Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lot's of Boobies

Hello from Bonaire.  Not doing well at keeping the blog up to date so I will try and fill in the space between now and the last post

We spent the holidays in Grenada due to the great internet connection and planned our trip to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao)  We found another boat doing the same, Stardancer III skippered by an Australian named Kieth.  We made plans to leave once he had mended his main sail.  Once his sail was mended we headed out of Clarkes Court Bay to the Western side of Grenada to preposition ourselves for a midnight departure and as we transited the reef out of the bay our steering cable snapped.  We quickly installed our emergency rudder system and in a few hair raising minutes we were safely back in the harbor looking for a place to anchor.  We spent the better part of a week getting that fixed and waiting for another window in the weather.  Kieth too lost his generator power so at least he didn't get stuck waiting just for us.

Once we finally departed Grenada, the wind was about 14 knots and the seas were very gentle.  It was a fairly slow ride but nobody was complaining as we all know a slow ride is better than a brutal one.
Arrived in the afternoon the next day in Los Testigos, a group of about 6 small islands with a few villages and a Venezuellan Coast Guard station. We checked in with the La Guardia Costa and spent a few days snorkeling the reefs, climbing the hill to the lighthouse and checking out the sand dunes.
It is a pretty cool place and one of those places that once you are there you want to stay, but we were not actually checked in to Venezuella and therefore not allowed to spend too much time there.   My next destination was Blanquilla 90nm west.  I was told it is a stunning and intriguing place to go, but alas I may never know because I was voted down on my plans by Sunny and Kieth.  Sunny wanted to do some shopping and Kieth had a friend on Margarita Island. 

Margarita Island is to me anyway a bit of a strange place.  Known as a resort island it boasts many hotel/condos and beaches with lots of US style shopping and restaurants.  I was told originally it was made a duty free zone and that attracted all sorts of investment in the area.  Once the boom was in full swing the zoning changed and left many people holding a bag of empty promises.  During the day the skyline is impressive but at night many of the buildings show no lights and a few show only one or two.  The large buildings are deserted or were never finished.  Shopping was good though.  Since the Bolivar has been devalued the buying power of the dollar was in full swing and Sunny managed to restock our boat with much needed beef and fresh produce.  One may not think beef is all that big of a deal.  But I like beef and the meat in the Caribbean south of Puerto Rico was horrible.  None of it is aged properly and most if not all of it is too old to be tender.  The hamburger tastes like soy burger.  Venezuela on the other hand does very well in the beef department and while the cuts are not great the flavor is fine.

While in Margarita we met up with Mike and Julie from the Flying Buzzard, whom we had previously met in Trinidad.  Had a great dinner with them and hope to see them again soon.  Sunny did all her shopping and with the exception of a few items which are apparently impossible (flour and  coffee)  to find in the country we got all of our necessities.  We thought about clearing into the country and staying a bit but our impression after talking with the local contact for cruisers, Juan Para, was that it would be a complete waste of time and money.  For a guy who makes his living by clearing boats into the country he has a funny way of selling his service.  Another big fan of Che I suppose. 

We took off from Margarita and made our way to the west end of the island.  Just as we rounded the cape our steering once again came undone.  This time it was my fault.  I made a poor job of the Nicropress. 

Fortunately we were able to piece it back together and Sunny and Kieth went to shore and found a guy who drove them all over the place to find some cable clamps.  Very nice of them and it goes to show that one should not judge a country by it's government but by it's people.  As a side note we were also warned time and time again not to cruise this area because of crime and government interference.  I've never been much of a listener and Sunny less so.  Thankfully we did make the trip and also we were fortunate not to have any problems some cruisers have experienced.  

We made our way on to the island of Tortuga and anchored in a place called Playa Caldera.  It is a great beach and fine anchorage.  There is a small airstrip and people fly out and sit on the beach.  Some very nice aircraft managed to stop by including two Bell 214's loaded with people just wanting a nice beach.  Venezuela is probably the only place where I could afford the fuel for one of those.  After a couple days we headed out but only made it as far as Cayo Herradura just 10 miles West.  Another great beach but it was quite rolly.  The reef did give up a fairly nice fish as we sailed in though.

From Tortuga we sailed on to the area of Los Roches which is a shallow sea encircled by some small islands.  We were immediately impressed by the water clarity as we entered Sebastepol inlet and set anchor for a couple days.  We made our way north to the island of Grande Roches and were impressed by the cool little town there.  The streets are sand and you can walk barefoot if you want.  Lots of neat little restaurants and hotels.  The interiors of the buildings are quite nice with very artistic entry doors and polished floors.  After an evening in town we sailed on west again to the island of Carenero which has a great anchorage tucked inside of a lagoon.  The snorkeling was fantastic with tons of squid, Spanish Mackerel, Blue parrot fish, Queen angelfish and Sunny claims to even having seen a seahorse.
No confirmations though.  It was hard to give up such a beautiful spot especially when our next anchorage treated us quite differently.  The island of Becqeve offered us a shallow and tricky approach with the clouds and shadows moving in the water.  Once we were set the boat never stopped rolling.  Stardancer chose to go south a bit to another anchorage but soon returned, as that one was even worse.  On the beach though it was a different story.  The island is a breeding ground for boobies and their chicks are very cute.  They look like little white overstuffed pillows with beaks.

Since that anchorage was not so comfortable we decided to move on to the Aves and leave the Roches behind us.  The short sail west 30 odd miles was a bit of an adventure.  The swell was still active and with 20-25 kts of wind the seas were very steep and the wave frequency was short.  10 foot wave were breaking on our stern and several times we got sent sideways by the odd SE wave.  Needless to say we were glad to get settled.  We entered the Aves de Barlovento from the north so we could run off the wind some and avoid any unwanted gybes.  The wind was getting close to 30 when we rounded the NW entrance and were immediately rewarded with a very nasty beat to the South side of the bank.  We anchored in the middle anchorage all by ourselves and were immediatly impressed by the unbelievable beauty of the water, reefs and the huge mangrove trees.  The trees were teeming with red footed boobies and frigate birds hatching chicks and hunting for food. 
The wind was cooperating enough to keep the smell well away from the boat.  Pebbles needed a bath and Sunny washed her on the back step in the water.  A small trunk fish came up and seemed curious if not a bit hungry watching her tail flip around.  We ended up having 8 of them swimming around the boat and us whenever we entered the water.  Normally these fish, while not very excitable, don't seem to be that curious.  We ended up meeting a family of Aussies on s/v Grace and together with Kieth on Stardancer we managed a great beach party with drinks and Boci Ball.  The girls won of course.   

As we left the Aves we had a much better time of it sea state wise and cruised comfortably on to Bonaire.  As we approached the southern point, the Bonaireian Coast Guard flew out to survey us and give us all some cool low altitude fly-byes. Turning north we had the wind on the beam and Slow-Mocean and Grace sailed together in a great run up the beach past the salt fields and kite surfers all the way to the anchorage in the town of Kralendijk.  I can't pronounce that either.  Met a Dutchman here who said that Dutch is not so much a language as it is a throat infection.  He said it.  We apologize for not getting any good booby pictures uploaded but we are having camera issues of the worst kind.  With luck we will recover at least part of the photos we've taken.