Charlotteville is different. Nobody in Charlotteville has any money.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re not poor – Joe the fisherman whose boat has “Joe” written down the side in big red letters only bothers to go out three days a week (he offered to take me on Monday but that’s when I’m leaving for Trinidad). The other days he spends sitting in the shade with his friends, fist-bumping anyone who comes by and asking how they’re doing.

He doesn’t sit under the coconut trees, of course. Only strangers like me would think of sitting under a coconut tree – which is why there’s a sign reminding people not to (a coconut falling from 70ft is an official cause of death around here).

No, the reason nobody has any money in Charlotteville is because the ATM machine hasn’t worked for two months and the only place that takes cards is the bright red Shopping Mart where the till is empty after two months’ of paying everyone Cashback.

I wouldn’t have come if I’d known. But Tom on Bonny said it was delightful. He could afford to. He sailed on a reach from Barbados. I was hard on the wind all the way from Grenada – and then had to put in two tacks to make it into Pirate’s Bay two hours after sunset.

Actually, I was aiming for Man o’ War Bay because the app said that was where I would find the Customs Office. However there wasn’t a single light in the whole bay, and so I picked a spot sort of midway between the two. A lot of rowing the next morning found me tying the dinghy to a tree just as the immigration officer strolled by.

Charlotteville is an official Port of Entry for Tobago, so it is reasonable to assume it would have a uniformed Immigration Officer and a proper brick-built Immigration Office – and a Port Authority Office and a Customs Office. Going round the three of them, I had to fill in a total of nine forms (everything from what contagious diseases I had to how many firearms and stowaways).

Also, I had to come up with 315 Trinidad and Tobago dollars. All I had were East Caribbean dollars – and no, they didn’t take cards.

Which is how I ended up in debt.

Here were my debts by the end of that Wednesday morning:

$315 to the Immigration Officer for clearance.

$210 to Donna the Digicel rep on her balcony opposite the football pitch for a SIM card.

$32 to Gray at the bright yellow Royal Harbour Restaurant and Bar on the beach (two bottles of Carib and a $10 loan for the bus to Roxborough and the nearest working ATM machine).

No, the bus doesn’t take cards. In fact, the bus doesn’t even take cash. You have to buy a ticket from the Licenced Ticket Trader next to the bus stop – it’s $4 each way.

And maybe this is the time to explain the exchange rate. One Trinidad and Tobago dollar is 12p Sterling. So, the bus ticket was 48p (and the bottles of Carib, £1.32 each), so maybe that’s why Charlotteville has been getting along so well without too much money.

It took the rest of the day to get mine – the bus went at walking pace for much of the way (and if you saw some of the inclines and the tortuous bends, you’d be glad it did). Then, when we got to the ATM machine in Roxburgh, that one didn’t work either.

Never mind, there was another at the gas station at the other end of town.

I missed the bus back.

When was it due?

  • It leaves Scarborough at 4.30.

So, when does it get here?

  • When it arrives.

Never mind. The only people who use the bus are schoolchildren and anyone with a bus pass. Everybody else stands at the side of the road and holds up their hand. Here is the scale of charges for ad hoc private hire vehicles in Tobago:

If they’re going your way: $12.

Part of the way: $6.

The rest of the way: $8.

How does the driver know you’re going the rest of the way, not all the way?

  • I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.

So, it was after dark again when I got back to the boat – and it turns out that now I’ve been here three days and become rather assimilated (see Joe’s offer of a day’s fishing).

Much of my time is spent on the bench outside the Royal Harbour with a bottle of Gray’s Carib using his wifi because it turns out Donna’s mobile signal is rubbish (and you can’t sit inside Gray’s because he likes his reggae at full volume).

I could take my custom to Eastman’s Restaurant & Bar, but their wifi went the way of the ATM machine.

Still, the Shopping Mart had a grater to replace my rusty one and Priya’s shop was good for fresh vegetables.

When I say “fresh”, I mean they weren’t in a tin like the ones in the Shopping Mart. However, they had been cooking in 35° under the sheets of polythene which keep the rain out – Priya’s shop is charmingly basic even though she’s got everything from motor oil to Epsom Salts in the back.

Priya and her shop

I can’t wait to go ashore again, lunch today is Sharon & Phebe’s (they have tablecloths and are on Tripadvisor). I can’t leave until Monday – if I don’t get my clearance form, they won’t let me into Trinidad and I’m getting a Starlink system delivered there.

At least I hope I am – I gave the address of Peake’s Marina without bothering to ask them if that would be OK. But people on the Navily app keep saying how friendly and helpful everyone is at Peake’s – they even organise a bus to the supermarket and put on Friday night barbecues…

More pictures on my PolarSteps site at

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