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by Dan and Jan Ahart

Chapter Forty-Six

We have now been anchored in Man of War Bay in Tobago, West Indies for three months and our mail has finally arrived. It only took two months via Global Express Priority Air Mail. It is difficult to understand why airmail should take so long. And no amount of questioning of the postal employees shed any light on the subject. The best reaction we could get was a smile and shrug of the shoulders. Cost wise, it is about equivalent to use FedEx, so we feel we will use them in the future. At least they use a tracking system and can ascertain the location of a parcel at any given time.

Our plan is to leave Man of War Bay on the first of February and work our way south along the west coast of Tobago over a three or four day period and then sail over to Trinidad for carnival. We have reservations at a marina during the week of carnival so it should be a convenient and fun time. We also plan to have some work done while in Trinidad. The marinas in the village of Chaguaramas are very well equipped to take care of just about any need the cruising community might have including building boats. One of our stainless steel davits, which helps support our dinghy over the stern of Sojourner, while we are under way needs reinforcing. We also want to have some louvers installed in our closet doors to aid ventilation. There may also be some other minor projects we need to get done while we are there. We are told to expect no work during the week of carnival so we will enjoy carnival and then have our work done.

One of the long overdue jobs that we did get accomplished while anchored in Man of War Bay was refinishing the cabin sole (the floor inside the cabin). When we purchased Sojourner three years ago, she had carpet on the bridge deck and in the starboard hull. The port hull had a rubberized floor covering not unlike thick linoleum. We weren't fond of either material in that it did not look like a cabin sole ought to look and the carpet and rubber material were always in the way, when we needed to open the floor hatches to gain access to a bilge pump or something that might be stored there. Being at anchor seemed the perfect time to tackle the job, because we knew it would be messy, so being able to toss the dirt and sawdust overboard was very convenient. We were very happy we got rid of the carpet, because the wood underneath was damp in several places due to the salt, which had filtered through the carpet into the wood. The wood sole is composed of marine plywood, that is about inch thick and made up of 13 plies. The grain is very attractive and after sanding and applying four coats of varnish, it really looks good - and nautical. However, we had a tough time getting the wood to dry initially because of the salt. Several applications of plain old fresh water finally got the salt out. The biggest problem we had to solve was the dust from sanding. The plywood had been painted gray and it was really applied well and did not come off easily. Generous applications of paint remover took care of 90% of it, but that left the tough remainder, which was down in the grain of the wood. We have a small 110 volt orbital palm sander that has a vacuum exhaust on it, but the little collection bag that came with it would fill with sawdust in seconds and then the dust would start billowing around inside the cabin, which was not good. Our second attempt was to connect the 110 volt dirt devil vacuum cleaner to the sander, which worked a bit longer than a few seconds and then it too would fill and the dust would start billowing again. Jan finally hit upon the idea of cutting the bottoms out of plastic garbage bags and taping a dozen of them end to end to make a long wide diameter exhaust chute. This worked perfectly and over the week it took to sand the entire interior, we collected about three gallons of loose sawdust, which we were able to discard overboard. The finished result is wonderful. Sojourner has a whole new appearance. She now looks more like a boat than a den with cheap carpet and she has that warm rich look that only well varnished wood can provide.

We will leave Charlotteville, with mixed emotions. We have made so many friends that we hate to leave, but learning to say goodbye is part of cruising. One of the most interesting people we met was the maker of steel drums. He was kind enough to explain to us how he tunes the sections of a drum from C to F sharp. The top of the drum is divided into sections like spokes of wheel. Each section between the "spokes" is a different size. The lower notes, like C are larger and the others are correspondingly smaller. The "spokes" or separators of each section are formed by shaping ridges with a hammer. The tuning or final shaping is done with the aid of a tuning fork and pitch pipe to obtain the correct key. An enormous amount of handwork goes into the drums, which are specially made of polished stainless steel. His drums have been sold all over the world and he is a well known, if rather eccentric character, in the village. Then there were the many kind fishermen we met and the restaurant owners, store owners, street vendors, the weekly visit by the meat vendor in his pickup truck, the ever optimistic postal clerk and the very amiable owner of the Man of War Bay Beach Cottages, who always had a smile and a funny story to tell. Charlotteville is certainly a location we will visit again.

We only recently read the following story, but wish we had known it when we sailed past the island of St. Eustatia last spring. St. Eustatia is a tiny island located southeast of the Virgin islands and almost due south of St. Martin. It would not have been difficult at all to stop at the island. The story is as follows:

Twenty one gun salutes were established by the British Admiralty in the 17th century by limiting the salute a ship would fire to seven and the answering salute from a shore battery to three shots for each shot fired by a ship. An interesting historical occurrance regarding salutes happened on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatia in 1776. Noticing a ship entering the harbor with a flag he had never seen before, the Governor answered the ship's seven shot salute with a shot from each of the fort's 17 guns. This was the first salute to the flag of the fledgling United States of America. On hearing of this action, the British declared war on the Dutch for honoring the flag of the American rebels, thus officially recognizing the independence of the American colonists.
Today, one can visit the old fort and view a plaque presented by President Franklin Roosevelt in honor of that occasion. Stay tuned

Dates: ,
Locations: Tobago, West Indies
Keywords: Twenty-one gun salute, 21 gun salute, St. Eustatia, Steel drum

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