Tobago Part 1: August 6-17, 2007

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period


Hurricane Dean Update (Aug. 17)

Fortunately, Hurricane Dean only threatened to come this way, and went instead some 150 miles north.  However, he did leave us with lots of rollers coming into our anchorage.  Sure glad we have our flopper stoppers. 


Faithful readers will recall that we left Grenada a day earlier than our cruising companions (Sol Magique and Seaman's Elixir).  They waited for more favorable winds, which they mostly didn't get -- needing to mostly motor-sail all the way.  We neither need nor like to have much wind, and left at about 9 PM on Aug. 6, 2007, and had one of the most peaceful and glorious night cruises ever.  The first half of the 85 nm cruise we had perhaps 1 foot rollers with no wind waves, and the second half we had maybe 2 foot widely-spaced rollers with minimal wind chop.   Mostly clear skies, with an occasional shower that always showed on the radar far enough in advance that it could be avoided, so we never had squally winds.  We went around to the southeastern corner of Tobago, to Scarborough, which is a port of entry.  Tiny little anchorage, crammed between a breakwater, that protects a dock for local fishing vessels on med moorings, and a concrete pier for commercial freight vessels and another concrete pier for passenger cruise ships.  There were several mooring floats, one of which was occupied.  We squeezed in as best we could, took the dinghy in to a decrepit dock, and set out to find the separate customs and immigration offices.  Scarborough is a busy, noisy, bustling town, with narrow streets crowded with vehicles and pedestrians.  Mostly small ram-shackle shops and stands along the sidewalk:  CDs and DVDs propped on an A-frame, "music" blasting out from speakers.  Tourist trinkets and beach apparel.  Snack bars and rum shacks and fruit/vegetable stands.  And yes, finally an immigration office.  With a very crowded waiting room, and some kind of take-a-number system that meant that one spoke with a surely stone-faced Mack Truck of a woman that either actually gave you a piece of paper with a number on it, or didn't.  If she didn't then one was directed to just "have a chair and wait".  And so we waited for over two hours, without a piece of paper, during which we witnessed a nasty scene in which a West Indian got tired of waiting and being sent away and having to come back another day and decided to give an "I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!" demonstration.  Not wise.  He got sent away by madam Mack Truck, presumably to come back another day.  When at last we were called back into an inner office, the immigration officer turned out to be a very congenial and helpful fellow.  Go figure.  Oh, and so long as you arrive with your boat AND arrive with your person in the immigration office during normal business hours, there is no charge for the immigration paperwork.  (But if you tell them at 10 AM that your boat arrived before 8 AM, you will be charged an "overtime" fee, according to the guide books.  Go figure.)

We dealt with a cordial East Indian in the customs office, who seemed mildly skeptical about our claim of no firearms and/or ammunition on board -- we really don't carry any.  He hastened to quietly observe that they occasionally do "boat checks", just in case I wanted to change any of my entries on the forms.  I didn't.  The customs fee was $TT50 ($8 USA).  Back at the dock where we had left our dinghy a crowd had gathered.  A fishing vessel was selling King fish.  Weighing them, then gutting them right there on the gunnels, and then cutting off the fins with sharp sharp knives and then removing and retaining the head and tail and then cutting the whole fish into steaks.  The steaks and the head and tail all got thrown into a plastic bag, and the whole thing was sold as a package based on the original weight.  We bought one, and had some that very night.  Tasty and firm flesh.  Next day the head and tail became the foundation of a delicious fish soup.  Our 5 lb. fish cost us $72TT ($11.50 USA), and will probably give us 5 more meals.

Back at our boat we discovered a sailboat from Denmark had squeezed in behind us.  We stopped and chatted with them on our way by, and they told us that the north part of Tobago was much less hectic and crowded and much more relaxed and friendly.  By this time it was getting late, and we decided to spend the night in the little anchorage.  Soon, the Danish vessel had to haul anchor and move a bit -- our vessels were dancing in the wind and had gotten too close.

It was a noisy night.   Every time a freight vessel or cruise ship came or went, it brushed by just to the north of us, and the wash from its bow and/or stern thrusters caused us to rock and roll.  Have I mentioned that the anchorage was tiny?

We sent e-mail to Sol Magique and Seaman's Elixir, suggesting that they avoid the hassle and anchor on the southwestern corner, in Store Bay, and take a taxi in to Scarborough to clear customs.   When we arrived in Store Bay the next morning, there they were!   Well, there were their vessels.   They were off to Scarborough to get checked in.   It took them hours also.

