NOVEMBER---US Elections, Another Sewing Project, Waiting for the Green Light, Security Problems, Thanksgiving and Yes, More Fun Stuff

US Elections: Watched US election coverage at Vespa Bar & Restaurant. Election coverage was provided on all five TV screens--all five tuned to CNN.  Basically, a crowd of American Cruisers with other interested parties. There was much interest from the European cruising community and the local Trinis plus everyone enjoyed the social aspect of the get together. Jake & Carol (OFFLINE) and Cheryl & Carl (MYSTIQUE) arrived at Vespa early, around 4:30 PM, to save seats for us which wasn't necessary because most of the crowd did not arrive until around 6:00 PM and we are on Atlantic time so there wasn't any real news just rehash of campaign baloney!!!   Vespa did a great job--offering food and drink specials from 6:00 to 8:00. We stayed until 9:00 PM--returned to boat to listen to election coverage on Both of us fell asleep before the polls closed but Carl woke up around midnight to check the internet--just about the time to read about McCain conceding! In the morning I read the transcript for Obama's speech and McCain's speech. Obama's speech was very inspiring and McCain's speech was very gracious and respectful. The Trinis love Obama believing Obama's term will change things here in Trinidad. It is hard to follow the reasoning behind this belief other than great joy that a black man will preside over the most powerful nation in the world.

Pictured below is Jake and Carol (OFFLINE) sitting around at Vespa watching election coverage (01)


Sewing Project: Last month, with the help of my friend, Honoree, I made two sunscreens for the cockpit that can be moved from starboard to port and port to starboard as needed for shade from the sun. I was so pleased with the cockpit sunscreens that I decided to do more!. Phase II-- I found an end piece of textilene at the fabric store that would work to protect the acrylic glass on the front of the dodger  and to block out the sun to reduce the greenhouse effect. This piece was very cheap and easy to make although I still want to add snaps---stainless steel snaps are expensive, $ 18.00 TT ($ 3.00) per set so I decided not to use 20 sets after all. Next, I made sunscreens for the stern in 3 sections so that it is easy to enter from the swim platform. Discovered that the sunscreens not only block the sun--they also provide privacy. A great addition to the boat...wish I would have made these screens sooner.

Below is a picture of the stern sunscreens to block out the sun and provide privacy. (10)

Waiting for the Green Light: In the Caribbean, cruisers often are looking for the green flash---an optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset when a green spot is visible for a short period of time above the sun, or a green ray shoots up from the sunset point. Well, Carl and I have been looking for the green light--an audio phenomena that occurs shortly after the Urologist announces that all stone particles have left the kidney! Sorry to report the green light did not happen. Carl had a KUB X-ray prior to his appointment with the urologist, Dr. Lilas. Two stones are still sitting in the kidney although there has been a slight change in the smaller of the two stones. So...we are returning to the US--leaving Trinidad on December 4th for Michigan where we stay until this problem is resolved.

Fun Stuff: I continue to attend Hapkido Self-defense class on Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7:00 AM. Wish I could report that I have mastered some move demonstrated by the instructor Walt. He continues to encourage me---it takes practice and time for the movements to come naturally---it is called "muscle memory".  Currently, I think to much, my reaction and following action does not come naturally. Once a week after class, Honoree and I go to the fishing village for fresh fish from Jason. Last month I commented that I would never go into the village without Walt. However, I apparently found some courage to venture there without Walt. The fishing village hasn't changed--I am more confident plus Honoree is with me and she has a orange belt in Hapkido! Honoree and I open, Jason's catch box to select our fish. Jason cleans them per our request--fillets or steaks. He always offers us the head and guts which we decline so he tosses "them" into the water. Much to my surprise, the dogs wade down there to eat raw fish guts! One day, Jason found an egg sack while cleaning a female mahi mahi. Honoree took it and prepared it as Jason instructed. She said it was delicious---I suppose it tastes like chicken.

