Little did we think when we arrived in July that we would need to extend our three month visa, but mission creep can be a terrible thing! Our revised relaunch date on October 16 was not the date that we could sail away. The Princess might have looked squeaky clean on land with her new anti-fouling and hull polish job. However, we still needed time to test out our new systems. And then, why not get all of our winches not only serviced but thoroughly cleaned and rebuilt down to the base plates (Ian at Winch works)? And an awning to cover the whole of the stern of the boat would surely make our living space palatial (Kenwin from Ulmann Sails). We followed the advice of our naval architect friend, Kasia and had our lazarette locker lid opened up, resealed and all the foam inside replaced (Mark and co. from Dynamite). Why not add a fuel pump
to make bleeding the engine a cinch? (Paul, our engineer friend) and why not get a new Passarelle fitting added to the sugar scoop (Mitchell, West Coast Welders and Fabricators). And then there were the last minute surprises; a couple of hoses that needed replacing on the generator, the cable that needed persuasion to run down the steel arch, the primary water maker pump that needed repairing and the vacu flush loo that needed new valves. These finishing touches took us three weeks on the dockside at Peakes to get sorted. In the meantime, our friends Kasia and Martin were doing major surgery on their Moody, White Dog, laminating the hull of their boat where the keel was dropped, working all hours of the day and night while the boat was in the slings. After two months of fairly full on toil ourselves in the boat yard, we were happy to take things at a more relaxed pace in the more comfortable situation of being back in the water with efficient air conditioning in the cabins and happy to offer Kasia, Martin and Vincent a place to sleep while their boat was in a state of reconstruction.
By the time we got to leave for Scotland Bay around the corner on November?, the sensation of being on a moving boat was an exhilarating novelty again. “Oh my God, it’s a boat!’ I said as we finally left the dock. The bow lines were decidedly grotty with marine growth. Pulling them on board it looked as if a vegan had been sea sick on our bow deck. Never mind ! We were mobile again! One upside of such a long pit stop was that I could really appreciate the pleasures of the cruising life again. How amazing it feels to be back in the water again. And water that isn’t full of garbage and oil? I will never take it for granted again. Or at least, I’ll try!
But of course, looking back it is a privilege to stay for a season in one place. Trinidad, like Corfu before it, came to feel like another home to us. We made some great friends here, got to know its quirks and charms and felt very welcome and safe in Chaguaramas. There is a large pool of skilled marine technicians here and we were very happy with the level of service and workmanship here. We loved the outstanding natural beauty of the island’s rainforest ad wild shores, the vibrant multi-ethnic culture, the buzz of an island big enough to offer some of the creature comforts of home such as malls (yes, I’ll admit it, a Starbucks stop doesn’t go amiss after a year in the Caribbean), cinemas and a capital city worth visiting. And although Trinidad is sadly a country with a notoriously high murder rate, we were lucky enough to see only the friendly face of this island. For me, Trinidad is above all a country that takes every opportunity to party and deserves it.
People talk about ‘Trini time’ but we found that people here are more timely workers than in Corfu. When they say they will come, they generally will and they routinely work through the weekend and on public holidays (of which there seem to be a fair few in Trinidad). Then once the job is finished and the bill has been settled, they stay to chat and share a beer or two. On Ian’s final day (Winch works) he told us “ I enjoyed working on your boat. You were not in a rush, it’s a different mind set from the other cruisers.” We suppose that this must have been a compliment although it wasn’t the impression that we were aiming for!
We made two excursions before leaving for Tobago. During the Indian festival of Divali we drove to the Indian temples near Carapichaima. Trinidad has a substantial Trini Indian community and Divali is as important as Christmas on the island. Driving around the corner of a long, dusty residential road you come across a sight that seems hallucinatory; an incredible 80 foot high statue of a monkey God (Lord Hanuman to be more respectful) and an accompanying temple, the Darratreya Yoga Centre, both absolutely pristine. Funded entirely by local people this temple complex is a testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of the island’s Hindu community. Two miles down the road there is an even more astonishing feat of devotion and resilience, the Temple in the Sea. This lovely temple was built by one man, Sewdass Sadhu, equipped only with his labourer’s wages and a bicycle. In fact he built it twice as his first temple was built on wasteland that belonged to the Tate and Lyle sugar company who ordered that it be pulled down. They had to contract a British overseer (boo!) to demolish it as no Trinidadian would accept to do the deed. After a short stint in jail, Saadhu resumed building his place of devotion this time in the sea, constructing a foundation with his bare hands. This time the Trinidad government eventually came to value his contribution completing construction of the temple and even builsing a pier to reach it. It makes for
a tranquil and moving place looking out over the waters with the shores of Venezuela clearly visible. We were there at Divali and saw families decorating their homes and balconies with lights all down the long road that leads to this temple. Divali, the festival of lights, seems to be like bonfire night and Christmas rolled into one with people enjoying feasts at home uniting family and friends and fireworks displays outside where everybody joins in the fun.
Our final excursion in Trinidad was to Scotland Bay. This was our first destination out of the boat yard on board the Princess in more than three months. It was a refreshing two day stop in a bay with nothing but the jungle all around. We made sure to visit on a week day as Party boats can radically change the atmosphere on weekends! Only two miles from Chaguaramas, it is a taste of wilderness with definite tones of Jurassic Park when you hear the howler monkeys in the jungle making their loud, booming roar. When we came in at night the water boiled with fish leaping out of the water as I shone my dive torch around the boat. You can get visits from exquisitely colourful insects that are hopefully not of the stinging variety. And yet, looking out to sea you can easily see oil platforms on the horizon. Totally Trinidad. This was a great place to take our leave of the island that had become our hurricane season home after playing with our new dinghy (whee! Game changer!), testing out our solar panels (about time) with some great upgrades and (almost) everything working again! Thanks Chaguaramas! See you soon.