One of the difficulties of cruising is the constant “need to know” about resources. When at home where you work you talk to fellow employees, where you play tennis you speak to the people at the courts, where you worship you ask friends at church. On the road; ahem, ocean, those relationships aren’t there. You do ask other cruisers, when you meet a local and gain some trust you ask them; but all that comes at a price. Mostly the cost is time; it takes time to establish a relationship, to garner their knowledge. So in an effort to simplify that task for other yachtsmen visiting Trinidad I hereby submit my take. Please understand this is my experience and the wind in your sails may differ.
While we completed some required boat maintenance in Trinidad we acquainted ourselves with quite a few businesses. Below is a list of those we utilized and our perspective on them.
Alpha Canvas: Carlos the owner was prompt in an appointment to give us a quote. He patiently explained what we needed and we chose Alpha Canvas for our work. The work progressed smoothly at first, then seemed to slow down. Part of the issue as we understood it was that he just couldn’t get the supplies. He needed some Regatta Canvas for a replacement awning and in the 8 weeks after we had contacted him couldn’t get any on the island or seemingly sent to the island. A friend on another boat was awaiting closed cell foam and Alpha never was able to secure that product in the time he was there. To our understanding all the other Canvas shops were out of closed cell too. In my opinion if you want something completed and you have requirements out of the ordinary you need to bring the fabric or foam with you to Trinidad. Alpha’s workmanship was excellent. Timeliness was not what we had hoped for. Everything that we could be expected to have completed by the time we left was. However; it was not completed in the time frame as we had discussed in our initial visit. Carlos is on the board of YSATT and seemed to be doing a great deal of work for them and the cruising community as a whole. The timeliness may fix itself if the safety and security situation and the demands of YSATT ever settle down. The last thing prior to our leaving was work Alpha did on the main awning. As well as repairing it he had it clean and they added some coating to it. It looks almost as good as new. If only he would have completed it sooner; I would have given Alpha the smaller awning to do too. We would use Alpha again, we would bring our own supplies.
Asa Wright You can find info about this Nature Center in an earlier post.
Budget Marine These chandleries can be found throughout the Caribbean. They’re better then the local WestMarine in the states in that they actually have supplies boaters need to keep their boats running. We were there almost weekly. One difference in the Trinidad chandlery was that you paid the Value Added Tax (VAT). Most countries in the Caribbean ask that you bring in the ships papers to the business and since the material isn’t staying in the country you’re not required to pay the VAT. The people at Budget were friendly and we continued to shop there for needed; mostly common supplies.
Cold Keate: We hired Keates on a recommendation of another cruiser. By Trini standards he was pricey but I will say he eventually did the best he could to solve our problem, and the problem was 95% solved. There just were no replacement brushes for the motor in Trinidad. He’s currently studying for another career so I’m not sure he’ll be doing refrigeration work in the up coming years. He knows the local places to make things happen and this in and of itself is a big plus for a cruiser. In a pinch; I would call him again. (766-6541 or 627-4033)
Crews Inn Marina Really a Marina / Hotel complex. This is the only true marina in the Chaguaramus area. All the others are associated with boat yards. The staff was always courteous. However; even though the marina was 1/2 empty, it still is EXPENSIVE. There were no discounts and no incentives to increase their business. Electricity while fairly priced on the island was highly priced at 23 cents US / kilowatt hour. Water wasn’t charged. The prices are US prices and the while the service is as friendly as any place in the US there were some things that I would expect of a US Marina that wasn’t provided here. The WiFi was often iffy and sometimes down. This doesn’t sound like much, but for cruisers WiFi is a principal in communicating with those from the motherland and managing funds. Crews Inn “shrugged” their shoulders when the WiFi wasn’t functioning correctly. They offered no return for the inconvenience. The ice machine spit out cubes so slow that the day would advance quickly before you ended with a bag for the boat. Fortunately Crews Inn started bringing ice in a large cooler; however, then inconsiderate guests would put their drinks in the ice to cool them down not caring that others were using the ice for their drinks. Security was reputed to be quite good and yet there were two thefts at the marina while we were in town. Their response was to hire an evening security guard. Hopefully that reduces the security issue to zilch.
Coast to Coast We rented our Air Conditioning unit from them. They were prompt, they explained the remote and how to use it. We paid for a month, extended a month and then when we needed to extend it a week or so longer he said to let him know when we were leaving and he would pick it up and bring the bill. The price we paid for an older unit was $100 US / month. We felt he was fair, professional and we would most certainly use him again if we’re back there.
