Our time in Suriname had been good, but also very, very hot, and by early October we were more than ready to sail the last 400 NM to Tobago, the first island we would be visiting in the Caribbean. The trip became one of more work than we were used to, with big squalls coming through several times a day. When a squall arrives, the wind picks up and it starts to pour down with rain. We usually handled it by changing the course to make the wind come more from behind, pull in the genoa, so we only had the main up and finally close down to the cabin, so the boat wouldn’t be soaked down below. But it’s still quite unpleasant.
As we approached Tobago, the wind became stronger, and for the last couple of days we took the main down completely. On my very last morning watch, the light from Tobago were visible in front of us as I took over from Esben, but soon clouds came rolling in all around, a sure signal that we had squalls came from all sides. Big Atlantic waves pushed us forward along with the strong wind, and we sailed 6 knots with just a tiny bit of sail out. I watched how the sky became pitch black around us. Slowly we became completely surrounded by this eerie blackness, while I sat still in the cockpit, waiting for the blow. And then the wind and the rain hit us at once, much stronger than before. I couldn’t see the land any more – how lucky we are to have GPS and electronic charts to tell us exactly where we are. Next, I noticed a loose stay in the back of the boat. Quickly, I went to investigate, and soon found out that the chain plate had broken in two. The stays are the wires that keep the mast upright, and loosing a stay very often means that the mast will break. Luckily, we have two aft stays, which is why I hadn’t even noticed that something had happened until I saw the wire swinging (plus the roar of the wind, waves and rain, and the violent movements of the boat probably had me a bit preoccupied). But despite of the backup stay, this was not a great situation. I asked Esben to come up, so we could help each other to tie the halyard from the main sail back in place of the broken starboard stay, and secure the other port stay in case this chainplate was close to breaking too. For the last few hours we had the motor on, as we moved around the north side of the island and approached the Charlotteville anchorage. This part of the trip wasn’t pleasant at all, with the strong wind and the waves, pushing us towards the cliffs of Tobago, but in the end we anchored safely, with the motor still working and the mast still standing.
The Man of War Bay by Charlotteville is a breathtakingly beautiful welcome to the Caribbean, with rays jumping, pelicans flying and jungle covered hills towering around us – even when the weather is less than welcoming. The town is small, but very friendly, with everything you need if your demands aren’t too high; small grocery shops, a vegetable stand, a library with wifi and air-con and of course customs and immigrations where we could go and check in. And as we later moved up the Caribbean chain of islands, we came to realized that Tobago by far was our favorite place, pretty much the only island we visited that hasn’t been completely run over by tourists.
We ended up spending 5 weeks in Tobago, mostly in Charlotteville. The kids made new friends on the other boats, Annika and Johan even spoke German, and we spent afternoons in the water, on the beach and in the library, playing.
My parents came to visit, bringing us new chainplates along with other good stuff, such as engine parts, school books and a wet suit for Runa (the water is COLD in the Caribbean when you have spent time in South America). With them, we hiked through the forest to Flagstaff Hill, the place where the Americans had a watch tower during the war. The last part of the trail was rough, basically a steep mud slide, but we were rewarded with views of the whole northern part of the island. We decided to take the paved road back to town, and had our lunch in Charlotteville’s best restaurant, The Suckhole, right on the beach.
The kids moved to Castara, down the coast, with my parents, and we followed them after a couple of days with a big swell event, making it difficult to get on land. It turned out that Castara had the best ice cream we have had on our entire trip (no, we don’t get too much ice cream), and we spent some relaxed days, snorkeling, visiting both the Castara waterfall and Tobago’s largest waterfall and generally just enjoying life.
Our final destination was Store Bay, in the south end of the island. 15 years ago, I crossed the Atlantic on a sailboat for the first time, we made landfall on Tobago, and I ended up spending the next six months in Store Bay, taking a divemaster course. It was interesting, but quite different to be back – the place had turned a lot more Las Vegas since I left, and had a strong smell of sewage in the streets. But we had some good days on the beach before it was time to follow my parents to the airport and wave them goodbye.
From Chip-Chip, we could see their plane take off, and later that night we saw something very strange; a number of stars moving across the sky in a perfect line. We wondered if we had finally been invaded by UFO’s, but later learned that the stars were some of the satellites sent out by SpaceX to create world wide wifi coverage. We realized that SpaceX is planning an initial launch of 12000 satellites (currently, our planet has less than 2000 satellites in orbit in total), and later they will send out as many as 42000 satellites. According to astronomers that’s more than the number of visible stars in the sky. It hadn’t occurred to us before what 48000 new satellites will do to the sky, but clearly a starry night will look completely different in the future. Strange that one company can allowed to do such a thing – seems like a plot for world domination taken from a science fiction movie.
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