Boat Repair and Life in a Boatyard in Trinidad

S/V Bad Bunny in Peake Yacht Services, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, The West Indies

We are living in a boatyard in Chaguaramas for now, to get “Bad Bunny” repaired and enhanced. This place is a main boat repair center in the Caribbean. All is easily accessible by walk or bike-ride here. We hired contractors for painting, pulling out the mast by a rigger and a crane, welding, repairing sails and new windows in the dodger, making a new stainless bow protector, and more. We haven’t seen the final results yet but we feel optimistic.

Life in a boatyard is somewhat dusty and sweaty. To improve it, we rented an A/C to stay cool and bug free when we stay inside of the boat. All of the plumbing system on the boat has been disconnected. No freezer. We keep drinks cool with ice.

The Calypso “Rum and Coca-Cola” was written, composed, and sung by Calypsonian Rupert Westmore Grant in Trinidad in 1943.

Not cooking, we often order take-out food from the excellent food vendors just outside the boatyard. Unlike John, I have tried a various type of Trinidadian food: Oxtail Soup, Cow-Heel Soup (literally), Provisions (Boiled Root Vegetables), Callaloo (made with okra and dasheen or water spinach), and Doubles (flat fried bread with curried chickpeas). I liked it all but I limited myself to eating the oxtail soup or cow-heel soup because of the high fat contents and cholesterol. I want to look good and healthy at my age.

Fresh Produce Market, Port of Spain, Trinidad, The West Indies

Every Saturday morning at 6am, some cruisers go to a produce market together in the capital city, Port of Spain. When returning, everyone carries a handful of vegetables and fruits.

Last Saturday, I bought the best Spinach Leaves from a happy Rastafarian man. The Spinach Miso Soup I made, transferred his happiness to me. One Saturday, I felt so sad seeing many baby hammerhead sharks for sale in the fish market. I was relieved I didn’t see them again on the next Saturday.

One day, we took a break for a bike-ride to Chaguaramas National Park. Going up the hill passing through the “Bamboo Cathedral” we were out of breath. On the way down, the sound of Howler Monkeys stopped us. Later, we visited a “U-Pick Vegetable Field”. In there, John met an ex-neighbor who used to live next to his house in Florida, decades ago. Wow…

We were also happy to meet some cruisers whom we had seen before here. We previously met a couple in Saint Croix and another couple in Curacao, about three years ago. On Sundays, a group of cruisers play Mexican Train Dominos. On Thursdays, we go to a Cruiser’s BBQ. I am off for two weeks visiting Fort Lauderdale, carrying a luggage full of stories to share if anyone is curious.

Bamboo Cathedral Trail in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, The West Indies

Macqueripe Beach, Chaguaramas National Park, Trinidad, The West Indies

U-Pick Farm in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, The West Indies

Historical Building in Port of Spain, Trinidad, The West Indies

Port of Spain, View from Fort George Historical Site, Trinidad, The West Indies

Posted in Boat Projects, Caribbean Islands, Sailings

Watch – Pulling the Mast out of S/V Bad Bunny

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Boat Projects, Caribbean Islands, Movies on YouTube, Sailings

Sailing from Suriname to Trinidad

Approaching Trinidad, The West Indies

(February 13 – 16, 2018) From Suriname (South America) to Chaguaramas in Trinidad, we sailed a total of 565 miles in 77 hours. On the second day, even including the slowdown for the autopilot repair, we still made our fastest daily trip, 184 miles.

Motoring out of the Suriname River, we scheduled our departure time with the tides. Not wanting an incoming current slowing us, we left the Waterland Marina at 6:50am, about two hours after Paramaribo high tide. It might have been better if we left one or 1.5 hours after the Paramaribo high tide, but we waited for daybreak. On that day, Paramaribo HIGH tide was 4:44am and LOW tide was 11:21am. Suriname River LOW tide (near the Pilot Boarding Place at sea), was 9:39am. As we motored about 38 miles out, we averaged 7.5 knots for five hours. By this time, the current had started to change. We were about at the right spot to raise the sails to sail to Chaguaramas in Trinidad.

