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Experience the Trinidad Carnival on a yacht charter

If you’re looking for a Caribbean charter with a difference, it’s worth following Jim Raycroft’s lead and taking your charter superyacht to Trinidad and Tobago for the Trinidad Carnival, held on the Monday and Tuesday before Lent each year. For added excitement, you may even get boarded by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force as part of an aerial ship-boarding training exercise.

It’s hard to beat a glorious day playing in the warm Caribbean Sea, diving on a coral reef, basking in the quiet, lazy calm soothed by a tropical ocean breeze. A stroll on a pristine beach, a lounge in the onboard Jacuzzi, all leading up to an evening of culinary delights and fine wines. This is your typical Caribbean yacht charter.

Anything but typical, our Down Island charter on the 151-foot charter motor yacht_ Golden Compass_ brought us all this, plus much, much more.

The Trinidad Carnival

We had timed the start of our trip to Trinidad and Tobago to coincide with the Trinidad Carnival, a very special time in the Caribbean. Carnival is a serious tradition with each island trying to outdo its neighbors. And no island nation does it quite like Trinidad. Its Port of Spain celebrations are legendary with miles of dazzling, colorful, themed floats and provocative costumes.

Upon our arrival, Ed, one of_ Golden Compass_’s owners, greeted us with these wise words, “Rest up, for this is the calm before the storm.” Then he added, “and wear comfortable shoes!”

Trinidad Carnival is a full contact sport. Night and day the merriment goes on, the pageantry and pounding Caribbean beat both delight and assault the senses at an obscene volume. The constant music blasting from massive arrays of loudspeakers mounted on a fleet of 18-wheel flatbed trucks makes ear protection a necessity. With thousands of costumed islanders, many of them scantily clad, dancing and grinding their way along the hot, circuitous route, the procession snakes through town from the harbor up to the judging pavilion.

The crush of humanity on the streets results in a sort of mega block party where everyone is encouraged to jump into the mix—and so we did. Cameras in hand, we folded into the parade and were swept up in the current, carried along in an undulating river of celebration, music and dance—old and young, all moving together in glitz and glitter…

Returning to the yacht later that night I was surprised that Golden Compass seemed to be the only yacht in port. Given the magnitude of such an entertaining event and the friendly reception we received I would have expected more yachts to be there. Our experience left us with the feeling that Trinidad is a much-underrated yachting destination worthy of serious consideration, especially at Carnival time.

Unexpected excitement when the superyacht leaves Trinidad

Departing Port of Spain in the morning, our plan was to steam north to Grenada, the southern most of the Windward Islands then work our way up to the Tobago Cays, Bequia and St. Vincent, departing from St. Lucia. Several hours into the crossing to Grenada the gentle rolling and pitching from the eight-foot seas had lulled most of us off to dreamland or movieland when the quiet was shattered by the unmistakable clatter of a large military-style helicopter. Coming in fast and low it was suddenly hovering 50 feet above our deck. The pilot radioed our captain to maintain course and speed—we were about to be boarded. A moment later an armed airborne crewmember was out the helicopter door suspended on a thin cable being lowered to Golden Compass’s foredeck. Timing his landing with the pitching bow as best he could, our guest arrived in a heap but unharmed on top of one of the WaveRunners.

You don’t see this every day. The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force had requested that we take part in an aerial ship-boarding training exercise, and the owners of Golden Compass _were only too happy to oblige. Invited into the galley, our new friend talked about his mission while our crew stuffed bottles of water, juice and diet Coke into the pockets of his flight suit. Back on deck, the retrieval was as exciting as the landing; after hooking onto the cable he went up like a shot, the big helicopter buzzing _Golden Compass as it departed.

When to visit the Trinidad Carnival

The Trinidad Carnival is held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The dates for the upcoming years are: February 16 – 17 2015, February 8 -9 2016, February 27 – 28 2017, February 12 – 13 2018, March 4 – 5 2019.

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