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by Dan and Jan Ahart

Chapter Forty

Having concluded almost all of our projects in Houston, we left mom to adjust to her new apartment and on August 21st flew to Michigan to be with our daughter and son-in-law for the birth of their first child and our second grandchild and assist in their relocation to Columbus, Ohio. Our son-in-law teaches high school German and received an offer he couldn't refuse beginning with the new school year. The fact that it coincided with the birth of a baby just added to the fun of relocating. With our recent experience helping my mom pack and unpack, we felt qualified in the semi-skilled art of relocation. And of course having raised three children of our own, we were undaunted by the prospect of a new baby in the midst of assisting yet another move. All went well and Aubry James Bourgeois arrived on 3 September weighing in at an even nine pounds. A week later we all moved from Jackson, Michigan to Columbus, Ohio. The move went well also, but Jan and I both hope it is a long, long time before we see another cardboard shipping box.

On September 18th we flew back to Houston to wrap up a few more details before heading back to Trinidad. As usual, details tend to spontaneously expand, absorbing all available time and energy. Finally, on October 10th we caught a red-eye special discounted airfare out of Houston to Miami on Air Tran, where we transferred to ALM airlines for the flight to Trinidad. ALM is a Curacao based airline that is owned by a Netherlands company and its fare was $150.00 per ticket cheaper than the competitors. Curacao is an island in the Lesser Antilles, just off the north coast of Venezuela and is a former Dutch colony. The route of flight was from Miami to Curacao, where three of our bags and the luggage of about 20 other passengers were taken off the plane in deference to airfreight. It seems airfreight is given priority in the islands. Our bags finally showed up on the 13th, which entailed another 30 mile round trip to the Trinidad airport in Port of Spain so we could clear them through customs. On the bright side, Sojourner and all her contents were in excellent condition when we arrived.

We spent three days putting on fresh anti-fouling paint on Sojourner's hulls. A through-hull shut off valve was also replaced that had gotten very difficult to open and close. We try to remember to cycle valves at least monthly to assure they don't stick, but apparently that wasn't enough for this one. During this time we lived aboard Sojourner as she sat on blocks in the marina yard. As usual we learn something new every time we do a job. This last lesson was an expensive one. We had a gallon of leftover paint from last year, when we painted Sojourner's hulls. It takes a minimum of two gallons to paint the hulls so we bought a second gallon of paint, that from its description appeared to be the same as the one we had albeit by a different manufacturer. Both paints were blue, so we figured we'd just mix them to blend the color. Apparently there was some small chemical difference in the two because within seconds of being mixed, they metamorphosed into blue tar. Gad, that hurt the bank account! We will have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch for the next month to make up for the over $200 loss. Can't explain why we didn't mix a small sample first. Oh well.

Sojourner was back in the water on October 15th and we took her to Scotland Bay, which is just around the corner of the island from the marina, for a short shakedown cruise and to reinstall her sails. We had removed the sails and halyards before we stored her to minimize exposure to the elements. While reinstalling the first batten in the sail, we dropped a retaining nut. Naturally it gleefully hopped right overboard. After diligent searching, we found a nut with the right thread in our store of bits and pieces and spare parts, but the overall size of the nut was too large to fit the receptacle. So, I filed each of its six edges until it shrank to acceptable dimensions. It took 137 strokes with the file on each edge. The feeling of accomplishment was awesome.

With a successful test cruise, we returned to the marina area and prepared to stock up on provisions. Once a week a local "maxi taxi" (15 passenger mini-van) operator provides free transportation for cruisers to one of the local supermarkets in Port of Spain. However, that trip was three days away and we were anxious to depart for Tobago, so we figured we would take a maxi taxi, at 50 cents each person, to the supermarket and hire a regular taxi to bring us back with our groceries. We stood out on the highway and flagged down a maxi taxi, which took us to the grocery store. After loading our shopping cart to the max, we asked the store manager if he would call a taxi for us. To our surprise and delight, he said he would take us to the marina. We had a very nice chat about local and U.S. politics enroute. We each learned a first hand perspective of our respective country's economy and attitude toward tourists. Obviously his attitude was very favorable toward tourists, especially those who purchase copious amounts of groceries. Finally, on the 17th we headed for Maracas Bay, which is on the north side of Trinidad. It is a favored jumping off point for the sail to Tobago. We spent the night there and left early on the 18th for Tobago some 45 miles away. Although not a great distance, the trip tends to be slow because winds and currents are on the nose 90% of the time. In our case, this was true, plus being the rainy season, we encountered a large squall that we paralleled for a while looking for a thin spot with our radar. Finally after going 90 degrees off our course for nearly a half hour we saw some diminution of the rain and a thin spot that was "only" three miles across. We penetrated the squall at that point and as expected we encountered lots of rain, but thankfully little wind. Sojourner got a nice fresh water bath and soon we were in the sunshine again. Tobago lies northeast of Trinidad and is about 25 miles long and seven miles wide. The highest hills are about 2,000 feet. During the rainy season it is a beautiful green with lots of bays and sandy beaches. We anchored off the beach in Great Courland Bay, named for the Duke of Courland, godson of King Charles II of England, who used to own the island in the seventeenth century. A very pleasant night was spent with Sojourner gently rocking with a cool breeze blowing in the hatch and the sound of the surf about a half-mile away.

The next day we sailed to the northeast end of Tobago to check in with Immigration and Customs at Charlotteville, which is located on Man of War Bay. The bay is a perfect natural harbor surrounded by beautiful high green hills. The town is small, but very clean and neat. About 20 boats were already anchored, so it took us some time to find a spot to our liking and in the process we ended up beside some friends we had met in Puerto Rico some months before. It promised to be a great place to visit. Stay tuned.

Dates: 2001-08-21, 2001-10-17
Locations: Houston, TX; Columbus OH, Trinidad; Tobago

The Ahart Odyssey 1999-2004 Dan and Jan Ahart. All rights reserved.