After almost three months preparing our floating home for the coming sailing season, the time to depart Power Boats at Chaguaramas in Trinidad was upon us. All had gone well with the work we’d done and we were both keen to find a good breeze to sail along with.
With 12 tonnes of Blue Heeler cradled in its four massive straps, the 60 tonne travel-lift, expertly steered by Brent, weaves through the yard clearing other vessels by millimetres. It’s clear he knows what he’s doing; at least I like to think he does. From the 60 tonne travel-lift, Blue Heeler is gently lowered into the unclean industrial water of Chaguaramas bay. The newly painted bottom and hundreds of dollars of antifoul is the first point of contact in the oily slick; suddenly we are floating – this is good!
Waves from passing speed boats rock the boat wildly and our legs are reminded that our home is no longer steady. While still cradled in the slings, Wayne turned the ignition key. The engine, which only weeks ago was in pieces, purrs to life, spewing out a successful gush of water from the exhaust. Already the oily Chaguaramas water creeps and clings to our clean white hull.
Before Blue Heeler leaves the slip, our priority was to check the two new through-hulls we’d installed and to squeeze lubricating water into the boot seal on the prop shaft. The travel lift straps are lowered beaneath the hull and Blue Heeler is released from their grasp. Thanking the guys handling the lines, Wayne reversed Blue Heeler around to the fuel dock. I jump off the bow and fix the lines, while the attendant ties the stern line. The last time we filled up with diesel was at St Maarten at the end of April, but our tanks still had plenty left.
By 10am we hooked a vacant mooring where we would spend the afternoon making sure all was well and tidy up down below. Wayne rechecked all the new through-hulls. No problems. He then checked a through-hull which he hadn’t replaced, although he had replaced a valve attached to it. There was a drip. A small drip, but a drip just the same. He doubled checked all the through-hulls over a couple of hours and still no leaks, except for a dribble from this small half inch through-hull! The seal must’ve broken when he replaced the valve. Bugger!
Our only option was to haul out and replace the bronze through-hull fitting. Even the slightest drip inside the boat is unacceptable and would keep us awake at nights. Wayne ferried me ashore to fetch a new through-hull from Budget Marine. I scrounged around the shelves but couldn’t find one where one should be. Shifting my gaze, I saw a half-inch through-hull consorting with the brass elbows on a nearby top shelf. Quickly I bought the item and on the way back to the boat stopped at the office to speak with the staff about hauling out. It was agreed we could haul at 3pm that same day so we could replace the through-hull, then launch the following day. At this point I must send a big thank you to Don, Brent, yard guys and office staff at Power Boats for their help.
The haul out went fine and by 4pm Blue Heeler was high and dry cradled in the travel lift. As Brent and the yard hands finished work for the day, we began the job of replacing the through-hull. By 5pm, the old was out and the new was in, complete with plenty of through-hull sealant which would cure overnight.
The following morning Blue Heeler was returned to the oily water, this time no leaks! Once again we thanked Brent and the boys, and headed out to a mooring. After a few hours, satisfied that all was well, we packed up bikes, sails, scuba gear and a variety of tools in their designated places on board and relaxed for the afternoon. All being well we would check out of Trinidad and leave for the cleaner waters of Grenada the following day.
The next morning we cleared out from Immigration then Customs at Chaguaramas, then spent our remaining Trinidadian dollars at the Massy store at Crews Inn on groceries and wine, leaving just enough to pay for our mooring. By 11:00am we’d dropped the mooring and began our journey towards Grenada. Along the coast while I still could receive internet signal, I downloaded podcasts to finish off my Digicel data plan.
To avoid any possible interaction with bothersome pirogues, we steered east along the north coast of Trinidad motoring in little wind. After twenty miles we changed course and headed northwest towards Grenada, some 75nm away. That evening we sailed with a kind 10-15kn breeze and a 2kn current, with a quarter moon lighting the evening sky until midnight followed by sparkling stars until dawn. By 5am we could see the horizon and coastline of Grenada.
At dawn we arrived at the popular anchorage of Prickly Bay, Grenada. By 7am we were settled on anchor well inside the bay amongst a couple of hundred boats. Using the Sailclear system, our check-in was easy enough. We have a three month visa on arrival, although only a one month cruising permit, which we have to renew each month for EC$75 (A$38). In between naps to catch up on sleep after our overnighter, we were visited by Aussie couple Neil and Ley from the yacht Crystal Blues. They know some of our cruiser friends that we’ve met in Thailand so it was great to swap stories over pizza that night.
Now that the bulk of our maintenance work is over, for a while at least, I was glad to be back on anchor and looked forward to my daily dose of yoga, swimming and walking – the reward for weeks of work. But I was no longer able to ignore the aches and fatigue I’d had for the past few days.
By Saturday I’d noticed a red rash forming on my stomach and thighs, while my eyes, joints and muscles ached – something wasn’t right. By Sunday the rash had spread up to my arms and to my thighs, and I’d lost my appetite – a definite sign something wasn’t right! By that evening the rash covered me – from the tips of my toes to the palms of my hands. The only positive is that I wasn’t itchy! All I wanted to do was sleep, drink water and rest, jumping in the water to cool off now and again.
By Monday I had self-diagnosed myself as having the Zika Virus, as I clearly had all the symptoms (according to various medical websites!). Apparently 80% of people with the Zika virus aren’t even aware they have it, while the other 20% have some symptoms. I was 99.9% sure I was in the 20% so kept myself quarantined on board until my immune system could boot out the virus. By the end of the week I felt better and the rash subsided. The bonus I suppose is that I am now immune to the Zika virus. Wayne just shakes his head and reminds me that if anyone is going to be bitten or stung from something, it’d be me! After a week though I had no symptoms and felt good. Being unwell on a boat isn’t much fun as there are still jobs to do regardless. The outlet hose on our dunny needed replacing; a corroded wire to our solar panel needed replacing; the hose on our outboard fuel line needed replacing…and so ‘the list’ continues.
So as the tropical lows roll in from the west coast of Africa to the north of us, we continue to do jobs, watch the weather, enjoy the cool evening breezes and swim in the tropical waters at Prickly Bay.