It's great to be back in Trinidad. Feels like home. We know so many people here; can't go anywhere without running into friends, though admittedly, they are mostly pannists.
We've really fallen in love with the people of Trinidad. These happy islanders are beaming with a love of life that fills your heart and intoxicates you. I am close to tears many times for the joy of it all. We have never seen such pure and heartfelt happiness as we see here.
This is our first summer in Trinidad. We are amazed that there are so many fetes, festivals, concerts, shows and competitions. And it's not even Carnival season! These Trinis sure know how to have fun!
The captain of the band that I played the Panorama competition with, SilverStars, invited me to join their "stageside" group! Every steel band has a smaller "side" of the band, about 20 pannists that are hired to play at functions, mostly weddings, funerals, festivals and private parties. SilverStars has perhaps the best, most highly paid and most often asked for stageside steel band in all of Trinidad!!!!! I have been practicing like crazy, trying to learn their complex repertoire of songs, which has been extremely challenging, but I am just having a blast!!!!! And to fill the time while I'm away in the pan yard, Rick has taken up the saxophone with a passion! His first real try at a musical instrument, and he loves it! And I'm amazed how good he sounds
It's gonna be hard to leave Trinidad, but we are working hard to outfit the boat, and are preparing to start out on our circumnavigation. We're installing some new equipment, getting charts and cruising guides for Central America and the South Pacific, buying spares and medical supplies, making minor repairs, doing annual maintenance, and reading up on stuff like heavy weather tactics and recommended world cruising routes. We've had the opportunity to talk with other circumnavigators here, and learn from them. It's really exciting!!!! Barring any unforeseen problems, we should start sailing west by springtime, with new rigging, new sails, and a boat well outfitted and provisioned for extensive offshore cruising.
We go for long periods of time living in remote areas, where products and services are scarce, or non-existent. So once we do arrive someplace like Trinidad, where there is more of a marine services industry, inexpensive internet cafes, and more availability of products, we have a long list of things to do that we've been adding to for months! But each day, no matter what work we're doing, is still an adventure!
While we both love this cruising lifestyle, it certainly is not easy or convenient, like life ashore in California was. We are constantly fighting the effects of this harsh tropical climate. The salt corrodes, the sun damages, and the movement of the boat is conducive to breaking and chafing things. The high humidity causes all kinds of green growth everywhere, and drains our energy. We're living on a small boat, where space is at a premium, yet we need to carry with us everything we need to survive for months at a time. We have to monitor our water usage, as well as our energy usage, and are constantly devising ways to make more, and use less, of both of these precious commodities!
We're living in different foreign countries, without a car or an address or a phone, and each new place we visit we need to learn about public transportation, pay phone services, local shopping and internet cafes. We have to remember whether to divide by 2.65 or multiply by 1.27 to determine what a product would cost in U.S. dollars, just to judge the value of that product in the local currency. And which way to look when crossing the street! It's not easy and comfortable, but it's the adventure and new experiences that we seek and treasure, and the rewards are indescribable.
While in Peru, even in the most remote villages in the Andes, we saw children wearing Nike caps and Rebok sneakers. On the secluded island of Marie-Galante, we were surprised when someone joked about "Jacobi & Meyers". Satellite TV is bringing American shows to every corner of the world, and it's going to become harder and harder for different peoples to preserve their own cultural expressions. We are anxious to travel the world before this happens.
|Where We've Been||
07/14/2005, Trinidad, West Indies
"....National Weather Service Forecast Advisory #13...Tropical Storm Emily has been upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane...current position is 11.9 north, 62.3 west, moving WNW at 20 knots per hour...sustained winds of 80 knots, gusting to 105... uh,folks, it's gonna be a rough night..."
We turned off the SSB radio at the end of the transmission. We sat in silence for a few moments. The eye of the hurricane was now only 80 miles from us. The good news, for us, was that she was veering slightly to the north, away from us. The bad news was that she was strengthening, and becoming more organized. The very word "hurricane" struck terror in us.
We were exhausted. We had worked hard over the past 48 hours to prepare for the worst, and now it was here. We felt fairly secure in our marina slip, with double lines forward and aft, and extra fenders on both sides. Our sails were down, decks cleared, dinghy hauled up on shore and filled with water to weigh it down. Everything inside was secured, VHF handheld radios and spotlights were fully charged. We were able to get reliable updates on the radio every three hours from the National Weather Service.
