26 January, 2018
Good Day, Good Day
John and Paulette recovered all of the stuff that bounced out of their dinghy when the hovercraft crashed, including the 2 new gas cans. It didn’t look like the outboard went in the drink, but we took both dinks ashore just in case. Customs and Immigration-Oh, Baby! Sign on the door says that if we are not dressed appropriately (respectfully), that we will be turned away. Luckily, we all put on our Customs clothes before checking in anywhere. We had 4 sets of forms, in triplicate (lotsa carbon paper). The “Do you have Stowaways on Board” form woulda made us laugh if we weren’t being on our best C & I behavior. Next came the “If you have Stowaways on Board, what are their names and nationalities” form. Really? Computer is not scanning passports, so all info is hand-entered into the system. I’ll make this quick-an hour later we were done with Immigration. On to Customs down the hall. So…..you can’t just “bay hop” here. You need to give an itinerary, letting Customs know where you are at all times. “It’s for your protection. Officers check on your whereabouts for your safety.” By the way, the island is divided into 2 sectors. If you move to the other sector, you need to clear in and out there, as well as provide an itinerary for the anchorages that you visit within that sector. Made our heads hurt. Good reason to just stay in Charlotteville and explore from here by land. Total C&I time, 1 hour, 20 minutes. Good thing that no one else was in line. Next stop, the only ATM in town. Nope, neither of our cards work. John’s only able to get a couple hundred TT dollars ($1TT=$.15US) out of it. At the tourist office, the nice lady tells us that it’s a small ATM. The truck from the bank arrives to fill it, and it’s immediately emptied by the folks who’ve been waiting in line for $$$.
It was time to stretch our legs, so we decided to hike up to Flagstaff Mountain for a view and photo op, then down to the windward side to check out the anchorage in Anse Bateau, and the dive shop at the Blue Waters Inn there. The hike was on pavement all the way. We had been previously warned by more than one local not to stray out into the bush without a guide. Seems that over the years, several tourists had gone missing after not heeding this admonition, causing the whole village to be mobilized for search and rescue operations. After being lounge-chair lizards for a few weeks, the 6.2-mile, 1,300 feet up and down was plenty of exercise, even on pavement. Of course, it was lunch time when we hit the Blue Water, so lunch on the veranda, featuring Tobagonian delights was in order. I wondered out loud how my rubber legs were going to make it back over the hill. I must have missed the memo (not unusual), ‘cause the other three just laughed and informed me that we were getting a ride home. Whew! Hate to see a grown man cry, especially when it’s me.
Charlottesville is a fishing village, and there’s not a whole lot else there, so the Sunday check out town day went pretty quickly. We walked over to Pirate’s Bay, a 600’ up-and-down, then walked the streets of the village, ending up at “The Suck Hole” restaurant. “No local food,” our waitress informed us. Our lunch was super good, starting out with an order of fries which were served as an appetizer. OMG! There was probably a pound of fries in each order (x4). We had watched other diners squirting ketchup, mustard, and mayo all over theirs, so asked our server if this was a local custom. Hahaha. The squirt bottles contained Pepper sauce, Garlic sauce, and Chadon Bene (Windward Islands equivalent of Cilantro). Squirted liberally over the sautéed plantain and eggplant-covered fries, the finished product might have been responsible for a paroxysm of ecstasy (tryin’ to keep things G-rated here). When the main plates of fried fish, shrimp and chicken arrived, we were pretty much sated, so doggie boxes were distributed all around.
