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bobelon 02-03-2009 10:53

Southeastern Caribbean safety
We are planning to leave the windward islands for hurricane season. We are soliciting advise on the relative merits of staying in Trinidad, Venezuela the ABC’s or ??? We will have to haul out for bottom work and are interested in safety, ambiance, quality of work and cost. We would also like to leave the boat for travel in South America for a time. Any of you have a favorite marina or boatyard?

s/v Jedi 02-03-2009 15:42

We've been in all places you mention and the only good choice is Curacao. 2nd place Trinidad although it's much unsafer now than when we were there (and guns were put to cruisers' heads when we were there too...)

It all depends if you want to get back to the Eastern Carib next season? If so, I would choose Trinidad and haul for the entire stay at either Powerboats or Peake's boatyard. That isn't as bad as it sounds. I would only use hired transport (Jesse James) for shopping or airport and not leave the yard for anything else. Use water-transport to visit cruiser gatherings at other yards or the crew's inn marina (own dinghy or YSATT water-taxi).

A much nicer and friendlier place is Curacao. You will be welcome there and safe as long as you don't cruise the downtown streets at night acting like a tourist. Very good anchorages at Spanish Waters (many cruisers) and Fuik Baai (nice and quiet except for weekends which are a big party). You need an anchoring permit for both places nowadays I think so must visit port captain before switching anchorage.
There are two boatyards and both can haul you but one uses a trailer instead of travellift meaning you will be on drums instead of wood (so you are higher). It is the nicer yard though.
You can have a lifetime of cruising there with Bonaire, Aves and Rogues islands as destinations and Aruba or Puerto Cabello as places to go when your time in the country runs out (coming back from Aruba isn't easy though).

I think Bonaire and Curacao are becoming independent of each other. If that's official, a trip to Bonaire will reset the max. stay clock too.


osirissail 03-03-2009 07:34

I would agree that the two most viable choices are Trinidad if you plan to stay in the Windward Islands area or Curacao if you are heading west to Cartagena or Panama.
- - Trinidad is not as bad as folks make out - Mainly they forget that Trinidad is a major industrial and gas/oil producing country and not a tourist destination. It is really part of South America rather than the "paradise islands" of the eastern Caribbean. As such you need to put on your mega-city (New York, Baltimore, etc.) hat and conduct yourself as you would in a major industrial city. Then you will not have bad experiences and be disappointed.
- - Trinidad has all the big city good points, 3 major boatyards - PowerBoats, Peakes and I.M.S. (the most reasonable yard). But the prices are USA level and there are no bargains there anymore. Quality of work varies from good to awful - you must ask other boaters for recommendations and then you will get the "good workers."
Also Trinidad has a Zoo and botanical gardens, major restaurants like TGI Fridays and Beni-Hanas and others, several mega shopping malls, 10 screen movie theaters, hundreds of sources of just about everything North American, and wonderful tours by Jesse James to some fabulous swamps, tar pits, turtle beaches, etc. On the other hand as a "big industrial city island" it also has crime and many areas you do not go in to. You do not go out after dark, you make sure you are out of town (Port O'Spain) by 4 PM, and generally be extra careful as you would in any major city in the world.
- - Curacao is much more tame and conducive to an easier laid back style, but it does not have the depth of supplies and equipment and facilities which Trinidad has. I do not know if the services and electricity is North American standard (120V, 60 cyle) or European standard (220V 50 cycle) so that may be a consideration for long term stays and power tools, etc. But you are half way to Cartagena and then onto Central America so it would be a wonderful place to "take a break" before moving onward.
- - Another option is Grenada which is only 82 nm north of Trinidad and has two major boatyards and very good storage facilities for the non-hurricane season (Aug15-Nov7). We have not had any H-storms in the last two years so it has been wonderful - but - who knows what Mother Nature will do in the upcoming seasons. Yet, you are only a day sail from Trinidad if anything threatens.

Bradley 03-03-2009 09:29

Curacao by all means if you just need bottom work. If you need a lot done, then Trinidad or Grenada to a lesser extent. Curacao is a nice laid back place with probably the best anchorage in the whole Caribe.

