Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some More Asa Wright Nature Center Critters

Staring contest
Here's looking at you!
Blue beauty

Monday, December 5, 2011

Asa Wright Nature Center: A Birder’s Paradise

Blue-crowned motmot

Beautiful basolina flower

Green honeycreeper

Violaceous trogan
The verandah above the bird-feeding tables
We love to check out new flora and fauna in the places we visit, and we certainly got our wish when we took an overnight trip recently to the Asa Wright Nature Center here in Trinidad. The center is deep in the mountains of the Northern Range, at the end of a long, narrow, winding road through the rain forest. We’d had quite a bit of rain lately, and there were piles of red mud where landslides (or landslips, as some of the newspapers called them) had occurred. Fortunately the road was passable all the way to the center; to come from the other direction takes several more hours. En route we stopped at a roadside stand for some traditional Indian treats such as doubles, saheena (calaloo leaves rolled, sliced, dipped in batter and fried), and aloo pie (slender fried dough filled with potato)—delicious!  Before we even got to the center, we stopped to see a blue-crowned motmot, a beautiful bird, sitting on a tree branch by the side of the road. As we disembarked the van, an aguti (a rodent about the size of a large housecat) scampered across the road with a piece of fruit in its mouth. We hiked through the forest, saw and heard incredible birds (Trinidad’s avifauna is more akin to that of South America rather than the other Caribbean islands), quizzed our guides on everything we could think of, and sat for hours on the covered veranda of the Main House, sipping tea and coffee and watching the hundreds of birds that fed on the fruit, bread, and sugar water that they put out as 
attractants every morning and afternoon.  Some highlights of the trip included marking off at least a couple dozen new species in my Trinidad bird book, seeing a wild toucan (albeit from a distance), and watching bats swoop through the veranda after bugs (and one actually hit Chris in the head).  Two exceptional highlights were things I had to force myself to do, and felt better afterward for facing my overcoming my fears.  The first was to touch the hairy leg of an enormous tarantula crawling along the veranda rail. Normal spiders don’t bother me, but this guy was HUGE! The second was eating termites (only two, and they were little) that our forest guide, Barry, found. He said that they’re a good source of protein if you’re lost in the forest, though I think I’d stick to the abundant fruit. By the way, they taste like minty carrots.
Bananaquits on feeder

LARGE tarantula

Friday, December 2, 2011

Another Great Review for Scimitar’s Heir!

Barb Theisen, editor of the Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletins, previously reviewed (and loved!) Scimitar Moon and Scimitar Sun. Her review for Scimitar’s Heir was just published in the December bulletin (page 33).  For those of you who aren’t SSCA members and therefore can’t access the bulletins, I’ve copied the review for you below.

At last, the next book in the Scimitar Seas series has been released! For those of you anxious to continue the high seas adventure tale of the seamage Cynthia Flaxal, you’ll be happy to know that your wait is over. Scimitar’s Heir is the third book in a series by award-winning writer and SSCA member Chris A. Jackson. Scimitar Moon and Scimitar Sun, the first tow books of the four book series of pirate fantasy novels are both GOLD winners in Fantasy for Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award.
The action packed Scimitar’s Heir has Cynthia Flaxal and Feldrin Brelak searching for their son, who was stolen at birth by the mer. The mer have taken the seamage’s heir and left in search of the long-abandoned, floating city of Akrotia, which the mer hope to return to its once enchanted glory with the life of the child.
While Cynthia and Feldrin are gone from the Shattered Isles, pirates seek revenge, cannibals seek prisoners and the emperor seeks justice for the crimes of the seamage.  Perils near and far threaten to destroy all that Cynthia has achieved. This is another entertaining tale filled with unforgettable characters and boasting a plot loaded with twists and turns.
Author Chris Jackson and his wife, Anne, are fulltime cruisers. Visit Chris’ website at where you can download several chapters of Scimitar’s Heir for free. Then pick up your own copy at any bookseller. You can follow the Jackson’s cruising adventures at 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Read My Latest Article!

 My second article was just published in the Caribbean Compass! It's entitled "A Taste of Trini: Feasting Your Way Around the Island," and tells of our trip with Members Only Tours, run by Jesse James (yes, that's his real name) and his wife, Sharon Rose. Jesse drove us over much of the island, stopping at road-side stands here and there to sample local foods. It was fantastic, and we all waddled at the end of the day. Check it out at, pages 24-25. These are pictures of Chris eating a barbequed pig tail (yup, it's just what it sounds like), and a woman selling hot sauces outside of her home. We bought a couple, and they really light up our food (in a good way!).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Divali: Hindu Festival of Lights

Entrance to the Divali fair
Not only for sale, but many women were wearing similarly gorgeous outfits

Some of the Hindu gods

 The population majority here in Trinidad is of East-Indian descent, and many are Hindus. Divali (pronounced Diwali) occurs in October on the new moon. We went to two events associated with the festival. First was a fair, which was much like the state fairs you might visit in the states, except with lots of statues of Hindu gods, and pepper rotis instead of elephant ears. There were booths selling all manner of goods, a long row of food booths, but no alcohol. And unlike many state fairs, where casual is the name of the game, here everyone was in their finest Indian clothing. Women wore saris and other traditional outfits glittering with sequins, and the men wore beautiful long brocade coats. Absolutely gorgeous. In the main tent, we watched dancers and singers (OK, Indian singing isn’t really to my taste), and listened to the Trinidadian president give a speech (typical politician chatter). The second event was the actual night of the new moon. Jesse James, tour guide extraordinaire, took us to a Hindu village in the west-central area of the country. There we had a traditional Indian vegetarian meal, then, as dusk fell, we wandered the village streets to look at the lights. The streets and many houses were decorated with electrical lights, but the highlight was the lighting of the deeyas (clay bowls of oil and wicks). Long shelves made of bamboo stalks cut in half lined the streets, with dozens of deeyas on them. Other deeyas were positioned in various shapes and designs. We walked all around, exchanging Happy Diwali greetings with the many residents who sat outside their homes offering traditional sweets to passersby. What an intriguing look at a different religion and culture.

Friendly boy in traditional Indian garb
Lighted deeya

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cruising Kids

We’ve met several boats with kids of all ages. Most times it’s a family that’s taken time off to cruise for a few months, a year, or more. Here in Trinidad we met another kind of cruising family: Hans, Eva, Lola, and Luka on Kamiros.  Hans and Eva left Gemany to cruise about 13 years ago, and have been cruising ever since. Their daughter, Lola, and son, Luka, have lived their entire lives aboard, except for two years on New Caledonia in the South Pacific. They’re as at-ease on a boat and in the water as anyone I’ve ever seen.  And beautiful to boot!

It’s So Good To Be Back In The Water

The painting is done, and we’re back in the water.  Here’s a picture of a beautiful sunrise from where we’re anchored in Carenage Bay, Trinidad. It’s just a taste of some of the beautiful photos I’ve got coming up.

Doing a Bottom Job: Sounds Rather Personal, Doesn’t It?

It’s the boat bottom, so quit thinking whatever you were thinking. Painting the boat bottom requires just as much work as painting the topsides, but work of a different kind. Fiberglass boat bottoms develop osmotic blisters when seawater intrudes and reacts with the fiberglass resin. These blisters are usually localized and small, and dealt with by grinding out to dry fiberglass, then re-glassing and/or filling with epoxy. Antifouling paint then goes over all. The bad news: it’s a lot of work. The good news: the bottom is underwater, so it doesn’t need to be as pristinely smooth as the topsides.