Greetings from Trinidad!

  
April 2006

 

 

          Barbados West Indies

 

The morning after our arrival in Barbados we cleared Customs and Immigration and immediately set to work on Max.  One hour later he was good as new and raring to steer again. It was much easier to repair him from the dinghy in a calm harbour. We originally planed to stay only a day or so but the wind began to howl and for the next two weeks there was so much wind that everyone stayed put! Throughout the entire island chain NO ONE even attempted to go anywhere. So we settled in to explore Barbados.

Barbados is such a delightfully friendly country but outrageously expensive! For example, a KFC three-piece meal was $19.00 US and local beer was $4.00. If you looked around and found the local places it was much more affordable but still expensive.

The boats in the anchorage were rockin´ and rollin´ but as usual because of our shallow draft we were able to anchor closer to the beach out of the swell. We spoke to Iolanthe every night on the short wave radio. They had steady 30 knots astern and big seas. Don said he was just trying to ”hold her at five knots and not stress her too much.”  Those who followed two weeks after us and were still at sea were truly getting hammered. Big wind, huge seas and cross seas seemed to be the rule for this season. There were several dismastings and a shocking number of steering and rudder failures. One 44 footer was even abandoned in mid-ocean due to loss of the rudder. Day after day the most experienced sailors we knew arrived in Barbados truly shaken. Iolanthe had a very fast passage but it was 24 days of constant foul weather gear and a cockpit full of water. They did not raise the mainsail even once. It was an interesting season.

    

   Iolanthe and Zephyris and

      Entracte off to explore

              Barbados.

Once the wind dropped back to a reasonable 20 knots Iolanthe, Zephyris, and Entr´acte moved on to Tobago. Unfortunately the northern anchorage was too rolly because of the swell but we did spend a delightful week in Scarborough. We hired a taxi to take a tour of the island. It turned out that our driver Hans was in love with the alto saxophone. It was his constant companion in the taxi and he would practice on the beach in between customers. We hired him to take us to the laundromat the next day. He dropped us off but came back to pick us up a bit early before the dryer cycle was complete. While we all waited for the dryer, he took out his sax and we passed the time teaching him some music theory. Hans was a quick study. He absorbed as much in one hour as we used to cover in one year when we were teaching. Only in the West Indies could you find such a sight, the dryers turning and the patrons happily dancing to the sound of the Blues Scales Soka Style! Just like Johnny Apple Seed, we seem to be traveling the world teaching saxophone and music theory to the masses.

Unfortunately, Hans was missing one finger on his left hand so Ed, ever the teacher, came up with an appliance to attach to the saxophone key which made it possible to play the horn in the normal way. The very next day found Ellen, Ed and Hans on stage in church playing on “Tobago Live Radio” to publicize the “Crusade to Egypt” which was opening that night.

                                                    

     Ellen and Hans warming                                                                 Tobago Live radio

        up before the show.                                                                               broadcast.

Could we stay a bit longer and do more theory and come back to play in the church? Unfortunately we were running late. It was now February and we wanted to be in Trinidad to prepare for Carnival.

Like New Orleans and Mardi Gras, the country of “Trinidad and Tobago” is synonymous with Carnival. Like New Orleans it begins on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Its reputation as a grand event is world famous and second only to the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Unlike Semana Santa and Feria that last a week, Carnival is only three nights, Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday), J´Ouvert( on Monday), and Carnival itself(on Tuesday), but there are a myriad of pre-Carnival concerts, competitions and activities that run for most of February leading up to the main event. To fully enjoy the Carnival experience these should not be missed.

As we sailed through Boca Grande Channel the first boat we saw was “Walkabout.”  We had not seen them since the Bahamas back in 2002.   They had been in Trinidad since 2003 and were all set to leave for Venezuela but stayed in Trinidad a month longer than planned just to await our arrival. With “Walkabout” our lives just exploded!  Ellie and Norm spared no energy in showing us around and pointing us in the right direction so we could get the most out of Carnival. It was a wild week and a half as we toured the island, visited the Pan Yards and ate ourselves into oblivion! Sadly, they could not stay for this year´s event because their visa was expiring any minute and it was time for them to move on.

 

 

      

                                                                   

     Norm and Ellie gave us a tour                                                                         Ellen and Ellie making ravioli

                          of the                                                                                                      aboard Walkabout.

       Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary. 


 

                                                                

                           Typical Carnaval                                                             His and hers versions of 

                             costumes, by the                                                                 this Roman theme.

                        thousands

The concerts and contests were outrageous. Of course there was the steel drum competition, so much in contrast to most experience of playing music, “Thou shalt NOT smile when thou playest!” These bands smiled, laughed, and danced through their pieces and they were SUPERB! There was the limbo contest . No one ever fell down and the hit was without doubt a “Big Bottom Big Breasted Gal” that no one ever thought would fit under the pole. She brought the audience screaming to its feet with tears in their eyes! Our favorite was “Ex-Tempo.” Eight contestants each pick a topic out of a hat. As soon as the MC reads the topic, the band begins to play pre-arranged songs and the contestant must make up, on the spot, four verses of a song based on topics of local concern such as “Mind Your Children” or “Where Has All The Money Gone?” As each contestant sang in a different key, the band was required to play the arrangement in all keys. We found the musicianship throughout the West Indies to be more than outstanding

 

Of course a major event here was the costume competition. The costumes were similar in size and scope to the pasos of Sevilla except that they were operated by only one person. They were indeed grand in size: 25 feet tall, 20 feet wide and over 30 feet long. They were allowed a maximum of three small supporting wheels and were festooned with lights, feathers and believe it or not, FIREWORKS! They were all privately owned and home built by friends of the competitor at a cost of up to $100,000. Yes, there was prize money but the prize never equaled the cost of the costume. Just like in Sevilla, they do it because THEY WANT TO !(

                                                               

                Carnaval Queen.                                                          Spectacular at night with                           It´s not as easy as it looks them                                        Theres a person there                                                         lights and fireworks from                              and theymade them dance

                somewhere.                                                                               the eyes.                                                          as well!

                                                                                               

 The actual Carnival itself begins with J´Ouvert (Opening or Daybreak).  The object of this parade is to chase away the evil spirits in preparation for Lent, the time of penance. It begins on Lundi Gras (Monday morning at 02:00, when else) The next two days are referred to as Bachanal, when paraders wear some sort of “brief” next to nothing and cover their bodies with a combination of paint and MUD! This “procession” is accompanied by an 18 wheeler sound system that plays Carnival music constantly at a decibel level to chase away ALL SPIRITS, evil or otherwise. It cannot be described! Each “Band,” as in band of paraders, has its own sound system, food and drink truck, security force and replacement paint and mud wagon, believe it! We were surprised at the number of participants and Bands and further surprised that this was NOT a spectator event. You either participate or you do not go. There is no in between. We joined the Trevor Howard Band. We tried to be messy, we really did but we were definitely out done many times over. There was mud and paint flying everywhere! No one escapes!

                                                                

        Our J´Ouvert costume                         So much for clean costumes!                      Evil spirits begone!              No evil spirits for this guy!

           “before the mud

                                                     

                    Un unlimited supply of mud.                                Ellen with Marijo from                 Our guide and savior          

                                                                                                                  Odysseia.                               Maxi Taxi driver             

Jessie James—his real name!

J´Ouvert ends on Tuesday morning at 11:00 AM and IMMEDIATELY everyone showers off the mud and paint (on the street) and changes into their “Real” expensive costumes to “Play Mas.”

                                                                           

                   Post J´Ouvert, Jessie                                          Before the Shower and…..                                           After! Same gal,                                                                bagged each of us before                                                                                                                                        Honest!

                    we could enter his taxi.

This is a real Bachanal in every sense. The Masqueraders parade and dance non-stop through Port of Spain. The word “parade” is quite an understatement. It really boils down to non-stop simulated sex by tens of thousands of scantily clad men and women. The name of the game was to take your bum and shake it fast and shake it slow. The words to the Carnival songs say it all

 “O-O-O-O- Roll it gal, Roll it gal!”  Or

“I saw the way you rolled it and knew you were for me.

Rooooll, roll it all for me! Don´t stop!”

Or

“I want a big bottom gal!”

