Day 3 Miles to go: 61
In the early morning hours, we threaded the needle through Galleons Passage between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. It was still dark, and the horizon was lit up like a sprawling city … oil platforms, tankers, cargo ships, bulk carriers, car carriers, fishing boats, tugs … an endless stream coming and going through the channel. On watch, our eyes were glued to the AIS. We radioed at least a half dozen ships that seemed to be either bearing down on us or heading straight at us. All answered their hails promptly, found us on radar and managed to avoid colliding with us or running us down. It made for a high stress, less than peaceful night, but overall, we were pleased to remain unscathed.
As we rounded the northwest corner of Trinidad, we left the North Atlantic Ocean and entered the Caribbean Sea. Hallelujah! Unfortunately, when we turned the corner, we also lost our good angle on the wind. We slowed to 4 knots … too slow for a “business hours arrival”. We couldn't make it by 4 pm, and we were reluctant to pay an extra $100 for arriving outside business hours. The only other alternative was to slow down even more, spend another night enroute, and try to arrive after 8 am tomorrow. We reduced sail to the staysail only. Through the morning mist, Trinidad came into view. By 10 am, with 61 nm to go, with little wind, we were moving along at 2.5- 3 knots with the help of a favorable current.
It rained and remained misty for most of the day with alternating squalls and calms. We dawdled along, resigned to spending another night at sea in order to arrive at the Customs dock at the proper time. As if to provide entertainment as we plodded along, a pod of dolphins appeared out of nowhere.
I heard the familiar dolphin breath sounds and ducked below quickly for my camera and the dolphin ID book.
These were big guys … 8 feet or more (2.5m+), with distinctively tall dorsal fins, blotchy coloring and lots of scars. We identified them as rough-toothed dolphins. This was a playful lot and in no particular hurry, it seemed. They played with us for nearly two hours, diving under the boat and riding the bow wake. When I stood at the bow to take pictures, the dolphins turned on their sides to look directly up at me. I thought it was my imagination at first, but the eye to eye contact was repeated several times.
I sat at the bow for nearly an hour, my feet hanging over the rail, the dolphins nearly close enough to touch. Though entertained, I finally returned to the cockpit. I heard a sharp slap sound, then a thud and then another slap, and another thud. David watched as one dolphin slapped his tail on the water, another slapped against the hull, and yet another jumped into the air. He walked to the bow and the dolphins followed. He returned to the cockpit and the slap/thud began again. These guys liked an audience. No matter how many times we've seen dolphins, they never cease to amaze us. Not to mention, dolphins are good luck for sailors and we considered their visit an auspicious welcome to Trinidad.
Night came and with it a calm and loss of current. We were two miles offshore and bobbed and rolled gently. For all intents and purposes, we were hove-to and remained so till 0630. We estimated two hours to the Customs dock, cranked up the engine and headed for Boca de Monos (Monkey's Mouth), a narrow channel between mainland Trinidad and Monos Island.
We altered course to allow the fast ferry between Trinidad and Tobago, T&T Spirit, to pass and then entered the channel.
The channel was picturesque with interesting caves carved into Monos Island and large, craggy offshore rocks covered in greenery. Scotland Bay, on the opposite side of the channel, looked serene and inviting with two sailboats peacefully at anchor.
We turned the corner heading into Chaguaramas Bay. Gasparillo Island came into view and beyond it, the congestion and frenzy we associate with this port.
Freighters, fishing boats and ferries, tankers, tenders and tugs … all competing for space. David threaded his way carefully past anchored ships, fast boats and through the mooring field of sailboats. We passed Power Boats and noted the location of the haul-out pen for future reference. We finally found a fairway to the Customs dock, tied up and sighed ... 0830 … perfect timing. Whew … we're in Trinidad.