This is a story of MEMSA, Macqueripe Early Morning Swimmers Association, a group of ageing swimmers, lovers of the sea, who one day decided to go by Kayak to Nelson Island from Tembladora Bay off the north west coast of Trinidad. . Only one of them, the strongest swimmer was in his early forties. The others were in the late fifties, sixties and one in mid seventies.
I awoke early that Sunday morning of May 29, 2011. This was the morning our newest challenge. I reflected on the formation of MEMSA. I was accustomed swimming at Macqueripe Bay during the week and on weekends. Gradually I got to recognize regular faces. Eventually it boiled down to Sunday mornings as a regular swim time, but even so, sometimes I continued to swim during the week after work.
Macqueripe is a beautiful bay. On a clear day, Venezuela or the Main can be seen as though it is an easy swim. It has deep and treacherous waters. You have to be able to swim and stay afloat for hours. We discussed everything outside there….politics, women, work and dreams among others.
We eventually gelled together
All the necessary preparations were done.
Gunda and myself declined. Michael was scheduled to be in Tobago. Jenny was on a cruise abroad. I had decided from the start that I was not going.
‘My job took me to Nelson Island a few times and that I am not going in those waters.’
‘You coward! Only talk, talk, talk.’
‘Say what you all want, I won’t change my mind.’
During the week prior to the caper, members continued to lend their voices by email
Peter Montique wrote:
I have done all the research in relation to the kayaks and the information is as follows:-
Cost : Single – $40.00 per hour
Double – $60.00 per hour
It was recommended by the people who owns the kayaking place that to get to Five Island and back it may take approximately two hours. My recommendation is, we pay for two and a half or three hours for two basic reasons:-
1.) It is our first experience going to Five Island
2.) We would want to stay for a short period to take a swim at the beach at Five Island.
Please indicate to me how many people are going. I need that information no later than Thursday afternoon.
Thank you in advance and I await your response.
Bag of Money.
“ that for our first time kayaking experience we should keep it pretty “light” and “easy” and refrain from planning a long distance trip…. most of the members have no experience in kayaking and might just wanna try it out before having to paddle nearly as far as Venezuela in the hot sun…. Finbar is already bailing out!! 🙁 and he was supposed to share a double with me….. 🙂
Why not just call this one a TRIAL run and we just spend about an hour in the kayaks and then go to our regular swim? We should really try to start EARLY – YES I SAID ‘EARLY’ MY EARLY MORNING SWIMMERS!!! 🙂
Why not meet for 7am at the Kayak Center – our official starting time – and after the kayaking reach to our regular swim for about 8.30am – enough time to enjoy a nice swim as well.
And next time we can do the official kayaking experience! Well prepared and happy! Please don’t get me wrong: I think that everyone in our group can make it to Venezuela! Including Finbar! Let me hear what you all think about my suggestion!
Gregory, our strongest swimmer agreed with Gunda
I completely concur with Gunda’s suggestions……..Depart at 7:00 a.m. ..Kayak for an hour…which I think will be a great for all of us..(Finbar included maybe) to try out this new experience for most….we can reach to Hart’s Cut Coast Guard base…and then return to the Kayak Center….after an hour..and then go for our regular swim at Macqueripe… I thinks it will be great fun
Eugene…Can your man-servant work us up a pot of rice & salt-fish with real ochroes….please for the occasion….after our swim.
All of the other guidelines apply…..Thanks
Lenny voiced some concerns
Some more information might be helpful for first timers:
• What’s the advantage of the “double” arrangement?
• Should we provide ourselves with sunburn protection–hat, glasses, Tshirt?
• Is the kayak capable of safely transporting “cargo”, say, fins, “ODM” supplies, other refreshment, cellphone?
• What seagoing precautions should we take?
This is a call for old nautical hands advise on the above.
Gregory again advised
As someone who has done this before to as far as Hart’s Cut from Kayak Center and back… Please be advised of the following.
Drink lots of water throughout Saturday to be properly hydrated. Eat well throughout Saturday. Especially…Eat a good dinner the night before and a solid breakfast the morning of. You will be burning a lot over carbs out on the water…more than you will at your regular Sunday swim… Sunblock is advised as well.
Anything that can float should the kayak flip over can be taken. Keys, cellphones,are ill-advised. ODPM supplies, fruit and water in small quantities should be ok,..however if the boat flips then is later for that (better than keys and cellphones). Pots of rice dishes are also not suggested for the trip. If the fins can float…..Ok…hopefully the tide will be low….so we can cut the water like boats.
The earlier we leave the better,…the sun reflects off the water and is absorbed by your body. When we return, you will be famished and very thirsty….Bring refreshments. Everyone will have to wear a life-vest regardless of how well you can swim.
Thats the brief…….Looking forward to the trip.
The guys gathered at the Kayak centre around seven o’clock eager to embark on their new adventure. They were accustomed to challenging nature in the treacherous waters of Macqueripe Bay every Sunday. This was a different challenge, one that would give them a certain sense of pride, and certainly one with lots of thrills. They chose their Kayaks. Eugene came with his two nieces along with their father…don’t know why. The water was beckoned with slight wind ripples.
After they embarked on their adventure, I went to Macqueripe to swim. I returned about 10am, (the expected time of return) only to meet Mack and Winston B, Lenny, Vandayer and Eyen. I learnt that they had reached just beyond halfway and turned back when they realized they couldn’t make it as the water had become a bit treacherous, falling out in the water etc. Anyhow they managed to make it back with difficulty.
Terry and the others made it to Nelson Island. They swam around a bit there, but it was the return that was the big problem as there were currents. We kept looking and looking but couldn’t see anyone on the horizon. Eventually, Peter made it in. He was giving big talk but you could see that he was scared stiff…his big eyes were bigger than usual. He told us that he learnt that two people were by Alcoa. He then went with his truck to bring them back along with the kayaks. It turned out to be Ivan and Richard. He met them walking along the road. (Ah doh know what Ivan taking but it wuking). Ivan said that they were both heading to Port of Spain as the current was carrying them in that direction. Also, sometimes they were in a trough with water on both sides. In addition, both of them had fallen off their kayaks a few times and had trouble getting back on.
Eventually we started to see kayaks. Eugene’s two little nieces and their father eventually reached in….no Eugene. They had put him off the kayak because he was making it drag in the water and couldn’t give any help with the rowing. Lio and Terry had to help him. Gregory gave him his kayak and swam and assisted everyone else. For most of them, this was their first kayak experience. Lio said he had to sing calypso to ease the pressure. In my opinion, Gregory was the hero of this foolhardy expedition (I make no apologies for such labeling). Lio lost his bag and thought he had also lost his fins until I pointed them out. He was bent double and could not straighten up.
The brothers did not realize it, but they all had bulging eyes and were very quiet on return until they recovered and put on a false bravado.
During all this, I had alerted the Coast Guard. However, they came after the guys had already made it back.
Ivan then invited everyone to have a thanksgiving lunch at his hotel, Alicia’s Palace, which was gratefully accepted. It was an opportunity to recoup and have a post mortem over lunch. Eugene and Lio declined but they were excused as they had not recovered from their scare during the kayak caper which was almost a disaster.
All of them were damn well scared stiff.
Give praises…it could have been much worse…..