The Voyage of Vagus V
Year 1
Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad
Start Date: April 17th, 2005 Location: Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad
End Date: April 17th, 2005

As I write this, Karen is busy oiling the teak in the main cabin, Winston (a Trini) is waxing the hull, and I am sitting at the computer in our air conditioned cabin - life just doesn't get any better. Yes, we have air conditioning on our boat. We rented an air conditioner to keep Vagus cool and dry when we leave her on the hard as it gets very hot and humid in Trinidad during the rainy season. We decided to have it installed a little early so we (that is the royal "we", meaning The Princess) could do all those cleaning jobs that are required to put the boat away for the season in reasonable comfort. It is hot and humid in the marina even though this is dry season - the sort of weather where perspiration just sits on your body and tries to figure out where to go. Normally it just gives up after a little while and falls in a puddle at your feet.

So this story is about how we got here. We loved the Tobago Cays and ended up staying nine days at anchor there. We did not find Nemo but saw lots of his cousins and plenty of Dory fish (Blue Tangs). There were boat vendors that cruise the area offering fresh bread, fish, shirts, etc. They were very good and would not approach your boat unless you waved them over. You could even order groceries and they would deliver the food back to your boat the next day - a great way to do shopping. The wind blew a steady 20 knots with some days at 25 so, with our wind generator, we had lots of power. Our batteries were fully charged and we could use the computer and even watch DVD's without concern. The reef offered good protection from waves but did nothing to stop the wind. People who think that it is quiet at anchor are in for a surprise. Sailboats are actually quite noisy. We had the howl of the wind in the rigging all the time we were there. It reminded us of living near the QEW in Burlington and listening to the tire noise. At least the snorkeling was better in the Cays.

With our supplies running low, we decided to go to the town of Clifton on Union Island - about a 1 hour motor from the Cays (we are too lazy to raise sails for a 1 hour trip). We arrived at Clifton and had the usual fun of finding a spot to anchor. There is a lot of mooring buoys sprinkled throughout the anchorage at Clifton. The trick was to get a spot with good holding and away from the buoys. We ended up anchoring several times until we found a spot we liked. On our final attempt, we motored past the buoys and headed straight towards the reef. As we kept motoring forward, the water, of course, kept getting shallower. Now I do the anchor deployment and Karen helms the boat during these delicate maneuvers. I know that we can continue going forward into progressively shallower water until Karen squeaks. The squeak means we have reached the 7-foot contour and it is time to lower the anchor. It is my queue. With a 5-foot draft on our boat and a 2-foot tide, a 7foot depth for dropping the anchor was Karen's personal limit - and by default, mine as well. We dropped anchor in beautiful sand with excellent holding and fell back after letting out the chain to 14 feet of water - no problem. Of course I did not mention that we were doing all this is in a squall with driving rain and 30 knot gusts. Nobody said that it would be easy. After we finished, the sky cleared and we had a beautiful sunny day

We spent 9 days at Clifton. When we set the hook, we stay - no one-night stands for us. Clifton was delightful. We were there over Easter weekend and got to enjoy some of the Easter celebrations. The town was all decorated and events were planned throughout the weekend. Unfortunately most of them started in the evening and went on until the small hours of the morning - much too late for cruisers. We both start yawning at 2100. We were able to walk across the island to Belmont Beach. It was nice to do some walking again as we had been on the boat for almost two weeks. We also found the Blue Pelican Bar, a very eccentric place indeed. Actually the Blue Pelican sold shirts, paintings, trinkets, and had land turtles, several dogs and a small bar halfway up the hill overlooking the bay. The view was worth the price of admission and we had to get our camera and go back for another visit. We could see the whole anchorage with Vagus gently bobbling about and the Cays in the distance.

One day, the mooring that was just behind us lost its marker float when a squall blew through during the night. A boat vendor came out looking for the mooring and I told him what happened. He asked if I would dive on it and replace the float. So later that morning, I attached a new float. The vendor was so happy that he offered us a free meal at Lambi's Restaurant and said he would pick us up and return us to our the boat. What a great deal! We had smorgasbord dinner with many local dishes while a pan band played in the background. Herman - the vendor - picked us up on schedule and returned us later that night. He used a local boat for the run. Now these boats are about 17 feet long, built of wood and have huge outboard motors attached to them. They move like rockets and turn on a dime. To return, we climbed aboard the boat, he started the engine, then at full throttle, we flew across the anchorage in the dark on night. Vagus was on the far side. He stopped just before our boat and we delicately got off. It was definitely a ride that beat most amusement park rides.

We wanted to get to Trinidad early to scout out the area and arrange for storage of Vagus. Near the end of March, we started looking seriously for a weather window. We thought we would be going the next week but a window looked good in two days. Suddenly we were in boat prep mode for an offshore passage. We stowed everything that we could think of, got all the gear ready and checked out of Union Island on the morning of March 31st. We set sail at 1300 for Trinidad, a trip of about 120 miles. We had a choice of two routes. We could go behind Grenada and be protected from the wind and waves or go on the East side of Grenada and have the Atlantic trade winds (and waves) blow us along. The East side was the preferred route if the waves were okay. We set sail after leaving Clifton, sailed down past Carriacou and poked our nose out into the Atlantic. The waves were not large (just big) so we opted for the Atlantic side. We actually had a great sail past Grenada, going hull speed and picking up a 2-knot favourable current. Our speed over ground reached 9 knots. Our problem was that at the rate we were moving, we would arrive too soon in Trinidad. We wanted to reach The Boca, the entrance to Chaguaramas Bay about 0800 in the morning so there would be lots of light for the entrance and we would be at slack tide. At our present speed we would arrive at 0300 - definitely on the dark side. We actually had to slow Vagus down, reefing in the genoa to drop speed. We also had to endure a few hours of washing machine-like motion off the south coast of Grenada. Somehow the currents and waves get all mixed up in that region and make a very confused sea that bounced us around. It was a case of hang on and wait it out. We got to talk by VHF radio to some friends in Grenada as we passed by and met up with another boat we knew that was making the same passage. It was nice to know that someone else was out there. Near Trinidad, the seas calmed down and we arrived at The Boca at 0800 - what planning. The Princess managed to retain her title (Princess One-tack) as we sailed from Union Island to Trinidad on one tack. So far this season, we have sailed twice, once on each tack, so I guess our rigging is okay. At the entrance, down came the sails and we motored through the islands to the Customs dock at Chaguaramas Bay.

Chaguaramas is the main cruising area in Trinidad and a commercial port. We took a mooring for a few days to get our bearings and then moved to a dock to enable us to work on the boat. We were immediately surprised at the level of activity here. There are many boat yards and services available. The cruisers have regular activities organized as well. It is quite a change from the remoteness of the Cays. The restaurants are relatively inexpensive and the food is cheaper than Canada and there is lots of it. There is much to do by land and we plan to more fully explore the area and take in Carnival next season. For now, we are checking out what is available and getting the boat ready for storage. However, we are planning to go on a turtle watch expedition next Monday to view the leatherback turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs and we have managed to get in the odd domino game.

This update will be our last for this season as we head back to Canada at the end of April. We would like to wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy summer and hopefully we will see many of you over the next few months.

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