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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Water Taxi Tips

UPDATE: For up to date information on the Water Taxi Service, please see http://www.keithfrancis.net/2009/06/water-taxi-service-need-to-know-and.html

Having travelled on the service for a bit and in response to questions posed on and offline, I offer the following tidbits.
  • The ferry service only runs on week days and that at scheduled times.  Departure is always on time.  If you miss boarding, then you've missed the boat.  The attendants at the loading areas will pleasantly and politely advise thus.
  • The service costs TT$15.00 one-way, and you can purchase tickets at either jetty for any scheduled sailing in the current week.
  • For TT$3.00 more, you can purchase a PTSC bus transfer service in either an Easterly or Westerly direction from the port through Port of Spain as an attachment to your ticket.  I'm not sure whether a similar San Fernando transfer service exists as yet; I've seen no indication that one does.
  • Tickets are sold for a specific sailing in one direction, and are both non-refundable and non-transferable.  In short, if you miss the boat, don't expect to get a pre-purchased ticket exchanged for a seat on the next sailing.
  • You can park for free in secure facilities at the Cruise Ship Complex and at the San Fernando jetty while you travel on the ferry.
  • The sailing schedule is set weekly, is published in the daily papers, and is displayed on whiteboards near the ticket booths at both ports.  As far as I know, there is no number to call to get the schedule, nor is there a website where you can check the schedule.  I hope that this changes in time.
  • If a cruise ship is scheduled to be in the Cruise Ship Complex on a particular day, this is catered for in the week's sailing schedule and will be reflected by fewer sailings on the day or days that the cruise ship is in port.    From what I gather and understand, the water-taxi service is running from temporary quarters in both San Fernando and Port of Spain, although the San Fernando jetty might better be described as semi-permanent.  The boats are renting time at a berth at the Cruise Ship Complex in Port of Spain until their permanent jetty is constructed closer to the Breakfast Shed at the end of Independence Square.  Thus, if you plan on using the service, make sure to review the schedule for that week on the Monday.
  • Sailing may also be impacted unscheduled issues.  If one or more of the four boats break down for whatever reason, then the week's schedule will of course be impacted.  Incidents here seem to have disappeared with increased vigilance on the part of the ferry crews and greater attention to maintenance.
  • There is security on each boat in the form of an Amalgamated Security Company officer.  All passengers are scanned and their bags check before boarding.  Access to both jetties in Port of Spain and San Fernando is security-restricted.  If anyone fears that one officer might not be enough to handle the cabin, all of the crew are fairly large and while not ominous, are not unassuming.
  • The Gulf of Paria encloses a very placid body of water.  This combined with the boats' split hull design makes the ferry ride quite smoothly in open water.  Nonetheless, if you know that you are prone to seasickness, when you board for the first time, locate the bathroom and sit at the back of the cabin in an aisle seat.  Ensure that the seat pocket in front of you has a bag.  These are just precautions though; you may find that you won't feel any discomfort at all.
  • Whether travelling in the morning or evening, prepare yourself to take a snooze.  Between the air conditioning, the cushioned and contoured seats, and the low drone of the boat's engines, you may find yourself drifting off during the trip.
  • From what I've heard, the service started with about 15 of the current San Fernando-based regulars on its first day or two.  Now, boats are running with just a handful of seats unoccupied.  There may come a time where you won't be able to buy a ticket for a day's sailing on the same day.
  • Yes, the trip really does take about an hour from cast off to docking.

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