I’ve been in prison!

My cell block comes with a view.

Here I am doing time with hard labor in Chaguaramas prison… Well it may not look like prison, but it certainly feels like it!

It’s  hot here… much too hot. I’ve never been anywhere where I’ve suffered the heat as much as in the yards of Chaguaramas, and that includes the deserts of Egypt and Australia.

Not the slightest hint of a breeze. The sultry air saps your strength so that just walking between the yards and the chandlers is exhausting, and here I am hoping to carry out maintenance work on Eileen of Avoca. Absurd isn’t it?

Another dawn in sultry Trinidad

The smart people leave their boat with a to-do list for the yard and fly back home until the end of the hurricane season.

The not so smart (smart here being a synonym for wealthy), live aboard, hire an air conditioner, and deal with their own to-do list before the end of the hurricane season.

Then there’s me….

Eileen of Avoca entering the stocks in Trinidad

I don’t even have a fan on board, I think someone’s dog ate my to-do list, and I’ve apparently confused hurricane season with leopard hunting season… 🙂

Unfortunately Trinidad is under a declared state of emergency.

What does this mean for wandering yachtsmen? It means that after you’ve labored all day in the stifling heat you get to stay in your boat all night to enjoy more of that stifling heat, plus a swarm of mosquitoes and cockroaches as a bonus. Did I mention the stifling heat?

It’s lock down by 11pm or a 5000 US dollar fine and possible imprisonment if you’re caught wandering about at night.

To top it off, sailors are falling ill with dengue fever by the dozen, and there is at least one death a month through yard accidents…. Will I survive the hazards of boat maintenance in Trinidad?

Well, here is what I’ve been busy with during the day…

I've removed the propeller shaft and rudder


Replaced the old stuffing box with this...


Machined a new rudder pin and cutlass bearing...


Bolted it all back together...


Now I just need to give Eileen a new coat of anti-fouling

And this is what I’ve been doing at night.

Nightlife in Trinidad

If anyone is reading this, please post bail and get me out of here….

Perhaps I should have done a little more research, because Chaguaramas is:

  • Uncomfortable…. NOTE: Understatement of the century…
  • Expensive! Watch out for poor quality work…
  • Bureaucratic to say the least. BTW, should customs officers really be hinting at extra storage fees, overtime, and travel expenses when clearing goods?
  • No longer tax free, unless you are willing to wait months for your ordered “yacht in transit” goods. Items stocked by chandlers incur VAT.

Moreover, Trinidad in general:

  • Is rather dangerous and currently under curfew to curb crime… (may it only briefly remain so). But if the street gangs don’t get you, perhaps the dengue will…
  • Is not in the least bit tourist friendly… I’ve been accosted in the street just for taking mundane holiday snapshots. The only other place this has ever happened to me was in Suriname.
  • Is almost clueless when it comes to “customer service”. Fortunately there are occasional exceptions (so perhaps there is still some hope)…
  • Doesn’t have any leopards… (so much for that glimmer of hope)…

Does Trinidad have at least one saving grace?

Might things be looking better after all?

Or perhaps two?

I appear to have my hands full....

Nah, they never did call me back after my phone was stolen… 🙁

Final verdict on Trinidad and Tobago?

Get me back in the water a.s.a.p.

I liked it so much that I’ve decided to give up on the Caribbean and sail back to South America for Christmas. I suspect that the lure of the leopards and continued PBBS are to blame.

On the road again…With a bad hair do…

Hair by unknown Bahian artist

It’s been a slow month blog wise. A month of waking up at 11am, wandering up to the restaurant for a habitual morning chat with Peter over coffee while waiting for lunch (breakfast for me). None of which makes for entertaining copy. Some of his sailing adventures would, but unfortunately they’re not mine to tell.

