Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boat work in exotic places

September 30, 2006   Saturday
Porlamar, Isla Margarita, VZ

Yesterday we took the bus to Sigo and bought six more cases of cheap beer.  That was all we felt like putting into our cart, so it will have to do.  We also visited an electronics “super store” near the supermarket and purchased another 12 volt DVD player (like for a car).  Our JVC radio/DVD player decided last week to eat one of our DVDs.  We can see the DVD in the unit and it spins freely, but there are two tiny blocking pieces of plastic that will not move down to allow us to eject the DVD.  We have already tried the paper clip trick, thanks to Judy’s computer shop days; but it still will not eject.  We tried contacting JVC via email but haven’t heard back from them.  Repair here is out of the question, so we just bought another unit.

We spent 80% of today replacing the membranes of our watermaker.  It was quite a job.  While disassembling the unit, we discovered that we should also have ordered new end caps and new O rings.  We managed to find a couple of the right sized O rings in Bill’s diving gear, and we installed the new membranes and reassembled the unit and reinstalled it down in the engine room.  Now we must wait until tomorrow afternoon to test it, because we used some 5200 on one of the screws on one of the end caps and must wait for it to cure thoroughly before pressurizing the watermaker.  We figure there is a 50/50 chance that this will work.  Otherwise, we will have to order the parts from France.

After talking with many people here in the anchorage, we really do not want to go to Puerto La Cruz unless we must order these parts to be delivered there.  If we decide to go elsewhere, we will try to make a posting here before we leave; because there will definitely not be internet service in the outer islands.  We hate to forfeit the $600 that we already paid the marina in Puerto La Cruz for the month of October, but we really don’t want to sit there for a month either.  It has been such a light hurricane season that we are willing to take our chances and head on to Tortuga, Los Roques, the Aves, and the ABCs.  The sooner we make the passage from Aruba or Curacao to the San Blas Islands, the better.  October is the best month for that passage, and November is supposed to be okay.  In December it can be one of the roughest passages in the entire world.  We have talked to one person who encountered 45 knot winds and 90 foot seas in that area during a December passage.  This person has sailed down in the roaring forties and said that this passage was rougher than sailing in the Southern Ocean.  We would not venture into that kind of weather.

We don’t know how the men get any work done here in Venezuela with all the distraction by the pretty women in exceptionally low cut tight tops and short skirts or tight pants and high heel shoes.  They are quite distracting and most visually appealing to the male population and male visitors.  The views in Isla Margarita are lovely to say the least.

One day this week we had occasion for another cruiser to visit our boat.  We will leave out both his name and his boat name as well as the reason he visited our boat in order to protect his privacy.  Anyway, this guy obviously is a transvestite.  He was dressed in unisex attire of shorts and tee-shirt when he visited us, but the cosmetic surgery and attempts to appear female were quite apparent.  That is the first time we have seen a transvestite sailor.

We also met a couple of people who are well known down here because of a pirate attack last year.  Judy had read about this online already, and we were surprised to meet them.  Good for both of them; this attack has not changed their attitude about sailing –even remaining here in Venezuelan waters again this season.  They are two single handers, on separate boats.  They just happened to be together on his boat at the time of this attack last year.  Had the woman (who has medical training) not been aboard to treat his wounds, then he certainly would have died.  She was able to stem the blood flow on the head wound, which was the most serious.  Below is a copy of the article about the attack:

August 4, 2005

In the bay next to us in Laguna Grande, Golfo De Cariaco, Venezuela at 11:15 PM pitch black with no moon "D" and "M" aboard the American catamaran "-deleted-" (the only boat there at the time) were awakened by the sound of their dinghy being stolen. The dinghy, a ten foot "Caribe" with a 15 HP "Yamaha" had been raised on aft davits tied but not chained or cabled.

At least four pirates had arrived in a penero. Two of them had swum over to the catamaran, climbed aboard the steps and cut the dinghy's lifting tackle and lines with a machete. They had to know that releasing the dinghy in this fashion would make a lot of noise. It is scary
that they were not concerned. "D" had removed the plastic key from the outboard but the pirates were ready with their own key. This was obviously not their first theft.

