Baganara to Tobago

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Mon 28 Jan 2013 14:09


11:10.78N 060:44.18W

On our way again

After a fascinating three days touring the interior of Guyana we were now boat based again and on our way to the Caribbean proper – Tobago our next stop. Back to boat issues again including the water issue. We were hoping to find our tanks full on our return from our trip, but there had been very little rain and rather than brimming tanks and unrestricted showers we were hoping for, we were faced with only half a tank of water and no water maker. Luckily we were still in the river so that water was fresh if rather muddy. We’d got over our squeamishness about the mud and were happily washing ourselves and clothes in the water but knew that once at sea we would be restricted again to the water in the tank.

We got up at first light to find the river mirror calm. We were catching the ebb tide to take us down the river and for a few hours drifted peacefully downstream, slightly concerned about the sand banks as we were now on a falling tide. Tim remembered that someone had reported an uncharted rock nearby. Rather uncharacteristically I think, Tim decided to hunt the rock out and swung the boat slowly round. We reached the charted position going at half a knot and found no change in depth. ‘ Right, we’ve passed it’, said Tim whereupon we were brought up short with a loud bang. It must have been a sheer pinnacle of rock, as the echo sounder didn’t pick it up at all. Luckily we had been going really slowly – at any speed we could have suffered a lot of damage. Anyway, for the avoidance of doubt, there is a rock there and it is very hard!

We carried on down river, stopping briefly at Roeden Rust so that Tim could go up the mast to change the bulb on the decklight and then we were on our way proper 2 nights and 3 days at sea, if we got a decent wind, to reach Tobago. The sea remained very shallow, 3.5 metres or less for hours out to sea. We had to keep a keen eye out for the fishing posts and it wasn’t until 10 hours after we had set off from Baganara that we were able to get the sails up and turn the engine off.

The engine died and Tim said ominously – oh dear, that’s strange – the engine just died. He tried starting it again and nothing. Tried again a bit later – still nothing. The engine was completely dead. To add to our woes, the whispergen, our only other method of charging the batteries was also playing up. What followed was 24 hours of constant struggle with both whispergen and engine including a complete night with the floorboards up and Tim with his head in the engine compartment trying to find out what the problem was. Because we had no means of charging the batteries, the fridge and freezer had to be turned off, but more significantly we were reduced to hand steering. Actually, this was in a way really good. I find I get pretty lazy drifting along with the boat steering itself. When hand steering, you immediately have to engage more closely with the wind and tide, adjusting your course accordingly and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the wheel. Luckily the whispergen was finally persuaded to flicker into life but the main engine remained obstinately out of action. We had to plan our arrival in Tobago under sail, using the dinghy to help with the final manoevers. The only problem with this was that the dinghy engine was still not reliable, requiring the engine to be kicked into gear at full revs, meaning the dinghy shooting off at top speed in the direction the bows happened to be pointing. So under sail alone it was.

Having had no proper rain for days, the heavens decided to open on our approach to Scarborough, restricting visibility to a few yards, so we had to gill around outside, hoping we wouldn’t be run down by the high speed ferry that runs between Trinidad and Tobago. To add insult to injury, we didn’t have the rain catching awning up, so couldn’t collect the water that would undoubtedly fill our tank brim full.

There was finally a break in the rain, so we made a dash for the harbour and made a fine, controlled entrance under sail, securing ourselves with the main anchor – no windlass mind you – and rowing the dinghy to place a stern kedge anchor. We were in. We were too tired to get the awning up, and while we slept it rained buckets. We’ll do it later we thought.

Clearing in was very efficient although the customs man wasn’t happy about us remaining anchored in Scarborough. It is quite restricted and very busy with the constant coming and going of the ferries and cruise ships. When he heard our plight however, he very kindly offered to drive Tim to find a mechanic – or as Tim had requested, the best mechanic on the island, to come and look at the engine. Tim returned to the boat an hour later with said mechanic, who diagnosed the problem as the injector pump, the worst possible problem to have and impossible to fix on the boat.  As I write the injector pump is in Trinidad, taken over by the mechanic who was going to Trinidad for the weekend. It is now Monday morning, and we are waiting for a call to let us know what the problem is and whether it can be fixed. Meanwhile, Tim has found out that a new one is on 105 days delivery and is extremely expensive.  (I would like to write the mechanic’s name but it is very weird and despite our best endeavours, none of us has been able to pin down exactly what it is. Not exactly encouraging when our future cruising depends totally on him!)

We spent 24 hours at our anchorage, but were getting increasingly alarmed at how close the huge high speed catamarans were getting to us as they reversed into the dock just astern of us. When we felt that they were close enough to be able to hand over a gin and tonic, we decided we had to reset the anchors to keep us away from their trajectory, so executed a fine relaying of the anchor, all hands at action stations, and are now lying much more happily well out of the way.

So we are now exploring Tobago by car. We manage to coax the outboard engine into life, but after major maintenance work, the engine is now worse than ever, and we are asphyxiated by exhaust fumes as the engine is revved into submission before we can ram it into gear and lurch forward.

Tobago is a beautiful island and everyone is extremely friendly so despite obvious anxieties, we are making the best of it and having a good time. More on Tobago another time.

P.S. It still hasn’t rained. Spend a lot of time searching out beach showers.