The best I can come up with is my cheap and nasty haircut story. For 7 Real (approx. 3 Euro) what was I to expect! I must however sympathize with the barber, because I don’t think he gets to deal with gringo hair very often. The problem is the heat! It’s so hot I’m almost always covered in a sheen of sweat. It appears to worry the locals (who by the way are not bothered in the least by the sultry conditions), when clients look like they’re about to expire of heat exhaustion at any moment, and I can see that the barber had my continued well being in mind when he turned on his counter mounted electric fan. What he failed to realize was the effect an artificial breeze was to have on my hair (think Bee Gees 1980s video clips).

A big smile from Rennany the receptionist

Judging by the look of the locals I suppose it takes nothing less than a tornado to displace a single hair on the head of a Bahian, but in my case a nearby fan is all that’s required to make impressive Medusa impersonations. As my hair danced every which way, so too did the barbers scissors. What a spectacle of non-choreographed live theater. I can only applaud his artistic interpretation of the abstract form so painstakingly rendered upon my head. I call it “The wild wail”. I’m afraid that the end result is too sublime for general distribution but here is a sneak peek.

"The wild wail" haircut....

Wandering aimlessly about town, burdening Renanny the receptionist with my life story or killing time by reading trashy fiction for hours on end doesn’t inspire much creative writing, so I’ve spared you most of the humdrum by remaining uncharacteristically silent.

Sailors leave their mark in the marina lounge

Fear not, this hiatus was but a mere aberration while antibiotics rid me of my lingering bronchitis. I’m now done with Salvador. I’ve left my mark (in the sailors lounge) and provisioned Eileen of Avoca with enough goods to carry me to new exotic locations. Regrettably a month of sedentary marina life has taken it’s toll on Eileen, and my boat isn’t going to take me anywhere before I rid her of the invertebrate reef that has taken root on both propeller and hull.

Scratching around for cockles at Pier Salvador

Swimming at Pier-Salvador is out of the question (unless your immune system is miraculously adapted to it in which case you can apparently withstand dining on the local shellfish), so I parked Eileen on the beach opposite to give her a last minute bottom scrub.

Parking Eileen for a bottom scrub

Two days later, sporting a new layer of red anti-fouling I was ready to move back to the marina and say my goodbyes. The maneuver itself was uneventful but before changing the topic, there is an aside about a simple shackle that I feel compelled to share with you.

The story of the wandering shackle

Many visitors to Brazil hear numerous horror stories of the crime and lawlessness here. Nobody is safe! I do not deny that bad things do happen but I’m beginning to wonder if the hearsay is a little exaggerated. The same way Australians take delight by striking fear in the hearts of English tourists with alarming tales of killer fauna (including illusory drop bears and hoop snakes), Brazilians boast of their rampart lawlessness!

I was looking forward to adding my own tale of the great shackle heist to the annals of Brazilian crime but was thwarted at the last moment by an honest “do-gooder”.

Being single handed, I’d left a large shackle (part of my anchoring tackle) on the seawall to facilitate departure when I motored back to the marina at high tide. Naturally I intended to fetch it as soon as access by the beach was possible but lo-and-behold, even before the tide changed it had gone astray!

Upon discovering this my rage was witnessed by a nearby fisherman and stomping about I half expected he had had a hand in its disappearance, but what was I to do?

Later that evening the same fisherman rowed up to my boat and unexpectedly returned the missing shackle. He’d asked around and found the tourist boat operator who’d “borrowed” it and took it upon himself to return it to its rightful (if somewhat falsely accusing) owner. Thrilled to have “my precious” back, I burdened him with beer in gratitude.

Apparently not everyone in Brazil is out to steal all your gear at the first opportunity…

Michel Balette on Izarra

With the help of Michel Balette I made last moment corrections to my copy of his Brazil Cruising Guide (isn’t it amazing who you run into when sailing. BTW Use this link to get the vital supplement), said goodbye to my friends on the French yacht Graffiti with a last meal before setting sail for northern Brazil. I should reach landfall in about a week.

Stay tuned!