View Full Version : Keep Moving ...Nothing to See Here

17th October 2012, 02:51 PM
Perhaps the title of this thread is too harsh. But in general, T&T offers little to the crusing sailor, especially if that sailor is looking for something more than just a stop-over.

Trinidad is well-known to Caribbean sailors in general and those in the catamaran world in particular. This is because the islands lie South of the hurricane zones identified in most boat insurance contracts. So it is not uncommon for sailors in the southern Caribbean to head there during hurricane season to comply with the limits of their insurance policies if not to outright avoid the possibility of a hurricane.

Additionally, most of the catamarans being delivered to the Western hemisphere from South Africa cross the Atlantic to stop in Trinidad's Chaguaramas bay which offers a well-developed marine industry to tend to pre-delivery details.

The island, however, is not the tropical paradise we all wish it was. I just returned from 10 days there during my third trip to these islands. But this was my first trip there for the purpose of investigating a possible long-term move to the Caribbean. Here is what I observed.

Despite being among the richest nations in the Caribbean, due chiefly to its oil industry, the nation suffers from massive socio-economic problems. While some Trinidadians (mostly government and oil industry types) live in comfort and even opulence, the vast majority live in squalor. The haves and have-nots are poles apart and the middle class is vanishing. Crime had reached such epic proportions early this year, that the government-imposed a three-month curfew period as well as other restrictions. Crime seem to have subsided a bit since then, but the problem remains a serious challenge.

There is only one part of Trinidad that is generally known for cruiser-friendly capacities. Despite the large size of Chaguaramas Bay, there are only a few marinas there Ė all of which are at the far end of Western Main Road Ė the one and only road between the marina region and Port of Spain, the nationís capital. This one road (a two-lane blacktop) is notorious for traffic conditions that make downtown Los Angeles or New York look like a race track. Most of this water front area is dedicated to industrial and shipping concerns. However, the few marinas suitable for yachts are generally well-appointed. One in particular, Crews Inn, seemed to be among the best in the islands.

Security is a growth industry in the marinas of Chaguaramas and, in general it appears to be good. Port of Spain is not a particularly dangerous city during the day. Itís a busy place with lots of traffic and, for the Caribbean, lots of hustle-bustle. But at night, itís best to be on your way out of town. Day or night, there are neighborhoods in the surrounding hills overlooking the capital where even locals will not go.

Tobago is a different story. Trinidad's sister island is something more like an iconic island resort. St. Maarten is richer, the BVI is larger, but Tobago is something fairly unique. It is "homier" and more rustic than the other resort islands in the Caribbean, and has a quality of being far more laid back than Trinidad. It is also seems to be safer and more stable in the same way that a small town usually feels safer and less challenging than any big city.

Tobagoís Western side is in the lee and there is very little weather that ever comes from the West. The sea-state is generally VERY calm while the wind is sufficient to cruise that side of the island. The Atlantic side is, of course, rougher Ė sometimes much rougher. The big problem for sailors is that there are no marinas and precious little in the way of marine services in Tobago. Man O War Bay in the Northeast is a clearing-in port and seems to be a good anchorage its well-protected on three sides, open only to the North and, judging by the many boats anchored there, it appears to offer good holding. The bayís town of Charlotteville is nice enough. But the bay itself is suitable only for transients on the hook. There are no moorings or marinas so long-term stays in this port are only possible if you donít mind staying at anchor for the full length of your stay.

It seems to me that the government of Trinidad & Tobago would do well to entice investment in a marina or two on Tobago. The island is nice enough to be a destination unto itself and its location below the hurricane belt would make it a natural choice for sailors looking for long-term as well as transient ports. Until that happens, the best part of Trinidad & Tobago will remain little more than a place you can visit while the one place you can put in for anything more than a stop-over, will have little to offer.