Sunday mornings I usually hike with a group of friends. November has brought a few exceptions to this routine. The first Sunday of the month, I wanted to stay close to the boat to make sure Carl was OK. The following Sunday rather than hiking in the rainforest, Carl, Honoree, Walt, and a few others walked a mile or so to the Chaguaramus Military Museum for something to do. The Military Museum wasn't all that great--too much stuff and it was too hot. At least we exercised. Other Sunday hikes were within the Chaguaramus Park--once to Edith Falls with Honoree and Kathy (Bellagio) and the last hike was the north ridge to the beach  with a big group of hikers.

Below is a picture of Carl standing by submarine netting. This was lowered to keep other submarines out of the base here in Chaguaramus during WWII. The military employed local woman to make the netting. (02)


The following pictures were taken on Sunday hikes in November.  The first picture is Edith Falls followed by Kathy (BELLAGIO) and I. The last picture is  Macqueripe Beach--destination for last hike. (05, 06, 09)

Heather (ASSEANCE) and I visited the The Emperor Valley Zoo. It is a beautiful paradise located in a crowded city just north of the Queen's Park Savannah.   This zoo in its prime must have been fantastic. The grounds have hills and trees but the facilities are run down. Lots of exotic birds and lots of monkey cages.  Our timing for the visit was perfect--most of the animals were being fed by groundskeepers when we were at so many of the exhibits. From the zoo we walked  to downtown Port of Spain where we stopped in a few stores and had lunch before heading home.

Below are two pictures taken at Emperor Valley Zoo. The first picture is a Toucan. The second picture is a little preschool kid who asked me to take his picture by the Howler Monkey! (03, 04)

Arranged a hike to Sombasson Falls through Jesse James of Member's Only. The original plan was to hike the Guanapo Gorge but plans changed due to heavy rain. Sombasson Falls is located in the Guanapo Valley north of Arima. Tidbit Regarding Trinidad: The Northern Range is actually an eastern spur of the ANDES--all that remains of a sunken mountain range. Trinidad was once joined to South American about 10,000 years ago. Back to the hike--we stopped near Arima for breakfast for the delicious and inexpensive Trinidad Doubles! This hike required guides. Our guides were Lawrence "Snake" Pierre and Calvin  "Crawfie" Crawford from a group called the Hike Seekers.   Hikers included : Jesse (from Member's Only--a business not a boat), Laura (WANDERING STAR), Honoree (WILL O' THE WISP), D and Don (SOUTHERN CROSS), Kathy and Kerry (BELLAGIO), Derrick (BUZZARD) and Philip and Mary Anne (CALYPSO). Before setting off into the rainforest, Snake inspected our group to make sure we have adequate boots, socks, life jackets and long pants. Snake, Crawfie and Jesse all carried machetes and a coil for rope for assisting and rescuing hikers! This rainforest is filled with wild animals: agouti, armadillo, opossum, deer, peccary or wild pigs, ocelot and ant-eaters. We did NOT see any of these wild animals only evidence of their presence. So many birds, frogs and toads and snakes which we did see! Spotted several of the beautiful iridescent Blue Emperor Butterfly. Slogged along the muddy, slick trail through abandoned cocoa plantations and rainforest on what was originally the mule trail. The trail dipped and climbed, crossed two streams when we finally reached the first waterfall--La LaJa We passed by this waterfall by on our way to Sombasson. Came across a snake in a tree that "Snake the guide" captured and placed in a cloth bag. It took about 2.5 hours to reach Sombasson Falls where we were rewarded with a cool swim and time to sit on rocks to eat our lunch. Sombasson Falls is 140 feet high with 3 separate stages. "Snake the guide" decided to shampoo his recently caught snake to remove that earthy odor. The shampoo was prepared by grinding a cocoa pod with a stone. After shampooing the snake, "Snake the guide" asked if any of the hikers wanted their hair washed. Mary Anne volunteered reporting that the cocoa was very slimy and difficult to get out! After everyone relaxed and cooled down, it was time to start hiking back to the starting point. Returned on the same trail which was even more slick because it rained most of the way to the falls. Stopped at La LaJa Falls to cool off in the water. La LaJa Falls is only 60 feet high--it has a great pool at the bottom for swimming and cooling off.  I was clean once again but within 10 minutes covered once again in mud and sweat. Before reaching the vans we stopped by a farmer's house. The farmer is "squatting" on government land--clearing it for planting, raising some poultry and taking care of his family. We were invited inside their humble home--once a coffee storage building so it has a tin roof and hard packed dirt floor. The wife served coffee to everyone who wanted some. Some of the hikers purchased fresh bananas and "tried " to pay for the coffee which the woman would not accept but finally took some money for their two young daughters. The farm family is living difficult life--no electricity or running water. Drove back to Chaguaramus as fast as Jesse's van would go so we could attend the Annual Contractors' Charity. The various contractors prepared traditional Trini food and sold it to the cruisers---a "Taste of Trinidad".  The party included a Pan Band (Steelband). A really fun way to conclude a very busy and strenuous day!

