Friendly Fish, Ferocious Felines & Farewells

By November the rainy season in Tobago is in full swing, although not a patch on places like Panama there has still been a considerable amount of wet stuff falling from the not-so-blue sky.  The Atlantic swell also manages to wrap itself around the northern tip of Tobago and roll straight into the bay, it’s what we call joggly, and with currents often holding the boat side on to the wind and swell at night it is sometimes a struggle to get the full quota of beauty sleep.

Joy is attracting more fish than usual, maybe as a result of the ultrasonic anti-fouling system we have installed in the hull.  This transmits sound waves which resonate through our steel hull killing the bio-film which the barnacles and growth then stick to. An easy scrape will wipe them off instead of a hard scrub.   The fish are having a feast on the critters that are only just managing to attach to Joy’s bottom.  We have accumulated quite a following of various groups of fish including a family of Sharksucker fish who seem to have mistaken us for their usual companions of sharks, rays and turtles. These strange creatures are part of the Remora family, fish that have their first dorsal fin modified into a sucker disk located on the top of their head, instead of sucking themselves to a shark they have suckered themselves to Joys hull. We started off with one and now have eight including juveniles. The local fisherman have cottoned on to our unusual fish attraction and come past us close enough to touch, trawling a line back and forth for half an hour each day just about catching a fish every time.  The fish are also so friendly that they brush through Jez’s hair when he is diving to check the progress of the new system on the hull.  One day when I was sanding the cap-rail I noticed a huge fish patrolling Joy, Jez hopped in the dinghy and put the GoPro in the water as we actually thought it could be a shark.  After closer inspection of the GoPro footage, we discovered it was a large Cobia which apparently eat well.  I wouldn’t let Jez put the rod out though, it seemed a little unsporting as he had been so friendly and un-phased by us and of course he looked so beautiful.


This is the underneath of the largest Remora stuck to the hull, he would have been even longer if his tail hadn’t been bitten off!



Sucker fish attached to the hull


m_Scarred fish

This one’s had a lucky escape!



The Cobia coming in close to inspect the GoPro


She is also sporting a sucker fish



This tiny juvenile was the size of a small finger nail scurrying about under the surface


Our friend ‘Dash’ showing off his morning catch

We have certainly enjoyed our 3 month stay in Tobago, experiencing just about everything it has to offer including healthcare.  Jez has had a small sebaceous cyst on his face for almost a year causing him no trouble at all, but suddenly last week it became swollen and red, more than doubling in size and quite painful, I was sure he was growing a horn ♥ We started hot compresses and magnesium sulphate paste on it, but his face became very swollen from his ear to his jaw so we visited the health centre in Charlotteville to see the doctor.  That was quite an experience as the doctor only visits one day a week so the walk-in clinic was full. After an hours wait we heard number 20 called, we were 47 so knew we were in for a long wait. We sat next to a red-eyed old lady who seemed happy enough chatting away to herself as is often the case in the Caribbean. Then the nurse came out and moved her to a different part of the waiting room stating she was highly contagious, wiping down the seat next to me with dettol.  Hmmm, I edged away from the seat and was pleased to discover I had my travel-sized anti-bacterial gel in the rucksack which we both used non-sparingly. Anyway, she wasn’t very keen on staying put in her semi-isolated spot and continued to move around the waiting room, sitting in different places, touching everything and talking to different people. Then she came up behind Jez and touched him on the shoulder, breathed all over him and asked if he had taken a number to be seen. Answering “Yes thank you” he pulled away and I doused him in gel again.  We then heard talk of ‘red-eye’ spreading through the community and soon realised that conjunctivitis was the contagious infection gripping the health clinic.  I felt a little guilty at that point for thinking that far too many residents were smoking way too much ganja, as there are rather a lot of red eyes in this village.  After a FOUR hour tummy grumbling-dehydrated-gel covered-numb bottomed wait, we too had red-eyes..but thankfully just from intense boredom. Our number was finally called and Jez saw a lovely GP who confirmed it was badly infected and much to her disappointment it was not in a state for lancing, so we left with some antibiotics and pain killers and surprisingly no bill to pay as healthcare in Tobago is free to visitors as well as residents.  Result! After nearly a week of hot compresses three times a day and smotherings of magnesium sulphate we were watching a film one night when it suddenly gave in and burst in a very controlled fashion, I have never seen anything quite like it. After a few days of further gentle persuasion it was almost empty of its very strange contents (blood, puss and lumps of keratin) and hardly noticeable.  Here’s the progress in pictures, look away now if you are squeamish (or eating)..


Hurricane season is almost over, and with Jez’s face healing nicely without the use of a scalpel, we have started to plan our Panama Canal transit next March so that we can continue our adventure into the Pacific. Lots of things to get organised and spare parts to stock up with over the next couple of months before we haul out in Trinidad to get our folding propeller serviced amongst other things in readiness for the long passages ahead.  Our thread-bare and baggy main and mizzen sails will not last us another year so we are replacing them with a new set.

