Friends, Tokoans and Countrymen -
Callis 'Toko' Careballo
by Linnet Woods
Hanging out at Sails Restaurant, at Power Boats, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, we became part of the scenery and
gradually, as well as meeting lots of interesting new people,
became re-acquainted with old friends too.
One of the local characters we're always happy to see, and spend time with, is Callis
Careballo, or 'Toko', as he is nicknamed, because he is from Toko on the northeast coast of Trinidad.
He is the only Tokoan in Chaguaramas, that he knows of, and he works a fishing boat called
'Man of War' with its Chinese owners, three brothers.
Toko was born on the 14th September 1960 and has been fishing since he was 14 years
old. "My life has plenty of ups and downs", he says.
A graduate of Northeastern College, Sangre Grande, where he put himself through courses in maths and English and studied a little biology and
psychology, out of interest, he worked his way through college, fishing with nets at night to pay his
He was already living alone, after a stand-off with his father, when he was
fourteen, culminating in his leaving home and seeking his own living.
"Education is the key to life", he says.
After college, he went to work, at 18, for the Agriculture bank, ADB, for two
years, and then Neal and Massey who are in the vehicle sales business, selling
tractors, in particular, in Laventille.
The company later moved to Chaguanas. After two years and three months with N and M, he left
because, he says, he doesn't like working for someone else.
"I don't like this boss thing. I prefer to be my own boss. Money you make fishing is
good. Massey give you 1200 dollars a month. Fishing pays 5000 in 12 days.
In a bad month you clear 3000, but of course you have to pay out to the bank and all the
A good months' catch earns the crew 25,000.
The potting boats make two trips in a month, and expect to clear an average of 90,000.
'Men at Work', like other boats of its kind, goes out to sea on live-bait fishing
trips; one hook, one line, one man.
"We fish for Kingfish, Cabali, Carite and so on. You have to buy ice, fuel and groceries and the
bait, which is a smaller fish. Sprats, we call them. We buy about 80 kali
(like a basket with a handle) and they are put straight into the hold, that's about 400 dollars
worth. The bait is kept alive by water which comes in through the hull and out
again, at the draught of the water, we have 3.5 to 4 feet in my well".
Men At Work is about twelve years old, built at Degans, Formula II, right here in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. I ask Toko to tell me about the
"She's 42' long, about 13' wide, and draws about 4 feet. Her engine is a Perkins 135, natural aspiration
(not turbo-charged), we run at 2200 rpm and get eight knots, we carry about 1200 gallons of fuel, approximate hourly consumption is around 5 gallons because the boat is
underpowered, the tonnage of water in a 3 feet by 2.5 feet space adds a heavy load. She's quite lightly
built, being a fibreglass boat, but it's the water that adds the weight".
Men at Work is up for sale and Toko has a wholesale fish business developing.
The owners have all found employment their prefer, one as a tug captain, one as a draughtsman and one as a car alarm
manufacturer, so they have no time for running a fishing boat any more. The Loy
brothers' boat is available to prospective purchasers at 450,000 TT$.
A new equivalent would cost about 700,000 dollars.
"Fishing", says Toko, "is getting hard. The pot fishers use dead bait so they can always get a
supply. There is no live bait these days, the last three years it's been a
problem, there just isn't any. The reason is obvious. You see 15 boats throwing the seines and bagging
everything that lives in a whole bay. It doesn't leave any breeding stocks.
It's a strangely shortsighted way to live, very short term. The whole world seems
over- fished. The Venezuelans have got it about right, there are breeding areas protected by
laws. You go to prison for breaking those laws. These chemicals everybody is
using, as anti-fouling, are killing everything. I remember ten years ago when you found green weed on diving this
bay. Now it's all dead matter down there. They talk about holding tanks for simple human
effluent, they talk about all sorts of things but toxic wastes are the real
Only last night there was diesel being pumped out of a commercial vessel all night. Does anybody care to stop
it? No, they do not. That is what is killing everything.
I've had a stall running in Laventille for about eight months, selling mainly Carite, but any fresh
fish, now I'm opening two more, one in Valpark and one in Movant,
I have a contract available to supply the Royal Bank but they would want to pay on a monthly
basis. It's a worthwhile proposition but I'm not in a position to do it as yet, you need about 15,000 float to handle a market like
I want to work up some vehicles, two vans by the end of the year.
That will cost around 12,000 dollars each, my brother and I would drive one
each. There are a lot of people working in competition, you just have to pick your
I ask Toko about his family.
"I have six sisters and three brothers, I'm the second oldest, my older sister is 39, and the youngest of all is girl of 18, there's nothing else to do in the country except to
work, watch TV and make children.
I'm particularly proud of my youngest sister, Maria. I see her on the television and I could burst with
pride. She's the goal keeper for St. David's United, women's football team. I've seen her play against Memphis Sports
Club, and she had a bad day, letting four goals past, but she's my sister and I was still proud to see her
On his home area, he says "Toko is a bit like Tobago. Toko people are all related to
Tobagonians, there's only eighteen miles between us, we tend to commute, it's 45 minutes to Plymouth so we all tend to nip
over, like going to town!
