At Port Louis Marina, Grenada
Voyage number 9 is nearing its completion as we ride on a mooring in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, awaiting our haul-out on Tuesday. After flying back to Grenada a week ago, we spent a few days in Port Louis Marina then moved the boat over to Prickly Bay. We said goodbye to the cruisers we knew there and set sail one pleasant afternoon to Trinidad. Since we like to arrive in port in the morning, we sailed from Prickly Bay at 4PM to arrive at 7AM in Chaguaramas. The last overnight sail on this voyage.
The winds were slightly south of east, as they are very rarely north of east this far south so late in the season. We made for Monos Island in the Boca via the passage between Hibiscus and Poinsettia Gas platforms. Mindful of the South Equatorial Current and the meridian passage of a waxing moon our course to Chaguaramas in Trinidad 85 miles away, was to almost southeast. This made for mostly a motor sail to the south-southeast in lumpy conditions but nothing terrible. No squalls were encountered, and the Southern Cross guided us in the moonless night. We arrived by sunrise and picked up a mooring right off the Power Boats Boat Yard by 7AM. We cleared Customs and Immigration, which seems to add more forms to fill-out each year, by 11AM. They are still working on reducing the paperwork but we feel the presence of the many Venezuela fishing boats in the harbor prompts many of the forms (form number xxx – how many stowaways are aboard; another form – list the diseases your crew has – luckily for me there is no checkoff for snipe remarks to crew!).
We end our voyage in Trinidad for a number of reasons. Originally it was because we were having major work done on Kalunamoo. Four years ago, we had out leaky-teaky decks re-done, and a complete outside paint job. Over the next few summers we had new rigging, new bow sprit and other large maintenance and repairs done. In short – Trinidad is a good place for this type of work. The workers are experienced and not outrageously priced. It is also out of the “hurricane belt”, meaning that virtually all hurricanes pass north of here so no worries about keeping the boat in the Caribbean during the hurricane season. More chance of hurricanes in New York! Trinidad is also a large multicultural island that is interesting in its own right. True, it is not European high culture or sports the swank beaches of Brazil, but compared to the small eastern Caribbean Islands it offers more than just a tropical island. It is the home of steel pan bands and Angostura!
Power Boats at Chaguaramas
However, Trinidad suffers from a reputation of being unsafe from a security standpoint. Everything from cut-throat pirates along the shore to rampart street violence is mentioned as to why cruisers stay away. Bad reputations are hard to live down as any incident is viewed as confirmation of long-standing beliefs even if other areas have similar rates of incidents but without the “reputation”.
Yes, the rates of gang violence within Trinidad, especially in certain sections, is alarming. Fortunately, the areas where cruisers congregate are not those sections. Piracy on the high-seas is another reputation that Trinidad faces, especially for the water between Grenada and Trinidad. Venezuela is only few miles away from Trinidad and the political situation there adds to the anxiety cruisers have. This concerns all cruisers traveling between the islands. Again, reputations die hard. There was one incident a few months ago of attempted piracy which involved gunfire. No one was hurt despite bullet holes in the hull of the sailboat involved. It was big news, rightfully so, although the location and circumstances were not “typical” of previous incidents. Actually, the previous piracy attempt was a few years earlier.
The web site for Caribbean Security lists cruiser incidents throughout the Caribbean and Trinidad is far from the top of recent “hot” spots. Despite this, after the shooting incident, the Trinidad Coast Guard in conjunction with the Trinidad trade associations, organized cruiser convoys guarded by the TT Coast Guard. We did not travel in a convoy nor were any incidents reported since the only one a few months ago. As a comparison, cruisers in Grenada recently organized their own “night patrol” in certain anchorages to thwart a rash in dinghy thefts and boat break-ins.
Chain your gas tank to the engine, the engine to your dinghy and your dinghy to the dock!
Security is always a concern as incidents can happen anywhere. We do have locks and chains and use them often, much like locking your car or house. But after cruising here and in the Bahamas for nine years, we can report no security incidents. After living in Brooklyn for 60 years we can also report no security incidents (including riding the subways in the 1970’s). How is that possible? Most local newspapers have a “Police Blotter” page that list local crime incidents. If all you read is that, then fear and paranoia will rule your day. You don’t need to be a Pollyanna to live free of fear but the other end of the spectrum, living in a constant state of paranoia is equally unrealistic. As the saying goes, “if you see something, say something”. Otherwise, enjoy the day!