We kept our VHF radio on station 68, monitoring the communications between vessels, to see if fellow cruisers needed help. We periodically checked our lines, and the lines of the boats on either side of us, for chafing. We were up most of the night, just keeping watch, monitoring the conditions.
We were lucky. The winds were not as strong as projected. The swell bounced us all around quite a bit, but our lines held us well. The torrential rains made the conditions seem worse than they really were.
It's just starting to get light. The worst is over. Ok, we've just been through our first hurricane, and have learned a lot. It was a rough night, but other than a few new leaks around hatches and portholes, we seem to be just fine. A lot of other boats had problems, but many were just not as prepared as we were. There are still high winds in the mountainous areas of Trinidad, with flooding, and loss of electrical services in some parts, but no reports of other damage. We have not yet heard reports of damage on Grenada or the other Windward Islands.
|Where We've Been||
06/28/2005, St. Lucia, Eastern Caribbean
Friday night, we went to a Calypso Tent, here in St. Lucia. St. Lucia's Carnival is July 19-20, rather than February like Trinidad. They changed it from February 6 years ago, because too many local people were leaving St. Lucia to go to Trinidad's Carnival. So they are in the midst of all the pre-Carnival fetes, with the pan bands practicing for St. Lucia's Panorama, and the Calypso tents open every night. A Calypso Tent is where 20-30 Calypsonians compete with their original Calypso songs, all new for the 2005 Carnival season, hoping for the most coveted Calypso Monarch title.
It was wonderful, the songs were brilliantly clever, and the audience was rowdy. Anyway, near the end the MC picked ME out of the audience, (we were sitting in the front), called me on stage, and asked me where I was from, thinking he'd make a spectacle out of a tourist. Of course, as always, we were the ONLY white people there. Though there are a lot of tourists here in St. Lucia and throughout the Caribbean, they are mostly on cruise ships and in all-inclusive resorts, which they only leave for group excursions, always very protected. They never venture out on their own or go to local events, especially something like a Calypso Tent. Even the Yachties don't go to the local events, just a few restaurants or stores or hiking to a waterfall that is listed in their Cruising Guide. That is why when we seek out and go to these events we are always the only foreigners AND the only white people, as the whites on these islands are, for the most part, not so interested in the blacks' culture.
Well of course, I said I was from Trinidad (the land of Calypso). Everyone roared with laughter. The MC said, "No, really, where yuh born ahn grow?" which, in Trini English, means "where were you raised". I said "I born ahn grow California, but now I live Tree-nee-dahd". Turns out the MC was also a Trini, and he challenged me, "OK, sing us a song from yuh country, Tree-nee-dahd." Well, with my terrible voice and all, I started belting out "Trini To The Bone", a Calypso song which, for all intents and purposes, is the unofficial Trinidad Anthem. The band immediately joined in, and the MC started singing with me, thankfully, as he helped keep me on key, and then about 400 people in the audience started roaring with laughter and singing along!!!! How odd for them to see someone who so obviously looked like a tourist, but was proudly singing this very local song that was also very popular in St. Lucia. Rick and our friends in the audience were hysterical! After the tent finished, lots of people came up to me and "bounced" me, that's where you offer a knuckle tap, you know, like a handshake but with your knuckles, and claimed, oh, me mama a Trini, or oh, I born ahn grow Trini, or whatever. (Trinis are very proud.) The next morning, when I stopped by to see a local friend of ours at work, everyone in his office claimed that they saw me on TV last night!!!! Anyway, what a fun experience!
We have a friend that plays the double pan in a cool little reggae band, last night we went to hear the band, and after their break, our friend invited me to come play his pans, just strumming cords, very easy, so I played most of the second set with them, it was sooooooo cool. We were there with about 8 friends. The sax player is a friend of ours too, and we've invited him to the boat, Rick wants to have a sax lesson, he's thinking of taking it up. What a great night, but it's kinda sad, in 4 seasons we've made so many friends on each island...oh well, lot's of great memories...
|Where We've Been||
The white foam formed a beautiful contrast to the rich deep blue of the sea, as the cresting waves rose high around us, tossing Tara Vana like a toy boat. As expected, Tara Vana handled the 8 - 10 foot waves like a champ, and we marveled at how comfortable we were, despite the rough conditions.
