By Wally, Motor Vessel Sandial
Well here it is. We've been in Trinidad a full year. We've had a great time here and met a number of new friends that, I'm sure, we will have for quite some time. We've met a lot of new boaters that we will, undoubtedly, be running into again and we have met a lot of locals whom, sadly, we probably won't see again for a very long time, if ever. But we will still have fond memories.
We've made quite a few improvements to SANDIAL while in Trinidad, not the least of which was a year long project of designing, engineering and building an expandable swim platform and a new way to get from the swim platform to the back deck. Before I get into what finally happened you have to have a little flavor of the work ethic of the Trinidadian labor force and the availability of parts and supplies.
Now, when a Trini tells you he will have you project completed 'tomorrow', that doesn't mean he will have it for you the day after today. All it means is that he will not have it for you today like he promised you yesterday, but it will be some time in the future. Tomorrow means some time in the future. All Trini's carry cell phones and when you hire one to work for you you always get his cell phone number so you can track him down when he doesn't show up. All the cell phones in Trinidad have caller ID so after a couple of friendly calls from you he will simply not answer. When he tells you that he will be at the boat tomorrow he has absolutely no problem letting you wait on the boat for him all day even if he never intended to show up. The first thing you must be thinking is why not fire him and get someone else? THEY ARE ALL THE SAME. It's somehow built into the culture.
We have the best boat boy working for us daily. We trust him totally. We trust him to the point that when we took our trip to Europe for three weeks he stayed on the boat and took care of King Elvis and the boat. Well, this past Sunday we had a party for one of the retiring dock guys and Arnold, our boat boy, attended the party. Monday morning he didn't show up. When he finally showed up Tuesday I asked him where he was yesterday: "I sleep in." he told me. "Then, Arnold, why didn't you call me and tell me you weren't going to come to the boat today." He looked at me kind of funny and said. "I was sleepen." Then proceeded about his chores.
Now we don't have a West Marine, Home Depot or Lowe's here or anything close to it. We have a few marine chandleries with a limited supply. To have things shipped from the US is reasonably fast getting to the country, but you have a royal battle getting anything cleared through Customs. I've ordered parts that I needed and couldn't get here and they arrived in country in a few days, but it took me weeks to get it through Customs.
Trinidad has had a reputation throughout the boating community of being a place where you can get good work done (once you get them to finish it) at a reasonable price. One Captain told me that he saved so much money getting things done on his boat he almost went broke. Trinidad still produces a good quality product, but it's no longer inexpensive. They are approaching US prices.
Back to my swim platform. I doubled the length of my swim platform by hinging an extension to it that I can fold up when I'm cruising and let out to have more play area when we are at anchor. It works great. I was asking around and getting prices of having a stairway built that would take you from the swim platform to the back deck. I was very surprised at the estimates I was getting, if I could get one at all. I started talking to some people about building a hydraulic lift instead and estimates were only a little more than the stairway so I decided to go with a system of two hydraulic cylinders that would lift a platform up and down to the back deck. I hired a contractor to design and build it and he assured me that he has done this many times and it is quite simple. He assured me that once I got the cylinders on the boat he would have it completed within two weeks. Twenty six weeks later and at twice the cost I finally took everything he had done off the boat and replaced it with a stairway at a little higher cost than it would have originally cost me. The man had installed the cylinders incorrectly and after going up and down a couple of times I noticed stainless steel shavings and hydraulic fluid leaking. He had ruined them.
That was the one negative experience I had other than the small generator catching on fire and almost burning the boat down and a few other things, but they are for another time.
We are planning on leaving here tomorrow and heading for a group of islands called Los Testigos.
They are sparsely populated out islands of Venezuela and supposedly very quiet and beautiful. From there we plan on heading west to a few other sets of Venezuelan out islands and doing some fishing, snorkeling, diving and just plain relaxing. We are a little concerned about this area as there has been some pirating going on in the past year, but in very isolated instances. We hope to be traveling with a few other boats and that makes us feel a lot safer. In any case we will write again when we get to Curacao as I'm quite certain that will be the only time we will have access to the Internet.
Wally, Pam, Mariah and ElvisFrom the Bridge - m/v SANDIAL reports from the Caribbean.