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.

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