The next 5 pictures were taken before we started to hike. The first picture was taken when we stopped for Doubles. The second picture is the La LaJa Road--winding and full of potholes that a small car could get hung up in! The third picture is our hiking group getting ready to set off in the rainforest. Long pants, long sleeves and good shoes are a must. Carrying the life jackets was a hassle. Picture four shows Laura and D fooling around with a Boa Constrictor that Snake the Guide brought along (don't know why). Picture 5 is Jesse James who runs a tour and Maxi Taxi service that caters to use cruisers.  (11, 12, 14, 13, 20))

The next 5 pictures were taken during the hike.   In the first picture, our group is lining up to pass a narrow part of the trail where we have to walk on the soft, mushy edge with a sharp drop.  Laura and Honoree pose for the second picture. Picture three shows our guide, Snake, who borrowed reading glasses from Phil so that Snake could determine the sex of a snake he caught on the trail. This snake was sitting in tree branches over our head. Picture four shows Sombasson Falls and picture five is Honoree, Kathy and I at Sombasson Falls. ( 16, 22, 17, 18, 19)

The next two pictures were taken when we stopped to chat with the Farmer who is squatting on government land. The first picture shows a container of coffee beans that are drying. Picture two is the Farmer's wife serving a sweet, thick coffee to everyone who wanted a cup. This family was so friendly. (15, 21))

On Tuesday, November 19, Walt, Honoree, Carl and I went to Overtone to see the new James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace". We left Power Boats around 1:15 PM hoping to see the 2:00 movie. The traffic going into Port of Spain was  moving very slow for early afternoon--so slow we missed the 2:00 movie. The next show was at 3:15 so Walt and Carl went to Radio Shack while Honoree and I walked through the various shops. Honoree and I noticed the threatening skies over Port of Spain. The sky was so dark you could not see the hills and mountains behind the city. Went to the 3:15 movie---"Quantum of Solace" which is now my favorite James Bond movie. After the movie we went to Ruby Tuesdays (Overtone complex is a mini-America) for hamburgers. From the restaurant window we could see that traffic going into Port of Spain was at a dead stop which stayed that way the entire time we were at Ruby Tuesdays. The traffic was trickling out of Port of Spain very slowly...something was wrong. Went out to the Audrey Jeffers Highway to catch a Maxi-Taxi back to Power Boats. Very few taxis were coming by and if a taxi went by--it was full.  It wasn't long before Jesse James (Member's Only Maxi Taxi) drove by.....saw us, stopped and picked us up. Jesse had been to the airport to pick-up arriving cruisers. Jesse's van had room for 2 more people but we squeezed in 4. Port of Spain was at a standstill because of muddy waters that flooded major streets. Public transportation was temporarily shut down because the Maxi taxis and buses could not operate out of the terminal.  A bridge collapsed on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway stopping traffic out to the airport---hours of delay but at least an alternate route was possible. Quite simply...after five days of heavy, sporadic rain the drainage system could not keep up with the rainfall causing massive flooding. We were lucky to make it home that night.