You won't be able to haul at Curacao Marine unless you rent a crane. Opus Marina is the only travel lift on the island. It has been having ownership issues, but I think (don't know) that things have settled down. The problem with Opus is that is downwind of the refineries and is isolated. If more than a couple of days, you will want a rental car. Bottom work is very reasonable.

Power in Curacao is North American, but the marinas and yards have that as well as 220V. Airlines are good in and out as well.

Trinidad is hot! Peake's is best because it has the most places with a/c.

bobelon 03-03-2009 09:31

Thanks much for the response. We have been offered a slip in Bahia Redonda Marina in Venezuela for about $450/mo. during huricane season. We will have to return to the US for about a month during the season. We also need to be hauled and painted during that time and would also like to explore Venezuela too. Can anyone comment on that area? (Puerto la Cruz) Safety, ambiance, quality and costs of the tradespeople.

Bradley 03-03-2009 09:39

I have not been in PLC for about 3 years, but there have been a lot of reports about safety and security. One yatchie was murdered a few miles offshore just a few months ago.

Kima Kalki in Spanese Waters watched my boat for a little over 200 US a month last summer. It was more when I was on the boat. Great people, BTW.

s/v Jedi 03-03-2009 09:41

Osiris, I think we know each other ;-)

I think you make Trini sound just like NYC, Amsterdam, Paris, London etc. but it isn't of course. First is that Trini is the 2nd "kidnap capitol" in the world: only Colombia tops it. But I readily agree that they do not target tourists in Trini. However, in any of the cities I mentioned above, you will not find gangs doing major gunfights in broad daylight right in front of the city hall. But that's what happened in Trini. Listening and reading the reports of the last year or so, it is now much worse than it was during our stay (8 months) in 2004/2005 (after Ivan). During our stay, cruisers were robbed at gunpoint while walking between yards and we had a busdriver pulling a gun on us (while completely doped) because we handed him an incorrect amount of money... 50 cents short or so, without anything said before. Powerful way to inform passengers that they need to pay 50 cents more...

Later, I heard of local buses being held up and all passengers robbed, including the cruisers, and many more stories like that. That is just not the same as any big city. But I agree, I would still go there and we did have a lovely time. My preferred yard is Peake's though, not IMS (the three yards mentioned all have their fans so they are probably all okay).

Top quality work is available in Trini, and more is possible than in Curacao. But I've also seen nightmare jobs and the problem is that you can't ask the cruisers around you because many are clueless and use the bad contractors. You have to ask cruisers that have been there before or many times or ask in the forums here ;-)

Compare Trini to Curacao: There's good yards in C too, but with less services. If you need major refitting done, choose Trini. There's good restaurants in Curacao (and even TGI Fridays if you can afford a good restaurant ;-) and at least the same level of shops (but smaller scale). Supermarkets in Curacao are better (Dutch). You can go to the movies too albeit maybe 6 screens instead of 10. The official power in Curacao is 220V 50Hz but 110V 50Hz is everywhere. Nobody has trouble with the 50/60Hz issue.

Grenada is not an option for hurricane season; hauling your boat during hurricane season is russian roulette. Even if they would secure all boats during a storm (I doubt that) the looting and destruction of boats afterwards will be just as bad. We did organized armed patrols after Ivan and the experience was reason for us to change our beliefs and buy a shotgun. Grenada was our favorite island but we never got that feeling back after Ivan and that was not because of the storm, it was because of the aftermath. Two years without a storm and people think it's safe again... but if you stay anchored and on board, yes, you can run down to Trini when a storm approaches (we were in Holland when Ivan hit so powerless to run Jedi south).

But everything told, the options are the same: Trini if you want to stay in the East Carieb or Curacao if you want to either stay in that area or move further west.


s/v Jedi 03-03-2009 09:53


Originally Posted by bobelon (Post 260737)
Thanks much for the response. We have been offered a slip in Bahia Redonda Marina in Venezuela for about $450/mo. during huricane season. We will have to return to the US for about a month during the season. We also need to be hauled and painted during that time and would also like to explore Venezuela too. Can anyone comment on that area? (Puerto la Cruz) Safety, ambiance, quality and costs of the tradespeople.

