We sailed directly from Union Island to Chaguaramas in under 20 hours. In fact, we had to slow down for two hours so that we could arrive after sunrise. It was, like the many times before, an uneventful sail. The concern that many have when we say we are going to Trinidad is the fear of piracy. That fear, from events many years ago, seems to be propagated more by other islands to attract cruisers than any factual basis.
The last time, we were in Trinidad was the summer of 2019. The pandemic hit in early 2020 and Trinidad took the very cautious approach of closing its borders for almost two years. The result was that they did control the spread, but still had high number of cases. It, however, affected the cruisers who could not come for two seasons. Trinidad, unlike the other East Caribbean Islands doesn’t rely on “tourists” for the majority of their foreign exchange, but the loss of the cruising boats did have an effect on the local workers in Chaguaramas. We were concerned that when we returned, what the situation would be as far as getting boat work done.
What did we find when we arrived? Well, besides the pandemic procedures before entry – covid test and approval to enter – not too much has changed. These pre-arrival permissions will be eliminated next month. The entry procedure, after getting health clearance, was the usual long paperwork of Immigration and Customs. It is amazing that in today’s computerized world, multiple forms (at least a dozen) with carbon paper copies need to be filled out by hand (all with the same information) for Immigration and then Customs before you are legally entered into the country. Well at least there is no charge (unless you arrive or depart “after hours”).
We took a mooring on arrival and stayed there a few days to pull the sails down and get ready to be hauled. There was no problem arranging a haul date with Power Boats Boatyard and it was great seeing familiar faces in their office and the workers in the yard. The morning, we arranged to move from the mooring to the haul-out well was going fine until we started to back into the well. Since we have a long bowsprit we back into the well as most travel lifts are two small to position correctly unless we do. This is no problem as the boat backs to port so we actually come up perpendicular to the well and just pivot back into it in reverse.
All was well until I put it in reverse. Well actually I did put it in reverse but the transmission never got the word. Running down to the engine room revealed that the cable was broken somewhere between the cockpit control and the transmission. I could manually engage the transmission in the engine room but that would be impossible with only Maureen and me aboard. Fortunately, cruiser friends on Roxy, Allegro and Miclo 3 answered our calls for help and in short order they were out in the dinghies ready to “tug boat” us in. Rob on Miclo jumped on board to help with lines and after some maneuvering we were safely on the well. That marked the official end of our voyage 12.
Well, add the transmission cable to the list of M&R. Boats, and especially those operated 24/7 demand constant maintenance and repair. Our friend Mark on Roxy reports that everything on the boat is broken, you just don’t know it yet. You usually learn it at the most inconvenient time.
Since we have not been in Trinidad for two years, the list of M&R is exte onesnsive. The major work will be done by contractors and vendors. That is what is good about Trinidad, there are many very good contractors and vendors and we are pleased to see most of them still here. One of the reasons is that there are many local boats in the yard, both private and small commercial ones, that supported the marine community while the borders were closed.
So let the work begin. Of course, you have to remember this is all on island time. We have been in the yard for two weeks and are still arranging work to be done. The masts have been unstepped and the shrink wrap boat cover is in place (we look like a Conestoga Wagon) so the on-board work will soon commence. This will entail replacing four large glass windows, repairing a small section of deck, painting the deck, rewiring the mizzen mast, hull buffing, bottom painting, engine work, new main and jib sails, new aft sun canvas, new stack pack sail cover, new mainmast track, new mainmast winch, new dinghy chaps plus a bunch of interior work. And Maureen bought a new Smart TV!
Our “summer season” has started and the social scene with cruisers, between boat work, has been reactivated. Thursday’s pot luck dinner at the Rotti Hut, Friday’s music jam, Sunday Dominoes, local restaurants are opening and the community of cruisers helping cruisers began. Other cruisers will arrive to add to the community. Many will fly off, as we will in July and August, to spend time “back home” and return in September or later. Pandemic restrictions are still in place as the virus is definitely still around and so precautions must be taken.
Voyage 12 covered 800 miles and 6 countries in the Eastern Caribbean. Since covid restrictions were easing it became easier to call different ports this season. We hope this will continue and we can get back to revisiting islands we haven’t been to in a few years. Until then our base is in Trinidad, which welcomes cruisers from around the world. In this sense Trinidad is the welcoming port for boats coming from their round the world voyage and the gateway to the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Since the National Hurricane Center just announced their hurricane season forecast – above average – it is also a good place to “get out of the path of hurricanes”.