Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Isla Tortuga and Los Roques

October 24, 2006   Tuesday 
Playa Caldera, Isla Tortuga, Venezuela
10.57.319N, 65.13.608W        Sailed 57.9 NM

We are in a beautiful horseshoe shaped anchorage with gorgeous white sand beaches.  There are less than a dozen boats anchored here.  We plan to stay here only one night, so are not bothering to put the dinghy into the water so that we can explore the beaches; it is too far for us to swim into the closest beach.  Just a beautiful place with the sound of light surf breaking on the beaches.  Should sleep well tonight.

There were at least 17 ships anchored or moving slowly just off Puerto La Cruz when we left this morning – all waiting for their turn to fill up with Venezuelan crude oil.  BTW, when reviewing our clearance paperwork yesterday, Judy discovered a minor detail that the US might like to know.  The US Virgin Islands are not really the USVI; the Port Captain of Puerto La Cruz considers St. Thomas to be in the Virgin Islands, West Indies.  We thought that was a bit funny and so typical of this particular close-minded little man.

The passage here took 8 hours at an average speed of 7.15 kts. It was a pleasant sail for the first half of this passage, close hauled with winds of 18-20 kts off our starboard bow in 4-6 ft. seas.  Then the wind died down and clocked a bit forward, but we were still able to motor sail for the third-quarter of the passage.   Then the wind died down to only about 3 kts and was straight on our nose, so we furled in the sails and motored the final quarter way in flat calm.

The last half of this passage was not pleasant in any way.  Only good thing about it is that it wasn’t raining!  It was a beautiful sunny day with very unusual white and light-grey clouds as far as we could see.   Judy saw one cloud formation that looked like it belonged in a Star Trek movie.  Wispy clouds formed up together to form the shape of an acorn or top and began spinning counterclockwise very rapidly.  Would have worried about a water spout forming except that these clouds were high in the sky.  This formation spun rapidly for about 5 minutes and then dispersed.  They then re-formed into the same shape, but about 4 times larger; and began to spin rapidly counterclockwise again.  That lasted several minutes and then it all dispersed again.  Really weird looking.

This passage was unbelievably rolly for such flat seas.  We have a gauge at the helm that indicates the degree of roll that the boat experiences.  We were constantly rolling 15% to each side, with a 20% roll about every fifth time.  Could not understand why we rolling so much in such flat seas.  Try doing that for four hours and see how it makes you feel!!  Judy was wishing we had some plain saltine crackers.  Bill wasn’t feeling any too spiffy either.  But neither of us actually got seasick; just did not particularly enjoy the passage. (BTW, provisioning note to those sailors thinking of heading to the southern Caribbean:  we have been looking for plain saltine crackers for at least the last 8 islands/stops.  Not to be found down here.  Crispix crackers are the closest you can find.)  It is not a good idea to sail with an empty stomach because it makes you feel more seasick; luckily, we had a loaf of French bread aboard that we shared for breakfast/lunch.  

Judy took a rotisserie chicken out of the freezer for dinner.  She has ten of them vacuum sealed in the freezer for days such as this.  It is hot and a little rolly even here in this very protected anchorage, so cooking does not sound like such a great idea.   We can pop a couple of potatoes into the pressure cooker for five minutes; heat the chicken in the microwave; add the stir-fried green beans that we saved from the marina pot luck dinner last night, and we will have a nice dinner with little effort and without heating up the galley too much.

A side thought:  public nudity is illegal in Venezuela.  This includes women in topless bathing suits.  Some of the Europeans apparently have a bit of difficulty with this concept.  There were warnings at the marina in Puerto La Cruz that they must adhere to Venezuelan law and keep their tops on.  And that they absolutely could not shower naked at the open showers next to the pool; those showers were for rinsing off only.   Funny to us that it became such an issue.  Seems like a simple sign in Spanish, English, French and German out by the pool should have solved the problem.  But some of the Europeans couldn’t seem to grasp the concept that their exposed flesh was offensive to the locals, as well as illegal.  Sort of like wearing shorts in a Muslim country.  Cruisers and travelers need to be sensitive to the local customs and act accordingly and not act like they do back home.

On our final approach to Isla Tortuga, a catamaran named Evensong crossed directly in front of us.  They had left the marina an hour or so before us and were going to the same anchorage.  We had watched them all day, crossing back and forth across our route.  They would be 15 degrees off our port bow for awhile and then meander off to be 10-20 degrees off our starboard bow, then be on the same course directly in front of us.  We could not figure out what in the world they were doing, as they were not tacking on this straight course.  Near the top of Tortuga where we would both turn west to round the reef point before entering the anchorage, they again crossed our path, directly in front of us.   As soon as they crossed our path then the guy started frantically motioning for us to watch out for the fishing line he was trailing.  What poor seamanship!  He is the one who should have been watching out for his fishing line; he is the one who cut across in front of us.  Glad we have a line cutter on our prop shaft so unobservant captains like that can’t make their problem become our problem.  We suspect that he never even realized that he had crossed so closely directly in front of us.  Maybe he was taking an afternoon nap.  Before some of you send us emails to tell us that we were the give-way boat in this situation, we know that.  But we would be required to yield right-of-way to the catamaran, not his trailing fishing line.  He was not displaying any of the day symbols to indicate that he was fishing or trawling.  Just poor seamanship.

The stars and the sound of the surf made for a beautiful evening.  We sat in the cockpit and listened to an old Simon & Garfunckel cd.  Old farts that we are!

October 25, 2006  Wednesday
Cayo Herradura, Venezuela
10.59.450N, 65.22.830W        Sailed 12 NM

This morning a French couple came over to our boat in their dinghy, just to visit.  They also own an Amel; neither of us remembers their names or their boat name.  The conversation was very limited because the woman spoke only French and her husband spoke only very limited English, but we managed.  They purchased their boat new in 1998 and did a five-year circumnavigation; said they wished they had taken ten years to do it.  They completed their circumnavigation in the Mediterranean, but he said that the Med is not a good place for sailing; so they sailed over to Venezuela and have stayed in the Caribbean ever since.   They sail to wherever interests them in the Caribbean and then leave the boat in a boatyard in Puerto La Cruz while they fly back to France to visit for several months each year.  We will likely end up doing something similar in five years or so.

Today we moved to a tiny spit of an island at the northwest end of Tortuga, named Cayo Herradura.  This is a lovely spot, totally flat and narrow, with a bit of reef off the south side.  There are a few temporary fishing huts constructed on the north end of this little island.   They look like they would be washed away in a high tide.  This is the prettiest spot we have seen the Tobago Cays up in St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

S/V Sealoon arrived in Playa Caldera late yesterday afternoon.  They had left Puerto La Cruz early Monday and sailed NE to Isla Cubagua to pick up a boat part that a friend delivered to them from Trinidad.  They said they had a nice downwind sail from Cubagua to Tortuga.  Goes to show you what a difference a different angle of sailing can make on the same seas.  We rolled all day with current across our beam and were uncomfortable; they coasted downwind with the current and had a great sail.

