Wednesday, January 27, 2010


January 26th is Australia Day, the day Australia commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet into Sydney Harbour in 1788. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the day for Australians to celebrate being Australian. Like they don’t do that everyday. And believe me they do.
Every day.
Probably a good life lesson for all of us.

From sunrise to sundown yesterday, the Australian flag proudly dwarfed the Canadian and Grenadian flags on Beach House. 
And yes. Geoff had Vegemite for breakfast.
The large jar is almost empty. Hint, hint, you Sydneysiders. The smaller one we found in Grenada. Expensive, but another reason to stay here.

So where would an Australian like to spend Australia Day? Besides Australia, I mean. My guess was on the beach with some beer involved. Not a tall order in this corner of paradise.

The anchorage behind Hog Island is popular and fairly crowded.
It’s accessible by dinghy from Clarke’s Court Bay
under the bridge that joins Hog Island to the mainland.
You can see the bridge in the middle distance to the left in this shot taken from the Hog Island anchorage.

Cruisers and locals alike flock to the main draw on the beach at Hog Island – Roger’s Beach Bar.

Here’s Roger behind the bar, serving up $5EC drinks (that’s $1.85US). Every drink is the same price and the man pours with a generous hand.
Maybe that’s why I’m smiling. And it is happy hour, after all.

Roger’s wife, Mary, does the cooking.
Welcome to her, hmm, modest kitchen.
Mary serves up barbeque chicken and pork on Sundays, pizzas once or twice a week, and rotis on occasion. Yesterday the fare was oil down, the national dish of Grenada.

Oil down is a simple, robust stew - a combination of salt meat, pieces of chicken, breadfruit, dumplings, black pepper, carrots, callaloo, celery, chives, thyme, and coconut milk. The ingredients are simmered together until the coconut milk becomes oil – that’s when the oil down is ready.
Mary piled the plates high.
We didn’t always know what we were eating – what looked to be sausages were the dumplings – but the mystery made it all the more fun.
And of course, it washes down nicely with beer or a rum drink.

As a special Australia Day treat, there was entertainment. Meet Gilfie – he’s tuning his guitar while his buddy looks after the beverages.
And even though Gilfie didn’t know any Men At Work tunes or “Waltzing Matilda”, we enjoyed his performance.
It was all easy listening music, with a gravelly edge.
As the sun set behind Gilfie, the crowd found its legs.
The blog photographer doesn’t dance much, which means he can get candid pictures of the Beach House Admiral dancing in the sand.

Kids of all ages had a great night.
Just a little dirty dancing on Australia Day.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Before leaving Trinidad last month, we took a day off from boat chores 
to check out a couple of nature attractions.

Meet Jesse James, our tour guide and driver for the day.
Jesse’s a lovely man who found his business niche catering to cruisers. He takes calls pretty much 24-7 and has helped cruisers for eleven years with tours, directions, banking problems, customs and immigration issues, medical queries – you name it,
Jesse’s the guy to call.

Before getting properly underway, Jesse stopped to get us a snack of doubles. He couldn’t believe we’d been in Trinidad for over a month and hadn't tried one.
Doubles are an East Indian specialty - street food served up with a beer - morning, noon, and night. Two bara (flat fried breads) are filled with curried channa (chick peas). At $3TT - about fifty cents - the price is certainly right.
They’re hot and spicy and delicious. Did I mention hot?
Do NOT ask for extra pepper topping.

Our route took us through Port of Spain
– actually all routes to just about anywhere go through Port of Spain.
Traffic was its usual mess, but Jesse kept us entertained with colourful stories about Trinidad – the history, the industry, the geography, the people. He loves his country.

As we drove further out of the city ……
…… the scenery varied from posh, colourful, heavily-gated homes, to small villages ……
…… like this little East Indian enclave with its colourful prayer flags.

As the towns thinned out, the rain forest started to close in.
The roads were shady and comfortably cool as we approached our first destination.

The Asa Wright Nature Centre ( covers nearly 1,500 acres in the Northern Mountain Range of Trinidad. The former Spring Hill Estate, a privately owned cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation, was ceded to a not-for-profit trust in 1967. It’s now a world-renowned nature and birding destination. There are guided walks or you can hike on your own through the rainforest. The main plantation house is now a restaurant with a huge verandah for relaxing and bird-watching, and the outbuildings have been converted into modest accommodation.

We did a nature walk with Barry, our guide. He shared his extensive knowledge of the rainforest – the birds, the trees, the plants and flowers.

This is a Butterfly Orchid -
- delicate and beautiful.

Monkey vines are everywhere.
They’re sculptural and fascinating to look at, but very deadly. They increase in girth and strength as they grow around other vegetation and eventually choke it out. At the Asa Wright Nature Centre, the rain forest is left to its natural cycle – nothing is cut down or moved.

Termite nests are everywhere as well but not as interesting to look at.
Since they only eat dead wood, the termites are left to do their part
of the growth and regrowth cycle.

