The first port of call in the Caribbean
No Man’s Land in Tobago is as stereotypical an image of the Caribbean as you could imagine. About 50 metres long, white sands, palm trees and brilliant turquoise sea all around, you couldn’t want for a more relaxing place.
But just out of view there is a hive of activity during the hurricane season, which runs from June to November, as scores of boats anchor up in Bon Accord Lagoon to protect themselves from the elements at one of the Caribbean’s safest hideaways.
Further down the mainland, past the famous Pigeon Point, the Angostura Sailing Week takes place. A mainly Caribbean affair, you get people from across the region sailing over to race in what is a good competitive event, with a healthy lean towards the social side of sailing.
Trinidad and Tobago are both growing economies, although Tobago is the more relaxed of the two siblings while Trinidad’s Port of Spain is fervently expanding its tourist and business base.
But outside the capital, business, particularly the boating business, is growing too. One bustling area is Chagauramas, where a relatively small port has grown into a sizeable community. Visitors will find helpful customs officials and all the necessary amenities at the Crews Inn Hotel & Yachting Centre .
Budget Marine’s Ruth Lund has seen the growth since the company started there in 1996, around the time Chagauramas was beginning to grow apace.
“The racing community is very strong here and we also get a lot of cruisers,” says Ruth. “Power boats are being built here, we get weekend boaters and foreign yachties come here during the hurricane season and for carnival in May and June. We get people coming from Europe, America and Australia – Trinidad is the gateway for anyone coming from the south.”
The area is very much geared towards boat building and fitting out and goods are duty-free for service contractors. There is an ongoing dialogue with the government to get it to make products VAT-free, but don’t expect a change any time soon.
Enterprise is the name of the game here, and Tommy Johnson is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit. Starting out some 40 years ago producing industrial insulation systems for the energy sector his new company CISL Marine recently completed its first boat. Now he is building a 75 foot power catamaran for a local client – he has been approached about building a 100-footer already. Which is all pretty impressive seeing as the last boat he constructed was a 14ft sailing dinghy before he was a teenager – not bad for someone without experience in this area before, but he has surrounded himself with a talented team.
The yachting community and services are now well established in Trinidad and Tobago. The Yacht Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago (YSATT) is currently in its 13th year. Established to cater for the yacht service industry, it acts as an umbrella organisation for the industry, helping both businesses and individuals.
The organisation has a significant role to play as it lobbies the government, and chairs the cabinet-appointed Yachting Steering Committee. YSATT not only represents its members, which include boatyards, marinas, yacht clubs and suppliers, but also acts as an advisor should a dispute arise between a visitor on one of its members.
For anyone planning a visit to T&T a call to YSATT is vital as it has all the information you need regarding mooring costs, customs and information about the locality. For more information visit www.ysatt.org .
Away from the professionalism in the boating business the residents of T&T are renowned for their relaxed attitude to life. ‘Liming’ is a common word, and is a catch all for any form of relaxation, be it down on the beach or sharing a bottle of rum with friends.
After the racing is done at the Angostura sailing week, liming is in full effect on Tobago. During the day though this is the flagship event for the end of the sailing season in the Caribbean and this year was the 25th event. The racing is competitive at all levels, and the West Indian champions always compete. There is also upcoming talent and this year the Leighton brothers, James and Stuart were at the event, two young men who have high hopes for the 2012 Olympics in the Optimist class.
Despite the success of the event (you can read all about it by clicking here ) there is still something of a sticking point with the government about developing the area. One of the reasons Tobago remains such a popular holiday destination is the tranquillity and relatively light development, but at the same time the local clubs want to see some return for the number of people boating in the area pulls in.
Tobago still does not have a permanent jetty with water and fuel, which puts it at a disadvantage in terms of business opportunities compared to Trinidad, but talks continue between the boating industry and the government.
Nonetheless, if you are thinking of visiting the Caribbean, T&T is not only the first port of call but it has a strong , vibrant boating community where you can get excellent service at a good price, and I for one would recommend anyone to take the time to experience this fantastic country.