SEPTEMBER--More Projects, Tours and Trinidad/Tobago Politics
Lets start with projects. I finished the dorade cowl vent paint work or should I say Rawle finally applied a coat of AwlGrip paint. They look great. Used some metal wax to put a shine on the stainless steel outer surface. They look as good as new! Clinton, also known as A.K., stripped and sanded DISCOVERY's bottom, raised the water line and painted the boot stripe (one blue stripe and one white stripe) with AwlGrip paint. Carlos completed the dodger but is still working on the bimini. Mitchell completed the stainless framework needed for the new bimini although Carl is considering one alternation to the frame. The boat is starting to get back into shape for the upcoming cruising season.
The following five pictures are "boat projects". The first picture shows DISCOVERY's bare bottom. The next two pictures show the AwlGrip painting--the blue boot stripe in pictures two and the white accent stripe is added in picture number three. Pictures four and five show the nav station seat and the relocated dining room table--pushed almost to the bulkhead. You can see the new accent pillows in these two shots. .
Carl developed a website for Saga Owners. The purpose of the website is to share ideas and information with persons who own a Saga or are just interested in Saga yachts. He is signing up new members (up to 31 members) and identifying additional moderators for the website. Carl posted a few of his boat projects and boat projects from other Saga owners on the website. This website is set up as a Yahoo group. I have to say he has done a great job.
Dave and Donna friends on MAGIC launched their boat earlier this month. They sailed around Trinidad a few days (Scotland Bay and Chacachacare) before taking off for Carriacou and then Grenada. The day before their departure, a group of us got together at the Roti Hut for a small "see you later" party. Rose and Tom on SOJOURN left Chaguaramas for 3 weeks to visit the Orinoco River in Venezuela. They had a great time except one night--their dinghy outboard was stolen off the boat while they were sleeping. Peter and Wendy left Chaguaramus for a 2 weeks trip to Peru. Peter and Wendy are now getting ready to launch KEESJE II to head for Tobago and then Grenada.
The five pictures below were taken at Dave and Donna's "See You Later Party" at the Roti Hut. In the first picture you see everyone patiently waiting in line. The second picture is my Boneless Chicken Buss Up Shot plate. Picture three and four show some of the guests and the last picture is of an uninvited guest eating rare pumpkin!
Made a couple trips into Port of Spain to Jimmy Aboud's (The Textile King) for fabric. Every Thursday, 2-3 women show up at Crews Inn Marina to pick up sewing projects from cruisers. I had Bernice sew two sundresses and accent pillows for the main salon. I have fabric for Bernice to sew one dressy sundress and a casual sundress that is more like a swimsuit cover-up.
Below is a picture of one of the "Sewing Ladies", Bernice. Next month, I will include pictures of the sundresses Bernice made for me.
One day in September, the USS FARRAGUT arrived in Chaguaramas harbour--we had the opportunity to tour it. FARRAGUT is a guided Missile Destroyer. It is 510 feet in length with a 66 foot beam, a 31 foot draft with a cruising speed of 30 knots. The ship uses a variety of sensors to detect targets in the air, on the surface and under the sea. It has a lethal arsenal--Tomahawk surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, 5” gun, and electronic decoys. The crew told us if they ever have to use the torpedoes it is a sign they are in BIG trouble. FARRAGUT has the Aegis Weapon System which is capable of tracking hundreds of contacts simultaneously--it can engage multiple threats without any operator intervention. We could not believe it---they let us see the Command and Control Aegis Center with all the laptop computers with SECRET tags on them. The ship has 96 missiles and a heliport. We were surprised at how much we were allowed to see--went everywhere except the private sleeping quarters. FARRAGUT's mission is to build relationships with partners in South America and the Caribbean for greater maritime security in the region. FARRAGUT along with several other Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Columbian, and Chilean ships conducted live firing exercises which involved targeting an unmanned aerial drone with main batteries--we were shown a video of these operations. I assume the video will be used as a recruiting tool. It had all the high energy rap beat music that young people love. When FARRAGUT left Trinidad they planned to train with the Trinidad Tobago and Columbia Coast Guards in counter-drug operations.
Below are two pictures of the FARRAGUT--the ship itself and the missile launching hatches.