Shore at Scarborough Bay -- note squater cabin at water's edge

The Trinidad/Tobago Fast Ferry zips by on the way to Scarborough

Store Bay

On our first dinghy ride in Store Bay, we stopped to chat with a vessel with a French flag, crewed by two middle-aged men.  The voluble one of the pair was excited to see us, and said that they had anchored behind us for a while in the tiny anchorage in Scarborough.   Ultimately, they decided that a. the immigration office was too crowded to wait on, and  the anchorage was too small to stay, so they had moved directly to Store Bay and would soon take a taxi in to clear customs.   But as they had attempted to haul anchor in Scarborough, they were unable to get their anchor up.   It had stuck on some kind of debris, and simply could not be broken free.   So they had to cut the line and abandon it.  Yet another reason, dear readers, to avoid the Scarborough anchorage.

If I have sounded a trifle negative about Tobago, it is time to remedy that right now.  We are now in the southern-most island along the eastern Caribbean.   We have seen most -- but not all -- of the islands along the way.  Tobago is one of our favorites.  The population is perhaps the most diverse of all of the islands.  The people are extremely friendly and laid back.  We feel safe among the locals.  The island is certainly the cleanest we have visited -- there is virtually no trash along any of the highways.  The cost of living is low.  Goods and services are cheap.  Taxis and buses are ridiculously inexpensive.  The landscape is beautiful.   The diving is quite good.   The highways are in good shape.  The government maintains parks and beaches that are immaculate.  Consider our astonishment at the spotless public restrooms at the public beach in Store Bay.  The south end of Tobago caters to tourists, and has many resorts.  It has been interesting to anchor right next to the beach, and to observe the tourists.  Many of them are from Trinidad, here for a respite from the hectic living style of that country.   Others are from Europe and the USA and Canada.  The water is so warm that many spend long periods of time just sitting in the water, with only their heads showing.  From our distance, it looks as if the same folks enter the water at 5:30 AM and stay there until dark.

There is a bar/restaurant at the end of one of the local beaches where we land our dinghy.   One evening we went in early and had dinner and then stayed for a solo performance of a steel pan drummer.   It turned out that he was only 16 years old, and that he had just returned from Hollywood, where he had won first prize in a steel pan contest.  The place was packed, and the performance was outstanding.  Melodic, rich, subtle, multi-layered.  And all by ear -- he cannot read music!

Dinner on their 25th wedding anniversary

Beach used by locals gathers some strange things ashore

...but the faithful carry on as best they can

TTII is anchored right next to a reef here used by divers in the rain

Our next rig when we upgrade

The girls gather under the sign for the Bago bar/restaurant

Store Bay anchorage as seen from Bago Bar

Ginette cutting up while Linda looks on in amazement

The cutting up is catchy

...and spreads like wildfire

...from person to person

...with the usual exception

What happens if you leave your boat unattended too long

Pirated movie -- note slant and head in front of pirating camera

Sunset at Store Bay

Our favorite vessel in Store Bay

What TTII web page is complete w/o a fort picture?

This tiny fort is the immaculate Ft. Milford, just south of Store Bay

The facts, ma'am -- nothing but the facts.

Store Bay anchorage as seen from the fort

16-year-old World Champion pan player

The ladies pose w/ the celebrity

Award won by the young man in Hollywood, CA

The ladies had a VERY good time that night

...which carried right over to MORE drinks on Sol Magique afterwards

...while Steve looked on in amazement

...and Paul looks a little bemused as well

The Store Bay anchorage as seen overlooking the public beach

Another vew looking down toward the fort

..and the view in the opposite direction

Barb thought the lifeguards on the public beach were "hunky"

Tobago Tour

 When we can, we like to get a tour of an island we are visiting, and so we took an all-day island tour of Tobago with Sol Magique and Seaman's Elixir.

Interesting aside:  when the driver mentioned that many folks have added extra rooms to their homes that they then make available to visiting tourists, and that he himself had two such rooms, I asked him who was a typical guest:  Americans, Canadians, Europeans, or Trinidadians (called "Trinis").  "Not Trinis", was his immediate reply.   "They are too dangerous.  They trash the place before they leave."

Just one of several indications we have had -- from both locals and visiting Trinis -- that there is a tremendous difference in life style between Tobagans and Trinis.

Water wheel from an old sugar cane mill

Barb at Englishman's Bay

Visited Fort. James on east side of Tobago

Part of Fort. James

Barb under huge almond tree at the fort

Guy cutting bamboo for vases in fort

Cannons and some bamboo vases for sale

Beautiful Parlatuvier Bay

Hike to Argyle Falls

Walking under huge stand of bamboo

Bird of paradise flower - not yet in full bloom

Blue-Crowned Mot Mot bird - Tobago's national bird

Guide showing us the Mot Mot's nest - a burrow up to six feet long

Had to climb over rocks to get to falls

Steve & Linda in front of Argyle Falls

Barb & Chuck

Linda and Chuck making up?

Tour guide must be showing us something interesting

Lots of climbing to the falls

Steve giving some help

Masks for sale at one of the craft shops along the tour

More crafts for sale

Beautiful beach at Speyside

Paul, Ginette and Linda at an overlook

Steve & Linda

Paul & Ginette on ridge at overlook

Steve & Linda

View from overlook