While I was in England Mike was standing by the boat taking paint off the bolts that hold the anodes. He felt his feet being bitten, looked down and saw ants. The bites were really nasty and developed into weeping blisters. I generally react worse to bites than Mike does and three weeks later the ants got me too. Within a day I had two big blisters about one inch diameter on the side of my foot which turned red and swelled. Three other bites on my toes turned into smaller blisters. Out came the TCP and I carefully pierced the blisters from the side. We later discovered they were Fire ants, renowned for a vicious bite. One of the differences between the low and high latitudes is that the bugs down here tend to be more agressive, with worse bites. This is compounded by wounds taking two to three times longer to heal because of the humidity, even a simple cut can take three weeks to heal.

On April 1st it began to get difficult to get on the boat, we would have got in the workmen's way. However we had taken all the teak, stainless steel fittings and canvas to our room and we were kept busy (me polishing the stainless and cleaning and waterproofing the canvas (a huge job) and Mike cleaning Sikaflex off the teak and oiling it. Exciting stuff not. On April 12th we were effectively kicked off the boat when they started painting the boat, having already applied three coats of epoxy primer. A cover was also built over the boat so that work could continue if it rained.

The painters then started filling any blemishes, then refilling and sanding each time. They then primed with Awlgrip and microballoons (the best boat paint and a very fine filler) and they sanded each coat. They went through this process four times. Only when the surface was perfect did they start priming again. Multiple coats of primer went on then then multiple coats of top coat. In all fourteen coats of paint were applied. Then they had to paint four stripes right round the boat, three blue and one yellow. Needless to say this tooks weeks and weeks but the finish is extraordinary. Oh, I forgot to mention they also applied a coat of non-skid paint (has sand in it) to the decks and both coach roofs in a patterned form. The bottom line on all this is that we finally got access to the boat on the 28th of May.

Once we ran out of things to do in the room we had what I can only describe as a holiday, the first we have really had since April 2004. (Note: even though we've tried to spend a few weeks each year in isolated anchorages, doing no boat work, you never really relax e.g. if the weather changes you get up at night to check everything is OK, particularly that boats aren't dragging their anchors and coming down on us. Anyway the holiday was bliss. I watched a film most afternoons and Mike watched the odd film and played on the Internet. It also gave us a chance to socialise. We met up for drinks and meals with: David and Sue on Barnstormer; Cedric and Janet on Trillium Wind; John and Maggie on Jezebel; Calvin and Jane on Wingbeat; Margot and Clive on Revid.

During this period we had a power cut in the early evening and suddenly we could see the fireflies. They are amazingly bright, visible at over one hundred yards. Also, one of our taxi drivers showed us a cashew nut tree. It must be the only nut where the nut grows outside the fruit. When the fruit turns red the nut is ripe but it's case is poisonous and the whole thing has to be baked before the nut can be eaten. Each tree only produces enough nuts to fill two or three jars, hence their price.

Of course everything changed on the 28th of May. We started to put back all the deck fittings (a long, hot and sweaty job). Then we had to put back all the canvas and everything that was in storage - from anchors to liferaft, to liferings, to spinnaker poles. Since we had to take the bow roller off we also had to take off the forestay, which meant loosening the back stays. So Mike had to reset the main mast rigging. He also applied four coats of antifouling and he commented that he didn't realise that even your ankles sweat. Another thing we had to do was set up the lifelines. The sandblasters hadn't covered the stainless stanchions so they and the pulpit were removed for polishing. We were working eight to ten hour days, mostly in the sun, for the next thirteen days. At the end of each day we were utterly exhausted and had some drinks, food and then passed out in bed. I don't think we have ever worked so hard.

We finally got the boat back in the water on June 11th after sixteen weeks - the original quote for the work was six to eight weeks, but we are talking Trinidad here (remember their motto "the best energy saver today is tomorrow")? Even back in the water the work didn't stop. Although we had done some cleaning the interior of the boat was filthy, we also had to transfer everything from our room back to the boat and stow it. Then I had to empty every cupboard and clean it (another huge job), while Mike was doing maintanance jobs such as fixing a broken nav light, cleaning and oiling the remaining teak, recomissioning the watermaker, checking every system worked etc etc, he also helped with some cleaning and stowing.

By Tuesday 24th of June we were ready to last. As usual, all plans get screwed up and this time it was the weather - three days of strong winds and big seas starting late on the 24th. This put us in a bit of a predicament, our visas were due to run out on Thursday 26th. Normally we probaly would have gone, although the forecast was bad we've been in worse. However, having been on the hard for four months we didn't want to sea-trial the boat in bad weather. Off we went to immigration to explain that we wanted a two day visa extension and they were perfectly charming about it. They told us to fill in visa extension forms that would cover us for seven days and to hand them in when we cleared out in three days time - phew.

In the meantime, our mizzen boom seems to be the ideal nest site. This time it was two very pretty (and noisy) Swallows who started to build a nest. Also Mike managed to tear a nail off his foot.

So there we were on June 27th ready to go. You might be able to guess what's coming...I got a cold and felt dreadful. It's not a good idea to set off on a four day passage (four hours on, four hours off watches, twenty four hours a day) if you are not in top condition. So we delayed our departure again. We were beginning to wonder if we should apply for ctizenship.

Odds and ends
Parrot question. In our last log we asked if anybody knows how many words a parrot can say. First to respond were Dale and Rita on the US flagged Alate, now back in the USA. They responded: "Alex, possibly the smartest and most famous parrot ever, died at 31. He was a research subject for scientists at Harvard who were amazed by his ability to learn language. He could differentiate colors and shapes and knew more than 100 words. Some parrots have a much larger vocabulary, a couple of hundred words, but don't use the words correctly". I am now teaching Mike to parrot squawk, but he's not too bright and it's a slow process. As for shapes and colours...

Flag question. Also in the last pictures log we showed a flag and asked which country it was. First up with the answer (Hawaii) and emailing all the way from Australia was Dave Heads, one of Mike's skydiving team. Britain only occupied Hawaii for a couple of years, so we were very surprised that they have the Union Jack on their flag. Apparently this was added because of the amount of trade we passed through Hawaii.

Comment from Mike - UK politics. Even though Boris won in London it's still worrying that over one million mental deficients voted for Ken Livingslime (it's true, I've met him), a confessed Marxist. If that's bad enough, even when the Politbureau lose the next general election it seems likely that the EUSSR will be running the UK anyway. Another Marxist, Peter Mandelson the European Trade Minister, said the rebranded EU constitution (originally rejected by France and Holland and now by Ireland): "cannot be held hostage to democratic voting". He has also stated "the democratic experiment in Europe has failed. We must now move on to the post-democratic society". Since the EUSSR president and parliament will not be elected by the people the UK will slip even deeper into communism with little chance of ever changing things. Given the state of the country, the tax levels, the price increases, destroyed pensions, uncontrolled immigration and crime, failing education and healthcare etc, how long before people start rioting? Answers on the 'Contact us' page please.

Marine plonkers award. Goes this quarter to the retards at Aqua Signal. AS make navigation lights and to some extent are the 'industry standard' because all chandlers stock them. So why do the fittings corrode and you have to replace the lights every few years? Please sit down before reading this. Because...they are not waterproof. How can so many marine designers be so very, very stupid.