Fri 11/10-2013 Day 532

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Not the most pleasant beach neigbour! See my ripped tent... 🙁

 

Fighting Turtle Ninja and the Dragon Mouth…
Pos: here
Loc: Chaguarama/ Trinidad
Acc: jetty
Dist: 82,6 km
Start: 5:05 End: 00:50

I was sleeping deeply and soundly, just woke for my usual night pee at 1 am. I was half back to sleep, when I heard a scratchy noise outside my tent, just like a small critter does on the search for food at night. Crabs digging in the sand do the same, and I had a lot of big crabs even under my apsis of the tent. So I just bumped against the tent wall to chase the nasty animal away, whatever it may be…

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My turtle intruder shoveling shitloads of lose sand for a comfortable night spot.

 

But it kept on scratching, and now I guessed this may be a rodent which likes to get to my smelly trash bag inside the tent? Sure I didn’t want it to bite through the walls, as Peter and I had it happen in Peru with a mouse or such biting through to get to the crackers lying close to the tent walls. I grabbed my strong flash light, always handy in the same position for such cases at night, and shone it through the fly mesh outside. What I saw and heard now, made me wake instantly and completely! A loud tearing noise of my outer tent wall first scared the hell out of me as I was now thinking human intruder having fun cutting my tent to pieces, but then I saw a big flaked animal claw reaching through the tear of the outer tent wall into my open apsis. F***! Get out of here before you tear up my whole tent! What the hell was it? I shone my light again, and to my relief saw a huge turtle ripping my tent! At least nothing really dangerous, but I had no other choice than to quickly climb out, naked and barefoot as I was, to get the intruding animal away from my precious tent! No time to think about bugs eating me or entering my tent now…fortunately this beach had few anyway.

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The turtle dives into her sand hole by shoveling heaps high up

 

I tried to grab the probably 150 kg or more heavy, meter long and wide, turtle and to pull her away from my tent, just hearing more ripping fabric noises. SHIT! The only thing I could do was to get my boat out of the way, as the poor animal was stuck in the tight angle point between tent and boat. Was she mixing up my dome tent with a huge exotic fellow turtle and was getting amorous? No idea…I had to first untie my boat from the guy line as it was pointing downhill quite steeply on this beach and I didn’t like it sliding down on it’s own on a potential high wave coming.

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My turtle ripped tent, but it could have been worse! Good rip stop fabric 🙂

When that job was done and the boat out of the way, the turtle had space to turn herself, surely now  shovelling heaps of sand high up into the air! I quickly got out of the sand blasting, fortunately my skin was dry and I was not sanded all over…she now was digging a hole further down, probably wondering where the sudden light, my strong flash light, was coming from. And how did her attractive green fellow turtle came out of his shell so quickly? 🙂 She was probably very confused…and even more, when I managed to get my camera out of my under deck bag from my boat, and to take a few flash light pictures. Sorry, turtle, but I need to have some revenge, you disturbing my night and destroying my tent! If ‘d have been able to pull her simply out of the gap I’d have rolled her out of the way… but she was heavy!

I left her in her sand hole, still close to my tent and boat, but sure she’d be happy in there now and probably launch again soon anyway. I went back to my tent, just to see a few sand hoppers happily making party on my blanket, as I left my tent door open in my rush. I tried to catch them, brushed myself down from the sandy shower the turtle gave me, and tried to get back to sleep. My next dream was really about a turtle sitting *inside* my tent…

At about 3.30 am, I felt two more sandy showers on my tent, knowing the turtle was awake now and probably turned around. She was actually launching then again, having laid her eggs, bye, bye fellow! If I’d have seen any traces of turtles before I had put up my tent here, I may have positioned my kayak rather horizontal than vertical to the waterline, like I did all the time in crocodile (and turtle) country in Australia to prevent any intruders at night coming close to my tent. I never have had a close encounter there, but saw in the early morning more than once their traces of nightly nests close by. As a turtle and a crocodile trace is easy to be confused by me, I never got to know if that has been one of the long teeth fellows or a fat round harmless one…

I decided to catch another dream, this time maybe without a turtle playing the main act and was on the water with first light. Surely my boat from yesterday came also into the bay, but they were waving friendly being harmless fishermen checking on their nets. Maybe they wanted to tell me yesterday just *that* – watch the turtle beach!? Or they sent her up to me, as a revenge not wanting to talk to them… 🙂

I paddled out into the second calm day, just my open skin sores backside was playing up, rescued with my cooling and padding sponge. Without that sponge, I may have ended up with even worse sores in Trinidad…they looked eventually ugly enough. My goal was to reach Trinidad today, however long it may take. I was blessed with a current going amazingly with me all morning, and with winds under ten knots. I made good speed, even later in the afternoon when the current was less I at least didn’t have it any time against me today. Why? No idea…just take it as it comes.