I went on a tour to the Angostura Bittesr Distillery. These aromatic bitters were developed by a German physician, Dr. Seigert who left Germany for Venezuela to fight with Simon Bolivar against the Spanish throne. Bolivar appointed him Surgeon-General of the Military Hospital in the town of Angostura on the banks of the Orinoco River. Dr. Seigert saw soldiers battered by the enemy but more of the soldiers suffered from fevers and internal stomach disorders. Dr. Siegert was determined to find a cure from nature. In 1824, after four pain staking years of researching and analyzing the qualities of tropical herbs and plants, he finally developed a unique blend of herbs which he called “Amargo Aromatico” or aromatic bitters. His aromatic bitters brought relief to his patients and to his circle of family and friends. Soon, word spread and demand for his aromatic bitters grew so he started thinking of producing the product commercially. Eventually, Dr. Seigert moved his commercial production from Venezuela to Trinidad because of political unrest in Venezuela. By the turn of the century, the Company ventured into the rum market, at first just in bottling bulk rum from other distillers. In 1945, the Company installed a distillery in moving into production of rum on a major scale. Today’s production capacity is over 65,000 litres of alcohol/day. After the tour we stood around a bar tasting the different types of Angostura products (mostly rum). It is amazing how a dash or two in a cocktail enhances the flavor.
Below are pictures taken at the Angostura Distillery. The last picture is our tour guide preparing samples for us to taste!
Continue to go on Sunday hikes with other cruisers. Honoree on WILL-O'-THE-WISP
organizes them. One Sunday, the plan was to go up to Edith Falls and then walk
to the beach on the north coast for a swim. However, the Maxi Taxi driver dropped
us off at the wrong trail. A group of 12 cruisers tried to scale a ridge that
was too steep, wet and slippery. Every one of us eventually slid down the hill
at some point. I didn't do my slide in the mud until I was over half way down.
My arms were so sore from hanging on to vines and trees to stop me from sliding
down the hill. We abandoned the climb after an hour and returned to
the main road. As we continued our walk on the main road to the beach, we found the real trail head. Half the group went up to Edith Falls while the other half continued on to the beach. I went up to the falls which was so nice. There wasn't much water coming over the falls....just enough for a wonderful shower (it felt like a waterpick shower massage). On a different hike, we followed a riverbed up to a gorge and then returned for a refreshing shower is a small waterfall.
Below are pictures taken during Sunday hikes. Edith Falls is 250 feet tall. In the second picture, I wished I was carrying a machetee. The third picture is of a butterfly.
Typically, the last half of September is one of the busiest periods in the Atlantic for hurricane activity. One day, there were four named storms going at once in the Atlantic--Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine. The peak of hurricane season starts September 10 and continues until mid-October. Hurricanes that develop in September have a high chance of becoming dangerous major hurricanes. What does it look like for the remainder of hurricane season? Ttropical storm development is affected by wind shear and sea surface temperature. Low wind shear and warm sea surface contribute positively to the development of tropical storms. Wind shear is predicted to remain below average over the Caribbean for all of October and November. Sea surface temperature is predicted to range from 1-2°C above average over most of the main hurricane development area (from the coast of Africa to Central America between 10° and 20° latitude). The warmer sea provides lots of fuel for potential hurricanes in October and November.
Now, is there trouble in Paradise? Lots of excitement here in Trinidad regarding fuel---some cruisers labeled it a "crises". For years, the fuel dock here at Power Boats has been selling subsidized fuel to foreign flag vessels which is apparently against the law. Power Boats has the only fuel dock in Chaguaramas harbor where yachts can pull up to take on fuel. Why did the government decide to enforce a law after ignoring it for 17 years? Lots of interesting rumors regarding foreign flag vessels pulling in and taking on huge, huge quantities of fuel--emptying the tank. Then a local fisherman reported the sale because when he tried to fuel up there was no fuel. Who knows what specific incident sparked this problem--we know that someone contacted a government official which resulted in an immediate end of the sale of fuel to foreign flag vessels. We probably will never know exactly what precipitated this problem. There was another situation regarding subsidized fuel that more than likely caused the government to look at the entire situation. Some operators of locally-registered vessels took advantage of subsidized diesel in Trinidad by selling it at six times the price in the British Virgin Islands to third parties!
