On Wednesday we said farewell to our new Monarch family!

All dressed up and somewhere to go!

All dressed up and somewhere to go!

It was sad to see them go, but we all parted with very happy memories and we have a card signed by them all in pride of place on the wall chart.

This week has seen a series of boat systems failures. Nothing like a week off to get IK feeling ignored. The first thing to pack up was the Mastervolt battery charger, closely followed by the water maker’s electric motor. We had the same problem with it a year ago in Portugal and ended up buying a new motor. Considering the time we have spent in rivers, where the water is too dirty to use the water maker, the electric motor has only run about a dozen hours since we got it!!

Store Bay is a sheltered anchorage and the bay is used by a lot of tourists on jet skis or in glass bottomed boats. Every morning I take a swim, but am restricted to swimming around the boat as I don’t think the pleasure craft would notice my little head bobbing in the water and also, first thing in the morning, there are usually other things bobbing from boats at anchor that I would rather avoid!

Two jet skis and a 007 style rocket man.

Two jet skis and a 007 style rocket man.

We saw him plummet from this height as he lost control. No harm done.

We saw him plummet from this height as he lost control. No harm done.

We have met some of the local ex-pats and some who have homes here and in Britain. Martyn, the guy who we overheard talking about Mastervolt chargers, came out on the boat and after eliminating all possible faults, decided that the only course of action was to remove the charger. Needless to say it is mounted in a very inaccessible bit of the engine bay, so with a little leverage from outside and some awkward lifting from a limitless person inside, we managed to get it off its mounts ready to take over to Trinidad to be looked at by an expert.
Martyn kindly invited us to his 65th birthday party which was held in a beachside restaurant a few miles west of where we’re anchored.

Birthday Boy.

Birthday Boy.

It’s great to think that the people we are meeting are so helpful and welcoming……..he even arranged with another friend to give us a lift there and back.

On Sunday we took a stroll along the beach to Pigeon Point, a local beach, park and heritage site.

Pigeon Point jetty.

Pigeon Point jetty.

Looking out across the lagoon to Bucco, where we went to Martyn's party.

Looking out across the lagoon to Bucco, where we went to Martyn’s party.

Being the 3rd Sunday in the month, there was free entry to the beaches and the locals had turned up with cooler boxes to spend the day at the beach. It is amazing, but very few Tobagoans can swim. There is a lot of standing and bobbing, but very little swimming done. Maybe there’s an opening here for an experienced swimming teacher!!

Sunday 'limeing'.

Sunday ‘limeing’.

Bobbing starts young!

Bobbing starts young…………or should that be boobing?!

Here are a couple of observations.

1) In England we go to great lengths to camouflage phone antennae and house them in faux trees. Here it is the complete opposite!

Pigeon Point weather station!

Pigeon Point weather station!

2) We name our boats differently!

What happened to number 1??

What happened to number 1??

While we were at Pigeon Point, we dropped into Planet Ceramics, a pottery shop owned and stocked by a potter, Helen Evans, who lives and works in London, but has a studio and shop here. We have met her a few times and promised to drop by. Her work is extremely good quality and very creative, so we bought a couple of pieces for the boat. Let’s hope we don’t have too many rough seas!

Wifi continues to be a pain in the neck and getting our new wifi booster to work is proving less than simple. We manage to get a weak signal occasionally, but not enough to skype or do online banking, so we have to pack all the various phones, tablets and laptop into waterproof bags and set off in search of a bar……….’any excuse’ did I hear someone say?

On Monday we bumped into Werner and Elke again, who we first met in Jacaré. They are in the north of the island in Pirates Bay, Charlotteville and had driven down to meet Werner’s son from the airport.

Martyn, Marcus, Werner, Elke and two friends from Charlotteville.

Martyn, Marcus, Werner, Elke and two friends from Charlotteville.

They gave us an update on Gus and Sally, Claire and Allan and Hugh, all of whom are anchored up there……..I hope we make it up there before they move on. We are here Store Bay probably until Tuesday, as  Marcus and Martyn are booked on the early fast ferry to Trinidad on Thursday to take the charger and water maker motor over to be looked at. Luckily Martyn is going over in his van, otherwise Marcus would have had to grow a lot more muscle to carry the motor. It is a one horse power unit and weighs as much as one too!

