After sailing across the Atlantic in 2022, I knew I would eventually face the inevitable Caribbean hurricane season. I researched, talked to many experienced cruisers, and spent a ton of time online exploring my options in the eastern Caribbean.
Carriacou and Grenada seemed like excellent hurricane holes, but I decided to sail south to Trinidad and Tobago and escape the hurricane belt altogether. Trinidad hasn’t had any severe hurricane damage since 1933, which was comforting!
Chaguaramas Bay is the main yachting spot for storing a boat in Trinidad, with a big anchorage and a selection of boatyards and marinas prepared for boat storage. The entire bay has excellent protection from heavy winds and tropical storms, but the country has serious crime issues.
Let’s see how it all went!
Pre-arrival preparations and safety concerns
I was anchored in Tyrell Bay in Carriacou when I started preparing for the season’s last leg. In fact, Im writing this article in the same spot!
Maelle from France was crewing onboard, and we were both interested in all the info we could get to plan our sailing route carefully. There have been some safety issues with pirate attacks in the waters between Grenada and Trinidad in recent years.
Wait, are there actually real pirates of the Caribbean still!?
There are, but the situation isn’t like something out of Pirates Of The Caribbean, which might be the first to come to your mind…
The main concerning area is around the Hibiscus and Poinsettia Gas fields, about 20-25 nautical miles off the northern coast of Trinidad. Pirates have been searching for potential targets in pirogues with powerful outboards in this area.
It is far out at sea, and the rigs are accessible landmarks for them to navigate between with limited navigation equipment. Over the years, there have been severe incidents, with armed robberies and shots fired. Now, I really don’t want to be robbed or shot at, so following the best practices to the letter was a critical part of the preparations!
Before you go all ballistic, thinking how incredibly stupid it is to venture through such dangerous waters, remember that a large number of yachts are doing this passage every year without any issues.
The incidents are spread across several years and are limited to just a few unlucky ones. It is more likely to get into a car accident in a local taxi or bus than to experience any issues at the crossing.
The Trinidad and Tobago Coastguard has also ramped up it’s patrolling over recent years, which has helped the situation significantly. They now require you to file a float plan to inform the Coast Guard, North Post Radio, Maritime Service Division, YSATT, and Jesse James (A local agent) about your departure date, time, and estimated arrival.
You can find the form here.
If you intend to go to Trinidad yourself, please continue reading the next section. If not, you can skip to our passage with the button below.
Entry requirements and documents
I heard and read good things about Powerboats and Peake Marine Services in Chaguaramas and got a reasonable offer for haul-out and storage at Peake’s. Since I would stay longer than 6 months, I also got one month of storage for free + a free week in their small marina after launching back into the water. Great deal!
Yvanna managed much of the communication and provided me with a list of the necessary documents and forms to arrange and complete before departure and arrival.
These were the instructions she sent me:
1) Make sure you have your vaccination card (a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their last dose)
2) Take an Antigen or a PCR test within 72hours before your arrival
3) When you receive the test result, go to ttravelpass.gov.tt and upload your information. This step is mandatory for anybody who wants to come to Trinidad. You need the TTravelPass. You will get it within minutes of submitting the form.
4) Send the following documents to [email protected]:
– Float Plan
– Maritime Declaration of Health
– COVID test result(s)
– Vaccination card(s)
– Passport copies
– Boat registration
– Clearance from the last port
5) Start your journey to Trinidad
6) When approaching Trinidad’s North Coast, you must radio North Post Radio VHF 16 to inform them that you are arriving.
7) When arriving in the Bay of Chaguaramas, you must anchor (or take a mooring buoy) and raise your Q-flag. Please radio us on VHF 69 to let us know you have arrived, and we will let Port Health know. You need to wait and cannot disembark until I get the clearance from Port Health.
8) Once I receive the clearance from Port Health, I will get in touch with you and help you with the Immigration and Customs check-in.
9) Welcome to Trinidad and Tobago! Please make sure to follow the local guidelines against COVID-19.
Please send me your documents before you arrive, as I will need to work with the authorities to prepare for your arrival in Trinidad.
Covid restrictions are no longer in place, so the procedure is more straightforward these days. YSATT provides the latest entry requirements, and your marina or yard will help you with all the necessary paperwork.
I advise staying at least a few miles east from the oil and gas fields when sailing to Trinidad. It is way more challenging for anyone to beat their way through the easterly swell to reach your location if you should be unlucky to get targeted by anyone.
Doing the passage at night also allows you to go dark should you see something suspicious on the radar, and you will also be harder to spot by anyone. Keep your nav lights and AIS running, though, unless you see anyone approaching you. The North Post Radio will monitor your location from their radar station. If you need assistance, they can be reached by VHF at channel 16.
