It has now been almost four years since we sailed Taka Trois from Saint Martin to Trinidad. Patrice had several consulting projects he was working on there, so we decided she would make a good base for us to live and work from when we were there. Equally, if not more important, Trinidad is a relatively safe place for a boat to wait out the hurricane season. Case in point, if she had been in Saint Martin in September 2018, we would have surely lost her to a little ‘storm’ called Irma (for details about that you can read an account I just posted on the blog of what I saw when I visited the island 7 months after the hurricane).
When we arrived in Trinidad, we never dreamed she would stay at the dock for four years, but life intervened, and it was just not possible for us to sail her, so she became our houseboat. However, as we’re not getting any younger and a sailboat needs an owner to sail her, the time has come for us to do something about her.
Unfortunately we cannot afford to take off on another sabbatical year or even an extended trip at this point in our lives, and truth be told, we are not sure whether sailing really suits us anymore. However, selling the boat would be a real wrench, as sailing has been a big part of our life for over 20 years; and Taka Trois has been our home, off and on, for 10.
To be honest, part of me is fed up with the work, the cost, and the ENDLESS problems that a boat brings, but I confess that even though I am no longer very excited about sailing, I have no peace in my heart about selling her. Patrice aptly stated it would be like losing a limb, but has admitted that he is weary of the responsibility of having a boat and all that it entails as well.
Since the decision is not clear to us as of yet, we decided to take her out of mothballs this year and try to do some sailing to test whether or not this lifestyle still appeals to us—and it is indeed a lifestyle. Patrice thought he could manage his work commitments from the boat for a month or so, which would give us enough time to sail up to the French island of Martinique and back. T3 is a French boat and there are repairs we hope to get done there and boat parts we need to buy--not to mention confit de canard and wine.
If it turns out we really don’t want to sail anymore, Martinique would be the perfect place to start the process of selling her. T3 is an RM, made by Fora Marine in La Rochelle, France and RMs are generally highly regarded, even sought-after, in the French sailing community (for more about T3 see "About the Boat" under the section "Taka Trois"). And if we decide not to sell her, then we would have had the time to assess options and come to some sort of plan for her future role in our life.
It took 6 weeks to get her sail-ready again, which were fraught with fits and starts, a lot of back-breaking work and the usual song and dance with local workers. Miraculously we managed to get the essentials done. Tune in to my blog to find out how we fared...
On March 2 we finally took off from the dock at Crew's Inn, Chaguaramas, Trinidad for the first time in four years. We were excited, but filled with trepidation. Sailing is always a risk, especially on a boat that hasn’t sailed in a while, and with a crew that is out of practice and has a few more…shall we say, ‘aches and pains’ than the last time they sailed--one of whom (me) gets seasick and generally needs about 3 days or so to get ‘sea legs.’
Moreover, the first part of the passage north from Trinidad to Grenada is notorious for being exceptionally difficult—it’s a challenging point of sail to begin with and the wind, waves and currents in that strait are often quite rough (we have one cruiser friend, a seasoned sailor, who dislikes that passage so much, she lets her husband sail their boat up to Grenada every year and flies up there to join him after he has crossed). And then, there’s the risk of pirates…no joke.
Chaguaramas, the place where Taka Trois has been residing these past years, is about 8 miles from Venezuela and is reportedly #2 (after Somalia) for piracy in the world. While things have been calm in recent years, with only minor incidents, the danger still exists. So a passage out of Trinidad on a boat has to be carefully planned.
Given our apprehension about sailing again, and especially for this particular passage, we decided it might be a good idea to have an extra hand onboard for this journey. So we invited Charisse, a friend from Trinidad, along for the ride. She has experience sailing, does not get seasick and gets along well with both of us. It was a good decision. She was a delight to have onboard, and gave me breathing space (and someone for Patrice to talk to), while I battled to keep my cookies down—especially the first couple of days.
What follows is an account of our 6 day journey to Martinique. We decided to go there directly; sailing during the day, just stopping at night to anchor and rest, yellow-flagging* it along the way. We figured once we got everything done that needed doing to the boat up there, we would have a better idea of how much time we had left to enjoy sailing south to get back Trinidad by the beginning of April.
* Yellow flagging is a common practice amongst cruisers to gain safe harbor for the night without clearing customs. Until clearance is obtained, a boat must fly the yellow"Q" flag and signals the authorities that “we know that have not gone ashore yet to clear customs, but we either will do so, as soon as humanly possible, or in our case, move on shortly.” The latter part is bending the rules a bit, but is generally, although not always, accepted by the local authorities.
Day 1 (March 2): Chaguaramas, Trinidad to St. Georges, Grenada
We motor past the sleepy dockyards on our way out of Chaguaramas to the Bocas, a tricky narrow passage that will lead us out of the bay into the Caribbean sea. We put the main sail up just before entering the Bocas which, much to our relief, goes up easily and in no time we’re through with no problem. We motor-sail east along the coast to Macaripe, beating the waves uncomfortably to get a good point of sail, and to get as far away from Venezuela and the potential dangers that lurk there before pointing north.
At his point I am feeling queasy (stage 1 of seasickness for me) and very sleepy (stage 2). To avoid 'stage 3' (you don't want to know about that one), I decide to go down and try to sleep it off in the Captain's berth—aka ‘the coffin’—a very narrow, but comfortable bed right next to the chart table. I am comforted to know that Charisse will help Patrice if needed and fall into a deep sleep.
