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Caribbean Island Updates 2003

By doina — last modified Jun 23, 2004 01:59 PM

Published: 2004-06-23 13:59:48
Countries: Grenada , Martinique , St Lucia , St Vincent & the Grenadines , Trinidad & Tobago , Venezuela

Venezuela

No further reports of unrest, piracy or difficulties from Venezuela or it's off-lying islands. We were most impressed with the guest friendliness, work ethic and prices offered in April 2003. Changing money seems to be the only difficulty, though the US $ becomes widely accepted. Places like Puerto la Cruz are certainly an option again when leaving your boat for this hurricane season.

Trinidad

The island had an excellent carnival. No incidents have been reported concerning yachts and security seems to have improved. However, in March it was a very quiet place with few yacht crews around. Prices are said to increase again with the "high season" for storage boats to arrive. While Venezuela, i.e. Puerto la Cruz and Cumana decreased their already most competitive rates and other Islands like Grenada (St.Davids) and St.Lucia (Rodney Bay) are trying to level out lost business by giving discounts. This may have an effect on Trinidad rates as well. With the international sailing press turning their attention to security and price levels in Trinidad, we noticed that some Trinidad companies start to consider adjustments in rates and improvements in security.

Grenada

Though the completely new development for the "Blue Lagoon" Marina and Hotel is said to go ahead, apart from some dredging pipes on shore, there is little sign for movement in this 150 Million Dollar project. Pool Capital SA of Virgin Isl. together with British "Camper and Nicholson" is looking to develop a hotel, boutique-hotel, private residences and a marina for 350-450 boats in this prime location. In the meantime, Customs and Immigration has been relocated from the defunct GYS on the southern side of the lagoon to the "Grenada Yacht Club" on the northern side of the lagoon. Officers here are certainly the friendliest in Grenada !

Spice Island Marine in Prickly Bay has opened its new location with brand new facilities, including travelift and chandlery shop on the premises at the far southern end of Prickley Bay. The "Miami Syndrome" has arrived here in Grenada. If you haul out and do the "bottom job" yourself, you pay a "fine" for lost revenue of 1,5 USD/ft to the yard. Though all other yards seem to have agreed on the same rates, this fine is not charged everywhere. A 10% surcharge fine is often applicable when hiring labor outside the gates. Haven't we been through all this in the Pacific some years ago ?

"Island Dreams Yacht Charter" in Martin's Marina is now in full swing and a most friendly place to store your boat. Secluded and well watched by competent people, this is an excellent alternative to the established companies. Email to islandreams@caribsurf.com

Grenada has grown to a fairly secure place with a good service level. With the new terminal for Cruise Ships being built down town and hopefully the Blue Lagoon development going ahead, it will further improve services to the yachts and their crews. However, prices for e.g. taxis and fresh groceries are keeping many boats away and sailors are still apprehensive about paying the exorbitant high fees for clearing and cruising while no visible service is connected to them.

The volcanoe "Kick 'em Jenny", some 12 miles north of Grenada and 2 miles West of the "Three Sisters Rock" has become more active and SAILORS ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO KEEP AT LEAST 1,5 NM OFF !

Carriacou

Slowly getting quiet again in April 2003. Shopping has improved and Immigration is friendly while the customs office is still what it is. Amongst other things, even the Port Capt. charges every passenger (except the Capt.) on board 2 Dollars "Embarkation Tax".

The "Gentlemen's agreement" not to use Sandy Island as a destination for cruise ship passengers is no longer honored. Though there are much less yachts now in April, a steady flow of passengers is shuttled over from the cruise ships anchored off Hillsborough.

Union Island

Clifton Harbour

Clearing at the airport is still an experience and a prime example of how to scare away the yachts. Where else is a skipper left standing to fill in his papers leaning against a wall ? Where else will you find a senior customs officer asking you bluntly to "make a contribution" to their church gathering ? And where else will a skipper face hostile and most inquisitive accusation to "be a charter boat" when you are more than two people on board your boat ?? With the charter companies and owner/operators contributing nicely to the economy of these islands, they are on top of it paying a "fine" for bringing guests ! We refrain from further comments and hope for improvement.

We just shook our heads when clearing in with 4 friends from Switzerland, paid 190 EC for a four-day-visit in the "St.Vincent and the Grenadines" and thought about the Pacific ! But with the absence of any services in this area we dare to ask: Where does all the money go we yachties are paying every year ? Will we see improvements in the environment, services rendered or attitudes shown ? That would be a nice thought, wouldn't it ?

Tobago Cays

Beautiful as ever. Providing what sailors want. A good breeze, clear water, good snorkelling and safe anchorages. With numbers of yachts decreasing for the season, this is a prime time before the hurricane season is declared.

The Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP) has slowly started up and is giving out questionaires to sailors in the area. Many mooring buoys have helped in the cays to reduce damage inflicted to the coral by anchoring dinghies. It almost seemed like some of the fairly keen vendors are going slower with their speedboats , but we still pray nobody is gonna be hurt by fast vessels. We do wish the TCMP all success and hope that the fees earmarked for them are really gonna reach the TCMP. Diving on the reefs show large areas damaged and our guess is 80% loss in coral life. As even seriously undersized fish is taken, there are hardly any pelagic or bigger fish seen. Sponges and soft coral dominate while the hard coral has a long way to recover. Local boats and freighters are still seen to discharge rubbish and bilge-water into the park area.

Canouan

The hotel has now occupied the majority of the bay with its moorings. Not only is there litlle space left for anchoring, it is discouraged in plain English on arrival. As the bay is rolly during the trades, this is no great loss to the real cruising community, but the attitude shown on the Caribbean's poorest Island is sad to notice.

Bequia

Nice and tidy these days. Almost no thefts reported. Good service and taxis in abundance. Keen vendors are polite and correct. Speeding in the harbor limits does expose swimmers to a major risk as drink+drive is a popular habit even here. Clearing in Bequia is fast, fair and efficient. If only all the ports could be so service minded. Prices are still high, for vegetables even higher than in Switzerland, which we find quite amusing. Fish and lobster is freely available if your bank manager is with you. There are no boat-boys asking you for "a dollar to watch your dinghy", unless some black sheep from St.Vincent arrived. Just send them on their bike and report them to the local shop owners, who will deal with them. The garbage problem is solved here with yachties being offered free collection of garbage in the bins behind the market place. Please do use them and help keep Bequia clean !!

Business wise the season has been dreadful for shop owners and sailors can hope for more resonable prices next year, though the number of shops will probably decrease. Import taxes, duties and rediculous difficulties imposed on shop owners will do nothing for the service or price level here, sending the yachts elsewhere for shopping. The turtle sanctuary on the NE side of the island is still a high light not to be missed. The dedication of "Brother King" to his project can only be adored and is well worth a visit and the support of the sailors. In waters where turtles are still hunted and eaten though that is forbidden by law, these peaceful animals can well do with the help of the yachting community.

St.Vincent

Clearing and shopping in Kingston is still a hassle and not recommended for the unexperienced. Wallibalou and Barrouallie are still offering limited clearing facilities. With the Walt Disney Film "The pirate" completed, things have gone back to normal in these bays. The overly keen boat boys have managed to chase many boats away, which is a shame as the area is delightful and nature tours are fantastic. Personally we suggest NOT to tow any boat boys back into the anchorage after they approached you sometimes miles out of the bay. Think about your liabilities if their boat turns over ! Do be careful when accepting a mooring even outside the hotels and restaurants. They might be unserviced and in bad condition under water. We dove on some and found chains and shackles in dangerously bad condition. Using your own anchor would be more work, but safer when set well. Giving away your lines to the boys tying them to a tree for 10 EC does not mean you won't have to check them afterwards. The minority of those "service people" has ever learnt to tie a proper bow line. Your stern line might disappear faster than your 10 dollar bill if you don't have a look at the knot yourself. Prices are heavily inflated, but good bargaining will bring out the real rate. if the boat boys are too expensive, take a walk to the villages and find many items at a better price with a nice hike to go with it.

St.Lucia

A number of breakins including violent attacks on yachts in the lagoon of Rodney Bay have devastated the yachts in St.Lucia this year. The ARC has seen some commercialising, being much more geared towards the racing class boats. However, the ARC seems to be ever popular and we appreciate times are getting less romantic and more commercial.

For those who like diving, it should be mentioned that the diving lobby on St.Lucia has managed to convince their government that every yachty needs a local divemaster, just as much as the local divemaster needs the dollars of the yachty. That also meant that charter boats offering diving in the Caribbean have simply left this nuisance and gone diving some other place. We are still mystified by such a rule. But maybe the reefs on St.Lucia are different to those on Galapagos, Solomon Isl, Madagascar or Chagos ?

Martinique

St.Anne and Le Marin have become increasingly popular. Hardly any crime, excellent infrastructure, the complete absence of hassle when clearing, no crusing fees or other funny taxes imposed plus a dedicated crowd of professional trades people makes this a prime example of how it should be. There are millions spent in the well sorted supermarkets, marinas and restaurants. Yachties are obviously happy to pay for services and food provided when they don't feel ripped off. Food for thought on other islands ?

Fort de France

Very unreliable opening hours at the Customs office downtown at Cruise Liner terminal have been a steady cause of annoyance. On the other hand, the main customs office is only 15 min walk (if you can find it), and they are extremely flexible and friendly. Bring your boat alongside the "tax-free dock" at the commercial harbor and you can buy liquor, beer, cigarrettes, perfume etc at great duty free prices. We have seen sailors running around there like kids in a candy shop ! The French health system on Martinique has helped more than one yachtie. Well equipped doctors and fair prices make this a water hole for those who are in need of proper medical care. Hardware shops are found to be stacked with anything a yacht may need and the chandleries are pricy but well equipped. Tackle shops, airline offices, money machines, it's all here for those looking to get things sorted out.

Lilly Vedana, Thomas Mueller

Yacht MIZ MAE, May 2003

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