|s/y Nine of Cups
|Sailing southeast from Grenada, Tobago is about
85 miles... an overnight beat against the wind
and current. We left St. George's about 1700
and arrived in Scarborough at about 1300 the
next day. Not a bad passage, but we've been
very spoiled by short dayhops between islands
|View of Nine of Cups in Courland Bay off
Plymouth, Tobago where several Carnival
events were taking place.
|We were fortunate to be in Tobago during
the annual Heritage Festival. Though
everyone is welcome, the festival is for
Tobagonians rather than tourists. It is a
celebration of their rich history and cultural
traditions through storytelling, dance, music
|Tobago's Carnival is also held during the
Heritage Festival. Although much smaller
than the Trinidad Carnival, it maintains most
of the same elements and different events
were held in different villages on the island.
Sometimes we took a bus and other times
we moved the boat.
|Tobago has several species of bats. Here are
several fruit bats hanging from the rafters at
the Arnos Vale Waterwheel Park.
|This Mot-Mot is one of the more brilliant
birds. Note the distinctive cutout on the
|Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
Tobago & Trinidad joined as single entity -1888
Independence from Great Britain - 1962
Population: 1.3 million
Area: 1,864 square miles
Largest city/capital: Port-of-Spain
Currency: Trinidad & Tobago $ or
TT$; $1US = about 6TT$
Major industries: Petroleum, sugar
Highest point: 3,085 ft.
Area: 116 square miles
Largest city: Scarborough
Currency: Trinidad & Tobago $ or
TT$ ($1US = about 6TT$)
Major industries: Agriculture,
fishing and tourism
|Until about 11,000 years ago, Trinidad was part of South America and had been for over a
million years. As a result, each island has its own flora and fauna...part from the South
American continent and part from evolution of its own island species.
|Trivia: Trinidad is the largest ammonia producer
in the world. (Dubious honor, we think!).
|Tobago Immigration and Customs
clearance is in Scarborough so we
headed there to anchor. Immigration first
at the Ferry Dock. Several forms, all in
triplicate or quintuplicate, with old used
carbon paper between sheets. It takes
about ¾ hour to complete the paperwork
and get our passports stamped. No fees.
Then on to Customs at another location.
More waiting, more forms. We intend to
stay about 3 months in the area which is
approved and we pay $150TT…sounds
like a lot, but it’s only about $8/month!
Back to the boat to raise our Trinibago
(they used this word, I didn’t make it up)
|There's a very small anchorage inside of a breakwater
which keeps out most of the roll. When we arrived,
there are only 3 other boats in the anchorage. Two
very large car ferries come in daily and turn around
right by the boat. The water churns, the boat rolls
and we can feel the vibration of the big engines. This
ferry is backing up and gets to within ~100’ away. It’
s entertainment for us with the caveat that we can
always jump overboard if it gets any closer!
|Downtown Scarborough. That’s a KFC
right there on the left! There’s also a
Donut Boys, Pizza Boys and Roti Boys
further on up the street. In general,
however, this is not a cosmopolitan place.
Few gas stations, everything closes at
Saturday noon for the weekend. It’s a
small market town of 20,000 people,
nearly ½ the island’s population. The town
is divided into Lower Scarborough
|The dink dock, though serviceable,
could have used a little service.
|Tobago and Trinidad though joined as one
republic are very different in nature. Tobago
has been owned and passed back and forth
between Holland, France Spain, England and
was even part of the Duchy of Courland
(part of Latvia) for awhile. It has a
predominantly African population because
indentured labor was not needed from India
as it was in Trinidad for the cane fields.
