Nigel North
Mon 5 Nov 2012 17:39

Flight from Gatwick was uneventful, boring even. The two either side of me were not interested in talking. I said a cheery hello got squat back and that was that. After landing at St Lucia I took some pics of cumulus clouds between St Lucia and Trinidad as they were pretty, and extended above our 20000’.

Customs were ok, but I had to go to Chaguaramas next day to check in again with them. Good ole Tim was there waiting, in his flying overalls, and took me back to his place – a lush flat in a high rise in Port of Spain. Next day I was waiting outside with big blue bag at 0800 waiting for ‘Sammy’ - a taxi driver who the guys all use. I nearly had a heart attack carrying the bag down. He didn’t turn up. I figured well its Trinidad and waited. 0845 and he’s there hailing me from his beat up old Toyota jalope with all the windows down. Stuck in traffic he said.

Sammy drives like our lives depend on getting there in record time. He only uses one hand, and one foot. Traffic queues are ignored by driving up on the inside then cutting in. I ask him to take me to a B Mobile shop to buy a sim card for a phone Tim has lent me one as mine doesn’t work here even though its 3G. The first is shut. So is the second even though its gone 0900 by now. We go to a shopping mall, but that doesn’t open until 1000. I am a bit nervous as my bag is on the back seat of his jalope and its not locked. I don’t think it does lock.. I was kindof hoping that he would stay in the car but he came with me to make sure I got what I wanted. Sammy insisted on taking me to another mall even though I said I’d do it some other time, and this time it was open. The girls behind the counter dealt with me in the usual dull desultory bored manner that all shop assistants adopt here, and poker faced, took my $100TT and I was happy to have comms again. When asked for my address I asked if they wanted my UK address – but Sammy elbowed me discreetly and muttered something to them I didn’t understand. They didn’t ask again.

Then we were roaring off, a worn bush clunking on the lumpy road. As we sailed past the gate guard I reminded Sammy that he had to return the entrance card they give you - if you don’t have one when you leave then you’ve stolen the car. But no one had stopped us. He reversed with gusto, cursing their incompetence.

Half way along the hot sunny coast road to Chaguaramas Sammy reminded himself with a sharp cry that he needed petrol – I leant over and it was showing empty alright. If it had been me, I’d have NOT been driving at max chat. We were half a mile past the petrol station when Sammy remembered, spun round and backtracked, but it was shut. The air turned blue.

‘I'll have to take it easy’ he declared, to my relief. We slowed to 50mph along the busy road, until that is he came up behind a slower vehicle. Foot to the boards we are back up to flying speed and overtaking in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

I thanked him for persevering with the hunt for a phone shop. ‘Well’, he said sagely, ‘ in Trinidad I think you need someone to help you’.

‘I don’t mind if you want to go back for some fuel Sammy’ I said encouragingly. ‘That bags heavy. Couldn’t carry it very far…’.

‘Its ok. I will get you there. If I run out (of petrol) I'll sleep in the car. Don’t worry my friend’. We hurtled on.

Back at Peakes Boat Yard standing next to Pinball again, I gave him his money, and a $40TT tip – about £4. ‘Is that ok Sammy’ I asked. He looked coy. ‘Whatever you want to give me’. I liked Sammy.

I went to fetch a ladder from the rack nearby, but they were all chained up. But there was a ladder on the next door boat which I could climb and as the boats were so close, just get on board that way. I surprised a couple of local guys working on the boat but they didn’t seem to mind. I was finding the heat quite exhausting already, and hauling the big blue bag up that ladder and over the lifelines wasn’t easy. I had to go and sit down for a bit, well about an hour actually, before finally getting my stuff inside. Phew! It was 39deg C and humid, but inside PW it was 42deg and completely sapping my energy. Even small jobs were a real effort, and I rested more than worked that first day. The deflated dinghy had to come out for a start as it was blocking up the galley. Plus I had to at least clear a bunk to sleep in.

