Norwich, England - Chaguaramus, Trinidad - 27th November 2023
A year ago on the same day, I was celebrating my birthday while fighting with nature to cross the Atlantic Sea with Iain and Sophia in extreme conditions, while nearly every part of our chariot tested our resilience.
This time I climbed a flight of stairs, turned left and made the journey in nine hours in a large comfortable seat while being served drinks, food and watching several films. One would think, I had learnt, clearly not.
I was flying to Trinidad to meet Iain and the boat where we had left her on the hard in Peakes Yard for hurricane season.
Iain had been working alone for two weeks while I was home packing up and waiting for last minute parts to arrive, but finally we were together again to continue our sail around the world. Third time lucky, they say.
As always, preparations were listed and ticked off. Work was relentless, but we were no different to other boaters all preparing to be launched again for another season of travel and adventure.
During our stay in the yard, I was very grateful for the company of Caroline who is sailing on Axonite, a 69 ft performance yacht built by KM Yacht Builders. Caroline and Marc’s beautiful yacht was in Powerboats yard, next door to us, also having the finishing touches to their list completed before being relaunched and, like us, joining the World Arc in St Lucia.
Caroline and I bonded instantly. We relished each other’s company and the opportunity to get away from all things "Blue". We both had hire cars and were sent daily for all manner of parts and tools. We decided to join forces and go together, taking it in turn to drive.
There is only one place to rent a car locally. Econocar, who are very efficient, well placed, thorough and as the name suggests, economical. Most of the cars are the same, white or silver and it would be fair to say, have been around the mileage clock a few times, but very clean, well maintained and in good working order. However, due to their age, there is always a knack which must be mastered.
On my driving day, the list was dictated, a hosepipe reel, and cabinet hinge. Caroline was being sent for a 20mm socket and a short yoga mat. Ours is not to reason why?
Iain had given me strict instructions on how to operate the car. He had demonstrated, I watched and understood the process.
There was a key and two fobs.
The drivers door must be opened with fob number two.
The engine must be started with the key straight away.
Every time the vehicle is exited, the driver’s door must be locked with fob two, or the sequence will be out of sync and the engine will not start until the sequence is completed.
We were at anchor by this point. Caroline was waiting in the next yard, literally on the other side of the fence to us. A two minute drive away. We were soon to be free. We were on our way to pick up a few things followed by a coffe, cake and endless chatter on the way back!!
Fifteen minutes later, I had not managed to open the car. There was a young gardener who was standing in the shade of a tree, watching me. I mentioned I could not get into the car, but he did not approach, he just stood at a distance leaning on his rake, watching silently. I was not impressed.
I phoned Caroline to let her know. Caroline is many things, and certainly one of her most endearing qualities is her ability to get things sorted. She immediately telephoned Econocar to let them know there was something wrong with one of their vehicles. The efficient young lady suggested trying all manner of solutions to no avail. Caroline decided to come to me. She drove over in no time and was also stumped. She phoned the company again. This time, the assistant checked the hire documents and decided she could authorise a call out engineer to sort the problem.
By now, we had been in the car park for over an hour. The day was getting increasingly hotter and tempers were fraying. I realised Iain and Marc would be wondering what had happened to us as their parts were needed. There was nothing to do, but telephone Iain. Caroline was not keen, she knew he would not be impressed by me. Surely we could sort this without him?
I phoned. Iain’s very first words, “are you trying to open our car?”
What did he think? All manner of words were rotating rapidly through my mind. I forcefully mentioned, as I checked the back seat window for my hat, "I am under the big tree where we always park, facing the harbour! I have followed the procedure, and I’m using the correct fob!”
By the time I had finished firmly outlining my adherence to the precise instructions, I realised my hat was not on the back seat and remembered within a nano second, Iain had parked in a different spot near the exist of the car park to make our errand easier. I froze.
Caroline saw the look on my face and saw me look in the other direction, understanding my error. She quickly contacted Econocar to stop the engineer and an inevitable call out fee if not for her quick thinking.
Iain arrived without speaking. He took the key fob. He walked to the correct car, two rows behind me. Instinctively knowing the sequence was truly misaligned he patiently went through the sequence, correcting my error and gaining access to the vehicle.
There were no words exchanged.
Caroline and I hastily entered the car and I started the engine before the sequence could begin again.
During this episode I circled the outside of the car several times. I pressed the fob, waited, repressed and waited. I walked to the passenger door and pressed the fob, then waited. I walked to the boot, then pressed, then waited. Finally in desperation, I walked to the bonnet and pressed. Repeat.
This whole time, the gardener, still leaning on his rake in the shade of a tree, watched me circling the incorrect car, fob in hand. He had also watched the lights of the correct car repeatedly flash behind us without offering any assistance as Caroline and I overheated, becoming increasingly frustrated by what we perceived to be a substandard car.
Iain left the car park, as did we. Caroline was such a darling, defending my error to the very end.
Our shopping trip followed a similar vain. We returned without a hinge or hosepipe reel, but brandishing a 20mm socket and a blue yoga mat. Marc was very happy his list was ticked off.
He casually asked about the car, but Caroline brushed the whole episode aside, saying we “sorted it”, and by doing so, Caroline preserved my illusion of being as capable as she.
On Caroline’s driving day, we went to PriceSmart, the members only superstore to provision for our impending trip. The store is enormous, selling all manner of goods from televisions, to sides of beef, socks to carrots and always, as we have found throughout the Caribbean, a selection of Waitrose goods.
Caroline was keen to find a table top grill in the hope it would be less fuss than a barbecue and make the long Pacific crossings a little more fun. We cogitated and measured, discussed and photographed said appliance feeling very pleased with ourselves. This too was a success for Caroline and I look forward to hearing all the wonderful recipes which will be created with minimal fuss, and most importantly, minimal washing up.
As sad as it may read, our mundane shopping adventures were the high light of our two weeks together.
Fatjax was finally ready to move on. First stop, Bequia and Christmas in the Grenadines.