Sailing to Tobago
24 December 2007 | Tobago
Today we sailed for Tobago. We had been in Chagaramas for a while and managed to get a few things done but still haven't even started on the big projects. Everyone is either too busy or not working so we decided to stop swimming up stream and come back in mid January. In the mean time Tobago here we come.
The Guyana Current (Equatorial Current, Lesser Antilles Current, or what ever else you would like to call it) makes a strong showing in the gap between Trinidad and Tobago. Most folks Sailing for Tobago from Trinidad hug Trinidad's north coast and then shoot across the smallest possible gap.
There is one other play in the play book however and we were going to try it. The flood tide in this area is supposed to create an opposing current and on a spring tide you can even cancel out the Guyana current, so they say. It was a full moon and max flood looked to be at around 13:30.
I was particularly fond of this plan because it allowed us to leave around 9AM in order to make the channel crossing at 13:30. We already had the boat pretty much ready to go and had all of our routes set up on paper and electronics.
Getting off the dock was an interesting exercise. We had two nasty lines tied out front. We removed the cross ties taking us down to two quarter lines on the stern to the dock. Billy, who lives on his Peterson across the dock from us, helped me with the stern lines while Hideko was out in the dinghy getting the bow lines off of the buoys. I just made sure that we didn't slide into the 100 foot Turkish motor sailer to port.
Once the scuzy lines were aboard I drove over to the fuel dock and Hideko met me there on the dink. Hideko fueled us up while I took the dink over to customs. We didn't have to visit immigration but they want you to check in and out of customs when you go to Tobago or any other anchorage for that matter. I think one of the main reasons folks don't cruise Trinidad and Tobago is that the government makes it a real hassle. Between the north coast of Trinidad and the various anchorages of Tobago is would be a fun place to gunkhole. Sailing around casually like this is almost impossible though because you have to check in with customs every time you go somewhere.
The check out didn't take long and I felt bad for the guys working on Christmas eve. I was their only customer at the time. When I got back to the boat we put the dink up on deck and headed north. As expected it was rather bumpy where the currents cross right as you exit in to the Atlantic but things settled into a 4-6 foot shortish swell after that. Not a dream, but not bad at all either. We stayed close to the North coast to keep out of the current and did a nice 9 knots as we motor sailed along the coast. If we can manage it we'd love to stop at several of the beautiful anchorages we saw along the way.
A story told by another sailor made this sound bureaucratically untenable. The guy told me that upon notifying customs in Tobago that he would be heading back to Chagarams but stopping in each of two anchorages on the way they said, "you'll have to go to Chagaramas first then sail back to the other anchorages". Apparently the Tobago folks can't clear you for Trinidad anchorages. When he told then that he could only sail down wind and that these anchorages were miles upwind from Chagaramas, the official was taken aback, not realizing sailing upwind was difficult. After a moment of reflection he said that he was sorry about the wind but that the sailor would have to go to Chagaramas.
About a third of the way along the coast we ran across a fleet of fishing boats. They were classic looking craft with huge flocks of birds perched all about them, the overflow winging about waiting for a spot to open. Dodging the patchwork lines they inscribed back and forth along my path gave me something to do for a half hour or so. They clearly knew they had the right of way.
We turned onto a heading of about 070 and made for Tobago at around 12:30. At first I was encouraged. It seemed like the tide was holding off the prevailing current. Then as we got further and further into the channel the heading and COG began to diverge. At its worst we were being set about 12 degrees off track and losing as much as a knot and a half of way. So much for the tidal current cancelation theory, given the 12 degree set at a boat speed of eight to nine knots the prevailing current works out to be over 1.5 knots. Even though our current plans didn't work out, it was a blue sky day along our track and a pleasant sail.
We arrived at the anchorage in Store Bay and parked right behind Doris who was still right where I left her. I was happy we would get to meet Stian's family. We had also agreed to join Hideko's friends on Andromeda for Christmas eve dinner at Latitude 11 around 7PM.
We got Swingin' on a Star settled and took showers quickly so that we wouldn't hold up the works. Store Bay doesn't have a jetty or pier to land on but the swell that was on its way hadn't come in yet, so the beach landing didn't look too bad tonight. After getting dressed up (in so far as you ever really get dressed up in the Caribbean) we dinghied over to Andromeda.
Andromeda is a Dean 42. Michal, the skipper, spent quite a bit of time in South Africa working with the factory to get her they way he wanted. She is a lovely catamaran with a great interior. We shared a celebratory glass of Champaign with Michal, his wife Mary, Alexandra their 15 month old, their nanny Bethn, and their friend Courtney who was visiting for the holidays.
We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a wonderful dinner at the splendid Latitude 11, a short walk from the beach. I had the Christmas special with fantastic turkey, stuffing and gravy not to mention the other four courses. Others enjoyed fillet mignon and wahoo. It was a great evening and a wonderful chance to interrogate the very experienced Andromeda crew. Everyone had a wonderful Christmas eve, even Roq who greatly appreciated the fillet left overs.