There was no wind today, so we didn’t even attempt to raise sails; just motored the whopping distance of 12 miles.  This is a better location to leave from when we head to Los Roques tomorrow night (weather permitting).  Sealoon also moved to this anchorage, although they plan to spend a few more days here than we do.  Today was Nicola’s 14th birthday.  We took the dinghy over for swizzle, wine and snacks.  Judy had a birthday card for Nicola and also gave her a computer game as her birthday present.  There was a gorgeous sunset with large blue vertical streaks as we were in the dinghy going back to Security.  Tried to take a photo, but it didn’t show up very well.

October 26, 2006   Thursday
Cayo Herradura, VZ

We awakened to a gorgeous day but within a few hours the winds had clocked to the infamous westerlies so common in this part of the Caribbean.  The current mostly runs toward the west and southwest; so when the winds blow from the west then this creates large rolling seas or steep choppy seas, depending on how long and how strong the winds blow from the west.   This made the lovely anchorage not so lovely anymore as we rolled from side to side for most of the day.  We both tried to sleep as much as possible in preparation for the passage to Los Roques tonight.

October 27, 2006  Friday       
Francisquis, Los Roques, Venezuela
11.57.615N, 66.39.074W        Sailed 96 miles

We left Cayo Herradura at 5:45 p.m. yesterday and sailed all night, arriving here about 9:15 a.m.; total trip 15 ½ hours, averaging 6.2 kts.  We could have made this passage faster but chose not to.  In fact, shortly after heading out we realized that we were going too fast at 8.5 kts and would arrive before daylight; so we reefed the sails and slowed the speed down to 6 kts.  You definitely want to arrive here in bright daylight as there are reefs and coral heads literally everywhere and you must pick your way through them.  Also, all the charts are off by as much as one-half mile, both electronic charts and paper charts.  You really must eyeball your way around here.

We opted to enter through the northeast entry point.  There were two entry points farther south where you enter through the reef and then proceed northward between two very long reefs.  But those entrances had heavy waves breaking and we didn’t see any reason to risk entering there when this entrance is broader, deeper and safer.  We first moved over to El Gran Roque to anchor there, but it was too busy and did not appeal to us.  Neither of us wanted to be anchored where small power boats are zooming all over the place between the anchored boats.  So we upped anchor and moved to Francisquis. 

The entry to Francisquis is a little tricky between coral heads and shallow sand and then around two patches of coral heads and two small reefs and dodging a couple of half-mega-yachts (what we used to call the “doctor boats”); but it is nice and calm once you get settled in here.  We are anchored behind a large reef, facing the open sea.  Really beautiful view but the water is too deep to be clear and there seems to be a lot of small clumps of sea grass floating around us.  So far, Judy is a little disappointed in Los Roques.  It was hyped by other sailors as being just wonderful.  It is pretty and very different, but very far from Judy’s definition of wonderful.  Maybe it will get better when we move to another island tomorrow.  There are dozens of tiny islands in Los Roques.

The passage last night was uneventful.  Judy spotted four falling stars and Bill saw another one.  There was a bright slip of a moon until it set about 10:30 p.m.  Then it was stars only for the rest of the night.  It is funny how the seas seem larger at night and the winds sound louder than during the daylight. 

You just have to have faith in your boat that she can handle whatever happens at night because you cannot see a darn thing.  This was the first night passage when we tried to stick to a specific watch schedule.  Judy was on watch from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. and Bill was supposed to sleep so that he would be rested for his watch from 1 a.m. until 4 a.m.  Of course, he could not get to sleep.  Twice he came running back up to the cockpit to see what we had hit when there were loud bumps.  Like mentioned previously, you cannot see a darn thing at night on the open sea and no moon.  So we have no idea what we might have hit; probably small pieces of wood or tree limbs, but could have been something as small as coconuts.  Who knows.

Now that we are anchored and showered and fed, it is time to kick back and rest all day.  Neither of us got much sleep last night.  Judy began to feel slightly queasy late in the night and didn’t get back to normal until after the sun rose and we could see again.  Cannot imagine how we are going to be able to do this for days and nights on end as we get farther west.  We must to learn to sleep during these passages.

October 29, 2006   Sunday

We haven’t moved, except from one side of this anchorage to out in the middle when space became available as boats left yesterday morning.  We were hoping to get away from the flies as we got farther away from shore, but it didn’t help much.  The flies are driving us crazy.  And Judy is being eaten alive by noseeums (tiny, tiny, tiny mosquito-type insects). 

We have two noseeum/mosquito hatch screens.  Bill put these two screens over the forward hatch and the hatch over the forward head.  Then he taped cheesecloth over the doorway to the front part of the boat, and we slept in the forward vee-berth last night.  No new bugs got into our little protected area, but Judy is miserable today from the itching bites that she got Friday and Saturday.

To all those people who said we would LOVE Los Roques: you didn’t tell us that we would be swarmed by flies and blood sucking insects.  So far, this place is definitely not in our top ten favorites.  The water is quite deep, right up until you reach extremely shallow water.  It immediately goes from forty feet to five feet, so you need to be very careful where and how you anchor.  We are anchored in ten meters.  If the winds switch to westerlies then we will be dangerously close to the shallow area.   Last night and today we have had strong winds from the east.  We had hoped to move to another anchorage today and try to get away from these flies, but the wind is pretty strong so we likely will just stay put.

S/V Sealoon arrived here yesterday morning.  They said that Cayo Herradura became so rolly that they were rolling rail to rail, so they came here earlier than they had planned just to get into a calmer anchorage.  S/V Unplugged just hailed on the VHF and they should be here in a few hours.  That just leaves S/V Do It! and S/V La Gitana that should be on their way here.  All of these boats were leaving Puerto La Cruz within a day of when we left, so they will probably arrive here shortly.  We will not pair up with any of them, but will continue to run into one another as we all proceed farther westward.  All of the other boats plan to visit Cartagena and we hope to head straight across to the San Blas Islands of Panama, weather permitting.   If we decide to follow the others to Cartagena, then we will need to contact our insurance company.  The waters of Columbia are forbidden by our policy, but we can pay $200 and get coverage for that area if the weather prohibits us from making the direct passage.

BTW, after we got out into open water the other day, we ran our watermaker for the first time since we replaced the membranes, the end caps and bobbin and both pre-filters.  It is great!  It produces water that is just as good as any bottled water that we have ever bought and better than some.  Prior to replacing the membranes, our TDS meter was reading about 460 to 490.  That barely meets the World Health Organization’s standard level of 500, and exceeds the US standard of 300.  Our watermaker now produces water that tests 95 to 97.  And it tastes very good.  That is quite a relief.  Note, we do still filter our drinking water as it comes from our water holding tank to our kitchen sink.  Wouldn’t want to risk something growing down in that water holding tank; so our drinking water is filtered to remove any cysts, etc.

One nice thing about this anchorage is the people watching – especially for Bill.  Small power boats and large day-sailor catamarans bring visitors for day trips from El Gran Roque to the beaches in this anchorage.  Bill thinks he has found perfection of the female form in a Venezuelan beauty attired in a tiny red bikini.

We enjoyed a glass of wine and several hours of friendly conversation in the cockpit of S/V Sealoon, along with Tom and Colleen of S/V Unplugged.

