While Stacey was back in the United States having medical tests (just routine, and everything is fine!), Neil did a lot of work on Zora. Our windlass, brand new and installed only a year earlier, had been leaking since the Bahamas. Every time we had large seas over the bow, the V-berth would get wet. We had already removed and rebed the windlass once, but that had not stopped the leak. This time Neil removed the windlass and fiberglassed the top of the PVC chain fall pipe directly to the deck. Knock on wood, it seems to have worked.
He also repainted the bottom paint. It was still in reasonably good shape after a year, but we knew that it would not be by next summer, so it seemed wise to do it now where it is cheaper. In Trinidad, if you purchase paint and do the work yourself, you pay a duty (V.A.T.) on the paint. However, if you hire the yard to do the painting, you don't pay V.A.T.. The V.A.T. on our paint would have been $75 USD. The labor to do the painting was $75. A very easy decision! Neil did the prep work, scraping and sanding, but "Book" from PowerBoats did the painting. Neil also repainted our boot stripes, which were pretty scratched from the dinghy and anchor chain. With a last-minute hull polishing, Zora looked quite spiffy when she went back in the water!
We can't say enough good things about the yard, PowerBoats, where we hauled in Trinidad. The people were very helpful, the yard was clean with free showers, water and electricity, and it was cheap. There's a "Yachtsmen's Workshop" area where you can do woodworking projects or varnishing, a grocery store, and the Roti Shack. The Roti Shack was our favorite find in Trinidad. Rotis are a sort of East Indian flatbread wrapped around fillings such as curried chick-peas, dahl, West Indian Pumpkin, potatoes, green beans, spicy green mango, chutney, and pepper sauce. They are huge, healthy, tasty, and cheap at $1.75 USD. They're made by a nice lady named Grace and served in an open-air palm-frond shelter at the edge of the yard. Needless to say, we had rotis for lunch quite often!
We had discovered, way back on the I.C.W., that our bronze stern tube (tube that the prop shaft passes through into the boat) had a leak from a bad casting. When the leak was discovered we put a "band aid" on it by clamping flax packing around the hole with a hose clamp. Neil decided to do a more permanent fix while we were on the hard. We were able to source locally some fiberglass tubing that we 5200-ed inside the stern tube, blocking the leak and restoring strength to the tube. So far the repair has worked out quite well.
Cruisers in Trinidad are very lucky to have Jesse James, a local man who runs the "Members Only" taxi service. He offers free taxi runs to local supermarkets, and inexpensive taxis to cultural events, restaurants, etc. He also organizes tours to local attractions. We went on one of his "Turtle Watch" tours, and it was amazing. On the north and east coasts of Trinidad, giant leatherback turtles (as well as Ridley's, Hawksbill, and Green) come ashore to lay their eggs. When the babies hatch, the few that survive come back to the same area 25 years later to lay their own eggs. Some Trinidadian volunteers have been organizing a Turtle Watch program to protect the turtles from poachers, who were severely threatening the population. Jesse is a member of the volunteers and brings groups out to see them. It is a long night, with no guarantee of seeing a turtle, but we were very lucky. After a three hour ride across the island, we arrived after dark at the beach. We waited around for a while until one of the volunteers on the beach radioed for us to come down. We were chaperoned to the beach, where a nest of baby leatherbacks had just emerged and been gathered up (for us to see) by a volunteer. We gathered around and he opened up his T-shirt to release dozens of squirming baby turtles, all headed towards the shimmering light of the breaking waves. We were able to pick them up and hold them as we learned all about their natural history. After a while we all stepped back and they scrambled for the waves, just as another nest of babies erupted from the sand a few feet away!
Then we set off down the beach, keeping careful watch where we were stepping in case any other nests were hatching! A half-mile or so away, a group of volunteers waited in the pitch dark around a huge mother turtle who was beginning to build her nest. We gathered around quietly in the dark to watch as he explained what she was doing. At one point, as she began to lay her eggs, she went into what they called a "semi-trance" and then we were able to move around her, use our cameras and flashlights, and even touch her leathery skin. The volunteers tagged and measured her. When she was done laying she slipped back into the waves. It was truly an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Back at PowerBoats, we continued to work on projects. Neil finally found a boat with the model windvane (Fleming) that we have, and was able to figure out why ours might not be working. By comparing apples to apples with Scotty's wind vane, He was able to figure out which parts of the vane were out of adjustment, and to compare our counterweight with his. he was then able to readjust, clean and lubricate all the bearings, and give the whole thing a nice polish. Most importantly, he was able to photocopy the owner's manual, which we did not have. Hopefully, we'll be able to actually use it now.
Finally, after numerous delays (mostly due to the weather: it's VERY hard to complete painting projects when it rains hard several times per day...) we were ready to go back into the water. The travel lift came and picked us up, Neil applied bottom paint under the keel where it had been resting on blocks, and they started to turn us around to head back towards the harbor. It was very tight between the other boats, however, and a lot of maneuvering was required. Someone made a miscalculation, though, and the back end of Zora banged into another boat's bow pulpit. Our newly fixed wind vane was badly bent!! PowerBoats was great about it, though, and promised to fix it. They told us to take a free slip on the docks for a few days, and they straightened the parts for us. When we went to ask to pay for a few more days, they gave them to us for free, as well. That was very handy, since we needed another repair man to come aboard:
Unfortunately, our refrigerator was not up to the challenge of the incredibly hot weather. At least when we're in the water, the ocean cools the boat down somewhat. On land, the ambient temperature was often 105°, and our elderly Adler-Barbour compressor just couldn't take it. It died after a few days. Adler-Barbour no longer makes the compressor units, let alone parts for repair, and R-12, the refrigerant, is no longer used. We faced an expensive replacement. Although we had originally said, "If this refrigerator ever dies, we'll just use ice...", we no longer considered that an option. For one thing, we'd spent a lot of time and money building a good refrigerator box and insulating it with expensive vacuum panels. For another, ice is expensive down here (we probably spent $30 on ice for a week and a half) and block ice is impossible to find. But the clincher was our fishing. We are really enjoying fishing and catching large fish like mahi and tuna. Without a freezer we could never eat a big fish in time, and it would spoil. We justified the expense of the new unit with the money we save by catching our own fish and not having to buy it. We looked at all of our options, including ordering from the States, and finally bought a Frigoboat unit from a local guy who also bled out the old refrigerant and recharged the system for us. Here's Junior working on the unit, and the spick-and-span refrigerator ready to be reloaded with food:
So, we ended up staying in Trinidad a couple of weeks longer than we'd expected. But being on the docks was very convenient, and we got a lot done. One Sunday, when the Roti Shack was closed, I took my cloth and sewing machine up to the long picnic tables and -finally!- made the jerry-can covers I'd been meaning to make for months, as well as a cover to keep salt out of the windvane gears.