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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Tobago Clearance
12/26/2007, Scarborough

We cleared in to Tobago today. It is a bit of a hop from Store Bay over to Scarborough. We didn't really have a plan for getting there when we left the big boat on the dinghy. As we were hauling our dinghy up the beach a German couple arrived on their dingy. We helped each other get our respective dinghies up the beach and they told us they were headed for customs. They were nice enough to give us a ride in their rental car.

Konrad and Maria are a fun couple cruising the Caribbean on KataMaria, their Leopard 42. Our ordeal gave us a lot of time to get to know each other.

We started off at immigration. Konrad had tried to clear out yesterday but was told to come back after the holiday and to see immigration first. You can not clear yachts at the airport (it is too close to Store Bay the principal yacht anchorage...), though you will often be told to go there, to no avail as Konrad had also discovered. The immigration folks at the port in Scarborough were not home when we arrived. Our next stop was customs. We rang the bell as instructed by the sign on the door. No answer. We decided that persistence might be in order. After about 15 minutes an officer finally came to the door. He was drying his hair because he had just taken a shower. He was going on 30 hours straight because the last two relief officers had no showed on him. We felt bad for him sitting in that office for the holiday.

He stamped our clearance doc and told us we were done. I asked him if we needed to check back in to visit other anchorages (as I had heard we would have to do) and he said no you are all set. Good enough for me. He did say that we would have to see immigration and customs before returning to Trinidad.

Konrad did not get so lucky. He was told that he had to see Immigration first. The customs guy called the immigration officer, who said he would meet us at the port in one hour. We thanked the customs officer and walked around Scarborough for a bit. Almost nothing was open but we found a place to get a soda and the girls bought some fresh produce from a street vender.

We waited at immigration for a half hour past the designated meeting time and the officer did not show up. Frustrated Konrad returned to the customs office and they called immigration again. The answer this time was that the immigration officer's car wouldn't start so another officer was going to go to the airport, get the keys from the guy with the bad car and then meet us at immigration in 30 minutes. So we waited at immigration for another hour. A German single hander and a British couple, both just arrived in Charlottville from across the Atlantic, walked up at that point. Chrlotteville is on the other side of the island and they have customs there but you have to come to Scarborough for immigration.

As we waited I noted how quiet the town was, it was a holiday of course. A pack of five dogs trotted down the middle of the street with an apparent agenda. A while later they came back the other direction. The immigration officer finally arrived and Konrad wrapped up his business in about 20 minutes. Then we had to go back to customs for the third time.

Scarborough is not a place you want to bring your boat if you can avoid it. Cruise ships come in there but there are no services for small boats. I have seen people anchor up behind the new break water for short periods but I don't think that Scarborough would be a preferred spot for anything other than a short stop.

After our five hour customs and immigration session we treated ourselves to lunch at Latitude 11. Konrad and Maria enjoyed the restaurant as much as we did and had made a connection with the German chef. After lunch we dinghied back to the big boat for a relaxing afternoon and waved goodbye to Konrad and Maria who were on there way to the next island.

Trinidad and Tobago
Merry Christmas
12/25/2007, Store Bay

It was a little cloudy today so Hideko, Roq and I opted to have a relaxing Christmas day aboard Swingin' on a Star. It was great to spend a day at anchor in the clean blue water again. Tobago appears to be a beautiful place to spend the holidays.

Trinidad and Tobago
Sailing to Tobago
12/24/2007, 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.

Trinidad and Tobago
Nasty Lines
12/23/2007, Chagaramas

We were prepping our boat for a trip to Tobago today and we decided to check on the lines as we got things ready to go. We had recently purchased two brand new 100 foot long inch three strand nylon lines to use as coconut tree lines. They had never been used prior to our arrival in Chagaramas but they came in handy for tying the bow off to the buoys out front.

The photo here shows what one month in the water at Chagaramas did to our lines. We are going to let them sun bleach for a couple days and then soak them in soapy water for a couple more to see if we can get them to recover. The huge amounts of hard growth (barnacles and what not) totally amazed me. Glad we have fresh bottom paint.

Trinidad and Tobago
White Christmas
12/22/2007, Chagaramas

Defrosting the freezer gave us a chance to see snow. We have been running the freezer (24/7) since October of 2006. The ice was starting to encroach on our ice cream space. My best guess is that we acrued about 1 cubic foot of ice per year. We have added a defrost to our annual maintenance list.

Trinidad and Tobago
The Peake Dock
12/21/2007, Peake

The Peake dock is a temporary spot for most folks and perhaps the least desirable of the several docks in Chagarams. We ended up here because all of the other docks were full. This dock is out in the bay a bit more and gets more swell and a lot more wake from the power boats coming and going. Crew's Inn would be my first choice if reserving a spot in Chagaramas.

The Peake dock is very reasonably priced though and offers free water and power.

Trinidad and Tobago
12/20/2007, Chagaramas

When I returned from Florida I went through the boat a bit to make sure that she was ok after being plugged into the dock for a few weeks.

As I reached up to turn on one of the halogens in the saloon using the little twist bezel I noticed something I didn't like. There was an electrical burn running straight through the plastic from the base through the twist bezel. Not good.

My assessment is that due to the design of the lights it is very easy to leave them almost on. Almost on means possible arcing, heat build up and bad things down the line from there.

These lights have some pros. They can be individually turned on and off, they are bright, and they dim nicely. On the down side, the bezels pop off easily and can get hung up making it hard to figure out how to turn them on or off, they are power pigs, and due to the less than positive on/off switching they have the burn problem depicted here. The last two items are the nails in the proverbial coffin.

Our friends on Andromeda have 12 LED composite lights that are the exact same size. My original concern was that the LEDs would not dim due to the voltage sensitivity but Andromeda's do. My last LED discussion was a year ago with a friend on Shanty in Exuma and voltage sensitivity was still a big issue. Looks like the LEDs are coming of age.

I am now scouring the Internet for a dozen or so LEDs to replace all of my halogen lights.

Trinidad and Tobago

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