October 30, 2006    Monday
Crasqui, Los Roques, VZ        Sailed 12 NM
11.53.1012N, 066.44.5405W

S/V Sealoon, S/V Unplugged and S/V Security decided to move to the nearby island of Crasqui this morning.  We did not plan on encountering 40 kt winds and large rolling seas from the NE during what should have been an 11-12 mile short hop. 

The first squall wasn’t too bad and we stayed on course with poor range of visibility.  But the second squall was a solid 40 knots winds, bringing large rolling seas and zero visibility; could not see more than 10 meters past the edges of our boat in each direction.  As this squall approached we heard our friends who were well behind us talking on the VHF radio about the 40 knot gale, so Judy checked our compass and the nearby islands in every direction.  She determined that if the squall moved to our location that we would be safest to turn to a course of 310 magnetic and ride it out; that would take us away from any islands or reefs.  And that is exactly what we did about 5 minutes later when the squall reached us.  It didn’t last long as it was moving faster than we were, then we reversed our course and headed back to where we were headed in the first place.

Crasqui is a lovely anchorage; beautiful long beach with ultra-fine pure white sand and lots of shells.  There are a few dwellings ashore.  It is a very quiet beach and so far we have not noticed any insects.  We were all very tired of the flies at the last anchorage.

Judy made a cake shortly after we arrived and we brought some to share with our friends on the other two boats.  Nicola seemed to really enjoy her still warm slice of “Hot Milk Cake.”  Then we all went for a walk on the beach.  It was a very pleasant afternoon.

Anchored next to us is yet another couple that we met in Trinidad, Pat and Mike on S/V Private Affair from London.  Seems we are all following the same path on about the same schedule.

October 31, 2006   Tuesday
Crasqui, Los Roques

We planned to leave today for the passage to the Aves but weather prediction is better for tomorrow, so we have delayed for one day.  We went for walk on the gorgeous beach and saw what looked like a sea gull nursery.  There were hundreds of baby sea gulls standing on the end of the beach, all facing into the wind.  There was only one adult sea gull present, sort of like a bird day care center.  We both got a little too much sun; and came back to the boat and vegged out the rest of the day with our books.

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!  

Friday, October 20, 2006

Boat parts finally arrived.

October 20, 2006   Friday
Puerto La Cruz, VZ

Our boat parts arrived very late Monday afternoon – both shipments within 15 minutes.  After many, many faxes, emails and telephone calls.  The duty on the watermaker end caps was $185 USD!  So, our total cost including shipping and duty was about $1200 USD for only four silicone end caps with “O” rings, and extra set of “O” rings,  a one-inch long bobbin and “O” rings to connect the two membrane tubes, and a single dose of pickling powder.  A little expensive for such simple items!  But, of course, no alternative.

We installed the new watermaker parts early Tuesday morning before it got too hot.  Only took us 2 ½ hours this time; whereas, it took us about 6 hours to replace the membranes last time.  Any task is easier the second time around.  Bill also installed the new oil sending unit on the Yanmar engine; took about 20 minutes for that simple job.
Won’t know for certain that this fixed the high oil pressure gauge readings until we get out of the marina to test the engine at high revs.

So one would think we are now ready to go – but, nope.  Bill wants the Onan generator checked out before we leave here.  There is an Onan distributor/service center located here.  We have been trying to get him here since last Friday.  Each day we are told that he will come out the following day; he finally arrived about 10 this morning. 

The generator has been somewhat difficult to start since we first looked at this boat in St. Martin way back in March 2005.  Sometimes it starts the first time you push the button; sometimes it doesn’t and you have to try several times before it finally starts.  It only starts on the first attempt about once every three times.  As luck would have it, the generator started perfectly every time that the rep was here.  He spoke no English; we speak only “un poquito” Spanish.  Bill is afraid that the circuit board might be failing; Judy thought that this guy would not be capable of diagnosing an impending circuit board failure.  He didn’t have any of the computer type diagnostic equipment that would be needed to accurately diagnose a circuit board.  He found no problem but cleaned the contacts.  Only time will tell if corroded contacts were the problem.  Does sound like a logical, typical problem on any wiring on any boat.

Judy thought this was a waste of time and preferred to wait until we reached Curacao, where there is another Onan distributorship/service center.  It would be immensely easier to have parts shipped to Curacao than to VZ, plus English is spoken in Curacao.  But doing it here made Bill feel better and this little adventure is filled with small sacrifices to one another’s preferences.  If it will make Bill feel more comfortable for the next month, then waiting around here for a few more days isn’t that big of a deal. 

Yesterday Judy went back to La Cava, the meat market and bought our meat provisions for the next 5 months.  They cut and vacuum sealed the meats to Judy’s requests and are freezing it.  We will pick up the frozen, packed meat tomorrow.  This is what she bought:

2 whole beef tenderloins, trimmed and cut into 2-inch filet mignon
A 7-lb prime rib roast (for Christmas dinner; must plan ahead since we should be at an uninhabited island for Christmas)
8 very large prime rib steaks, cut 1 ½-inch thick and trimmed well
3 kilos (6.6-lbs) very lean ground beef, made from tenderloin & prime rib
20 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat
10 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, not pounded
3 whole chickens, split in half
4 pork chops

This entire order cost a whopping $158 USD!  That is less than the cost of just the tenderloins back home.  This type of meat market is called a frigorificos.   A frigorifico is a step above a carniceria (butcher shop).  A visit to her frigorifico is considered somewhat of a social occasion for many Venezuelan women.  She is given a bar stool to sit across from her butcher and watch him prepare her order and allow her to approve each step of the process. 

The price of the meat is government controlled and should be the same in all butcher shops.  The exception is chicken parts that are sold at a higher price if sold separately (but worth every penny and still inexpensive by US prices).  The chicken here looks and tastes much better than what we used to buy in the US

If you buy the meat entero (whole large cuts) it is cheaper and the butcher cuts it to your specifications for free.  The whole large cuts for the tenderloin and for the prime rib each cost 9,150 Bs per kilo; that translates to $1.60 USD per pound.  You are expected to tip the butcher.  A normal tip would be 5,000 Bs to 8,000 Bs, depending on the size of your purchase.  That translates to less than $3 USD.  Judy tipped the primary butcher 20,000 Bs and his helper 8,000 Bs.  Still very inexpensive.  Of course, the USDA would have a fit over this type butcher shop.  They definitely do not follow the proper USDA requirements.

We paid another guy (Jose) to wax our topsides and hull and all stainless steel and clean the dinghy.  We supplied the products.  Jose spent 3 ½ days working very diligently on this job and finished this morning.  He did a great job.  We had paid a guy in Trinidad to do this same work back in July, but everything looks so much nicer with this second cleaning and waxing.  The topside gel coat doesn’t look chalky anymore; it looks smooth and shiny and lustrous like it should.  Jose charged only $192 USD for all this work.  We were happy to pay this amount rather than slave in the hot sun ourselves.

