Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fled Hurricane Dean from Bonaire to Chichiriviche, Venezuela -- a fabulous place!

Note May 28, 2013:  Crime has become too bad in VZ.  We would not go there today.

August 19, 2007  Sunday
Golfo de Cuare near Chichiriviche, Venezuela
10.54.723N; 068.18.432W                  Traveled about 95 NM from Bonaire    Avg 8 kts.

When we checked the location of Hurricane Dean on Friday morning at 1:00 a.m., there had not been enough movement for us to make a decision whether to remain in Bonaire or head south.  We decided to check again when NOAA made their 5:00 a.m. report.  For the previous two 18-hour reports, the storm had moved .9 degrees north and .6 degrees.  During the current 18-hour period the storm had moved only .3 degrees north.  So, we set our decision criteria to be that if the storm had moved at least another .6 degrees north by 5:00 a.m. then we would stay in Bonaire.  Anything less than another .6 degrees north, then we would head south to Venezuela.  This meant that the storm must be at least at latitude 14.5N by 5:00 a.m. 

It wasn’t!  The storm had only moved to 14.3N by 5:00 a.m. Friday.  Even though neither of us thought it was necessary, we decided that it would be prudent to move southward so that we would be within the insurance zone for storm coverage.  If we had stayed in Bonaire then we would have had to motor back and forth behind the little island of Klein Bonaire when the winds shifted to the west or south or if swells came in from the west, all of which were definite predictions starting Friday night and lasting though the weekend.  If another boat had collided with us then our insurance would not be in effect.  The other option was to go to Curacao and anchor in Spanish Waters, where there are at least 50 boats already anchored.  If a boat dragged anchor and ran into us then we would not have been covered by our insurance because we were not far enough south.

So a trip to Venezuela was in order. 

We left Bonaire at 5:20 a.m. Friday and arrived near Chichiriviche about 4:30 p.m..  We had to motor almost the entire trip as the winds did indeed shift to be from the south (directly on our nose).  This was the wind shift that we had feared would affect Bonaire.  Sure enough, according to our weather service emails, Bonaire sustained a couple of wind reversals between Friday night and Sunday morning.  Glad we weren’t there!  It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  We know what we can handle, but we always worry what the “other guy” might do wrong to cause an accident. 

We are glad we came down to Venezuela.  If we had not made this storm avoidance trip then we would have missed out on seeing a wonderful area of Venezuela around Chichiriviche.   As we entered the main channel from the sea into Chichiriviche this morning a flock of scarlet ibis flew across our bow about a boat length in front of us.  These were the most scarlet ibis that we have seen at one time.  A scarlet ibis looks like a pink flamingo except smaller and bright red; legs seem a bit shorter proportionate to the total body size as compared to a flamingo.

There are high, dramatic cliffs along the southern shore of the Golfo de Cuare.  Mangroves cover the western and northern shores.  We maneuvered through the mangroves on the eastern side of the Golfo in order to get inside here.  At one point the water depth beneath our keel was only 1.8 feet!!!!  But it was an adventurous little trip for us.  Our navigation charts stopped about 1/3 of the way inside here, but our sailing guide had a good detailed sketch-chart and we followed it easily through the mangroves.  Bill stood on the deck and I drove the boat while constantly glancing at the depth gauge.  It was really pretty easy and our first attempt at gunkholing. 

We are the only boat inside the Golfo; there were 3 or 4 other sailboats that anchored out just behind the point bordering the sea.  They didn’t attempt to wind their way through the mangroves to get into the Golfo de Cuare.  We are very glad that we did not anchor out there with the other boats.  Apparently very few boat come inside the Golfo because we are quite a curiosity to the locals.  Several boats have come by to take photos of S/V BeBe at anchor in here.  Guess they don’t see a 53-foot sailboat in here very often.  We are breaking the cardinal rule about never anchoring alone in an isolated spot anywhere near South America.  But we feel totally safe here.  We are setting our boat security alarm each night and locking down the hatches except for the one hatch in the cabin where we are sleeping.   If someone does board the boat the alarm would sound and we could lock that hatch before anyone could reach it.  Just because we feel safe doesn’t mean that we aren’t being security conscious.

It is truly gorgeous in here.   We anchored in 16 feet of water fairly far away from the cliffs --- for 2 reasons: 1) to avoid as many insects as possible and 2) to catch as much wind as possible.  Bill put our two mosquito covers over the forward hatch and the saloon hatch, and we zipped up the shade screens around the cockpit.  This is not “bug-proof” but it drastically reduces the number of flies and mosquitoes who can find their way inside the cockpit or down below deck.  We want to purchase two more of these “noseum” mosquito nets for the remaining two hatches and have screens made for our four side ports.  We also want to buy many yards of nylon netting o bridal veil netting to stuff into the spaces where the cockpit shade panels don’t completely zip shut.  Those things would really reduce the number of bothersome insects to get inside the boat or cockpit.

