Sailing & Watersports: Weather & Navigation
A guide to weather and navigation for boat owners and yachties visiting Tobago
Weather & Sailing Condition around Tobago
From December to May (Tobago’s dry season) the Trade Winds settle generally into the north-east at a consistent force 4-5. From June to November (the rainy 'hurricane' season) the winds generally are a lighter force 1-3 and invariably come from the east to south-east. The exceptions are when tropical waves, depressions or storms are about, in which case seafarers are advised to stay firmly onshore, or at a safe anchorage. Most other Caribbean islands tend to run north/south. Tobago, on the other hand, runs north-east/south-west. It can therefore sometimes give the impression of having two windward sides!
Being located so far south, the Guyanese Current that moves north-westerly around the continent of South America, and then into the Caribbean Sea to form the Gulf Stream, hits Tobago head on, in the Speyside area, at 4-6 knots. The current then splits into two streams, passing Tobago to the north and the south. The entire Speyside area is treacherous and sailing should not be attempted unless you are a professional captain. It has experienced numerous wrecks and dive accidents over the years. However, it is also an area of amazing natural underwater beauty, as the fertile currents feed a huge array of marine life.
Tobago is right on the southerly edge of the hurricane belt, and is regarded as a safe haven by most insurance companies. The incidence of hurricanes is about one in every 50-100 years - about the same as the UK!. Trinidad, just 22 miles to the south, has never had a hurricane. Tobago has one excellent hurricane hole – the Bon Accord Lagoon – situated inside the Buccoo reef. The only channel giving access is less than 4 feet deep, but boats drawing up to 6 feet can scrape their way in on a rising high tide.
Our weather article provides more information on local weather patterns and both current and 5-day predictions of current weather.
Two buoys, helpful for making landfall when approaching Tobago from the Grenadines and Grenada, have been replaced (March 2003) after being missing for four years. The two buoys, the North Cardinal and the West Cardinal, are outside and off Buccoo Reef and now functioning correctly. They make it easier to make and effective landfall when reaching the islands from the north-west.
Apart from that, the north coast of Tobago is relatively clear of other navigational dangers. However, those wishing to pass between The Sisters and The Brothers off Bloody Bay should be careful passing between St Giles Island and the main land outside Charlotteville. There is a nasty submerged rock right in the middle of the channel, so this is not for the faint hearted, although it may be worth it to avoid a beat around the north of the island in strong seas and strong currents. Keep well outside all of the islands and rocks when sailing down the eastern side of the island and enjoy the strong current behind you!