Power Boats did not have a license that would allow cruisers to purchase fuel at the international rate. Cruisers could not get commercial fuel on their own for various reasons such as: a minimum order quantity of 2000 gallons, no place was available to take on the fuel and the hose fittings were designed for freighters and underground storage tanks not pleasure boats. Bottom line---people wanted fuel but they could not get it. As you can imagine, there were shouts of anger and threats to boycott Trinidad in the future. Our embassy was involved in what they perceived as a security risk to American boats. The local marinas and businessmen worked diligently to resolve the problem. The crises ended when Power Boats obtained a license for the commercial fuel. The subsidized fuel was $.25 U.S. per liter--we now pay around $1.00 per liter for international fuel which is market price so there is some fluctuation.
As the "editor" of this log, here is my comments on the fuel problem. This situation will most likely have a long term negative affect on the yachting industry. After Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada, many insurance companies drew the southern line of the hurricane 'box' at 12 degree north to specifically exclude Grenada. As a result, boats started laying up in Trinidad. Trinidad responded by developing an industry to support the cruisers---yachting has grown to become the second largest industry in Trinidad (petroleum is number one). The government has recognized its over reliance on the petroleum business so it has a strategy to diversify. Yachting and tourism are the areas they want to further develop! We don't think cruisers are entitled to subsidized fuel. The shame here is how the government cut off the supply without prior warning or consideration for providing cruisers with an alternate source of fuel! Only with time will we see if the fuel problem results in fewer cruisers laying up in Trinidad during hurricane season.
Trinidadians want to know if there is an outbreak of dengue fever in Trinidad and Tobago or not! The Health Minister issued a statement denying that there is an outbreak but has admitted there is an alert. I think it is all a matter of definition. The number of cases in Trinidad fluctuate with an increase in the number of cases every 5-7 years. Outbreak or not has become a political argument with the opposition party insisting there is an outbreak. The opposition claims "outbreak" is defined as a "sudden increase in numbers of a harmful organism and especially an insect within a particular area.” The Ministry argues there has been no sudden increase in the number of "expected" cases. From my point of view, I don't care if there is an alert or if there is an outbreak. We are taking precautions to avoid mosquitoes--using Deet or staying indoors when they are active.
Still More trouble in Paradise? Just like back home in the good ole USA, Trinidad has its share of politics. In the middle of the month, the unions were calling for a "strike" to protest high crime, inflation and rapidly increasing food prices. To show your support, everyone was asked to stay home and keep the kids out of school. However, this was the day the government selected to recognize Trinidad's Olympic heroes. The next day there were lots of questions raised in the newspaper regarding how effective the "strike" was. A couple days later, the opposition party put forth a no-confidence motion accusing Prime Minister Patrick Manning of being obsessed with power and unable to deal with problems facing the country. Manning also received strong support outside the parliament chamber as he defended himself in the no-confidence vote. When the session began, thousands of supporters of his People's National Movement (PNM) gathered in the square opposite the parliament building, waving flags and chanting his name. Manning claimed this was a spontaneous gathering in support of the PNM. The Opposition called him a liar in that the supports came with printed t-shirts and banners and other stuff. In some ways, it would be nice to have a meeting of Congress to vote their confidence in the President of the United States!
The trouble is of greatest concern to me is the crime. The murder rate has doubled to over 400 as of the end of September. The last weekend in September was the deadliest with12 murders in 60 hours. Don't want to end on such a sour note. The murders are mostly drug and gang-related but many citizens are living with fear. This is a beautiful country with beautiful people but no denying--there are problems to solve.
The last day of September I signed up for a self defense course--nothing to do with high crime, just an opportunity. The instructor is Walt on WILL-O'-THE WISP. Walt was an instructor pilot in the army. Self defense was taught to his student pilots. He has an exceptional teaching style. Walt's goal is to build our skills to the point where we don't panic should someone grab us. The course is held every Tuesday and Thursday through October. Carl did not come to the first class because he agreed to run the Maintenance Net on the VHF radio. After the class, Carl and I walked over to Immigration to start the process for extending our visa here in Trinidad. We each filled out a form which was reviewed by the officer and then stamped to make it official. Next we were given an appointment time and date--October 14 at 8:30 AM. For the appointment we will need paperwork from the boatyard detailing the work we have yet to perform on DISCOVERY and money for the extension. Tonight we are meeting Betty and Larry on FOREVER YOUNG at Sails Restaurant for drinks to talk about cruising in the Virgin Islands. Betty and Larry charter their boat out of the US Virgin Islands. We will be there early in January so it is great to have this opportunity to get the most up to date information from them.
September 30, 2008