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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Peake Yard
12/03/2007, Peakes

The Peake Yard is very large and much cleaner and nicely organized than many I have seen.

Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad Contraban
12/02/2007, Port of Spain Airport

So I have collected my baggage (which extends beyond my ability to carry) and have begun shuffling boxes and duffels and chart rolls across the floor towards the final barrier, customs.

Hideko had emailed me a document declaring my presence on the crew list of Swingin' on a Star, which saved me a big hassle at immigration. I didn't think about it when leaving because I had a round trip ticket. The problem was it was a round trip ticket that left me in Trinidad without a return flight. They don't mind you going but they get concerned when you show up without a way home. Hideko's email from the Chagaramas immigration office whisked me right through.

Customs was another story. As I approached the ominous officials at the counter their collective expressions darkened. At first I though they didn't like the look of all of my "personal affects". Well, that too, but they were really bent up about my pants.

Rewind 24 hours. I'm in Target in Fort Lauderdale trying to buy everything on Hideko's list that I can still cram into one of my bags. It then strikes me that it is going to be cold on the plane for many hours due to the insane air conditioning settings (Is it just me? Am I ranting? Or does everyone wonder who's wasting millions of kilowatts a year refrigerating public places so that only the Inuit feel at home?).

When you are on a boat pockets are good. When I'm on deck I need to have my knife, perhaps a flash light, possibly a hand bearing compass, the list goes on. If I'm going ashore, particularly with Hideko, I need my wallet, a flashlight, my knife, maybe a cell phone, hand held VHF, keys to the boat, etceteras. So this whole cargo pants fad is pretty handy in my opinion. The shelves at Target are getting picked over already so I only found one pair of good full length cargo pants that fit, and they happened to be camouflage. These would keep me warm on the flight and also work out on those rare cool days in the tropics.

Flash back to Customs, Port of Spain. "Sir we have to confiscate your pants."

To which I reply, "are you serious?" Wrong thing to say, now two of them are coming my way fixed on my pants. I begin looking for the police, but they are the police.

"Camouflage is only for the military my friend you can't have those in Trinidad."

They really wanted me to give them my pants. Right then and there. Then I realized that if they searched my bags they were going to find my favorite and most comfortable pair of shorts, also camouflage. It was at this point that I began to plead I think.

After some time they finally agreed to allow me to go to the bathroom to change. I switched to my most professional looking outfit (which is to say not very) and presented myself to the authorities. They wanted my pants. I offered every assurance that I would not display them in public for one instant while in Trinidad or Tobago. Sometime later, exhausted more than moved, they allowed me and my assurances to go.

If you're coming to Trinidad, leave your camos in the footlocker.

Trinidad and Tobago
12/28/2007 | pabs
HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Man that sucks! An American + camo's = disater near south America or anywhere near. A pair a Levis Jeans would have gotten you stripped searched. Next time wear those pink shorts, you'll get out faster... I think.
Licensed Captain
12/01/2007, Fort Lauderdale

Somehow I passed. Whew. It was an intense 17 days. Denis (pictured here at the helm of Celtic Mist, the training boat) and I studied some fairly long hours together and became good friends during the course. Denis also passed and I think he is now running a charter boat in the BVI with his girlfriend. Not a bad way to go...

It feels good to be done and I am really looking forward to getting back to my family but also my boat! It will be nice to get sailing on Swingin' on a Star again. I do have some new checklists to go through when I get home, not to mention 5 tons of ships stores from the US to unpack.

Trinidad and Tobago
On the water practical
11/29/2007, Key Biscayne

The 200 ton masters course wraps up with a four day on the water training run followed by an all day on the water skills exam and oral exam. If you pass this bit and have the sea time and the USCG physical and drug test you finish.

Our coursework group split into two parts for the practical. Most of the crew went for the Power endorsement but four of us had elected the Sail endorsement. I think most power owners will consider a sail skipper but I think few sail owners would consider a power skipper. You do certainly learn specific skills with the twin screw boat that you don't cover in the mono hull portion of course.

