Just a reminder: I put the text under the pictures with which they correspond.
We arrived in the autonomous island nation of Trinidad and Tobago on the night of January 30. Our flight was a few hours late because, along with a prolonged lay-over in Miami, we were grounded in Puerto Rico due to the air-space over Trinidad being closed until they dealt with a fire in Trinidad’s air-traffic control housing.
Puerto Rico looked especially lush as we came in for a landing. There were no complications for us due to our late arrival because we kept in communication, through text, with our pick-up driver, with whom we had made arrangements through Jesse James—the go-to-guy for cruisers in Trinidad—more about him later. Since we would arrive in the small town of Chaguaramas, where Powerboats, our boat yard, is located too late to get any dinner, our driver made a stop for us at a Wendy’s restaurant in the big capital city of Port of Spain. The first thing the girl behind the counter said to us in a deadpan voice when we walked in was, “We’re out of beef.” WHAT?! Our chosen lifestyle for half of every year, which is marked by the need to make adaptations and not take anything for granted had begun! We enjoyed our chicken sandwiches!
Mark had made arrangements for us to stay our first night in a little air-conditioned studio apartment on the boatyard grounds—good call, Captain Mark! We slept like logs in two twin beds, and awoke late-ish to the sound of tropical songbirds. We decided to call someone to come help when we couldn’t get the hot water to work in the showers. It wasn’t available in the kitchenette or the bathroom sink, so we couldn’t take for granted that the hot water would be working in the shower—don’t take things for granted—a lesson in which we had a refresher course with our experience the night before at Wendy’s! The problem: operator error—we were not pulling hard enough on the hot water handle, ha. Thankfully, we were able to take a nice warm shower before we walked over to our Caribbean sailing home, Nancy Lu, and began all the preparations to get her back in the water and ready to sail!
Well, that was the beginning of our 4th sailing season in the Caribbean and our 1st time to recommission the boat in Trinidad, and it was all uphill (in a good way, you know, as opposed to downhill) from there.
Last sailing season, we decided to make the overnight passage from Grenada, 70 miles south, to Trinidad where we kept Nancy Lu for hurricane season. In years past, we did not consider this as an option because of the slight risk of pirate activity associated with sailing in waters so close to Venezuela.
The need for new standing rigging (the twisted wire structures that keep the mast upright, very important, obviously )
and a bottom-of-the-boat paint job plus the good reputation for excellent and affordable boat workers in Trinidad made us consider this option. MANY cruisers go there every year! We made it there uneventfully,
but were glad we made the trip along with a buddy boat, Allegro. We arrived early in the morning last May.
This year, we truly enjoyed our time in Trinidad as we prepared to set sail, which is not normally the case for us. The pre-sail time can feel like a land of limbo, like you’re waiting for the life you intend to live to start (not to mention the seemingly endless to-do lists and hard work), but that was not the case this year. I’m not sure if our more enjoyable pre-sailing time was because of attitude adjustments on our part or the place. Either way, circumstances worked out to require us to spend a month in this unique island nation, and we enjoyed that time. We were able to take advantage of the time to get to know some of the country’s treasures—both people and places! Excellent street food just outside the fence where Nancy Lu was sitting on the-hard sure helped!
We got our lunch from the lady under the purple roof often for $30TT, a little less than $5 USD each! I got adventurous and tried
pigtail soup one day! I noticed that most of the local workers that regularly stop there for lunch were making that choice. The broth was PERFECTION—just the right combination of our favorite Caribbean herb, Chadon Beni, and whatever other herbs and root veggies (Trinis call them provisions) were in it. The pigtails were chopped up, cartilage and and all. It looked just like ham that we would cook in a pot of beans in the southern USA. I didn’t really eat that part—just sucked on it. Chadon Beni is ubiquitous in the Eastern Caribbean. It can be found everywhere from
the commercial grocery store to a
a standard sauce option at Subway sandwich shops! It tastes like Cilantro, but better, somehow!
