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October 15th, 2002
The Net in Trinidad

The net in Trinidad is something else. I've explained to you about our VHF radio- how it serves like a bit of a telephone, but everyone can hear each other talking if they choose. Well, one of the outgrowths of this concept is a thing called the "Morning Net" you'll find in some of the larger communities of the islands. Sint Maarten has one, as does Margarita, and- the most hysterical we've heard happens to be in Trinidad.

One of the yachties volunteers to serve as the Net Controller… kind of like an emcee. "Good morning, this is Billy Bob from the sailing vessel Caribbean Queen and I'm going to be your Net Controller this morning. Does anyone have weather for us?" And then some random yachtie who may be listening chimes in to share a weather report they've gotten for the day. From there, they move through the different segments of the morning net: Safety and Security Announcements, Social and General Announcements, Help Locating Parts and Services, Treasures of the Bilge, and so on. Boats will call in within each topic when they have something relevant to contribute (or in Trinidad it seems- perhaps not so relevant).

Knowing that Trinidad is an annual destination for so many cruisers, it follows suit that each year, the same boats show up for hurricane season and come to know each other well- as would any neighbors in life back on land. Curt and I agree that it's quite reminiscent of perhaps a retirement community. Most everyone knows each other already, or- at the very least- will come to know each all too well shortly after their arrival. It's evident from the grumpy bickering you hear over the radio as anonymous callers snip at each other, only to get a response calling their criticizer by name. Merely from their daily radio participation, you begin to recognize folks merely by their voice. So much so that you might find yourself in line at the market and know that the skipper from Pelican is behind you without ever looking or even needing to know what he looks like.

So each morning at eight o'clock, from your slip, you can hear the boats around you listening to the net too- creating an omnipresent buzz somewhat like hearing yourself on the radio while you talk to the DJ through the receiver of your telephone. The entertainment begins with the net controllers themselves- each with their own personalities: some running a tight ship and vigilant about radio protocol, and others thinking themselves akin to Jerry Lewis or George Burns, using the net as the stage for their antics. It's always fun to listen as they try to maintain control of this free for all. They've got French, Germans, and Italians trying to make broken announcements no one can understand, the local businessmen with no clue about VHF protocol whatsoever jumping in wherever they feel like it to announce their taxi tours, crotchety old men scolding others for rude behavior, kids playing on the microphone while their parents aren't looking. Some mornings it's near havoc!

You can count on at least some of the same characters checking in each morning. Hanalei Bay will continually announce their dinghy for sale, the raspy voiced French woman from Rocket petitions students for her Spanish classes every morning without fail, the eccentric old woman from Thea comes on each day with a new announcement- be it a flower show is happening in town, or if anyone would like accompany her to her hat shop this afternoon, give her a call. You begin to wonder if these people are so attention starved, they just get on to hear themselves talk.

Having said all that, if you have the patience to wade through all of the forgoing mess, the net is quite useful. We were able to buy a used anchor from another boat at well under a quarter of the cost of a new one. Cruisers are able to come on and ask for anyone's advice on how to hook up their WeatherFax or any other problem they might be stuck on. We heard about all sorts of local events we would have never known about, such as jam sessions at the Steel Pan Yards, or free rides to the Costco, or local concerts. It seems that in Trinidad, there are at least five activities you can choose from on any given day of the week: Dominos on Sundays at Crews Inn, Potluck Night at Tropical Marine Thursdays, Free Chicken Wings at Voyagers Pub on Wednesdays, a market run with the Members Only Taxi Service Friday Morning, I could go on and on.

While we know of quite a few people that find the nets annoying and ludicrous- we find them pretty entertaining. On land, one might listen to Regis and Kathy Lee while the get ready for their day. On Force Five, we listen to the morning net!

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