Yesterday we spent the afternoon getting water from a hose at the beach bar into three 20ltr barrels and ferrying them back on the dinghy to the boat,

The water run.

The water run……..filling up from the hose.

then lifting them up on the coach roof to syphon the water into the tanks.

Syphoning from the barrels into the tanks.

Syphoning from the barrels into the tanks.

It took 6 trips to refill and although the thought of doing it was off putting, the reality really wasn’t that bad!

Today is Thursday and I have the day to myself. I am sitting in a local bar updating the blog and watching the world go by before I go back aboard for a musical afternoon. Hauling the dinghy high enough up the beach was a struggle, but luckily another couple of Yotties arrived to help. By the time I go back, the tide will be in and it’s a downhill haul to re launch. No worries!

On Saturday, we took things easy and took the dinghy ashore for our first Roti lunch. This a local speciality of chipati type flatbread, filled with cut up curried chicken (bones in) and potatoes and served in a paper bag. It was very tasty, but almost impossible to eat without making a mess.

We returned for a little siesta before joining the Monarch crew for a meal at a local restaurant, but the best laid plans are bound to go wrong. Marcus decided to take another look at the water cooling system for the fridge. It keeps getting blocked and the compressor overheats and shuts down, leaving us with a defrosted fridge and food that has to be eaten. He had the boards up on the saloon floor and was leaning into the bilge to take a look at the hoses, when an extra large wave unbalanced the board and it fell down hard on Marcus’ elbow. After arnica, ibuprofen, ice, TLC and a lie down he was feeling well enough to direct me to finish the job off! I hope I reattached all the hoses?? We’ve been too long ashore and forgot that the boat moves at anchor!

Time and tide and dinner appointments wait for no man, so we were changed and back in the dinghy and back over to the hotel to meet up with everyone for dinner at an old watermill.

The swell at the moment is unusually big. The locals say it’s due to the hurricane activity to the north of the Caribbean. Getting into the hotel lagoon means surfing in through the gap between the wall and the artificial reef over some rocks that have been put there to deter the feint hearted. Quite a hairy feat in the dark, remembering where the submerged rocks are that have to be dodged. We arrived slightly wet, but in one piece to get the taxi to the restaurant.

Non alcoholic cocktail at the Water Mill.

Non alcoholic cocktail at the Water Mill.

A good evening; good food, good service in very good company. There was only one hiccup, when it started to teem with rain and we had to shift the tables away from the open edge………we were more concerned about the hatches we had left open in the aft cabin!!! As it turned out there was only a bit of drying to be done and everything dries in no time at all out here.

On Sunday, Keith had arranged to hire a car and take Alex and us around the island. Although the island measures about 20 miles from tip to toe, the few roads there are have to follow the contours of the hillsides and ravines, so we took all day, with only a couple of stops and wrong turns, to drive around the island. In the south, where we are moored, the terrain is fairly flat. As we travelled north we drove into hairpin bend country with rainforest and waterfalls. We stopped at the Argyle falls and ‘Michael’ appeared at the car window, offering to take us up the track to one of the falls lower plunge pools in his trusty Land Rover……..

The trusty 'Betsy' and her crew.

The trusty ‘Betsy’ and her crew.

The waterfall.

The waterfall.

If he ever was thinking of a carreer move, he could definitely become a Land Rover ambassador! He waxed lyrical all the way up to, at, and down from, the falls about the merits of his 30 year old ‘Betsy’. Apparently we could have parked in the car park and made our way on foot, but the 5 minute walk in the midday humidity proved enough for us!
The scenery in Tobago is unspoilt and very green. The north end of the island gets more rainfall than the south, and ravines have been eroded where the water has cut it’s way down to the sea. All along the west coast, there are small sandy bays bounded by sheer cliffs.

One of the bays we stopped at.

One of the bays we stopped at.

We stopped off at a couple just to take a look, ready for bay hopping next week up to Charlotteville. This is the low point of the low season for tourism, so there aren’t many tourists around. Apart from the locals, who were out enjoying their Sunday afternoon, we saw one other group of visitors at ‘Gemma’s Kitchen’ where we stopped for lunch.

