Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Hot hot hot! That is Trinidad in June. It isn’t so much the heat of 92 degrees every day but it is also the humidity that approaches 100% each day. That makes the heat index 100 degrees just before dawn and then it goes up during the day!

Steve is broadcasting the marine weather forecast in the mornings and he also is the net controller one day a week. The weather is important because this is hurricane season and we have to monitor where potential storms may form, just in case they threaten us.

The net controller position is like a radio disk jockey. The program is 30 minutes long and is broadcast to everyone within radio range first thing in the morning. Steve claims he has not talked so much in his life. Maria thinks he sounds like Walter Cronkite.

The gym is where Maria can be found every morning, working out to the sounds of the parrots flying overhead. After her workout, while Steve is hunched over his computer, Maria enjoys sitting by the pool before the temperature becomes too hot.

This also happens to be the rainy season. When it rains here we are talking about downpours! We have to keep an eye on our dinghy to make sure it doesn’t sink from all the water it accumulates from these tropical showers.

Injuries are common among the sailors here. Broken legs, arms, huge bruises and the usual cuts and scrapes are everywhere. It seems that the boats rolling at anchor and at the dock as well as the paths around the area take their tolls. Maria’s back is in bad shape after lifting the sails off the boat. Think of life on a boat as constant pilates because of the motion of the boat all the time. Arrrrr, isn’t this great!

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria
One of the boat yards where we will haul Aspen out for some work

Chaguaramas is a working harbor for the oil and gas industry

Aspen in her slip at Crews Inn Marina

Chaguaramas Harbor, Trinidad (Venezuela is in the background)

The jungle behind the boats is the Northern Range - created by the major El Pilar fault zone that runs through the harbor. This fault zone is the boundary between the Caribbean Plate (the jungle) and the South American Plate (the water).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

S/V Aspen – June 14, 2009 – Log #10
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0 W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

Chaguaramas, Trinidad
Chaguaramas (pronounced “shag-ger-rahm-mus”) is the sailing capital of Trinidad and perhaps of the entire Eastern Caribbean. Here you can find the best boat yards, parts stores and labor force to repair or work on your vessel.

The name Chaguaramas comes from the Taino Indian word for palm. So we are still on the trail of the Taino! This is a large protected bay on the northwest coast of Trinidad with Venezuela about 9 miles away in the mist. The Spanish, as a hiding place for their ships, used this natural harbor during the discovery years after Columbus made landfall on Trinidad during his third voyage in 1498.

The US military also recognized the value of this harbor. In 1940 the US Navy needed a base to support their ships during WWII so they leased the Chaguaramas land from Britian (Trinidad was British at the time) in trade for 50 used destroyers and built a military base on these lands. What few people inhabited this area were relocated and this part of Trinidad became home to the US Navy.

Today, because of the isolation of this area by the US Navy, Chaguaramas and the surrounding lands are a spectacular national park. This area contains original old-growth jungle and forest, abundant wildlife, scenic trails and the overgrown ruins of the bunkers and buildings from the historic US Naval base.

The exploration opportunities are endless in the Chaguaramas area and we take advantage of the trails and walks as often as we can. Unfortunately the heat is a problem here. Every day the temperature soars to over 90 degrees with 90% humidity. That is probably why it is a jungle! Even the howler monkeys hide during the day and forage at night or in the cool of the morning. Fluffy stands of bamboo, bromeliad-smothered samaan trees, citrus, cocoa and coffee all grow on the slopes of the forest. Red howler monkeys, emperor butterflies, toucans, hummingbirds, and over 430 species of birds live in the jungle that is called Trinidad.

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sailing is dangerous work!

Crew's Inn Marina grounds

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

S/V Aspen – June 10, 2009 – Log #9
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0 W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

Marina Life
Aspen is in a slip at Crew’s Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad. So what is life like at a marina in Trinidad, you may ask?

Crew’s Inn Marina is like a country club. It is better than many of the marinas we used even in Florida. There is a pool, hotel, restaurants, stores, groceries, a gym, and 24 hour security in the marina. The jungle is steps away from our boat where the toucans, howler monkeys and thousands of birds while away their time. The hot showers in the marina are a great convenience too!

We now have regular power on the boat, internet access and a great view of Chaguaramas Bay with the coming and going of ocean going vessels, as well as hundreds of sailboats. On the other side of the harbor are more stores and restaurants that we access with our dinghy.

The marine services and boat yards are also opposite our marina. This is where we will have Aspen hauled out of the water to have some maintenance items worked on.

The local bus route is right outside the marina. We can take a local bus, called a Maxi-Taxi, to a mall, movie town, grocery stores or even the capital, Port of Spain. The bus costs 5 TT which is less than $1 US. The buses are mini-vans that are not air-conditioned and they make many stops along the way to pick people up. There are no bus stops so if you want to catch the bus you simply stand at the side of the road and when you see one coming just signal it and it will stop for you. When you want to get off the bus you clearly say stop or knock on the inside so that the driver hears you.

There are many activities for the Yachties here in Chaguaramas. They call us Yachties for some strange reason but no one is offended. The activities range from potlucks to dominoes, island tours, turtle watching, hiking, steel pan band concerts and even happy hours.

Steve is able to communicate to his clients about his geophysical projects better now that he has a faster internet connection and even a local cell phone. The boat is also more stable and that helps him interpret data on the workstation more easily than when it is rocking!

Maria uses the gym in the mornings for her workouts. Steve gets up before dawn and runs on the old abandoned roads and trails in Chaguaramas. The heat becomes oppressive once the sun comes up so it is wise to get out before that happens. We will describe Chaguaramas in our next blog!

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crew's Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Steve walking the docks in Trinidad

Maria enjoying the marina

Trinidad landfall in the Boca de Monos
Rock de Spice music festival in Grenada!


We arrived safely in Trinidad after a 16-hour overnight sail from Grenada. Leaving Grenada at 5:30 pm we were in the company of our friends on Cat Tales who immediately started catching fish! They reeled in a Spanish Mackerel and a Barracuda before we were even a mile away from the Grenada coast.

Another catamaran, Mirunga from England, linked up with us since they were also sailing to Trinidad so we now had a flotilla of 3 vessels heading the same direction.

There were quite a few ships that we saw during the crossing, as well as a huge gas platform that was lit up like a city. Adjacent to the gas platform was an offshore drilling rig that was also adjacent to our course. We have a system onboard Aspen that is called AIS. This electronic box tells us about any vessel or platform that is within about 48 miles of us. It also tells us how close the vessel will come to us, their speed, direction, destination, length, width, etc. The AIS is pretty amazing. The admiral insisted that this unit be installed and we are both very happy we have it. The other boats traveling with us benefit from the AIS unit because we can tell them how close a vessel will come to them too.

The winds were 15 knots with 4-6 foot seas at the beginning of the sail so we decided to slow down to avoid arriving at the Boca before first light. The Boca de Monos is the first of three entrances into the northwestern part of Trinidad. Of course about an hour after we tried to slow Aspen down the wind moderated and even became light before the night was over.

After 12 hours of sailing the sun began rising and immediately ahead of us in the mist Trinidad towered above the ocean. The lush green jungle appeared to be a mirage to our tired eyes but there was no mistake, we were about to make landfall on the island of the spices.

Clearing customs and immigration went smoothly and by 10 am we were safely tied to our slip at Crew's Inn Marina. Cat Tales followed about an hour later with Mirunga right after her.

We had a successful crossing to Trinidad!