Captain's Log, Stardate:

2/15/02

Arrived Trinidad!

How ya goin'? as they say in Trinidad.

Again, I haven't written in so long because there really hasn't been anything very remarkable that has happened.

The boat's hull is as good as new again after the whale hit during our crossing of the Atlantic. Yes, we think the whale is just fine. We could see no blood in the water after the collision. But it's funny: Whenever I mention the incident to someone, they always respond, "How's the whale?" They never ask how our precious boat made out. I think it's very selfish of my friends not to be thinking of the boat. Escape Cay is almost like another son or daughter to us in many ways. When you hear about a jet airliner "ingesting" a bird on final approach, you never hear anyone asking, "How's the bird?" Anyway, we did not see the whale floating belly up afterwards.

My high school friend Rohland came down to join me for part of the terrible period we spent in the boat yard. When you're up on the hard, it's the pits! You wake up in the middle of the night and think you must make a trip to the bathroom. So you think about getting up, getting dressed, climbing down the ladder in the dark and walking through dew-laden grass to the main office 100 yards away. After thinking about it some more, you decide you can hold it a while longer, perhaps until morning. But that lingering thought keeps you from getting back to sleep. Now what kind of life is that? As my friend "Bimini Bob" describes it, "Yachting is the most expensive way to go third class there is."

While waiting for work to get done here in Chaguaramas, I had to drive our rented car up to the chandler to get a part. It usually takes three people to go any place around here: A driver, a navigator, and a reminder. The reminder's duty is to remind the driver to drive on the left side of the road at all times. In this case, I drove alone to and from the store without an accident, although I nearly was rear-ended.

I was driving along and noticed a bright green iguana (12-18" long) dart out from the ditch on the left and began to cross the road. When it got to the middle of my lane, it stopped and looked at me as I sped toward him. I hit the brakes and glanced in the mirror. A car had been following quite close behind--is there any other way down here?--and nearly slammed into me as I stopped for, what must have seemed to him, no reason. A bumper sticker reading, "I stop for iguanas" may have helped. However, this was a rental car. The guy blew his horn but that was not enough to cause me to drive over what must be the cutest of reptiles. Meanwhile, I could see the iguana was becoming impatient with my indecisiveness as to whether I was going to suddenly accelerate or pull into the other lane to pass him by. I could also detect--hear, actually--that the driver behind me was becoming even more impatient than the iguana. Since he couldn't see the reason I stopped, he thought, perhaps correctly, that I was just one more local tourist not knowing when to go, when to stop, nor how to get there once the car was in motion.

Patience ran out for both of them at the same time. The Trini behind started to pull around me just as the iguana started to continue his trip to the other side of the road. It looked as if the other car was going to run over the iguana and there was nothing I could do about it. Sure enough, as the Trini driver built up speed, he passed the front of my car just as the iguana crossed into the other lane. I cringed but Mr. Greenie got the bulk of his body in between the two sets of wheels except for the last third of his tail which was run over solidly by the car. I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the little green monster pause for a second after having his tail pinched and then continued just as rapidly as before to the other side of the road where he disappeared into the ditch, apparently with no injuries other than a smarting derriere.

But the Trini driver was no hit-and-run criminal. He quickly pulled over directly in front of me, stopped and looked over his shoulder at me. He could see that he had hit the big green lizard and was obviously concerned. I signaled "OK" with my thumb and index finger and, together with a view of an empty lane of traffic where a dead body would otherwise be, he should have concluded that he had not killed the iguana. However, he didn't leave. I again motioned that the iguana was OK but he started to open his car door. And then it hit me: My car had the letters "Econo-Car Rentals" stenciled in large letters at the top of the windshield. The other driver was a big, black man who now had a tourist blocked in on a remote stretch of highway!

As he came closer to my car, I rolled down the window and yelled that the iguana disappeared into the ditch under his own power and was probably OK so he didn't have to worry anymore. Now, if he still feigned concern for the iguana, I would then know he had an ulterior motive for stopping. He still kept coming and I could see that he was an older gentleman and was probably no threat to me. His response shocked me.

He said, "Dammmmn. Once they gets in the weeds, you nevah gwan get 'em out!"

"Why would you want to?" I asked.

"Why? Because thays real' good eatin'!"

As I drove away I was thinking this was a clear example of culture clash: I wanted to save the iguana's life whereas the local was prepared to kill and eat . . . a lizard.

