Sun 26 May 2013 14:31
It was good to have a night passage again. I looked forward to my watches, peaceful times with just me, the lights of other shipping, and our boat beneath me. There was quite a lot of 'traffic' including big ships, with no AIS, crossing our path. In the small hours a glow on the horizon announced that we were nearing an oil rig, which resolved into what looked like a small city perched on a platform high above the waves. We knew we were nearing land by the smell - so hard to describe the contrast between the crisp salt smell of open water and the damp warm organic smell that drifts from the land. We had made too much ground over night so we reduced sail an hour or two before sunrise in order to slow ourselves so that we'd make landfall in daylight. The sun had gone down on the rich blue Caribbean Sea all around us but came up next day to reveal a massive change; the sea was green! We learnt later that Trinidad is famed for its 'Emerald Ocean', however it's sister island Tobago has blue seas like the rest of the Caribbean, when you sail there you can see the dividing line where it changes colour.
The green waters of Trinidad
With the morning light came a visitor, a little land bird, about the size of a thrush, came and landed on deck, taking cover under the dinghy which we were carrying upside down on the foredeck. The poor little thing was clearly tired and scared. I disturbed him when I went forwards to drop the staysail but he was straight back under the dinghy as soon as I was back in the cockpit.
We approached Trinidad's North Western corner, entering via 'Boca de Monos', The Monkey's Mouth, the most Eastern of 'The Dragon's Mouth', Bocas del Dragon, a series of straits between Trinidad and Venezuela. The current from the South Atlantic comes running up the coast and splits, some going above Trinidad and some running below and joining back with the main current through the Dragon's Mouth, so there can be strange flows as you enter and we saw swirls and standing waves as we got closer. As we dropped the sails a salute of pelicans came flying low past us in a line, about 15 of them, and all the way in every ten minutes or so another flock came by, stately and elegant, black against the dark forest.
Pelicans greeting us
As we entered the channel the sounds of the rainforest either side reached us, the early morning chorus, not just birds, but howls and calls that must have been monkeys as well as the myriad unfamiliar calls of birds. Parrots started to fly overhead, one by one, the first was letting out a squawk with each wingbeat, as if he had a bicycle horn tucked under his wing. Vultures spiralled up above the peaks as the morning sun warmed the air currents.
Although Trinidad is part of the Caribbean Islands if you look at the map you'll see that it is actually quite far South of the rest of the islands, right next to South America, in fact we could see Venezuela as we sailed in. The Island is much more equatorial and has the fauna and flora of South America so there is plenty of new wildlife for us to discover.
Venezuela in the distance.
We navigated the channel and rounded the point to enter the sheltered bay of Chaguaramas. The anchorage is very protected, looking out at the Islands we passed as we came in, and is very busy with boats and ships taking advantage of all the boatyards and yacht services that are there.
Looking back towards Boca de Monos
As soon as we were anchored we took the dinghy to check in with immigration and customs. It was still early but already the heat was building, typically 33ºC but with 95% humidity we had to get used to sweating all the time, and finally began to see the point in air conditioning! The officials were very helpful and welcoming, and stamped our passports granting us both 'shore leave' from our boat, making me feel quite the professional sailor.
There was much to do in preparing the boat to come out of the water, getting sails repaired, finding people to check our rudder and centre plate and make us a frame so we can fit more solar panels and wind turbines. But time to explore this new exciting place would come and I could feel it calling to me.
"What we gonna do?" "I dunno. What d'yer wanna do?"