Don't do it Bobelon, just don't let anyone convince you it's safe there or that US cruisers are welcomed by the local population. The marina will welcome you and will have guards shooting back over the marina wall to protect you but you take risks with your life and property that are just not worth it.

I suppose some post will follow declaring me mad ;-)


s/v Jedi 03-03-2009 10:02

Leaving the boat for a month: on the hard in Trini would be best. In Curacao, besides Kima Kalki (very nice indeed) you also have Seru Boca marina which is like a US marina with modern floating docks but also more $$$. You need a good dinghy or a rental car there.

Many people leave their boat at anchor in Spanish Waters while leaving for a month or more. There are enough cruisers willing to act as the caretaker but what will happen when a storm comes is the risk factor. I think the marina's are a safer option assuming there will be no direct hit in Curacao (no guaranty). But the same is true in Trini. I think the only country never hit is Panama (storms went south of ABC's and Tobego).


anglooff 03-03-2009 16:03

I sometimes wonder whether I visit or live in the same areas as those described in posts. For the record I live in Venezuela, work in Caracas(10 years) and have my boat in Astillero de Higuerote. I also have a place in Maraval, Trinidad (8 years). (when there I play golf in Chagaramas) and i visit the ABC islands.

No area is without its problems. Not visiting some downtown areas is ofcourse prudent in any country. However statements re not visiting Port Of Spain after and only visiting places accessible by water, its both unhelpful and untrueand more importantly add to the paranoia level rather than seeking to establish a common sense awareness of your location. Equally gun battles over the walls in Puerto de la Cruz. The gun totting stoned bus driver I won't even go there, with the previso, that I hope you took the bus number and called the police. They treat that very seriously and more importantly I drive there and want the bugger off the road.

There does exist sufficient events in all cruising and non cruising locations to keep these front and centre of the mind, but they ARE NOT specific to these locations.

You asked about Venezuela and I am more informed than most I suppose. As stated I keep my boat at Asilliero de Higuerote (Caranero). Its really a work yard so no social frills but has good haulout facilities and security,they will do all your bottom painting at a little bit less than P de C. Also its one and a half hours from Caracas against 4 and a half from P. de C. Never the less I would visit the islands around P de C. very good sailing and Mochima. I do and have never had any problem, but there have been a number of incidents but we seem to be living in such a world today.

Where I am has good anchoring and gunk holing in mangroves and is well located for Tortuga and Los Roches, which after visiting los Aves, takes you nicely into the ABC islands.

I like Curacao and as others have noted its very pleasant, although not cheap. I would certainly recommend a visit and Bonaire too.

Chris Doyle's web site has updated emails (both good and Bad)from cruisers to Venezuela I suggest that you access it.

Finally Venezuela, is one of the most beautiful countries in the word, The highest waterfall, deserts, tropical jungle, savannahs snow capped mountains etc and both the climate and people I have found to be most welcoming. So certainly a place to explore, wherever you leave the boat.

Finally, most previous threads concerning/similar your original question/post, re this area, seem to degenerate quick quickly and are closed... Hopefully this one will continue with a reasonable balance and be pragmatically helpful and varied in their information.

If not and you believe I can assist you with info etc please pm me and I shall be happy to help.