I was still very careful about any boat encounters, paddling again far out and not into any bay. A pity, as the scenery is really nice! At the last village, a larger boat came eventually behind me, now — was that the long-planned kidnapping approach? My fantasies eventually went again wild, but only eight men were waving curiously and just friendly at me…they stayed in the last bay, and came back to me after a while. This time I saw them in life vests handling a dinghy on the back deck – will they get out now with the small boat to catch me??? My heart was bumping…but they passed with no further notice, whatever they were planning to do with the dighy. Maybe they just acquired a few new men on the last remote village and were now practicing their equipment? But they didn’t look like they were prepared for fishing…

A few last small boats to pass before the last headland, all no problem. How I was wishing to get out of here and to at last see Trinidad! At 3.30 pm, the curtain to the view of Trinidad opened up when I was gliding through the gap of the isletta at the last headland. What a feeling! Not without the close escort of a last Venezuelan fishing boat…the two guys just tried to help me through the gap littered with rocks. No problem though, there was water enough on top of the rocky connection to the island for my kayak and for their boat. They asked me where I wanted to go, and I pointed loosely ahead. Trinidad? They made signs to go first right, then straight. Why? I’d soon know…

The strait between Trinidad and the Guiria peninsula is known as the “Dragon Mouth”, not a very inviting name for a mere 12 km crossing. It can get rough in there, the sailing directions said… well… I was here early enough to have at least passed the majority of the strait still in daylight, starting at 3.30 pm. It gets dark at 6 pm, or 6.30 pm Trinidad time. There was no sight of rip tides marked on my chart, the sea was quiet. But the further out, more movement came into the sea, currents and tide playing their game. My good speed went down to 3 km/h, and I quickly lost three degrees on my bearing. So now I knew, I had the tide against me, pushing from my front right to my back left. I corrected my course pointing strict about 40 degrees further right, and was able to keep my bearing degrees. Still paddling slow 3 km/h. The tidal waves got higher, but nothing serious for me. They broke a few times from the left, but all ok. I had to watch three huge ships crossing my way, and I was wondering if the current would be so strong pushing me right into their way? But no problem. No small crafts out here any more, and I started to relax, feeling mostly having been luckily escaping from the Venezuelan pirates… have they really been out there?

I made slow, but steady progress, now at least being able to watch constantly my GPS which I didn’t need to hide under deck any more. Also, the sun was hiding behind a huge thunderstorm front which I learned it doesn’t do good for my GPS on deck either. The thunderstorm front stayed over Venezuelan land, and I felt free out here! Still, my ETA was way after midnight with this speed…but I was mentally prepared to stay out another at least half night. my muscles still worked like a well oiled machine, only my skin sores on the back and my butt in general were crying painful. Thank goodness to the cool sponge, but it simply was worn through eventually. The tide table in my GPS told me tide would turn at 8.45 pm, so the last hours will be easier… I thought…

Night came slowly, with a half moon leaving enough light to see well. Two Venezuelan light houses lit up, but not a single one on the dark islands of Trinidad though…I thought they were better in shape with their marine equipment, as there were at least four lighthouses marked on my chart? Or did they switch them off on purpose to make navigation for approaching drug runners at night harder? The water temperatures had raised quickly as soon I was in the Dragon Mouth, like the hot breath of this fiery animal it was even smelling earthy. But what I got to see now popping for once out of the dark water besides me was a glowing eye – what was that? Another moonlit popping out piece of animal revealed a school of lovely dolphins playing now around my boat! If you even had dolphins escorting you at night, you know how nice, but also how scary it can be,,,the bio luminescence in the dark night water leaves traces of any moving creature in the water. I could see them under water, and their skins were shining in the moon light once they were jumping in their elegant moves over the surface. Beautiful! But they were also quite big guys, and I was scared to death as I really once hit one hard with my bow who didn’t pay enough attention…or was it a floating log? I don’t think so…stupid guy…usually no dolphin makes such a swimming mistake They kept on swimming and jumping around me for an hour, giving me more than once a scary thought about their close swimming around my boat after I had that hit. I could follow their traces all the time under water, revealing their paths like shooting stars, and more than once the water around my bow was very well lit. Don’t make another swimming mistake, guys! At least they kept me entertained for that hour. There was no chance for me to fall asleep, as I had to paddle hard to gain hundred by hundred meter counting down on my GPS, like a machine.

There were three islands before the main island, each of them had a more or less wide gap I could pass through. When the tide was supposed to turn, nothing happened. Still strong current against me, maybe now not pushing me sideways so much?
I should have known what Glenn wrote to me:”As far as the crossing goes, just bear in mind that though our tidal range is relatively small (a maximum of half a meter), the volume of water that moves in and out of the enclosed Gulf, results in fairly strong currents in the Bocas or passages. There is also a phenomena during the rainy season (now), when the difference in salinity in the waters of the Gulf compared with the Caribbean Sea, results in an internal wave that runs like a tidal bore at the change of tides. Probably insignificant compared with some of the stuff you’ve experienced in your travels, but still.” Unfortunately, I read this note only when I already arrived in Trinidad, but I was already sensing the current was different origin than just the tidal movement as the tidal range was still under one meter which couldn’t create such a strong current alone. So had no option than to keep on paddling my ass off. I knew about that beach on the outer island, but then I rather kept on going, hoping it may get at least not worse.

