Trinidad & Tobago
28th November to 15 December 2013
We departed on 23 November 2013 from South African to start our first full Caribbean sailing season.
We had mixed feelings:
We spent two and a half months in South Africa sharing our adventures and catching up with friends and family. In this period we flew back to Chicago to attend a Water Management conference. Michael and Cathri joined us. Together we explored the cities of New York and Chicago. We drove all the way from the Canadian border at the Niagara Falls to Time Square in down town Manhattan. Zack attended another water management conference in Port Elizabeth. He also commissioned a flagship waste water treatment plant. I met with my trusted PA to review the status of our property portfolio. I had a knee operation. This resulted in a 100% improved usage of my knee (see my Brazilian Scar Testimony).
The single biggest highlight experienced was the dawn of a new era in our lives: the season of becoming Grand Parents.
My daughter Zandia is expecting our first grandchild. We had the privilege to attend her “4D scan”. What a blessing to hear the heartbeat, to see the nurse identify and point out the various portions of the body, the face, the hands, toes, the hart and the kidneys. We could even see the family trademark, an elongated second toe. Yes and it is a boy!
Praise the Lord and congratulation to Andre and Zandia. We are so proud to become grandparents.
Reality kicks in as we touch down at a chilly JFK in New York. It takes patience standing in the long queues waiting for the unfriendly immigration officer to question you, photograph you and take your fingerprints. Welcome to the world of control, but I guess it is good for your own safety. Zack managed to get a smile from one of the officers when he enquired on the possibility of a refund upon returning the two $5 trolleys.
We utilized the flight route via New York to Trinidad, spending an extra two days in in New York.
That night we attended the musical First Date at Broadway. Zachary Levi of Chuck and Krysta Rodriguez were the show's leading actors. They played the roles of Aaron and Casey. Our review: "When a tightly wound Aaron is set up with cool girl Casey, a quick drink turns into a hilarious dinner served with fake emergency phone calls, a slew of bad boy and uptown girl exes, creating some serious saucy chemistry. The mismatched pair turned a dating disaster into something special before the check arrives." We enjoyed this musical and after the show contributed to their HIV project. In return we got a photo with the main actors. It was a memorable evening on Broadway.
The next morning we set out to face the cold again. New York was freezing cold with the temperatures plummeting to -5 degrees Celsius. It was a five year low for November. The wind-chill factor brought it down to -11 degrees Celsius. It felt like somebody left the door of the fridge.
The challenge was packing clothing for these conditions. My warmest clothes back at home do not even cater for these conditions. The biggest challenge is to the ears, nose and then your feet due to inappropriate shoes. Knowing my husband and only having two days to explore he reckoned it is a beautiful day to go for a walk in the Park. We bought scarfs as well as ear muffins and covered up as much as we could.
We took the subway to Central Park.
The weather was already deteriorating and the water in the lake started to freeze.
Bravely that evening we went to see another Broadway musical “Chicago”. The musical was running for some years and still attracts full houses. The Jet Lag finally caught up with us and although we had prime seats costing R1800 a seat, it could not prevent us from dosing of during the show.
At three the next morning we left for JF Kennedy airport. During the flight we stripped off layers of clothing. The humid 29 degrees Celsius welcomed us back in Port of Spain.
One of our bags was filled up with boat spares. In Port of Spain there is a separate line catering for boats in transition. Only the captain is given a permit to take the parts directly to the customs in Chaguaramas without visiting the boat first. Upon arriving at customs the bag was unpacked and item for item were checked on the list.
An hour later we arrived on our beloved boat Vagabund. Our new 40Hp motor was installed. Without much ado we hit the sack sleeping till the next morning.
Car rental on the island is also a unique experience. Renting a "cheapie" for Tt$200 (R350 p/d) is the normal rate. The inspection sheet only covers major new damage and or missing panels. A big dent does not make it on the list. The car has no radio. The steering wheel, safety belt and seat cover have seen better days. The exterior has two colours. The bonus, it has power steering and an aircon.
After fetching propane gas with our cheapie we could not get her to start again. A friendly driver in his pickup truck stopped jumped out and greeted Zack with the words: “Can I help you Buddy". With a few spanners the loose battery connection was fixed and we were on our way again.
Cascalo with our Brazilian friends Luiz and Marianne, whom I have met at Abrolhos has arrived in Trinidad. They were also hauled out at Peak Marina. That evening we joined up at the local pub catching up.
