Saturday, 31 January 2015

The long haul to life afloat in Trinidad

Hi there, sorry  it’s been a while, our laptop died and we were on a mission to get the boat in the water.  It then took a while to get used to life afloat and the systems (or lack of) we had to work with.
the naming of our boat..
Ula (Gaelic for jewel of the sea)

The first 6 weeks arriving in Trinidad and living on the boat in the yard, I often caught myself thinking, “I love this life.”  The learning of how a boat operates, the self-sufficient lifestyle, the physicality of getting places, running errands, getting food and water, even getting in and out of the boat etc; meeting other cruisers who are all so helpful; seeing new places and exploring…
Oil rig testing
crew getting coconuts for us
work stops for a refreshing break
Weeks 7-9 felt like we were on the long haul.  Feeling the need/self-imposed pressure to get on the water, jobs dragging out and we all lost the plot at different times!  The boys had a lot of unspent energy staying inside a lot (in the air-con)avoiding the heat and mosquitoes.
Eli on his berth; our calendar and jobs to get done for launch on saloon wall

Week 10 we could see light at the end of the tunnel and were able to give the yard notice of a proposed launch date. This was changed a few times but the day arrived, dragged out and instead of an excited launch celebration, turned out to be a crawl into the water and a stressful 24 hours or so!

Eden could often be found hanging out at the security office!
Salem and Frankie having a chat
Eden's good mate Strongy.  This guy would often call by early Sunday mornings to give the boys fresh fruit.

Mutt and Strongy saying goodbye, these guys gave the boys papayas, chips, rotis, and other Trini treats

Eden amidst the guys preparing the belts for our launch
Here she comes, through the chemical yard

 We dipped into the water, the travel lift crew, the boss (and many other by-standers) stood by and waited for about 20 minutes at Dave’s request while he checked the whole boat over checking for any leaks or possible issues.  Dave started the engine while i stood in front of the engine checking all was doing what it should. All was looking well after 5 minutes when suddenly a hose popped off and started gushing sea water all through the engine room! 20 minutes later, Dave had fixed it and we were good to go, started up, and again, the hose started gushing water everywhere. Dave rummaged around for some new pipe, cut it to length, fixed it back on with some new hose clamps, tightened all the other hose clamps and attempted a third round…nothing.  The engine wouldn’t start.  By this time, the boss was needing his travel lift and crew back to manoeuvre  other boats waiting to get in and out. 
The crew shoved us around using ropes to the outside of the travel lift area.  “Boss-man,” or Chuck, said we had till the morning to try and sort it out other wise we come back out or they could arrange a tow to a mooring-both not our ideal options, due to $ for the first option and lack of experience for the latter.
While Dave and I were dead-tired from the week of midnight runs and early mornings leading up to this day and trying to figure out what to do, the boys were having a great time watching all the massive boats come and go around us and trying to catch the large variety of fish constantly swimming around the boat!
our first night on the water, celebration time

Another cruiser in the yard suggested maybe changing one of our filters. Dave raced to the shop first thing next morning, we changed over fuel filters..nothing.  Bled the lines of air and, Hallelujah, she goes!!  We stayed put for over an hour with the engine running just to make sure, then slowly meandered our way into the anchorage for our first ever anchoring exercise in a decent sized boat.  We did circles for quite some time and were quite relieved to see the place had emptied out a lot since our friends were anchored there last.

ahh, bliss, we can swim!

The experience did leave us a bit shaken as the chain by-passed our whole “manual windlass” system and the chain went hurtling straight over the side with Dave running up twice from the cock-pit to jump on top and grab it, not ideal but at least we didn’t hit anyone!
It’s great to be on the water, getting more breeze.  We found that people would often call by in their dinghies to say hi and always keen to offer advice when asked. 
We are very pleased to confirm that in spite of our concerns, we have not felt sea-sick once rocking about in this busy harbour and are very pleased so far with the motion of our boat. 
Unfortunately, the water is not always great for swimming due to strong currents and oil spills at various times. 
Oil rigs crazy to watch being towed across the horizon

We ended up shifting to a small bay close by, on the other side of the shipping lane and with the help of some friends, anchored with our stern tied with two lines running to the shore.  This way we’re not swaying all round like crazy, wondering if we’re dragging and getting much better sleep. Also, we became more confident working with our anchoring system, having practiced a few times.
The first night here, we got to a concerning stage when we had some concerns about the depth.  Dave jumped in the dinghy with his depth-sounder (a long piece of pvc pipe!) and realised there was only 3-4 feet under the keel and the low tide was still another two hours away! We had to loosen off the shore line, wake up Eli to get his help with the chain while we motored out and re-anchored to a more safer position, then pulled her back on the anchor, then tightened the line again. 

