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by Dan and Jan Ahart


Chapter Forty-One


We anchored in 55 feet of water in Man of War Bay on the island of Tobago on 19 October 2001. Being accustomed to anchoring in 15 to 25 feet of water, the depth was a challenge. There are precious few shallow anchorages in this bay and other cruisers took all of those spots, so we had no choice. We counted a total of 27 boats in the bay when we arrived. We have 300 hundred feet of three-eighths inch marine grade chain, which fortunately is quite heavy because in 55 feet of water plus the nearly five feet from the water to the deck of Sojourner, there was no way we could put out enough chain to meet the suggested seven feet of anchor line for each foot of depth, measured from the deck. The best we could manage was a ratio of five to one and that had to suffice. A ratio of five to one with that much chain was probably more than equal to a seven to one ratio with rope. And the ride is actually very smooth with so much chain out. The chain is so heavy it acts as a shock absorber in that it wants to hang straight down and if a gust of wind pushes the boat, lots of chain must be lifted off the bottom and stretched out before we stop. An electric windlass also comes in very handy when it is time to retrieve several hundred pounds of chain plus a 65-pound anchor at the end of it.

After successfully setting the anchor, by putting both engines in reverse and revving them up to 80% power for 30 seconds without dragging, we finally launched the dinghy and went ashore to check in with Immigration and Customs. The proper procedure is to go to Immigration first and then to Customs, but in a small village like Charlotteville, with a population of about 1,500 the officials work out of their homes and sometimes they are not home. This was the case with Immigration, so we went to Customs first. The official was very nice. He looked at our papers from Trinidad, our passports and logged us in via his ledger. He then said to let him know when we planned to leave. We then went back to Immigration. Still, no one was home. So, we went to the Police Station to ask what to do. The police officer suggested that we come back in an hour. That sounded good, so we walked around the village, which consists of five or six streets that are very narrow having been laid out for pedestrian traffic about 250 years ago. There are many little wooden stands selling everything from ice cream to tee shirts, with a few tiny restaurants and pubs. Of particular note was the fish cleaning cooperative. Charlotteville is the fishing center of Trinidad and Tobago and the fishermen have constructed a building they all share to clean and sell their catches. As was the case with the rest of the town, it was clean and odor free. There were also well-maintained public trash bins, and even changing rooms and restrooms for visitors to the beach. What a welcome environment it was compared to some of the Caribbean islands where trash is thrown in the gutters and no public restrooms are available anywhere. About an hour later we walked back to Immigration. The official was outside his home washing his car. We introduced ourselves and he said he already new all about us and had already logged us in. He said to enjoy our stay in Charlotteville, but to let him know when we planned to leave. Apparently there are few secrets in Charlotteville, regarding tourists. Our first evening, we visited with friends on their boat. They are experienced Caribbean sailors and had been to Charlotteville twice before. The second evening was Friday, which was fresh produce and meat day in town. Vendors bringing these victuals to town were to arrive at 1600 hours. Being well organized Americans; we arrived on the quay at 1545 hours. The locals and other boaters began to drift in around 1730. Finally, at 1815 the produce truck arrived. It was a pickup truck loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. After the locals made their purchases, we cruisers stepped up. We obtained huge avocados for 50 cents each, lettuce for 75 cents a head and tomatoes and melons for like prices. After dark, the meat truck arrived, which again was a pickup truck with fresh meat in baskets in the bed of the truck. There was beef and pork. The "butcher" asked the locals how many pounds they wanted and then, using a machete, he proceeded to chop up enough meat and bone in small chunks to equal the weight requested. He made absolutely no attempt to identify or select any particular "cut" of meat and the customers didn't seem to mind. Meat was meat and that was that. After all the locals had whatever they wanted, he turned to the cruisers and asked us how many pounds of "steak" we wanted. He then uncovered a separate box of meat that could have been steak or roast or whatever, but it was boneless. We stated our desired amount and he proceeded to chop off a single portion to equal our request. We bought three pounds and used it to make a stew and it was delicious.

One day we bought fresh red snapper and lobster from some local fishermen on their way in to town from fishing. There's nothing finer than seafood that fresh. A couple of nights later we went ashore with friends to try one of the local restaurants. Believe or not they had armadillo on the menu. It was the highest priced item they had as it is considered quite a delicacy. Having grown up in Texas, where the critters are considered a nuisance, and having never tried it, we had to give it a go. Sure enough, it tastes like chicken and would have been more enjoyable if it hadn't been all chopped up, bones and all, local fashion.

All of the buildings have easy to read address numbers starting with building number one in the center of town and all of the pubs have signs that indicate they are licensed to sell spirits or liquor. Some of the spelling and phrasing are imaginative, to wit the pub's sign that proclaimed they were spiritually licensed to sell liquor, or another one that stated Spiritous liquors for sale and lastly one that stated Licensed Spirit Retailer. Tobago is an interesting combination of laid back island attitudes blended with an English bent toward order and cleanliness and unfortunately, bureaucracy. There are a few cottages to rent and every day a few visitors from Europe or the states would be lounging on the beach. Walking a short distance out of town revealed all kinds of wonderful trees from coconut, papaya, mango, guava, banana and avocado to grapefruit, orange and lime. It was hard to tell, what was growing on public property and what was private. We assumed all of it was private until told otherwise. Many of the larger banyan and other trees grow well over a 100 feet tall and every limb has an air plant of some type growing on it - usually and orchid. This time of year is the rainy season, so showers are frequent, which are very welcome because they reduce the temperature and are usually accompanied by beautiful rainbows. The showers cause everyone to take temporary refuge in the nearest building or under a large tree, which is a pleasant way to spend a few minutes. Stay tuned.


Dates: 2001-10-19,
Locations: Tobago, West Indies
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The Ahart Odyssey 1999-2004 Dan and Jan Ahart. All rights reserved.