The Brunton props, ordered from the UK, were delivered in their sealed containers. On opening the containers it was found that the inserts were not supplied. It was Thanksgiving Day and with a six hours’ time delay we still managed to get the supplier to ship the inserts by airfreight the next day.
Our launching date had to be rescheduled.
Friday night is South African Braai night. We met up with six other South African yacht couples at the braai. It seems that South Africans always group together.
The only familiar faces were Ursula and Doug on Island Explorer.
Saturday was a big clean-up day. There is a tendency for a black sticky dust to build up over time because of the petroleum platforms in the area. With some effort and teamwork between husband and wife we rejuvenated Vagabund to her full shining glory.
Sunday morning it was pouring down with rain. Doug and Ursula joined us for church at Westside Community Church. Pastor Oliver said that the grace of Giving and the mission of God include Evangelism, spiritual deliverance and social concern.
Directly after the sermon we enjoyed lunch At West Side mall.We enjoyed the company and beautiful Christmas decorations.
Facts from Wikipedia
“Trinidad(Spanish: "Trinity") is the largest and most populous of the two major islands and numerous land forms which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just 11 km off the northeastern coast ofVenezuela. With an area of 4,768 km2 it is also the fifth largest in the West Indies.
Many believe the original name for the island in the Arawaks' language was "I re" which meant "Land of the Humming Bird". Some believe that "Iere" was actually a mispronunciation/corruption by early colonists of the Arawak word "Kairi" which simply means "Island". Christopher Columbus renamed it "La Isla de la Trinidad" ("The Island of the Trinity"), fulfilling a vow he had made before setting out on his third voyage of exploration.”
On Tuesday we were busy stocking up for the trip up North when Goodwood marine informed us that the inserts have arrived and that they have already installed the props. A close shave but we made it. Vagabund can go back into the water the next morning.
I painted our new props with red permanent marker. The cheapest prop paint you can get. Apparently the paint prevents growth on the props for up to six months.
At two that afternoon the travel lift transported Vagabund back to the sea.
We were full of excitement to have her back in the water. That evening we enjoyed sitting on our deck overlooking the bay.
6th December 2013 Friday
The rental car was returned. Custom and immigration clearance was granted. The evening we had a braai with our special friends: Ursula and Dough from Island Explorer and Luiz and Marianne from Cascalo. It was an evening sharing many stories.
7th December 2013 Saturday
Early at 6 h00 we left for the fresh product market. It was an experience to smell and see. Fish, meat and spice odours filled the air. All the products were fresh. The floor of the next building was covered with tables, each overfilled with fruit and vegetables leaving narrow corridors to wander through. Price and quality had to be balanced of to ensure the best buy. Three bags later: two with fruit and veggies and another with Tuna and some white flesh fish made up our days ransom. Just in time to have a sour drink (sour fruit, condense milk and crushed ice) before we had to get back on the taxi departing at 8am.
At 15h00 Luiz helped us cast off as we said goodbye to Chaguaramas and Trinidad. The first leg was rounding the Western tip of the Island and exiting through the “Bocas de Dragon” narrow pass way to the open ocean. With the strong NE winds and current it is best to stick close to shore for the next 45 nm as you turn ENE motoring against the wind hoping for some cross current to assist. We were conservative in our planning and estimated progress at 4 nm per hour. The new bigger motor and props surprised us and managed to cover at least 7nm per hour. We could ease off to 5 nm per hour to time our arrival at first light in Tobago.
The next morning we arrived at first light in Store Bay Tobago.
Facts from Wikipedia
“Tobago is the smaller of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean, northeast of the island of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. The island lies outside the hurricane belt. According to the earliest English-language source cited in the Oxford English Dictionary, Tobago bore a name that has become the English word tobacco. The national bird of Tobago is the Cocrico.
Tobago has a land area of 300 km and is approximately 40 km long and 10 km wide. It is located at latitude 11 15' N, longitude 60 40’ W, slightly north of Trinidad. The population was 60,874 at the 2011 census. The capital, Scarborough, has a population of about 17,000. While Trinidad is multi-ethnic, Tobago's population is primarily of African descent, although with a growing proportion of Trinidadians of East Indian descent and Europeans. Between 2000 and 2011, the population of Tobago grew by 12.55 percent, making it one of the fastest-growing areas of the country.
Tobago is primarily hilly and of volcanic origin. The southwest of the island is flat and consists largely of coralline limestone. The hilly spine of the island is called the Main Ridge. The highest point in Tobago is the 550-metre (1804ft) Pigeon Peak near Spey side.
