Friday, April 22, 2011


1st – 13th March 2011

Everyone we spoke to about our plans to sail to Trinidad warned us of the dangers when coming to this part of the world. They relayed stories of crime and petty theft both on and off the water. One of the first things we were told was to stay well to the east of the two oil rigs that lie on the direct sailing course from Grenada to Trinidad. The Venezuelan drug runners are reported to hang around this vicinity and for sure we had no desire to bump into them. Leaving Grenada at night and sailing under the cover of darkness without nav lights was the way to do it, we’d been told. Friends who had ventured down here in years gone by did it that way and they made it safely, so we would follow their lead.

The eighty mile passage was uneventful and we arrived on the outskirts of the island around 8am. As we passed through the channel at the northwest end and past lovely Scotland Bay, (mental note to come back here and anchor one day), dolphins swam by and well fed grey pelicans circled overhead. Our first impressions of Trinidad were that of a lovely lush green island and indeed we were right.

It’s always amusing when you reflect on the image that you had in your mind of a place before you arrive there. Quite often it is a complete contrast to the reality. This was how it was once we rounded the next headland and ahead of us sprawled the industrial bay of Chaguaramas. It is a commercial bay at heart, full of trawlers, boat yards, tugs, barges and lots of large workboats that service the many oil and gas rigs dotted around the area. Not a sandy beach or resort to be seen. The hills behind the bay are thick with vegetation but the waterfront is just not what we had imagined. Nevertheless, for the next couple of weeks this was the bay that we would call home.

                    Chaguaramas bay

Our main reason for making the trip down here was to enjoy and soak up the atmosphere of Carnival. Trini, it is said, has the next best carnival after the mother of them all down in Rio de Janeiro. The main parade and the serious fun and fetes (parties) take place each year during the three days prior to the start of Lent but there are many lead up performances in the weeks before. So if you are planning to come here make the effort to get here early, it will definitely be worthwhile

Before departing Grenada we, as well as Bridget and Peter (White Rose), had made a number of reservations to carnival events through a fellow named Jessie James, who owns and operates Members only Maxi Taxi Service in Chaguaramas.  Jessie had been highly recommended by fellow cruisers and by the American based Seven Seas Cruising Association. He has been looking after the cruising community for over 20 years and does a terrific job. Whether it’s shopping trips, cinema outings, airport transfers, island tours or tickets to carnival events, Jessie is the man you want to deal with down here.

Now before I get into what we did down in Trini during carnival week, I better explain just what 'Trini speak", as we call it, actually is. It is a language unknown to the rest of the  modern world. Trinidadians do indeed speak English, albeit rather fast, but some of the terms they use are quite baffling to the untrained mind and ear . So the following list is what I would call, “Trini for Dummies” and if you are coming to Trinidad then you better get with the program.

  • Soca: rhythmical, repetitious and infectious beat of African type dance music, heard continuously during carnival.
  • Calypso: music with a political undertone.
  • Wine : To roll the hips to the beat of Soca music, almost the national dance of  the carnival parades.
  • Grine : To wine in very  close quarters and in sync with someone else.
  • Lime: To hang out with your friends (or to be unproductive).
  • Jump Up : To dance with lots of enthusiasm.
  • Chip : To rythmetically shuffle your feet to the beat of Soca.
  • Lash Out : To party hard.
  • Gone Sour : Annoying someone to the point that you no longer get invited to lime anymore.
  • Bake and Shark: A national food, two pieces of flat bread with fried shark pieces and heaps of condiments piled on top. Yum!
  • Doubles : Another national staple,  curried garbanzo beans tucked inside folded flatbread, mostly with the beans falling out. Messy!
  • The saying “One hand don’t clap” or as we’d say ”It takes two to tango”
  • Playing Mas : Carnival Tuesday, the event the nation  has waited a year for. This is the day that everyone gets dressed in glittering costumes, leave their inhibitions at home, and dance and party in the streets from morning till night, chipping, wining and grinning to the beat of the Soca trucks playing mega decibels of music. Ear plugs are recommended!
  • J’ourvert : Mud or dirty Mas. Starts around 4am on carnival Monday and  sees the streets packed  with revelers covered in mud, paint, and glitter, partying as they  welcome the start of carnival,  following the Soca and alcohol trucks through Trinidad’s  capital  city of Port of Spain.   

