Monday, 28 January 2013

Wednesday, 23rd January
Slept right through until 0616and got up half an hour later. Tea and usual breakfast then off to immigration and customs to let them know we would be sailing from Trinidad to Tobago. Motored off mooring and out of Chagauramas Bay. Once clear we raised the mainsail and motor sailed through the sound into the Caribbean Sea then we let out the no.2 genoa and switched the engine off. Tacked eastward along Trinidad’s north coast to an anchorage in Maracas Bay, about half way along. We saw two large pods of dolphins on passage.

Maracus Bay

Cheese, tomato and onion sarnies for lunch at 1500hrs. Swam ashore after lunch but visibility through water was only about three to four feet. Returned to boat and spent rest of the afternoon reading.
Chris cooked roast lamb, potatoes and beans for dinner. Having an earlyish night as we plan an early departure in the morning.

Thursday, 24th January
Slept badly, thanks to a slight swell that kept the boom swinging noisily. We were up at 0615 and away just before 0700. Very cloudy over the hills. We motor-sailed along the coast for about 15-20 miles and then sailed north towards Tobago, with wind and tide against us all the way and heavy rain or drizzle most of the day. By about 1500 we were approximately 15 miles NW of the southern end of Tobago and Chris put the motor on. At 1630 I got my first sight of Tobago through the rain and cloud – it was still about 12 miles away.

At 1730 it started getting dark and by 1830 it was completely black. We motored slowly into Store Bay and put down anchor at 1930 without hitting any of the numerous yachts at anchor without lights.

No photos today because the weather was so grim - poor visibility and wet (but still warm).

 I’m writing this while Chris cooks pork stew for dinner.

Friday, 25th January
Good night’s sleep but woken at 0515 by torrential rain. Went and got my washing off the guard rails then went back to bed for an hour before getting up at 0730 for the usual breakfast and tea. We set off under motor in NE direction up the coast of Tobago,  heading for Charlottesville. There was only about 10knots of wind coming from the NE so no point putting up any sail. We saw lots of pelicans feeding on fish near the surface and lots of flying fish. The weather this morning is much better, slightly cooler but no rain.

Motoring up the north coast of Tobago
We arrived in Pirate Bay, Charlottesville and put down 50m of chain and 20m of rope in 20m of water. It’s a beautiful sheltered bay with fine sandy beaches. We went ashore to get a roti for lunch but everywhere was sold out or shut by 1330.

Pirate Bay, Charlottesville

Next we went to the customs and immigration office to notify them of our arrival. As we walked back to the jetty a couple stopped to ask if we knew anywhere they could get something to eat. The guy looked vaguely familiar (a bit like Mark Ward but obviously not Mark). He eventually turned to me and said I looked familiar to him, and asked my name. I told him and he said he was Phil Nash. We were in the same sixth form class at Wymondham College. He and his wife Barbara are on a two week holiday in Tobago. Small world!

Old school chums: Mike with Phil and Barbara Nash

Simon and I walked up the road to ‘Lookout’, from where there were panoramic views down into Charlottesville and to London Bridge and St Giles on the northern tip of the island. The road up to ‘Lookout’ is very steep (1 in 4 in places) and the verge is a mass of wonderful vegetation. We found a cow tethered on the verge two-thirds of the way up. Then when we were three-quarters of the way up it started to pour with rain, which was very refreshing. Back at sea level we treated ourselves to an ice cream and cold drink. The ice cream was coconut and cherry flavour and was delicious (my first ice cream of the holiday).
Roadside cow

Examples of roadside flora 
We walked back along a track leading to a beach at Pirate Bay from where we were to wave at Chris on the boat so he could come and get us in the dinghy. Needless to say he didn't see us so I stripped to my underwear, swam back to the boat and returned with the dinghy to collect Simon.

Must close now as we are going back to the boat for dinner. Chris is cooking beef stew.

Saturday, 26th January
Chris's birthday. We breakfasted at a leisurely pace and enjoyed toast and marmalade then swam ashore and back. A local fisherman came by trying to sell fish. Simon and I arranged to go out fishing with him tomorrow morning at 0600hrs.

At 1000hrs Simon and I set off for a two hour walk round the other side of bay. Again, there were very steep hills out to Campbeltown Point and the old fort, with spectacular views across the bay. Returned to main road and continued round the coast till the hour was up and then headed back. Bananas, cocoa, coconuts, mangoes and some other fruits grow wild along the roadside.
View of bay from Campbeltown Fort

Mike and canon at Campbeltown Fort

Back in Charlottesville the cafe Chris had arranged for us to go to for his birthday lunch was closed because the woman ‘not feeling too good to cook’. The only other place open was only doing soup – pig tail and cow heel. We didn't fancy that! so it was back to the boat for cheese, tomato and cucumber sandwiches instead. We prepared the sandwiches then went for another swim around the boat to cool down and freshen up before eating them.

