"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

WH Scotts

>> Thursday, February 26, 2009

We arrived in Trinidad, as usual, with a list of ships supplies to buy- plywood and fasteners for a linen cabinet we plan on building, some wire for a project with our masthead light, grease for our grease gun, paint, pump rebuild kits, and so on. After Trinidad supplies will be either difficult or impossible to find, so we try to stock up as much as possible. Fortunately if you know who to ask, where to look, and are willing to make a day of it, one can find almost anything in Trinidad.
Thus it was with a mixture of cautious optimism and can-do determination that Mr. Graham and I set out yesterday. Our first (and it turns out only) stop was WH Scotts in downtown Port of Spain which must rank as one of the world’s great hardware stores, as it provides an engaging day trip, offers a very nice selection of high quality English hand tools, and stocks an inventory which has been accumulating for a century. It is a vast place, consisting of not only the three story main building, but also an undisclosed number of satellite warehouses tucked away in the surrounding blocks. While they do have a few browsing sections, with seemingly random selections of tools and materials in glass display cases, the initiate soon learns that this is merely the tip of the iceberg and that the real inventory is tucked away out of view. It is interfaced through a byzantine system of bureaucrats, great numbers of whom are crammed into desks in every nook and cranny. They fight a daily battle against the forces of chaos armed only with ledger books, carbon paper and an extensive internal phone network.
Thus, after stopping by the third floor and admiring the power tools, Mr. Graham and I found ourselves on the second floor sitting on stools and going through our list item by item with a less than helpful woman, while our neighbor enthusiastically tried to sell us a propane powered soldering iron, describing it in great detail and drawing diagrams.
-Do you have grease, for a grease gun? I asked
-you turn the tip 90 degree, use like a hammer, our neighbor interjects
-No, the saleslady said.
Mr. Graham giggles
-Are you sure? I ask. It seems like something you might have.

The lady shrugs and makes a call, confirming that there is no grease. We continue this process for every item on the list, making occasional field trips downstairs, and on one occasion snuck into the warehouse to find the pipe fittings to make a rack after spending nearly 45 minutes trying to describe what we needed and being sent to random warehouses. The back room was filled with pipe fittings, overflowing from all the shelves and forming small mountains on the floor. I began poking around, but was soon discovered by the very old man who presumably is the only one who knows where anything is. After attempting to run me down with his shopping cart he came around and took me where I needed to go, wrote a list of parts and back up I went to the lady at the desk, who was in a heated discussion with a gentleman about a set of wheels for a dolly. We then asked for screws and were sent to the third floor, and after getting those asked for nails and were sent back to the second floor. At which point I told Mr. Graham, “I can’t go back there.” He agreed and we decided that discretion is the better part of valor, paid, and headed back to the ship.
By the proceeding account I do not intend to slight Scotts in any way. In a part of the world where supplies are hard to come by, they maintain an amazing inventory- what other hardware store, for example can you walk into and order oakum and a top quality Sheffield steel box saw? At Scotts, unlike say Home Depot, the customer always know that their shopping success will increase in direct proportion to their patience, sense of humor and dogged, unflagging determination.

Eric Simpson- Second Mate/Engineer


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