We will sign off from the very southern Caribbean
The Admiral and The Commander
Actually it was Tobago which we arrived at first as it sits slightly to the north west of Trinidad. We had a good sail down in winds between 14 – 20kts with Lloyd following just behind us. During the night with the radar on, as we were again watching the squalls, we noticed we were having a power problem. Oh no, Alec very soon discovered it may be getting close to the time when we need to replace the batteries. Lets just hope they hold on a little longer, but seven and a half years is a good run from them. New sails needed, now new batteries !!!!
Tobago is 116 sq. miles, with forested mountains and some lovely bays with white sandy beaches behind coral reefs and coconut palms to the waters edge. Again it is not one of the more popular sailing destinations due to winds and currents and also a bit out of the way. No real facilities for yachts but some nice bays to anchor.
The population is around 55,000 and tourism is low-keyed, but there was a cruise ship visiting at the time we were there.
After a run of 140nm we were anchored in Scarborough fishing harbour on the south west coast of Tobago. It is the main town on the Island. The fishing harbour was rather grubby – definitely no swimming here. The anchorage is very limited and one has to tuck well into the harbour as the main harbour is used by commercial shipping and huge ferries which come across from Trinidad. The holding isn’t that wonderful either. By nightfall we had moved SHAMAL five times!!!!! The last time the Coast Guard told us to move. We were nicely tucked in, but they were just being picky and told us – along with three other yachts - to move as a Cruise Ship was arriving early next morning. The other problem was that there was no real places to tie up ones tender. It was a case of squeezing in between the fishing boats.
Once checked in we had a look around the town. We were actually looking for somewhere to have lunch, but most places had finish and were closing. Never mind, Alec and Lloyd found a Subway which was still open. We would have to wait for some “local” food.
The next day we connected up to the internet then hired a taxi to visit Fort King George which has a commanding view over the town and along the coast. Unfortunately the Fort was closed. We could not work out why, maybe it was because it was raining, or because it was close to lunch time !!!!. Once we had taken our photos we descended the hill and found a local restaurant for lunch.
When we return to the tender we found we had parked in a fisherman’s spot. He was obviously not pleased with us. He had relocated Lloyds tender to another berth, but had done his best to block us in as he could not move us as we were locked with a wire cable to the dock side. Also our poor tender had been surging back and forth along a slimly concrete quay which has now coated it in green and brown slime. Also, there is a terrible smell of rotten fish. Once we have untangled our ropes and managed to manoeuvre on out into the harbour, we go back to SHAMAL. Alec passes me buckets of soapy water and a scrubbing brush, and I thoroughly clean up, but, I can still smell rotten fish. It is not until we lower the back end of the tender on the davits to drain the water out, when out pops the rotten fish from under our false floor. That fisherman must have been mad with us to stuff that between out floors !!!!! I did confront him the following morning, but he denies it. I tell him I KNOW HE PUT IT THERE !!! This time Alec drops Lloyd and I off to do the checking out and he takes the tender back to SHAMAL to await our return. We don’t want a repeat of yesterday thank you !! Yes it was time to move out of the Fishing Harbour and find one of these lovely white sandy bays to spend a couple of nights in. We need a swim as temperatures are around 30 deg.c. and humidity is up !!
By midday we have dropped the anchor in Store Bay on the south western side of the Island, and it is picture-perfect with white sandy beaches, palm trees, clean clear waters, and a few other yachts anchored here, so that tells us it is a better place to be. It was also in this bay that we heard our first steel pan playing. That really is something else. These guys sure know how to present music.
On this corner of Tobago is the airport and most of the hotels. There is a small local village with restaurants that cater for all needs, beach bars and rum shops. The Wi-Fi is free in the bars and that is where you will find most yachties. In one such bar we are approached by an Italian named David with excellent English. He sailed across the Atlantic many years ago in a 23 foot Yardley and ended up staying in the area. He was telling us that each September he takes a rally down to Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana. The trip down is only about 300nm. They go up the three main rivers visiting villages along the way. The following evening he invited us to a slide show. Think we are sold on that one for next year. It sounded a lot of fun, and interesting also, and it gets you out of the the Caribbean during the hurricane season.