Judy turned our paperwork over to our agent this morning after the Onan generator guy left, but it was too late to obtain exit clearance today.  So we should receive our zarpe (exit clearance) on Monday afternoon and will set sail early Tuesday morning.  She also notified the marina office to prepare our final bill.  They will owe us a refund but we aren’t counting on receiving it.

Bill is feeling nauseous today, so he is glad we will be staying put for a few more days.  He would not enjoy going to sea feeling this way.  We have eaten exactly the same foods and Judy feels fine, but Bill’s delicate digestive system is acting up.  It is difficult to find foods for him to eat these days besides plain meats and rice or potatoes, as he keeps adding foods to the list of what he will no longer consume.   And Judy loves almost all foods and enjoys trying new dishes and gets bored with the same old plain foods that we eat day in and day out. Hoping he gets to feeling better very soon; Judy wants to go eat pizza before we leave on Tuesday.  He can drink a beer and watch her eat it if pizza is on his list of “don’t eat” that day. 

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I'm taking 20,000 because I might buy a diet Coke.

October 15, 2006   Sunday

I'm taking 20,000 because I might buy a diet Coke.

That is what Judy caught herself saying recently when she left the boat to walk up to the mini-market.  And she didn't even think a thing about saying it.  Just shows how little this money is worth.

Last night we attended a dinner benefiting Fundamigos, an international volunteer organization providing surgeries for cleft palate, facial birth defect, burns, etc.  The cruising community has heavily supported this organization for years.  If you are a cruiser and you don’t do something to support this organization then you would probably be totally ostracized by the rest of the cruisers.  It is just expected that you will donate your time and/or your money to benefit this worthy cause. 

People are making blankets to be used in post-op (and usually taken home by the children).  These children come from families that are so poor that they literally have absolutely nothing, not even a blanket.  There was a bake sale and marine flea market last Saturday with all proceeds going to Fundamigos.  There was a talent night just before we arrived here.  Last night was the annual dinner held at the restaurant here in Bahia Redonda Marina; it raised more than 1,800,000 bolivars (about $700 USD).  There has been a drive to collect toy stuffed animals; so that each surgery patient will be able to have a toy to take home from the hospital. 

Many of the cruisers are also volunteering to work in the operating room, recovery room, janitorial, kitchen, and even entertaining the children pre-op.  The surgeries will take place October 19 through 22.  They do not require any medical training of those people volunteering to work in the operating room or recovery room.  The doctor in charge of this project does insist that those volunteering to work in both the operating room and recovery room must attend several days training at the hospital prior to the surgeries.  Can you imagine this every happening in litigious US!!!!  This year there is supposed to be only one doctor volunteering from the US.  Chavez has said that he does not welcome any US doctors into the country for this project this year; but one doctor is coming anyway.  Usually there are 15-20 doctors from the US for these annual surgeries.  What an idiot to prevent his own countrymen from benefiting from free medical care that they cannot obtain without the benevolence of international volunteer doctors, including those from the US.

We still hope to leave as soon as our boat parts arrive (assuming they EVER arrive), so Judy has not volunteered her time for the surgeries.  But we did participate in the bake sale, dinner and toy drive.  Fundamigos is getting our money rather than our time this year.

Several people have requested that we post some photos of the interior of our boat, so we are uploading a few when we enter this posting to the website.  An explanation or description will accompany each photo rather than explain here.

Yesterday morning we took a taxi to half-dozen chandleries and specialty stores looking for various boat related items.  Found about half of what we wanted.  Tony on S/V World Citizen tagged along with us, and he also found only about half of what he wanted.  Yesterday afternoon we took the dinghy to the mall at the back of the lagoon/canals; Tony and Heidi went with us.  The Guardacosta was stopping dinghies and checking for proper paperwork near the mall.  We had everything properly with us, but we lucked out anyway.  A couple of rich local kids were zooming around on the canals in large dinghies with 100 hp outboard motors.  They were zigging and zagging at high speeds all over the place and criss-crossed right in front of us, causing water to swamp up into our dinghy by their large wakes.  The Guardacosta was really nice.  They waved us on without checking us, but they stopped the rich kids in their go-fast large dinghies.  These kids looked to be maybe 12-13 years old.  Guess rich kids are the same world-wide.  On our way back a few hours later, these same kids were doing the same thing in another location away from the Guardacosta stop point.  Just taking delight in rocking other people in smaller dinghies and getting them all wet.  Wasn’t that big a deal to us; getting wet feels good and cools you off.

Judy wanted to play dominoes again at the marina bar (regular Sunday afternoon activity here), but instead we were treated to lunch by Tony and Heidi.  We walked to a nearby new restaurant on the lagoon.  We were the only customers in the place at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon.  The food was excellent.  We plan to spread the word around this marina and maybe help them get a little business.

We were digging around in the storage lockers of the boat again and found another treasure – several yards of both patterns of fabric used for the curtains and throw pillows in the aft cabin and saloon.  Had Judy known we had this fabric, she would have had a reversible duvet made for our bed.  She has been looking for either a duvet or coverlet or some fabric that would coordinate with the colors in our cabin to have a duvet or coverlet custom made, but she hasn’t found any that would work.  There was a woman in Trinidad who made custom bed linens.  Had we found this matching fabric a couple of months ago, we could have had a duvet made.  Too late to do that now.  Maybe eventually Judy will get her old sewing machine aboard and she can make it herself.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Meat markets and other things to do

Oct 9-12

October 9, 2006  Monday

Forgot to add this to our update for last week.  Official paperwork is a must here—at all times.  When we checked into this marina the office clerk made a copy of our cruising permit and boat documentation to keep in their files.  She also warned us to keep a copy on our persons at all times, along with a copy of our passport.  After our agent had cleared us into this port she also warned us to keep a copy of all our paperwork on our persons at all times when we step off the boat.  There is also a laminated pass that identifies us as being docked at this marina which we must also keep with us.

So, every single time we step off the boat we must carry in our pockets:  copy of passport, copy of boat documentation, copy of cruising permit, marina identification card, and, of course, a bathroom key, as well as a big wad of this money that is worth so little.  And when going anywhere in the dinghy we must also bring with us proof that we legally own the dinghy and the outboard and that each has been properly registered somewhere.  We made up our “official” registration papers for both the dinghy and the outboard as being registered in St. Thomas.  Of course, you cannot actually register an outboard with any governmental body; so what else were we to do.  This paperwork looks quite official, even has the official seal of the USVI on it – you can cut and paste all types of logos on the internet these days.  You do whatever works to not give the local officials any reason to bother you.

If the port officials or the Guardacosta stop you while in your dinghy and you do not have the paperwork, then you are subject to hefty fines and penalties – basically whatever amount they think they can extort from you because there is no law requiring this paperwork, just something they do in this particular area to get cash from the gringos.  And they will place that yellow police tape all around your yacht and you cannot board it – NO PASEO.  We have seen this NO PASEO on at least a half-dozen boats already.  Sometimes the boat owner has the original paperwork on his yacht, but he is not allowed to board his own yacht in order to retrieve this paperwork.  It is a Catch 22.  So you had better have a copy of it with you at all times.