Security Problems: Some serious security issues here in Trinidad and in nearby Venezuela both happened the weekend of November 8 and 9. Here in Trinidad---about 20 Trinis were out in a pirogue returning from a day at La Tinta Bay, Chacachacare when they were attacked by masked men in a fast powerboat. Around 6 p.m. while near Five Islands, the 25-foot pirogue carrying the group was "rammed" on the port side by another boat. They thought it was an accident as light was fading fast. However, the speedboat that hit the pirogue began to circle them. There were six men in the speedboat. Two of the men had guns, one a semi-automatic rifle, the other a handgun. The men opened fire on the group. The first shot stopped the boat's engine----yes, they were sitting ducks. Five people were seriously wounded including a 4 year old child plus one person was killed. This incident is thought to be a case of mistaken identity...the powerboat was after other gang/drug runners (gang on gang violence). In Venezuela, two American cruisers decided to drop anchor at an island off the Venezuelan coast--a National Park near Porta la Cruz. While at anchor, they cleaned the bottoms of their boats and planned to leave for Grenada early in the morning. The cruisers got together on one of the boats for "sundowners" when things went wrong, very wrong.  The captain was shot by armed men who boarded his sailboat to rob him and the crew. It is believed that he tried to defend himself with a gun and wounded one of the attackers, who got away. Also wounded was the captain of the other boat who was on board for "sundowners".  These two events has raised the level of concern for safety. I know of cruisers here in Trinidad who have changed their plans....they are not going to Venezuela as planned.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Celebrated Thanksgiving with 40 other cruisers here in Chaguaramus.  Initial plans were to splurge by going to a  restaurant that was serving a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner that is fairly close to Power Boats.  Thought not having to slave in the galley was worth $80.00 per person US. After further consideration we decided to help organize a potluck so that more people could attend. . One of the local bars allowed us to use their oven to prepare a turkey and a ham. They also let us use their patio that would accommodate a little over 40 people so we could not open dinner up to the general boat audience. The organizing committee, Honoree, Connie (TASTEGO) and I identified boats for the list, figured out the numbers for salads, vegetables, desserts, potatoes, stuffing and gravy required to feed 42 people. We had a turkey and a ham around 20 pounds apiece.  Honoree printed up place cards for each boat plus she picked up candles for the tables. The table "centerpiece" was a plate of fresh shrimp dip and crackers compliments of Walt (Will O' The Wisp) and Fred (TASTEGO).  I was the dinner hostess (collected money for the turkey, showed people their assigned seat and explained how the bar bill would work and reminded people going through the line not "over serve themselves").   Before the buffet line opened, I read "FRIENDS by Eileen Quinn and then Jesse (MEMBER's ONLY) said a prayer. There was enough turkey and ham for everyone. The dinner went off smoothly. Carl and I went home with very full stomachs. Around midnight, we felt the earth move.....another small tremor.

The pictures below were taken at Thanksgiving Dinner---the chow line and a photo of Carl and I. (07, 08)

Another Trinidad tidbit:   Trinidad used to be an important coffee-growing country. While coffee is still grown here, most of the coffee beans are made into instant coffee which is what the locals prefer to drink! Nescafe is available everywhere. You don't stop at the coffee shop or restaurant for coffee unless you want Nescafe. It is a challenge to purchase a bag of good coffee.

So...the month of November has drawn to a close. Hurricane season is officially over so boats are leaving Trinidad in droves. Meanwhile, we are packing for our return to Michigan. I am hoping Michigan has a mild, warm winter and that all goes well so we can return to the boat around the end of January. I will still update the activity log each month.

Submitted by:
Marilyn Thoreson
November 30, 2008