Boat Repairs in Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Peake’s Yachting Service Travelift in Action

The craziness in the tropical heat is about to end. John’s boat working fever finally has calmed down. Bad Bunny looks really shiny and sharp from the rub rail down. Unfortunately according to John, this just means we have to do more work on the deck to make it all match! (?)

We have been staying at Peake’s Yachting Services (boatyard) for almost three months. We like the ample space and friendly employees in Peake’s Marine. Bunny got a new paint job (Hull, Mast, Bottom, and Dinghy), also miscellaneous repairs and upgrades (Gelcoat Repair, Welding, New Bow Protector, Dodger Vinyl Replacement, Cockpit Cushion Fabric, Jib Furler Parts, etc.) We now plan to explore Trinidad and visit the Leatherback Turtle hatching sight at night before we depart Chaguarmas, Trinidad.

Peake’s Yachting Service Travelift

The closest distance from Venezuela to Trinidad is about 7 miles (about 11 kilometers). Due to the Venezuelan Crisis, I originally was hesitant to come to Trinidad. John has been happy with his decision to repair Bunny in Trinidad. Chaguaramas offers extensive boating related businesses. It is like a one stop boating service zone. Some parts are expensive due to tax and shipping costs from another country. Most parts and materials are easily available. Locals said that the yachting business has slowed down compared with previous years.

Our paint job came out very satisfying. We hired Classic Yacht Services (the owner’s nick name is COW as he is a vegetarian.) His crew’s prep work was excellent and the painter, Newton is one of the best painters in Chaguaramas in the opinion of other painters in the yard. We hired Jonas for rigging (Trinidad Rigging) and we liked his meticulously planned work and how he delivered everything on time. We liked Ammsco machinery and their superb aluminum welding job on our mast head crane. We also had a great experience with the woodworker John Francois here in the Peake’s yard.

Bunny has been scheduled to go back to water today. Our 90 day stay expires soon. We plan to leave here in a week and not to renew our visa permit.

PS: We found a last-minute disturbing problem. Our mainsail is totally rotten. We can grab it and rip it by hand at any fold (two layers of cloth) without much force. We have used it for six years and sailed about 25,000 miles with it. We religiously covered the sail with the sunbrella cover when it is not being used. Both main sail and Genoa (Jib Sail) were made by North Sails about seven years ago. The Genoa is still good. The ‘Main Sail’ means so much because it is MAIN element on a SAIL boat. We want to know what if anything North Sails will do about this. While figuring out why and how, and also what company to order, we have decided sail to our next destination with just the Genoa (Jib Sail). Once we order a new mainsail, we will get it delivered to our future destination, most likely Colombia.

After Sanding


After Three Coats of Primer


After Two Coats of Base Paint


Yellow Stripe Water Line Painted


New Stainless Steel Bow Protector and Green Stripes Painted


After Bottom Paint


After Dinghy Primer


Ready for Welding on Mast Head


New Mast Head Crane Welded


New Code Zero Plate Welded and Painted on Mast Head


Old Electric Cables Before Replaced with New Ones


Parts and Lines Reassembled on Mast


Putting Mast Back on Bad Bunny

Posted in Boat Projects, Caribbean Islands, Sailings

Brightline, Fast Train Ride in Fort Lauderdale

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Brightline Train at Fort Lauderdale Station, Florida, USA

Taking a short break from the boatyard, I am visiting Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Flying from Trinidad to Fort Lauderdale is about a 3-4 hours trip, nonstop. Each time I visit my home and meet friends, I immediately see the fast-evolving technologies in our lives. It makes me feel somewhat outdated. However, I don’t mind living low-tech lifestyle because I have been practicing to live simple. I still prefer calling to texting on the phone.

Waiting Room, Brightline Fort Lauderdale Station, Florida, USA

It appears Fort Lauderdale is growing very fast. Traffic seems much heavier than before. One day, a friend recommended me to try the fast train ‘Brightline’ from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. I made a roundtrip to West Palm Beach. I was told that “Brightline” started to run a couple of months ago, only from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach for now. It will start to run from Fort Lauderdale to Miami in two months. Then, in two years, all the way to Orlando. Unfortunately, it will impact the boat traffic and boating industry in Fort Lauderdale. I cannot imagine how neighbors alongside the route handle the sound. I admit though I enjoyed riding the fast train.

