Sailing & Watersports: Boat owners & yachties
A guide for boat owners and yachties visiting Tobago
Being upwind, and to the east, of the main chain of islands, most private yachts miss Tobago. However as other Caribbean islands get busier, more and more yachts make the trip across to Tobago, often on their way to Trinidad’s excellent sheltered outhaul facilities.
Two excellent pilot books make essential reading before you venture into these waters – Street’s Cruising Guide and the Cruising Guide to Trinidad & Tobago by Chris Doyle & Jeff Fisher. We particularly recommend the latter, which is interesting and informative. Incidentally, Street describes the Tobago Customs & Immigration as the worst in the Caribbean!! They probably achieved this reputation due to their habit of regularly keeping yachties waiting for up to two hours in order to charge overtime (after 4pm, the officers get half of the overtime fee charged). So, make sure you visit them early in the day for less inconvenience and less expense.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, you can’t clear in or out with Customs & Immigration at the local airport. This would make a lot of sense, because the main safe yachting anchorages are in Store Bay and Pigeon Point, only a few minutes walk from the airport! However, the powers-that-be insist that you beat, or motor, to windward eight miles upwind and up-current, to the capital Scarborough, which is the only port of entry and exit (except when there is a cruise ship in Charlotteville).
Scarborough is on the windward side and not particularly where you want to be. The ferry generally comes in to Scarborough harbour twice a day, so it is important to keep tucked as far as possible inside the harbour to avoid the effect of powerful bow thrusters!
Most of the bays on the north coast offer good daytime anchorages. The most scenic of these is Englishman’s Bay, where the rainforest comes right down to the waters edge. However, all these anchorages on the north coast can become untenable if there is a northerly storm or low pressure depression that invariably sends uncomfortable swells, which also increase surf on the beach and restrict visibility for divers and snorkelers alike. Store Bay and Mt.Irvine Bay offer the most suitable overnight anchorage.
Sadly, Tobago lacks most of the basic facilities for servicing yachties. The fuel dock at Plymouth has been defunct for over ten years, necessitating a walk with Jerry cans into the village gas station for diesel and super. The only other practical fuel stations are located in Bon Accord (near Store Bay) and on Charlotteville’s sea front.
You can purchase water at Pigeon Point Jetty (ask at the office), and can even go alongside the jetty if you draw less than 4ft. It has been possible to get fuel and water in Scarborough Port. However, it is easier to ask at the Cost Guard jetty for water if the need arises.
LPG is widely available at gas stations, as is ice, but if you have a different fitting go straight to the NP Terminal behind the airport to have your bottle filled. Party Ice bags are widely distributed around the island in mini markets and some Rum Shops for TT$5 per bag.
All the various yacht services are widely (and efficiently) available at numerous locations in Chaguaramas Bay in Trinidad. Services are limited, but Store Bay Marine Services (email) located in Pigeon Point Road (behind the Mangrove Shop and opposite Ocean Experience) offer various services, include water, engine repair, canvas work, marine electronics and commercial diving, together with laundry and internet facilities (using long range Wi-Fi).