The view from our table at Gemma's Kitchen.

The view from our table at Gemma’s Kitchen.

We had heard a lot about this ‘tree house’ restaurant, and it lived up to expectations. We had another great meal, served by the very best waitress we have come across so far!

A veritable feast.

A veritable feast.

After lunch we continued our route around the island and came across the Blue Food Festival at Bloody Bay.

The Blue Food Festival.

The Blue Food Festival.

The whole of Tobago seemed to have turned out to listen to music and sample the various Blue Foods produced from the dasheen root vegetable. Apparently the leaves of the plant are the spinach like callalooh that we have already tasted. The root is used to make bread, mash, wine chips and when it is cut open the flesh is blue………..hence the Blue Food festival.
Onward and upward, we set off towards Charlotteville. This where we will be heading next week to anchor until our stainless steel work is ready for us in Trinidad. It looks idilllic!

Charlotteville.

Charlotteville.

Monday we discovered that our battery charger that’s linked to the generator has stopped working. This is a nuisance as, until we get solar panels, we need to run the main engine to top up the batteries that the fridges and lights work from. The engine uses twice as much fuel as the generator, so we had to take our 30ltr can and collapsible trolley ashore to go and fill up at the local petrol station. We waited at the bus stop, hoping for an unofficial taxi to stop and pick us up. Our luck was in! We got not only a lift to the petrol station, but also two more 30ltr cans which he had a short drive away at his boat shed. When we had filled up, he took us back to the beach, where we had left the dinghy, and got one of the local lads to help carry the cans and load them into the dinghy. Just as we were loading, Keith and Alex arrived on a jet ski and came out with us and helped with the transfer of the cans onto the boat and into the tank. Another trip to the garage to repeat the whole process and we had 200ltrs of fuel for £30!! After giving our new friend, Terry, £20 for his kindness and time, we still reckon it’s the cheapest refuelling we have done. We had been worried about how we were going to manage without the convenience of a fuel dock, but it was relatively easy launching into small breakers, winching the cans aboard with the aft halyard and using our new shake and syphon pump to transfer the diesel with minimum mess.

After a quick spell ashore to hunt down wifi and post the first part of the blog, we were just leaving the bar when we heard a man talking about a Mastervolt that ran off the generator! Our luck was in again! We had inadvertently stumbled on perhaps the only person with electronic expertise on the island. We are going to meet him tomorrow afternoon and get him to take a look at our non functioning charger. Hopefully the solution is simple (and cheap!)
Last night, Monday, we went with crew for a meal at the Pasta Gallery, run by an Italian Swiss man and his wife. His Tobago-an / Italian accent was great to listen to and the food was delicious. After the meal we somehow managed to spend the rest of the evening in the Jade Monkey drinking far too much, but enjoying every minute of it.

High on life at the Jade Monkey!

High on life at the Jade Monkey!

Good fun with the Monarch Crew.

Good fun with the Monarch Crew.

Getting the dinghy launched and Marcus safely back onboard was a challenge, but we managed with the help of Keith, Richard and Andy, who waded out to steady the dinghy while I got the engine started. I’m used to being the designated driver, but it’s a bit trickier on the water!!

Tuesday was spent shopping for meat, that is apparently hard to come by in Tobago ……….we’ll see.

After collecting the spare auto helm bolts, that we got a local turner in a disused container to make for us, and placing an order for an mppt controller for the solar panels, we were ready to check out at Immigration and Customs.

Despite the fact that we are in a two island state, we have to check in and out when moving between the islands……….not only that, but we have to check out of the south end of Tobago in Scarborough, before checking in again at Charlotteville in the north…………all of a 20 mile sail!!
We set off at 2000hrs on the high tide from Chaguaramas and passed through the Grand Bocca with the tide with us. The current between the Trinidad and Tobago flows east to west at as much 3 knots, but luckily we got some local advice to hug the north coast as close as 100yds from shore, where we picked up a counter current that swept us along towards ‘Galleons Passage’, where we turned and headed across to Tobago.

