Monday, July 10, 2006

On to Trinidad

July 8, 2006, Saturday
Coral Cove Marina,  Chaguaramas, Trinidad       Traveled 85 NM

We left Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada, at 7:00 p.m. last night, when there was still sufficient light for us to see the reefs near Calvigny and Hog Islands.  Winds were predicted for 15-20 knots, decreasing to 10-15 knots this morning.  The first 10-15 miles off of Grenada has a notorious "washing machine" effect; not at all a pleasant place for sailing.  We steered course of 181 degrees for 90% of the passage; actual winds experienced were 25 knots with frequent gusts of 30.  Seas were 8-9 feet for three-quarters of the trip.  About 2 hours outside Trinidad, the winds finally decreased to 15 knots and the seas moderated down to 4 feet.  This coincided with being in the lee of Tobago, about 85 miles to the east of us. 

There is an equatorial current that runs 1.5-2 knots curving NW up between Tobago and Grenada, which makes for a somewhat rough passage with waves across beam rolling the boat for most of the trip.  We had less than an hour of normal sailing after we got out of the washing machine effect south of Grenada before we encountered the current effect.  Once we got south of that current then the sailing was quite nice, but it was a miserable trip down to that point.  Bill got truly seasick for the first time ever.  He had gotten queasy for the first time when we sailed from Carriacou to Grenada in early June, but that was probably caused by heat and the fact that he was sitting behind the dodger with no wind.  This time, it was plain mal-de-mer caused by rolling and bouncing so much in the rough seas.  But once he threw up, then he was okay enough to continue to function for the rest of the trip.  Darn good thing, because about 5 hours into the trip Judy succumbed to seasickness with gut-wrenching dry heaves and she was useless until we finally reached the calmer weather.  Every time she would look at the chart or sit at the helm, she would start heaving again.  Bill finally gave her one of the seasickness pills that came out of our liferaft supplies when we had it serviced in St. Thomas.  We have no idea what these pills are, as the label is in French and we don`t recognize a word of it.  Anyway, that pill put Judy sound asleep in the cockpit for almost 2 hours.  When she woke up, she was fine and the weather was calming down.  By that time, Bill was exhausted and he finally got to sleep for a bit.

So, all in all, this was our worst passage so far, as measured by physical comfort.  But those final two hours were wonderful.  That is what sailing is supposed to feel like.

I know a few other sailors are reading this blog.  This information is for them.  The paper charts indicate the Hibiscus gas platform on the north side of Trinidad; it is recommended that you pass east of the Hibiscus in order for the best angle of approach to the cut into Chaguaramas.  This gas platform is not shown on any electronic charts, at least none that we are aware of.  Anyway, for those who might be interested, there is not just one platform; there are at least three. 

The platform that is shown on updated paper charts is lit with yellow lights, with tiny red lights on top of it and solid white sea-level lights spaced a good distance around it.  It is located exactly as shown on the Imray B-6 paper chart.

About 2-3 miles ESE of that platform is another one.  It is lit with all white lights, also with solid white sea-level lights spaced a good distance around it. 

About 8-9 miles NE of the yellow Hibiscus platform is another one, or what appeared to be another one.  It was lit with white lights, with one solid red on the SW side of it.  Looked like a huge ship with dual white steaming lights and 1 red port light; but it was stationary; and the red was on the wrong side for it to be a ship.  If it was a ship, we should have been seeing a green light.  So, either a huge ship with improper lights was stopped dead out in the middle of nowhere, or it was another gas platform.  Either way, we stayed well clear of it.  We passed one mile east of the Hibiscus platform, leaving the other two platforms well to the east of us.

We arrived at the entrance to Chaguaramas about 8:00 a.m.  A catamaran arrived just in front of us.  We had been watching this boat for hours on our radar, as we got closer and closer to it.  A catamaran should have been sailing much faster than our monohull, but it wasn`t.  When we got into the cut between mainland Trinidad and Monos island, called Boca de Monos, we could see that they were starting to put out their fenders and dock lines in preparation for arrival at the customs dock.  Did they ever go slow!!!  We slowed to the point that we were losing steerage control, simply because we felt it would have been rude to go around them and reach customs dock first.  But we were polite and stayed behind them.

