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Dec '96   July '97   January '98   July '98   March '99   June 2000

January '98

Tobago, where we started our summer was a completely delightful island. It was our first chance to really just stay in one spot for awhile after our hasty trip south through the Caribbean Islands to beat the start of hurricane season. Tobago has very little tourism and the people there were the most genuinely friendly we have encountered anywhere. They all took such pride in their island that everyone we met went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. Expecting nothing in return they just wanted to treat visitors properly. The western portion of Tobago is flat and has several nice anchorages. Twice we saw the "Green Flash" - an atmospheric phenomenon that only occurs occasionally when the horizon is completely clear. Just at sunset as the very last bit of the sun drops below the horizon it is sometimes possible for just a millisecond to see a flash of bright green. Some sailors look for it for years without seeing it, but we have been lucky to see it several times. The legend says you can only see it if you have met your true love. Several mornings we got up early and Dee went to a nearby hotel to take part in yoga classes while Rob helped the local fisherman pull in their huge nets full of baitfish. After a few weeks here we proceeded to the mountainous eastern end which is a tropical rainforest. Our favorite village, Charlotteville, was on the east end of the island at the end of a dead-end road. Here we settled in for several weeks, joined by our friend Muriel Leff visiting from Denver. Ventana was anchored just a few hundred feet from a steep cliff wall of rainforest canopy- in the mornings we watched the parrots in the trees and in the evenings we saw the fireflies like twinkling miniature stars. Hiking in the rainforest and bird watching soon became favorite pastimes. Trinidad & Tobago (one country, two islands) are well know as destinations for bird watchers. Dee brought out her bird books and became quite adept at identifying the multi-colored species we spotted. Common Green parrots, bright yellow Oropendulas and bananaquits, coco ricos, blue mot mots, and several more. Tobago is also well known for its scuba diving, particularly drift dives where you let the current take you along while the dive boat follows on the surface. We were joined for several of these dives by Lee & Dee from About Time. The first drift dive went very well as we went along in the 1-2 knot current and saw sharks, moray eels, stone fish, rays, cleaner shrimp, and large angelfish. A few days later we tried another dive with several divers from Europe and a photographer from a European dive magazine. The reef was called Diver's Dream, but it nearly turned into divers nightmare for some of our group. The current seemed a bit strong at first, then as we approached the reef it was pulling us along at over 5 knots. When our safety line snagged a reef, it was torn from the hands of the dive master and our group quickly was dispersed as the current pulled some of us to the north side of the reef and others to the south. I grabbed a rock to hold on and look around for the others but as I turned my head the force of the current was so strong it peeled my mask right off my face. I quickly let go of the rock and replaced my mask. Fortunately everyone surfaced immediately and we regrouped at the dive boat without loosing anyone. it could have become a very dangerous situation but fortunately it all ended well. The dive normally takes 30 minutes to drift along the reef and we had done it in 12 minutes That week the annual Tobago Heritage Festival was in full swing and we saw wonderful African style dancing and heard lots of steel pan and soca music. The final night after a festival dance performance we joined a "flambeau" parade at midnight where hundreds of revelers all carrying torches made from a length of bamboo filled with kerosene, fill the streets and dance to the music of steel bands. We also saw the "Moko Jumbies." Jumbies are a Caribbean version of "the boogeyman" and the Moko Jumbies are 15 foot tall wildly costumed dancers on stilts who can manage, wild gyrations oblivious to the fact that the ground is a long way below them. Another evening we went to "Sunday School" a weekly party that starts at 8 p.m. Sunday night and goes until dawn on Monday morning. It was tough for us and we didn't even have to get up to work the next day. We spent two months in Tobago and could have spent more but we had several boat repair projects that needed doing and Tobago has no marine facilities at all. We left Tobago early one morning and enjoyed a delightful downwind sail with our spinnaker flying as we headed for Trinidad. Our first anchorage in Trinidad was a beautiful bay we had all to ourselves and one comer of the bay had a freshwater waterfall cascading right down into the ocean. We took our dinghy (our small motorized raft) right under the falls and enjoyed unlimited freshwater showers right in the dinghy- it was heavenly. The next morning we pulled up our anchor to depart but just as the anchor came aboard Rob heard a loud snap as the anchor shackle broke dropping our 55 lb (and $ 600) anchor into the bay without the chain attached. Donning scuba tanks Rob spent over an hour scouring the bottom in 10 foot visibility and strong currents to no avail. In a few minutes our delightful anchorage had turned into a miserable spot for us. When the scuba tank was empty we departed for Chaguaramas and Port of Spain, the main cities in Trinidad, minus our primary anchor. In Chaguaramas we spent three difficult weeks alongside a dock trying to fix some ongoing problems on the boat and have some woodwork done. Because the dock we were on was behind some buildings we had no breeze and the cabin temperature soared to 95 degrees each day. Often the decks were too hot to walk on without shoes. It seemed each time we fixed one thing on the boat then two more broke. Our "to do" lists were growing not shrinking, and meantime we were spending money like water at the boat supply stores. Finally we departed the docks with our 2 scuba tanks, 5 borrowed tanks, hundreds of feet of search fine and some underwater search techniques suggested by dive instructors on another boat. We headed back to La Vache Bay to look for our anchor again. When we had left 3 weeks earlier we had dropped a small dinghy anchor attached to a float to mark the spot we thought the big anchor should be. Unfortunately when we arrived some local fisherman had taken our float and dinghy anchor. Now finding the exact spot to start our search would be even more difficult. However using a drawing of the bay Dee had made we gave it our best guess and dropped our
