Anchorages – islands either have ’em or they don’t
As we travel from island to island we’ve noted that there is a wide variance in the quantity and quality of anchorages available for cruising yachts. I’ve noted in previous posts that islands that contain legitimate hurricane harbors tend to attract cruisers for long-term stays. Super-protected hiding spots aside, even harbors which offer shelter in normal conditions are, on some islands, lacking.
What does a good anchorage require? I think the most important quality that it offers is shelter from the seas. Some might have said shelter from the wind and although that may come with the previous requirement, it may not. There are certain places, Horseshoe Reef in the Tobago Cays for example, or Bird Island Reef in Antigua, where boats simply anchor behind a reef as opposed to behind an island. While the reef blocks the waves, it does nothing to hinder the wind. In normally settled conditions this can be quite pleasant.
If the wind is going to be really honking though, some shelter from it would be nice too. This is pretty much going to require anchoring behind an island. While dropping the hook anywhere in the lee of an island might suffice, we’d probably prefer something a bit more. For example, a place where the anchor might hold well would be nice too! In order for this to happen, we’ll need a decent sea bottom that the anchor will bite into but is free of obstructions that could snag it, and also water of a suitable depth, not too deep nor too shallow.
Unfortunately, there are certain places where, even with protection from the dominant wind and seas, the waves will still wrap around the island and create an uncomfortable swell. A spot where this does not occur would definitely be desirable too.
What about those rare situations when the wind or seas clock around from their dominant direction? This is where, in my opinion, we begin to shift from a normal anchorage into a storm anchorage. Obviously protection during these situations would be desirable too but fortunately, at least here in the Caribbean where the trades almost always blow from the NE to the SE, it isn’t required all that often.
Shopping, scenery, social events and security may also enter into the anchorage equation. For some people, these qualities, especially the first three, are more important than they are for others. And let’s not forget internet access. That is a biggy these days! While some might choose these in lieu of the things I mentioned above, in this post I’m focusing more on the “protection for the boat” angle than on anything else.
Why bring this up today? Because, along with a bazillion others boats, ZTC is currently bobbing around in a mooring field in a commercial port in water unsuitable for swimming. As you might imagine, this is not what we would typically select as a stopping point. Why not move? Sadly, it seems as if there are very few options. There are anchorages on some of the nearby islands bordering Trinidad which, if time permits, we hope to visit. On Trinidad proper though, from what we have read, there are very few good spots. Does that keep cruisers away? Definitely not! Our guidebook refers to Chaguaramas as “the Mecca of Caribbean Cruising. Cruise Central.” Many boaters would agree. At this point I’m not so sure we’d include ourselves among that group but perhaps, as time moves forward, our view will change. I doubt it, but I’ll wait a bit before I cast final judgement.