Three huge porpoises came up to our boat in the cut and played around us for awhile.  Biggest ones we have ever seen; a different species that what we are accustomed to seeing in the northern Caribbean.  Several porpoises were playing beneath the catamaran in front of us.  They did this for quite a while; didn`t leave until we reached the industrial traffic area entering the Chaguaramas bay.

The catamaran docked at the customs dock and moved as far forward as possible, leaving enough room for about two-thirds of our boat.  Judy docked the boat and Bill jumped off and tied off the dock lines.  Our official arrival was 10:00 a.m.; total trip 85 NM in 15 hours, but we had wasted at least an hour creeping behind that catamaran.  We later talked to the owners and learned that they had engine trouble and wouldn`t have minded if we had passed them.

We hit the ATM at the bank located next to Immigration and got $1,000 TT (exchange rate is about 6.25 TT to one USD).  We then cleared Immigration and Customs, total charge $338 TT.  We were very glad to see that our marina is located directly across from the customs dock, maybe 60 feet away.  Judy backed off the customs dock and moved the boat over to the marina dock and Bill handled the dock lines on the port side this time.  We checked in with the marina office and got our slip assignment, and moved the boat there.  Another cruiser helped with the dock lines this time. 

We really like where they have placed us.  We are alongside the outside edge of the travel lift, with our bow pointed directly at the customs dock.  There are a jillion water taxis running around this harbor.  All the other boats in this marina are docked broadside to the wakes created by the water taxis, so they roll side-to-side a lot.  We are pointed bow-to towards the wakes, so our boat rides with a very comfortable movement and no rolling. 

Something surprised us a bit about this area.  The tide swings typically 3 1/2 to 4-feet.  Normally there is a rule of thumb that the closer to the equator you are located, then the smaller the tidal change.  We were not expecting this large a variance between high and low tides.

We went to the pizza place located here in the marina for a late lunch.  After being sick all night, we were finally beginning to get really hungry by mid-afternoon.  Bill had a steak sandwich (safe and bland).  Judy wanted to try the pizza.  The restaurant is owned by an Italian guy and the pizza is supposed to be pretty good.  A one-topping small pizza (8 slices) is $37 TT.  The choices were pepperoni (don`t eat that), salami (not on a pizza, please), ham (too salty), or meatball.  So, Judy opted for a small meatball pizza.  It turned out to be just crumbled ground beef spread all over the top of the pizza.  Now, the strange thing is that this is served with dispensers of ketchup and mustard.  Never before have we been served ketchup and mustard with pizza.  Judy opted not to try those condiments, and added dried red pepper flakes instead.  We brought the left-overs back to the boat for later.  Have a feeling that we will be visiting that little Italian eatery often.  (AND THEY HAVE SALADS!!!!! which are sometimes hard to find down in these islands)

July 10, 2006  Monday

There was a pot-luck barbeque at the marina gazebo last night.  They do this every Sunday.  We met several other cruisers and enjoyed the evening.  We learned that there is a taxi/bus to the mall every Tuesday evening for movie night.  The theater has at least 2 screens and they are supposedly showing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  It costs about $2.50 US for a movie, and a large popcorn and drink costs about $1.50 US.  Total taxi, movie, snacks, and dinner should run about $20 per person.  That sounds really inexpensive to us and we will definitely be doing an occasional movie & dinner night.

Movies and food might be inexpensive, but WiFi is NOT inexpensive down here.  The best service costs $85 US per month.  We didn`t want to pay that much, so we connected with a slower service for $39.95 US per month.  And we think even that price is too expensive.

The Globalstar satellite phone will not work here.  It indicates that it is roaming; but when we try to place an outgoing call, it does not work.  I don`t know what happens if we have an incoming call.

We woke up to parrots flying overhead.  Noisy things, but really neat.  Never thought we would be in an area where parrots fly wild around us.  Area is also populated with kickadees, pelicans, gulls, and frigate birds.  Gets pretty noisy in the early mornings and early evenings, but all the birds are totally quiet during the day.   There are howler monkeys in Scotland Bay, which is off the cut where we entered Saturday morning.  Supposedly, the howler monkeys sound like lions roaring.  If we get tired of marina life during the next 2 1/2 months, then we might go over there for a few days to check it out.

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