very slimy sea snake, not fun to catch or release for that matter!
they have bright blue eyes
Another “practice” turned out to be middle of the night, looking out our port from our bed, we noticed the boat had swung round sideways, very closely in front of two other boats.  This is what prompted us to put out another stern line with the help of some friends and their dinghy pushing us around and a real depth sounder.
walking over to dead boats' bay
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At one stage with all these different things to get our heads around, and knowing how much more we still had to learn, I had to admit to Dave this is maybe more “adventure” than we can handle.  (Those who know us well can confirm that I have been the driving force with this whole sailing dream as I was feeling the need for some “adventure” - how often my words come back to bite me!)
Thankfully, it seems to be that when one of us is down, the other is up and we keep on keeping on.  We’re still working through lots of issues on-board that can have us stuck on that challenge for days and sometimes weeks.
The little bay is nice as it is away from everyone, can often see down to the bottom and we have had the wonderful privilage of experiencing: spotted eagle rays flying out of the water and pouncing on their prey, schools of what we call zebra fish and long toms..
long tom
Eden managed to catch the very elusive long tom

catching an ugly fish that has legs and sits on the ocean floor like a frog..
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bats flying over the surface of the water fishing, schools of fish jumping out of the water, turtles cruising by and popping their heads up before diving back down, fireflies in the trees at night..
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an eagle flew into the trees above, a minute later, it dove into the water (picture of the splash above) then flew off with the fish in its’ talons.
We have noticed quite a change in the boys’ vocabulary and in their play since being on the water and mixing with other cruisers.  Some things they mimic and do:
- “i spy with my little eye a boat with three spreaders..”
-“permission to start the engine, sir?” when we are getting ready to head off in the dinghy somewhere
- vhf conversations between the captain of various boats and pilot boat or tug boat or coast guard
- a large variety of boats being built out of recycled rubbish (a lot of that around these parts)
-bartering and trading items on the “net” (net operates on vhf, 8am daily for cruisers, along with help wanted, treasures of the bilge, announcements of general interest, etc)
- pretending to be customs and immigration and trying to charge for anything they can!
Being in a commercial port provides a lot of entertainment for us and some concern for others!
sorting crayfish for the bbq
Cricket with other cruisers on the odd Sunday has been nice with a bbq under the big mango tree after.
nicely decorated for Christmas down by the dinghy dock
The boys were very good about having a low-key Christmas, even taking the initiative to make their Christmas tree out of some cardboard box, instead of their usual real pine tree.  Managed to have a few little treats and enjoyed some “family snorkelling”, as requested by Salem.

boys paddle us around dead boats' bay
Dave checking out the shipwrecked yacht

Salem caught this one, Eden managed to catch 22 fish in one day!
Dave took the big boys out fishing in the shipping lane one wet day (hence the umbrella), a massive tanker went right past them in their little origami dinghy! 
I tried to keep Eden amused with pikelet making as he was not happy being left out of the fishing trip.
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Went to the New Years’ Day Gam where after eating a lot of sponsored KFC, we got to watch one of these local boas constrict two real live chickens and devour it! Snake man drank some poisonous venom and we got to hold one of them after.
this shop had us oohing and ahhing
Town day, down town Port of Spain.
frangipani starting to bloom
ylang ylang tree: the curly leaves smell delicious, just like the perfume, funnily enough;
  yellow watermelon anyone? (tastes just like a red flesh one).

The boys were delighted to discover on board a treasure hunting book and two metal detectors, one of them waterproof even!  They headed over in the dinghy with big prospecting hopes to the beach and had to bring their “treasures”(laid out in front of Eden’s feet), much to their dad’s delight!
Honey is top-shelf stuff around here! The 200ml bottle on the left costs TT$200, approx NZ$44!!! We can’t understand why it is so difficult to find, and so expensive when there are so many flowers around, year-round.  Especially when they sweeten almost everything, including their bread.

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Exciting things for the boys: check out the fire brigade’s flash motor bikes; a power boat race was on one weekend further down from us but they were often testing their boats leading up to the big event, which meant a few of them were coming in and out of the harbour, right in front of us.  Every time we heard a deep rumble, there would be a mad scramble of feet rushing up on deck followed by “whooaa!!”
Our plumber in the making! Getting the dishes done.
My first attempt at cutting hair-Dave, not the crazy wriggly one on his back.
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Rigging time.  Got all our ropes replaced, had to send Salem and Eli up in the bosun’s chair a couple of times to sort things out.
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Got the sails on, just need to get some decent lacing and beads for attaching the sails to the mast, gaff and booms for the fore and main.  Our friend Sinbad also has a gaff-rig and once we are set-up, has offered to come sailing with us to help us learn the ropes.
Meeting some great people along the way (some of whom don’t want their pictures here), who not only provide great company but also helping us figure out what we need to do as we go.  They have made life all the more enjoyable and sweeter in between getting through our jobs, when we would rather be in more uninhabited places, with cleaner water.
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IMG_20141226_174956We hope in the next week or so to start doing some localised sea trials, so until next time, we wish you all warm sunsets and fish!

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