Trinidad to Martinique
1st to 15th March
At last I have a visa to visit the United States of America. What a palaver! It took 11 days from submission of application to interview, then another eight days to get passport back (info. just in case you’re a ‘yottie’ who might want to know how long it takes. Allow at least three weeks, despite what the website says.) The ‘Interview’, which was in a large open plan office on a sidestreet in Port of Spain, took a bit more than 30 seconds. It went like this: Immigration officer (a bright neat courteous young American behind a glass screen) says, “Good day and how are you today, sir?”; (I dislike being called ‘Sir’ but don’t say so). I say, “Fine thank you”; he says “..and what are your plans when you visit the States?”; me (vaguely), “Oh, I plan to sail up the East Coast “; …”OK, your visa is approved.” That’s it! No searching questions, nothing. I try to plea for speed with actually issuing the visa, because US is meanwhile keeping my passport and I’m a bit stuck without it. I cannot believe it’ll take another week……but noone questions Homeland Security. I waste my breath.
‘Anyway, I enjoyed most of my spell in Trinidad, the longest stop by far since Devon last July. “Henrietta” had a week ashore in Power Boats huge boatyard, and almost every single item on a lengthy “things to do” list was done, giving a rarely experienced – but short-lived – feeling of satisfaction. The yard was a friendly sort of place with that happy boatyard atmosphere you find all over the world (at least the bits of world I’ve seen). Various skills and lots of amateurs muddle along helping one another fix their loved and cursed vessels; polishing, hammering, grinding, paint and varnish and resin, chatter, mutter and curse…and sometimes the roar of the powerful hoist raising another boat from the water. It’ll be really busy in a couple of months I’m told, when many come out of the water for hurricane season, but quite tame whilst I was there.
You’d need to spend years in Trinidad to appreciate the island’s diversity and beauty, its raw green scenery, the vivid colours and characters. When not elbow-deep in boat chores, I chatted to many fellow sailors, predominantly long or short-term liveaboards (1 – 30 years or more), or holiday liveaboards, who come mainly from Europe or North America for the winter.
‘Liveaboards’ present a very broad church. (Incidently, the opposite of the liveaboard is the ‘dirt-dweller’. That’s you, and the six billion or so normal human beings who live on land!). Liveaboards come in many shapes and sizes and it would be silly to talk of the typical liveaboard. Generally speaking they are helpful, self-sufficient, self-reliant and ‘interesting’. By ‘interesting’ I mean there’s often the hint of a dark or overcolourful past, or unconventional background. The ‘interest’ I find is as much in what’s not said as in what you’re told. I sense that Somerset Maugham would have had a field day. There must be a wealth of black sheep, happy sheep, mischievous sheep among the floating community, that he’d have unearthed and brought to life.
…….rambling on a bit now…so back to life in Trinidad…. I learnt to play Mexican Dominoes (Trinidad variant) whilst there. It’s apparently ‘sweeping the world’ but had passed me by till now. It’s played with dominoes like the ones you know, except numbers up to 12 not six. It has heaps of ‘rules’ that are simple enough but need more concentration than I usually find on a Sunday afternoon. Fun all the same. (Sorry I forgot to take a photo.) Otherwise I went out and about and sweated a lot on some hilly walks (it’s over 30 deg C) …..till getting lost one day, I frightened myself and realised I should have a guide before any more impulsive hilly walks. Then there were early Saturday morning ‘market’ trips to Port of Spain fish/veg/meat market – always rewarding and educational …and supply fresh stuff for the week. (More photos somewhere)
Finally excitement …last Friday my passport was returned from US Consulate; so I quickly checked out with immigration and customs, and left early Saturday, sailing just over 200 miles to here, Martinique. (For geography buffs, Martinique is a Windward Isle, and when you sail north for two days and nights, very close-hauled all the way into bumpy waves and northerly swell, you appreciate the origin of the name ‘Windward’), but…. I was really glad to be away from Trinidad. I’d had enough. Henrietta had had enough too. The oily, murky, rubbish-laden waters of the anchorage in Chaguaramas were foul and deterred me from swimming more than once; and left an oily skummy line on Henrietta’s pristine hull. Electrical SSB stuff was not properly fixed on Henrietta (despite the bills). Finally, unhelpful customs officials seemed hell-bent on extracting ‘overtime’ payments (even when in their offices within office hours). My grumpy-old-man gripes left an unpleasant taste, so it was delightful and a real joy to be at sea once more.
Martinique is a fine French antidote. Tidy streets, colourful fashion shops, and of course a baguette and some Bordeaux plonk! (For sailor folk, customs/immigration stuff here cost two euros, not the 253 TT dollars extorted in Trinidad!). I’ll stay a few days before slowly heading further north.
Finally, this from a concerned American friend: “Americans think there’s an election coming up. The rest of the world thinks it’s an IQ test. And America’s not looking too bright!”