Spent the afternoon on the boat reading and then went ashore to try and get an Internet connection. Successful! Sent Thursday’s and Friday’s notes to Jackie for the blog, plus 17 photos and a quick email to her too. Returned to the boat with a crate of lager and a freshly baked loaf of bread. We had braised beef and veg for dinner then set up a preventer to stop the boom swinging about and making loud squeaking noises all night.

Tobago is a beautiful island but very laid back. The weather is still good but showers come down quite frequently.

Laid back: Simon with Store Bay, Tobago in the background
Sunday, 27th January
Woke up a couple of times during the night, to the sound of pouring rain but otherwise slept well and the boom preventer worked. We got up at 0530, had a cup of tea and were ready to go fishing as arranged at 0600. Fisherman turned up at 0700! Still raining and very cloudy but off we went, trolling four brightly coloured lures behind us. Caught one skipjack tuna fairly quickly but nothing else in the two hours we were out. Came back in early as torrential rain clouds came over and we got soaked. Back on board for breakfast of cereal and banana then barbecued tuna for lunch on the beach.
Spent most of the afternoon on boat.
Roast pork for evening meal.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Heading out . . . and back again!

About the boat
Note from Jackie: sailors reading this may want to know a little about the yacht and her equipment - thanks Dave Underhill for suggesting it. This is as much as I've been able to glean so far and I will add to the list if any more information is forthcoming:
  • the boat's name is Espirit de la Mer
  • she is a 41ft Beneteau
  • gizmos include wind and water generator, air conditioning, Raymarine navigation system, satellite telephone, washing machine and a life raft (when it eventually gets serviced).
Monday, 21st January
Slept really well last night but woke up at about 0600hrs. Now sitting up in my cabin reading my updated blog, which arrived during the night, and starting today's notes.
1000hrs: Chris phoned regarding the life raft. Still no news - to ring back at 1400hrs.
Readied the boat to move out of Coral Cove Marina. Couldn't unplug shore supply cable from stern socket of boat. Didn't want to risk damaging it so asked Chris to see if he could do it. After a lot of muttering he pulled it free but it may be damaged.

Headed off to Chacachacare Island, the most westerly of Trinidad's off-lying islands. Mainsail up but not really enough wind so motor-sailed in flat calm conditions. Joined by two dolphins who swim under our bow for a while.-
A dolphin rides the bow wave.

The island was a leper colony until about 1960. Anchored up in Sanders Bay and rowed ashore in dinghy to look at remains of abandoned village. Back to boat for cheese, tomato and onion sarnies for lunch. Headed back to mainland as we couldn't get a phone signal for Chris to chase up life raft. Full main sail and inner gib but wind was very fickle, constantly changing direction and strength.

Anchored in Scotland Bay (west end of Trinidad island) - beautiful and very tranquil apart from two powerboats with loud stereo systems. They eventually left at 1800hrs. Donned mask,fins and snorkel and swam ashore. Saw several small jellyfish (like light bulbs) and a number of different types of small fish.

Chris cooked spaghetti bog for dinner.

View of Espirit de la Mer from Scotsman's bay

 Mike snorkeling - it looks vaguely like him, but isn't he pale!
Tuesday, 22nd January
Spent very peaceful night at anchor. Up at 0730hrs for breakfast then up anchor and motored back to Chagauramas for some more stocks and a final(?) attempt to find out what is happening with the life-raft. Picked up visitor mooring and went ashore to for some shopping. Called at Peakes' Boat Yard to use Internet cafe, forgetting that all electric power was off in the area today. Returned to the boat and spent the rest of the morning reading on board.

Made chicken and tomato sarnies for lunch then went ashore to Coral Cove for a swim in their pool. Pool closed for maintenance and still no Internet server connection. Managed to get into shower block and had much needed shower. Back to boat, and at last we seem to have a decision on the life raft. It is going to take a week to get parts, put it together again and deliver it and it will cost Chris nearly as much as he paid for it new. It looks as if we are going to
  • book out with customs tomorrow morning
  • sail around the top of Trinidad and put into a sheltered cove on the north coast for the night
  • sail over to Tobago on Thursday
  • spend the weekend there
  • come back here beginning of next week to pick up life raft then
  • head off north to Grenada and beyond. 
Plan B? . . . . .