Everything seemed to take an age. Right, I thought. Cup of tea. Need the gas on. The gas cylinder is in a gas tight compartment in the lazarette at the back of the cockpit. Temporarily I had lashed one solar panel on top of the heavy lazarette hatch to reduce the risk of theft before leaving the boat, as it couldn’t be seen there from the ground. This made the hatch even heavier, so needed a prop to hold it open whilst fiddling with the gas door inside. I selected a hammer for want of anything better. Finally the gas was on. Kettle on. Tea bag in mug. Ah….what about milk? The milk I had bought the day before was cooking nicely at 42deg and undrinkable, and the butter not far behind too. Dried milk then. The dried milk was hard as hell and had to be scraped into powder, but heh. However, when water was added the deep yellow colour of the resultant liquid put me off. Then I remembered the non dairy ‘creamer’ I had never used. This had shrunk to half its original size inside the sealed bottle, and had the consistency of concrete. Hacking a piece off and mixing with boiling water had absolutely no effect on it whatsoever, and I abandoned the attempt and decided to grate some off the main block instead. This worked, and the result didn’t look too bad – at least it wasn’t a deep yellow. I risked it and the tea was…ok. It all took over an hour. You know, people often ask me ‘what do you DO all day on your boat N?’ Beats me.

By 2000 that first day I had hardly achieved anything. Enough space to crash out on, and a cup of tea. Hadn’t even the energy to cook a meal.. The heat was really getting to me, and went up on deck and just sat there, as gormless as a zombie. I could barely keep my eyes open either, so went to bed. Too hot for bedding, I just lay down on top of a sleeping bag – as I had always done in the tropics.

I awoke at 0130 feeling a LOT better. And it was cooler….a LOT cooler. 29 deg now. A good time then to do some work. Right…that solar panel. I set to work putting it back where it should be, mounted up on the starboard pushpit in the cockpit. The night security man came wandering past a couple of times – which was encouraging – and no doubt wondered about me fiddling about with my head torch. The third and final time he stood almost next to my boat for some time – clearly suspicious – and made a phone call. However, I wasn’t arrested. By 0530 it was firmly attached and wired up again, and I retired below for some more sleep. It wasn’t til next day that it dawned on me that I had been suffering not just from heat exhaustion but jet lag as well.


Customs and Immigration Day. Got the folding bike out of its bag and was pleased to find it in pretty good nick, just flat tyres. Getting it off the boat was the problem as I was still suffering from feebleness with the heat, and I didn’t think I could get safely down the ladder holding it in one hand. So I lowered it on a rope. Pumping up the tyres I had to sit down to do it, I was feeling so feeble! Amazing. This heat takes some getting used to, and I had reacclimatised to UK temps. Even cycling the half kilometre to the Customs and Immigration place at Anne’s Inn was an effort, and I don’t think I could have walked it – cycling gives you a life saving cooling breeze.

Immigration were ok, as were Customs. Unusual! Afterwards, to cool down, I had a milk shake in the café there, which is air conditioned. I didn’t rush.

I thought I’d have some soup for lunch when I got back and dug out a saucepan. It was covered in mould. In fact everything in the cupboard was, well the whole galley area was. And that was my second day, washing it all off, and cleaning the cooker. Plus fixing the cutlery drawer which was coming apart.

About 6pm Tim arrived in his big black Nissan wagon and took me back to his place. It was Friday night – party night in Trinidad! I had dithered once on whether to go – I wasn’t sure I could handle a late night – but it had been momentary. It was just feeling so lifeless and energy free..


Next day, Saturday, feeling a bit raw, we walked down the road to watch a couple of Rugby matches at the cricket stadium. Someone said 'imagine that at the Oval!' The crowd were suitable vociferous, so I gave my finger whistle an airing then wished I hadn't. Afterwards a disco behind us struck up, and the Party that is the weekend in Trinidad started up all over again.

Sunday: Drove up to Fort George on top of the hill overlooking Port of Spain in Tims Nissan on a beaut day, then walked up to the radio station in the heat - a good spot to take some pics. Then good ole Tim drove me back to Chaguaramas and Pinball - about 12 miles away.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Very hot, both yesterday and today. 42deg inside PW by mid pm, so not achieving much. Yesterday I rigged the bimini but rearranged it to cover just the seating area in the cockpit - a lash up to see if its any good like this, or just wasting my time. The idea is to put some shade over where I sit when sailing, and keep it rigged. I think it is possible to rig it basically by myself, just need some sewing and ingenuity.