Having A Good Time

Our first performance was scheduled for the evening following our arrival. The “good clothes” were brought out from retirement in the cupboard as the night was a dress up affair of dinner and a show in the courtyard of the Normandy Hotel. The venue was lovely with huge trees adorned by fairy lights surrounding the stage. Although we had never before heard any of the renowned Calypso singer David Rudder’s songs, the concert under the stars proved to be a winner with the four of us. The toe tapping shoulder moving beat of his music was very catchy and towards the end of the concert everyone, including us, were on their feet swaying to the rhythm

David Rudder belting out a tune
Thursday  night we were out again, this time to watch the Small  and  Medium Pan Bands Finals and wow, was that a great night. There are 3 categories of bands. A small band has up to 45 players whilst a medium one has up to 100 players, with the large band having in excess of 120. We watched around 16 bands compete that evening and were delighted to be sitting only a few metres from the stage, again in an open air venue. The music and the energy that these bands put out could light up a small town.

The band players had lots of energy

This band was from  the Defence Force and they were excellent

Each band  practices hard for nearly a year in advance and know each note by heart, not a sheet of music in sight. It would have been fun to tour the various pan yards and  watch them practice in the raw so to speak, in the weeks  leading  up to carnival. This concert finished around 2am but our pickup time was 11pm, quite late enough for those old fossils that aren’t used to late night outings. Along the drive home we passed many a bar with locals spilling out in the streets . The music was booming out from huge speakers along the footpaths, they were all just limin and having a good time.

After spending the first two nights in Chaguaramas at anchor, Friday morning we moved GWTW into the wonderfully weather protected and peaceful environment of Crews Inn Marina. We had friends Jan and Murray arriving from Sydney the next afternoon and decided that it would be nice for them, and us, to be able to walk on and off the boat at our leisure and to enjoy the use of the marinas’ pool,  restaurants, wi-fi and supermarket. Indeed it is an indulgence that we rarely make these days.


Crews Inn Marina,a great place to chill out. 

Now that was bizzare, another GWTW tied up next to us. 
Over the next couple of days we spent the daylight hours vegging out by the pool and the nights attending pre carnival musical shows. Friday night had us  once again at the Normandy Hotel and enjoying an entertaining  show from  past Calypso Monarch Kings and Queens, one of whom was only 7 years old. This youngster had all  the panache of a 30 year old seasoned Las Vegas  performer. He was aiming for his second title of Junior Calypso King, which a few nights later he once again claimed 

 With only an hour to spare after collecting Jan and Murray from the airport we were off to another show, this time it was Panorama, the finals of the medium and large steel pan bands and the last was an event called Dimanche Gras. This dazzling costume show, combined with the finals of the  Calypso Kings and Queens, showcased a collection of the larger more spectacular outfits that would be paraded through the streets on carnival Tuesday. Some of these unbelievable glittering creatations  which take months to produce weigh 200 lbs and are up to 30 feet in diameter. Being so heavy they are often supported on wheels so that the human inside has some degree of maneuverability

The drive home that night really demonstrated to us just how hard the Trini’s like to party. We passed a couple of huge outdoor parties  that were just starting to warm up at around 1 am. Hundreds of people were pouring in to listen and to wine and grine  to the many live bands that were set  to entertain the masses. The traffic around these venues was very congested but amazingly orderly, making for a very slow trip back to the marina, luckily we had a comfy bus. Apparently for the serious party animals one of these parties was planned to run for 2 days non stop!
Monday was a designated  lay day for the crew of GWTW
We’d had 5 solid nights on the trot of  going out and getting home way past midnight . The stamina we once had for all this late night stuff just wasn’t there any more, so we spent our day off drinking coffees, reading papers and limin’ by the pool with our Aussie friends Jan and Murray.  Later in the arvo Bridget and Peter from White Rose joined us for a delicious poolside bbq and a lot more limi


Limin' by the pool with Jan ,Murray, Bridget & Peter

Carnival Tuesday, a picture paints a thousand words.