On Monday morning, Junior picked us up for a day of touring Tobago by car. We toured the length of the island, checking out every anchorage and little fishing village on the leeward side. After our recon, we decided that staying at anchor up in Charlottesville was still a good idea. Moving to the interior of the island, Junior took us to visit the “Herb Lady”, Philomene, at Eboe Gardens. Around her house, perched on the side of a hill (and what house here isn’t?) were a myriad of imaginative containers filled with dirt and harboring a variety of herbs, medicinals, and decorative plants. The containers ranged from discarded Styrofoam cooler tops to garbage bags, with all manner of holders in between. Suz bolstered her collection of herb plants here. Next, we had to stop at Bucoo Bay for a peek at the goat-racing track. Once a year, on Easter weekend, the annual goat races are held there. Crazy-a huge stadium, built around a grass-covered dragstrip, and used only once per year. I guess it’s a huge event. People come from all around the islands to participate in the betting and spectacle of it all. (Think a boisterous Kentucky Derby.) BTW, these aren’t your garden variety goats, these are RACING goats. With long legs and slimmer bodies, they look more like Greyhounds than goats. The trick, though, is picking the right jockey(?). Young men sprint alongside the tethered goats, so the oddsmakers place a fair amount of weight on who’s drivin’. Might just have to get back for this event. Wheeeling into Scarborough, the vibe was like day and night compared to little Charlotteville. Very touristy, and a much busier, apparently the “business center” on Tobago. We stopped for “Doubles” at a roadside vendor (the back of a station wagon). Okay……Doubles are a breakfast staple here in Trinidad/Tobago. Delicious. First, a sheet of waxed paper. Next, two Bara (a fried pancake made of Gheera (roasted ground cumin), flour and curry powder). Next, Chana (chick peas, minced onion, ground garlic, chopped pimiento, chopped onions, curry powder, amchar masala, water, salt, and chadon bene is ladled on top. The Chana has the consistency of split pea soup. You bet it’s a challenge to eat. Ya got no implements. Hold the paper in one hand. Slip one of the Bara out from under the fray. Use it as a spoon to sop/scoop the Chana off the other Bara. Then, eat the other Bara with the remaining Chana. Or………….Get yer face right into the whole mess and slurp/suck your way through. Walk to 2-gallon water jug and wipe off mouth, chin, nose, hands, shirt, shoes, etc. Or be a Trini. Eat and walk away without a trace of food on your Sunday finest. Mastering the Double will become a quest during the following weeks here. A short hike the Argyle waterfalls gave us a chance to stretch our legs with a stroll through the forest. Back to the boats by early evening, we had a good feel for the island. Paulette called Newton George, a renowned local guide to arrange some hikes in the rain forest later in the week to do some bird-watching.
Another day took us back to the Blue Waters Inn, where we had arranged for a half day excursion to Little Tobago Island. This National park is a bird sanctuary, where we expected to see Frigate Birds, Red Footed Boobies, Brown Boobies and Red-Billed Tropic Birds. We weren’t disappointed. We saw all of these and more, even spotted a Tropic Bird in her nest on the ground, guarding her single chick. After our hike, we enjoyed a nice snorkel on the reef, seeing the usual suspects plus a Hawksbill Turtle.
Well, that old weather thing cut short our sojourn on Tobago. During our stay, the winds continued to build, but it looked like we’d get a bit of a reprieve late in the week before the Trades became “Brisk” again. We had to cancel our Rain Forest hike, but promised ourselves that we’d return in March or April to finish what we had started.
Back at Customs and Immigration, our pleasant conversation about grandchildren, kids, and life in general paid off. We were granted passage out of Tobago on a “nod and a wink.” The officer provided us with a handwritten note, which she dutifully stapled together. She told us that while we anchored overnight in the Scarborough sector that we didn’t have to check in, and when we got to Trinidad, present her note to Immigration, and everything would be all right-she’d make a call. So, we left the office after more chittin’ and chattin’, promising to bury her in New Grandbaby pictures upon our return. (Oh, the Admiral tells me that I mightn’t have shared the news. Our daughter and son in law are giving us a new little boy at the end of February.)
We crept down the lee side of Tobago on Thursday and anchored in Store Bay, outside Scarborough. On Friday, we made a smooth passage to Trinidad over two-foot seas. One more 48” Mahi in the freezer, by the way. We docked at Crew’s Inn Marina and Hotel and readied ourselves for the Customs and Immigration ChaCha. (Even tho’ it’s the same country, you still have to clear in and out.) Ha Ha. We produced our “Get out of jail free” note. Frowns on the officers turned to smiles. No paperwork. Zip, Zilch, Nada. After some more chitchat with the officers while everyone else in the room was filling out forms and waiting in line, we were home. 30 seconds formality, 5 minutes rappin’.
We’re here for the next couple of months.