Something very surprising - most Tokonians with a driving license have a Tobago
one, it was always easier to get there than to Port of Spain. Now , since about seven years ago, we are part of the development of Trinidad, it's speeding up
now, with Radio Toko, Mervyn Dillon the West Indian Fast Bowler has put us on the
map, as has Ian Bishop, another fast bowler. Tobago produced Dwight York the Manchester United
striker, we consider that one of our triumphs too, because Tobago and Toko are so closely
related. Tobagonians prefer country people to town people and Toko people are still very much country
Toko loves cartoons, Tom and Jerry is a favourite, another is Sylvester and Tweetie Pie.
"Peter Pan and Captain Hook was good", he says "I love them all except Ghost Busters and Men In
Black, I don't understand MIB, really and truly. I don't have a favourite movie, I like plenty
action, something like Steven Seagal's Under Siege, First Blood with Sylvester
Stallone, Universal Soldiers I liked too. Vaguely military based movies. I don't agree with war in real life but I don't mind it in the
"Musically", Toko continues, "I like the blues and jazz, I like the reggae beat but not the
lyrics, I can't really understand them, to be honest.
I am from the land of steel band and calypso, soca and carnival, you're not going to ask me if I like
I ask about books and Toko tells me that his library is housed in a 4' x 3'
cupboard. It's crammed full of books, including discovery and
Nostradamus, Max Lensey, a revolutionary Russian author, and Shakespeare are amongst his
favourites. 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' by Dale Carnegie is another
favourite. 'The Life Story Of Joanie', a young surfer who paralysed herself from the neck downwards
is, apparently, very sad, but Toko is very fond of it.
"I saved up a long time to buy a book called Monuments of Mars and Egypt. They say planet Mars carries stone heads like those of
I have a book of the signs of the Zodiac and I have a copy of the I Ching, too.
'Out of darkness comes light'... I like that stuff.
I do a lot of reading but, when I read for more than a couple of hours I find the words become a
On a fishing trip, I bought a copy of the Guyana Chronicle, I have cuttings I kept from
it, about a Los Angeles cult, a gang of head hunters. I bought an Enquirer in Surinam, there was an article about severed heads which give investment
advice, but those who take the advice end up having weird experiences. Strange stuff to find in
For time out, I enjoy being alone and in quiet places. I do a lot of
Lunchtime looms and our stomachs direct the conversation for a moment. "I am a
vegetarian", says Toko, "I don't eat any meat at all, since 28 years ago. I eat a lot of
fish. I like raw vegetables, I love tomatoes and cucumbers. My favourite fruit is the banana. I just love bananas".
I order a regular burger and fries, a rare 'junk' food treat, Toko decides on a filet of
fish, rice and a salad and we are joined by Robbie, our Executive Editor, who chooses a salad.
Robbie and Toko have been friends since 1993 and were delighted to see each other again when Leopard Normand III arrived
in Chaguaramas again in August 1999 since, on her last visit, the year before, their paths hadn't crossed and it had been nearly four
years since last they met.
Unmarried and with no children, which is unusual in this country, Toko has always been a man who prizes his freedom
"They used to call me Jezebel, I had girls leaving through the back door as the next came through the front
door! These days I'm not keen, with all the diseases around it is too risky, and
anyway, I want to marry my girlfriend, Jenny, next July. We've been together eight years and I'm happy to be faithful to
her, although she doesn't want to believe it".
Toko laughs, "She asked me how much I am going to spend on the ring. I said I thought five hundred dollars would be reasonable and she told me it would be nothing like
You had better make it to my wedding", he says, enveloping us both in one of his huge
Toko is a Stag beer drinker and likes Absolut vodka and orange juice as a
Travelwise, apart from Tobago, Guyana and Surinam, he's been fishing, off
Venezuala, Grenada and Barbados, but never actually gone ashore.
When it comes to Trinidad, apart from the cardinal point of Toko, in his home county of
St.David's, he likes Manzanilla best, because of the beach and the people are country
folk, nice and kind, he says.
While we are sitting together, the owner of the boat appears with a potential buyer and they disappear together to look
'Men at Work' over.
When they return, Toko goes to greet the owner and returns to say that it looks as though the boat is virtually sold and maybe the new owner will want to retain his services as
skipper. Not that he is entirely certain that he wants the position, now that he is getting his fish stalls
Toko says he has never really thought about selling fish to the 'yachties' but agrees that it might be a good idea, seeing as how nobody in Chaguaramas seems to be doing
it, and I promise to ask the neighbouring yachts if they'd like to buy some Kingfish or Carite at a fixed price of TT$8 per pound
(about US$1.30) which seems pretty fair.
He says that he will come on Thursday evening to find out how many pounds of fish are needed for the next
Toko is a shining example of a Trinidadian with the ambition to succeed and the willingness to work to that
Word comes back that the new owner wants to retain Toko just to keep an eye on the
"Perfect" he says, beaming, "just the right job, at the
A German friend, Wolfgang, from the catamaran 'Double Trouble', wanders in. He's the guy who lost an oar in his
dinghy, a while back, and ended up on a
sand spit in the mouth of the Orinoco River, three and a half days later, but that's another
Wolfgang gets his chess board out and he and Robbie launch into a game.
Toko has never learned to play chess and, with the same lively curiosity which has led him to study the sculptures on Mars and the wisdom of the
'I Ching' he settles down to find out what the game entails.
Chaguaramas could do with an army of 'Toko's. Trinidad can be proud to have him as a son.