Where Trinidad is very industrialized,
Tobago is primarily rural. Chickens, goats,
sheep and cows wander along the streets
untethered. Life is slow and uncomplicated.
|Shown above is the Ole Time Wedding, one
of the cultural ceremonies re-enacted for the
festival. The various items being carried
signify wealth, homemaking skills and fertility.
|The local beer and my local man
waiting for a bus.
|The bridal procession wends its way through
the village streets.
|Although joined as one republic, Trinidad and Tobago
are very different in nature. Where Trinidad is very
industrialized, Tobago is very rural.
|We were up early, early, early to take part in
the j'ouvert. J’Ouvert began around 5am…we
think. The fete from the night before never
ended so it was hard to tell when the morning
party began. All the locals were taking early
morning swims to wake up or sober up.
|Traditional garb for J’Ouvert (the working class event
though everyone joins in) is old ratty clothes (the less the
better, we’re told) and painted bodies… red or blue
paint, your choice! Steel bands played all night through
and we could hear them from the boat...all night long!
|There are traditional characters in the Carnival
including the Fancy Indians above and the midnight
robber to the right .
|Most of the Carnival traditions originated in
medieval Europe and West Africa, imported by
the early immigrants and their slaves. One of the
favorite events for the whites was to imitate their
black slaves and re-enact activities on the
plantation. This was called the “canboulay” and
the blacks joined in by mimicking their master’s
way and dress. Carnival has its own vocabulary:
Mas – short for “masquerade
Band – themed groups of Carnival revelers
J’Ouvert – French for “daybreak” is the
opening event of the Carnival.
Pan – steel band drums
Fete - party
|Jambo Lassy – blue and
red devils who beg for
money from the crowd.
To the right, David has
just had his “pockets
picked clean” of change
by these devils!
|Midst the Carnival festivities, we also managed to
walk around this historic little town.Ft. James was
built in 1650 and active till 1811. The fort was
named after James, Duke of Courland, whose
settlers arrived here c.1650. Troops were
quartered in thatch huts nearby.
|Paranods...working men can’t afford
elaborate costumes so they “chip” their
old clothes and wear them.
|Music is an integral part of Carnival and in the lives
of the Tobagonians in general. Everywhere we went,
music played… usually very loudly. We heard two
distinct types of music during Carnival (other than
folk tunes): Soca - this is the street “jump up” music;
easy beat, easy to dance to and Calypso – slow
paced, strong on lyrics and dating back to the 19th
century, evolving from West African songs of praise,
narrative, comment or derision. Above, a tambrin
|Exhausted by all the Carnival activities, Jelly
went to bed with her costume on.
|Plymouth’s Mystery Tombstone is the 1783 grave of 23 year old Betty Stiven and her child. The mysterious
gravestone inscription reads: “She was a Mother without knowing it and a Wife without letting her Husband
know it except by her kind indulgences to him.” Hmm...makes one ponder.
|We decided to take a long walk and
ended up at the Arnos Vale Waterwheel
Park, a nature preserve on the site of an
old sugar plantation. The original
waterwheel, about 20' high is intact and is
part of a lovely restaurant in the preserve.
|From the road, none of this is visible. We
walked along a thickly-forested path, past
an empty guard shack to the restaurant
entrance above. No cars in the car park, no
one around. We thought the place was
closed. But, the door was open so we went
in and what a surprise.
|Tiny white lights highlighted the wooden floors
and gracious foyer. Still no sign of life though.
We moved on past a little museum room and a
boutique, both closed. We saw tables in the
distance and finally a young man materialized out
of nowhere and greeted us as we walked through
a huge swarm of flying bats. “Only fruit bats”, he
said much too calmly, “Staying for lunch?”
Lunch was superb. An elegant setting midst the
rain forest highlighted by ginger lilies and
heliconia everywhere. The meal was a delight
topped off with homemade coconut ice cream.
|David heads for the loo with a bat in close pursuit!
|Tobago Food specialities:
Curried crab and dumplings is
considered the “national dish”
Doubles – curried chick peas with a
dollop of mango kutcheela sandwiched
between two fried baras (pancakes).
Cost about less than $1US each from
Channa – chick pea filling for rotis and
In general, restaurant food is tasty,
plentiful and inexpensive. Lunch for two
including a beer or sodas is about
$36TT or $6US.
|As always, there was more to see and do, but
the clock was ticking. We wanted to move on
to Trinidad and get settled in the marina and
begin boat maintenance/repairs and projects.
|This view of Tobago will stay with us for a long,