I will be flying back to Trinidad tomorrow. It looks the boat projects will be completed in a month. Shortly after, our adventure will continue… I am looking forward to watching the sun, the stars, and the moon, not minding living low-tech lifestyle… It’s for sure though I miss friends and families, as always.

New and Clean Brightline Train, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA


Bicycle Rack in the Brightline Train, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Brightline West Palm Station, Florida, USA

Colorful Building in City Place, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

Movico Movie Theater, City Place, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

Street Near the Brightline West Palm Beach Station, Florida, USA

Posted in Florida, USA, USA East Coast

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 by accident, 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 (http://waterlandsuriname.com/w/). 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 – web.digicelsr.com (*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

Entry Clearance, Roti Curry Chicken and Saoto Javanese Soup in Suriname

Monument in the Memory of Surinamese Veterans in the Korean War, Paramaribo, Suriname

The Customs and Immigration clearance took us only a half day because we hired a special taxi service through the marina we are staying at. The taxi driver took us to the right locations: (1) the Maritime Authority Suriname (MAS), (2) Tourist Visa Issuing Agency, (3) Suriname National Bank (30 Euros or USD35 Tourist Visa Fee/Person), (4) Back to Tourist Visa Issuing Agency, and (5) Military Police/Border Patrol (for Passport Stamp).

Suriname is for me the most harmonious melting pot country among all the countries I have visited so far. Some people were originally from Africa, India, Java/Indonesia, China, and Europe. Life and business are all multi-cultural without barriers. People speak Dutch, Taki Taki (Surinamese Creole), and English.

Display of Five Prayer Times (Dawn Prayer, Noon Prayer, Afternoon Prayer, Sunset Prayer, and Night Prayer) in a Islam Mosque in Paramaribo, Suriname

For the next two days, we drove to the jungle and explored the capital city, Paramaribo. We had Chicken Curry Roti (24 Suriname Dollar, about USD 3) for three lunches in a row. My next favorite dish is ‘Saoto’ Soup (15 SRD, about USD 2) in Warungs (Small Family Owned Javanese Restaurant). ‘Saoto’ is a clear broth soup with fried potatoes, bean sprouts, and one boiled egg in it. It comes with rice I can add to the soup. Most places serve it with hot crushed habanero pepper sauce. Adding a pinch to the soup, it kicks the flavor.

One day, John rescued a Sloth (very slow animal) on the road. When he lifted the animal, it very slowly hissed at him. The other day, a neighboring boat in the marina, showed me some monkeys in a tree. One night, we were awoken by a strange loud sound. It was howler monkeys talking very loudly. We want to experience a lot of Suriname but we have been sick, flu or cold. Our rental car has been waiting for us in the parking lot for days. I finished my cough syrup and anti-biotics but am still sick. Maybe more ‘Saoto’ soup with a big spoonful of habanero hot sauce can help?

Mining in the Suriname River, Suriname


Jungle Lodge Transportation Boats, Atjoni, Suriname

Boats near Afobaka Dam, Suriname

Bridge near Afobaka Dam, Suriname

Suriname River View from Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo, Suriname

Buildings by Suriname River Waterfront, Paramaribo, Suriname

Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, The Biggest Wooden Structure in the Western Hemisphere, Paramaribo, Suriname

Islam Mosque (Left) and Jewish Synagogue (Right) in Paramaribo, Suriname

A Islam Mosque in Paramaribo, Suriname

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

Visiting Salut Islands in French Guiana and Sailing to the Suriname River

Ruins of Prison Building, Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

(January 9 to 10, 2018) The ruins of an old French Prison on the Salut Islands were interesting, especially the solitary confinement. I watched the old movie “Papillon”, as this is where he was imprisoned, and finally escaped. I understand many prisoners died because of the hardship in the tropics. Despite of seeing some cute jungle animals during a half day strolling on the island, I had enough of the island because it was hot and humid. We went to back to the boat.

S/V Bad Bunny Tied to a Yellow Mooring Ball in Salut Islands, French Guiana. Later, We were told all mooring balls are not for private yachts to use.

