Trinidad to Curacao

At last we can go…

The wind is forecast to be light and from the East, we have got all the parts on board and there is time to checkout and get duty free onboard, so we do it, just running into their out of hours customs charges as it is 15:45. It does take until 16:15 to complete all the paperwork even though we were at immigration for 15:00. The charge was minimal and our remaining currency was spent in the duty free store, conveniently situated next door to customs and right by the dock.

It took us another six hours to store solar panels and put the contents of the lazerette and tools away ready for sailing.

By 22:00 we were leaving the Bocas del Dragon, a fast flowing Channel between Trinidad and the Islands to the West, into an area called the ‘Dragons Mouth’.

It was a bumpy ride, where the tidal stream meets the Equatorial current that began to sweep us westward. Dolphins accompanied us out, their shape and wake looking like torpedos in the bio-luminescence, visible in the dark water under the black sky.

Once we were clear of land everything settled into an easy motor sail, not enough wind to get us going without the engine. We were both tired and started short watches to enable each of us to get some sleep. We extended our watch system to four hours once we were in the familiar groove.

Dawn on day one at sea brought a beautiful sunny day but still no wind. It’s so beautiful to be in open water which is clear of floating debris. Dolphins came to play around the boat briefly and no fish were caught. By the evening there was just enough wind to turn the engine off and sail slowly under a starry moonlit sky enjoying the peace after having the diesel engine throbbing away all day.

A larger pod of dolphins stayed with us for over an hour entertaining us as it got dark. The stars were fantastic, with many meteors or shooting stars. After a very busy 5 months it was quite therapeutic to be so connected with nature again.

Dawn on day 2 at sea saw sufficient breeze to raise the Parasailor, this was an hour’s exercise to prepare the sheets and sail ready for the hoist.

Our favourite sail – the Parasailor

After a small tangle in the lines was sorted she was flying, but by then unfortunately we could see rain and the wind had died again. We doused the parasailor and left her hanging secure in the sock and decided on a clean up of the aft deck. This had been the storage area for all the ropes and sheets whilst we had been pulling wires through for the new arch. We hoped the rain would help rinse the dirty sludge we were loosening but it seemed to skirt around us, tantalisingly close. Eventually one did deliver the fresh water rinse we wanted.

A squall with some rain in the distance

The day’s wildlife we saw consisted of seabirds of several varieties as we approached the Islas Los Roques Islands. Our other company were two cargo ships that caused us to nearly be the meat in the sandwich between them.

Two ships and two rain showers showing up nearby on our chartplotter

There was a flying fish on the deck in the morning that would have fed the cat in Trinidad.

Another pod of dolphins came to play and this time Lesley was able to take a video clip from the cockpit. She also captured what appeared to be a sailfish swimming around us. It checked out the lures but didn’t bite, although Derek found that something had eaten his hooks! Just as we were tidying up at sunset we caught a fish! a Yellowfin tuna weighing 22lbs.

Yellowfin Tuna

After a quiet uneventful night motorsailing, dawn on day 3 at sea left us with 70 nautical miles to go with an eta of Sunday afternoon at approximately 16:30.

We had hoped to stop in the Islas Los Roques islands and Bonaire to dive before arriving for the start of the ‘Suzie Too’ rally, however our delays in Trinidad meant we had to sail past both to be there for family arriving and the start of the rally festivities.

We arrived around 16:30 to cheers from Boca 19 Marina and Beach, where familiar friends were swimming at the regular ’16:00 Hrs Beer and Bob’.

Entering into Spanish Waters, we headed for the designated anchorage, ‘Anchorage C’, set up for the rally boats and were met by fellow rally participants Tim and Nancy, who we last saw in Trinidad, who came to help us with lines as we had to tie stern-to, to a long line, our home for the next week.

Back on the boat in Trinidad

So we both made it back on the planned date leaving England on the 14 October. The airlines were fantastic, accommodating all of our extra luggage, even if one bag did follow on the next flight from Tobago to us! By the time we had our car hire the bag had arrived so no big drama, just a worrying hour as it happened to be the case containing the most valuable boat parts.

Customs glanced through the cases in Tobago and we had to present ourselves at the office in Chaguaramas for the official paperwork for ‘yacht in transit’ status to be formally concluded for all of our parts.

We arrived early evening and managed to find a ladder and haul everything up the 20 foot to the deck.

Its a long way up. when the boat is on the hard

We were relieved to find the boat in good condition, no obvious mould or bug infestations. We headed to Zanzibar restaurant for food and then sleep.