This was what we had sailed to Trinidad to see.

Our pickup from the marina  was early at 0630. As the tickets for the stands on Tuesday Mas are not available for pre purchase and they sell out fast, Jessie wanted to make sure that all his customers got a good seat, so that meant getting to the booth just after it opened. True to form Jessie got us there in time to have our pick of the seats. It was a great idea to purchase a seat as it’s a long hot day and a seat in the  shade is a must.
Being stamped in and out of the stand enclosure allowed us to wander around, take photos and join in with the revelers whenever we wanted. There were plenty of food and drink stalls on hand as well. The locals were all well equipped for the day, arriving with eskys full of food and chilled liquids, some groups going so far as setting up small marquees in the park . It looked like they were settling in for the long haul.

Around 8am the first of the bands and masqueraders started filing past. From that moment on they would chip, wine and grine their way along the parade route through the city until night fall.
The revelers come in all shapes and sizes, and no one cares what shape your body is as the whole day is all about letting go and having fun.

 Liam reckoned that every woman in Trinidad was in the parade that day, there had to be thousands of them. The dancers, boys and girls were decked out in some of the skimpiest costumes we’d ever seen. The rule is that you can be as close to naked as you want BUT you can’t be naked.  The atmosphere was so vibrant and  electric that it wasn’t long before we felt the urge to get down on the street and join in the fun. Annie, Liam and Bridget all got wined and grined by the revelers a couple of times as we bopped our heads to the infectious and repetitious tunes.

The soca music coming from the semi trailer trucks which accompanied all the dance troops  was deafening.

 Ginormous speakers boomed  out from not only the constant stream of  trucks but also  from nearby buildings, and they were rarely in sink. But no one seemed to care. After all, this was Carnival!!

The crowds were very well behaved and although the police had a presence on foot and horseback, they too seemed quite laid back . For the amount of people in the city that day and given the atmosphere and the amount of beverages consumed, no one seemed at all stressed. I guess that’s the Trini laid back way, ah limin’ as they say.  
Around 3pm that afternoon Jessie arrived to take us back to the marina .We could have elected to have had a later pick up at 5 pm, but to be honest by three we were pretty well carnivaled out. It had been a long day and the pool back at the marina was sounding very enticing.

Our guests were only staying with us for another couple of days so a few of us arranged a day tour to the Asa Wright nature reserve and the Caroni Swamp where we did a lot of bird watching. The tiny humming birds at the reserve were very cute and watching the huge flocks of beautiful Scarlet Ibis returning to swamp on dusk was just wonderful.

 Beautiful humming birds and below scarlet ibis

Having heard from various sources of the famed Bake and Shark at Richard’s café on Maracas beach, we hired a car and driver and the four of us, along with our appetites, piled in for a short tour of the scenic north coast. The road took us into the hills, through thick rainforest and along the rugged northern shoreline. There are some beautiful beaches on the north side of Trinidad with the most popular being Maracas. As we arrived at the beach we noticed the long queue at Richard’s so we asked the driver to continue on to the next beach, hoping that upon our return the queues may have been less. Stopping at Las Cuevas beach we stretched our legs and quenched our thirsts. Families of locals were barbequing in the shaded park while others were enjoying a cool swim in the lovely waters of the beach below. It could have been a scene straight out of Australia except that the skin tone of those around us was a dead giveaway that we were in Trinidad.

About an hour later we returned to Maracas beach and enjoyed our hearty lunch of Bake and Shark, simply delicious.

The queues were long but it was worth  the wait.

Jan and Murray were due to fly out in two days time so we left the marina the next morning and headed over to one of the quiet bays on Monos Island. Here we celebrated an early 60th birthday for Liam. It was a terrific night of laughter, barbequed lamb and lots of silly dancing to Soca music.

                        Liam celebrated in style with Moet Champange and BBQ roast lamb

Sunday afternoon arrived and it was time to say a sad goodbye to Jan and Murray. We had all had a great time during carnival week and now have lots of great memories and photos.    


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