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Emancipation Day

Yesterday was a public holiday in Trinidad – Emancipation Day. I had asked locals in stores earlier in the week if anything special would be happening and no one seemed to know. The best I got was that something maybe happening in Port of Spain but not around here. We were also told that shops are likely to be closed.

We debated our original idea to take the bus into Port of Spain as we didn’t want to go all the way there and find nothing open. We never really came off the fence on this one but we thought it was worth a try. Once in the dinghy we first went over to see Diane and Gerald on Whiskers who had arrived a couple of days ago. We chatted for a while and agreed to meet up at Sails in Power Boats for beers later in the evening. A steel band was due to play and we were hoping to have a good atmosphere. They were also of the opinion that not a lot would be open in town.

We then popped round to Freya of Clyde to talk to Anne and Alan. They had a map to lend to us which we picked up. Again – another chat about things. We talked of our plans and they pointed out the busses would likely to be infrequent too. That kind of did it. We had a plan B which was to go for a walk so we decided to do that.

As we walked along the main road, two local busses passed us by. This was hardly infrequent so we decided to catch the third into Port of Spain. When we arrived we found our bearings and headed off into the center of town. It didn’t take long to realize there something was happening. We came to a corner and there were some men and women in bright African clothing, all the same.

Soon we realized there was a parade on. We had no idea of the size of it. Some of it had already passed by but we stood our ground to watch what was left of it. This parade put the carnivals we have seen in Dominica and Bequia to shame. I was glad I had pocketed my small camera so we could record the occasion.

There were floats of many kinds. There were a number with deep booming drums being beaten intensely by enthusiastic drummers. There were trucks with 20 piece steel bands with bands both young and old all well practiced.

Almost every truck was themed in some manner. Some being themed by a local association or church, some going back to African roots. Practically all were followed by throngs of colourfully dressed crowds enjoying the music and occasion.

It didn’t take long before the end of the procession passed us so we walked further into town only to come upon the front of the parade which had looped back along a parallel street. This allowed us to see the rest of the parade that we hadn’t seen before. There were a couple of trucks with the immense speakers stacks that would send our clothes and eardrums vibrating (as we’d seen further up the islands) but fortunately they were the minority – the rest being live music.

In all we must have spent over two hours watching the parade. It was such a pleasant surprise. We wondered why no one had told us of this and why none of the cruisers, some of whom had been coming here for years, knew about this. Perhaps this was a personal thing and it’s not advertised broadly for tourists to come and see. Who knows? We felt privileged to be part of such a wonderful celebration.

We then wondered around for a while zig-zagging through the streets at random. Many of the shops were indeed closed but a few were open. We didn’t go in many but the cold air conditioned air pouring out of some was very welcome. We had lunch in a Chinese restaurant. Every takeaway had solid bars between the eating area and the cooks as if they were in jail. This was a reminder that crime is an issue here in Trinidad. The meal was a little bland but we had huge plates of food for about US$4 each, including a large soda. Not bad.

After lunch we were worn out so we headed back to the bus station via a supermarket where we shopped for some essentials and, by luck, a street market with lots of fruit for sale. On the way back we were again deluged by rain but not for long. By the time we arrived in Chaguaramas, the rain was mostly behind us.

Back on Dignity we were set for a rolly time. Not only was the swell coming in and making the bay choppy, the hoards of power boats coming in and out were creating immense wakes. A few were respecting the anchorage but they were the minority by far.

I did do a little more work on the batteries. I used my mini blow torch to heat the lids where they needed to bend around the cables. It wasn’t often pretty but it worked. Now all four lids sit snugly on the batteries. Port side fully done.

In the evening we went ashore to Sails for beers and a plate of chips. We sat down with Carol and John from Sweet Caroline and another cruising couple from Sail Away. We were soon joined by Diane and Gerald from Whiskers. We were also joined by Gary and his wife from Inspiration Lady. We’ve crossed paths before in Grenada. We didn’t get much time to talk but hopefully we’ll bump into them again in our travels. It looks like they are aiming for a Panama crossing around the same time as us.

