Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Well it is fixed and back in place and normal service has been resumed.

Al Bernadine took a totally f****d starter and rebuilt it with a new rotor rewound field coil and a new solenoid.

Now the engine on Elephants Child was made 34 years ago in Japan to a design by Perkins and used a US made starter that also has not been made for many many years.

So what were the chances of finding spares on this tiny island ? Somewhere between small and zero, I thought but Al had them in stock.

We are at anchor just now off St Georges and are waiting for a favourable wind to go North.

So tomorrow we will go and snorkle the underwater statue park.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The Cruisers and the folks at Clarkes Court Bay Marina organised a splendid Thanks giving dinner last Thursday. The marina did the turkey and stuffing and cruisers bought a dish to share.

Well we were totally stuffed to the gills when we made our way back out to Elephants Child. From guacamole dip to pumpkin pie we had the lot. Not to mention Judy's brownies to finish with.

But next day it was clean up the boat and get ready to head north as the forecast was good over the weekend then showed very light winds for a week or so. We anchored off St Georges did our last minute big shop at the supermarket and prepared to go into to pick up water. St Georges being the last good supermarket and cheap good water for some islands.

Well we tried but the starter just went click, no whirr. After checking all the connections and encouraging it with a tap or two I bit the bullet and removed it so I could check the brushes.

When I took the end cap off my heart sank. It was a mass of rust inside and it was clear that the rotor had spun some of the solder joints.

Now I have a Japanese Perkins 4.154 fitted in 1978 and not made in great numbers and not at all since the mid 80s. A trawl on the internet showed the starter to be long out of production.

The local cruisers VHF net threw up a guy by the name of Al Bernadine in Gouave as being the best starter repair man on the island.

I took it up to him more in hope than expectation as a quick diagnostic check with a resistance meter showed that the rotor was toast and at least one of the field coils had a short.

Well Al confirmed my worst fears, the rotor was beyond repair, the field winding was shorted out and the solenoid although producing a healthy click also needed attention and possible replacement.

At this point I though that my options lay in the USA maybe fiding a used one and getting it air freighted down but Al " You know I think I have a rotor for this in stock. " Now Al's workshop will not win any awards for the world's tidiest work space but he went right to a shelf, ran his finger down a pile of boxes and pulled one out. On opening it up and comparing it with the rusty burnt out original it was clear that we did have a new rotor, wonder of wonders!

Al had said that he would have to rewind and repot the field winding so it would be a day or two before I could get it back.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


We snorkled the reef off Hog Island and I spotted a rather ugly fish pretending to be invisible on the bottom. It was a fish that I had never seen before and was curious as to what it might be.

Well it turns out to be a STONEFISH a nasty little bugger.

The stonefish is considered the most dangerous fish in the world. Thirteen poisoned spines coming from their dorsal fin can inject highly dangerous venom. The reef stonefish can be identified from the estuary stonefish by its sunken eyes opposed to the elevated eyes of the estuary dwelling stonefish. Stonefish camouflage very well into their surroundings, and can be mistaken for rocks. They are brown and can have yellow, orange and/or red patches. They are usually 35cm but have been recorded at just under a meter long. Care should be taken not to step on these fish and to leave them alone. If you are walking along a rocky shore in the water wear shoes and be careful. Sever pain follows the attack and the stonefish’s venom has been accused of causing the death of many islanders

Another reminder to wear shoes when swimming off the beach or anytime you might put your feet down.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


When you live aboard a boat your senses get tuned to the ebb and flow of water, the normal sounds of the boat at anchor, the everyday feel of familiar components in use. So when something unusual intrudes on my senses it is a " UH OH " moment. Some " UH OH " moments are more serious than others.

So when after communing with nature I went to operate the manual pump on the toilet and an abnormal resistance was felt, I knew I had one of the more serious moments.

Yup a plumbing blockage is a bit of a nightmare scenario especially when the toilet is situated below the waterline as it is in Elphants Child.

So after leaving it for a while in the [vain] hope that the clog might dissolve of it's own accord I donned the rubber gloves, put the plans to go ashore to the pot luck on hold and set about troubleshooting the plumbing. Working back from the outlet seacock I traced it to a large pipe which was just about completely blocked with hard calcium scale. I have no idea how this formed as I have been following the good heads guidelines and using vinegar on a monthly basis and this is supposed to prevent the build up.

My neighbours in the anchorage were treated to the unusual sight of a man beating the steps on the back of the cockpit with a large hose. Boat S&M maybe?

But no I was just trying to breakup the scale deposits and open up the hose.