The climate is tropical, and the island lies just south of the Atlantic hurricane belt. Average rainfall varies between 3800mm on the Main Ridge to less than 1250mm in the southwest. There are two seasons: a wet season between July and November, and a dry season between December and June.
Possession of Tobago has been fought over by numerous nations since it was first sighted by Columbus in 1498.
The original Caribbean population was forced to defend the island against other Amerindian tribes. Then, during the late 1500s and early 1600s, the natives defended it from European colonists, the first being Courlanders in 1654. Over the years, the Dutch, English, Spanish, Swedish and French transformed Tobago into a battle zone and the island changed hands 33 times, the most in Caribbean history, before it was finally ceded to the British in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris.
From about 1672, during a period of stability under temporary British rule, plantation culture began. Sugar, cotton and indigo factories sprang up and Africans were imported to work as slaves. The economy flourished and by 1777 Tobago was exporting great quantities of rum, cotton, indigo and sugar. But in 1781 the French invaded, destroyed the plantations, and forced the British governor to surrender. The islands buoyant economy fell into decline.
In 1814, when the island was again under British control, another phase of successful sugar production began. But a severe hurricane in 1847, combined with the collapse of plantation underwriters, marked the end of the sugar trade. Without the highly profitable sugar production, Britain had no further use for Tobago and in 1889 the island was made a ward of Trinidad. Without sugar, the islanders had to grow other crops, planting acres of limes, coconuts and cocoa and exporting their produce to Trinidad. In 1963, Hurricane Flora ravaged Tobago, destroying the villages and crops. A restructuring programme followed and attempts were made to diversify the economy. The development of a tourist industry began. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan, while less severe than Flora, also caused significant damage.”
The sailing through the night, crossing the busy ship traffic lane, with strong cross currents and shallow reefs was tiring. Finding my sea legs normally takes a few days. Shortly after arrival I fell asleep and only surfaced after 10 that morning.
After sleeping for four months on her side our small dingy outboard was temperamentally stubborn. Zack struggled for more than an hour before classifying the outboard as due for a carburettor service by a mechanic.
Landing with the dingy was a challenge on its own. With the trade winds in full action the Northerly swells was quite big causing an uncomfortable shore break on the beach. A common agreement was reached that we will only clear immigration and customs the next day. With the dinghy hoisted up we launched our canoe and explored Pigeon Point.
It was already after sunset before we were settled back on Vagabund. Just as I was ready to dish up some fresh Tuna and white fish we heard a voice from the water calling "Hallo, hallo Sir: may I hold onto your boat to catch my breath" Aware of the unwelcome invaders Zack was reluctant to invite any stranger to the boat in pitch darkness. On the other hand if the person is tired of swimming who are we to not to allow him to catch his breathe. Zack made sure he was alone before giving his permission. Upon further invitation our guest boarded our vessel still with a sealed bear can in his hand? Upon further inquiry we could determine he escaped the buzz on the beach that evening by swimming out to Vagabund. After joining us for dinner and two beers we further discovered that he is part of the Canadian 7thRugby team. They were playing in a tournament that ended that same day.
After a pleasant and interesting few hours and with a thank you our night invader dropped over the side and swam back to the beach. The next day we received a sms from Simon Fader to thank us for our hospitality and for the dinner, what a pleasant guy dropping in and out of our lives. Trust we will see him at the Olympics in Rio.
Meeting great people is one of the many things that make exploring new places and people so exciting.
9th December 2013 Monday
After an early morning rowing exercise we beached our dinghy, caught a taxi and visited immigration and customs office to clear customs. The afternoon we wandered through the streets close to the beach.
Vagabund lying on ancor on the right of the photo.
10th December 2013 Tuesday
From Pigeon Point we explored Bucco Reef in a glass bottom boat.
We explored the reefs. They are thick and healthy and covered with robust sponges and corals. The visibility was not very good and we decided to return next year to explore this spectacular reef again.. At Nylon Pool we took a dip and relaxed at "No Man's Land" before returning to shore.
11th December 2013 Wednesday
Early morning we were blessed with a beautiful rainbow.
I experienced very Interesting bookkeeping practises on the beach.
Dave our taxi driver and self-volunteered tour guide took us for a tour around Tobago. We visited the mystery tombstone erected to the memory of Betty Stiven who died in 1783 with the inscription: “She was a mother without knowing it and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him”.