It looked like a squall was forming ahead, so we reefed the jib to help slow down the boat; we had started the crossing with 2 reefs set in the main sail, anticipating the strong winds that were forecast. St. Lucia, though only about 10 miles ahead, was not visible in the dark, cloudy conditions. That's ok; checking our electronic chart plotter, we confirmed that Tara Vana was right on course.
As if to brighten our trip, a pod of dolphins came to frolic in our bow waves, bringing instant smiles to our faces. What a treat!
We had left Martinique just a few hours ago, with a tinge of sadness. Of all the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, the French Antilles islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe were among our favorite. We had been visiting many of the same places over the past 3 seasons, saying hi to friends made the prior seasons, and anchoring in our favorite spots. Now we were really saying goodbye....
Before we even bought Tara Vana, we dreamed of sailing around the world. We knew that we had a lot to learn before starting such a challenging trip, though, and planned to spend a few seasons in the Eastern Caribbean, learning more about the boat, improving our skills, and equipping the boat for extended offshore cruising.
After much preparation, we've decided to start heading west on our circumnavigation after this hurricane season. We'll take our time in Venezuela, using it as a base while we do some trekking in South America. The offshore islands of Venezuela are fantastic, or so we've heard, and we're looking forward to exploring them. Then on to the Dutch Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. We're looking forward to visiting Cartagena; other cruisers rave about this safe and historic capital of Colombia. And we'll make sure to save plenty of time to explore the San Blas Islands, a group of islands off the east coast of Panama, where the native Kuna Indians' lifestyle & culture has not changed much in 100's of years.
And though the plans of sailors change often, we're tentatively planning to go through the Panama Canal in the spring of 2007, fully prepared for our 25 - 30 day crossing to the South Pacific.
We have installed a watermaker, which converts salt water to drinkable fresh water. We've installed a single sideband marine radio that allows us to get extensive real-time weather information, as well as communicate with other cruisers. We're buying a new life raft, and some additional offshore safety equipment. We're adding more solar panels, and are considering installing a wind generator, to provide us with more electricity. In Trinidad this summer, we will have our standing rigging replaced, and buy a new main sail and a new jib. We've installed an EPIRB, or emergency positioning radio beacon, which allows us to transmit our exact position, via satellite, to the local coast guard, and all ships in the area, in the case of an emergency. We have books on everything, from weather forecasting to medicine at sea, from sail handling to boat maintenance to conjugating Spanish verbs. And we have enough novels to entertain us across the Pacific.
Though we still have some things to buy and some preparations to make, we are feeling ready to set out.
We've thoroughly enjoyed our cruising in the Eastern Caribbean. We've sailed about 4000 miles, and explored 26 different islands in 13 countries. We've spoken 6 different languages (if you include Trini English!), used 5 different currencies, identified dozens of kinds of reef fish and coral, collected lots of cool shells, eaten many exotic tropical fruits, enjoyed wonderful sunsets & rainbows, and made countless friends. We enjoyed 17 months total in our home base of Trinidad, where we were very involved in the music culture and Carnival festivities. We've enjoyed getting to know many other cruisers, who have accepted the same challenges and are living the same dream. We've learned so much from them. We'll take wonderful memories with us as we set sail for this greatest of adventures....
|Where We've Been||
It wasn't the weight of our backpacks. It wasn't the steepness of the trail. It wasn't the cold mountain air in our lungs. It was just that, at over 13,000 feet, there wasn't enough air to fill our lungs.
We stopped every few steps to catch our breath. We were exhilarated to finally reach Warmiwanuscca, which in Quechua means "Dead Woman's Pass". Quechua is the ancient language of the Inca Indians, and is the national language of Peru today, along with Spanish.
We were trekking on the Inca Trail, which had been used to travel from Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, to Machu Picchu, the Lost Inca City.
Deep in the Andes Mountains, we enjoyed spectacular scenery. Snow capped peaks, deep river gorges, dense alpine forests, and soft alpine meadows, with alpaca and llamas grazing peacefully. The trail was littered with a wonderful assortment of Inca ruins....villages, temples, forts, and agricultural mountain terraces. We marvelled at the amazing architecture and engineering behind these ancient stone structures.
On our 4th day of hiking, we trekked through dense rainforest to arrive at Machu Picchu. What a spectacular sight! An entire city, build high on a mountain top, surrounded by majestic peaks and a deep river gorge. Temples, homes, fountains, and terraced mountainsides, all built from huge stones, and so cleverly constructed. The wind and fog swirled around the ancient community, adding to the sense of mystery already surrounding this Lost Inca City.
