We finally got delivery of our solar panel and Mitchell was able to fit it on the Saturday morning, before he went home for Christmas!

Half the canopy up and looking good!

Half the canopy up and looking good!

Everything is now delivered and fitted and we were happy to be able to cast off for Tobago, ready for Christmas.
The trip across to Tobago that took us 11 hours last time, took 19 hours this. The tides are very strong between the islands and with much stronger winds against us and choppy seas, we were happy to pull up in Store Bay at 1530 hrs in the shelter of the reef.
All the guides say you must check in in Scarborough, which is about 6 miles away, as soon as you arrive, but by the time we had anchored and tidied lines etc. it would have meant traveling back in the dark, so Marcus phoned Customs and they said ‘No worries, check in tomorrow’. Soooooo laid back compared to Trinidad!

Tuesday saw us checked in, an appointment made to extend our visas and back to Store Bay to decorate the boat and meet up with Keith and James, who flew in on the Monarch Christmas flight. That evening we dinghied ashore and met the crew for drinks in Keith’s room, followed by a lot more drinks in the local night spot, Jade Monkey.

Christmas Eve saw a slow start. By the afternoon most of the crew were still recovering from the flight and the night, so it was just the Byrons and Haywards who set out for a sail.

The Happy Crew.

The Happy Crew.

On the way back there was a monsoon like downpour. The good thing about the rain here is that it usually passes within 20 minutes and the sun soon dries everything.

It is amazing how different Tobago seems, now that they are in ‘the season’. Before, the streets were quiet and very few of the shops and roadside stalls were open. Now the place is buzzing and businesses are spruced up and raring to go.

On Christmas Day, we got ‘Day Passes’ to the Coco Reef hotel, with all you could eat and drink as well as  full use of the facilities.

Christmas Day. It's a hard life!

Christmas Day. It’s a hard life!

In the afternoon we took a couple of the cabin crew over to the boat to take a look and managed to acquire 5 Norwegians on the way!

Impromptu gathering on Christmas Day.

Impromptu gathering on Christmas Day.

Marcus, needless to say drank his full share and more than he can remember!, but we had a good time in good company AND we had decent wifi to skype the family and spend some virtual time in the midst of them all……the rendition of Good King Wenceslas on pitched whistles saw the family at their best! and the new ‘prescription’ bottle lens glasses suited them all so well!!

Having waved off the Monarch crew, Boxing Day was spent very quietly.
There is a ‘Caribbean Swell’ that has been forecast for the next couple of days and some of the boats in the north of the island have moved down to the shelter of Store Bay. ‘Ash’ and ‘Resolute’ have arrived. We first met Jill and Colin in Portosin in Spain and Sven and Kirsten, on Ash, have been all the way up to Martinique and back in the time we’ve been waiting for our solar panels!

Last night we had a cockpit full of 11 of us for ‘sundowners’ and we lit the barbecue for the first time since the Canaries. It’s lovely meeting up with old friends, introducing them to one another and catching up with all their exploits.

Sundowners. Everyone gathered and.......

Sundowners. Everyone gathered and…….

...........dinghies tethered off the stern.

………..dinghies tethered off the stern.

We will be staying here for New Year…….we have our visa extension interview on the 30th and have arranged to go on a snorkelling trip with Durita and Stamen on Old Years Day, as they call it here. The plan is to sail back to Trinnie on the 3rd, ready for the US Embassy and my eyes……..then we WILL leave for Grenada!

We hope you all had a lovely time over Christmas and have a happy and healthy New Year.

Another week has come and gone and we still don’t have our solar panel we ordered in October. It was promised last Monday, then Friday and now it’s supposed to arrive this coming Monday. Trinnie time takes a bit of getting used to! ………as does the cultural tendency to fabricate reasons for the delay. Most taradiddles involve aging sick relatives and hospitals, or incompetent third parties who are un contactable. With such a pedigree, Trinidad should have produced Booker Prize winners in their droves!!

The gap for our long awaited solar panel!

The gap for our long awaited solar panel!

Despite the disappointment on the solar panel front, I personally have had a blessing of a week……On Monday I went for an opticians appointment. My eyes have been misty and uncomfortable and I knew they needed testing. While we are stuck waiting, I thought it would be a good time to order some varifocals………contact lenses get very dry and sticky in the heat. The optician, who had lived in Croydon and worked in Bromley and Orpington!!…….said my eye pressures were high and referred me immediately to a specialist. I got an appointment with dr Marahaj on Wednesday and his office made me a ‘field of vision’ appointment for the Tuesday. Clutching my field of vision results and my referral letter I reported to the health centre at 08300 for my specialist’s appointment. After more tests and a lot of lights being shone in my eyes, it was discovered that I had early symptoms of chronic narrow angle glaucoma and he told me I needed urgent laser treatment to lower the pressures. When I asked how urgent, he said he could do it there and then!! So I walked out at 1230 with two small holes in my irises and some steroid drops in my bag. On Friday I returned and had my pressures checked……. both eyes had dropped to 17 from 25 and 27. A resounding success! I now have to return in January for a check up and, if the drainage holes are working, hopefully have drops to dilate the pupils to have the back of my eyes looked at to see if there has been any damage to the retina and blood vessels there.
Since Wednesday I have asked a lot of questions of Mr Google and read up on ‘narrow/acute angles’. It seems that I have had a very lucky escape. If it had not been spotted and I had not had the treatment, the high pressures could have caused damage to my optic nerves and if I had had an acute attack whilst at sea and away from any treatment, I could have lost my sight within hours!