A couple of weeks ago the Guardacosta visited the marina offices and reviewed their files for all boats docked here.  They found 9 boats with improper paperwork on file, so they put the NO PASEO tape on those boats.  That means the owners cannot board their boats until they pay the penalties/fines and correct their paperwork.  Usually what has happened is that someone has forgotten to renew their cruising permit on time.  When you first check into Venezuela you are required to purchase a cruising permit for $100 USD.  This cruising permit is valid for 6 months; but can be renewed twice (each time at a cost of $100 USD), which allows you to keep your boat here for a total of 18 months.  You personally cannot stay in this country that long, but your boat can.  Many people leave their boats here and fly home for months at a time.  Once your boat has been in Venezuela for a total of 18 months, then you must take the boat out of this country for a minimum of 45 days before the boat can reenter.  Then the process starts all over again. 

Now, just think what would happen if the US Coast Guard found boats docked in a marina without the proper US government clearances.  Bet anything that those boats would be confiscated, towed to a USCG lock-up boatyard and it would cost at least a thousand dollars to get the paperwork straightened out and your boat returned.  So what the local Guardacosta is doing makes perfect sense to us and seems far more lenient than what would happen in the US.

October 10, 2006   Tuesday

Today we shared a taxi with Chuck and Pam on S/V Helene Louise and went to La Cava, a fantastic meat market.  Chuck and Pam are leaving here early Thursday morning and wanted to stock their freezers with beef.  We just wanted to buy a small quantity of beef to try it.  If it was good, then we planned to go back and stock up just before we leave here.  We ended up buying more than we planned, like usual.

Michelle on S/V Blueprint Match gave us a 5-page printout explaining the butcher cuts here in VZ.  This was a great help.  And our taxi driver, Raul, was a godsend!  This trip was a lot of fun for all 4 of us.  That sounds really strange – fun to visit a meat market – but it was fun.  Raul did all the translating for us.  It would not have been fun if we had tried to communicate on our own.

Each customer is assigned a butcher.  There were six butchers in this shop, each with a counter work space of approximately 4 feet X 2 ½ feet.  Each butcher had a good set of extremely sharp knives; all cutting was done by hand.  You are given a bar stool across the counter directly in front of your butcher.  You tell him precisely what you want; he shows you the primary large cut of beef before he starts preparing the cuts you requested; and you watch him prepare everything exactly as you want it.  Then the cut meat is vacuum sealed in whatever size quantities you want.  This was the best looking beef we have ever seen.

Judy bought one lomito (tenderloin) and had it cut into medallions (steaks) about two fingers thick.  She requested that the smaller, tougher end of the lomito be used to make carne molida sin grasa (lean ground meat).  She also bought three kilos of solomo de cuerito sin huesos, corteme medallones (6.6 pounds of prime rib with bones removed, cut into thick steaks without the hard layer of fat).  And the butcher did not weigh this meat until after he had removed the bones, trimmed the fat and cut the prime rib into steaks.  Judy asked that the trimmings and the tougher meat part of the solomo de cuerito entero also be used to make carne molida (ground meat), this time with fat added so we can use it for hamburgers.  She also bought four boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded flat, which we watched cut from whole chickens.

We ended up with about 20 pounds of wonderful, exceptionally lean ground meat and perfectly cut tenderloin and lean trimmed prime rib steaks.  At a whopping cost of about $65 USD.  A single untrimmed vac-packed tenderloin back in the states would cost more than that.  And the personal service was fantastic.  We can only imagine how popular this would be back in the upscale grocery stores back home.  We have shopped in finer supermarkets in Houston where the butcher does personal service, but nothing compared to what they do here.

We are going to fill the second freezer locker with this wonderful, inexpensive Venezuelan beef before we leave this country!

Making progress on our parts orders.  Our watermaker parts from Martinique have arrived somewhere on the mainland of Venezuela late this afternoon.   It was shipped via FedEx and easy to track online.  It is tied up involving Customs duties and taxes now, because the shipper did not correctly address the airbill as we had instructed.  It is imperative when shipping to us in a foreign country that the package be addressed to Capt. Rouse, S/V Security—VESSEL IN TRANSIT.  The shipper forgot that little terminology when he shipped it with FedEx so now we have a small headache to resolve with the authorities in a distant city. 

We faxed confirmation of the bank wired funds to the Yanmar distributor here in VZ yesterday.  Still have not heard a word from them.  We will wait until tomorrow afternoon before trying to contact them again.  They already think we are a pain because we have emailed them so many times.  Thank goodness for Babel Fish free online translations.  That is how we communicate via email – write in English what we want to say and then translate it to Spanish using Babel Fish.  Then do the reverse when we receive a fax or email response from them.  This has worked fine so far.

BTW, today was Bill’s day to complain about everything.  He kept saying, “Why does every little thing have to be such a hassle?  Why can’t some things go smoothly?”  Also, we received a comment from Bill’s brother (a non-sailor) that Judy should stop complaining.  But we received emails from fellow sailors who said they could empathize heartily with the complaints Judy voiced last week.  Every one of them have been in the same situations at one time or another and felt the same way.  It just feels so frustrating when there is not a darn thing you can do about things you need done and feel thwarted at every turn.

Most of the people we know here went to Angel Falls last weekend.  Everyone said they loved the trip.  Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world.  The photos we have seen are beautiful.  We are hesitant to make this trip because we want to get moving as soon as our parts arrive and are installed, plus we don’t really want to spend at least $1,000 on another inland trip since we just got back from the Peru trip.  We can’t do everything and stick to any semblance of a budget.

Finally got our laundry back late this afternoon.  Last time we sent out laundry in Isla Margarita, it was returned to us including one pair of unknown men’s underwear.  Don’t think we were shorted anything that time.  But this time we are missing two pair of underwear.  Oh well.  Would much rather just do the laundry ourselves, but that is not allowed.  But at least it is cheap here; we paid equivalent of $7.06 USD for three loads of laundry, and they provide the detergent, etc.

October 12, 2006  Thursday

Probably should not jinx this by mentioning it before the job is complete, but it looks like we will be able to get the winch covers made after all.  We took down our mizzen sail and brought it to a sail loft on Monday; one of the seams had the stitching come loose for about two inches and we wanted to have it re-stitched before the sail became damaged in heavy winds.  They actually sewed it up while we waited 10 minutes, all for a whopping cost of about $10 USD.  While we were waiting, Bill read all their little notices posted about in their office and found a flyer that said they also made winch covers.  We inquired, and they immediately sent someone out to our boat to take measurements.  They gave us a price quote on Tuesday morning and said the job should be completed this Friday afternoon.  Yesterday two guys came by our boat and delivered the first four winch covers and re-measured for the anchor windlass cover and the really strange four-winch-on-the-mainmast cover that we also want made.  These guys again said that the job should be completed on Friday afternoon.  If so, we will be delighted.  These covers are being made from what appears to be very heavy sailcloth of some type instead of Sunbrella or canvas fabric.  But this fabric certainly looks like it will hold up to the weather and provide the protection that we want for these expensive winches.