After an hour and a half of wandering along the rough trails,
we headed back to the main building for lunch.
We shared a good local meal with other visitors at a huge communal table, then spent a bit of free time on the verandah ......
...... enjoying the distant view ......
...... and the close up views.

Unfortunately our little camera doesn’t have the zoom capability
to capture great pictures of the birds.
This little hummingbird, not much bigger than a butterfly, was a brilliant iridescent blue. (
Trinidad’s original name in the native Arawak language was “lere”,
meaning “Land of the Hummingbird”.

The last stop of the day was the Caroni Swamp on the west coast.
It encompasses 15,000 acres of marshland with three kinds of mangroves, red, white and black – coincidentally the colours of the Trinidad and Tobago flag.

The tour boats leave at 4pm, heading for the island in the swamp where the Scarlet Ibis return at sunset from their day of scavenging for food. The Scarlet Ibis is the national bird of Trinidad. They are grey and white when young, but the carotene in their diet of crustaceans
gradually turns the feathers red.

The birds return by the thousands and land on their nighttime roosting island.
By law, the tour boats are not allowed to get any closer to the action than a quarter of a mile.
The cloud of red was distant but breathtaking.
We definitely need a better camera.

Trinidad is a big island at close to 2,000 square miles.
Our nature tour barely covered the top fifth of the country.
We don’t know if we’ll make it back to Trinidad as part of this cruise,
but we’re glad we had one particularly fine day checking some of it out.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


When we arrived in Trinidad in early November, the plan was to order solar panels and take them back to Grenada to sort them out. A week or two maximum, right? Well - not quite.
The gods of all things marine laugh at time frames.

The solar panel shipment was delayed to the end of November, earliest, and with time to think about it, Geoff decided to stay and install the panels right there in Trinidad – if there was any problem, we’d have quick and easy access to help.

So we ended up with six bonus weeks in Trinidad, giving us time to venture into Port of Spain several times to shop and sightsee. This sign is certainly not the official welcome to the city, but it gave us a laugh as we arrived at the waterfront bus terminal ……
…… and it set the tone for a great day of wandering the city.

Port of Spain is a big city by anybody’s standards. Twenty percent of Trinidad’s 1.5 million people live in and around this cosmopolitan capital.

It doesn't look much like the Caribbean, does it?

Independence Square is a huge boulevard that runs the length of downtown Port of Spain.
It's beautifully kept ......
...... and the trees offer a welcome respite from the sun.

The locals in the city were friendly and courteous – we were offered help with directions several times when we stopped to look at our street map. Every encounter ended with a reminder for us to be watchful and stay safe. The theft rate is high in Trinidad and it seems the average citizen is quite embarrassed by it. The scary murder rate is, of course, well-removed from the parts of the city we frequented, and has more to do with drugs and gangs.

We found upscale stores right next to funky little malls, and, there are amazing fabric stores everywhere. We'd heard about the Trinidad fabric stores and they didn't disappoint this Admiral.
The Captain was patient.
Jimmy Aboud is the self-appointed “Textile King”.

The narrow aisles were packed with locals in late November. Apparently it’s customary in Trinidad to change out all the curtains and cushions and linens –
and on Christmas Eve we’re told.

And then there's Samaroo's, THE store for everything Carnival.

Carnival is serious business in the Caribbean and Trinidad claims the best celebration. Samaroo’s is the biggest and most famous source for all costume-making needs.

We checked out some cultural sights as well. The new Performing Arts Centre had opened only the month before.

It's quite reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House.

Check out the recently planted palms.

And the library in Port of Spain is a beautiful building, architecturally interesting and inviting.

The main rotunda takes you up through the multiple levels, each with its own section – Children’s, Young People’s, Adult section, and the Reference Library.

And just when we felt we could be in any big North American city, we came round a corner and saw this -
- fruit and vegetable stalls crowding a main thoroughfare.

But the serious market is on Saturday morning on the outskirts of Port of Spain - it’s the biggest we’ve seen anywhere in the islands and it’s not a tourist destination. This is where the locals come to find good deals on good produce.

This sign greeted us as we entered the first of two huge buildings that house the market.
We never did figure out what no-no was crossed out. Any ideas?

The first building was crammed with vendor after vendor selling veggies and fruit.

The second building was the meat and fish market ......
...... full of interesting sights and pungent smells.

There was a little concession area as well.
Looked like whoever put up the sign hadn't had their coffee yet.

A short bus ride away from the market, on our route back to Chaguaramas, is The Falls at Westmall.

…… with marble floors, multiple levels, escalators, air conditioning and familiar shop names like Payless Shoes, Radio Shack, and United Colours of Benetton. We did some shopping in 'familiar' soundings, so we're not complaining, but where are we again?

The trips into Port of Spain tended to be long days and the big city lights were coming on as we headed back to Beach House. It was nice to get home and find that the solar panels had made good use of the hot Trini sun – our batteries were in positive amps so we didn’t have to run the generator to charge them up. Excellent - a night cap in the quiet, watching the moon.
Now if only we can find a way to harness that lunar power.