The hurricane season was theoretically drawing to a close and I was ready to move on. I had spent an interesting time in Trinidad and Tobago, catching up with the never-ending boat maintenance chores and meeting up again with old friends. The friends being more interesting than the chores. Chaguaramas holds many memories for me as this is where I spent nearly 8 months covering Speedwell’s hull with glass and epoxy back in 2004. At the same time I converted to junk rig, with lots of help from Pete Hill. Both jobs were very successful, and as far as the rig goes, I couldn’t imagine ever reverting to ‘normal’ sails.
I made a final shopping trip to town and cleared out. Some southerly wind was forecast, and after spending a quiet night at Monos Island I left the next morning. A black rain cloud was looming on the horizon but I hoped to be able to keep ahead of it. As we rounded the corner into the Boca de Monos and past Scotland Bay, the wind was on the beam. One of Speedwell’s best points of sail and with the current in our favour we were racing along at hull speed. Then the squall really hit us. Fortunately I had only raised four panels and things were still just about under control. I watched an inflatable, heavily loaded with people, battling to make progress in the opposite direction. They seemed to be managing and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to help them if they got into trouble. Waves were crashing against Le Chapeau, the big rock at the entrance to the Boca. The grandeur of the scene entirely wiped away all the frustrations of petty bureaucracy that I had endured during the clearing out process – (papers gone astray, multiple carbon copies of multiple forms, hearing aid batteries dying) – I was on my way again.
Then the rain-squall really hit us. Once we were clear of the rocks I was able to dash below to put my hearing aids away to keep them dry. Now all seemed quiet but we were still racing along and getting very wet. At last the rain stopped but the wind held steady and we make record time, passing comfortably east of the Hibiscus oil rig.
It was a dark night with no moon and a fair bit of traffic. Not much chance to get a nap, I still don’t feel comfortable relying on the AIS to wake me up with its alarm. My new kitchen timer is a bit unreliable but the iPod Touch alarm vibration works quite well if I wedge it under my chin. As the night progressed I reefed right down to prevent the Navik windvane from being overpowered. We were still doing 5 to 6 knots. The sea was relatively flat and it was an easy ride. At 4:30 am we were just 5 miles off the entrance to Prickly Bay and it was still pitch dark. I decided to heave to, brew a cup of coffee, and wait for the dawn. Pointing into the wind also stopped the rain from blowing straight down the companionway.
Soon enough, the sun came up and the rain stopped. It was still blowing quite hard as I kept a respectful distance from The Porpoises, a nasty group of rocks near the entrance, and sailed in to Prickly Bay. A forest of masts all swaying horribly in the swell. I anchored hastily in the first available place and tidied up the sail. The rolling was rather awful. A Brazilian sailor who had befriended me in Ribeira, near Ubatuba came over to say hello and Richard from Mr Curly also came by. Both told me where I could find a calmer place, tucked in behind the reef. It didn’t take long for me to overcome my reluctance to move and the new spot was infinitely better. Things were looking up. I had breakfast and a short nap then rowed ashore to clear in.