leg 15: Tobago
We were so eager to get out of the river at Kourou and on to the clean waters of the Caribbean that we left as soon as the weather looked sort of ok. Upon exiting the river mouth we were confronted with standing waves in the channel, which was quite a shock, but Denz handled them extremely well and safely negotiated us over to the Salut islands where we dropped anchor to catch our breath. It was at this point that we realised we’d made a rookie error and left for a voyage on a Friday! Lesson learned and we decided to stay put on Salut until at least Saturday before restarting our voyage and hoped that Neptune would be appeased.
We finally left Salut on Sunday at first light and headed out into a very uncomfortable lumpy swell which was exacerbated by the shallow continental shelf (only 10m deep in some places!) and a strong cross current. Our plan was to get to Barbados so we needed to get as far north as we could and get out of the current as quickly as possible, or the wind would be too far on our nose to be able to make Barbados at all. By the second day out we had finally lost the current and found some deeper water. As we came off the continental shelf though we encountered some crazy solitons, intermittent rivers of breaking white water standing waves with flat calm in between. Denz had to hand steer because the autopilot couldn’t cope, I couldn’t cope either and had to put my head under a pillow.
We continued to beat our course to Barbados with strong winds and swell on the beam for another day before giving up and changing course to Tobago instead. Immediately everyone was happy again with some downwind comfortable sailing. We arrived in Man of War bay on the northern end of Tobago another day later, just in time for Valentines day. At 16m this was the deepest anchorage we’d attempted and it took four tries to get our anchor to hold. The windlass also chose this moment to start jamming the anchor chain on the haul up and so I was having to help it by pulling the chain in the locker as it was coming up. After lifting 45m of chain three times I had quite a spectacular sense of humour failure. Once we’d figured out how to add some rope onto the chain though we stopped dragging anchor and cracked a well deserved few beers.
We had finally made it to the Caribbean and our first anchorage happened to be called ‘pirates cove’, furthermore the very first people we met ashore in the town of Charlotteville already knew Irene from their time cruising in South Africa. We were welcomed into the local cruising and expat community and spent our days on the beach, diving and exploring little bays and ‘liming’ which is Caribbean for sitting around drinking beer and being social. There were quite a few boats with kids and everyone convened in the local library for homeschool, the library gave us membership cards and the kids were excited to take books out every day. We used the local taxi service to get around and did rather a long walk to rainbow falls, which didn’t have a lot of water falling but was a pretty spot for a picnic. Charlotteville was really a lovely quiet spot to relax and we could have stayed weeks if we’d had the time.
As tempting as it was to stay in Charlotteville, we decided we should probably see some other parts of Tobago too, and so we headed down to Store Bay on the southern end of the island. Denzell had a good day surfing the reef break next to us ‘sunsets’ and we took a day trip up to Mount Irvine Bay for another really good surf. An adorable little kitten tried to come home with us but we had to say no.
For our last night on Tobago we decided to move Irene just a little way over to Pigeon Point to get a bit of practice anchoring inside a reef. As with most new things we were a bit nervous but it was actually easy and a good chilled spot to practice negotiating around a reef. We had a lovely day snorkelling around the boat and then left at sunset for the overnight sail to Grenada.