A loud horn woke us up when we just started taking a nap in preparation for night sailing to Suriname. Our plan was to leave at midnight. Looking out, there were two French Navy ships right next to us. They told us that the mooring balls are not for us to use, “Leave now or anchor somewhere!” We were using one of the yellow mooring balls at that time. Earlier that day, we saw another sailboat struggling to remove an old car tire from their anchor when they lifted the anchor up from the bottom. We are not anchoring here. We raised the sails up seven hours earlier than we planned.

At first it was beautiful night sailing and watching the shooting stars in the clear sky! Then, the wind died. We dropped the sails and motored. The next night, we arrived at the Suriname River channel at dark, midnight. Our original plan was to arrive here early in the morning. Going through the long entrance channel will be challenging at dark but we decided to try instead of waiting for daylight wandering at sea. When we were ready, there was a huge freighter ship coming to the channel. We talked to the Maritime Authority Suriname (MAS) on the VHF radio. They told us to wait so that the freighter goes first.

Sailing at Sunset from the Salut Islands, French Guiana to Suriname

The Moon didn’t come out until 4am. We made a 120% effort to look for channel markers at dark. Missing one, and a bad thing could happen. Being tired and tense, we wanted to drop an anchor at the river mouth but it was too rough. For the next six hours, we motored up the channel carefully and nervously, the GPS was perfectly right. Arriving at the Domburg anchorage in Suriname River, we couldn’t see any free anchoring space because of fog and darkness. Knowing the current is still behind us, we drove 6 more miles up the river into the jungle. When we arrived at the Waterland Marina Resort around 6am, it was still dark. Waiting for daybreak, we saw an empty spot and tied our boat up at the marina just before sunrise. What a relief! We managed to drive the boat for 42 miles into a jungle river in the dark. Feeling proud, I sensed all my nerves quickly relax. Everything can wait… The sun started coming up but I curled myself in my cabin and fell asleep in a second.

View of Devil’s Island from Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana


at Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

at Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Animal in Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Walking Trail, Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Fuel Delivery Truck Landing on one of the Salut Islands, French Guiana


Water Storages, Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings, South America

No Rental Car and No SIM Card in French Guiana

S/V Bad Bunny at Anchorage near Cannes Port, French Guiana

(January 10, 2018) Upon arrival in French Guiana, we cleared our entry at the Main Port (Degrad des Cannes). The Harbor Master near the anchorage kindly drove us to the French Customs Office. He also showed us a series of animal pictures we can look for in French Guiana: Jaguars, Monkeys, Birds, Snakes, and more. We were excited to meet the exotic jungle animals.

On Saturday, we hitchhiked to a town (Cayenne) to get a rental car. It turned out we needed an International Driver’s License. With a US Driver’s License, we couldn’t rent a car. We didn’t have enough time to get a SIM Card because they were closed for their long lunch hours. We browsed a busy colorful produce market (Fruits and Vegetables) and had lunch in a Chinese restaurant nearby. Interestingly, I see most local people were eating Vietnamese Noodle Soup ‘Pho’.

The marina and anchorage are in such a remote location, it is difficult to do anything without a car. Taxi ride might be an option but it cost 30 Euros (USD36) just to get a main town (Cayenne). Besides, jungle bugs started attacking me when there is no wind. I frequently sprayed bug repellent on me. I wore long sleeve shirts and long pants in this tropical humid hot weather. In the meantime, John is topless but bugs didn’t bother him.

On the following Monday, we cleared out at the Customs and had a nice local Creole lunch with French Wine near the port. We left the next day at 1am, timing with outgoing tide on the river, we lifted the anchor and drove the boat for 7 hours to Salut Islands (Iles de Salut, Salvation Islands). This is the island where the old movie “Papillion” was based on. After seeing the Salut Islands, we will sail to Suriname.

We often have pouring rain here. It cleaned our boat nicely washing off the salt and thick yellow dust from cruising in the Atlantic Islands for last six months. It is nice to walk and sit on the deck without feeling crispy salt or fine sandy dust.

Cannes Marina, Port de Degrad des Cannes, French Guiana


Marine Store in Cannes Port, French Guiana

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings, South America