So with Martinique our next destination to be measured for the sails, we said our goodbyes to the very special residents of Charlotteville (you know you have been somewhere too long when the veggie lady hugs you goodbye) and had our last lunch of fish and fries with potato salad and macaroni pie (yes, eyes bigger than belly situation) at Papayas Kitchen. There seems to have been a sudden wild kitten-boom in the village, we found one on the steps of the library a couple of weeks ago which we fed and watered despite being hissed and spat at – which took me quite by surprise when I first bent down to say here kitty kitty.  She came around to me in the end and almost followed me up the steps but was clearly terrified of humans.  A ten year old girl wandered past, and just as I was naively thinking “ah, she will take pity on the fluffy little kitten and take it home”  she kicked the air close to it and giggled.  When she did it again Jez told her to leave the poor thing alone and go pick on something her own size, I could see the thought of doing it again cross her mind but thankfully she just smirked and  carried on walking.  The outside eating area of Papayas Kitchen also had a family of wild kittens hiding amongst the various array of furniture, and with such a huge lunch we were happy to share – secretly of course so as not to offend Mr Papaya.  With tuna on the menu these poor little kittens soon became brave and tucked in, even climbing on my feet to be the first recipient of the fishy treats each time Mr P looked away.  I took pity on the very skinny runt of the litter and made sure he had extra helpings until Mr P spotted them and threw water at them to scare them off as he thought they were annoying us.  I felt sorry for them as they scrambled through the hole in the fence (albeit with full bellies), but we are silly soft tourists happy to share with the local strays as always.


A bleak future for this little one




All Scruffy needs is the use of Jez’s clippers to make him more comfortable in the Caribbean heat.




When the recipe says marinade the chicken in the coconut…




Hundreds of birds join the tuna in a feeding frenzy



One mans trash is another chickens treasure..

We wanted an 8.30am start the next day for the 2 day sail to Martinique to make use of the wind forecast but whilst immigration are happy to check you out the day before, customs are not and so we made arrangements with the officer to be at the office at 8am in the morning.  Now we aren’t usually punctual people (as our friends well know) but this particular morning we were up with the lark and at the locked customs office at 7.55.  At 8.15 still no sign. I called and was told he was on his way and would be there in 10 mins.  8.30am, still no sign.  8.40am a lady turns up and apologises for the wait, takes our papers and passports as I fill in the usual array of silly forms more applicable to a cargo ship than a cruising yacht with talk of cargo, ballast and the odd question of ‘have you any stowaways?’ – if you knew you had would you tick the yes box? Mmm.  She mentioned she hadn’t been well and had a fever, as she gazed out of the open window in no hurry to complete our clearance I felt myself stop breathing for a while to avoid the germs as the minutes ticked by.  Finally handed our clearance papers we swept up the paperwork from the counter, stuffed it into our documents folder and rushed out knowing we were already an hour later than planned and we still had to get the dinghy up and secured and clean the anchor chain of weed and barnacles otherwise it would stink the locker out.

Finally at 10am, everything stowed and tied down, we sailed out of Man of War Bay with a light east-north-east wind and looking back at Charlotteville disappearing into the distance we set our sights at Martinique.  Two hours into the sail I heard a persistent clicking sound on the VHF, our outside speaker has given up the ghost so I poked my head inside the saloon to listen. Just more clicking as if someone was trying to transmit, odd I thought as in the last three months the VHF has been silent with almost non-existent boat traffic.  The thought occurred to me that someone might be trying to contact us, and I ran through in my mind what we could have possibly left behind just clutching at straws.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Jez put the passports back in their wallet and my heart sank, a quick rummage through our folder revealed a severe lack of passports.  The customs lady had left them in the photocopier. Aaagghh.  I did a very good impression of Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) and shouted TURN THE BOAT AROUND… Thank goodness we had good wind a little further aft of the beam on the way back and we arrived at 1:00pm.  I called the customs officer on the way in and sure enough, the next user of the photocopier had found our passports. He reluctantly agreed to try and find a fisherman to bring them out to us to save us untying anchors and relaunching the dinghy so we hung about just off the dock.  After 15 minutes we spotted a fishing boat on its way to Pirates Bay and flagged him down, he was happy to drop me ashore to chase up proceedings. I needn’t have bothered as when I climbed on to the dock I was greeted by a fisherman we knew with my passports, so after a few laughs about the situation and more unexpected goodbyes I was picked up again and dropped off at Joy for the price of a cold beer. You have got to love these people.

Now, 5 hours later than planned, we set sail once more. Before we lost phone signal Jez called his Bro to wish him happy birthday and had to cut the call short as the reel started to scream and I yelled ‘fish on’. A nice reward for our disastrous morning, tuna for supper and a few more meals in the freezer.  Happy days.


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1 Response to Friendly Fish, Ferocious Felines & Farewells

  1. florence1924 says:

    Fabulous blog Susie, such brilliant photos (not the Jez ones!!) and the little dog reminded me of Jimi!! So well written – what adventures!!! Enjoy Martinique!!! xxxx


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