Monday, October 23, 2006

Leaving Puerto La Cruz

October 23, 2006   Monday
Leaving Puerto La Cruz, VZ

We will be leaving here early tomorrow morning.  All checked out of the port and cleared our bill with the marina.  The marina actually refunded the unused balance from the deposit we paid last June.  They gave us a refund in US cash.   We had originally planned to stay here for a few months but plans changed once we learned just how bad the passage between Aruba and Panama can be once the winter winds start in December.  We definitely want that passage completed before winter winds start.

We have managed to spend every last Bolivar in our pockets, with the final bit of money spent for fresh-from-the-farm eggs at 400 Bs each and the remaining coins tossed into a charity collection box at the mini-mart here in the marina.  Technically we are supposed to register with the park police (4 entities) in Los Roques and there should be fees to pay out there; but everyone we have spoken with who has been out there did not bother to check in if they were staying only for a week or so.  We plan to be in the Los Roques for only 4-5 days, anchoring at a different place each night; so we plan to chance it and are not planning to check in with the authorities there.  It isn’t a matter of spending the money for the fees, it is just such a hassle logistically.  They are just park police, there are no Customs and Immigration offices located in the offshore islands (except Isla Margarita).  We are now legally cleared out of Venezuela, but supposedly can take up to two weeks to reach Bonaire and check in there. 

Bonaire has turned some boats back to Venezuela because they took too long to reach Bonaire after clearing out of VZ.  So Bonaire actually has made some boats go all the way back to the VZ mainland and clear out again if they have taken longer than a “reasonable” amount of time to arrive in Bonaire after the dates on their VZ zarpe (departure clearance papers).  Our agent here said that if Bonaire gives us any trouble about this, then we can just tell them we will leave and go on to Curacao instead.   Supposedly, Curacao won’t hassle anyone about the dates in transit.

The reason behind all this is that Bonaire fairly recently gained her independence from the Netherlands Antilles, and she wants to be very friendly with Venezuela because of all the possible VZ tourist diving business.  So Bonaire is cozying up with Chavez.  Also, Bonaire does not want sailing yachts because they don’t think we spend enough money ashore.  They want the commercial dive boats instead – bringing VZ tourists out to Bonaire to spend money on rental cars, restaurants, hotels, etc.  Can’t blame Bonaire for that; makes sense.  It is illegal to anchor anywhere around Bonaire; you must pick up a mooring ball (actually 2 mooring balls per boat).  Bonaire is supposed to be the third best diving location in the world, and Bill is looking forward to diving there.  We will just have to wait and see what kind of reception we receive when we get there.

Tonight was the weekly pot luck dinner here at the marina.  Judy cooked stir-fried green beans and red peppers and red onions for our dish to share, and one of the nice rib-eye steaks that we bought at La Cava.  One steak is plenty for us to share.  This was almost like a going-away party.  There are several of us leaving tomorrow morning; most of us heading in the same direction.  It started to rain right at the time that the charcoal is normally lighted at the outside grill area, so everyone moved to El Ancla Restaurant.  They do not serve food on Monday nights but are open for happy hour.  So we all cooked our own meats on our own boats and brought our food to share up to the El Ancla.  Bought drinks from the restaurant and shared our own food.  Very nice time visiting with the other cruisers.  We hope to meet up with some of these folks again someday, somewhere.

Bill has spent the day cleaning the sea chest strainer, cleaning the watermaker pre-filters, filling our water tanks and just “ready to go to sea” type chores.  Judy spent the day cleaning the interior of the boat – taking advantage of the air-conditioning while we are still plugged into shore power.  And stowing away all the books and crap we have pulled out while sitting here in this marina for the past 3 weeks.   As everyone knows, sailboats heel over and sometimes get tossed around in the wind and waves; so can’t have any loose items to fly about.  Everything must go back in its proper place.  Last thing to do was to take down and stow away the shade awnings.  Unfortunately it started to drizzle as we were taking down the awnings, so we had to put them away damp.  Hopefully we will dig them out to use them again before they begin to mildew.

Our plans at the moment are:
Tuesday, Oct 24 to Tortuga
Wednesday, Oct 25 to Cayo Herradura (NW of Tortuga)
Thursday, Oct 26 overnight passage to Los Roques
Tuesday, Oct 31 to Aves de Barlovento
Thursday, Nov 2 to Aves de Sotavento
Friday, Nov 3 to Bonaire, where we will stay for a week or so
Then on to Curacao, where we will also stay for a week or so
Then the long passage to San Blas Islands.

There should be no internet connection available to us after we leave here tomorrow morning until we reach Bonaire or Curacao.  So this should be our last update for a couple of weeks.  We have been looking forward to Los Roques and the Aves for a very long time.  They have quite a reputation to live up to!  

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