Getting our full non-immigrant visas for the USA was far quicker than we had imagined and pretty painless. First we filled out the online form whilst we were in the UK and uploaded a photograph each, which we had taken ourselves. Once submitted we printed it out as it had a machine-readable code. Next was the payment and I had hoped it could be done online as well but this had to be in cash at a Scotiabank in Trinidad, so had to wait until we got back to the boat. We got a taxi to the bank last week, obtained the receipt for the hundred GBP (1032 TT$) each and after a couple of days to allow for the payment to be processed, booked the interview online at the US Embassy in Port Of Spain. The next available appointment was just 2 days away (last Thursday) and there were 3 time slots, 0715, 0815 and 0915. We chose the first one in the hope there wouldn’t be too much of a queue. This turned out to be a good move.
We printed out the appointment confirmation and a couple of documents to show our funding and property in the UK but in the end, no proof of links to the UK was asked for, nor evidence of income and savings.
The taxi picked us up just after 0615 for the half hour journey to the Embassy and there were about 5 people already waiting outside. At least it was nice and cool at 0700! Everything was run promptly and efficiently with staff coming outside to let us know the rules and check our forms and passports. No mobile phones, no electronic devices, no glass etc are allowed inside the building but there is nowhere to leave your belongings there either. We knew in advance about that rule but couldn’t call Jesse James to order the taxi back without the phone, so had to take it. You can leave it for a pound, down the road at a car park kiosk, no more than 2 minutes away, so that’s what we, and others, did.
You are invited in one by one to go through an airport style security check first and then into a very cool waiting room with washrooms and an information screen. The officials arrived at 0730 and we were the third to be called up and together. We briefly explained why we needed the visas and that we had our own boat/home and that was it. Less than 5 minutes later our visa was approved and our passports were sent back to the Powerboats office by DHL, arriving today (Tuesday). The staff were very friendly and the process was quick and easy.
Friends had to wait an hour outside for their entry into the building once, so perhaps it is better to get up very early, when it is cooler and get to the front of the queue. A further 20 people or more arrived after us. So we are glad we didn’t bother to go to London for our visas, as it was easy enough here and we had the added bonus of not needing our passports for a few weeks, just in case.
Meanwhile, boat work has continued ahead of schedule. Rob has done a great job replacing the old deck hatches, some of which had broken hinges and were taped up to prevent the heavy rain leaking in.
They weren’t bonded in thankfully, just bedded into silicone sealer and came out quite easily once he had worked out the technique. First he used a thin, long bladed knife to slide between the frame and deck to cut through the sealer.
Then he looked around the frame to find the largest gap between it and the deck. Protecting the deck with masking tape, he drove a wedge in (in this case a chisel as we aren’t saving the old frames) to prise the frame out. Then it was just time spent cleaning off the old sealer and putting some resin into the old screw holes so the new ones went in nice and tight.
Finally the new hatch was put in place with some new sealer and screwed down. We have 4 of the 5 fitted now but are leaving the last one until we launch as the a/c unit is fitted over it and we don’t want to scratch the new hatch getting the a/c off.
As soon as I had started on sanding the hull the head came off the sander, so with the price of a new one being extortionate, we decided to pay the 300 US$ to have a contractor do it for us, supplying his own materials. Don’t agree to pay for the materials yourself, or they use up sanding pads like there’s no tomorrow, a tip given to us by our friend Ken. Just pay for the job and here at Powerboats, a form is drawn up in advance with agreed dates and costs, so there is no confusion. We pay 50% up front and the rest on satisfactory completion.
I can’t start on masking up the hull and painting until the sanding is finished and whilst we have the scaffolding around the boat we will put up our new Beyzano signs on the bow, lightly sand the teak toerails and rubbing strakes and paint 5 coats of hard, white antifouling on the stern where she sits so low in the water. So our easy going days are coming to an end with plenty to do from now on. Progress will depend on the weather and typically, it hasn’t rained here for several days. No doubt it will now we need to paint ☹ The final week is just cleaning, putting sails and lines back on and getting ready to sail.
We now have friends from the UK coming into Grenada at the end of November but we might have to take a weather window and head north before then. We aren’t keen to spend too much more time in ‘Camp Grenada’ as from the sounds of recent Facebook posts there are a lot of petty politics going on again amongst some long stay cruisers. We can stay in the Trinidad and Tobago area until nearer the end of hurricane season, perhaps moving around the corner for a couple of weeks before heading north. The TTSA (Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association) has moorings to rent but there is also room to anchor outside of these. There is a small swimming pool and a bar onsite and it is on the shopping bus run.
From our point of view it has been a quiet hurricane season weather wise with nothing threatening in our area. Boats and lives have been lost in some locations though and there have been many posts on Facebook. Groups such as Women Who Sail, Grenada Cruisers, Trinidad Cruisers and Antigua Cruisers are great sources of advice and up to date information.