So after the weekend in Store Bay we decide it is time to move on. Trinidad is our next Island with a run of some 65nm which will take us into Chaguaramas Bay on the south western coast. It is a Customs Port of entry for us, and we need to arrive before 1600 to check in or there are overtime fees to pay. We agree with Lloyd that we will have a 0300am departure as the winds are forecast to be light and there are currents to contend with. Alec and I are up by 2.30am to find Lloyd has already departed !!. Never mind, we up anchor and motor on out right into a fishing buoy !!!! Yes at 0300am Alec is taking a swim to clear the starboard prop of rope with his big dolphin torch. Thank goodness the waters are warm. We are soon on our way again.
By dawn there is enough wind to sail. By mid-morning the main comes down and the MPS goes up. We have a beautiful run catching up and passing Lloyd and we get into Chaguaramas to clear in with customs and immigration with time to spare. We move from the customs dock and out into the anchorage.
We are so close to Venezuela and can see the coast quite clearly from our anchorage. No wonder it shares so many of the plants, birds and insects that are found there. The cruising guides have a section on the dangers of each country. Trinidad has a bit of a reputation, but as long as one is sensible you should come to no harm. The biggest problem we found was venturing out after dark. One needs long pants and shoes and socks, but of course this is not at all practical due to the heat. It is not the mosquitoes, but minute sand flies known as “no-see-ums” that eat you alive. I now carry bug spray everywhere.
One evening while waiting for Alec I sat and watched the minute hummingbirds gathering nectar from a flowering shrub beside where I was sitting. I tried to photograph them, but their movement calls for a more powerful camera. They stop in mid air in front of the flowers, their tiny wings beating very rapidly, and put their long slender bill into the flower. They are at each flower for only a second or two. Some had brilliantly coloured plumage. It was a wonderful sight.
Chaguaramas is a large well protected bay, but also used by shipping for Trinidad's oil industry. As this area is considered outside the hurricane belt it has become a huge yachting services place. There are more than a dozen boat yards, haul out facilities, chandleries, technical yacht services etc etc. BUT also as I mentioned it is a commercial port for the offshore oil industry with work boats coming and going night and day. This makes the bay rather noisy and rather grubby. After a week there poor SHAMAL has a horrid oily tide line around her hull along with all the other yachts.
We spent our time there visiting every boat yard and facility checking out the availability of parts etc. Top of the list was batteries. Yes they could get them in for us, but it could take up to a month !! No thanks. One day we take a maxi taxi into Trinidad’s largest marine shop, but the driver forgets to drop us off and we end up in Port of Spain, the capital. Never mind, we get to see a little of the place. On the return trip the shop is now closed !!
Another day we take a boat break and visit the Military History and Aviation Museum which was fascinating, but in urgent need of upgrading before they lose some of their wonderful treasures. During World War Two Chaguaramas was a major base for the Americans with over 30,000 living here. This was partly due to such a well protected harbour. The bunkers they built are now well overgrown with the tropical jungle.
British forces took the Island from the Spanish in 1797. Slavery was abolished in 1834 which had the slaves abandoning the tobacco and cocoa plantations. The British then imported thousands of Indians to work the new cane fields. Trinidad was a British colony up until 1976, but unrest still persisted for a number of years. Corruption ran rife and things really got out of hand. In 1990 members of a minority Muslim group attempted a coup, stormed parliament and took 45 hostages. The coup failed. By the late 1990s petroleum and natural gas reserves were discovered which has helped stabilize the country, and made way for it to move ahead.
After a week here we discover we are not going to get the things we need, so we feel we must move north. We have not had time to do any site-seeing, BUT, we will be back. Lloyd is still sorting things out with his boat. Check out procedures take over an hour with paper work which would make any of our Government Departments look tame. After that is completed we have a much needed coffee with Lloyd, collect some last minute shopping, then up anchor and leave Chaguaramas in yet another rain squall. Do read the above notice which is displayed at the entrance to the Immigration building in Chaguaramas.We will do an overnight sail to Grenada.
We will sign off from the very southern Caribbean
The Admiral and The Commander