We were able to see Venezuela (far right under the cloud-not so clear on the picture) entering the Chaguarmas Bay in Trinidad, The West Indies. The closest distance between two countries is seven miles.

After reading recent Venezuelan and security related episodes; I was against sailing to Trinidad. John was determined to have our boat repaired in Chaguaramas because Trinidad is THE main yacht repair center in the Caribbean. We have a lot to repair after sailing about 8,000 miles for 9 months (May 2017 to January 2018) in the Atlantic Islands from the USA: Bermuda, the Azores, Madeira Group, the Canary Islands, Cabo Verde, French Guiana, and Suriname.

Wind was predicted from the Northeast at 10 to 20 knots. We were very comfortable sailing on the first day making 7-9 knots with the follow current pushing us along. Later, we lowered the main sail to the first reef. The following day the wind speed became 20 to 30 knots with frequent squalls. During this time, our auto-pilot quit working. We lowered the main sail to the second reef and rolled in some of the jib sail. We heaved to, and started to troubleshoot. Heaving to, made the boat slowly move Southwest since the wind was coming from Northeast. We resumed our course and I decided to hand-steer. With sails on, I was able to steer in the right direction making 7 to 10 knots.

Less than two months ago, when we had the auto-pilot problem, we used the last (Only One) spare part (Compass Module). By troubleshooting the electrical wires and etc., it appeared the same part stopped working again. Not having the second spare part, we felt we were doomed: hand-steering the rest of the trip, for two plus days in squally weather. Giving up troubleshooting and being ready for hand-steering, John pushed the auto-pilot clutch engagement. At that time, we heard a sound of a metal plate falling off. “Did you hear that?” John asked. “Yes! That might be a good sign because we might be able to fix it.”

It was raining. We emptied a cockpit locker to crawl down under and behind the cockpit space to check the sound. When John came out from the tiny storage hole, he brought broken screws. The plate was supposed to be held by four screws. However, it was held by one screw and another half broken one. The other two were gone. John found two extra screw of the same size and attached the plate. It was not possible to remove the half broken screw. Once the plate was attached, we tested the autopilot. It started working. “It will let us go to Trinidad for now.” John said.

The third day, wind dropped to 15 to 20 knots, no more squalls. We sailed comfortably. Nights were pitch-dark as Sun and Moon rose and set about the same time. Our charts have not been updated. Knowing that there was lots of new petroleum development in this area, we frequently checked the area. We found out that the oil rigging platforms show on AIS display and are VERY well illuminated. The sea was a bit rough, about 6 to 10 feet. We made sure to sail about 100 plus miles away from the Venezuelan coast.

Trinidad is an English speaking country. I was feeling secure. As we approached the Trinidad coast we started seeing lots of freighters on our AIS display and listened to talks in English on the VHF channel 16. Sailing in the Atlantic Islands, we mostly listened to Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Dutch speaking only. I felt like I was coming home. The Caribbean is almost like the USA’s backyard.

PS: After arriving in Trinidad, John questioned the first auto-pilot problem which we had two months ago. It turned out the old compass module is working fine. It must have been the clutch plate problem also. We will soon have two spare compass modules: The working old one and the new one delivered to a friend’s house in Florida.

Coast Guard Station in Chaguarmas, Trinidad, The West Indies

The Customs and Immigration Office is between the lighthouse (left) and the blue roof building (right) in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, The West Indies

Many Boatyards on the shore in Chaguarmas, Trinidad, The West Indies

Chaguaramas Mooring Field and Anchorage, Trinidad, The West Indies

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Boat Projects, Caribbean Islands, Sailings, South America

Relaxing in Waterland Marina in the Jungle and Driving in Suriname

Arya Dewaker Hindu temple, Paramaribo, Suriname, South America

Suriname is not well-known as a travel destination yet. It is an easy going country. A massive river flows through it, and thick green forest are all over Suriname. It offers jungle tours and a unique mixed cultural experience. Most of the sailboats and travelers are from the Netherlands.