ALERT—Following is a little philosophical side-note related to our enjoyable time in Trinidad (feel free to scroll on down[that emoji is called “the embarrassed smile, FYI]: This year, I joined the bandwagon of choosing a word to focus on for the new year instead of making new year’s resolutions. I was inspired by a study of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes… My word for 2019 is ENJOY! In the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes, the writer says to enjoy the life with which we’ve been gifted by God here on earth 8 different times (kind of surprising for the book so famous for “…vanity, of vanities all is vanity”). One of these verses says that even the frame of mind that is inclined to enjoy the most simple gifts of this life, like a good meal, or a good night’s sleep is one of God’s graces to us. For me, the inspiration to have this be my word for the year is not as a justification or excuse to live life without a care for anything except having fun and exciting experiences, which you might suspect, given that I live in a tropical paradise for half of the year. No, regretfully, sometimes, I tend towards not finding the joy in the day to day, even when we’re cruising in exotic places. At times, I tend towards fretting over what’s not right in my and my family’s life—things of great importance. I want my default attitude for 2019 to be to enjoy the day-to-day whether in Texas or the Caribbean! I find that circumstances like being in the tropics or living my ordinary life in Texas have very little effect on how I enjoy each day… I’m choosing to honor the giver of life by trusting in His goodness and grace, and being grateful for the gift of each day and what it holds, which I’m finding is the only way to enjoy EVERYDAY! ALERT—End of my philosophical side-note!
Back to our enjoyable time in Trinidad:
Our time in Trinidad had 3 different phases. During the first phase,
we were living 12 feet off the ground in the boat yard on a completely stationary Nancy Lu.
Our air-conditioner; although, it was placed right in the companionway, making it loud and hot in the cock-pit and also making it necessary for us to hoist ourselves up and over just to get into our “house”, was a real luxury! Trinidad is hot in the day time! Our “on-the-hard” phase lasted for 12 days. Some highlights of phase one were…
#1. taking advantage of Jesse James’ weekly bus ride into Port of Spain one time to enjoy the cheap movie night at the fancy, totally modern, 10 screen movie theatre—movies are not normally part of our Caribbean lifestyle! The movie, Aquaman, was not so great, but it was still nice to get out on the town!
#2. All the street food for lunch from our favorite lady or
from the Roti Hut right there on the Powerboats grounds where I got a Roti, of course. We had no refrigeration on-the-hard so we ate out a lot. We also treated ourselves to Caffe’ del Mare quite often even though it was about a 1/2 mile walk!
#3. The bottom of Nancy Lu got a good scraping, priming, and new coat of anti-fouling paint.
#4. Jonas, our rigger, finished the rigging. #5. We did various maintenance projects and systems testing. The last thing we did was take down all of the canopies and coverings that protected Nancy Lu for the 7 months she was on the hard during hurricane season.
During phase two of our time in Trinidad,
we got picked up by the big travel lift, driven to the boat launch, and “splashed” into the water. We were given permission to stay docked right beside the boat launch, where we could hook up to shore electrical power and water for FREE! We stayed there over the weekend and until Tuesday. We wanted to stay at our boatyard because we were waiting on some heavy shipments that were due to be delivered straight to our boat at our boatyard, Powerboats. They were very accommodating!
This spot was a scenic improvement over where we had been, but the beauty of the sunset was diminished just a bit by the fuel dock. That’s real life!
Some highlights of our short time in the water at Powerboats during phase 2 were…
#1. Jonas helped Mark get all the sails back up—a huge, strenuous and tiring job in the heat. #2. The shipment arrived when expected! #3. We got more boat projects done.
#4. We did a shake-down sail to see if the new rigging was good, and it was!
Phase three of our time in Trinidad was the most enjoyable! We were at Crews Inn Marina. We sailed straight there after our shakedown sail. It is a nice facility with a hotel and swimming pool. Of course, we stayed on Nancy Lu, but we had access to the pool. I only went swimming once for a few minutes just to cool off after working in the heat! Our time at Crews Inn was unexpected and gravy due to our plans to meet our friends, Karen and her son, Danny, in Grenada being delayed and the need to wait on a weather window to sail north. This gave us some time to slow down and get quite a few more projects done, as well as some fun stuff. There were quite a few highlights during our stay there!
