We've been waking in the morning to heavy, grey skies, not because the sun isn't shining, but because bush fires are raging in the hills above the marina. The smoke is so dense, it burns your eyes within minutes. Combined with temps in the 90sF/30sC and high humidity, it's hard to breathe. It's stifling. This is all too vividly reminiscent of the fires in Tasmania while we were there. The decks are gray with soot and smoke.
March is traditionally the driest month of the year here, and bush fires are nothing new in Trinidad. Officially the “bush fire season” runs from December 1 to June 30 each year. The latest Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service Dry Spell/Drought monitor at the end of March 2016 shows that rainfall this year was less than 50% of average in most parts of the country. They're blaming the current declining El Niño for influencing drier and hotter local conditions and it's expected to continue during April and May. Lord knows we saw plenty of bush fires burning on our recent trip around the island.
In the meantime, there's a severe water shortage in the area. Tobago, Trinidad's sister island, is harder hit to the point of crisis. Here in Trinidad, water conservation rules are in effect, not so different than we experience in Las Vegas or Colorado during the dry summer months.
Most of the fires are started by locals who routinely burn their fields. With so little rainfall, everything is tinder dry, but still they persist in the burning thinking that they can control it, but obviously in many cases, they cannot. There's a helicopter that makes routine runs over the marina dropping sea water on the fires, but we wonder how effective it is based on so many areas of concern.
It will be good to be back to the sea, away from cities and fires and soot and smoke, where the salt air is fresh and clean and we can breathe in deeply without coughing. All the more incentive to get our jobs done and get back into the water. Soon … very soon!