This morning we put the dinghy in the water and motored over to the Indian site in the cliffs on the southern shore.  There are some rock carvings inside a cave that was used as a burial ground by the Caquetios Indians who lived here around 3400 B.C.  The local people have built a small jetty there where the local tour boats tie off and unload their passengers to walk around inside the cave area.  The cliffs above the cave area are the most dramatic cliffs all along the southern shore line.  We wanted to go see this cave before the local tours started for the day and thought that Sunday morning would be the best time to avoid being in anyone’s way.  There was only one tour boat there while we visited.  Another man and little boy arrived in a hand made dugout canoe just as we were leaving.  There are quite a few rock carvings in this burial ground area.  If you walk back you find yourself in a crater with sheer cliff sides about 200 feet high.  Quite a sight!

A bit east of the Indian cave site is a grotto of some sort.  It is full of little statues so it appears to have some sort of religious significance to modern day locals, but we have no idea what.  There is a fresh water spring that comes out of the rocks behind a large single mangrove tree well up inside this little grotto area.  Every nook and cranny of the rocks in this grotto are filled with statues, photos, candles and all sorts of things.  Apparently in memory of departed loved ones would be our guess, but who knows.  At any rate, it is a different kind of place and we are glad we were fortunate to see it.

This large body of water with the high cliffs and mangroves all around it does evoke feelings of long ago.  We can see in our minds-eyes what life must have been like for the native Indians who lived here more than 6000 years ago.  I am reading a series of anthropological novels about Native North Americans covering 13000 BC through 1200 AD.  Wish I could find a similar series of books about South and Central Americans because I find this history interesting and would like to know more about the Caquetios Indians as well as others who inhabited South and Central America.

Off topic note:  last week when the kids were visiting I bought a couple of one-liter cartons of what I thought was chocolate milk.  It was labeled in Dutch; I could tell it was chocolate and it was in the milk section of the supermarket.  (BTW, I think the United States may be the only country left where milk is still sold in refrigerated bottles; everywhere else milk is sold in UHT long-life cartons which are not refrigerated until ready to use.)  That night I asked the kids if they wanted a glass of chocolate milk; answer, of course, yes.  I cut the corner of the carton and started to pour a glass.  GLUNK---GLUNK----GLUNK!  This was the thickest chocolate milk that I had ever seen.  Turns out it was a carton of chocolate pudding ---- called Chocolade Vla on the carton label.  BeBe still wanted chocolate milk but she had to do without and settle for Vla instead.  I hope to go back to that supermarket and buy some more Vla before we clear out of Bonaire this week.  Also want to try the Banana Vla and the Strawberry Vla.  BTW, we also found long-life yoghurt.  It requires no refrigeration until ready to serve and the expiration date is sometime in December.  It has a bit of a powdery or grainy texture but would be great for while we are in the San Blas Islands and can’t buy anything for a few months.

August 20, 2007  Monday
Cayo Sombrero, Morrocoy National Park, Venezuela
10.52.863N; 068.12.734W      Traveled 24 NM

Today was the day to finally move out of the Golfo de Cuare (or Golfo de Cuaro, depending on which chart you look at).  We very much enjoyed being anchored all alone with views of the dramatic cliffs.  The local people were very friendly; many came by in their lanceros to take photos of our boat or simply to wave and say bueno dia. 

On Saturday Bill had dug out our high-pressure salt water pump.  We normally use our fresh water hose to wash down the boat as needed.  And we already have a salt water wash down on the anchor, but it doesn’t always line up exactly with the anchor chain as the chain pulls up over the bow roller.  Since we were anchored in basically a huge sea water lake surrounded by mangrove swamps, we knew that the bottom was mud instead of sand and that our anchor chain would be particularly nasty when pulled up.  Bill set up the high-pressure salt water pump to siphon up from the sea water level, through the pump and then through a hose to wash down the chain as it was raised.  He tested it and it worked great.  So he decided to lower all our anchor chain and wash it thoroughly as it was raised.  Well, duh!  He kind of forgot that he would be lowering all the chain into yucky mud!  Good thing the pump arrangement worked so well because that chain came up with large chunks of mud all over it.  Bill washed it well and lowered the excess chain back into the anchor locker.  Now we were set for when we were ready to raise the anchor and move on.  No muddy chain going into our chain locker!

First thing this morning we again set up the high-pressure salt water pump and the hoses and started raising the anchor chain.  Murphy’s Law struck at once.  No matter what we did, the pump would not bring up the salt water more than a trickle.  And man, was that chain muddy!  So, what to do?  Luckily, Bill had saved a small section of hose with an end-fitting that fit our stationary salt water anchor wash down mounted near the bow rollers.  He switched out the normal fitting with this small section hose fitting and attached a water hose.  Now we were in business again.  Had very strong water pressure to wash the chain as it was raised.  It took probably 30 minutes to raise and clean 48 meters of anchor chain.  Once the anchor was off the bottom I went back to the helm and started slowly driving out of the Golfo.  This time it was easy because I could simply follow the track we painted on our electronic chart when we entered.