Tonight we met Tony and Heidi of S/V World Citizen for happy hour at the marina restaurant/bar and then ventured into downtown Puerto La Cruz for dinner.  WORLD CITIZEN is yet another Amel Super Maramu 2000 like ours; this one is hull #266 and was manufactured in late 1999.  There certainly are a lot of these type boats down in this part of the world at this time of the year.  There are five Amel SM2 yachts in the water at this marina, and at least three more of them in the boatyard.  As there are only 30-35 of these boats built each year, it surprises us how many we see thoughout the entire southern Caribbean.

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Paseo de Colon, a major boulevard on the beach in downtown Puerto La Cruz.  It should be named Restaurant Row on the Beach.   We walked past more than a dozen places specializing in Chawarma, which is the Venezuelan version of middle-Eastern Shwarma.   The meat stakes were set up within vertical roasting ovens right on the sidewalk in front of each restaurant.  They each offered choices of either beef, chicken or pork (no lamb).  The bread wrap is not like normal pita bread found in Shwarma; instead, it is more like a very flattened and thin cross between pita and hard flour tortilla.  And it is served with lettuce and tomatoes and onions, but no yogurt sauce.  Judy prefers the normal pita bread and loves the yogurt sauce, but this version was still good. 

We also tried an appetizer of Tabaquitos re pollo – and that is not a typo.  Judy had no idea what this might be, so of course she had to order it and insisted that we each try one.  It was a version of small, thin cabbage rolls stuffed with a chicken mixture and topped with a vinegary liquid.  Actually surprisingly tasty; and absolutely nothing like taquitos de pollo like you would find back in Texas.

We did not feel in any danger whatsoever in downtown Puerto La Cruz.  We really don’t understand where all these danger rumors originate.  This city is not any more dangerous than Houston, Texas, and possibly much less than Houston.  Certainly there are areas where a prudent person would avoid, just like any other city in the world.   We like Venezuela so much better than Trinidad, and probably would like it even better if we were fluent in the language.

We would definitely recommend Venezuela to any cruisers considering venturing to this general area of the Caribbean.

Note that things change.  May 27, 2013 update.  We would not return to Venezuela today.  Crime has become much too rampant and it no longer can remotely be considered safe in any way.  

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Chinese Venezuelans?

Oct 4 thru 8th

October 4, 2006  Wednesday
Bahia Redonda Marina, Puerto La Cruz, VZ

Today we took the dinghy through the lagoon and visited Plaza Mejor.  This is a very nice shopping center with many restaurants and a supermarket at the corner.  Easily accessible via dinghy, but it is a very l-o-n-g dinghy ride.  This lagoon is huge and meanders way back.  The houses and marine/hotel complexes along the lagoon are extremely nice.  Looks very much like sections of Miami with their canals.  We have not ventured outside the lagoon/marina complex, but we do understand from other cruisers that downtown Puerto La Cruz is quite dangerous and rough.  We have no reason to leave this complex yet.

While we were in the Farmacia at the mall there was an altercation of some type in the parking lot right in front of that building.  We have no idea what this man had done (probably stolen something or robbed someone), but he was suddenly stopped by several security guards and fighting began.  It raised quite a ruckus, and within seconds this man was surrounded by at least a dozen security guards (who did not have weapons) and several police (who definitely had nice big guns).  The policia took the man away and everyone dispersed.  A man inside the Farmacia warned us to be very careful in this mall because it can be dangerous.  Didn’t seem dangerous to us; just stay aware of your surroundings.

We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant at the mall on the side of the lagoon.  It seemed really strange to have a Chinese waiter speaking to us in broken Spanish.  Made us wonder how in the world a Chinese couple ended up owning a restaurant in Venezuela.  The Chinese food had a distinctive Venezuelan touch to it; different from any Chinese food that we have eaten elsewhere.

We had hoped to have a dinghy cover and covers for the winches made here in Puerto La Cruz.  But we have learned that there is at least a six-week waiting list to have this work done.   Marine related business is booming locally.  Looks like we probably won’t be getting the covers we want after all.

We have ordered the new end caps and O rings for our watermaker from a distributor in Martinique.  Cost us about 600 Euros plus 120 Euros shipping, but we should have the parts hopefully by the end of next week.  The oil sending unit for the engine is proving to be more difficult to obtain.  We have located the part at the Yanmar distributor in Maracaibo, Venezuela.  They said that they have this part in stock and are willing to sell it to us.  But they want us to wire the payment first.  We are more than willing to wire the payment, except we cannot get them to tell us how much or where to wire it to.  This is getting a bit silly.  But we had been warned that it is next to impossible to obtain parts in Venezuela.  This afternoon Bill sent an email to the Yanmar distributor in Sint Maarten, asking if they have this part in stock and if they can ship it either to Bonaire, Curacao or Aruba.  Since the ABCs are (or until recently were) part of The Netherlands Antilles, maybe this can be arranged.

Paul and Michelle on S/V Blueprint Match are ready to leave here.  They are going to the same places we plan to visit.  Maybe they will hang around a bit longer until we can obtain these parts so that we can buddy-boat through the uninhabited outer islands.  It would be nice to have them around for company.

October 6, 2006  Friday

Okay, Judy is in a particularly foul mood today.  Absolutely nothing seems to be easy anymore; everything is a hassle in one form or another; so this is her bitchfest at the moment.