After relaxing a few days back in Cuzco, we flew to Iquitos, in the heart of the Amazon basin in Northeast Peru. We wanted to explore the Amazon Rainforest, and learn more about the people that lived on the river, and the nature of the rainforest. So we hired a local guy, William, to take us to the village where he grew up: San Martin de Tipishca. He offered to introduce us to his family and village, and show us the rainforest that he loves so much.
The only way to get to William's village was by riverboat, so we took the Monica Jaime up the Amazon. It was a 2-story steel boat, loaded down with people, pigs, chickens, bags of rice, bags of cement, and bricks. William had brought hammocks for us, and strung them from the ceiling on the second floor. We slept shoulder to shoulder with about 150 local river dwellers, while young mothers nursed their babies, and kids slept on the steel floor beneath us.
The Monica Jaime stopped at each small village along the river, where everyone from the village seemed to turn out to help unload rice, building materials, and the personal items that their family had bought in Iquitos. We noticed their simple huts with thatched roofs, built on stilts, knowing that 3 months a year the river would flood, covering the entire river basin in dark brown water.
We were the only visitors on the boat, and our every move was watched with fascination. The children and adults alike just stared at us, and followed us around. We soon discovered that the chickens squawking below were used by the makeshift galley to feed everyone, along with rice and ground provisions, during our 30-hour river trip. The food was actually quite good, though we had to ignore the conditions we saw in the galley.
We finally got off the Monica Jaime at 2 am, quite hot and tired after 30 hours on this steel riverboat. We were met by William's brother, who took us in a handmade dugout canoe up a river tributary to William's village, deep in the Reserva National Picaya Samiria. This picturesque village was clean, and the people were warm and friendly. Though they lived without electricity or running water, they seemed healthy and happy, and eager to visit with us. We enjoyed learning about how their village was organized, how they fished, what crops they grew, and how they appreciated the natural beauty surrounding them.
William took us in his brother's dugout canoe to explore the rainforest. The butterflies were brilliant, and the wild orchids so colourful. We were delighted to see parrots, macaws, and toucans, and lots of monkeys. But best of all were the pink river dolphins, dancing around our canoe as we drifted slowly downriver. One night we camped along the river, lulled to sleep by the nocturnal animals, birds and insects. William was a wonderful guide, but we were sure glad we had studied our Spanish, as he did not speak a word of English!
Though we went to Peru to see the Andes and the Amazon, we also fell in love with Peru's coastal desert. A dune buggy ride revealed miles and miles of sand dunes. Our driver brought homemade sandboards, and showed us how to carve turns down the huge dunes. We stayed at the natural desert oasis of Huacachina, in awe of the stark beauty of the desert around us.
Peru has a wonderfully rich culture and history, and we really enjoyed the different museums we visited in Lima, Ica, and Arequipa. Mummies in elaborate graves, buried with their gold and ceramics, were a real thrill. The penguins and sea lions of Islas Ballestras were so cute and playful. We loved the local bands, playing the sweet Zambona pan flute, a symbol of Peru.
What a wonderful month of new experiences and adventure! Now we are back in Trinidad, painting the bottom of our boat in 99 percent humidity, interrupted by the torrential downpours so typical of Trinidad. We look forward to finishing our priority boat projects, so that we can enjoy the Carnival season here. Oh, it's good to be home!
06/10/2004, Chatham Bay, Union Island, The Grenadines
He was quite literally stuffing his face. He ate as if he hadn't eaten in days. And he didn't seem to care that we were there. That we were watching. His eyes seemed to bulge as he devoured his meal.
Rick and I stole a glance. Rick's expression seemed to mirror my feelings. Feelings of amazement. It was rare to see an octopus during the day. And rarer still to be able to watch an octopus eating like this!
Five minutes later, he discarded the clam shell on a growing pile of shells just below his little crevice in the rock. That's how Rick found him in the first place; he spotted the pile of clean clam shells.
We're anchored in a beautiful bay on the west side of Union Island, in the Grenadines. There is only one other boat anchored here, and it's at the other end of the bay. The closest village is over those hills, on the south side of the island. It's so quiet and serene here. And at night, it's oh so dark. There are 2 fishermen who stop by the boat every afternoon to see if we want some fish. This morning they brought us a papaya from their tree. Other than the fishermen, we haven't talked to another soul since we arrived. How sweet is that? This life we've chosen is good.
|Where We've Been||