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.

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