So all in all I have had one of the most valuable early Christmas presents ever!

Enough of me and on with the week’s activities.
We are very much back together again and it is lovely to be able to find somewhere to sit and relax.

On Wednesday, in our absence, the sun canopy arrived for its first fit and to check on fixing points. Yesterday, Friday, the almost finished canopy arrived for a fitting.

The canopy being tried on.

The canopy being tried on.

It looks huge, or maybe it's just because I'm standing under it!?

It looks huge, or maybe it’s just because I’m standing under it!?

We’re very pleased with it and once the finishing touches are completed over the weekend, we are hoping to receive delivery of it first thing on Monday. They seem very professional people, so we’re taking them at their word and wish their aged relations the best of health……..at least until Monday afternoon!

Yesterday afternoon/evening was the annual Cook Out in the boat yard we’re in. An excellent band played Parang music.

The Parang band.

The Parang band.

This is a local style of music, based on spanish rhythms and only played in the lead up to Christmas……..which officially starts here 100 days before December 25th, so that means everyone puts up their Christmas trees and decorations in September! The strange thing is they have the same reindeers, snowmen and sleighs that we do in Britain. I wasn’t expecting such a stong legacy of the colonial past.

At the cook out there were food stalls and a Yotties boat jumble.

Marcus playing with a new friend at the Boat Jumble.

Marcus playing with a new friend at the Boat Jumble.

All proceeds go to needy families and we managed to come away with more than we donated!
I was going to donate the 12v television that has lain up disturbed in the drawer since we got the boat. Once I had rooted out the necessary leads and plugs we relised it was a much better screen to watch films on and we stumbled on a great way of mounting it.

TV under cover, laptop at the ready.

TV under cover, laptop at the ready.

Seat swung around and TV in viewing position,

Seat swung around and TV in viewing position,

So now we can watch Downton Abbey in comfort and at a good volume……..we’ve been wearing headsets to listen to the laptop…….not very sociable!!

Work continues on the boat and evening socialising is de rigueur!

Paul, Charlotta, Dorita and Stamen.

Paul, Charlotta, Dorita and Stamen.

A night out on 'Gaya'

A night out on ‘Gaya’

We had our first Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and stuffing, with some of the Americans we have met.

Thanks giving with friends from Perigrine, Perigrina, Wapiti and Explorer.

Thanks giving with friends from Perigrine, Perigrina, Wapiti and Explorer.

It seems like an interminable length of time that we’ve been hard at it, but we are making progress and it’s going to be well worth it, despite all the frustrations.
Mitchel has finally finished the arch and will return to fix the final solar panel when it arrives.

Fine tuning the arch fittings.

Fine tuning the arch fittings.

When we were getting ready in England, we didn’t realise just what a major factor the sun is here in the tropics. It’s a boon as far as energy from solar panels goes, but a blight as far as needing to shade the boat from it!
The sun/rain covers that we made in Brasil will be perfect to cover and protect the boat if we leave her for any length of time, but for day to day use they are proving too heavy to handle and too difficult to assemble, so we have been thinking about getting a proper job done. We had a boat moored next to us with a very clever canopy design, with rain catchers incorporated……when we asked where they had had it made, it turned out to be here!….. so last week, in between showers we had the same canvas work men on board to measure up for a similar sun canopy with rain catchers, so that we can sit in the cool and dry and we can fill our tanks with water we can trust from the sky, rather than some random hose on the dock and also do away with the need to be in clean anchorages to be able to use the water maker.

Hitech measuring....... Low tech solution to the rain.

Hitech measuring……. Low tech solution to the rain.

We have been living in such a pickle for the past fortnight. As I’ve said before, any job inside the boat means emptying everything out to get to the bit you’re working on,

Chaos in the cabin. Marcus and Paul routing the battery end of the solar panel controller.

Chaos in the cabin. Marcus and Paul routing the battery end of the solar panel controller.

so my finely honed mental map of where everything is has been totally destroyed. Usually there is a quick response to questions like, ‘Where’s the masking tape?’ or ‘Where are my shorts?’, but service has been severely interrupted and a lot of time is spent in hunting.

Wardrobe and drawers out again!

Wardrobe and drawers out again!

The record was twelve hours hunting the shorts!!

