Well, we had to up anchor and leave Charlotteville eventually, but it was with great reluctance that we left on Tuesday 7th April.
Joe had been a marvellous guide, taking us into the rain forest one day then down to Scarborough, the main town on Tobago, another day. We travelled in a maxi taxi, a minibus with only diluted noise levels of music, thank goodness. The journey took an hour and a half and only cost $12 TT a head, just over £1.20! We have found that the cost of living in Tobago is the cheapest yet. Food in the supermarkets is much the same as everywhere else but Mike found that 22 litres of diesel was only $36 TT. It works out at $1.50 a litre, 15p in English money!
Joe also bought a couple of new sim cards for us at the Digicel store. Digicel is the largest mobile telephone company here, covering most of the islands in the Caribbean. We could have bought them ourselves, at a special ‘tourist’ rate, but using Joe’s ID card meant that we are now, unofficially, TT citizens and get the miniscule charges that locals get. The prices will increase when we leave TT but the roaming charges within the Caribbean and to the UK and USA are much cheaper than our old cards. Mind, it is expensive to ring us here from home so always text if you get in touch. E mail us if you want the new numbers.
We intended to go straight to Store Bay on the south coast of the island when we left but called into Englishman’s Bay on the way down (we had to with a name like that)! It is a very beautiful bay with just one cafe but when we got there after lunch the locals were seine fishing (casting a large net from two boats out in the bay with many people pulling the huge net ashore, gathering a lot of fish). We waited until they had landed the catch then anchored and went ashore in the dinghy, only to be told that they wanted us to move as they were going to cast again! We decided to leave then and went on to Great Courland Bay a bit further down the coast. There was one other boat at anchor when we got there which almost immediately left so we had the anchorage to ourselves. We were looking forward to going ashore to explore the town of Plymouth the next morning but were rudely awakened to find another seine netting taking place and they had already cast the net around us! We managed to nose our way to the edge of the net into less than 3 metres of water, and anchored again rather too close to the shore! We waited until the net was pulled in a bit then just up and left. We have since found that the seine netting only takes place on certain days of the week. Trust us to pick the wrong time to visit!
We reached Store Bay on the morning of Wednesday 8th April and were immediately greeted by dozens of jet skis racing about the bay, also several glass bottomed boats with loud rap music playing as they passed us going up to Buccoo Reef and Lagoon, local beauty spots. The reef is quite degraded but still has good areas of coral and fishes and is popular with locals and visitors alike. The ‘tourist’ beach is noisy but just a step away is a lovely small beach complete with Bago’s beach bar, a very friendly place. There is also the Coco Reef hotel with it’s private beach and swimming area we were able to use.
We were just saying that the racing jet skis were ‘accidents waiting to happen,’ then when we were ashore on Easter Saturday, we were alarmed to learn from some new Australian friends, Dan and Yolanda from yacht Jacana, that one of them had indeed hit a boat - El Lobo! We immediately rushed back to the boat and found a 400 by 200 mil sized hole in our port side, just above the waterline! We went ashore and confronted the owner of the jet ski and the rider who had hired it, who had been on a jet ski for the first time in his life. He had apparently just thrown his girlfriend off and she had insisted on him taking her ashore but he would go back and do another circuit, showing off to her we imagine! The owner insisted that the rider was responsible for any ‘mishaps’ as he put it, and had no insurance. The skis are not even licensed. Apparently you can just buy one and start hiring it out!
Mike went up to the Police station to report the incident. In the meantime both owner and rider scarpered. the Police desultorily took details then said it was not a Police matter!! Luckily, the life guards had seen the accident happen and had full details of the incident and Mike spoke to the Head Lifeguard for the whole island who said this was an accelerating problem. He rang the Police himself and they finally took some interest and came out to photograph the damage. The trauma of the whole incident upset us for a few days even though Mike managed to patch the hole up temporarily so we could get to Trinidad where we are hauling out. We have informed the TT Tourist Board and one of the local papers but have heard nothing back!
It was such a shame because that area around Pigeon Point is justly famous as a beauty spot and it is going to be ruined by these dammed machines. Anyway, El Lobo has survived yet another ordeal and we have moved on.
We had intended to do a lot more on Tobago. There are excellent bird watching trips into the Rain Forest, also turtle watching on some of the beaches, but with the jet ski incident our minds were on other things! We may be returning to Tobago next year so we will catch up then, hopefully. The island on the whole is peaceful and as near to paradise as you can get. The capital, Scarborough, is not the prettiest of towns, but you can buy most things.
We did do a lot of snorkelling in Store Bay. The reef is not in the best of condition but there is a huge variety of fishes and corals in the turquoise waters. We have bought a book to try and identify the different species. Mike used to do a lot of diving and is slowly building up some second hand gear and will start again. Pat would like to try it too but will take some proper lessons first. It really is amazing watching the life underwater.
