Saturday, 7 March 2015

Of Maiden Voyages, Carnival and Other Stuff

Hi all, the birds are working out a bit further, Dave and the boys have gone off to try and catch some dinner (otherwise it’s rice and baked beans!) so I’m making the most of updating the blog. 
The last few days in the evening, the water has sounded like it is bubbling, there is so much fishy movement.  Then every once in a while a loud splash and lots of white water about two to three metres long suddenly shows up and you can just make out in the moonlight, lots of fish jumping…there’s something big down there chasing them in all directions. They have proved to be very elusive though, Dave and the  boys have been trying to stealthily paddle around and catch some in Eden’s net.. nothing.  Dave managed to catch something using a lure a friend had just given him, the fish was heavy, and tried to take him for a ride, but Dave couldn’t get the dinghy untied fast enough and the fish took off with our awesome lure, snapping the line while he was at it.  So we are yet to have anything on our plates!
I just finished this when Eden came running in all excited telling me Eli had caught an “edible fish.” I got up on deck and one look at the older boys glum faces told me Eden was using the Trinidad edible measurements and not the NZ edible standards!
Check out this cool bug, it’s not carrying anything on it’s back, this is it’s set-up!  It’s almost as big as the car…
I apologise for the quality of photos, unfortunately our camera recently broke and our phone is not producing decent pictures but at least it gives you a hazy idea of what’s going on here!
The boys’ maiden voyage…
Eli rigged up a broomstick and a sarong (with glittery butterflies ‘cos it’s all we had!) for the sail and they were off at snail speed! So they got rid of the extra weight up front (Eden) and added some more height to increase sail area…
Salem was in charge of the rope holding up the gaff (top boom).  Eli also rigged up a larger plywood rudder to the outboard to get some more directional stability.  -The ultimate for this would be to have a centre board.  Unfortunately, we wouldn’t let him saw into the floor of our precious origami dinghy.
They also experimented with a square-rig set up.
Failing all else, paddle to where the wind is!
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Another boy in the anchorage was nice enough to come take the boys out for turns on his newly acquired ‘topper’.
So, our maiden voyage… we took our friend out with us who also has a gaff rig to help give us some tips etc.  He insisted I take the helm (steering wheel) while Dave does the anchor wind up, sails etc.  Our first challenge was to tie our floating stern lines to our buoy-so we could come back to our same place.  Dave spent the next 20 minutes or so winding up the very heavy chain and anchor in the hot sun while I sat at the wheel in the shade!
I had to motor around once the anchor was free, drive back to our floating lines and get the boys to pick these up from the bow to tie the dinghy on-so we could leave it behind. Nice theory!
I motored up slowly but maybe not close enough which meant Dave and Eli missed picking up the lines.  Somehow the line from the buoy attached to the floating lines managed to wrap itself around our prop.  Once we realised this, I put the engine into neutral and Dave had already dived overboard.  The tide and current were pushing us in.  Dave was up and down between breaths trying to free the prop from the line and the buoy that was firmly wrapped between the prop blades.  We had very quickly drifted between the yacht next to us and the shore.
I was constantly checking our depth sounder, but when Salem yelled from the bow that we could almost jump onto the beach from the bow sprit, I noticed that we then had 4ft on the screen…our depth is 5ft 4, hmmm.  Still no sign of  Dave freeing the prop so I couldn’t reverse out.  We got Eli in the dinghy, he threw us a line, tied it to the stern and in no time he was flooring our little 5hp into reverse and got us back out to safety! Whew!  Shortly after, Dave emerged having freed up the line and buoy and with massive scratches on his arms and feet from the barnacles as he was pushing against the hull.
With Dave and Eli in the dinghy, I motored back around, managed to pick them up, leaving the dinghy with the floating lines.  Thankfully, our experienced friend had given me a very stern talk just previously about the importance of staying calm and not raising voices no matter how tempting.  I had managed to achieve this but whether it was because he was there so I felt relatively hopeful in a happy, successful ending!  Dave and Eli were feeling a bit frazzled from the adrenaline rush of racing around like crazy while i had to sit there at the helm (definitely got the better end of the deal!).
Out into the harbour, our friend talked me through various exercises like stopping, reversing, motoring between two large ships etc, all helping me gain experience and fun.
We thought we were heading out for a nice leisurely cruise within the inside of the island, but no, off through the Boca (dragons’ mouth), insisted our friend.  The Boca is spoken of round here with a fairly good amount of fear and trembling.  It’s a narrow-ish gap between the mainland and another island where the Atlantic ocean comes along heading for the Caribbean sea and some of it veers in through the Boca.  Coming out from the shelter of the mainland, wind and waves can pick up through there quite nicely-or not so nicely, for that matter.
We are anchored in Chaguaramas Bay, opposite Gaspar Grande Island
So, with some apprehension, Dave and Eli heaved up the sails while continuing to motor towards the First Boca.  At this stage, it was getting on to about 2 o’clock and we realised we had not had any lunch so Salem diligently made sandwiches and drinks for everyone, while Eden played down below.  Salem yelled out at one stage saying “hey, I can see water outside the port window!”
My buoy!