We invited Diane and Gerald back to Dignity for a final Rum and Ting. On the way out we passed the Freya’s who we’d not had much of a chance to talk to in the evening. We had a pleasant time aboard with the Whisker’s. A late night to bed was the result.

This morning the weather looks fine. We need to goad ourselves into getting to work on the starboard side drive bank. The plan today is to remove the battery cabling, lift out the six 8D batteries and remove the boxes and all straps and dowels. We’ll then clean up the locker before redoing the dowels and straps and putting some wood filler to cover some burn marks left by some welding that was done before Dignity was originally delivered. If the wood filler sets sufficiently we’ll place another 12 of the 6V batteries into the boxes ready for cabling tomorrow. We still ache so we’re not looking forward to this work at all.

Limbering up

Yesterday morning I decided to remeasure everything and get my plans straight in my mind in terms of what I need to do with the batteries. I discovered, much to my regret, that the house bank battery boxes are tapered top to bottom. While the top of the battery boxes are big enough to fit four Trojans, the bottom certainly isn’t. Double checking the drive bank I was able to confirm the cases were ok. This meant I’d have to find boxes for the house bank or, most likely, build them.

On the off chance I could find boxes I lowered the dinghy to go ashore. Then it started raining again. Another real downpour. That pinned us aboard so we waited it out and had lunch. In the meantime we discovered a small leak in the hatch above our bed so we made plans to fix that too.

Once the rain had subsided I went back ashore to look for boxes and other items. As suspected, I could find no boxes but I did manage to get a dive tank holder, a breaker which I’ve been looking for since Martinique, a new hydrometer for testing battery acid and a decent pair of cutters for cutting hooks (remember the sea gull?).

Back on the boat I was just preparing to install the dive tank holder when the phone rang. I was informed that the batteries were ashore and I needed to bring in some paperwork. So off I went with our customs papers to be copied. I was asked to come back around 4pm when the customs inspection should be complete. I returned a little after and had to wait a while. The prospect of lugging all those batteries by dinghy didn’t appeal to anyone so we agreed to keep them on the truck and move them over to Peaks dockyard where we could temporarily dock.

That we did and with the help of a couple of guys we loaded the 36 batteries and 7 gallons of paint/primer onto Dignity. Not easy work. The batteries were places roughly one third in each hull and one third in the cabin. The effect on the water line is obvious as we’re now dipping at the front. We need to lighten up.

As soon as we could we were back on a mooring, showered and ashore at Sails bar/restaurant where we had agreed to meet Ann and Alan from Freya of Clyde who we learned are here in Trinidad for the summer. We had dinner and beers together and they, being regular summer guests here in Trini, were able to share much info about the island with us. We won’t be able to use it all as we’re heading back to Grenada next week for the Carnival. Still it was nice meeting up with friends from earlier in the season and catch up.

This morning we both ache a little from yesterdays activities. We’ll ache some more tomorrow because today we start swapping batteries. I am focusing first on the port set of drive batteries. Once we have the new batteries in place I can measure up and take all the old cables and have them cut to new lengths and new lugs put on the ends. With them in place I can then take the cables off the second set of drive batteries and hopefully have them cut and prepared today too. If there’s time.

I’ve had some thoughts about what to do with the house bank but the final, proper job will probably get done in Grenada where we have more time. That will also allow us to enjoy Trinidad a little during our brief stay.

So right now we’re limbering up mentally and physically for a strenuous day. Once the coffee is down, it’s off to work we go.

Lazy Days in Carriacou

Not a great deal to report on for the last couple of day.

On Friday I dropped off our new dinghy cover with Andy at In Stitches as it needed additional protection where it rubs against the davit. No price was agreed for the extra work but he seemed reasonable about cost.

