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.  

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