We had a clear night with little swell and arrived to drop anchor by 0800 in Store Bay.. It’s good to be travelling again.

The whole reason for coming to Tobago was to meet up with our pilot friend, Keith, who had a flight to Tobago with a week’s stop over. After completing the entry formalities, we returned to the boat, which is moored directly infront of the crew’s hotel and waited for Keith’s flight to arrive.
The hotel the crew stay in is called the Coco Reef and some of it’s more famous guests include Elton John, President Obahma and Charles and Camilla!

Just arrived.....Alex struggling to acclimatise to the heat!

Just arrived…..Alex struggling to acclimatise to the heat!

It’s been great being able to moor the dinghy in their lagoon and spend time with Keith in luxury!

Coco Reef's beach inside the lagoon.

Coco Reef’s beach inside the lagoon.

Wednesday evening, Keith and Alex treated us to a meal in the hotel restaurant. On Thursday evening we met up with everyone at the local pizza place and then back to the hotel for drinks.

View across the hotel's lagoon to IK.

View across the hotel’s lagoon to IK.

When we eventually returned to the dinghy we discovered that the swell had got up and because we hadn’t dragged it far enough up the beach, it had been swamped! So after retrieving the petrol can that had floated off along the beach, and searching fruitlessly for the bailer we set to, to try to get the water out of the boat. Half an hour later we managed to float and launch, but we were completely soaked…………lesson learnt…….always drag that extra metre up the beach!

At 10 o’clock on Friday morning, we took the dinghy over to the hotel and started ferrying the crew out to the boat, ready for a day sail around to the next bay and a picnic and swim at anchor.

All aboard for the skylark!

All aboard for the skylark!

Picnic on the foredeck.

Picnic on the foredeck.

It was a perfect day and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Captain Byron being forced to walk the plank!

Captain Byron being forced to walk the plank!

It’s lovely to be able to entertain such seasoned travellers as air crew.

Just before splashdown.

Just before splashdown.

Roger, Andy, Keith, Marcus and Richard on the floating picnic table in Mount Irving Bay.

Roger, Andy, Keith, Marcus and Richard on the floating picnic table in Mount Irving Bay.

A great day was had by all.

Returning to IK at sunset.

Returning to IK at sunset.

We were lifted out at Power Boats boatyard two days before we flew home. Being lifted is always a nerve wracking experience.

Not only is it 20 tons of boat, it is our home with all our worldly goods aboard!

Captain Concerned!

Captain Concerned!

Needless to say, it all went well and the hoist was driven expertly to deposit us in the tightest gap imaginable!

Up, up and away!

Up, up and away!

As it happened we were parked right next to ‘Charlie 2’, owned by Annimka and Rob, who came with us on the tour of Sāo Antao in the Cape Verdes. We could literally have stepped across onto their deck……..unfortunately they were away in Holland.

When we got back from Blighty, in the dark and after a 9 hour flight, we told the taxi driver where to take us, only to find Island Kea wasn’t there!! A bit of a shock, but we reversed down and found her in the spot that the yard had first allotted to us, before they realised the steel fishing boat next to our spot was doing a lot of grinding and welding………all that swarfe would have played havoc with the decks!

Our new position in the yard.

Our new position in the yard.

Happily, the heavy work has finished and theyare just painting now.

Life onboard on the land is much harder than when the boat is in her element. The novelty of climbing down the ladder for the bladder in the middle of the night wears thin, as does the daily lugging of ice aboard to load into the under seat fridge. That is the most insulated of the two fridges and we can just about manage to keep things cool for 24 hours.

With temperatures in the mid 30s and 90% humidity! we have found it very hard to reacclimatise and have succumbed to the extra expense of a air con unit for the last ten days ashore. We are looking forward to getting back in the water and being able to live more easily again.

This week, we have had Rawley, a local boat polisher and painter, working on the boat. He has more or less finished cutting back the gel coat on the hull and polishing. Not sure it’s the best job in the world, but we’ve learnt a lot for the next time when we think we will tackle it ourselves!

As I think I mentioned before, Chagauamas is a working port and out side one of the boatyard bars is the local fishing fleet. The seas around here are apparently teaming with fish……we have yet to catch anything!……. This haul was sitting on ice in a box waiting for collection. The biggest fish were a metre long!