Driving on the left side of the road was new thing for us. We managed quite well even while avoiding lots of pot holes and slowly driving over the Drumpels (Speed Bumps). With a non-Suriname Driver’s License, we can drive for two weeks. John applied for a ‘Suriname Driving Permit’ at the Nieuwe Haven Police Station near Paramaribo. To issue one, the official asked for a copy of the passport, a copy of the entry stamp on the passport, and a copy of US Driver’s License. It cost 150 Suriname Dollars (about USD21) and supposedly takes about one week.

One of the Resort Houses in Waterland Resort Marina, Suriname, South America

We have been staying in the Waterland Resort Marina, the only marina in Suriname. We simply wanted to relax here after crossing the Atlantic Ocean twice last year. Being in a marina, life gets easy. When we get bored, we visited forts, the market, jungle, plantations, and Paramaribo city.

Waterland Marina is a well-built resort in the jungle, not far from the city. Just walking in the resort and nearby, I hear the beautiful sounds of many animals either calling to each other or simply moving around. One day, during my early morning walk, I felt water dripping from the trees above me. I looked up and saw a bunch of monkeys crossing from one tree to another making a slow wave in the forest. They were small, white-faced and watched me curiously. Another day, we saw an otter crossing the road. One morning, while walking near the marina, I heard the sound of honey bees and smelled of the honey from the forest. I was later told that Suriname honey is purely natural. I will get some before we leave Suriname.

Sunrise View from Waterland Resort Marina, Suriname, South America

Most visitors take a jungle tour and stay in the jungle for a couple of nights. They hunt Caimans that later get served as a meal. We didn’t’ take a jungle overnight tour, but we did eat some grilled Caiman that the locals called “Water Chicken”. I am happy just staying in the marina and identifying with the small jungle moments in the area. Getting up in the morning and watching the tranquil sunrise over the river has been a joy here.

Boats at Waterland Resort Marina, Suriname, South America

Lotus Plants at Fort Nieuw-Amsterdam, Suriname, South America

Water Plant at Fort Nieuw-Amsterdam, Suriname, South America

Old Light Ship Wreck at Fort Nieuw-Amsterdam, Suriname, South America

Wooden Building at Fort Nieuw-Amsterdam, Suriname, South America

Neighboring House Dog and Poppies near Waterland Resort Marina, Suriname, South America

Suriname Apples; it is about strawberry size and tastes somewhat apple flavor with bitterness, not as sweet as regular apples.

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Caribbean Islands, Sailings, South America

Internet SIM Card in Suriname – Digicel Prepaid SIM Card

Digicel SIM Card in Suriname, South America

(January – February 2018) In Suriname, I bought a SIM Card from the Digicel store in Paramaribo, Capital of Suriname. SIM Card cost 30 Suriname Dollars (about USD4) and 6GB data cost 153 Suriname Dollars (about USD21) which is good for 30 days. I paid it by US Dollars and received change in Suriname Dollars. The store person setup my phone. There was no waiting line in the store.

One of the Digicel SIM Card Stores in Paramaribo, Suriname, South America

We stayed in the Waterland Resort Marina near Domburg ( There is Wi-Fi available at the outdoor café/restaurant in the marina. This Wi-Fi speed was good but the connection speed from the boat was not fast enough for me.

I bought my SIM Card to use it on the boat. The speed of my Digicel SIM card was slow. It was like 2G speed. It worked okay before 7am but was too slow to use starting around 7am until late at night. I spoke to a store person about the slow connection speed. They told me that they are aware of the slow speed issue. They are working on the improvement of speed. It is interesting to note that all over the main highway that there are signs that say Digicel 4g. Maybe soon, but definitely not now.

***Helpful Notes***

  • APN (Access Point Name) Setup: Name – digicel (*all lower case), APN – (*all lower case)
  • Data Balance Check Code: *120*3#send
  • Money Balance Check Code: *120#send

List of Data Plan Price (in Suriname Dollars) and Activation Codes, Suriname, South America

Posted in Internet Abroad, South America