The boat was launched on January 18 so Rohland and I took it out for a shakedown cruise and all went well. Some systems are now working better than when the boat was new. We sailed down to the Trinidadian island, Chacachacare, where we got our "clean air--clean water" fix. We were also able to study the habits of an Osprey who chose to perch just ashore of where we were anchored. Then it was up to Scotland Bay where we saw and heard many other birds. Howler monkeys could also be heard in the mornings.

New crew arrived on Jan 24 and 25 after which, we made a mini-tour of the nearby islands of Grenada (85 miles), Carriacou (40 more miles), Tobago (100 miles), and then back to Trinidad (75 miles). Along the way, we caught two mahi-mahi for some delicious fresh "seafood." As we were getting ready to dinghy out to the boat after a bowl of calaloo soup on Carriacou, we saw the locals loading some cattle onto the "mail boat" or inter-island barge. Lay down a big long plank from the pier to the small ship, you would think? Nope. They used a crane with two straps around the animal. The straps were narrower than a car's seat belt. Nevertheless, none of the hefty heifers protested a bit even though the narrow straps seemed to sink half way through their girth.

We found some beautiful anchorages in Tobago including "Speyside" on the NE coast where we anchored off the beautiful Bluewater Inn. It was there that our dingy motor died (again). The plugs would be wet after just a couple of pulls so I knew it was getting too much gas. I tried drying the plugs and then starting it but it still wouldn't start, just more wet plugs. "Tyson" happened to be walking on the dock and offered to help. Tyson loosened a screw to drain the float chamber and then unplugged the fuel line from the motor. Three or four pulls later, it was running like a top. Neat trick! Thanks for the tip, Tyson!

Arriving back at Trinidad just before Carnival Monday and Tuesday, we decided to attend the Dimanche Gras. This is when the kings and queens of the different bands compete and a winner is finally selected. Having heard the event was probably sold out, we decided to go downtown and try to buy some tickets outside the grandstand. Sure enough, there were "scalpers" just like back in the good 'ol USA. I became suspicious when one guy was willing to sell his tickets for the list price on the back, and then later, even less. We saw an official ticket window and approached it. I was particularly worried that buying the scalper's ticket would give us poorer seats. But the lady at the window confirmed that all seats were general admission and her price was the same as listed on the back. Hence, we were able to get the tickets cheaper from the "inverse scalper" and I told her so. I asked if she could tell me that his tickets were inferior in some respect. She asked, "What color are they? Are they yellow?" I didn't know so I was going go ask him. But when I turned, the inverse scalper was right behind me in the line at the window, (which was now growing longer). He proffered the tickets to the lady and sure enough, they were the same color as the ones she was selling. I was still worried about a rip off when another man and woman came up and offered theirs for substantially less money right in front of the official ticket seller. The first guy whimpered that he had found us first so we were morally obligated to buy his contraband and not the couple's. We didn't think morals could be invoked in an illegal transaction so, we stepped out of line and purchased three tickets from the couple (who weren't even related to each other) and presto, another of my favorite situations--"win-win," although a more accurate description might be "win-win-lose-lose." This has to be an "only in Trinidad" story because I don't ever remember it working that way at a Minnesota Twins baseball or MN Vikings game. There you generally won't find scalpers--inverse or not-- practically getting in an argument with the box office attendant over whose was the better deal.

In any event, we watched in fascination as kings and queens wearing huge, elaborate costumes passed in front of us in review. These "costumes" were engineering marvels, sometimes 20 feet high and just as wide or long. The more elaborate ones cost $10,000 US to build. There was also the competition between the bands. One well-choreographed song was different in that the lyrics were 100% political (whereas the others were perhaps only 30%). The lyrics challenged the present Opposition Leader (Mr. Pandy) to listen to what the recently elected Prime Minister (Mr. Manning) had to say! Apparently, their government is deadlocked with exactly 18 members of each party having been elected the last election. Hence the Opposition Leader has the same power as the Prime Minister but has been refusing to negotiate to share that power. The musical performance continued for 15 minutes or so at which time a black limousine drove onto the stage and the Prime Minister himself got out of the car. He waved to the wildly cheering crowd, and then walked offstage. They take their politics seriously down here!

Well, new crew comes in tomorrow so got to go clean the rust spots off the "stainless" steel.

Hope all is well with you and your family.

Lee