#1. We took the Jesse James bus to the movies again and saw Mary Poppins Returns, YAY! #2. We did two big provisioning trips. For one of them, we hired a private driver. For the other, we took what’s called the maxi taxi—public transportation. On that trip, we experienced the reputed hospitality of the Trini people…As we were coming out of the grocery store, a nice lady asked if she could drive us where we needed to go….Yes, please!!
#3. I attended yoga class by the pool on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. #4. We had a nice potluck dinner by the pool where we met quite a few other cruisers. #5. A big highlight for me was being on the same dock as Ann Vanderhoof whose book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, I’ve read twice! I viewed her as somewhat of a celebrity! It was nice to get to know her a little, even if it was just enough for the celebrity status that I ascribed her to wear off, lol. #6. Captain Mark decided that we needed to pull out all of our vertical battens from our mainsail, the same mainsail into which he and Jonas had just put all the battens and rigged up during phase two . He wanted to replace the inferior tape that he and Jonas had used to make the connections between all the smaller pieces that make up each batten. Best case scenario, we would just unfurl the mainsail when the wind was light, pull the battens out, switch out the tape, and push them back in. Granted, that is easier said than done. Well, the best case scenario was not our experience! Mark was proved right in thinking that we needed to replace the tape as evidenced by what happened when we pulled the first and longest (65 foot) batten out; the top 4 foot section of the batten got left at the top of the sail! UGH! How to get that section down from up so high? First, we tried hoisting me up to the top of the mast to try to push it down. It would not budge! I’ve gone up the mast before, but I never had as daunting of a task to accomplish once up there as I did this time. Maybe that is what made the experience more scary than it has ever been in the past. I felt like a wet noodle when I got down.
I almost didn’t take any pictures while I was up there. I was so anxious to get down, but I’m glad I took a couple. There was nothing left to do except take the whole sail down and try to inch the piece of batten out sort of like a seamstress would thread a piece of elastic into a seam, except this seam was 65 feet long, bunched up on a small deck, and sail canvas is SUPER HEAVY AND STIFF! To say that it was difficult is a gross understatement! The process took us a couple of hours! I’m proud to say we worked together and accomplished the daunting task. At the beginning, I really didn’t think it could be done! Tenacity is one of my captain’s best qualities, and his example and encouragement helped me to help him get it done! Okay, onto less strenuous highlights.
The last two were biggies!
#7. We went on The Taste of Trini Tour with Jesse James! This is a tour that he has developed on which, for a set price, he takes his customers on a circumnavigation of over 1/2 of the country in his big air-conditioned van. He makes stops along the way to purchase traditional Trini food of all kinds to sample, not to mention, breakfast,
lunch and dinner. By the end, we were STUFFED,
but still found room for some homemade ice cream. We also learned some history of the country and were given explanations of natural sights we saw along the way. AND it was fun! Near the end of the day,
Jesse led us to believe we were trespassing on a cocoa farm where we not only sampled fresh cocoa,
we ate the sweetest most scrumptious grapefruit I’ve ever tasted. As it turns out, the farm was actually in his family. I totally fell for the ruse! Another benefit of the tour was meeting other cruisers and the chief stewardess and 1st engineer on a mega-yacht. We got a little insider peek into the highlife! My favorite foods of the day:
Saheena, it’s callaloo inside deep fried channa (chickpeas).
Of course, doubles was a favorite; although, at that point, I had eaten doubles for breakfast many times. They are a flavorful mixture of channa, other things(?), curry and other spices (sweet & savory) inside 2 pieces of roti bread (a deep fried flat bread). Having two roti breads is where they get their name.
And I can’t leave out the heavenly watermelon Jesse bought from a roadside vendor named Dallas!
More scenes from The Taste of Trini Tour with Jesse James:
That’s Jesse going in to buy cow heel soup. Yes, it was really soup with cow heels in it…not my favorite!