And roll it they did! Just like Semana Santa, they begin to train early. From five years old to 85, all shapes and sizes, everybody had mastered the art of “rollin.” They rolled it fast and rolled it slow. And they could “Roll that bum around!” It seemed to be the national sport! This spectacle continues until midnight Tuesday when it abruptly ends, as it is now Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

                                                                      

                           Feathers everywhere!                                                  Thijn and Paul from                                     Marijo from Odysseia

                                                                                                                     Odysseia find new                                        tries on a head dress.

                                 friends.       

We decided that Carnival was actually the flip side of the Semana Santa coin. We further came to the conclusion that to cover ALL of the bases the thing to do would be participate in Carnival and do all the sinning here then immediately hop on a plane to Sevilla and do the penance during Semana Santa and end with the dancing of Feria, without all that mud. And that is exactly what we did, well, sort of!

Our original plan was to leave Trinidad after Carnival and sail up island to Martinique and the Grenadines. Instead, we found ourselves flying to NY. There was a problem with our house rental that had to be addressed immediately and we determined that it would be easier for us to return and sort it out. While in NY we received an invitation from the family Suarez to return to Sevilla for this years Feria. Their son and our dear friend the Spanish artist Ricardo Suarez was the designer of this Feria´s Main Portada, a real honor. As if this were not enough, Feria also co-incided with the wedding of Dolores and Jose´s daughter Auxiliadora.. What a Fiesta this was going to be!

Flights from NY to Sevilla were actually quite affordable so off we went! We did miss Semana Santa but more than made up for it at Feria. Ricardo´s parents Dolores and Jose invited us to be guests in their home and we returned daily to Club Nautico to enjoy Feria with all of our old friends who welcomed us with open arms. As we went through the week of Feria we kept laughing as we tried to picture the Sevillanos reaction to all that Carnival MUD!

                                                                                                  

                                                                                                      Mike, Charlie and Baby G

    “Play Mas!”

 

The story of this return to Sevilla could fill an entire book. Let us just say that sometimes you CAN go back! We just do not have the words to describe the welcome we received from everyone. And yes, La Portada was indeed spectacular!

 

                                                                    

                                   Back at Club Nautico                                                Proud parents                                  La Toda Familia de Suarez

                                           in Sevilla.                                                   Dolores and Jose and                            Raquel, Ricardo,Jose,Auxi,

                               The Fiesta begins again!                                La Portada designed by Ricardo.                     Dolores, Fernando

 

A final fabulous surprise was to meet former student Jen Kuhn from our teaching days. She played clarinet in our band and orchestra when we taught music at Nanuet. Jen was attending school in Sevilla for this spring semester. We all got together at Club Nautico, walked the casetas of Feria and danced the Sevillana in the streets. It was a wonderful reunion and a great end to a wonderful visit.

                       

                            Feria with former

                                student Jen                     

        

With the end of Feria we returned briefly to NY to put the finishing touches on our house but we had to return to Trinidad. Because of the house problem we had left there somewhat abruptly and needed to return to set Entr´acte up for the coming hurricane season. So we were now members of the Jet Set. We feel as though we are traveling more air miles now than when we were in the music business.

Entr´acte is now out of the water, “on the hard,” in Trinidad for the hurricane season. She has been sailed hard for four years and needs to relax and dry out for a bit. We will take this time to do another re-fit before we embark on the next phase of our journey.

               

                    Entr´acte in Trinidad is

                        treated to Gelcoat

                          after 25 years.

We are in Arizona undergoing our own re-fit. Ellen´s mother broke her arm one week before we arrived. This changed the beginning of the visit to us becoming care givers. After a month she is doing fine and we can hit the gym and the swimming pool regularly. Between Carnival and Feria we gained so much weight it is obscene! We are severely rationing our food! There are visits to various doctors for check ups, and dentists for further maintenance. We can now finally up date our web site, catch up on our writing and hopefully complete our second video project. And of course there are numerous boat projects that we brought with us to repair or re-make while here. It is certainly a busy time.

                        

                             A new set of f Rudder cheeks

                                       for Entr´acte.

This will be the longest we have been in a house in four years and in a strange way, we are enjoying the decadent life. We receive daily e-mails from friends who have just passed through the Panama Canal or “just crossed the Equator an hour ago,” and we are envious. But our eye is still on the distant horizon. So for all of you out there, please stay tuned for further developments.

 

Ellen and Ed