Big Fish in a big green box.

Big Fish in a big green box.

Every morning at 0800hrs there is a ‘Cruiser’s Net’ on channel 68 on the VHF radio. It serves to knit the cruising community together and gives information about the weather and allows you to ask for advice about local services and where to get the best deals. It also keeps everyone aware of the various social events and there is a ‘treasures of the bilge’ slot, where cruisers can trade or barter unwanted pieces of equipment. We announced our return during the ‘New Arrivals or Returning Cruisers’ section and found that Claire and Allan, who we thought were long gone, were still in TT. Being Saturday, we arranged to meet them for the weekly Bake & Shark at the Wheelhouse.

'Bake & Shark' with Allan and Claire.

‘Bake & Shark’ with Allan and Claire.

It was good to catch up with them again, before they set off for Guyana. I think they are getting a bit stir crazy, having been here since the beginning of August.

Jamming at Coral Cove boatyard.

Jamming at Coral Cove boatyard.

Work started on the boat on Monday and we were struggling with the heat and humidity as we carried on the cleaning and preparation at snail’s pace.

In the evening we went along to the next boatyard to a barbecue and jamming evening. It’s amazing what people have on their boats…….electric guitars and full a PA system with mixer!

Since being in the UK we have both put on weight, so I have started to jog every morning for 40mins to try to increase my fitness and get rid of the pounds. I took this photo one clear morning just before I set off.

Meals are now at more regular times and we try to eat our main meal at lunchtime and have a light meal in the evening. Unfortunately temptation is close at hand for Marcus!

The view from our boat. The blue building is the Bar!

The view from our boat. The blue building is the Bar!

On Tuesday night, what is known as a ‘tropical wave’ passed through between 3 and 4 in the morning. The winds got up to 50 miles an hour and the boat was shaking as if there was an earthquake. After the initial concern when I looked out and saw the palm trees with a side parting, we both decided everything was fine and went back to sleep, only to be woken at 6.30 by Rawley wanting a coffee before he started work! He got his coffee and some words of advice from Marcus about ‘reasonable hours’.

As I said, we have been working all week and in the evenings catching up with friends and making new ones. We had Rob and Annimika and Another Rob and Rhian on board for an evening of drinks and dinner. Rhian and Rob know Steve and Helen, from Brighton, and he put us in touch via email when we were in a rush to suss out which boatyard to be lifted out in. It turns out hat Rhian grew up in Hurst Green …….. four miles from Edenbridge! We know quite a few people in common. It really is a very small world.

Another ‘Bake and Shark’ last night and we caught sight of this sign that sums up the laid back attitude here!

Licensing laws in TT are more relaxed than in England!

Licensing laws in TT are more relaxed than in England!

This was another chance to catch up with old friends over a meal. Frank, a single hander we met in Jacaré and a very French Frenchman is just a few boats away from us and is getting his lifting keel hydraulics repaired came and sat at our table. Sven and Kirsten have also turned up here in Trinidad. We met them through Dan and Jenni in Las Palmas and saw them again in the Cape Verdes. They have been to Gambia, Brazil and French Guyana. They are a great young couple who are extremely resourceful. When their dinghy and outboard were stolen in French Guyana, they set to and built their own dinghy. It’s a great job….ply and epoxy. They whittled their oars as they didn’t have any shaping tools on board. They have just made a ‘bumper’ out of swimming ‘noodle’ floats, covered with awning material and attached to the gunwales with studs. It was great to catch up with them and hear their exploits. What a great thing to be doing at 29.

Sven and Kirsten in their 'self build' dinghy.

Sven and Kirsten in their ‘self build’ dinghy.

Rowing back to their mooring.

Rowing back to their mooring.

It’s Sunday today……our day off……so we have taken a short cycle ride to the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association that is in the next bay and returned to get on the internet. The anchorage seems a preferable one to Chagauramas……cleaner water and less commercialised. It’s also got a swimming pool, so I think I might incorporate it into my morning exercise programme. We’ll see once the anti fouling is completed.
Another week of work ahead of us. This is not the normal idea of retirement, but we love it!