Assuming we stick to the latest plan -whatever that is - it may be some time before I can make contact again as I don't know where on Tobago we will be or whether there will be Internet access there.
1700hrs rowed ashore to Peakes' Boat Yard to send e-mails.
Mike preparing to go ashore.
Mike on board Espirit de la Mer.
Chris at the wheel, silhouetted against the sun.
A hazy view of the Venezuelan skyline, seen from the deck of the yacht.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


And they're off

 This is Mike's first post on arrival in Trinidad, on Sunday, 13th January 2013. 
Didn't sleep too well in the airport hotel last night - room too hot. Got up and went down for the 'last breakfast'. Fresh fruit salad plus the full works. Bus to Gatwick North Terminal where we met up with Chris and checked in. Chris had two seats right at the front of the plane and Simon and I were in the very rear row. Ten hour very noisy flight with quite a lot of turbulence. Arrived at Port of Spain at 11.30pm, eventually collected pre booked hire car and drove to Chagauramas in the north west of the island. Put bags etc on board, went for a drink (two iced beers) then back to boat and bed (0130hrs).

Monday 14th January
Got up once during the night but woke up several more times with mozzies buzzing around my head. Despite this I slept well but kept the others awake with my snoring. Got up at about 06.30, went for shave and shower and back to boat before the others were up. Once Chris was up we got electrics connected up and had mug of tea. Chris went off to buy anti foul etc and when he returned Simon and I applied two coats, finishing work at about 12.30. Went for another shower then out of boatyard to buy 'rotis' for lunch - like a nan bread wrapped around beef and other bits and pieces - very nice but very filling. 

Eventually we headed off in the car to a beach further up the coast and our first swim. Water not quite as warm as I thought it would be but still very nice and refreshing after all the morning's hard work. Big swell rolling into the little bay making it quite interesting with big rollers coming in and then very strong back tow as the waves went out again. Back in the car and into Port of Spain to get diesel for the boat, petrol for the car and food for us. Chris couldn't remember the way to the garage so we ended up having a tour of the town. Eventually got about 70-80 litres of diesel for 100 Trinidadian dollars - about £10! Next to the supermarket for some provisions - food for tonight's meal and breakfast in the morning, plus cans of beer and bottles of tonic.

We hope to be launching the boat on Wednesday and moving to a marina just a short distance along the coast, where we will continue preparing the boat and loading up with provisions.

No photos today, although I wish I had taken the camera with me to the beach when we went swimming. 

Tuesday 15th January
Covered in bug bites!

Wednesday 16th January
Another reasonable night's sleep - sweating buckets and completely buried in duvet cover to evade mozzies. Haven't used any of my spray yet but Chris has been spraying the boat with his. Up about 07.30  and made mugs of tea. Started doing maintenance work on boat then stopped for breakfast - cornflakes, banana and paw paw - before hosing/scrubbing down topsides of boat. Got soaked to the skin but it was not unpleasant because of the heat. I think we are going to be doing some more jobs on the boat this morning and driving round to the next marina to sus out where we are going to be moored. Launching this afternoon all being well. Will be nice to get on the water at last.

Simon and I came down here to the internet room  after breakfast to look up the weather forecast on the u-grib site.  Fortunately a member of staff was present and he showed me how to get onto the site; wind strength and direction look okay for the next five days.
Four photos taken today of the boat in the boat yard. Here's one of them:

1315hrs and no sign of boat hoist/trailer which should have been here at 1300hrs. Chris went off to locate hoist crew and they turned up at 1330. A very impressive operation of 'big boy toys'  got the boat in the water and we set off around the corner and into Coral Cove Marina. Tied up to our pontoon by about 1400hrs. Chris went off to book us in and I took some more photos and made cups of tea. Chris and Simon walked back to collect hire car from Peaks Boat Yard while I stood guard and wrote up this diary. We then headed in to Port of Spain to get more diesel but were thwarted by a long traffic queue so turned round and went to a local supermarket for food for tonight plus wine and beer. Back to boat then to small swimming pool to soak in cool water. Lots of osprey (sea eagle) and frigate birds circling around overhead but too high up to get decent photo.  Chris is cooking dinner tonight - Pembrokeshire spaghetti bog!

Thursday 17th January
Air con all through the night allowed me to sleep right through without waking in a pool of sweat. No mozzies either. Got up at 0630hrs and made mug of tea. Simon up but Chris having a lie in. Playing around with i-pad but none of the photos I tried sending yesterday has gone. Will have to try sending them one at a time later today.

Managed a Skype conversation with Jackie but connection not brilliant.

Chris eventually managed to get his satelite phone linked to his computer so we can get weather forecasts when we are at sea and he also got the chart plotter working so he is now a happy bunny.