Our group consisted of Bernard and Terry from Texas, though originally from the Maritimes in Canada, as well as Denis, a young salty dog, and our instructor Kiron. Kiron was an impressive sailor and he could recite the Colregs word for word.

Our first day started at around 8AM provisioning and what not, proceeded through a passage down the New River and out into a rather choppy Atlantic, then hard on the wind to Miami and wrapped up at around midnight on the hook in Key Biscayne. This was not going to be a vacation...

Trinidad and Tobago
200 Ton Masters Coursework
11/22/2007, Fort Lauderdale

I have relocated to the Embassy Suites right next door to the IYT headquarters where all of the course work takes place for the 200 ton masters program. The hotel is very nice but I am not seeing much of it. The class room part of this program runs Monday - Sunday and seems to ignore Thanksgiving (perhaps it's because the British are running the place?).

We have an exam every morning except Monday. Those applying for the MCA and USCG licenses must get a 90% on the Colregs and Navigation exams and 70% on the Ship Stability and Construction, General Deck Knowledge, Weather, etceteras. So far the program has been a great refresher in some areas and has improved my knowledge substantially in others.

Trinidad and Tobago
11/15/2007, Fort Lauderdale

The MCA (British Maritime Coast Guard Agency) seems to be leading the way in yacht licensing. The professional yacht crew space is growing rapidly and no one else has stepped up to put standards in place so much as the MCA.

Currently to work on most boats in the Caribbean you need to have STCW certification. This includes Sea Survival (inflating life rafts in a freezing swimming pool at night), Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (what? we need to teach people how to be responsible?), First Aid (standard CPR/First aid) and Fire Fighting. The STCW program composed the first week of the 200 ton masters course.

All of the courses were fun and interesting but I really learned a bunch in the Fire Fighting bit. Day one is class room and day two is all practical. Our Fire Fighting portion was taught at the Resolve School in the Fort Lauderdale port. Oddly the Non-SS Manatee (plumbed every which way with propane lines so that they can burst any part of the vessel into massive flames on a whim) is located a couple hundred feet from huge petroleum tanks inside the port. I suppose the port planning engineer was on vacation that day.

We put out lots of kinds of fires with various types of fire extinguishers but the exercises that put you in an enclosed space with raging flames were the most eye opening for me. The hot box bit where you are in an enclosed steel room wearing full fire gear and breathing through a mask with a load of burning pallets bringing the ceiling temp to several hundred degrees was particularly intense.

Trinidad and Tobago
Fridge Fixing
11/14/2007, Chagaramas

At 8am, a rigger was supposed to come to see about bringing our reef lines to the cockpit and he finally showed up at 3pm. At least he came and he seemed positive about the job.

The refrigerator guy was here at 11:30am as promised by the office lady that I spoke to this morning (because he didn't show up yesterday). We have had a little water collecting under our refrigerator and we wanted to find the source and stop it. The refrigerator's leakage was identified as a place on the coolant pipe that was not insulated and thus causing lots of condensation. They cleaned things up and hopefully fixed the problem.

This gave me a chance to clean up back there for the first time. I found playing cards from the MacKenzie kids visit in the process. It is amazing the places kids can get to. It made me smile to think of them.

I have been asking a lot of cruisers around for contractor recommendations. Advent Endeavour who was next to us when we first came to the Peake dock left early this week to anchor out but came by this afternoon with their dog. They gave me a few recommendations from another boat that I spoke to earlier who is now anchored near them. Advent Endeavour is leaving early tomorrow morning for Grenada. It is always sad to say good-bye to the people you have become friends with, even if over a short time. They also knew that Randy was gone so I felt like they looked after me.

A couple of days ago, a French couple came in across from us on the dock. I helped them dock here and they invited me for a cocktail. We had some nice French wine and salmon with bread. They were a very sweet couple. Their nephew is coming soon from France and then they will head North before Randy comes back.

Trinidad and Tobago

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