Dockyard Electric: This small chandlery usually didn’t have what we needed. But they were always interested in being helpful and once they had what none of the other chandleries had and once they saved me a trip across the bay. They are within walking distance of Crews Inn Marina.
Fabric Shopping (Port O Spain) Those of you who want material I have a hard time imagining any place better to find it. We bought some new upholsery fabric, W/ bought fabric for some swim wear, and fabric for a couple of dresses. In a couple of city blocks there must be 20 stores or more all catering to fabric. A paradise for the seamstress or the individual that wants something new and different.
The Falls at WestMall A US style mall with a Caribbean flavor. We found a Cold Stone Creamery there that has been the only place in the Caribbean that knew how to make a thick milkshake. Unfortunately for me they didn’t have any malts nor knew anything about them. They also had two very good bookstores that had books at US prices. No discounts but at least they’re not marked up 30% above the list price. The mall is right next to the IGA grocery store so who ever does the shopping gets the ice cream. Sweet. 🙂
Fortress Woodworking We used them to complete two small projects on the boat. Their prices were reasonable and they were prompt. We had two other cruising friends that used them for larger projects than ours and all of us were totally satisfied. We were in the marina where their shop is and I can’t say if that had anything to do with the prompt work. I would definitely use them again.
Griffith, Ko . We hired Ko (Cow is how his short name is pronounced) and his crew for painting our bottom. They did an excellent job. Some of the description of our relationship is reported in my cost comparison blog.
Govia, Chris Chris was recommended to us by a fellow cruiser: Charles on Phaedrus. Charles has been cruising / chartering down here for 15 years and has known and used Chris all that time. Chris did an encellent job. I understand he does quite good varnish work but we didn’t utilize his services there. He waxed our 30 year old hull. Although he was doubtful he could get it looking good again he brought it back quite well. He wasn’t satisfied at his first go at it and changed some products that ended helping. In the end he was as happy with it as we were. We paid him $500 TT / day for 3 days. He quoted a job price. That’s quite high for workers in Trinidad but since he did such a great job the price was well worth it. I would use him again anytime. Local Phone (756-9499).
Hi Lo / IGA A very good all-purpose grocery with almost everything you could want. Not the cheapest but almost anything you wish is available.
LP Marine A chandlery that has what most don’t. This store caters to the things not found elsewhere, pumps, lubricants, tools, etc. I visited them several times during our stay and the store manager was always helpful. Prices were equal to or better then the other chandleries.
Members Only The consummate cruisers taxi service. Owned and operated by Jesse James he’s referenced in a couple of my other posts. ( Asa Wright, Bamboo Cathedral, Pitch Lake, Rincon Waterfalls, )He’s also the Cruising Station Host for SSCA in Trinidad. He is worth his weight in Gold and we would definitely use and enjoy his company again.
Marine Warehouse: Disorganized. Yep. Great place to to save money. Yep. But the caviet is that you have to plan ahead. Here you can order supplies from the states with the claim to fame of this business is that they save you lots on shipping. Often if they’re running specials you can have items shipped in for Free! All prices are US; you pay no VAT and they do all the customs work. Sherri the manager is leaving to start a similar business in Secret Harbor Grenada was the hub that held the wheel together. Can’t say how it will be in the future; but for us they definitely served a purpose. They’re housed in the same place as Alpha Canvas; just across the drive.
Peakes Hardware / Yacht Chandlery A boat yard chandlery. Peakes was helpful and had products that Budget Marine didn’t. They’re not larger than Budget but they have a second Hardware Chandlery also close to the Port O Spain. Although people in both stores aren’t as friendly and up beat as at Budget they did take time to answer questions and help us find what we needed; often suggesting one of the other chandleries if they didn’t have it.