Went into Port of Spain for a final purchase of diesel so we should now have sufficient for the whole trip and then went to Macqueripe Bay again for a swim (picture below).
On the way we stopped and had a short walk up a trail into the rain forest which was awesome. Loads of bamboo trees growing densely together. Unfortunately my camera batteries seem to be playing up so couldn't take any photos. Nowhere near as much swell in the sea today so very pleasant and refreshing.

Back to the boat for afternoon tea and Jackie's Christmas cake. Chris seemed to really enjoy it but then complained he had not been given a warning that it contained nuts - despite the top of the cake being covered with them!

The life-raft is not going to be ready for possibly another three weeks so the current plan is to dash up the Caribbean chain of islands to Martinique then back here to Trinidad to pick up the liferaft, and then head off again towards Panama via a route yet to be decided.

Strombolis for dinner (pizza base wrapped around filling -vegetarian and ham) then spent evening discussing plan of attack. Latest plan is that we may go down to Guyana. We have until Monday to decide on plans B, C, D, E . . .

Friday 18th January
We sat up quite late last night discussing plans A-Z.

Good night's sleep but woke up cold and put T shirt on. Air con in the boat works really well: having cooled the interior down from 27 to 18 degrees, it is also keeping the mozzies away. Up at 0630hrs and down-loaded Jackie's photos of the snow at home - looks horrendous. Now sitting in cockpit drinking second mug of tea of the day in warm sunshine.

Chris and Simon (the picture of sartorial elegance below) went off to Port of Spain to get food shopping while I stayed on the boat waiting for gas man and reading up passage plans to Guyana. Once they returned and we'd stowed all the food away I made corned beef, tomato and chutney sandwiches for lunch. Still no sign of the gas man so Simon volunteered to stay and wait while Chris and I went off to the beach again for a final swim before returning the hire car. The gas man turned up after we got back from the beach.

Spent the afternoon just sitting in the cockpit reading sailing guides.

Huge pizza for evening meal followed by an early night as we are going to check out the boat (rigging etc) tomorrow - me being the lightest going up the mast.

Saturday 19th January
Good night's sleep but feeling stuffed from too much pizza last night! None of my photos have gone home via the ether so I walked down the road to Peakes Boat Yard to see if they would go from there. Back to the boat and a lesson from Chris on how to use the all singing and dancing Raymarine. A seal on the starboard side saloon hatch has gone so Chris is trying to replace it with a spare but the spare looks as if it will break if stretched too much!

Corned beef, tomato and pickle sarnies for lunch. Swim in the pool followed by afternoon tea and more Christmas cake. We just sat around on boat for the rest of the afternoon/evening waiting for the gas man to bring the cylinder back but he didn't turn up. Adjusted bow mooring lines, one of which had got caught up on a nail sticking out of the pile. Huge pizza for evening meal again.

Sunday 20th January
E-mail from Coral Cove is hopeless. It's 0740 here and I've walked back round to Peakes Boat Yard where I am sitting in the shade outside their internet office. I hadn't received anything yesterday and I don't think any of my emails have gone anywhere except for the ones when I came round here. Switched on my i-pad and there were seven waiting for me (some from Jackie and some from Helen for Simon - he's been using this i-pad to contact her).

I'm not sure what the little yellow bird is in this photo (pomarine jaeger - Jackie) but there are a lot of them here. I've also got a nice photo of a small dark grey heron walking past the back of the boat. There are loads of osprey,frigate birds and pelicans flying around but not really close enough to take a picture of.

Been out here a week now and we haven't had a sail up yet!The plan still seems to be that we'll move out of the marina tomorrow or Tuesday and move over to one of the small islands just off Chagauramas Bay to wait till we find out what is happening with the liferaft. I'll send this now and have one more go at sending one photo from here before I go back to the boat for some breakfast.

Latest pictures, showing sunny Caribbean views - received in a frozen Wales on Sunday evening, 20th January.

Sunday, 20th January - final message of the day!
It rained early in the morning and my deck shoes, which had been left on the pontoon, were wet inside but they soon dried out. Enjoyed a Skype call from David and Faye Underhill in the Canaries - pretty good reception. Made Skype call to Jackie - nice to see and hear her although reception is not brilliant and there seems to be quite a delay in transmission and reception.

Spent rest of morning pottering about on boat, inflating dinghy and playing around with spinnaker pole.

Simon made cheese,tomato and onion sarnies for lunch.

More lounging about in the afternoon plus a quick swim in the pool before it clouded over and started to rain. Tea and the last of the Christmas cake. Chris is cooking dinner again tonight - chicken I think.