The crossing from Grenada to Trinidad is around 85nm. With a north-east breeze between 12-18knots, the evening of 15th June was an ideal night to sail. Back in January this year however, two incidents took place between Grenada and Trinidad which pricked up the ears of the sailing community. About halfway a pirogue with five armed men boarded two vessels at two separate times. The pirates (for want of a better name) allegedly stole from the vessels – anything from electrical items to dunny rolls. Fortunately nobody was hurt in the attacks. It is assumed the attack vessel was the same in both incidents and likely from Venezuela.
Word of the attacks spread swiftly through the sailing community. Following advice from various bodies, we took some precautions for our trip. Firstly we notified the Trinidad Coast Guard and local YSATT representative in Trinidad of our intention to sail at night. A Float Plan template is available from local Trinidadian and yacht services representative Jesse James. Secondly, our route was to the east of both the Hibiscus and Poinsettia Oil Fields, which are located about halfway. There were around five other yachts sailing the night we sailed.
But a strange incident did happen on our voyage. About 35nm south of Grenada, north of the Poinsettia oilfield, for some time I’d been watching a vessel heading north-west as we were heading south-east. When the vessel was about 4nm on our port side (identified via the radar), the vessel turned sharply and headed directly towards us. In what seemed minutes the vessel then crossed our bow within 50m. The vessel circled Blue Heeler in a clockwise direction, passed our stern and began motoring away. It appeared to be a fishing vessel around 15m long and was clearly lit. The vessel gave us no indication of its intentions and we certainly don’t enjoy having vessels deviate from their heading, come straight for us, then circle us in the middle of the night! The rest of our trip was fine except for the 2kn current against us for most of the way.
At daybreak we noticed the Caribbean Sea had turned brown. The Gulf of Paria is a natural harbour which separates Trinidad and Venezuela. Brown waters from South American rivers leech into the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Following a couple of tugs through the Boca Channel, by mid morning we’d arrived safely into the industrial port of Chaguaramas at the northwest of Trinidad.
Our first stop was Customs and Immigration. At the Crews Inn Marina there is a customs dock, but it was busy so we anchored out beyond the full mooring field. Customs fee to check in was TT$50 (about A$10) which is a monthly fee to cover ‘navigation’. We entered on our British passports as to enter on our Aussie passports would incur a Visa or Visa Waiver fee of TT$400 (A$80) 😉
The next day Blue Heeler was successfully hauled out at Power Boats Marine Yard . We made sure we closed the through-hulls in both the head and galley in preparation of the high pressure wash (first time we learnt the hard way with thousands of PSI of water blasting up the hoses pushing barnacles, crap, and goo into the galley and head!). Before long we were wired up with an air-conditioner installed in the front hatch. Cool bliss!
In the office we met Camille and her team and got the lowdown on the facilities at Power Boats. Laundry costs TT$15 per token (around A$3) and the machines are in good condition – four washers and three dryers. The toilets and cold-water showers are clean and there is the Boaters’ Shop that stocks all sorts of products (antifoul, epoxies, solvents, etc) plus a Mini-Mart for groceries and ice-creams!
Conveniently the office issues guests with a ‘Convenience Card’ to get a 5% discount at the on-site stores without having to carry cash. A Roti Hut is on site for lunch, or if you want something cheap, you can go outside the gates near Budget Marine and buy a ‘double’ for TT$4 (A ‘double’ is a national breakfast food which consists of chickpea (channa) curry between barra, or Indian fried bread). If you want western type food (steaks, burgers, etc) Sail’s Restaurant is also on site, but we’re pretty happy with rotis and doubles. Internet signal around the marina isn’t particularly good, but there is a dedicated Internet Room close to the Mini Mart that allows salty sailors to Google, surf or stream in the comfort of air conditioning.
Our first week in Trinidad rained every day, but we managed to get some work done between downpours. Wayne spent three days sanding the remaining antifoul from the hull and depositing it upon himself; ending up looking like a Smurf! I spent some time scraping and sanding evil barnacle footprints that attached themselves to the hull from the lengthy stay in the horrid waters of St Maarten. Our Max Prop is back to shiny and bronzy while the bow thruster prop and tunnel is looking shiny and smooth. A puncture in our dinghy was patched and the Sunbrella dinghy cover had a much needed makeover. Wayne also took the engine apart to have a local fabrication shop work on our exhaust manifold and we have a couple of sails in for repair. There’s plenty of other jobs we have to get on with, but we’re not in a rush to get back into the water.
There’s not a great deal around the vicinity of Chaguaramas, but getting into the capital Port of Spain is straightforward. Across the road from Power Boats is a bus stop to catch a bus or Maxi Taxi to either Port of Spain or the Massy supermarket, or the Westmall shopping complex where there’s plenty of choice for provisioning. There’s also a small Massy supermarket at Crews Inn marina which is easy to walk to.
Although Trinidadians speak English, the influence of French, Indian, and African languages have created a gorgeous blend that makes the Trini language a delight to listen to (although I don’t always understand what they’re saying!). I sat with a woman in the bus stop and she talked and talked, but I struggled to understand exactly what she was saying!
So that’s what’s going on in Trinidad.
With a few jobs already done and most underway, we gonna be limin’ over duh coming weeks, yeah mon!
PS: Limin’ – To hang out to pass the time, or chill out.