  1. We still cannot get an informative response from the Yanmar distributor here in Venezuela, so still have not been able to even order the part we need.  And the Yanmar distributor in Sint Maarten has not responded to our email.  This is frustrating.  Shame the US distributors won’t ship to somewhere down here, especially when we are willing to pay the shipping charges anyway.  Distributorships can be a PITA.
  2. We cannot seem to place a call with this darned Sat phone; it either drops calls or there is no signal.  Bill has set up Skype and we have used it to call our kids a few times but the WiFi connection is limited here in the marina, even with our external antenna and amplifier.  Maybe the bandwidth will be sufficient for us to telephone via Skype to the Yanmar distributor in Sint Maarten this afternoon.  Guess he doesn’t bother to read his email very often, like so many others that annoy us when we are trying to get an answer about something we need or want.
  3. Can’t get the dinghy cover and winch covers made here like we had hoped.  One shop has a 6-week backlog of work and the other shop doesn’t speak a word of English.  Judy’s Spanish is not sufficient to negotiate price and define the details of what work we want done and the required completion date, so guess we will forget about getting that done.  If we had our sewing machine then Judy could at least make the winch covers, which is what we consider the most important.  These winches have been exposed to full sun for the entire life of the boat.  The large electric winches cost about $6,000 USD each, and the ultra-violet light weakens the black pincher part at the top of the winches.  These should have been covered when not in use back when the boat was new in order to extend the life of the winches as long as possible.
  4. The electricity keeps going off here, numerous times daily.  Annoying.
  5. Yesterday Bill started to fill our water tank because we are down to only 200 liters, which would last us only 3-4 days if we are careful.  Of course, the dock water was turned off.  Water was supposed to be restored at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, but still no water as of 9:00 this morning.
  6. Judy separated the laundry and bagged it this morning.  We carried the 2 bags of dirty clothes and sheets and stinky towels down to the laundry which is about a block away here at the marina.  Just like everything else we have encountered in the past couple of days, the laundry facility was closed.  Seems they had no water yesterday so obviously could not work yesterday; they do have water today but now they need to do yesterday’s work, so they are closed to new work this morning.   Just figures, now that the bed is already stripped.
  7. Still cannot get the DVD out of the radio, and it has 2 episodes of Rome that we didn’t get to see yet.  Bill has installed the new DVD player and we watched one of the episodes on the next DVD in the Rome series, but it is annoying that we cannot get this DVD out of this machine.  Bill had email contact with JVC about this problem, but they have not bothered to respond to Bill’s last 2 emails (like every other business we are trying to deal with).  Again; annoying.
  8. The water finally came back on a few minutes ago.  Bill walked back to the laundry facility around noon and found that they are now open and accepting work for today.  So Judy lugged our 2 bags of dirty clothes back down there.  After the bags were accepted and written into their ledger and moved to the back of the shop, then the lady informed Judy that the laundry will not be ready until 5:00 p.m. on Monday.  So the only set of sheets that we normally use on the bed in the aft cabin won’t be back on the boat until Monday night (if we are lucky).  We have the really nice Egyptian cotton sheet sets that the previous owner had custom made for the boat, but Judy prefers not to use those.  He paid $2500 for those sheets; that is too expensive for us to use.  Guess we have no choice for the next 3 nights.  We have been unable to find a shop locally that sells sheets so that we can purchase another set of plain cotton double size sheets.  That size fits the bed well enough without any alterations required.
  9. Our anchor light is burned out again.   The bulb that Bill replaced in Trinidad the day before we left there only lasted 2 nights.  We have been using a portable light that we hang on deck each evening when at anchor.  Of course, we don’t need an anchor light here in the marina; but that is just another annoyance.  Twice now we have replaced the anchor light at the top of the mast and the new bulb has only lasted one or two nights.  Again; annoying.
  10. Several interior light bulbs have burned out in the past few days.  Guess they are all about the same age.  We have many light bulb spares onboard; but, you guessed it, we don’t have any of the ones that we need to replace.  Bill located a shop here in Puerto La Cruz that says they have the bulbs in stock that we need.  This shop is located downtown, so that means a taxi drive to the dangerous downtown PLC.  Whoopee, something to look forward to next week.
  11. The mini-market here in the marina is out of yogurt, which is what Judy planned to eat for breakfast today.  They normally sell fresh homemade yogurt.  They have had it every time we have walked into that store this week.  So it just figures that the one day that Judy wants to buy some, then they are out of it.
  12. Judy was planning to go to the water aerobics that they have each morning here at the marina.  She walked down to the pool to check it out and learned that this is not something that she would be interested in.  She thought it would be a real water aerobic session.  Instead, it was just a group of mostly women cruisers holding onto pool noodles or sitting on pool noodles in the water and jogging while they gossiped.  Not at all something Judy would be interested in doing each morning.  She has an aqua jogger and can do that simple activity on her own time; and the cruiser/marina gossip is of no interest.
  13. On Wednesday night at 11:45 p.m., Bill was asleep in the aft cabin with the air-conditioner running.  Judy was sitting at the computer playing Mahjong when she heard what sounded like 4 gunshots.  Sounded like it was from the area near the eastern guard checkpoint of this marina.  Haven’t heard any talk of what might have happened; but it very definitely sounded like 4 pistol shots.  Obviously it wasn’t anything serious or surely we would have heard something by now.  There is a slum area over that way.
  14. All our cruising friends from Trinidad are docked way at the other end of the marina.  Bill has talked to several of the cruisers docked near us, and Judy has talked to a couple of them.  We haven’t met anyone on our dock that we have clicked with as friends. 
  15. Judy’s right hip/back has started hurting again.  She is sure it is that piriformis syndrome again – where when you more the left leg it causes pain in the right hip and back.  She could buy the meds needed for this at the Farmacia without seeing a doctor, but she can’t remember the name of the drug that was prescribed when she had this last year.  Who knows how long it will take for this inflammation to subside without the meds.
  16. These darned people with their darned bicycles are annoying too.  They ride their bikes on the sidewalks which have large bushes growing all along the sides.  There is not room for someone to walk and for a bicycle to pass, and there is not room to step off the sidewalk to allow them to pass.  Plus, they park these bikes out on the docks in front of their boats (which they are not supposed to do) and the bikes get in the way out there.  Maybe if a few of these bikes find their way into the water then the bicycle owners would be a little more considerate.

See; Judy is just complaining about anything and everything this morning.  Maybe everything seems annoying because her hip hurts.  A little pain med might put her in a better mood.  Either that or put her to sleep; which sounds like a good idea to Bill right now.

On a positive note, it rarely rains here and gets down to 71F at night and there are no mosquitoes whatsoever. 

October 8, 2006  Sunday

Finally, finally, finally!!!  We finally obtained the price and bank wiring instructions from the Yanmar distributor in Maracaibo, VZ late Friday afternoon.  Thanks to the time zone difference, we were able to contact our personal banker at our bank in Houston and the funds were wired.  We have accessed our bank account online and verified that the wire transfer did take place.  Now all we need is the transaction confirmation number from the bank so that we can fax that to the Yanmar distributor in Maracaibo, and they supposedly will ship that part to our marina.  We can only hope that it won’t take longer than one week for the part to arrive here; it is about a 15 hour drive from Puerto La Cruz.

And we received an email from the watermaker rep in Martinique and those parts should have shipped either last Friday or will ship tomorrow.  They are supposed to be shipped FedEx, which we know is turned over to a local delivery company once it arrives in VZ.  We hope that these parts won’t be tied up in Customs and that they will arrive within a week.

Today Bill planned out our route and waypoints for our passages all the way to the Panama Canal, and we have a tentative schedule for each stop along the way.  We are hoping that Bill’s friend from Houston will be able to meet us in Bonaire so that he and Bill and do a few dives there.  Bonaire is supposed to be the third best diving spot in the entire world.  And we hope that our friends Donna and Bruce will be able to meet us for a week in Curacao

Bill’s brother John has also said that there is a remote possibility that he and a friend might be able to visit us in the San Blas Islands in February.  We plan to be in the San Blas for December, January and the first 2 weeks of February.  We hope to go through the canal by the end of February so that we can head to the Galapagos Islands in March.

Judy won today at the weekly Mexican Train dominoes that is played here at this marina.  This was her lowest score ever at 190, playing with a set of double twelve dominoes.  It was fun and a good way to meet the other cruisers.  Her prize was a free beer at the bar, which she gave to Bill.

On Friday night we attended a “movie” night at the restaurant here at this marina.  One of the cruisers showed his home movies of Bonaire and Los Roques.  We plan to visit both places.  We thought this person was going to talk a bit about these destinations; but as soon as the movies were over, the dancing started.  We met a nice French Canadian couple from Montreal, Raymond and Mirelle (she says to call her Angelina since English speaking people cannot pronounce Mirelle; we have tried a dozen times and she is right; neither of us can pronounce it correctly).  They are also here waiting on a boat part, and they hope to leave as soon as it arrives.  So we might be buddy-boating with them.   They are docked at another marina nearby.  They actually built their own boat; we look forward to seeing it.