While doing all this messing around with the anchor chain we discovered that the windlass would only operate sporadically to lower the anchor chain.  It raised perfectly, but it only lowered every once and awhile.  Bill looked at it later in the day after we were anchored for the night.  His synopsis of the situation is written below my blog for the day.

After we re-traced our path out of the Golfo we went back down to Morrocoy National Park.  Unfortunately, neither of our electronic charts are correct for this park area.  And our sailing guide did not appear to be correct either.  And to top it all off, all the channel buoys and navigational markers were missing.  There was nothing to guide you through this huge maze of snaking water ways and reefs except the color of the water, and the water was murky (except where it was so shallow that the reef was almost exposed).  And there were at least a hundred of fast moving power boats zooming in every direction.  Talk about stressed out!!!!!!

Our only purposed in going to Morrocoy was to try to buy diesel.  We are down to half a tank and have already used our spare jerry cans.  Our sailing guide stated that in 2001 a certain small marina planned to start selling diesel.  So we thought we would give it a try.  The guy who owns the fuel dock supposedly speaks good English and monitors the VHF radio.  We tried raising him on the radio several times with no answer.  We decided that we didn’t need all this stress just to buy cheap diesel, so we turned around and got the hell out of that place!  We would NOT recommend any keeled boat going to Morrocoy.  It is fine for power boats, but sailboats need to avoid that place.  However, all that said, it is a beautiful place.

We motored back out of the park and headed north between Cayo Sombrero and Cayo Pescadores.  We planned to anchor behind Cayo Sombrero for the night but we wanted to paint a track of the way out because we plan to leave sometime during the wee hours of darkness to head back to Bonaire.  It would be nice if we could simply sail straight to Curacao, but we did not check out of Bonaire when we headed to Venezuela very early last Friday morning.  This lack of clearance is not a problem for us here near Chichiriviche and Morrocoy because there is no place here to clear into Venezuela.  The nearest place for VZ clearance is Puerto Cabello, about 45 miles east of here.  There are no customs or immigration officials in this area to check on us; and the local Port Captain does not want anything to do with private yachts.  He says not to bother him.  So we were go back to Bonaire tomorrow and Bonaire officials will never know we left.  We hope to do a bit of shopping for specific items and then clear out and head to Curacao on the first good weather prediction.

And, now is Bill’s story about the ailing anchor windlass:

Reason number 200 as to why I would buy only an Amel

The windlass had a problem today.  It would raise the anchor but not lower it from either the helm switch or the button on the windlass.  A quick check reflected that the Lofrans control box was the culprit.  This could happen on any boat.  The control box would be mounted on a bulkhead somewhere that you would have to stand on your head and hold your tongue just so to be able to even see it.  Either that or it would be in a similar place, but hanging free and swinging with the boat.

Let me try to explain what Amel does with the Lofrans windlass control box.  The most forward port side storage compartment has a beautifully finished door that when opened exposes several circuit breakers on the forward side of the compartment.  By the way, the compartment is lined with 100% natural wool woven in a 1/8” pile.  All of the storage compartments on an Amel are lined completely with this wool (top, bottom and sides).  It naturally absorbs moisture and, of course, it keeps things from rattling (sailboats move).   There is a thumb-screw nut located just under the breakers inside the door.  When the thumb-screw nut is loosened and removed, a piece of wood that the breakers are mounted on loosens up…it does not fall, just gets loose.  If you observe the other side of that forward cabinet wall, you will see a finished piece of mahogany that the breakers are mounted on…also mounted on the reverse side are several relays and the Lofrans control box. 

Remember, I said that after removing the thumb-screw nut the board became loose…it did not fall.  It did not fall because it is held in place by Velcro.  Pulling the board from the Velcro reveals a finished mahogany board with relays and the Lofrans control box on one side…the other side is upholstered in 100% wool and has a piece of Velcro.  Now that the board is free of the Velcro, you can pull it out of the tight quarters in to an open area because all of the wires are long enough to allow that.  Oh, by the way the wires are all labeled, they are bundled and strapped…AND there is a small piece of bungee cord to pull the slack out as you replace the board.

NOW, after all of this “hard” work, the Lofrans control box can be replaced.

There are hundreds of reasons just like this one that explain why I would only buy an Amel.

August 21, 2007 Tuesday
Kralendijk, Bonaire
12.09.114N, 068.16.725W      Traveled 77.2NM        Average speed 7.72 kts

The alarm clock failed to sound this morning so we left Cayo Sombrero a little later than hoped.  Anchor was up and we were on our way by 6:30 a.m., and we arrived Bonaire and were tied to a mooring at 4:30 p.m.  It was a very easy passage.  Bill was sick this morning and spent hours laying in the cockpit.  Good thing I can handle the boat by myself --- especially since we were motoring for the first half of the trip because there was zero wind.  Bill began to feel better around mid-day.  The wind finally picked up to 15 knots and we sailed the last 35 miles.  A very easy trip.

We are glad that we made this little side trip to Chichiriviche area of Venezuela.  It is lovely.

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