Here are some great sources of information regarding safety and formalities:
Sailing from Carriacou to Trinidad and Tobago
With all the necessary paperwork done, we set off from Carriacou on 30th May 2022 around mid-day and started on the 120-nautical mile passage to Chaguaramas Bay. As exciting as it may sound after chatting about all these pirates, we actually had an excellent sail in fantastic conditions throughout the night.
We never saw anything suspicious, and the biggest challenge was the strong current running from east to west. Instead of sailing a sweet beam reach, we had to point way higher to keep our course over the ground. But Ellidah sails well to windward, and the conditions were excellent. We arrived at a beautiful sunrise the following day, and I was delighted to end the season with such a great passage.
How I checked in to Trinidad and Tobago
As we approached the coast, I called up North Point Radio as instructed but never received any reply. We continued into Chaguaramas Bay, anchored along with a number of boats waiting to haul out, and called Peake at VHF channel 69. They replied immediately, and I scheduled to come and meet them in the office as soon as they finished clearance from Port Health.
It took a few hours, but after that, it was pretty straightforward. When staying for a longer time, you need to import your vessel temporarily, and there are many papers you need to bring to the customs, immigration, and police office. Luckily, Yvanna at Peake had already prepared these papers for me, and I just had to fill in some forms and sign them.
The customs, immigration, and police office is located at the bay’s eastern end and is easily reachable by dinghy. The officers were friendly and helpful. You should be fine as long as you bring your boat papers and the ones from your boatyard or marina.
Why I chose Peake Yacht Services in Trinidad for the Caribbean hurricane season
There are a few reasons why I chose to spend the hurricane season at Peake in Trinidad.
From anchoring to mooring in a marina to hauling out
We parked at the marina in the harbour for a couple of days while waiting for the haul-out and packed down the sails, running rigging, and everything else that could fit inside. Then we untied the lines, cruised over to the travel lift dock, and jumped ashore. I don’t particularly appreciate seeing my boat hanging in the slings of a travel lift; it makes me nervous.
Luckily it all went without any issues, and not long after, Ellidah’s keel was placed on top of some planks, and the steel stands were put in place to stabilize the hull. Some boaters take down their mast to reduce windage, but being out of the hurricane zone, I didn’t bother.
Nor did I use tie-downs. The cockpit view had changed from a beautiful ocean view to sitting cramped together with hundreds of other boats stored on the hard with masts sticking up as far as I could see.
Storing a boat in Trinidad
The following day, I inspected the hull and saw that my propeller strut was bent sideways. I had suspicions after getting the dinghy painter into the propeller sometime earlier, but I didn’t realize it was that bent. I wrote “repair strut” under “reapply antifouling” on my to-do list, which grew incredibly big in the end.
But that work was for next year.
Then I deflated the dinghy and strapped it down on the front deck. The outboard engine went into the aft shower room, and so did all the fenders. I also took down the sprayhood and bimini as I saw some of the other boats stored with theirs up – completely rotten through.
I also heard horror stories from other yacht owners who experienced mold that destroyed the interior after leaving their vessel in the wet season. A chandlery inside the yard sells dehumidifiers, so I bought one of them and put it on the galley bench with a hose down the sink. No mold for me, thank you…
After cleaning and packing everything down and ensuring the boat was properly stored, I packed my bag and went with a shuttle to the airport to leave my beloved boat behind for over half a year.
Returning to Trinidad 7 Months Later
It goes without saying that I was excited to see her again and curious about how she had managed during the extremely hot, wet, and stormy summer season!
It was winter in Norway, and the weather was cold and dark. I was more than ready to return to the sunny weather in the Caribbean islands. However, I had nightmares about tropical storms and hurricanes while on the other side of the pond. I had scary pictures of the devastation hurricane Ivan, Irma, and the others caused a few years back. Luckily, I hired a boat sitter to inspect Ellidah two times a month, so I had recent pictures of the boat.
After a short stopover for a few days in Miami, I was on my way back to my boatyard in Trinidad. I was excited about starting the season but knew I had much to do before launching Ellidah back into the water. Later the same evening, I arrived back at Peake’s and felt the excitement crawl under my skin as I walked around other boats stored ashore. Eventually, I saw a beautiful blue sailboat sitting in a familiar mosquito-infested spot. The ladder had already been set up for my arrival.
I climbed into the cockpit and saw that the rain and humidity had been hard on the exterior. I had a lot of scrubbing and cleaning to do. And I had a massive list of boat jobs to keep me busy for weeks. And coming from winter in Norway to the heat and humidity would take some days to get used to.
So the next day, I jumped on the first task on the list: Scrub and clean inside out.
Head over to the following article to read about the weeks of boat work and preparations I did before my crew arrived and we continued northeast to Tobago. Tobago is definitely the country’s highlight, and I couldn’t wait to get everything done and set sail!
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