What seems like minutes later, Patrice wakes me up. A pirogue* has been spotted and is heading towards us! We are not armed except for a flare gun and my trusty baseball bat, which I sincerely hope I will never have to use as it would mean someone would have gotten close enough for me to hit. Thankfully, the pirogue turns out to be harmless and doesn't come any closer to us—just a couple of guys out fishing perhaps, thank God. At this point we are past the rig, and we pick up an excellent sail point and we are cruising fast, which for a sailboat like Taka Trois is 10 knots or about 20 km an hour.
Once the hook is down, we pat ourselves on the back and crack open our traditional arrival beer in celebration. Ouf! I serve up the pot of chicken stew I had made before leaving—perfect comfort food for the end of a very long day and we sleep the sleep of the dead—yes, even I, who had slept for least four hours of the journey slept soundly (sleep induced by seasickness does not count).
Day 2 (March 3): St. George, Grenada to Chatham Bay, Union Island
It's another crackers and ginger nuts day for me as we have a terrible sail beating upwind to Union Island. Thankfully I don’t need to go down to the coffin—an improvement over the previous day. Lunch is leftover pizza again, but out on the high seas, I promise you, it tastes amazing.
I serve up kale salad and heated up boeuf bourguignon from the freezer with parsley potatoes, but my lovely meal is rudely interrupted when we realize we're dragging AGAIN! This time, we’re coming dangerously close to Indigo, the boat nearest to us whose owners, Kathy and Greg, are friends of ours. Because we want to keep them as friends, and obviously avoid crashing into anything at all times, the food is pushed aside and once again, we’re anchoring in the dark…(sigh).
Day 3 (March 4): Chatham Bay, Union Island to Chateaubelair, St. Vincent
Saint Vincent, a beautiful island with an active volcano, has many lovely anchorages. Sadly, over the years there have been many ‘incidents’ with cruising boats and locals so we are apprehensive. Ironically, this is where much of the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed and it would appear that the pirate tradition continues today. Nevertheless, we had been assured that the times, they be a changin’ and we have several acquaintances who assured us that it is safer now. We decided it was worth the risk as it would mean getting into our anchorage early for a change.
We take a swim off the boat and while Patrice and Charisse nap below, I doze and read in the cockpit fending off the local vendors, who gleefully row out to us attempting to sell us their wares. The most persistent of the lot, a garrulous, simple fellow, named Boy Boy in a rowboat, manages to get my attention. He’s selling produce from his garden, offering to take our trash and has a long list of things he tries to beg from us. I give him a juice box and buy a few bananas and a coconut from him. He’s hard to get rid of, but harmless and scurries away when I firmly tell him I have to make dinner now and he needs to go.
Despite the beauty of our anchorage, it was a difficult night. Squalls buffeted the boat all night which meant we had to keep the hatches closed. As a security measure, we had of course locked up the boat so there was no air. Thank God for our fans, but it was still stifling.
Patrice woke up regularly to check on things and in the middle of the night, Charisse woke us convinced that someone was trying to steal our outboard. Thankfully it was all much ado about nothing, simply a loose line clacking on the side of the boat, but in the middle of the night everything seems so much more dramatic.
Day 4 (March 5) : Chateaubelaire, St. Vincent to Pitons Bay, Saint Lucia
We arrive at Les 2 Pitons, undoubtedly one of the most magnificent anchorages in the Caribbean, just after lunch. Because the place is so deep, we need to pick up a mooring ball, but there is always an enterprising local zipping around in a pirogue offering to help. We take advantage of the services of one friendly fellow and after being guided to a spot, within minutes we’re set—SO much easier than anchoring, thank you very much.
We decide to wait until morning and pray that it might miraculously loosen itself during the night. I try to cheer him up and cook up a special meal; greek salad and roasted garlic chicken thighs with rice and tsatiki washed down with one of our last bottles of wine--must get to Martinique ASAP to replenish our supply…
Day 5 (March 6): Piton Bay, Saint Lucia to Rodney Bay Saint Lucia
I make a plea on the VHF to the boats at anchor for a diver and a Swiss guy on a catamaran responds with the telephone number of a local diver, Peter. We call and shortly afterwards, Peter and Paul show up—how delightfully Biblical! $80 and 2 beers later, it's dislodged. Now we’re really in trouble though… we only have 3 beers left in the fridge. Thankfully our next stop will be Rodney Bay which has lots of facilities. We plan to check in to customs there and moor up to a dock. Sadly, Charisse will be leaving us there, not to escape us (we hope), but to catch a flight back to Trinidad and get back to work, so today will be our last day with her.
Three hours later, after a short, but very sweet sail we arrive at Rodney Bay. Mooring was easy and made so much more enjoyable, by the presence of, Pat and Jim of Capers, friends from our marina in Trinidad, who had seen us coming in on the AIS and decided to surprise us. I had forgotten the incredible joy and relief and ensuing high that comes with arriving in a harbor and the boat finally coming to a safe stop.
Day 6 (March 7): Rodney Bay Saint Lucia to Sainte Anne, Martinique
By early afternoon, we are securely anchored off of Sainte Anne, one of the most popular, but thankfully, largest anchorages around, so there is plenty of space for everyone—and there are a lot of us out here. A turtle pops its head out of the water off the stern to say hello and God sends us the blessing of another rainbow to welcome us to a safe place (with wifi) where we can stay put and rest for a while, and Patrice can work remotely. The journey is complete and we are content.