spare anchor and went overboard to start searching. The visibility again was terrible and the current almost too much to swim against, but Rob began searching while Dee controlled the search rope to which Rob was attached. In only 10 minutes we found the anchor- Hooray- after all our preparations it was almost too easy. We gratefully surfaced and an hour later had everything back aboard and in its place. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying what we once again considered a truly delightful deserted anchorage. Just before sunset we saw another boat heading into the bay. We were going to have to share our private paradise with someone else. As the boat drew near we realized it was About Time and so we spent a wonderful and unexpected evening with close friends we had not seen for several weeks. Dee on About Time even managed to pull out lox and bagels from her deep freeze for an impromptu deli dinner. Returning to Trinidad we immersed ourselves in the social scene. Many boaters spend 5 - 6 months a year in Trinidad as it's out of the hurricane belt, while others came here years ago and never left. Consequently there is a very large contingent of US, Canadian and European cruisers and organized trips for everything from bird watching to concerts and plays to the 6 am Saturday market. For us one of the highlights was joining the local Trinidadian hiking club and going on several of their hikes in the rainforest to wonderful waterfalls. Most of these hikes were far off any tourist trails and even the hiking club usually hired a local who knew that particular valley. These trips provided a wonderful opportunity to see some spectacular areas and also spend quality time with the locals. We also joined a local health club and enjoyed the opportunity to get some regular structured exercise, Dee took advantage of the wonderful fabric stores to have some custom bedspreads and pillows done for the boat. She also spent one day- each week working with kids at a local orphanage.  In the middle of our two month stay there Dee left for a week trip to the US and a visit with her step mom Anne and sisters in Ohio. Meanwhile Rob continued to spend much of his time on boat repairs which seemed to plague us. We developed a love hate relationship with Trinidad. We love the truly kind and friendly people and reasonable prices in town, yet we hate the constant boat problems and overpriced boat services and boat parts. As we spent so much time in Trinidad we made some great friends who we will keep in touch with as we all continue to cruise in the Caribbean or elsewhere. One night aboard Ventana was Colorado night as we had a couple from Breckenridge and one from Gunnison over for dinner. Trinidad is the birthplace of the "steel pan" a type of musical instrument one hears throughout the Caribbean. In the 1930's when oil was first discovered in Trinidad the locals took the empty 55 gallon drums and perfected a technique for turning them into instruments with up to 20 notes. There are several sizes of pans, a tenor pan is made from 1/3 of a 55 gallon drum while a bass pan is made from 6 full size 55 gal. drums. An orchestra may have 20-30 or more pans and no other instruments yet when you hear them play something like Beethoven or Pachabell or even pop tunes you would swear you are hearing strings, brass and woodwind instruments. Toward the end of our stay we toured Trinidad once by air with Rob as the pilot and a second time via rental car. Our car itinerary was planned around bird watching. In the morning we drove to the Asa Wright bird sanctuary where we saw an unbelievable kaleidoscope of colors on the birds that we viewed from only 15 feet as they came to feeders in the wild. That afternoon we went via small boat to witness the daily sunset ritual as thousands of scarlet ibis return each night to one single island among thousands of similar islands in the mangrove swamp. The scarlet ibis are a red color so bright that it is almost impossible to believe it exists in nature. On November 2nd we were joined by friends Phil & Karen Freedman from Vail. Phil & Karen had visited Ventana in the Bahamas and are experienced sailors. They had come down to spend time with us and experience their first offshore ocean passage. With them aboard we cleared Trinidad customs and departed for a 4 day- 500 mile trip north to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. At times the wind was too light and we motored but most of the trip was delightful sailing with beautiful moonlight nights and sunny warm days. In St. Croix we were hosted by friends Chris & Debbie Schrieber who we had met while cruising the Bahamas and who now live there. No sooner had Phil & Karen jumped in a taxi for the airport than we took off for a short sail to Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands to meet our friends Patty Wheeler and Billy Luchese from Aspen who were on a charter boat. A few days later we were in Tortola to meet the arrival of the Caribbean 1500, a cruising rally from the US to the Virgin Islands, in which we had previously participated. For us it was like old home week as we greeted many friends we had not seen in months or years. Later the same week our next guests, Kirby & Melodie Lloyd from Evergreen were aboard for a week of cruising the British Virgin Islands. The highpoint of the week was when Kirby caught a 10 lb. tuna the day before Thanksgiving. Fresh grilled tuna steaks replaced turkey on our menu for the big day. December was spent scuba diving throughout the Virgin Islands, often with our friends Cathy and Mark aboard Mr. Mustache and joined by the Tilley family aboard a charter boat. For Christmas we joined about 150 cruisers for a big Christmas potluck on the beach at St. John. Following that was the traditional New Year's Eve blowout at Foxy's Bar on Jost Van Dyke. By late January we will be headed for St. Martin then slowly working our way back south to Trinidad and Tobago. By late summer or fall we will continue on to Venezuela with some plans to explore the interior of South America before proceeding to Aruba and Bonaire.

Our lives are wonderful and uncomplicated and we spend the better part of each day outdoors interacting with nature. We occasionally miss things we would be doing "back home", but are more than compensated by the wonderful adventures that await us daily. We do miss our friends and are always pleased when we get visitors. Our hope is that you will make your own dreams come true in 1998.
All the best. 
Rob & Dee

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