MAY---"On the Hard in Trinidad

So here we are in Trinidad! The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago consists of the two main islands of Trinidad and Tobago plus 21 smaller islands. There are approximately 1.3 million people living in the Republic---96% of the people live in Trinidad. The ethnic composition of Trinidad and Tobago reflects a history of conquest (Spain and England) and immigration--slaves from Africa and Indentured Servants from Indian. The mix is 40.3% East Indian; 39.6% African; 18.5% mixed; 0.6% white; 0.4% Chinese and 0.6% other. Trinidad is the southernmost island in the Caribbean lying 7 miles off the northeast coast of Venezuela. Trinidad is located between 10 degrees 3 minutes North/60 degrees 55 minutes West and 10 degrees 50 minutes North/61 degrees 55 minutes West. Trinidad and Tobago is famous for its pre-Lenten Carnival and as the birthplace of steelpan, calypso, soca, and limbo. The weather is tropical with two seasons. The dry season runs from January through May: the wet season runs from June through December. The mean temperature is 84 degrees. Both Trinidad and Tabago are outside the normal hurricane box. Trinidad is second to Venezuela for oil production in the Caribbean basin so diesel is cheap ($0.90 to $1.00 per gallon).

The first week in May was dedicated to getting the boat ready "for the hard" and finding contractors to complete the numerous projects on our list. The highest priority project is to strip and repaint the mast and boom which were not primed when originally manufactured. As a result, the paint is peeling and the metal is corroding! The next highest priority project is some carpentry work--access plates to the chain plates and some vent lines plus a nav bench/chair. Carl would go into Power Boat Boatyard once or twice a day to talk to contractors and then bring them out to the boat to inspect the job. We also plan to have canvas work done but we didn't get the contractors out for measurements before taking he main sail off for storage---nuts! The canvas would will have to wait until the mast is back up for the proper measurements.

The first week was not all work and no play! In the evenings we would go out for dinner or join other cruisers at the weekly potluck dinner at Crews Inn. During the day it would get quite warm---because we were at a mooring there was a breeze to keep it tolerable. One morning while I was making coffee, I noticed a huge military ship coming in---the USS Carr. Its is hard to explain the emotions I felt seeing a naval ship flying "Old Glory" pull into harbor! I don't feel homesick but I experience such joy when I see another US flagged vessel.

The following two pictures are of the USS Carr (FFG 52).  The Carr is 453 feet long, 45 feet wide with a draft of almost 27 feet. It is a frigate missile launcher with  maximum speed greater than 28 knots.

DISCOVERY was taken out of the water on May 9--now the real work begins. Every line, rode, halyard and sheet was soaked in soapy water then rinsed; soaked in water with fabric softener then rinsed; then coiled and left to dry before storing. The anchor chain was pulled from the locker, rinsed and allowed to dry. Every storage locker was cleaned and rinsed (the anchor locker had lots of mud from various anchorages). Carl worked with carpenters to build a shroud for our small room air conditioner--we don't think we could have survived without the air conditioner.

The picture below shows our room air conditioner. We bought the AC unit in Puerto Rico for $100.00. You can rent a unit in Trinidad (ye, their units are larger) for $100 per month. It would be very difficult to live aboard without the AC.

DISCOVERY'S mast and boom was taken down on May 13. The riggers arrived two hours early--a very pleasant surprise. Three guys with little assistance from Carl removed the mast and boom without any problems. I have to admit that Carl "greased the skids" when he worked on the mast and boom when we were out at the mooring. He made sure there were no seized screws for the riggers to deal with.

The next three pictures were taken while the riggers were on deck taking the mast down. Carl is watching the work in the first picture---patiently waiting for the riggers to ask for his help! The second picture shows the riggers working on the two head stays--note the blue bags they use to cushion and protect the furler drums. One of the riggers is getting ready to go up the mast in a bosum's chair--notice the blue bag protecting the side stays.


Carl and I went on a turtle watch on May 19. We along with 4 other couples were picked up by Jesse James (owns Member's Only Maxi Taxi Service) for a 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive across Trinidad to Matura Beach.  It is only about 30 miles but we had to go through Port of Spain at rush hour so the ride out to see the turtles takes longer than the ride back!

The first leatherback turtle bones found date back to the Cretaceous Period – that's over 100 million years ago. We saw creatures on that beach whose ancestors survived the age of the dinosaur!. This ancient creature now hangs on the brink of extinction.  Their name “Leatherback” is derived from the appearance of the shell---a soft, cartilaginous shell that is different from the usual hard bony shell from other sea turtles. . Leatherback turtles migrate long distances between feeding and nesting areas--from the Caribbean to Newfoundland in the northern Atlantic. Leatherbacks are extremely powerful swimmers, with all the work done by the front flippers while the rear flippers aid in steering.  Our guides told us that these turtles can swim at 20 knots and they have amazing diving abilities---they can dive below 1400 meters and remain submerged for nearly an hour.