"D" came out and started fighting with the two pirates on his boat's aft deck. "-deleted-" at the time had no working flashlight or working lights on it's aft deck. "D" was hit repeatedly with a machete but in the pitch black thought that they were hitting him with a club.
When the pirates jumped into the water "D" followed to try and save his dinghy. Unbeknownst to him a third pirate was swimming the dinghy away. A fourth pirate jumped into the dinghy from the penero and attacked "D" with a machete. The pirates got the dinghy started and took off leaving "D" for dead. "D" swam back to his boat.
"M" spent quite some time stemming "D"'s blood flow by applying compresses. She then weighed anchor and motored to our bay using radar and depthsounder. She was attracted by our bright anchor light and was successful in waking us. I was nervous going out of our locked cabin but the voice was female, she spoke English and I could hear an inboard instead of a penero. We cycled our alarm system and radioed the other boats in our bay for help. As quickly as we could we launched our dinghy and I went over, the first one aboard.
I had never been exposed to anything like this. It was horrible with large pools of blood everywhere on the aft deck and the port steps. "D" was sprawled nude on his back on the aft deck. The average adult holds about five to six liters of blood. "D"'s blood loss would likely have been greatest just after he was injured when he was working hard fighting his attackers and swimming back to his boat. Guessing at what he lost in the water and what I saw on deck he must have lost two to three liters of blood.
In my haste to render assistance I had only donned shorts - no shirt or footwear. It was impossible to move about the aft deck without stepping into the blood. It was very slippery. Later before getting back into our dinghy I rinsed my feet in the sea off the catamaran's aft steps. The next morning the rainwater in our dinghy was tinged pink.
"D" had nine very deep cuts to his head, chest, arms, shoulders and back. He had great difficulty rolling over so that I could check the wounds on his back. The wounds were some two to four inches long through both layers of skin and fat and into muscle. I looked at all of the wounds and ascertained that none of them was bleeding.
"D" was lucid, shaking, throwing up occasionally from shock, reasonably calm and coping well with the pain. He was as comfortable as he could be. I checked three other boats by dinghy and / or radio to find out if any of them had any medical training or medical supplies. Medical supplies were not going to help much as "D" was not bleeding and his cuts were so severe that only a doctor with suturing could help.
I immediately determined that the victim's injuries although quite horrific were not life threatening and given that the bleeding had stopped the crisis was under control. However shock could quickly change that evaluation. My whole focus at that point was getting more help than I could offer and that meant a doctor, nurse or paramedic.
I had no idea how far help would be but assumed that it would not be close. The first choice was to have help come to us in the form of a fast boat. The other boats and Sandra called "Maydays" in English and Spanish on HF as well as VHF but there was no response of any kind. In times of crisis in third world countries we have found that the cruisers generally have to do it themselves.
Greg of "-deleted-" was the only other person to dinghy over to help. He knew the area and knew that help could be secured in Cumana some 12 miles two hours away. He volunteered to drive the victims' boat there. I offered to go along but he felt safer my staying behind in case there were problems with his wife and his boat. Along the way they repeatedly fed "D" liquids and pain pills which he repeatedly threw up. They elevated his legs, forced him to stay awake and kept him as comfortable as possible.
When the catamaran arrived at "Marina Cumanagoto" the night security there pulled out all of the stops calling anyone who spoke English and could help get "D" medical help. "D" was quickly transferred by ambulance to a private hospital and got first class care. The doctor dared not sedate "D" because shock had badly set in. He was given a local anesthetic before his wounds were stitched up. A surgeon and an assistant spent three hours to close up all of "D"'s wounds.
The next day Greg needed a ride back as the catamaran no longer had dinghies. Given the seriousness of what had happened we would have expected the Authorities to rush over and investigate. They could have brought Greg home in some official boat, ship or whatever.
It took four days for the Authorities to visit Laguna Grande and investigate. As was the case with all of the other pirate attacks in Venezuela no one was charged and the Authorities did not recover any of the stolen property.
The marina quickly came to the rescue. They offered free of charge their big double outboard penero to take Greg home. The trip took only 15 minutes. A fast boat when the alarm was raised is the sort of thing which should have been available from the Authorities in the first place. The time that was lost for the catamaran to motor two hours to Cumana could have had "D"'s non life threatening injuries kill him. "D" was interviewed by the local media and the Authorities the next day in the hospital. He recovered extremely well and was out of the hospital within four days.

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