Jesse would stop, and go into a store, restaurant, or street vendor and purchase what he wanted us to taste.
He would then cut up and divide most things up from the drivers seat in his van and then pass them back for us to sample…
That’s the cow heel…The broth was good.
A little sampling of various dishes
Now I know what all of those foods are!
Fruits and vegetable stands are so colorful!
Cutting open the husk that contains brazil nuts
The nuts are inside.
We had lunch at Manzanilla Beach on the east side of Trinidad close to where a river empties into the sea.
Seriously, that was the BEST watermelon, and believe me, it wasn’t because we were hungry…we were well
on the way to being stuffed by this time!
Those bag-like things hanging from the ends of the branches are nests of Yellow-tailed Corn Birds. I saw
some off in the distance and described what I saw to Jesse, asking him what I had seen. He immediately
knew what I was talking about. When we came to a tree closer to the road, he let us out to take pictures
and explained all about them.
Pretty country road.
The trees blooming orange are called The Immortal Tree. They were in bloom everywhere!
There were also tangerines on the farm where we “trespassed”.
Lastly, #8. on the list of highlights during phase 3 of our stay in Trinidad is another Jesse James tour.
This time we were off to Asa Wright Nature Centre & Bird Sanctuary, which takes up 1500 acres of mostly rain forest which has reclaimed a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation. We enjoyed this tour with many of the same cruisers with whom we went on the Taste of Trini Tour.
We took a morning nature walk through the rainforest with a guide to point out different birds and other sights.
Then we were served a beautiful lunch in the former plantation’s great house.
After lunch, we spent a peaceful afternoon with a cup of coffee on the veranda.
I just like that word- veranda . I’m not gonna lie—my main motivation for going on the tour was the thought of that cup of coffee on a veranda overlooking the rainforest!
After our time at the Asa Wright Nature Centre,
we made our way to Caroni swamp. The main attraction there was to be watching hundreds of the national bird, Scarlet Ibis, come home to roost at the end of the day.
While our boat-tour guide piloted the boat through the swamp, Jesse got busy on a treat to share with us while we waited for the birds to arrive,
The main attraction exceeded our expectations! It was quite a sight to see! The scarlet color was unearthly! My pictures don’t do it justice. I hope you’ll watch the video at the link below (just click on the words “Video of Scarlet Ibis”; although, it doesn’t capture the sight in all it’s impressiveness, either. There is a fun little surprise in the video .
As a bonus, we got to see lots of pink Flamingoes!
More scenes from the Asa Wright/Caroni Swamp with Jesse James tour:
The vines are interesting and beautiful.
The veranda has spectacular views, but the 7 different species of hummingbirds flitting around capture your
attention, not to mention all the butterflies (Trinidad is home to over 600 different kinds). If you sat long
enough, you might see anything from a Toucan to a Squirrel Cuckoo fly by since Trinidad has over 400 kinds of birds!
Hey Mark! I’m headed out to the veranda with my coffee!!
Click, click, click went the cameras!
On the way down the mountain, Jesse told us about this Christophene farm. The vines are suspended about
6 feet off the ground.
This is what it looks like underneath. You can see the Christophene hanging down.
This is the treat that Jesse was working on! It’s called Chow. It is DELICIOUS!!!! You cut up a sweet pineapple
and mix it with lime juice, chadon beni, fresh garlic, salt, black pepper, and a tiny bit of hot pepper (he used
scotch bonnet). OH MY! I’ve already made it on Nancy Lu!
The view was lovely even without the flamingoes!
Well, that just about wraps up our time in Trinidad. We left Crews Inn after lunch on January 30 with the air-conditioner and all the cords that connect us to shore power all packed away. All the cockpit cushions were brought out of storage and put in their proper place, giving me back my mini-veranda (that’s what I’m calling my seat in the cockpit where I have my morning coffee, now), and everything was finally put right on Nancy Lu!
We anchored for a few hours at Scotland Bay where
we had my first attempt at Chow (not bad, but the pineapple wasn’t quite sweet enough) and an early supper before we set sail for an overnight passage to Grenada!