Saturday, September 23, 2006

Finally out of Trinidad; welcome to Los Testigos

September 20, 2006   Wednesday

Yesterday evening Judy found $300 TT lying on the ground.  We asked everyone we knew at the marina if they had lost any money and found no takers, so we decided to blow it at The Lure.  This is a restaurant next to our marina that we have avoided because everyone told us how expensive it is.  They were right.  Bill had grilled kingfish and Judy had a seafood salad.  We shared an appetizer of calamari and drank only water.  Total tab was $412.77 TT, or about $66 US.  That is a very expensive meal for Trinidad.

Cleared out and left Coral Cove Marina shortly before noon.  Topped off with 135 liters of diesel.  Also filled another gerry can with 12.8 liters gasoline for future use for the dinghy outboard.

Another coincidence meeting occurred at the fuel dock.  While we were filling our tanks, a guy came out of Sails Restaurant to talk to us.  This is the same guy who had been docked next to our boat last summer, fall and winter in the BVI!  Can’t remember his name, but his boat is a catamaran named Dharma Bum III.  We have heard him on the VHF radio all summer and never realized he was the same guy from the BVI.  Sometimes we can both be a little dense.

Seems he was at anchor at TTSA around the point from Chaguaramas Harbor last May when a 40-ft. Endeavor sailboat plowed right into his boat.  It did significant damage; and, of course, neither boat was insured.  Getting work completed in a timely manner is impossible here in Trinidad, so he is still working on that.  But his boat is fixed enough that she is floating and they are living aboard.  They are headed to the South Pacific and hope to be in the Marquesas by February; that is about 5,000 miles away.  He wants to be there before the cruising crowd arrives.  We think he is a little daring to be crossing that 3,000 mile open stretch of ocean during typhoon season.

Can’t remember if we mentioned this last year, but this particular family was/is doing a language experiment with their daughter.  The kid was born in Venezuela and heard Spanish for the first 18 months of her life.  But the mother speaks to the kid in Chinese; father speaks to her in German; and if they together speak to the kid (like at the dinner table) then they speak in English.  They were curious as to which language the kid would learn first.

The daughter is now 3 years old.  And she speaks Chinese almost all the time.  So we just guess that means that moms still have the most influence during early childhood development.  One lucky kid.  She will be fluent in 4 or 5 languages and see half of the world before she is elementary school age.

When we left the marina, we left the computer running; uploading a few photos to this website as we motored out of the anchorage.  Hope the WiFi connection held long enough to complete the upload, but will worry about that later.

We followed Chuck and Pam Ursey on S/V Helen Louise out to Chachacacare Island.  It felt glorious to finally be out of that stuffy, filthy harbor.  We really wish now that we had taken a few day sails instead of just sitting at that dock all summer.

It was so pleasant at anchor at Chachacacare, even without air conditioning.  There was a pleasant breeze.  Early to bed; anchor up at 2:00 a.m. to head to Los Testigos.

September 21, 2006    Thursday
11.22.085N; 63.07.308W
Los Testigos, Venezuela

First, Happy Birthday to Kristina.

We left Chachacacare in pitch blackness at 2:00 a.m.  Beautiful stars but no moon.  We followed S/V Helen Louise the entire 100 miles to Los Testigos.  As we mentioned previously, our boats are identical so we travel at the same speeds.

This was the first night passage during which Judy did not get seasick.  Not sure which was the strongest contributing factor:

  1. last meal was 9 hours earlier and only ate yogurt underway
  2. seas were totally flat calm, instead of the very rough seas during earlier night passages
  3. the stern light of S/V Helen Louise provided a visual fix to follow rather than watching the chart plotter so much

We motored with mainsail only for the entire passage.  Winds were from our stern at only 4 knots, and our forward speed was greater so we couldn’t use the genoa.  There was a 2.5 knot current pushing us along; so we were clipping along at 9-10 knots SOG (speed over ground).  Trip was exactly 100 NM in 10 hours 45 minutes, for average speed of 9.3 knots including the time spent raising and lowering the anchor at beginning and ending harbors.  It was a very pleasant passage.