Friday evening we ate (and drank) out at Lambi’s with Karen and Matt from Where II. We were picked up and returned by Karen and Matt in their dinghy. Going ashore involved a beach landing which was straight forward (unlike leaving the beach when Karen fell in the water). The steel band started about an hour later than we were told and the place wasn’t crowded, unlike our last visit. Helen and I were merry enough to dance for a while to the live music. We all ended up on Dignity for nightcaps. Returning we found Andy had dropped off the dinghy cover while we were out.

We ended up spending the most of yesterday, US Independence Day, alternating between lazing and planning the rest of 2009/10, an exercise which is continuing today and still requires a lot more effort. I am recording all of the results of our research in Google Earth and organizing the information hierarchically as well as against place holders. I’ve also put together a spreadsheet where I’m recording all the cruising areas between Grenada and New Zealand (which is now our current preferred goal for December 2010 start of Pacific cyclone season), the amount of time we think we want to spend in each and the distances between each cruising area. The spreadsheet will compute overall time needed and spread any differences across the cruising areas. With this we should be able to knock up a rough set of milestones from place to place which no doubt we’ll ignore once we’re into things.

The general point is that it is forcing us to look into places, understand some of the key concepts such as distance and where we can or can’t go, the relative sizes of the various groups of islands, specific areas we definitely want to visit and making us choose the general direction across the Pacific. As it stands, the route across will be Panama, Galapagos, Marquesas, Society Islands (Tahiti, etc), Southern Cooks, Tonga, maybe Samoa, Fiji, NZ. At a higher level still we’re beginning to favour using Australia as a base to explore the Far East rather than putting Dignity on the hard in Fiji. That would mean our 2011 itinerary would be to leave NZ in April to visit Vanuatu (formerly known as New Caledonia), maybe the Solomon Islands and then back down to Australia.

Once this is all done, we’ll publish the derived itinerary and the Google Earth notes. They should be of interest and could be useful to others.

I did go ashore yesterday to find Andy and see what the cost of the extra work to our cover was. He wasn’t in the shop and he had put together no bill for it. Maybe he’s done it as part of the original effort – that would be nice. I can’t be sure if this is the case so left my email just in case. While ashore, I bumped into Alan and Anne from Freya of Clyde who we shared an island tour with in Dominica. It was nice catching up. They’ve been here in Tyrell Bay for two weeks now and will be heading south to Grenada soon and then onto Trinidad for the summer. It’s possible we’ll run into them in Grenada.

Today we felt we needed some exercise so we broke off the planning work and went for a walk. We left the dinghy at the ‘yacht club’ which is really just a dock and haul out facility. We headed south and the road we were on soon turned into a mud track – the mud having a clay texture which clung to our flip flops.

On the way back we climbed a hill which overlooked Tyrell Bay. From there we could see the islands and reefs on the south east of the island where we intend to visit quite soon.

Speaking of which, our intentions are to leave Tyrell Bay tomorrow, head round the north of the island and tuck in behind the reefs on the east coast. We’ll then make our way south to the anchorage we saw today before making our way back down to Grenada and the start of our summer projects. This then is our last cruise away from things until we get going again after the hurricane season dies down. Unless of course we get some extra time and head south for a bit. We’ll see. The more we look at next year the more we realize we need to get everything done early and be out of Grenada as soon as we can.

Island Tour

Today we took a circular tour of the northern half of the island. We were picked up from the boat by Alexis at 8am and handed over to our guide, Winston. He took us and about 8 other cruisers (amongst whom were Alan & Anne from Freya of Clyde and Geoff & Jo from Sutton Hoo) to a number of sites including the red rocks, the Carib Territory and Spanny Waterfalls (where Helen and I skinny dipped). Along the way we had lunch at a beautiful restaurant with an amazing view out onto the Atlantic. We didn’t return to the boat until after 5pm. Given that we spent much of the time sitting, we all felt exhausted. Curry night tonight. It’s goat. Mmmmmm. Enjoy the pics :

Tomorrow we’ll again visit the Saturday morning market and then veg out the rest of the weekend. No further plans till carnival on Monday.