7 December 2015

Adventures in Trinidad's Officialdom

Our fine, feathered friends...as long as they kept to the bow and above deck!
Each morning when we woke in Scotland Bay, we discovered ever more birds perching on our rigging.  They were unperturbed by our company, jittery, but remaining in place.  They left their new home by mid morning but until then we were only a slight nuisance to them.  They sat on the boom, on the shrouds, on the spreaders.  We drew the limit on the solar panels - we didn’t want any poop obscuring the precious sun rays from topping up our batteries which on a cloudless day reach 100%.  And so, the bird territory was the bow and above.  We still owned the cockpit.  One bird flew inside but quickly realized when I yelped that he/she was not welcome and left in a hurry.
 During the deluge - waves of rain

After the deluge - rainbows are a dime a dozen here but still worthy of a  photo 
We were finally notified that our illusive liferaft, having arrived ten days ago, was “unstuffed” from the shipping container.  We had already taken a trip to Port of Spain to get and pay for prerequisite papers from the brokerage.  Once unstuffed, we made another trip in a pick up truck with our trusty driver, Ian Taxi.  Our destination, “Shed 10”, the busiest depot for overseas shipments.  

We were let through a fenced gate with dozens of guys hanging about, one of whom directed us down a drive and around a corner and then a bit further - this all said in a dialect that is sing song and incredibly speedy with Trini phrases and short forms.  Peter is better at deciphering the meaning than I but between the two of us we often - not always - get it right.  When we don’t, we nod vacantly, and ask the next person.  An added problem is that when we have asked multiple people, the answers are often different, pointing us in different directions.  All sound very certain, but even the police steered us wrong on one bike ride.

This time we successfully found the dark and bustling entrance to Shed 10.  We signed in with our paper work with a less than patient woman at one booth who directed us to another to make a payment.  The glass fronts on each booth - we went to four that morning - were opaque with a small opening where money is usually exchanged.  To speak to the voice on the other side and to hear the response - Peter had to bend to 3 feet and peer through the hole, alternating mouth then ear, which added to our confusion.  After negotiating the maze of booths, we were sent to a waiting room where it was very obvious that we were foreigners being the only white people in the entire dark, cavernous shed.  The large room had plastic rows of about 150 chairs behind a large space - standing room only?  There were vending machines with drinks and a tiny faux Christmas tree at the front.  It was a waiting room built for a large number of people waiting a very long time!  

A tall, soft spoken Rasta man took us under his wing, found our package and guided us out after a very short wait.  (Later, two women who had been waiting two days! told us our process was expedited because we were white and most likely to tip.  Obviously irritated, they told us not to do so as it only added to the corruption of the place.)
Hustlers - inside and out??
We went to a series of long tables where women were standing beside unpacked cylinders with clothes, rugs, towels, sheets etc piled on the table, being inspected piece by piece.  Our box was glanced at.  We were sent to another smaller waiting area with a huge fan blowing. Another sign of a long wait!
The inspection area in the cavernous, dark Shed 10
Again more speaking through holes in glass booths - the same lady in different booths.  Next a security desk - more papers, more stamps - back to another transport desk - more stamps - transport man going to security woman to tell her she stamped our paper incorrectly - fast walk to find Ian Taxi around the corner and down the lane - drive back to Shed 10 - Peter, the captain (it’s easier to be the first mate in officialdom) talking to guys who wanted to use a forklift to carry the package to the truck - guys had to go find the package although we knew exactly where it was - forklift brought package to truck - guys asked for tip in low voice with hands out - small tip given with our only change - guys not very satisfied - get into truck - drive to customs for boatyards - customs cleared - drive to dinghy dock - raft loaded into dinghy - drive to grocery store - pouring rain, soaked - purchases made - more pouring rain - go to Immigration and Customs to clear out of the country - drive to Scotland Bay - more pouring rain - load raft onto Milly.  Beer.  Sigh.
While waiting for Peter, I took a picture of the bull finch inside the cage.  These are singing birds for 30 minute competitions.  Although you can't actually see the bird, I was berated by a guy inside who called me over a few minutes later - I thought he was going to tell me about the bird.  Instead, he lambasted me for breaking the copyright laws by taking a picture.  He wanted me to pay for the pic.  Instead, I apologized.  Maybe he was a hustler!
Ready Milly, a little more complete, for sailing and off to Grenada at 21:00.  So good to be sailing under a full moon.