Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav and the Trinidad Fuel Crisis

On August 23 the beginnings of hurricane Gustav blew through Trinidad. Of course it was not anywhere near the size and strength it has grown to. The storm passed over us as a tropical wave with 35 knot winds and heavy rain. Fortunately we had left the dock to anchor out with our friends on L’Aventura. Our anchorage was fairly well protected and as the storm passed over us we were oblivious as to what was happening back in Chagaramas Bay at the docks.

When we returned after the weekend, we were told that large waves had built in the bay and that the only boat on our dock at the time was instructed to leave because it was getting too dangerous to be tided up along side of it. Unfortunately for them, it was 11:30 at night when all this happened. Bummer.

It can get rough even on a clear day.

We enjoyed our weekend away from the dock and spent it relaxing, hiking and watching the kids play.

When we returned back to the dock on Monday, it was back to finishing up the last few boat projects before we leave for Venezuela and our Orinoco river trip.

After the weekend, Phillip built a transom for his dinghy and took the maiden voyage.

All was going smoothly until the engine died. Looks like the Captain has a new item to add to the project list!

The projects were coming along just fine, when mid-week the fuel crisis began. The Trinidadians, in their infinite wisdom, have decided not to sell fuel to foreign flagged vessels, neither diesel nor gas. As you can imagine, people here are in a total uproar because they do not have fuel for there dinghies or for running there generators. The reason the Trinis quit selling fuel, is that it is subsidized by the government, hence the $1 per gallon fuel price. When foreign vessels fuel up, the Trini government is paying the cost.

There is a law in place that prevents the sale of subsidized fuel to foreigners, but it has been ignored for the past 17 years. But in the last couple of weeks, a few super yachts came in and purchased 40,000 gallons of fuel, then left the country. So now the Trinis are clamping down.
The problem is, no one has figured out a way to sell fuel to the yachties at non-subsidized prices. Everyone is fuming and wondering how the 3000 boats on the hard are going to get out of here.

Well, I’m not one to be held against my will, so we managed to purchase fuel using a rental car and jerry cans. We are topped off and ready to go. While we had the rental car we also topped off the freezer with meat from the weekly farmers market. The market opens early before it gets to hot out. Susan was a little perturbed that we had to leave the boat at 6:00am mumbling: “dammed farmers” as she swigged down a diet coke to get her motor running.

The market was quite large with hundreds of vendors selling meat, fish, live chickens and ducks, live land crabs, fruits, veggies, clothes, cd’s and spices.

There was a bustle in the air as people shuffled up and down the aisles picking and choosing from the huge selection.

What we really liked about the market was finding food we have never seen before, asking the vendors for cooking instructions and then trying it out back on the Adamo. We fixed a callaloo, a local specialty of spicy mixed vegetables, a leafy aquatic plant and salted pig tails.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cruising Life - Sue's View

Hi everyone! We are still here in Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad. It is a commercial harbor and, therefore, also very filthy. It is amazing that the locals here litter the water as well as the land. They just throw their trash off the side of the boat or on the ground. Obviously, they are not educated about pollution. The water is full of oil, gas, and diesel that you can plainly see on top of the water. We will have to clean the hull when we leave for all of the grime on the sides of the boat. Trash, plastic bottles, bags etc flow in and out with the tides.

It is an environmental nightmare. You can understand why we are all getting antsy to leave and find another crystal clear cove to anchor out in and frolic in the water since it is hotter than the devil's den, but the water here is cloudy at best due to the runoff from the rivers in Venezuela. So, the next best place to be is the dock where we have power, unlimited water, and access to stores, bars and new friends which is precisely where we are.
We have met a fantastic English family on the boat L' Aventura with two playmates for Phillip, Keir 13, and Iona 14, and playmates for us parents, too, Andy and Sue. I have to say that the timing of the "new friends for Phil" couldn't have been more perfect with Doug and Andrew's departure. They seem to have hit it off and have been spending lots of time together. Tonight we are having a pizza party on the Adamo. L' Aventura is on the hard getting extensive work done. Everyone who has read the blog knows that being on the hard in this heat is brutal! It is hard to cook... well, it is hard to to anything. So we invited them over to enjoy some air conditioning, a meal that nobody has to cook, and drinks of course!
We have also been to several pot-luck gatherings and a book/ DVD swap and have met other cruisers. I find these events a little uncomfortable here because it is kind of like high school where there are definitely clicks. Weird! But you have to do it in order to met other people.
Phillip and I have started home school. It is painful to begin a new year of material! We are both suffering over it. Battling Phil to study for a couple of hours is not my idea of fun; but I know it is a matter of time before we get into a groove.
Mike is getting to the end of his list of maintenance items and he has offered to help our new friends with some of their stuff. We are waiting for them to get into the water so we and go down the river together in Venezuela. We still have to provision for that journey as well as pick up trading items for the Indians. More on that later.
Phil and Mike just returned with a couple of tuna and a jack. So it is sushi for breakfast! They also found a beach nearby that we will venture to today to have some fun in the sun.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Phil's New Pet