Powerboats: This yard was where we hauled and I have a great amt of detail in my price comparisions blog and in my hauling blog. The people were friendly and quite courteous. The security was excellent. I was privy to seeing the security setup when I worked with one of the network guys on the WiFi. The security setup really is top notch and they were IMHO as of this writing a very safe yard. We rented an apartment during our stay there. The apartment was cleaned daily and had a modicum of dishes, plenty of hot water – for showers 🙂 , and twin beds. It was air conditioned. They had internet in the room (supposedly) but the speed was miserable. I worked with one of their network guys (outsoureced) who couldn’t really solve the issue. I connected up to an ethernet wire in the apartment but the cable went to a router and then connected wirelessly to another access point (AP). Unfortunately I discovered that from one AP to the next there was a sailboat mast dead middle of the airspace. They launched the boat and I had a quite good internet connection for 3 hours, then they put another boat in it’s place and the speeds went back to being slower than an old dial up modem! Most people in the yard had difficulty with the Internet unless the boat was the first nearest to an AP.
Their yard shop is well maintained with prices the same or better than anywhere else in Chaguaramus. If you hire one of their contractors, and they’re doing the work you don’t pay any VAT. You purchase all the supplies separately. This can add up to a good savings.
One boater that had an issue with a contractor informed the yard and the yard manager Brent got on the phone and was working on making the situation right. There were no additional cost to the boat owner. I would use Powerboats again if I’m in the area; I would make sure they tie the straps together however. 🙂
Maxi Taxi’s Although this is not a single business this is the main method for cruisers wanting to do a little more on their own. As of this writing it cost $1.00 US / person to ride from Chaguaramus to the Port O’ Spain and the same on the return trip. We were informed of watching out to make sure none of our drivers take a different route and go into the neighborhoods as that is where you can have some safety issues. We were told this was mainly on the Red Bus routes and never heard of any cruisers having an issue with the Yellow Bus lines. Only Yellow Bus’ run from Chaguaramus to Port O’ Spain. If you’re on one the first time expect a wild ride. The buses are small mini vans that hold up to about 12 people and sometimes they’ll be full. They’ll stop at any road to pick up anybody till their full. Pretty locals usually get the front passenger seat. Some Buses are in excellent condition and like new; others are one pot hole away from being retired. Some have natural AC; others have AC driven by the engine. Some drivers are vying for the Indy 500 while others are babying their vehicle making sure it will run another day. Once while picking up some more passengers (I was sitting immediately behind the driver) everyone on the bus heard a “BANG”. A few seconds later the driver reached out his window and straightened up his mirror. His comment “Glad it didn’t break”!
MovieTown: We spent some great evenings there. We made it the night out. This theater rivals any we’ve been to in the US. You can order food and drinks and take your purchase into the theater. There are a couple of food venues on site. The seats all rocked back, plenty of leg room, comfortable, clean and enough of an incline that never were we behind a head! After the movie we would eat at one of the 6 or so restaurants in the surrounding mall.
Ottley, Sean A hard worker. Shawn however mumbles and although W/ seemed to understand him I would have to ask him to repeat what he wanted. He cleaned our Stainless Steal on the boat and did a better job than we would have. He sanded our Teak and did an adequate job. He painted the dinghy and oars and did an adequate job (it sprinkled some so that could be a factor). He worked a good solid 7 hours per day in the heat and never complained. I would hire him again for the jobs we don’t really like. He’s young, energetic and always willing to work. He has a few of his own ideas and it’s best to stay near to ensure he’s doing the job to your satisfaction. We paid him $400 TT / day which he really, really wanted everyday. We hired him first for the job to see how hard he worked. He was worth every dollar. (783-2963) or you can often reach him through Crews Inn Marina as he’s on the docks checking for work.
Price Mart: Is a club membership store similar to a SAM’s club in the states. One great thing about this store for cruisers is that the membership card is pro-rated. You pay for a years membership and when you are ready to leave you can turn it in; they’ll pro -rate the time left and refund you the difference. This store is next to MovieTown so we could easily pick something up on movie night if we desired.
Same Crew Woodworking: This group of woodworkers had in the past worked for Fortress Woodworking. We saw the work that Randolph (the owner) had done on another cruiser’s boat and she had bragged about him. The work was excellent. We contracted him for new Meganite Tops and the two small repairs. He was difficult in keeping contact with as we didn’t have a phone. We did use email and eventually had the new tops made. We’re quite happy with the tops. He never followed up on the two smallish projects and thus we used Fortress. The quality of the work was very good. If I had any large jobs I would contact him for a bid, but IMHO I would favor Fortress as they weren’t afraid of the small stuff and did us proud. Also I would make sure I have a phone.
Just as in sailing; boats a few hours apart may have completely different weather; others contracting any of the above individuals may have entirely different results. I hope any are better then our even though for the most part all our experiences were positive.