Los Testigos is a quiet tiny group of 4-5 islands.  There is a tiny fishing village with a total of 160 inhabitants on two of the islands.  This is not an official port of entry, but there is a local Guadacosta (Coast Guard) station.  You are required to present your documentation on arrival and request their permission to remain on Los Testigos for a few days.  The sailing guide book says that the attitude varies by officer but that they normally will let you stay for 48 hours.  We had an extremely nice officer, very courteous and friendly.  He allowed us to stay until Monday 7:00 a.m.  This was the easiest clearance we have experienced to date.  The officer liked the fact that Judy is the official captain.  He also liked that we had gone to the trouble to present our crew list and paperwork in Spanish.  Great form that Judy had downloaded before we moved aboard.  We have 100 copies for future use in any area where Spanish is spoken.

Many of our friends who had left Trinidad on Monday and Tuesday were already here.  We all met for dinner ashore at the Case Verde, which is exactly what the name says—a green house—the home of a nice young Venezuelan couple who decided to sell dinner to a few dozen cruisers.  They offered dinner choices of kingfish, barracuda or “salmon of the Caribbean” (mystery fish to all of us).  Dinner was $4.50 and beer was $1.00.  We opted for the grilled kingfish and it was delicious.  It was a lot of fun.

Beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.  Snorkeling is supposed to be superb.  We will enjoy the next few days.

September 22, 2006   Friday

All our friends left at 7:00 this morning for the passage to Isla Margarita.  We opted to stay here because we don’t want to rush.  Our reservation at the marina in Puerto La Cruz is for October 1st, and we see no reason to get in a big hurry to go sit in another marina.  We only plan the one stop at Isla Margarita before settling in at the marina in Puerto La Cruz for the month of October.

The diesel fuel we bought in Trinidad was dirty.   Our engine was missing for the last half of the trip here.  We were worried that we might not make it for the final 20 miles because the missing was getting worse.  The engine was only turning 2,000 rpms at that point.  We have dual Racor filters, and you are supposed to be able to flip from one to the other; but we didn’t want to try it for the first time while out at sea.  When we were safely anchored here, then we flipped to the other filter and everything worked fine.  But that meant we still needed to change the clogged filter.

So, this morning Bill changed the clogged fuel filter.  Since he was down in the engine room anyway, he also changed the engine oil and the engine oil filter.  Glad to be done with those routine maintenance chores while anchored in a calm area with a nice breeze.

Bill’s gout is acting up again; swollen and painful toe joint.  Guess he has been enjoying too much fish again lately and will have to forego seafood for a few days. 

It’s been fun listening to all our friends on the VHF who are enroute to Isla Margarita.  They have been chattering all morning about the fish they are catching and about a little yellow bird that has flown from boat to boat, resting a bit on each one.

We enjoyed our day of solitude.  There are six other boats here, but we don’t know any of them.  The Guardacosta toured through the anchorage this afternoon in a local fisherman’s boat and wrote down the names of all the anchored boats; keeping an eye on things.  Guess they needed to make note of which boats had left in the mass exodus this morning.  What a difference.  The coast guard here has no resources whatsoever, yet they are trying to be vigilant about their responsibilities.  They don’t even have any small boats at their disposal, or radios, or anything except a bare office ashore.  The coast guard in Trinidad has all kind of resources (including resources from the US government) yet they don’t do a darn thing and don’t seem to care about what should be their responsibilities.

September 23, 2006   Saturday

Open all the hatches and side ports; enjoy the breeze.  Light rain starts.  Close all the hatches and side ports; get hot and humid down inside the boat.  Rain stops.  Open all the hatches and side ports again.

Repeat every 15 minutes.

When you get tired of doing this, start the generator and turn on the air conditioning and watch DVDs for a few hours.

There you have a complete description of our day in Los Testigos today as an extremely light tropical wave passes through the area.

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