Life on the hook

John & Susan Simpson
Fri 28 Jan 2022 14:07
It’s been just over two weeks now since Casamara was last tied to a dock and we’re getting used to living life at anchor.  We’ve left behind shore power and access to the water tap but life is no less comfortable for it.  We make our own water through a desalinator and we have a combination of power sources that keep our boat batteries topped enough to cover all our electrical needs to run the fridge/freezer, lights, navigation instruments, etc.  Over the cockpit of the boat we have a large Bimini (sun cover) that carries two solar panels and we have a second bank of solar panels mounted on the back of the boat on top of the davits that carry the dinghy.  A wind generator also sits on the back rail to supplement the solar power.  The sun is really strong now in the Caribbean so solar is by far the best power source during the day.  Winds are also fairly constant so the wind generator spins all day long too.  In theory the wind generator would keep us going through the night but in practice the vibration it creates is quite noisy in the cabin where we sleep so we switch it off at night.  If necessary we also have a diesel generator which we can use to top up the batteries and to run anything with a high power draw (e.g. the washing machine!!).  This does mean that managing the power and the water takes a bit of thought and management so that we don’t trip the electrical system by overloading it or run out of water just when we need it.  

Everyday provisioning takes a bit more forward planning than usual too because it’s never certain whether food will be available, or what the quality will be like if it is.  However, even in the remotest places there are often small ‘supermarkets’ with a limited range of tinned foods, stalls by the roadside or in gardens selling locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, and open boats which come by offering anything from bags of ice, or banana bread to fish or lobster.  They often also offer ‘weed’, confusingly also referred to as lobster!  We haven’t yet bought anything other than the crustacean variety!  We still have a lot of tins and dried foods on board from when stocked up to cross the Atlantic so we’re not going to starve, but sometimes the meal combinations have to be a little creative.

We’ve had some great successes with buying from the local boat boys, such as the freshly caught tuna we bought from a passing boat in Chatham Bay.  John gutted it and cut it into steaks and fillets which have been the basis of 3 evening meals so far, with more to come.  In the Tobago Cays we had a beach BBQ cooked specially for us in a sort of co-operative venture.  A vendor (Willy) in his boat named ‘Free Willy’ came out to us in the morning offering to cook a BBQ ashore later in the day.  We set off with our friends Traci and Andrew to go ashore in the dinghy at lunchtime.  We made our way along a sandy path through palm trees and tropical plants to a beautiful beach on the other side of a tiny island.  There was a covered BBQ/kitchen area where 8-10 local people were busy cooking lobster, fish and chicken and preparing huge platters of side dishes.  Each individual vendor had a table under the trees by the BBQ area and whilst they shared the cooking facility, the tables were their own ‘restaurant’ and they served their own guests there.  The food was so fresh and full of flavour.  I particularly liked the rice cooked and flavoured with very finely grated carrot, garlic and root ginger.  Delicious!
Seated at Free Willy’s table with the cooking area behind us

The view from our table

Being at anchor means of course that we are more susceptible to the motion of the sea and Casamara is rocking constantly, but so far it hasn’t been so rough that sleeping has been a problem.  It’s actually quite nice to drift off to sleep with the gentle rocking of the boat.  We set an anchor alarm to alert us if the boat moves more than would be expected.  There’s always some movement back and forwards or side to side but to drift more than say 50 metres would indicate a more serious problem!  So far the alarm has only gone off once in the night - we’d moved 51 metres, but all was well and we were soon back within expected range without any further ado.

We have also been lucky enough to visit some stunningly beautiful places where a marina would be completely out of place.  In the Tobago Cays we snorkelled to see sea turtles, angel fish, giant starfish and other sea creatures living alongside the rocks and reefs.

Snorkelling with sea turtles - they were much more at home under the water than we were!