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Are you familiar with the old video game Frogger? If you’re not, the basic objective of the game is to safely maneuver your frog across roads, streams, etc. without having it run over by trucks or being eaten by alligators. While crude by today’s game standards, it was a lot of fun. Why bring this up? Because it was the first thing that I thought of as we dodged a number of fast moving commercial ships during our nighttime passage to Trinidad.

We set off from Prickly Bay, Grenada at 4:00 PM Sunday. The passage was approximately 90 miles so, with a cruising speed of 5 knots, we planned to make it to Chaguaramas shortly after the customs office opened. Although we had checked the weather forecast countless times, you never really know what the conditions will be like until you’re out there. We were pleased to find that the winds were in the 10-20 knot range and we were able to sail a rhumb line course directly to Trinidad.

As it turned out, the conditions started out so good that we were moving along a bit quicker than we had anticipated, at times reaching 7 knots. Because we didn’t want to arrive at Trinidad too early, and to deal with any squalls that might sneak up on us in the black of night (there was no moon to speak of), we put a reef in the main just before dark.

Along the path between Grenada and Trinidad lies the Hibiscus Oil Platform. As the brightly lit work station came within view, we saw a dozen or so ships either moored in the area or underway. Our AIS was a godsend here and I would not have wanted to be without it! Interestingly, about 5-6 miles away from the platform we were hailed by Navigator, which showed up on our AIS as a ship just off the oil platform. The radio operator wanted to know our intentions and when I described our course, he seemed happy. Apparently he just wanted to be sure that we would remain a mile or more away from the platform. There was little risk in us not doing that!

The conditions remained moderate throughout the passage although the ride was a little bumpier than we would have liked. As expected though, as we drew closer and closer to Trinidad, the wind got progressively lighter. When we changed watch at 2:00 AM, we decided to fire up an engine to make up for the drop in wind speed. By early morning the wind had all but left us entirely and we relied on our engines to keep us chugging along. As the sun rose and Trinidad revealed herself in the light of day, the water surrounding our boat was almost glasslike.

Much like in Grenada, the cruisers organize a morning radio net (8:00 AM on VHF 68) and as we motored through the channel by the Bocas, we were pleased to hear our friend Susie acting as net controller. The port of Chaguaramas was, as we expected, filled almost to capacity with ships, both large and small. We dodged all of them without incident as we made our way right through the working port, en-route to the customs dock where arriving boats are expected to tie up.

Clearing in to Trinidad was painless and the officials in both the customs and immigration offices were quite friendly. This was a pleasant surprise when compared to some other islands. One of the forms we were required to fill out asked if we had any pets and we ticked off that yes, we had a cat on board. We were very surprised when not a word was spoken about the cat, especially considering that Trinidad has apparently very strict rules with respect to dogs. Score one for the cats!

12 Comments

  1. Mike, are you equipped with an AIS transponder, or are you receive-only?
    Just wondering if Navigator was able to hail you by name or as “vessel at…”

    • Receive only. It was actually a bit confusing as he hailed us as “vessel to the NE of the oil platform” or something like that. We were in fact to the NW of the platform, not NE. I answered anyway after no one else did.

  2. Cool! Congrats on a safe passage.

  3. I can’t resist linking https://xkcd.com/772/ …..

  4. Had to use the engine, eh? Shoulda left the reef in, can you “heave to” in a cat?

    I’ve heard it said: Dogs have owners, but cats have staff.

    congrats on the safe passage

  5. Just noticed a note saying you can use basic XHTML, I am going to give it a try. First is my post, and hopefully it shows the post again with a photo. If not, it will just show raw xhtml basic coding.

    Score 2 for the cats- customs and dodging the oil platform! You should have doctored the photo a little bit. Since you didn’t I took the liberty to do a quick 2 minute, very crude photo. Photo is attatched (dont know if you can paste it right in.) Photo here: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8058/8186519822_0938eea9b1_z.jpg

    Score 2 for the cats- customs and dodging the oil platform! You should have doctored the photo a little bit. Since you didn’t I took the liberty to do a quick 2 minute, very crude photo. Photo is attatched (dont know if you can paste it right in.)

  6. Great news on the safe passage and easy check in. Curious what more hassles a dog would provide on check in?

    Mike M.

    • I don’t know Mike. We do have friends here who have dogs on their boats so obviously it’s possible. I know that the island is very concerned about rabies so I believe there are special papers that you need to have. Google would probably net you some results on this subject.

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