DAVE B's LOGS : Lattitude 38 article

"A different way to the Carribean"

After two years of searching the internet, and traveling to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and all of Florida for the right boat for me I found her in St Maartin. No sales tax kept the purchase within my budget, a good start. The boat, a Young Sun 43, lots of equipment, some new, some old, but in need of much TLC.

After several false starts, returning for small repairs to the well stocked , but expensive, yards in St Maartin, we finally headed south in October. We wanted to spend some time cruising the boat finding out her weaknesses and strengths before we made investements in upgrades and repairs. We wanted to stay away from cosmetic expenses and concentrated on sail, engine and electrical system repair and upgrades. The alternator bracket turned out to be the weakest componet that we fought for several weeks until we got to Antigua, and a new one had to be made. Be warned a simple half inch thick by ten in long, u shaped, alternator bracket in Antigua can cost five hundred U.S. dollars, the same size bracket made in Puerta la Cruz for my Sea Frost compressor cost fifteen dollars.

When we arrived in St. Lucia our regulator went bad and I decided to put in a simple, dumb regulator until we reached Trinidad. All things considered the boat did well, we had initiated a wish list for our much awaited major over haul in Trinidad. We had read and heard such great things about Trinidad that we were perhaps over anxious to get there.

Arrived in Chagaramus Trinidad in February 2003 and after checking out several yards, decided on a yard that used outside contractors and you could also do work yourself. Maybe I was nieve, still not sure exactly why we were ignored, but, after a month on the hard we had accomplished very little on our wish list.

I decided that we had given Trinidad a chance and on the whole they were not interested in working on our boat. The work we did get done was poor quality and some work took an abnormal amount of time. Prime example, I had a major electronic shop install a 3000 watt invertor, the price was great for the Xantrex, the install took only four hours, the following week, I asked the same shop to install a Xantrex Link 2000R battery monitor and regulator, once again the price was good, but the install took six weeks.....when finally done and we had left Trinidad, I had to have in rewired in Puerta la Cruz. I cannot say all the work in Trinidad is bad, but I can say I felt it was time to go else where. We saw over and over again that the workers were undertrained, sometimes willing to work, and extremely underpaid compared to the prices I was paying. $35 an hour for electrical work and the employee getting $10 a day?? I really don't want to say Trinidad is a bad place, we loved the Carnival, the people were wonderul, the island was beautiful. It was just not for us and time to move on.

Venezuela.......beautiful islands, friendly people, excellent prices. We have now been here for six months and plan to stay several more here in Bahia Redonda Marina in Puerta la Cruz. It's hard to leave the marina, montly slip rent $200, includes cable tv, water, electricity, a beautiful pool, hot showers, a very inexpensive restaurant. Where can you get a half pound hamburger with fries for $1.25, oh yeah, beer is thirty cents. Work on the boat has been very good here, especially any work that is specialized, welding, aluminum fabrication, canvas work, varnishing and painting. Almost every U.S. boat here has had their entire interior revarnished. Quality, price and they want to do the job, how refreshing after Trinidad.

There is a fear factor here that was not present in the island chain, the economy here is bad, half the population is in poverty, crime is not rampant but present. You have to be cautious. We have been all over Venezuela using their excellent bus service, and have had no problems, we do not blend, we are very visible "NorteAmericanos". Some isolated anchorages are dangerous, as well as dark streets in the big cities. We have had no problems as with most cruisers here. Many long time cruisers here have turned into live aboards and have no intention of leaving Venezuela, ever. An annual exodus to Bonaire in July keeps all boats in compliance with the 18 month limit on foreign flagged boats. We made this trip last July and returned to PLC in Novemeber. Other than refridgeration problems, the trip was incredible, the clearest water and best diving we have seen since leaving St. Maartin. Just don't expect anything from Bonaire except excellent diving.

"Tydewi" is nearly ready to move on to the western Caribean and I can only say our stay in Venezuela was the only way we could have finished our wish list from St Maartin within a reasonable budget. If I had to do it again, I would not have stopped in Antigua, you cannot get work done in Martinique unless you speak French, and I would not have hauled out in Trinidad. St. Lucia is not a place I want to return to soon. I would have bought more parts in St. Maartin, if we had known what we needed and wanted.

We did get to the Caribean a different way and would encourage anyone on a budget of "when its gone, there ain't no more" to look into our way. We made some mistakes, but they were not budget breakers.