For the next  25 days it was a grueling schedule of work to put the boat back together and prepare her for sailing. It was disappointing to find the work we had commissioned before leaving had not progressed in our absence. This we had read about so we started to chase up the contractors. In the end our delay was down to waiting for the solar panels and wind generators to arrive. We were able to track the cargo ship across the Atlantic and down the Caribbean chain of islands. We even identified it anchored in the bay behind us waiting to go into Port of Spain to unload. Once the ship had docked it took several days to get unstuffed and for our parcels to be released. In total 11 days from docking.

It was complicated by the fact that the value exceeded a certain figure and so normally a clearing agent is required. However, depending on who you ask, the value is irrelevant for yacht in transit. The conclusion was we needed an agent which we commissioned, and after all the hassles they arrived at customs to be told they weren’t needed! We finally got the goods anyway so were happy to be able to leave.

Our list of jobs got longer rather than shorter as we discovered new priorities whilst checking through everything. We were told that the boat bilge pump had been pumping out a lot of water when it rained. When it rains in Trinidad it is torrential, causing flash flooding in some areas and even a landslide over the road into the city. This is fairly normal for this time of year here, however this year was worse with prolonged periods of rain and devastating flooding where businesses and homes were completely flooded. We discovered the stanchions were leaking very badly, one of the reasons for our varnish work deteriorating in places.

We delayed our launch for a week to get through the below waterline jobs and to try and get the arch fitted on land (which didn’t happen!)

The arch is carried along the dock to the boat prior to fitting

Working in the 30 plus degree heat is energy sapping and we were so glad of the portable air conditioning unit keeping the interior of the boat cool. This became our workshop.

Mitchell Roberts, from West Coast Fabrications tests out the new arch he has just fitted

The watermaker was fitted with its new pump and membranes but once we launched and tested it the circuit board blew a chip and we needed a replacement from America. There is a great freight forwarder called Ezone which we used to import the part. As we waited for the arrival of our new solar panels and wind generators we used them for several additional items.

Happiness for Lesley – huge washing machines 50m from the boat

One of the jobs we needed to do was to replace the bolts that were fitted to the reinforcing plate for our skeg (the protrusion that supports the rudder). This was rebuilt by Princess Yachts (who built our boat), when we bought her, and for some ridiculous reason, they used mild steel bolts. Steel rusts, and we could see a slight movement on the plate so we dismantled the rear cabin, emptied the lazarette and extracted the bolts. There really was not much left of them – shame on Princess Yachts for such cost cutting, it could have led to a much worse situation, had we not noticed.

Peake Yacht Services’ yard came highly recommended and did not disappoint. It has to be one of the best yards we have ever visited and certainly looked after us and the boat. They even have a shopping bus which runs on several days a week and can be booked for other trips like airport transfers and trips to customs etc.

It was a shame that we did not get to explore the island. Chaguaramas is fantastic for getting things done on the boat but is not a lovely Caribbean anchorage. The hard is hot and dusty with the accompanying noise of people working on boats from 7 until 6, with the ladder to negotiate regularly for practical events such as bathroom trips as well as work on the boat. After 11 days it was a relief to go back in the water.

We made friends with a cat that appeared to be abandoned.

The cat that became our friend

It greeted us every morning and evening with the hope of being adopted we thought. In the beginning it tried to follow Lesley back to the boat but got the message as she circled back to the buildings each time and eventually stopped following her.

The water around Chaguaramas is clear  but the colour of weak tea, there is so much debris, mostly man made, swirling around the bay including large pieces of bamboo and other tree trunks washed down after the flooding. As this is an area where the fishing boats offload their catch the is frequently a dead fish amongst the flotsam and jetsam. There is often a film of oil on the surface and a cloudy muddiness after the rains.

Chaguaramas bay

After launching, we stayed on the dock at Peakes for 10 nights before they needed the space and we moved to a buoy.

Transferring Ocean Blue from the low loader to the hoist

If there is space, you can stay on their dock for free for up to 5 nights after a launch – another great service they operate.

Peakes even has a small beach area outside the hotel area

Three days after moving to the buoy, we stowed the solar panels and wind generators, checked out and sailed the 420 miles straight to Curacao

For anyone visiting we can recommend the following:

  • Peake Yacht Services – haulout, storage ashore and chandlery
  • West Coast Fabrication (Mitchell Roberts) – Excellent stainless work
  • Chaguaramas Electrical Services (Krendol Bourne) – Excellent Alternator work and servicing
  • Trinidad Rigging (Jonas) – Efficient, friendly and fast rigging services

As mentioned above though, you need to keep chasing the trades as they are all busy and you won’t get to the front of the queue if you are several thousand miles away assuming the work will be done.