As the meters were counting ever so slowly down, a knew I was not able to maintain my announced arrival time of around 10-11 pm to Glenn via e-mail. I had his phone numbers saved in my sat phone, and wanted to call him an hour before I may arrive. I decided to do this at 9 pm, wanting to tell him it would be around midnight. But none of his two numbers got connection, and I was so sure I put them in all right? I could only send him another e-mail hoping he would read it. This whole communication moment pushed me back already 300 meters – I hate it! Paddling, paddling…ever so slow, but making progress. the entry of the two island gaps passed, and I would make the last most popular one close to the main island. I still had some hope the current would magically change in there, at least I should be able to find an eddy close to the rocks.

It was around 10 pm when I came close to the last island gap and was about to enter around the corner, when a strange vibration shook the water. I put it at that point down to the current or tidal movements playing up, but learned later it was actually a major earth quake around force 6! The entrance was hiding a tidal small race I couldn’t see, only hear, but as I could not see any other option I simply had to go through, not daring to maybe sneak along very close to the rocks in maybe an eddy at the very dark steep cliff here. With 0,5 – 1 km/h I made my way through, the time gliding just through my hands. I had simply to cross the whole gap to get to the other side where I eventually was hoping for a real eddy, and this cliff side was also a bit moon lit. I only later saw the huge rock making the tidal race even stronger on the gap I was passing through. Not sure if I would have taken another line in daylight.

Eventually I could “happily” paddle with at least 3-4 km/h in kind of an eddy closer to the cliffs on the main island side, as two huge boats silently and slowly came from offshore into the gaps. I was now well lit with a green light stick hanging from my back, and a red headlight to the front which I also could put to flashing mode. I was not scared any more of the boats doing bad to me here in Trinidad waters, just scared about not being seen and run over. One ship eventually was getting close to me, I turned even my now red flash light to my back, and occasionally shone my strong torch to catch their attention. When they lit a strong search light blinding me and lighting even the steep rock wall 500 m besides me, I knew this must be the coast guard! They seemed to either know about me via Glenn?? or were just thinking what a stupid paddler is floating around here at midnight, at least not thinking I may have just come over from Venezuela with a boat load full of drugs :-). They let me go after they seemed to be satisfied I am harmless, although I wouldn’t have even minded a chat at night. But they should also know I am fighting the current and was working hard…

I eventually could really enjoy the night approach to Trinidad, smelling tropical scents, spotting a whole shoal of fish being well lit in the dark water and watching glowing flying insects in the rocky dark shore, flashing their lights here and there like small torches. If you wouldn’t know they were insects, you may think there were a bunch of guys hiding in the bush playing seek and hide at night. Many civilized lights showed up every where,and I really felt I was in safety now! I turned into the main bay where I had the GPS meeting point Glenn sent me some time, and the only thing I could hope for was that he would have been reading his email about my late arrival. Half an hour before I sent another mail. I was even asking some guys on a yacht still being up at night about the correct Trinidad phone prefix, and I saw it was the right one…why the heck couldn’t I call Glenn?

I forest of yacht masts came up, I was still well lit for smaller boats cruising around at night but was feeling safe all over here!
Approaching Trinidad harbor at night was as exciting as my night arrival in Panama City and even more a relief to have actually eventually made it! Now just finding the GPS spot between the many huge yachts, and hoping the point would be a convenient landing for my kayak. Billions of Dollars were floating around here! It felt actually quite good to see some kind of wealth again after Venezuela…

 

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Gabriel

me encanto to descripción del viaje y las anecdotas. Uno se imaginala presión que debiste sentir por el tema de la seguridad en la costa oriental venezolana. Que lastima que han ocurrido varios atracos y situaciones.
Ojala mejores de la magulladuras y puedas continuar con tu viaje
Buen viento y buena corriente en adelante… ademas de gente chevre y bonitos paisajes

NJSteve

Wow, what an incredible long, almost 20 hour day you did! Very impressive for anyone, let alone someone of your age. I am very much in awe. Turtles and dolphins, what an incredible, possibly once in a lifetime experience.

Glenn Wilkes

Still getting over my embarrassment at not having met you or receiving any of your messages. Peter, Hugh and I had arrived in Peter’s yacht at the island nearest to the peninsula just before dark. The plan was to be close by, the minute you entered Trinidad’s territorial waters. We spent the night there, and I guess the cell-phone coverage was inadequate, since I got the first message when it was already daylight and you had already spent a few hours waiting at the marina. As the kids nowadays say, my bad.

Randall Lackey

Thats crazy about the turtle parking by your tent and ripping it like that. Hope you can find a good sail repair shop in Trinidad to sew up your tent.Surely theres one there somewhere.That must have really felt good to finally feel safe again arriving to the islands and the yhact marina. The dress code sign was crazy. I stopped at a swanky marina like that on Mobile bay.I did throw on shorts and a shirt over my speedo but still got some stares from the hi faluting ladies as I walked around the pool to get to the store.Oh welk Im too redneck to let that bother me.Enjoy your time there.Rest well.Oh Id love to have a school of dolphins visit me as you did day or night.

Edda Post author

Glad you made it out of the badlands. But safety is relative, don’t relax your guard too much even in Trinidad.

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