USA. I approached the job with more than a little trepidation because it required pulling the electronic unit apart and, if I messed it up, we wouldn’t have an autopilot, which would be a major disaster.
The job turned out to be fiddly, but fairly simple, thanks to the excellent instructions provided by Dan. Unfortunately, the read-out on the display is hard to read because too much of the background is being lit up. I had a flurry of emails with Dan, who said that the problem is that my particular circuit board is providing too high a voltage to the LCD display.
The solution is to replace a resistor on the circuit board. Dan is sending a replacement resistor and instructions to us here in Trinidad. It’s a surface mounted resistor (very, very tiny) and I’m not sure that I feel confident enough to do the soldering. The autopilot is usable, so I might just leave the modification until we get to the USA - Dan says he’ll do the soldering if I send it back to him.
The teak grating in our front heads cracked when we were in Sri Lanka over a year ago and I did a bodge job, screwing a piece of plywood to it. The water doesn’t drain, so after each shower, we have to lift and turn the grating over to get the water out. In addition, the plywood has started to rot and has mildew - it’s a mess. I’ve not been able to get a new grating made along the way and the carpenters here have quoted over $500US dollars to make a new one.
My solution was to buy a teak grating kit from K J Howells, in the UK for only £160. We’ve lugged the kit out in our hold baggage and I now have to assemble it. It’s a bit like a wooden puzzle, which has to be stuck together with epoxy glue. It took me a couple of hours to complete the first phase, which I did in the saloon, which is the only flat surface big enough.
In the late afternoon, there was a trickle of water coming out of the hose pipe and we managed to top up our water tanks, although it took 1½ hours.