We arrived in Chaguaramus on Thursday morning after a safe passage from Grenada and didn’t encounter any pirates near Venezuela. It was good to have the sails up again, as we have done nothing but motor short distances for over a month. Leaving St David’s at 1745 we needed to reef both sails after a couple of hours, as we would have arrived too early into Trinidad and there is an overtime charge at Customs before 0800. 3 other boats we knew set off from Prickly Bay at the same time and we could see them throughout the journey and chatted to Moana on the radio. It is always good to have friends around you on a longer passage especially those where piracy has been reported.
The seas were rougher than predicted but the easterly wind didn’t get over 20 kts and Beyzano cruised along at more than 8 knots initially until we slowed her down. Perhaps she knew she was going ashore for 3 months and wanted a last blast! The offshore oil rigs were not an issue as they were lit up brightly and looked like floating cities.
The entrance channel was incredibly rough as it narrows and shallows and the spring tide was ripping through it. The boats were all over the place but at least the wind and tide was behind us and we have a powerful engine. The rest of the entry was fine but the large commercial harbour has just a small anchorage area with depths of 18 metres at the back, so it wasn’t ideal. Some of the mooring buoys lack pick up lines and Moana’s wasn’t attached to the seabed it seemed, as they drifted away accompanied by screams from Lone.
In any case we were told we had to go directly to the customs dock before anchoring but when we looked it had 2 boats on it already so the 4 of us motored around waiting. After an hour we decided to anchor and finally turned the engine off at 0945 having logged 91 miles. The harbour water is definitely not for swimming in to cool off though!
We then tried to call customs on the VHF but no reply. A couple came over in their dinghy to let us know that if a container ship came in we would have to move or the pilot boat would just push us out of the way but we decided to try the customs dock again with Moana and this time there was a space and we just rafted up next to them. A powerboat was the other one, still on the dock after several hours and they had been doing their duty free shopping!! Rob, tired after 28 hours without sleep, had a quiet word with them!
Immigration took a while as their form needed to be completed 5 times, plus another one 3 times. Don’t forget to bring carbon copy paper! Then on to customs, which was much better and friendlier too. They did welcome us to Trinidad and Tobago before taking 9 US$. One couple in the office had just anchored and come in by dinghy, so perhaps we’ll ignore the rules ourselves next time as nobody asked where the boat was.
We found an orange TTSA mooring buoy, which didn’t break free and spent the night safely on it. Nobody came to pick up the 30TT (about 3 GBP) fee. The following morning we dropped the dinghy back in the water, put the outboard on and went over to Powerboats to fill out the paperwork. Our slot for the lift was 1100 and we listened on Ch 72 for the go ahead. In the meantime we took off the genoa, deflated the dinghy and I scrubbed the forecabin shower out as it is easier when you can drain the water. From now on we’ll be using the showers ashore.
At 1100 they called us and we motored over to the lifting bay, which is very narrow. We hoped to go in bows first as its easier anyway. When we were almost in the bay, the yard decided they wanted us to go into backwards. I think one small swearword left my mouth but I was glad not to have had longer to dwell on the nasty manoeuvre. Fortunately we got in first go without hitting the posts or concrete walls, so the staff were very pleased and I got a gold star! They said they’ve seen people attempt it 10 times before. Must be very entertaining but I do prefer the Rodney Bay lift where you go in bows first.
Beyzano was lifted out safely, we scrapped the barnacles off the hull in nice cool, heavy rain and were finally parked next to 2 boats we know, Flyin’ Low and Moana. What a coincidence to meet someone in Porto Santo and end up neighbours again in Trinidad. In St David’s we met a couple on Siga Siga and they knew Malcolm who has another 473 called Destination Anywhere and he has been emailing us for years!
We have electricity, air-conditioning, supports chained together and tie-downs embedded in concrete. After a jet wash Beyzano looked quite clean too. The yard have taken a lot of care with the boat and even got us to go aboard to check she was level enough to live on as they have her slightly slanted up to the bow so the rain runs off the decks.
The reason we are spending 5 weeks ashore before flying to the UK is to ensure we get work organised before we leave, as there will only be 3 weeks left on our return. The air conditioning works well but if it is still too sticky there are cottages available to rent. The lack of bathroom facilities onboard and the inability to empty the galley sinks are further difficulties when living on the boat ashore but we are used to it.
We need to get a few new items for our Caribbean sailing during haulout, including solar panels with a frame to support them on the stern and awnings for shading the deck, which will double as rain catchers. It is madness to pay for water here when it falls from the sky in torrents. The usual anodes need buying and the duogen has to be fixed and then sold. The rig needs tensioning, the engine head tightening and we need to lightly sand, prepare and paint the hull. Antifouling is very expensive here but special paint is required to combat the barnacles but we did manage to source it all in Grenada for delivery here at a much reduced price. We also need to antifoul our dinghy as it stays in the water a lot and gets covered in barnacles and slime.
A bleach solution needs to be applied inside the boat to counteract mildew and in October I will clean every inch of the interior, including washing all the cushions and curtains. All the lockers will be emptied, items checked and everything left open to air before we leave though. It will be good to get the boat spotless for the autumn so we can just enjoy ourselves again as we head north to St Lucia! You can pay people to do all the work but I need to go through what we have, to organise the re-provisioning when we get back.
Having the haulout project to manage will give us some focus and stop us lazing around so much! There is an active cruiser’s net due to the numbers hauling out in Chaguaramus and we have friends staying ashore at the same time as us. There should be plenty of spare time for exploring Trinidad once the work is planned and parts sourced. There is a shop, restaurants, chandlery and Internet here and you get a card, which you can use for all the purchases, making life easier. Rob’s eyes lit up when he realised it covered the chandlery but you do have to pay it off!
So that’s it, the end of our first sailing season in the Caribbean. Feels like the end of a fantastic holiday, bit sad. We are very glad we continued sailing up to now as the anchorages were much emptier and the weather, apart from a few tropical waves coming through, was lovely. We met one couple who told us they had been in the Tobago Cays in March with 250 boats but by July there were only 6.