We visited Fort James built by the British Circa 1811. In 1777 a four gun battery of 3 to18 pounders and 1 to 6 pounders was placed here for protection of the bay.
We drove on a narrow road with a breath-taking view of different beaches along the Eastern leeward side of Tobago.
Around a curve in the road we come across the biggest tree in Tobago. The tree was towering into the sky with a trunk covered with small spikes.
After stopping to admire the view over Castara Bay we drove down a winding road to the beach below.
Lunch was enjoyed in a cosy restaurant overlooking Englishman’s Bay.
Parlatuvier Bay is a small bay well sheltered from the open sea.
Tobago is an undulating mass of coral and volcanic rock. The Main Ridge Forest Reserve, Tobago's backbone, is a hilly range of forest, which covers 60% of the island. The drive through the Rain Forest was spectacular.
We took a hike into the forest and the trail revealed towering trees and a variety of ferns. You hear the creaking of the bamboo trees, bird calls and see the gentle swaying of the tall trees as the trade winds brush over the tree tops.
That afternoon at immigration was quite interesting. When we received our papers we discovered that the closed letter from Chaguaramas was not ours but the sailing vessel Vagabond with a crew of four. Luckily the correct papers could be faxed through. Imagine if we had to sail back to Trinidad. In future we will open even sealed paperwork to make sure it is correct.
12th December 2013 Thursday
We left for Charlotteville. Upon reading noon site we decided not to anchor in one of the beaches due to the incident in September this year.
Our Captain tried all his different lures but he could not get any fish to bite. Even by going twice around an island between all the different local fishing boats yielded no fish. Jigging was not successful either.
The local fisherman rigged their boats for either bottom fishing or netting but the majority is rigged for trawling spoons and feathers at high speed. The trawling boats are all equipped with two bamboo pole outriggers.
Our Captain tried all his different lures but he could not get any fish to find it interesting. Even by going twice around an island between all the different local fishing boats no fish. Jicking was not successful either.
The local fisherman rigged their boats for either bottom fishing, netting but the majority is rigged for trawling spoons and feathers at high speed. The trawling boats are all equipped with two bamboo pole outriggers.
At 15:00 we anchored in Pirates Bay less than 0, 5 nm from Charlottesville. We managed to miss the extra fees for after hour arrivals. Charlottesville is a sleepy seaside pleasant village where no one is in a hurry. The bay is a beautiful natural harbour surrounded by steep hills of tropical forest. There are several dainty beaches with white sand and rock pools where the snorkelling is excellent
13th December Friday
We decided to clear out the next morning early and sail to Grenada to have the new engine serviced for its 50hr service before they close down for the Christmas festival. Immigration was available but customs was closed and would only open again on Saturday. We had to postpone our sailing for another day.
14th December Saturday
We waited for two hours before customs arrived. With papers in our hand we were legally prepared for the next Caribbean island. We went snorkelling near a small island in the Man of War Bay. The brown corals and sponges made up an underwater garden. Huge size rocks supported angelfish, parrotfish and the usual reef fishes.
We prepared to leave at 23h00 to sail to Grenada, our next Caribbean island to explore. At 23h50 the anchor was lifted and we left for the open sea.
With a nice steady breeze we deployed the screecher. A few nautical miles later we were in open sea. Apart from swells on the beam the wind picked up to over 30 knots. With the apparent wind getting closer to 30 knots we were speeding over 12 knots into a dark untamed sea. We knew we had too much sail out and could only manage to furl the screecher back in after a battle of more than an hour. The battle left its scars as the foot of the screecher was torn.
We reefed the Genoa and still managed to maintain good progress. Every now and then a wave will break on the bow splashing over the side. A river of water will flush through the cockpit leaving as quickly as what it appeared. With eyes locked in the dark on the starboard sea one could anticipate the rogue waves as they appear. By swinging her stern an extra 30 degrees into the oncoming waves we managed to climb over these breaking waves. We got great appreciation and respect for Vagabund’s sea capabilities.
As we approached land we could change the angle to be more favourable and the sea state were more settled down. It took us just over 10 hours to sail the 88 nm between the two islands.
Just before 10h00 we enjoyed the calm of the flatter water as we motored into Prickly Bay where there were nearly 100 yachts lying on anchor.
Halo Grenada here we are.
Having a rough night like this makes us just so much more aware that we are never alone on the open sea. The Master of the wind and sea is always with us.