It was a good day for our first time out the Boca, there was a decent wind blowing, we could shut the engine off once safely out at sea and there was some swell running, maybe 1-2 ft.  The good ship Ula had a nice motion rolling over the waves and seemed in my super vast experience, to be handling quite nicely.
Salem had emerged from below looking a little green so we put him on the box in the corner of the cockpit to get some fresh air where he tried to lie down while holding on as we heeled from side to side and was very quiet. 
Eli was rather concerned about the size of the waves and we had to keep reminding him he had surfed waves much bigger than that and our boat is more than capable of handling seas larger than what we were experiencing.
Dave was back and forth tweaking sails, desperately trying not to slip on our so-called anti-slip deck.  We also had no netting or edges so if he were to slip, there was nothing to stop him from going overboard-all a bit concerning.
Eden came up sometime later complaining of feeling sick.  This was debatable though as he lay his head on my lap, lying across the deck, kicking the side railing as he sang - yes, sang - “I’m so sick, I’m so sick” over and over!
The reason for going out the Boca for a while, across then back in through the Second Boca was that we got to experience the wind from all sides.  Also, providing a great deal of confidence for me.  It was great to be out in the ocean and the scenery from the boat was great.  We made it safely back with no dramas at sunset, I was pleased with what I had learnt and poor Dave was still frazzled from worrying about the kids going overboard to realising we were very unprepared for the venture.  Salem who had been so quiet, was surprisingly raving about how much fun that was, being able to see water out the window, being on a lean and couldn’t wait to go back out again!
The following weekend we went out by ourselves for a late afternoon motor around Gaspar Grande island.  We managed to leave the dinghy as before, and return without any hair-raising events.  Dave was able to relax a lot more this time with our netting in place and realised if I’m at the helm, it frees him up to figure out the other potential issues that need to be considered/addressed.
Carnival loomed nearer, apparently it is the second biggest after Brasil.  Two weeks before there are many parties that go all night long and various events leading up to the actual carnival event which is held on a Monday and Tuesday.  Businesses close down at a moments’ notice (or no notice at all) during this time.  Drivers here are pretty crazy and we had heard of many accidents between here and downtown over this time, also massive traffic delays as people head home after the all night parties.  We had been told that you shouldn’t take anything you don’t want stolen and that the public transport wasn’t running much at all so we were planning on bunkering down during this time.
But they found us…one afternoon a tug pulls a barge over (pictured right), then another and another.  When the fourth one turned up Salem said it looks like there are speakers on board.  There were men working away busy, busy.  Then the fifth turned up with porta-loos and then we heard the loudest sound system we have ever heard coming from the barges.  The “Treasure Queen,” a 3-tiered packed full party boat rocks up with their pumping sounds and hangs out for a while and neither of them turn off their sounds so we found ourselves in this bizarre sound off!
Eight double tiered boat loads of people came out that night.  We got out some party food and drinks, Eden got out his left over Christmas sparklers and we enjoyed the spectacle.  The party didn’t even go all night which was a nice surprise.  The next morning workers were back and the barges had all been shifted away to wherever they came from before lunch! A rather quick and efficient system, we thought.  The rubbish that drifted up onto the beach was not great though.
We decided last minute to try our luck with the local transport and go into Port of Spain with some friends for the last day of the Carnival street parade that does a large circuit through many of the streets and had to go through various spots where the judging stations are.  We managed to get a maxi within 5 minutes and got into town in no time at all.  Walking the streets with random, extravagant outfits (mainly bikinis) walking around took a lot of getting used to.  Unfortunately, none of us had a map of the route for the carnival, we were just asking around, walking all over the city and catching bits of the parade. 
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We loved the architecture, felt really safe and soon realised (thanks to a heads’ up from one cruiser before we left) that everyone has smart phones, cameras and tablets flashing about trying to get photos.
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This was what we experienced: massive trucks in a line carrying huge speakers, (the noise was really intense) a dj and mc (not sure why, ‘cos they all seemed to be playing 5 popular “soca” songs over and over) with a whole lot of fancy dressed people walking/dancing along side.
IMG_20150217_105933 There were many trucks in the parade that were travelling bars servicing the costumed people!
Coming from a kiwi culture, we found it amusing to see how many men got into the dressing up.
Our friends were very excited to find many parts of costumes had been thrown onto the ground along the way.
This man thought Salem needed an outfit!
But, life gets on and it was back to work…
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We had a piece of pvc pipe so Dave heated it up in places to bend it for the wires of our new solar panel to run through so they’re a bit more protected. Got a local firm to make up some alloy brackets to fit the panel.  Loving the extra power.
Removed the glass from our hatches, took the window frames in to get them reinforced.
Dave had the frustrating job of gluing in new plexi-glass, bit of a mission.
But they are looking good, tough and should keep the boat a bit cooler being tinted.
Some of the boys’ activities..
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Salem enjoys cooking potato chips, making bread dough and rolling ham and cheese inside(better give Eli the credit for the idea), then frying it, tasting a lot like a crossaint.  We have no usable oven, hence the frying.  He sewed up the wallets they are holding, talking constantly about all the money he could make in selling them!  Salem loves snorkelling, swimming, going for a paddle in the dinghy etc.  If we ask him to do a job, he usually gets onto it and sees it right through.  For example, we found a corroded lamp and he diligently spent a good hour or so grinding it back to look like shiny brass again.
Eden loves dressing up like a pirate (definitely acts like one!)..
When Eden snorkells, you would think we had just poured a can of red bull down his throat, he gets so hyped and animated, still making lots of noise trying to tell anyone who will listen what he’s discovered down there!
Eli is the boat builder, this is one of many creations, he has also designed/drawn up many concept plans for different styled boats.
This is one of his sails, he has laced some plastic to the mast and boom (piece of welding wire he found) and sewn in red through the middle sections also.
Cornie-box boat design.
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Quite the artist.

We thought we might be ready to leave for Grenada before our 3 month extension ran out but have come into some auto pilot issues so we will find out how accommodating the customs and immigration are this week.
So until next time…
  IMG_20150217_114220  See ya.

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