The end of the Easter celebrations in Tobago is marked by the tradition of the Buccoo Village Annual Goat Race Festival! Believe it or not this has been going on since 1925 and the racing is taken really seriously. The goats are specially bred with longer legs than normal and they can certainly run very fast. The ‘jockeys,’ and ‘apprentice jockeys’ (under the age of 15 years) have to run behind or alongside their goat attached with a long rein with which they steer their animal along the 100 yard course. The jockeys must be as good a runner as their goats! The track has starting gates and a finishing line with grandstands and the goats are paraded before each race with all the pomp of Ascot.
There are also crab races where the local blue land crabs are raced. Each crab is attached to a length of string and can be ‘guided’ in the right direction with the aid of a short piece of stick. We think the winners ended up in the pot!
We did take the bus to Plymouth one day and had a look round this small town. There is an interesting gravestone there dated 1783. A Mrs Betty Stiven and her child are buried there and part of the inscription reads
She was a mother without knowing it
And a Wife without letting her Husband know it
Except by her kind indulgences to him
People come to Plymouth especially to see this mysterious inscription. There is also a monument to the original settlers, Courlanders from the Courland peninsular in Latvia.
Mike had complained of earache after swimming so much and for a few days he had dizziness and a few bouts of sickness, so we put off leaving for a few days until he felt better.
We finally left for Trinidad on 23rd April. It is a trip of about 60 miles and we decided to do it as an ‘overnighter’ as we wanted to make sure that we arrived in daylight. We also needed to do the journey in light winds and gentle seas as we didn’t know how Mike’s plywood patch was going to hold up. As it turned out we didn’t ship any water at all which was a miracle as we were rolling quite a lot at the beginning and the whole patch was underwater half of the time. We were on a better point of sail as the night progressed and the patch was above the waterline at last. We changed watches at 4 am and Mike had been asleep below when suddenly Pat was dazzled by a searchlight which approached quickly. She couldn’t see any navigation lights and thought immediately “PIRATES”! She called Mike up in what could be termed an ‘urgent’ tone and he came bounding up into the cockpit with a machete close to hand. After what seemed minutes but was only a few seconds a voice hailed us “Good morning El Lobo. This is the Coastguard”! They inquired as to our slow speed and asked who was on board then left us. They must have thought that we were the pirates, skulking along the coast so slowly, though we were showing our navigation lights.
When Mike returned below he suddenly had a vicious return of his nausea and sickness and was incapacitated until we reached Chaguaramas. After checking in with Customs we sailed round the headland to Carenage Bay where we dropped anchor beside the TT Sailing Association moorings. Our Irish friends Jim and Sharon and crew on Wendreda had been there for some time and recommended it as a quiet friendly place with less noise and ‘busyness’ than the main anchorage in Chaguaramas Bay.
We duly paid up for 7 days then went and explored the main haul out facilities round the corner. With Trinidad being below the hurricane belt many boats over-summer here and a large facility has slowly developed in Chaguaramas Bay. You can be hauled out at five different boatyards and there are a couple of marinas as well. Everything you could ever want to buy for a boat is here at three large chandleries and numerous small speciality outlets. Quite amazing really. We have seen nothing like it anywhere else on our travels.
Mike’s ear was still not right so we visited the local community hospital where he paid about £30 for a syringing of both ears which has improved things a lot.
We finally managed a ‘turtle watch’ at Matura Bay on the east coast two nights ago and it was absolutely amazing to see the female leatherback turtles leaving the rough surf and coming slowly up the beach to dig a large hole with their huge flippers and lay their eggs. You have to have a permit to go onto the beach during the breeding season between March and August and you have to go with an official guide. You are only allowed to take flash photographs when the turtle is actually laying her 80 to 120 eggs as she goes into a sort of trance and is not disturbed by the camera flashes. We still felt as if we were intruding on a very personal moment but it was a wonderful sight, especially when she had finished laying and filled in the nesting hole and started to lumber back to the sea. The one we watched leaving seemed to want to return to the nest and was very reluctant to enter the sea at first. There is a good web site here.
We have just yesterday (1st May 2009) had El Lobo lifted out of the water and we are sitting ‘on the hard’ at Power Boats Marine. Mike spent the afternoon with scraper in hand getting rid of all the ‘gunge’ on the bottom of the boat and is at present removing our very encrusted propeller. It is a wonder we were able to motor at all with our own coral reef attached! We are in for a lot of hard work in the next couple of months but it will be worth it when the grand old lady has had her latest facelift!
We will tell you more about Trinidad next month. It is very much larger than Tobago with a population of over one and a quarter million diverse people of different races. We hope to meet some of them and visit more parts of the island in between all the work!
See you next month. Photos below as usual.