The arch is now bedecked with two of the solar panels, two aerials, the aft nav. light and a little garden solar light, acting as an automatic anchor light.
After much hassling and veiled threats to the importer, we finally managed to get our charge controller delivered for the panels.
The next task was trying to get an electrician to come and fix them for us. Therein lies a tale……..The company said, ‘The electrician will be with you on Monday’………no show…….’He’ll be there first thing on Tuesday’………no show………Marcus rang him at 1500hrs to ask what time ‘this morning’ he was coming! He turned up at 1600hrs, looked at what we needed, saw the mess we were living in and went away with the promise of coming on Wednesday or Thursday………no show…….no show…….Back to the company….’He’ll definitely be with you between 0900hrs and 0930hrs Friday morning. At 1000hrs we reckoned he was5 days and 30 minutes late, so we phoned the company again and cancelled the job. That left us with the heart sinking realisation that we would have to tackle it ourselves. A daunting thought as, when it comes to electricity, we normally both switch off!
Luckily, as is always the case when you’re stuck, there was help at hand. There is a young couple, Paul and Charlotta, who have been borrowing our small outboard motor until they could find a second hand one. Paul is a fantastic musician and came along to restring my guitar for me. Having cleared a space for him to sit, he could see we had a major project in hand and, when he heard the story, he offered to help us connect everything. He had worked alongside the electrician who had rewired his boat! As luck would have it, moored a couple of boats away was an electrical engineer. He had worked on nuclear power stations, so we asked him to check over what we were doing. There couldn’t be too much difference between nuclear and solar power could there?

After much probing with the wiring mouse and pushing and pulling through possible routes for the new wire we hit a brick wall. There didn’t seem to be any way of getting the wires from the aft locker to the batteries, which are just aft of the mast.
Then Phil, the nuclear man offered the hitech advice…. ‘Just drill a hole!’……Images of Marcus drilling holes in the boat kicked my problem solving synapses into overdrive and I remembered seeing a couple of wires, bundled high up in the aft locker, on top of what must be the top of our wardrobe …..BINGO! ……. There was a hole, just big enough to poke the wires through. On further investigation we found other holes at the bottom of the wardrobe and more that were drilled through under the drawers, into the tool cupboard and up along behind the radio to the very cupboard where we were planning to install the controller!!! While we were ferreting around running the cables, Paul connected the panels.
The following day we got more advice and managed to link the controller to the batteries with all the necessary breakers and grounding wires in place and we are now generating our own electricity. HURRAH!

Fixing the aerial leads in the aft locker.

Fixing the aerial leads in the aft locker.

With the wiring completed, we have now managed to restow all the stuff that was under the tarpaulin on the foredeck into the aft lockers, so we are looking more like a sailing boat and less like a garage sale. Inside is still a work in progress, but we’re getting there!
On Wednesday we decided to take a day off and hired a car with Dorita and Stamen to go to the Coroni swamp to see the scarlet ibis flock in at twilight. Unfortunately we chose the deluge day of the week and had to cancel the tour, but had a good time going around Port of Spain

Old and new architecture side by side.

Old and new architecture side by side.

Flower on a 'cannon ball' tree by the side of the road in Port of Spain.

Flower on a ‘cannon ball’ tree by the side of the road in Port of Spain.

Global brand next door to local store.

Global brand next door to local store.

£4 Lunch at a gem of a restaurant.

£4 Lunch at a gem of a restaurant.

Dorita and Stamen leaving after lunch.

Dorita and Stamen leaving after lunch.

and up through the rain forest to Maracas bay.

View from the top of the hill climb.

View from the top of the hill climb.

Maracas Bay......'put your hands on your hips.... Simon says......'

Maracas Bay……’put your hands on your hips…. Simon says……’

The coconut fell on to the green bin behind. Marcus checking for more,

The coconut fell on to the green bin behind. Marcus checking for more,

Coco.  Nut.

Coco. Nut.

On the way home, the supermarket beckoned…..you can’t hire a car and not fill it up with all those bulky necessities!
During all of the electrical mayhem, I spent almost two days, with intermittent wifi, filling in the online application forms for our US visas. The whole process is long-windedly intricate with questions such as, ‘do you belong to a terrorist group?’, ‘have you ever been involved in child trafficking?’ and ‘do you belong to a tribe or a clan?’……Yes to all of the above, but we’re still hopeful!!
Once the forms were submitted, we then had to go through the appointment booking form to get to the payment receipt that we had to print out and take to a particular bank. We then had to wait two days for the money to clear, before going back into the site to book an appointment. By the time all this was done, the next appointment available was Jan 5th! So we have decided to go to Tobago for Christmas and return here in the new year to hopefully be granted a visa.
Other sailing friends are also heading for Tobago and Keith and James are coming over on the 19th for the Christmas Monarch flight, so it will be lovely to see them. The Haywards and Byron’s together again for Christmas! …… Just like old times.
Must look out the decorations that are buried under the sails in the forepeak locker. The outdoor lanterns should go well on the new arch!