Phil showed up with a new pet this morning, a rather large slow moving bug. We called it a leaf bug, but I'm sure Andrew can shed more light on the proper name when he reads this blog. Look for his comment to this entry.

Check out the way the wings look exactly like a leaf. It was pretty awesome. We also liked the yellow eyes.

I was just kidding about the "new pet". This would not pass the Mom-test. Phil released it in a bush and said it practically vanished due to it's ingenious camouflage.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Trinidad - Captian's View

Andrew's first Cuban.

I have been derelict in my duties posting to the blog. Most of my time has been spent on repairs and maintenance items. The too do list seams to keep growing, despite my efforts to pear it down. Here is what I have been up to: hauled boat to address a significant leaking problem with the prop shaft. The boys and I dropped the rudder, broke down the Hundested variable pitch prop mechanism, pulled the prop shaft then put everything back together again. Finally we repacked the rudder and prop shaft packing. That took 3 days; work that was done largely in vain because the prop seal was still in working order. (though my peace of mind has been restored. There’s nothing quite as unsettling as having the boat take on water in the middle of the night when you are doing a crossing and you are in the middle of nowhere).

I had the foam in the cockpit cushions replaced. They had deteriorated to the point where they just stayed flat and where water logged. It would seam that this should to be a quick job, but not around here. Getting quotes takes for ever. With so many boats here for hurricane season, everyone has plenty of work to do. When I finally did get a quote, I had Andrew bring the cushions to the upholstery shop. When he got there they quoted him a significantly different figure than the original quote I had received. So now it’s another dinghy trip to the shop to get clarification. When I got there the right person to talk to was out for the day. “Come back tomorrow” they said. You can see how this thing just kept getting dragged on and on. In the end, I probably spent 6 hours just to get someone else to do a job that should only take a maximum of 30 minutes to complete. When we did get the cushions back the job was done right however, and the price was right. 266 TT Dollars which is $46 U.S. for two 6 x 3 foot cushions with new sliders installed on the zipper.

The crew sanded and varnished the toe rail, twice. It rained shortly after applying the vanish the first time. Ahhh, the rainy season, not just good for losing your tan, but also keeping you on your toes and busy as well.

Back to the maintenance list: changed all fuel filters and oil in the Perkins and the gen-set. Changed out alternator and fridge belts on Perkins. Re-aligned fridge compressor. Replaced raw water impeller on Perkins. All this took two full days between doing the work and sourcing the parts.

We bought a used stainless steal stove from another cruiser and fitted the range top to our stove since ours had rusted out. It was incredible that we found a stove top that would work (with some modifications). Several hours of cutting it to size with the grinder and building new fittings and the stove looks brand new. Sue is pleased as punch.

So, what’s left to do? Second coat of varnish on the toe rail. Replace the grill regulator. Have the canvas on the dodger replaced. Varnish the steering wheel. Pull two hatches and three portholes and re-seal them. Re-seal the mast. Repair several other leaks throughout the boat (all became evident during the rainy season). Pull the windlass and have the motor rebuilt. Remove the shower door and re-seal it. And finally, re-hang the wire in the cockpit locker that holds and organizes all the spare lines on board.

Sorry about the lengthy discussion on maintenance items, but that was all of those who have inquired if we ever get bored while cruising. It’s been almost a year since we moved on the Adamo, and I can confirm that boredom has played no part in this little adventure.

After the visit from my parents, we only had a few days left with the older boys. Friday August 1 was Emancipation Day here in Trinidad and all businesses were closed. We needed a rental car to get Andrew and Doug to the airport Saturday morning at 5:15am, so we rented the car on Thursday with the return scheduled for Monday (rental car agencies are closed on the weekend). Five days with a car, what a luxury.

We decided to make the most of having the car. We spent Thursday provisioning, Friday driving to the rain forest, Saturday to the airport, Sunday more provisioning, and on Monday a little more provisioning. Cars are $30 per day and gas is $1.20 per gallon. What a deal.