Well it worked, the scale broke up, the hose cleared and I refitted it.

Normal service was resumed.

Just as well, the alternative is too hard on my knees.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Calivigny island and Grand Etang

We are anchored off Calivigny island a super luxurious resort for the seriously wealthy. It can only be booked by a single party with a maximum size of 20.

Calivigny features the ‘Beach House’, a stunning residence with 10 sumptuous suites and spectacular views. Each suite is fully air-conditioned with its own lavish en-suite bathroom and first-class amenities ensuring total refined comfort. The house is an architectural masterpiece, harmoniously blending French Colonial and Balinese style, creating a sanctuary for its guests. Tastefully decorated and furnished with custom-designed furniture by Oscar de la Renta and Richard Frinier providing an authentic home away from home atmosphere.

But the sunset looks the same for them as it does for us here on Elephants Child.

The sunsets have been spectacular recently and this one is a dramatic example of a Caribbean sunset, best viewed from the cockpit with a little rum of course.

Having spent a few days swimming and snorkeling we ventured up into the rain forest and visited the national park that is centered around the caldera lake called Grand Etang.

The park vegetation is extremely diverse, including cloud forests, montane thickets, palm brakes, and elfin woodland, as well as rain forest. Lots of ferns strange trees and this variant of a palm tree which had these strange red spikes growing out of the side of the trunk below the crown. I guess that they might be a variant of the date palm but am not sure.
The park staff were kept busy dealing with the hordes that had bussed in from the cruise ship docked in St Georges but found time to advise us on the various hikes available around the park.

We stated off with an easy short walk up to a point overlooking Grenville on the east coast but then set off for the lakeside trail round Grand Etang itself. I had done my due diligence and knew that it was classed as an easy hike taking 90 minutes with good views of the Etang. Although we had been warned that it was muddy the site of a couple emerging from the trail encouraged us to have a go.


To begin with it was not too bad but soon we were in deep glutinous shoe sucking mud. Up to our knees in mud puddles and having to retrieve foot ware by digging down with our hands it soon became apparent that I was going to suffer death by Judy if we got out of here. But we made it round, washed the mud off and got back to Clarks Court Bay marina for burger night with a truly magnificent appetites.

Monday, November 7, 2011


We had heard that Jesse James of MEMBERS ONLY MAXI TAXI service was the man to see for a tour so signed up for his Taste of Trinidad tour.

Well we certainly saw some interesting parts of Trinidad and had a chance to taste what the locals eat. Not at 'fancy' restaurants like KFC [ believe it or not the local meal of choice for many! ] but roadside shacks and vendors working out of their houses.

This is us trying pigtail very tasty!

Many of the place names were Spanish, there is a big Hindu Indian population and a vociferous Moslem minority.

I think the final food tally was in the high 20s for number of different dishes we got to sample, everything from just picked watermelon to souse to fresh cocoa from the pod to chicken feet and yes I tried everything except I passed up on the chicken feet.

I was surprised how clean nearly all areas of Trinidad were with much less roadside litter than I have seen in other islands but we stopped at viewpoint to check out the river mouth and we had further evidence of the Colonels popularity.

We got a chance to swim in the Atlantic as we made it to the east coast where the water is clean, clear and surf was up. The Atlantic coast has an area of brackish mangrove behind it and a specialized eco system.

At a roadside shelter in the middle of nowhere we came across these. They are called Black conch and come from the mangroves but looked like a giant version of the winkles I would collect and eat on the west coast of Scotland in my youth.

Jesse regaled us with stories of Trini life and as he is a keen birder he spotted some interesting birds including this pair of toucans, the first I have seen in the wild.

We got back to Chagouramus late, tired, full up but with memories of a fascinating trip around around part of Trini.

As the forecast was favourable we cleared out on Saturday and left for Grenada in the evening. It is an 80 mile sail from Chagouramus up to Clarks Court Bay in Grenada. I had timed it to arrive in Grenada at 10am but the weather and Elephants Child running on a clean bottom conspired to set my plans agly. We were flying at 8 to 9 knots with the odd 10, even after I rolled the genoa away we were still hitting 8s. So we had to heave to of the south coast for 40 minutes and waited for the sun rise. I will not enter a reef strewn anchorage at night. There are too many stories of wrecked boats and some deaths associated with those who chance it.

We dropped anchor just after 6 am and went to bed.

It is good to be back in Grenada friendly officials greeted us at customs, the water is clean and litter free, there was no loud music, noisy 24hr generators and no oil rigs to spoil the view.