Leatherback turtles weigh from 700 – 1000 lbs and are 5-8 ft in length and 2 – 3 ft in width. Their main diet is jellyfish. Leatherbacks have special spiny structures in the esophagus to trap them there. They even have a special notch in their beak to help puncture the man-o-war jellyfish!.Males never leave the water, but females come back to land for a short time (1.5 hours) to lay eggs.

Female leatherbacks nest an average of 5 to 7 times within a nesting season. The average interval  between nests is about 9 to 10 days. The nests are constructed at night--the female comes in at high tide. Typically incubation takes from 55 to 75 days, and emergence of the hatchlings occurs at night. Most leatherbacks remigrate to their nesting beaches at 2 to 3-year intervals. Each female leatherback has the potential to nest up to ten times in one nesting season, and return every 3-4 years for as long  as 30 years. Few, if any, turtles live long enough to make this kind of contribution to her species. Most female leatherbacks only nest once because they are killed at sea.

When the female turtles leaves the sea to make her nest, she "decides if this hatching will be male or female."  The temperature of the surrounding sand determines the sex of the hatchlings. Nests higher on the beach by vegetation will be female--nests closer to the water will be male. The female digs a deep hole with her back flippers and lays about 80 – 125 soft glutinous eggs into it. The white spherical eggs are approximately 2 inches in diameter and only 80% of them are viable. It is said that the female turtle cries when she nests but in reality, the tears flowing  from her eyes is her  way of shedding excess salt.

The leatherback turtle is in danger of extinction.  The Nature Seekers patrol the beach at Matura to prevent any poaching, serve as guides and they collect data. The female turtle we observed laying her nest was tagged and then weighed.


After laying her eggs, the turtle then gently packs sand into the hole with her rear flippers and disguises the location of the nest by throwing more sand with her front flippers, possibly to hide the location of the nest from predators of the eggs. The turtle we watched worked at disguising her nest for about 45 minutes. She threw sand around an area 20 feet wide. We could not take pictures of this process  (pictures allowed only while she lays eggs).

Leatherback hatchlings are approximately 2-3 inches in length, with fore flippers as long as their bodies, and weigh approximately 1.4-1.8 ounces. The hatchlings break out of their eggshells under the sand and begin to dig their way to the surface, to emerge in groups at night. “The crawl to the water is a dangerous time for the hatchlings, but it may also play an important role in allowing them to ‘fix’ the location of where they are, so the females can return to the same place to nest as adults. There is a yolk-like sac on their belly that serves as nutrients for about a month. We were lucky enough to see some hatchlings. You are probably wondering why I have such a weird look on my face in the picture below.  In my opinion, Carl was taking too long to snap a picture. This little turtle tried to escape from my hands--I was so afraid I'd drop him or her.


Our flight back to Michigan on May 21 was uneventful except for the two hour delay in Chicago---oh so close to home but still far away. Stayed with Kris and Craig (TILT). They helped us out by driving our car from Deltaville where it was in storage since last September. Kris made pizzas which we ate around 10:00 PM and then talked until after midnight. Next day we drove over to, Pam and Brian's new condo. Pam and I went out for a pedicure (lots of dead skin shaved off my feet) while the guys supervised the installation of a new hose bib. Friends, Al and Laurie stopped by late afternoon for cocktails and dinner. Pam and Brian grilled burgers and served baked beans, potato salad and watermelon--great summer fare.

Returned to our cottage on Friday. It looked great. Carl got the hot water heater and furnace running while I retrieved sheets, blankets and towels from the storage boxes in the garage. No food in the cottage so we went in to Pentwater for dinner. Next day, I went to the grocery store while Carl started the leaf blower! I spent over $300 on laundry soap, shampoo, toothpaste, bathroom cleaner, batteries, paper towels, toilet paper and a few grocery items. Once the groceries were stowed, I helped Carl in the yard and started on the garden.

We are getting the things done that we planned to do while in Michigan for about 6 weeks. The weather is too cold for us. We are wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts and fleece pullovers along with socks and shoes!

Swans with their babies on Lake Pentwater.

Memorial Day dinner at Ken and Sharon's new house on Lake Michigan. Attending--Al and Laurie, Pam and Brian and us. Ken and Sharon grilled asparagus and salmon along with risotto .


Attended the Memorial Day Parade in Pentwater. This year's addition was a fly over (two National Guard A-10's). The VFW leads the parade with the two bands from Pentwater Schools at the rear.  Once again, the US Coast Guard lays the wreath (floats in Lake Pentwater)

Submitted by:
Marilyn Thoreson
May 31, 2008