March 31, 2004
I am not sure what in particular you would like to know about T'dad, so I just tell you what I found usefull from the poit of view as a yachtie.
I bought my boat in Chaguaramas/Tdad and it is still based there. I own and run a sailing school in Austria. There the sailing season starts in late April, ending mid October. So I am very busy during the summer and not so much during the winter. I had to locate my boat somewhere the weather is bearable while I have time to spend - November to March. So the Antillies serve this purpose near perfect.
Trinidad is not a place to visit, but it has advantages to keep a boat there. In Chagaramas you will find abaut 3000 yachts on the 'hard' at any given time, so a certain infrastructure has developped.
Leaving my ASII in a yard which is secure and also a tax free area costs me $ 0.18 per ft per day = less than $180.- per month.
When I return I can have repairs or upgrades done there. You find chandleries and shops doing the work or you can do it yourself, there is a small and bad cafeteria in my yard. and a Sailmaker, a stainless steel welder, a diesel mechanic an electrician and a paint shop. In the near vicinity - walking distance, up to 20 min - there are at least 6 more yards some better, some worse (none with a worse bar).
Sounds good so far BUT how to know who does a decent job? hourly rates range from US$ 2.5 to US$ 35.- mostly the shops charge between $15.- and $25.- There is no way to tell and you must spend some time to talk to other yachties AND see what they had done for what price at what cost.
It has been impossible to have work done that was as I wanted it, in my absence. (exceptions are a swedish rigger who is excellent and a Canadian carpeter, doing my cabin sole), some have tried and mostly failed.
Chandleries are ample, but they don't have anything in stock. They order for you, but you can do that yourself and recieve the goods tax free. These days there are one or 2 Larger Chandleries and you find sometimes a fair selection, certainly not to be compared with Florida.
Having said all which I think is accurate but not all complimentary to the country I must add, That I like the Trinis a lot, they are friendly, honest (with the odd exception) and can be industrious and they seem to like me. I do like the country though it has not much to offer except for the second best carnival in the world (they claim and I agree) and I always feel very much at home there.
It can be worth visiting when you know where to look. If you are a tourist better go to Tobago.
As for yachtspeople, if you want to keep your boat there or have something done it is by far the best from in the Antillies up to the VI.
Try the homepage of YSATTwww.ysatt.org it gives you a nicer picture. They do not lie, but they want you to visit TT and they provide a good service.
Although the attitude of 'magnana' is not so much present there, things take sometimes a little longer and can't be pushed. On the other hand my mechanic and his team worked for two days solid on on my boat when I had an unexpected leak, plus one Saturday for 12 hours, charging normal rates - they knew I was REALLY in a hurry. They are good people there and I like them as they are.
If you are not bored and if you have not marked this mail as SPAM yet, please let me know what aspect is of interest to you, I have spent many months in T'dad and I like to give my view, my opinion, but possibly not an objective picture.
regards Willy Undene 100
April 1, 2004
Further on Trinidad.
For the Hurricane season both islands - Trinidad and Tobago - are good, they are definitely out of the hurricane belt, even insurances recognise this. Tobago is lovely and a lizttle less expensive as the Islands further North. There are not all that many yachts there. Trinidad is what it is and good for repairs and interesting for reasons I did not describe, since I am no bushwalkung and no sightseeing person. Nice beaches are few, but there is the Caroni Swamp (it is said to be beautiful and unique), the pitch lake and - my personal favourit - Chacachcare Island. A mere 5 M from Chaguaramas it is a former Leprosy Colony. Everything is deserted there and most houses and features are still there being reclaimed by the jungle gradually. It is also vandalised to some extent. You can spend one to three days there and wander on the traces of the past (it was closed as a Leprosy ward in the early seventies. It sounds eery and it is but nonetheless it is not just for the morbidly inclined. Wildlife is nice and a walk up to the lighthouse is always worth it. It takes all of a 35 minutes hike. A tiny bit of reading about the island will make things even more exciting.
You can obtain a cruising guide (for free) giving just about all relevant details and the YSATT is often helpfull. (Visit their home page)
Newly arrived cruisers will get a free cruising guide, a very usefull booklet with a phone directory including a yachtie's yellow pages. (And sometimes 2 tiny bottles of rum)
Anchoring in Chaguaramas is horrible (50' water, a prevailing current, a tidal current and variable winds plus steamer traffic and always the next guy who anchors too close, so I advise to use a YSATT buoy or better still I recommend a temporary membership with one of the two local yachtclucs, best is the TTSA. It is cheap, you hang off two buoys the bar, laundry and mebers are nice, the door guard, a massive butch lady is exceptionally effective and very friendly. Nothing escapes her. A number of marinas is also available, Crews Inn is the most expensive one.
You should clear in immediately after arrival or at least tell them you just arrived. THERE IS NO 24 h period to do this. It can be a legthy process, but always friendly. You MUST dock your boat at the customs dock for this purpose, but they do inspect rarely.
Do monitor channel 68 all the time. It is the cruisers hailing channel and at 0800 there is the cruisers net. If you arrive, tell them your name when called on the net, they extend a warm welcome. It is a most usefull institution, run by other yachties AND they have the section 'Treasures of the Bilge' towards the end of the broadcast. I like it.
Navigation to Trinidad is a little uncomfortable, coming from Grenada. Thereis a noticable current running West, no info in the charts so use your GPS, be surprised and point high even if you think you don't need to. You may encounter squalls, an oilrigg with a supply ship hanging on a 1/2 M Cable (do not sail between them). You will encounter funny waves where currents meet and your GPS seems to lie most of the time. Sometimes it is a pleasant passage, more often not.
Coming from Tobago is a breeze. You are running with wind and current (after 75M your speedo tells you 45M) Trinidad to Tobago - forget it, take the ferry. (It is not impossible, I dont't want to do it).
Again, I like the people there a lot. They do have a high rate of criminality there, I found it not worriyng. Get used to being greeted by every one, even in downtown Port of Spain. Do talk to fellow sailors but be careful about their advise, particularly when it comes from an old (would be) Salt, who's boat has been on the dry for the last 4 years, they are fun, they may give good advise - and occasionally not. It is a nice cruising community and it is very easy to meet fellow sailors.
All the above reflects my opinion only, not the purest truth, but I did spend 7 winters there.
To be continued - if requested
Questions are welcome
fair spring winds
Willy Undene #100