The only blog-worthy day with the car was Friday. We departed the marina at 9:00am and drove east to the coast, about 40 miles. The traffic in some spots was horrendous. Everyone was out on the streets due to the holiday.

When we reached the east coast we found a deserted beach. It was full of leather-back sea-turtle nests, one every 6 feet. Cracked hatching eggs littered the beach from the baby sea-turtles’ escape from there sandy nests to the open ocean.

The boys were happy to be off the boat for the day. Doug and Andrew spared on the beach.
I think the loser got the center seat on the flight home. Phil and Sue explored the woods.

After the beach excursion it was back into the car to continue into the rain forest. The roads were barely two lanes for the 30 miles of curvy roads following the north coast of the island. Every so often we crossed a single lane bridge made of wooden planks.
Just as we were all getting hungry, we stumbled upon a remote bungalow hotel. It is owned by a Swedish couple, with 5 bungalows and an open-air dining room.

After lunch, as we exited the compound we found a bread-fruit tree. Andrew and Phil hopped out and collected two large fruits the size of an over sized football. Bread-fruit is a starchy fruit which you cut up and boil, and eat just like a potato. When I cooked it, I sautéed the chunks I had previously boiled in olive oil with garlic, chopped tomato, onion, hot sauce, thyme, salt and pepper. Everyone loved it.

After collecting the bread-fruit we proceeded further into the forest. Much to our dismay, the road dead ended. There was no place to turn around so we had to back down the narrow road for a ¼ mile and then turn the car around and head back the way we came. The locals looked at us like we were from Mars. By the time we got back to the Adamo it was 8:00pm. That’s was a long day of driving in tough conditions, often through a deluge of rain in a small Nissan Sunny (just big enough to fit the boys in the back seat).

During the last hour of the trip Phillip was going bonkers. He had the middle seat and just could not sit still any longer. After that day, I think the older boys were looking forward to heading back to the States and leaving Phil behind!

During lunch, Susan remembered that we needed to go to immigration in Chaguaramas Bay to check Andrew and Doug out of the country. When we hit the dead-end it became very clear that we would not make it back in time. So we called the immigration office from the car to see what our options were. Well, the lady on the other end of the phone was quite indignant. Saying things like: “That’s a BIG problem. You have to come in by 5:00pm today.” I said: “I cannot make it there in time. We ran into a dead-end in the road and are in the rain forest and have hours of driving ahead of us.” “That’s a BIG problem. You chose not to come in today. Our law states the captain is accountable for his crew when the vessel leaves the country. If the crew is not aboard when you leave, you will have to prove that they have left the country by some other means.”

Nuts! I was so angry about the “you CHOSE not to come in” comment I wanted to go ballistic. (Ich habe vor wut fast ins Lenkrad gebissen!) Of course, raising your voice to immigration gets you absolutely nowhere. After dropping the boys off at the airport, I went to immigration to get my wrist slapped, or fined, or arrested or whatever they were going to do to me. Fortunately, it was Saturday and the indignant lady had the day off. The official that was there accepted a copy of the boys’ itinerary and the airport parking stub as proof that they had left. I paid the $14 departure fee and I was free to go.

Three days ago, Phil found an inflatable roll-up dinghy by the trash cans. He proceeded to bring it back on the dock and inflate it.
Turns out that the thing actually holds air. Well, you know Phil. His favorite four letter word is “FREE”. So he spent the next three days fixing it up and gluing all the loose rubber straps back in place. It actually looks pretty decent now. His plans are to manufacture a transom for it and use the spare 3hp outboard so he can go fishing in his own dinghy. The people who threw it out saw him working on it and were tickled pink that a “young chap” ended up with it. They were proud to inform him that that dinghy had been around the world.

In preparation for our trip up the Orinoco River in Venezuela, we got immunization shots today for yellow fever and tetanus. We took a taxi to the health clinic that gives out the shots. It was an experience. Picture a hospital from the movies in Africa; open windows, wooden benches, a rooster running through the yard past the entry door as we filled in pink government slips to serve as our record for re-admittance back into the country. Aside from the four nurses, dressed in brown dresses reminiscent of girls scout brownies uniforms, we were the only people there. Once the forms were completed we where ushered into a small examination room where the shots were administered. A cup full of individually packaged syringes was the only medical devices in view. A locking cabinet labeled “dangerous drugs” was partially hidden by the open door leading to the next examination room. I wondered to myself “what are dangerous drugs??” Our vaccines were retrieved from a Coleman cooler on the table next to the syringe stash. Rubber gloves were nowhere in site. Two shots, one in each arm and we were done.