osirissail 03-03-2009 16:55

sv/Jedi - I have lived in all the cities you mentioned and was even born and raised in New York City. I was last in Trinidad from Oct08 to Jan09. Last year the official murder count in Trinidad was just under 600 or about a little under 2 murders per day. New York averages 80 murders per day and if you work that back to murders versus population it comes out fairly close.
Your observations on Trini and Grenada back in 2004 are reasonably accurate. I was there for Hurricane Ivan also - I would never leave my boat in Grenada during a hurricane, the demonstated "wreckage" is not good even though they now have available the one-piece steel cradles instead of ordinary jackstands. But they only have enough of them for at most 25% of the stored boats. So even if you are in such a cradle the boat next to you on jackstands could so significant damage to you.
- - The boatyard and marina situation in Trinidad has changed significantly in the last 5 years with now only 3 boatyards and two marinas available for transients (us). All the other yards have been co-opted by the gas drilling industry and the other marina spaces have been taken by permanent residents and their boats. As a result prices have increased dramatically even in the anchorage at TTSA.
The thrust of my message was that if you adopt a "street-wise" attitude as you would in a major industrial city you can greatly reduce bad experiences and increase the enjoyment of what's available there or in any place. As most cruisers know "attitude" is 90% of your enjoyment of any place. It is very easy for me to "switch on" my NYC radar and awareness systems and then I thoroughly enjoy Trinidad when visiting at least twice a year for the last 3 years. But I return to Grenada so I can relax my vigilence and enjoy a less stressful environment.
- - But Venezuela is another story indeed. Having watch the place for 5 years the attacks against cruisers has escalated dramatically over those years (again relatively speaking). Still this is all subjective - where five years ago 95 out of 100 visiting cruisers experienced no problems now it is estimated to be 90 out of 100 experience no problems with visiting Venezeula. So long as you are in the "vast majority" category everything is fine, but if your "karma" puts you on the other side of the equation you will definitely have a rotten experience and might even have a terminal experience. Those 9 out of 10 thinking positively or 1 out of 10 thinking negatively numbers have convinced me that I will stay at least 50 nm away from Venezuela at all times. Yet, I have dozens of friends who go there and have a wonderful time and think I am plumb crazy (they are probably correct in more ways than one).
- - But with any of these "higher" risk destinations (and it seems almost everywhere is included in that category now-a-days) it is important to get many opinions and even more important to learn the "do's" and "do not's" for transiting these areas. That information can make a world of difference between having a good uneventful experience and a disasterous experience.
- - And as was previously mentioned the inland areas of Venezuela are well known as extra special and beautiful - and quite safe when compared to the ONSA caution areas along the coastlines. There is "good" and "bad" almost everywhere now in the Caribbean basin.
- - So where you go is totally your decision based on your lifestyle and experiences and after reviewing the information available on such destinations. After all, that is why we are "out-there" cruising in our boats - to be personally responsible for ourselves and not relying on some bureaucrat to protect us from ourselves. Yes? No?

s/v Jedi 03-03-2009 17:46


I checked Welcome to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net and think indeed I might have been to harsh on Trini. I was led to this by cruisers who come there regularly that the security-level goes down every year but the reported incidents do not show that.

But about Venezuela I'm not so sure. Yes, it is a beautiful country and the people are nice. But they recently also brought the dead body of a cruiser ashore in PLC who was shot dead because he gave his assaulter a glass of water when the man asked for that. (ISLA BORRACHA, 8-Nov-08) And the gun battles over the wall did happen and some cruisers have the damage from bullets in their mast and rigging. Mochima has had it's share of assault too. But the Roques and Aves are safe I agree: they are far enough offshore. Coche, Cubagua, Borracha, Piritu, Testigos and Margerita are not and cruisers are frequently assaulted (shot, stabbed). I'm not talking about theft or burglary or even robbery. The incidents at these places are traumatizing experiences, some with death of the cruisers as the result, others survive in hospital. It also happens too often compared to surrounding places/nations and most of them are beautiful too (Colombia, Panama, Grenada etc.) Cruisers that have been going there for many years might still go and not have trouble. But they know the places, may be even some of the locals. I will never advise to go to these places, imagine you later hear these people got assaulted in that place!

For you, living in Venezuela, it's different. The new dockmaster here in Colon came from PLC marina; he always told the cruisers there not to go to these nearby islands because it's not safe. He's Venezuelan, lived there too, just like you. I was in Margerita... would I go again? Think not.


s/v Jedi 03-03-2009 18:01


Originally Posted by osirissail (Post 260909)
New York averages 80 murders per day and if you work that back to murders versus population it comes out fairly close.

In 2007 there were 801 murders in New York... that would be 2.225 per day... not the 80 per day you wrote thank God! That would amount to 28,800 murders per year!

But for cruiser safety, it doesn't really matter how many wives poison their husbands etc. It's assault & robbery against tourists that counts and those figures are harder to find on Google!
But I agree that in Trini most violence is NOT targeted at tourists. That's different than Venezuela.

