Wednesday, August 30, 2017

So, How do you like Tobago?

This is a question we were asked repeatedly our first few days here, and it was difficult to answer as our first 4 days were spent traveling back and forth from our anchorage in Store Bay on the west side of the island over to Tobago's largest town of Scarborough on the east side of the island.

Day one, over to Scarborough to check in. We had to check in with both Customs and Immigration, we never know which to check with first, each country has their own order of appearance, so we just have to make a guess, and inevitably we guess wrong. True to form, we pick3ed Customs first, and were told we had to see Immigration first. They gave us directions to Immigration, since obviously they can't be placed together, that would be too convenient. Our taxi driver said he knew how to get to Immigration,  and proceeded to drive us to the wrong place. Apparently there are two Immigration offices, and only one of them deals with people coming in on their own boats.

Customs and Immigration in Tobago are very convoluted for cruisers. In most countries when we check in we are allowed to travel anywhere in the country, and to anchor in any harbor in the country,  the only restrictions being time limits. In Tobago they have divided the island in half and you have to check in and out of each half before proceeding to the other side. For us this means checking in at the South, traveling halfway up the island, the furthest you can go is Castara, leaving the boat to return by car to Scarborough to check out and taking the boat directly to the point furthest North in Charlotteville to check in again before backtracking to any spots that we wanted to see in the north but had to pass by to get to C and I! Confused yet? We sure were. You would think they would have developed a better system, but a) the government officials are not sailors/cruisers and probably don't realize what a pain this is (or don't care) and 2) as in all governmental entities a sense of self preservation grows. This system maintains jobs and the head mucky-mucks get to retain their own fiefdoms.

On our way back to the boat we were able to get a Sim card for the phone so we could have internet on the boat. (That only took two stops to find the right place!)

Day two: Our Internet was not working properly so we had to return to the Digicel store (halfway to Scarborough) to try to get it resolved. After two hours of waiting the store employees were trying everything they could think of to try to resolve the problem,  updating software, checking settings, restarting anything that could be restarted. Finally the woman said to me "we could try a replacement Sim, I don't think that is the problem, but we could try. Do you want to try that?" "Yes, please." I said.
Guess what? New SIM card, problem solved! It was hard to keep my eyes from rolling too much. Oh well, moving on...

Day three: Return to Scarborough. The good news is that we sold our lot in Oregon,  the bad news was that we had to find a notary that would be accepted in the US. Notary found,  we were told "just show up, she will be here", so we showed up. "She is not here now, she is in court, but she will be back in an hour", so we waited. An hour and a half later "She has to be back soon, court will take a break for lunch" Apparently it was a very late lunch because she did not show up until after 1:30.

Notarizing done, next step- find a way to Fed-Ex the documents back to Oregon. No problem,  there is a FedEx representative and we have his number. We call him, but just get a voice telling us to leave a message.  Shortly we get a text- he is in a meeting and will get back to us.

An hour later we try again, and get the same result. We decide to go get some food and while at the restaurant the owner tried calling the FedEx rep. She was able to get through and discovered that he was still in a meeting, and the meeting was in Trinidad. I wish he had told us this several hours earlier! Now it was too late to find an alternative that day. He did say that he was taking a flight to Tobago that evening. We considered trying to arrange a rendezvous that evening, but he was concerned about the timeliness of the flight and we were concerned about having to beach the dinghy in the dark.

Day four: Success. Delivered the package. Now our business / busy work is done, we can start exploring.  Phew.

So, how do we like Tobago so far? Here are some of our impressions.  Tobago is not set up for making life easy for cruisers. The first piece of evidence is the hoops they make you jump through for the cruising permits. Next we have the lack of dinghy docks. Most countries that we have visited so far have dinghy docks available in many places. Tobago has very few and so we have to pull our dinghy up the beach, high enough to a) lock it (not always possible ) and b) be out of the zone of high tide. Unfortunately for us, our dinghy is big and heavy, with a heavy motor. This makes for nice speedy transportation, but we struggle to get it high up the beach. Fortunately we are getting better and have learned a few techniques to help, but it is still much easier if we have a dinghy dock to tie up to.
Great sized dinghy for transportation, not so great for beaching

The people in Tobago are very friendly and laid back. Life moves at a slower pace here and we are enjoying it. The traffic is less frenetic, the drivers are calmer, people in general move calmly. Walking down the street people have seen us, and called out "What's the name of your boat?" On the other hand more people have asked us which hotel we are staying at than in other places with more cruisers.

Tobagonians have a wonderful system of transportation.  About half of all the cars on the road have a license plate beginning with the letter P. This designates that the car is privately owned and available to pick people up for a fee. If you have a P car you can choose to pick up people, or not. Some drivers do this for a living, others are picking up people to help pay for gas money. The fees are usually $4 Trinidad and Tobago dollars  (TTD) for a shorter ride or $8 TTD for a longer ride ($.60  or $1.20 US). It is a great system, there are very few cars with only one person in them, and it is a very good way to meet people. In talking to Tobagonians who have been to/ lived in the US, 95% of them are from Brooklyn.  There must be quite a T and T community there.

Things we are looking forward to in Tobago- 1) Diving although this is not the best time of the year for it. The Orinoco River in Venezuela is running now because of the rainy season, and that affects the water clarity here, but we still hope to have some good dives. 2) Turtle watching,  this is the time of year that the turtles are hatching 3) Bird watching. Tobago has many more birds than any other Caribbean island. This is due to several factors. 1) there are fewer people here 2) a large part of the island is a forest reserve and possibly most importantly 3) Tobago has no poisonous snakes therefore the early colonists/invaders did not introduce the mongoose,whose diet of bird eggs has devastated bird populations on islands world wide.

As your reward for making through all those words- here are some wonderful murals we saw by the Botanic Gardens in Scarborough. 

On to exploration.

We love to hear your comments.

Kay Robbins said...

I'm so jealous.

Sarah said...

Don't be jealous, make your own dreams come true. And come visit us!