BTW, the funniest VHF radio hail that we heard this week:

South of Reality, South of Reality; this is Reality calling

And, yes, there are two boats in this marina; one named South of Reality and one named Reality.  And they talk to each other on the VHF several times daily.

P.S.  Bill gave up on getting any help from JVC on removing the DVD that the radio ate.  Bill was able to remove the DVD from the JVC radio by taking it apart.  He then removed the DVD and screwed the radio back together and reinstalled it; and it works again.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Puerto La Cruz

October 2, 2006  Monday
Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
10.12.487N: 64.39.759W

Well, as you can see from our header, we decided to come to Puerto La Cruz after all and are once again located within our insurance zone for hurricane season.  We very much wanted to proceed onward to Los Roques and the Aves, etc., progressing westward; but Bill first wanted to order the new end caps and bobbin O rings for our watermaker.   We decided not to test our 5200 repair job until we have the proper replacement parts on hand.  We are hopeful that these can be shipped to Puerto La Cruz and that it can be done quickly. 

We also want to purchase a replacement oil sending unit for our engine.  Our current one is sending false readings.  The gauge is pegging out at 10 bar whenever our RPMs exceed 2000.  We are certain that this is a false reading; the oil pressure is definitely not that high.  It reads 4 bar at 2000 RPM and pegs over at 10 bar at anything higher.  We have talked to Chuck on S/V Helen Louise and he had the same problem and replaced his oil sending unit last year.   The Yanmar distributor in the states said that he cannot ship any parts to Venezuela, but there is a Yanmar distributor listed for South America and we plan to contact him tomorrow. 

May be just a coincidence, but Chuck also experienced the exact same problem with the leakage on the end cap of his watermaker last year.  And his boat is one year older than ours so that puts us on the same timetable for this maintenance.  Chuck said he was able to obtain replacement end caps from the Dessalator rep in Martinique.  Hope we can be so fortunate.

Our sail from Porlamar to Pozo on Sunday was very, very nice.  We were able to fly the mizzen ballooner for the first time, as the winds were off our rear quarter for the first half of the trip.   The first time we raised the mizzen ballooner we attached the clew positioned outside the mainsail boom; this is how the photo in our instruction manual appeared to be shown.  But Bill thought the sails would be arranged more effectively if we moved the mainsail boom outside the clew attachment of the mizzen ballooner.  So we lowered the mizzen ballooner; moved the mainsail boom far to the side; re-attached the clew for the mizzen ballooner over the top of the mainsail sheets (which places the mizzen ballooner inside or in front of the main boom.  This certainly does make the mizzen ballooner fly more effectively and cleanly.  We tried to get photos and will post them, but that is hard to do from the deck; really need to be on another boat in order to get a good photo of a boat flying sails.

Winds in these waters are truly weird.  When we left Porlamar the winds were from the East.  Wind slowly clocked to SE and then stopped completely.  When the winds started blowing again, it was from the WEST at a solid 20 knots!!  We have read about the westerlies down here but that was our first experience with it.  Over the next several hours the winds clocked to the North, and finally settled from the NE.  Really unusual.

Pozo was a quiet little fishing village, just south of Robledal on the western coast of Isla Margarita.   Cruising boats rarely visit this end of the island.  We did not get off the boat but it was a beautiful view in a calm anchorage; what more could you ask for.  It did get a bit rolly during the night, but that was probably caused by the fact that we anchored so far out.  We did not want to hinder the fishing boats that were anchored close in. 

Judy was awakened very early this morning by the smell of coffee from the little fishing village.  (It has now been more than 9 months since she gave up coffee.  Wonder how many years it will take before she still wants it first thing in the morning!)  Since she was awake, Judy decided to prepare to leave early.  We were well on our way by 6:00 a.m. and arrived in Puerto La Cruz about 2:00 p.m.

The winds were weird again today.  We never changed course as it was pretty much a straight shot from Pozo to Puerto La Cruz; the but winds changed from directly off our port beam, across the bow and ended directly off our starboard beam – a 180 degree change from East to West between morning and early afternoon.  Seas were completely flat, even oily because they were so flat.  There was sufficient wind to sail most of the way, but had to crank up the engine for the final hour.

We left the island La Borracha (drunken woman) on our starboard side as we turned towards the entrance to the marina.  There have been numerous pirate boardings at La Borracha so it is not safe to anchor there any more.  What a shame because it is a striking island.  However, there have also been numerous reports of people being attacked by vampire bats at La Borracha.  So that is definitely a reason to avoid anchoring there.  Contrary to popular belief, vampire bats do not bite your neck; they bite between your toes while you are asleep --an experience that we will gladly forego.

We anchored off the beach east of the breakwater entrance to the marina lagoon and lowered the dinghy from our mizzen deck and attached the outboard.  They use the Med-moor manner of docking at this marina, so the dinghy had to be moved to the bow of our boat before we backed to the dock.  After waiting 20 minutes for a response on the VHF, we finally received docking instructions from the marina and proceeded inside the breakwater.  A guy in a dinghy met us and guided us to our “slip” and assisted with the lines to the mooring off the bow.

You would not believe how tightly these boats are moored together.  When we saw the space that we were assigned, it appeared there would be no way our boat would fit into that narrow space.  But Bill backed the boat in perfectly while Judy literally rolled fenders down both sides of our boat against the boats docked on either side of us.  Once we were in place, there was no movement whatsoever of the boats on this entire dock.  We are packed in here like sardines in a can!  Everyone has plastic bottles tied over their dock lines, so we assume that rats can be a problem here.  We didn’t have any plastic bottles aboard that were large enough, so we ran the dock lines through the centers of some plastic plates until we can get something better.  There are so many cats roaming around on these docks that we don’t see how there can be that big of a rat problem; but we will do the plastic bottles since everyone else is doing the same.

While we were docking several of our friends who arrived here last week came over in their dinghies to say hello.  We checked in with the marina office and with the agent to clear us into this port.  It is so strange to have to clear and out of each port within the same country.  Judy ran into Noeleen of S/V Sealoon near the marina office and learned that there was a cruisers’ pot luck on Monday evenings here.  So Judy quickly prepared a dish to share and we grabbed a quick shower and met up with some of our friends within an hour.  After all the horror stories we heard about Puerto La Cruz, we are very pleased to learn that it isn’t nearly as bad as Trinidad.  Normal safety precautions should be taken, but the lagoon area is extremely nice and very safe. 

BTW, the BBC reported that Trinidad experienced a 6.6 earthquake last Friday.  The earthquake was actually off Venezuela, but felt in Trinidad.  Buildings were shaken badly but no injuries or building collapses as far as we know.  But all the boats on the hard at the boatyards were really affected.  Supposedly, if the tremor had continued even another 10 seconds then all the boats would have fallen.  They were that close to collapsing.  Wonder how the insurance companies would have like that, since they have forced 1400 boats into the boatyards there by insisting that we be so far south and not letting cruisers stay in Grenada any more.  BTW, it is only the US insurance companies that have excluded Grenada.  The Canadians and the Europeans can still stay that far north.  Only US insured boats are required to be as far south at 10 degrees 50 minutes.