Reading the rest of your post, we're in agreement, on this issue, amazing!


osirissail 04-03-2009 05:50

Statistics are a difficult area to get any absolute truth. Internet accessible statistics are even worse. Compare USA CIA fact sheets against the local country's publicized "facts" and you wonder if they are talking about the same place. As the old saying goes "liers figure and figures lie." It is commonly accepted amongst law enforcement and others that only one out of ten incidents ever gets reported and tabulated. A lot of people involved in bad incidents generally are too embarrassed, too mad or upset, or too lazy to go to all the trouble of actually reporting an incident. Add in the political ramifications of reporting or making public unfavorable incidents and you can see there is a lot more to the average iceberg than what appears above the surface.
- - Specifically in this area I, along with 2 others, recently had our 15hp outboards stolen in Carriacou. The local police did not want to hear about it and "reporting" it took a trip to town and two hours of wasted time trying to translate English into language the local officer was familar with. And then we were denied copies of the reports as the officials did not want it publicized. And we were not locals but transients who are "here today and gone tomorrow." There is a whole different attitude towards transients versus locals in almost, if not, all areas of the world.
- - I have personally known dozens of cruisers who have had "incidents" and never reported them to any official body or even cruiser nets. They did not want their names mentioned either out of disgust, embarrasment or the desire to forget what happened as quickly as possible.
- - Folks who have lived or stayed in an area for a long time or even years are better sources as to all the "unreported" incidents but even they can have widely different experiences depending upon their own "world view" of such things. Also "locals" are treated quite differently from "visitors." And the "local's" body language, demeanor, and conduct marks them as lower priority targets and more likely to cause retribution, official or otherwise, towards the bad guy.
- - But by questioning and listening to a variety of locals / long-termers you can start to see patterns and more importantly learn the "do's and don'ts" of transiting/visiting a particular area. But getting past the natural proclivity they exhibit to present their area in the best light possible can be challenging.
- - Statistics are added to the mix to give relative trends for an area but statistics can be very misleading for reasons mentioned above. For instance, one of the international reporting agencies for pirate attacks came out a year or so ago with a report showing only 7 incidents in the Caribbean yet the cruiser's primary source - Caribbean Safety and Security Net had 183 incidents reported in the same time frame.
- - However, trends and patterns can be discerned especially when comparing possible destinations. And normally out of every 5 people asked you will get 7 different opinions. From my earlier post if you ask 90 or 95 cruisers about their experiences in Venezuela or Trinidad or St. Lucia, etc., etc. you will get glowing reports of trouble free experiences. Ask the others and you will get horror stories and various degrees of disgust and hatred for the particular area. Remember the vast majority of wildebeast in the center of an African herd think everything's fine - - ask the ones out on the edge and you will get a whole different story. That's why I made my comment about your "karma." I know folks who can triple park in downtown NYC and never get a ticket, but when I park and put my coin in the meter, as soon as I walk away the meter malfunctions and the red flag pops up and I get a ticket. Such is life.
- - And as I said before, most of us - long-term cruisers are out here because WE want to be "in charge" of our destiny. That is why these discussions on the various cruiser nets are so important and valuable in helping us to weigh the good and bad and any risks involved. Then we make our own decision and live or die by the result.
- - On the nets/websites we too often forget to add the all important "IMHO" to our posts in recognition of the fact that we all have different experiences and most certainly we are looking through different "eyes."

Southern Star 11-03-2009 09:49

Sorry for the delay in contributing to this thread but I spent the last 10 days on Isla de Margarita dodging bullets and knives. Right.

SV Jedi, comments such as "I agree that in Trini most violence is NOT targeted at tourists - that's different than in Venezuela"; and, "Coche, Cubagua, Borracha, Piritu, Tetigos and Margerita (sp) are not and cruisers are frequently assaulted (shot, stabbed)" are so alarmist and lacking in statistical, or other evidentiary support that they are unworthy of being debated.

I do note that since the beginning of this year there have been murders of yachters on Puerto Rico and I believe Antigua. Based upon your comment about the frequency of such attacks in Venezuela, and considering that Venezuela has a shoreline on the Caribbean Sea likely 50 times the size of those two islands, I assume you are able to report on at least a couple of dozen similar attacks that have occurred during the same time period in Venezuelan waters. You know, ones where sailors were killed, or to make it easier on you, even ones where the sailors 'ended up surviving in hospital'.


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