Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anchors Aweigh

We stepped onto a clean and quiet Alberta Crewed early Friday morning.  Other than dust on the deck and unplanned Science experiments in the toilets, all was well.  We are spending these hot and humid days getting systems going and reuniting with friends.  We also picked up our new anchor and it is a beautiful work of functional art.  If one wants a lively and heated discussion among sailors, bring up the subject of anchors.  As a critical piece of equipment for enabling a good night’s sleep, anchors bring out debates about hinging flanks, which allow anchors to turn rather than break out, triangular flukes that bury into soft bottoms, and sharp toes (points) that dig into weeds and grasses.  Most anchors are shaped like ploughs, which on land are meant to dig furrows in the soil.  On a boat, we want to drop the anchor and NOT dig a furrow.  Last spring, Craig had gone underwater with his SeaBreathe (compressor-run breathing hose) to check how well our anchor had set for our afternoon swim.  He watched as it dragged a lovely trough along the muddy seabed and our boat headed to shore.  As a result, we bought the biggest anchor we could that would fit into our bow roller and anchor locker.  At 35 kg, our Ultra has been touted for its quick burial and high holding power.  These seem to be inanely obvious features that all anchors would possess, hence the disputes and disagreements.  We will see when the rudder hits the rode.  
We arrived in Trinidad on day 75 of the SoE, a declaration of a “State of Emergency” by the government and police.  This involves a 23:00-04:00 curfew and enactment of Anti-Gang legislation.  This drastic action is an aggressive stance against gang violence rates that have swelled in Trinidad over the past decade.  Newspaper headlines on November 6th read “30 Murders Since SoE”.  Before our mothers send a rescue party to whisk us back to Canada, this headline is a good one.  It means that the murder and violent crime rates have dropped by almost 50%.  Letters to newspaper editors reflect some objection to the curfew and increase of police presence based on economics and human rights violations.  Locals we know are all for it.  According to them, streets are quiet and safer, and they are not out past 11:00 anyways.  Trinidad’s crime increase is blamed on its proximity to South America (we can see the Venezuelan coast) and therefore serves as a gateway for the South American drug trade.  A major player in this new enforcement is Trinidad Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, a Canadian (specifically Edmonton) trained police superintendent who took on the top job in Trinidad a year ago.  His task is daunting.  Youth and gang violence are the culprits resulting in a murder rate of two per day in a population of just over a million.  The law even bans camouflage clothing.
The streets are indeed quieter and we were the only ones on the road as our specially permitted cab picked us up at the airport after midnight.  We have always been careful about walking after dark and keeping a low profile when around town.  Our server at the Wheelhouse Pub even drove us home from dinner last night because the water taxi was our for repairs.  She did not think it was wise to walk the few blocks home even though it was just past eight o’clock.
We feel safe where we are staying and at the same time, take responsibility for not putting ourselves into precarious situations.  To us, keeping a low profile means respecting the local culture and learning as much as we can by watching and listening.  In the boat yard, we are the privileged in a service-based industry and locals work hard to keep us in this lifestyle.  We of course respect the curfew but do not offer our opinions about the decisions Trinidadians make.  We are foreigners and strangers.  I am fascinated by the complexities of societies and how common threads can be found between them.  I also search for what makes a culture unique and we are both interested in the various historical perspectives that are told by a country ans its communities.  A sailing life offers us brief but unique insights into the complexities and struggles of change, a prevalent theme we read about daily in world headlines.

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