Its SO HOT! I do like the evenings though, but suddenly really tired again at about 2100 (my time) last night so went to bed without even brushing my teeth I was so floppy. I have been going to bed v early every day, except when at Tims, when its very late!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Up at dawn again, however, I have tidied up inside and put the books away - left out hoping they wouldn't get damp. It is hard getting going again, I will have to be more tough on myself. Nearly a week gone by already, and little to show for it. Not good enough. I am wondering whether to hire air con or not. Bit short of money nowadays.. So sleepy Ive got to lie down- its 1530!

Slept for an hour or more, so hot. Thats about 10.5 hours so far today!

Evening. Audit on pots of paint stored under the stbd quarter berth. Working on the bimini idea.

Wrote a long email to a friend. Being bitten.

Beer for dinner, and whisky later.

A hot clear day today. And, for the first time since arrival, a late finish. Refurbished the electric toothbrush too! Super!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Today I finally got my body into the Calypso sailmakers place to order a new bimini, but have to wait until tomorrow night to find out if there's enough time! Also went in to buy anti fouling, but couldn't remember what i used last year so have had to do a 'test' tomorrow morning to check for any reaction by painting on a small sample area.

Ate FOUR chicken burger things and fell asleep about 4 pm. Last night was the same, after the main meal I just went unconscious - couldn't help myself. I suppose the digestion is absorbing all of what little energy I do have.

Have finally reorganised and cleared up the nav table, wiped down the woodwork, and packed my clothes in a bag.

Have just found to my astonishment that it is thursday. I thought it was tuesday..


Took the 'MaxiTaxi' in from just outside Peake's, asked a local lady how to get in to Port of Spain, taxi arrived - going the wrong way - and she tells me 'Come!' I remonstrate mildly 'isn't it the other way?' Come!! Of course, the bus turns round right there haha. Driven at breakneck speed, I get out where she tells me and walk the rest to Tims luxury flat, picking up a huge Chicken potato and spinach Roti on the way. Weighed at least a pound I'd say!

Having successfully found my way to Tim's highrise I coudn't find the main entrance so went down into the car park beneath, then got completely lost there and had to come out again, spot his flat, and then go back in to find the stupid entrance using a range and bearing technique. Tim rang me as I stood outside his door.


Saturday: up at 10am, went out to find the TT Post office to pay for the visa I haven't got yet, and it was shut. This visa thing was becoming a pain. I'd applied online in UK - it took ages to find all the info - only to be given an interview date in London the day before I was due to fly out - no good as they keep your passport for a week then post it to you. So I had to reapply here in Trinidad, which took another day on the computer. Then you have to print off the confirmation slip. But...the printer had dried up and was not printing anything. I changed the black ink. Slightly better. Changed the coloured ink. Better but.....uh oh. Not working again. And those are two precious new ink cartridges. I was not going to change them again - I only had one of each left now.

Tried feeding some water into the nozzles as I suspected they had dried out in the heat - even though sealed. It worked!

Back to find Tim in the pool. I cooked us a bacon sarnie each, after doing some shopping in the store below.

Then we drove out with Steve to a mall for some shopping, and it poured! Big, hot sploshy tropical rain. Lovely! I'd done my shopping earlier. After a good stir fry Tim drove me back later so he would have Sunday clear to revise for his 3 day check ride this week. I dont envy him that. My own dislike of check rides never waned.

Sunday:  Got on my bike and went over to see Ed and Elisabeth on SKYLARK, bobbing up and down in the Coral boatyard on a pontoon (or a 'finger' as Ed would say). I took an apple pie. True to form I fell hard on my knee getting on, having misjudged the bloody distance . Idiot. Not careful again..but also its those old specs I'm wearing with a much too high a reading focal area, which interferes with ones judgement. Maybe I've been ashore too long....

They were both in good health, and made me welcome with a cold beer.  They are also well set up - as they needed to be having been here since June - with an air conditioner keeping it pleasant below, and a fridge!  My own fridge is no use out of the water as it has a heat exchanger on the hull.  Lunar the dog stood at the top of the companionway panting.  Since last seeing them in St Lucia their plans are now to head up to the Azores, Portugal and Spain.  It was good to catch up...