It’s about 60nm from Store Bay at the Southern end of Tobago to Boca de Monos where one approaches the sheltered waters of Trinidad’s Chaguaramas Bay. The moon was full and I started out at sunset, expecting to have to motor most of the way as there was very little wind. The first hour or two were rolly and uncomfortable, as a strong current runs through the channel, then the wind picked up, the sea calmed down and for the rest of the night I enjoyed a beautiful moonlight sail arriving at the Boca just after sunrise. With the wind in my favour I hoped to be able to sail all the way to Chaguaramas. But it was spring tide and it was running against us. It took the engine plus the sails to make headway against the raging current rushing out through the Boca. The wind was blowing against the tide causing high standing waves. We struggled through the narrow, rocky channel doing about half a knot and eventually made it into calmer water. Soon I had the sail down and was motoring through the anchored boats looking for a safe place to drop the anchor. Due to the strong currents that swirl around the bay, a lot of swinging room is needed. I found a spot at last, a bit further from the shore than I had hoped for, but not impossible. There were quite a few familiar boats, some recently arrived, others still there from when I left three years ago. I had a short nap, a strong cup of coffee and smartened myself up to report to customs and immigration.
I spent the next two weeks getting essential things done. A part for the engine had to be ordered from the UK, a mailing address had to be arranged and some basic provisioning taken care of. The rum and beer stocks had been getting seriously low. No more avocados and mangos lying about waiting to be picked up next to the road. Here they have to be expensively purchased. I did the rounds of the boatyards to see what it would cost to haul out and decided to postpone the exercise till later in the season and do as much work as possible while in the water.
One morning I groggily made my way to the galley to fix my first cup of coffee for the day and to my amazement noticed a beautiful yellow tailed fish lying inside on the cabin sole. It must have leapt clean through one of the portholes in a desperate bid to escape a predator. Poor fish. I cleaned him up and had a delicious breakfast.
Working on the boat while anchored in Chaguaramas is not easy, as the constant fast boat traffic is very disturbing. Big ships are constantly being shepherded in by tugs to tie up to the dock. The deep channel passes very close to the yacht moorings. The massive wake of the pilot boats passing close by at hull speed knocks over anything that isn’t tied down. The only option was to find a calmer place to anchor, so as soon as possible I moved around to Scotland Bay, a beautifully protected place about 5 miles away. It held sad memories for me as this is where I lost my dear cat, Sinbad, almost exactly 3 years ago.
It is a wonderful place, surrounded by tropical rain forest. Green turtles cruise gently around and occasionally there is a flurry of silvery fish breaking the surface of the water as they attempt to avoid becoming the dinner for something bigger. Well, that’s what it’s like during the week.
At weekends it becomes a favourite destination for big double-decker party boats which arrive laden with literally hundreds of revellers and state-of-the-art sound equipment with gigantic loudspeakers blasting non-stop, deafening, soul-destroying soca ‘music’. It’s jump-up time and the natural wildlife cowers. Other weekenders roar up on jet skis or fast power boats towing water skiers, or just showing off their matched triple array of 300HP outboard engines. Blissfully, most go home when it gets dark. Some boats deliver parties of campers who set up tents ashore. They soon have generators going to power their bright lights and essential music so that they can spend the night communing with nature.
But when Monday comes around it’s quiet again. Often I’m the only boat there. I watch the parrots bossily squawking to each other as they fly overhead in pairs on their daily commute. A resident king fisher sits watchfully on a low branch overhanging the water. Three yellow-headed caracaras forage about to see what the picnickers have left. My favourite little turtle pops his head out for a breath of air and a look around. The mangrove swallows swoop and twitter, sometimes settling on the bow pulpit. In the early mornings I like to paddle my kayak around the bay just to see what I might see. One morning a troop of howler monkeys were swinging about in the mangroves just a few feet away. I watched transfixed. They are not very big but make the most blood-curdling noise imaginable when they start to ‘howl’. They do this two or 3 times a day and the sound reverberates awesomely around the bay.
One of the jobs that I’m happy to have managed to do while anchored here is sewing a new spray-dodger. The old one had become very scruffy and a few years ago I had replaced the window with new clear plastic, but had been too lazy to put zips in, so it wasn’t possible to open it and let the breeze through to the cockpit, an unimportant detail in cold places, but a bit of a problem in the tropics where that cooling breeze makes a big difference. It was quite a challenge to cope with the cutting-out and sewing in the confined space available on Speedwell. Constant tropical downpours (it is the rainy season after all) made it impractical to work outside. My little sewing machine performed like a champion and I’m quite pleased with the results.