18th December 2010
Posn: 11deg09’.45N 60deg50’.46W
Store Bay, Tobago
Well, at last we are where we are supposed to be, in anticipation of Julia’s arrival and Christmas celebrations.
We had a very pleasant couple of weeks in Grenada and joined in many of the trips organised by some of the cruisers. Lynn and Ken on “Silverheels 3” are quite energetic in getting trips organised and a couple of the taxi drivers do a great job too. But more of that in a moment.
They say that cruising is simply fixing/repairing a boat in exotic locations and we have had a bit of this. When we arrived in Grenada we were disappointed by the performance of the solar panels we had fitted in June and the new fridge/freezer was just running non-stop. This was very bad news as power consumption was very high – over 5 amps an hour from the new fridge (plus the existing fridge and the rest of the equipment, lights etc) – and it was not being offset by the additional solar. The problem with the latter was that the panels are sited too close to the radome and are in shade – that was solved one morning with the assistance of Robin by moving them 14inches away from the radome.
The fridge proved more elusive and after changing the thermostat (that would be the fourth) the problem remained, so we called in the expert, Basil St John – he worked as refrigeration engineer for Guinness at their Park Royal brewery in London until 1982 when he returned to his native Grenada just in time for the coup and US invasion ... er ... we mean rescue mission ... or ... “Intervention” – what it’s called depends on the nationality and point of view of the author. Anyways, Basil quickly diagnosed a leak where the refrigerant gas pipe connects to the compressor, tightened it up and changed the refrigerant gas. It seems good now and comes on 40-50% of the time. Great. We also installed a second fan that draws air from the bilge and blows it across the compressor to cool it even more – this is definitely working well and only draws 160 mili-amps. We have sent a note to the guys who installed the fridge in Trinidad – you would expect them to be a bit more thorough, but still ...
We relocated from Prickly Bay to Mount Hartman Bay on 9th December for a bit of a change – it is much quieter with fewer boats, good shelter and a small marina with a very friendly bar. This bay had been recommended for its tranquillity ...and because there is a rum distillery that discharges effluent into neighbouring Clarke’s Court Bay ... and a pig farm that has a curious effect on the water when there is a big downpour. We chose well. Lynn on “Silverheels 3” is in Mount Hartman and she organises trips to the supermarket and what is called a “stopping trip” – people get in the bus (12 seater) and it goes where everyone wants and if it’s not you shop or venue, e.g. FedEx, then you just wait for the people whose stop it is. Works well, and Patrick is the man.
Cheryl and Robin on “Just Imagine ...” also came round to Mount Hartman and were joined by their friends Carol and Phil from Canada, so there was plenty of socialising. Prior to this, Frank and Marta on “African Seawing” arrived in Prickly Bay and it was lovely to see them too.
We went on a Lynn-organised trip to Concord Falls where Norma swam, along with others on the trip and then we called at a rum shop for an oil-down. No, nothing to do with getting well-oiled or skin-care – it’s basically a stew of chicken or fish or liver with breadfruit, plantain, sweet potato and you don’t need to eat for a month afterwards. On the gourmet rating scale it came in above manioc ... just. Mind you, with the amount of rum consumed the relationship to getting well-oiled was close enough. Frank and Marta came on this trip, along with Robin and Cheryl – good craic.
We also did the ‘Fish Friday’ trip to Gouyave – about 20 miles up the coast where every Friday evening a couple of streets are closed off and local people put up stalls, set out tables and chairs and cook fish in all its varieties and forms. We made a close encounter with the deficiencies of the Grenadian education system: “how much for the lobster, please?”, “EC$50”, “Hm, that’s a bit expensive”, “OK, EC$40”, “Well, how much for two then?” “EC$90”. Er...? Our taxi driver, Cutty, was interesting – he has a brother living and working in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire where Phil was born and brought up. And another one in Huddersfield. Small world.
We had an evening at the Tiki Bar (Prickly Bay Marina) with Frank and Marta, where there was a reasonable Pan band and a good blues/rock band. We also had a great night at De Big Fish restaurant where a really good blues band played (Doc Adams) and even managed to get up and dance – it does seem weird to be dancing in shorts and sandals. Definitely not “Strictly ...”
So, eventually we headed for Tobago, leaving Mount Hartman Bay on 16th December at 0615 and sailing/motor-sailing the 74nm. The wind was mostly 10-12kts and varied between NE and E so that with the west-going current we were pointing between shy of close-hauled and a fine reach. Our course was 148deg M and we had the anchor down in Store Bay and engine off at 1705. We decided to leave Immigration and Customs in Scarborough to the next day.
There are just a dozen boats here and half seem to be local i.e. no-one onboard – there is no morning VHF net, there is no constant VHF chatter throughout the day. Peaceful ... apart from the jet skis from the nearby hotel ... So yesterday we went into Scarborough (taxi is 50-60p per person per trip) and Phil decided on a haircut – Darren, our taxi driver recommended a barber shop where his cousin, Anthony, worked. Well, he turned out to be the gofer/sweeper and the only haircutting tools were shavers ... and some blunt scissors. OK, so it’s a cultural/fashion thing, but Phil now has the shortest hair since he was 12 years old – he passed on the hairline mark at the front. The silver lining is that it cost £4 and will last several years. Norma also passed on the fringe trim ... and mark.
Our only (major) concern at the moment is whether we will get a big swell in here from some northerly winds that are in the northern Caribbean – this can make landing the dinghy on the beach rather dramatic and very wet. The www.windguru.cz forecast for Pigeon Point (a couple of miles north of here) is for 1.8m waves dropping to 1.1/1.2 by Tuesday – apparently wave heights over 2m mean that the dinghy cannot land/relaunch from the beach. If there is a problem we can go to Buccoo Bay – which we will probably do on Monday anyway, just for a look-see.
In the meantime we have deployed our brand new, innovative-design Flopper Stopper. The bay is a bit rolly and a guy in Trinidad suggested making one of these. He had a 12mm marine ply triangle (60cm each side) with a weight of chain below, and deployed from the end of the spinnaker pole and in the water to slow down the roll. So we up-sized to 90cm per side of the triangle as his was on a 36ft boat. We do not have an inclinometer, but after several design developments it does seem to be working making a contribution ... a bit ... we think ... but we’re not sure ... although we slept better last night ... just ...
The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Tobago – lovely people here and lots of them wearing Santa hats – indeed lots of Santas and snowmen about too. It’s the traditional look in a tropical setting – it’s still incongruous for us. Great though.