Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Uh-Oh and Saharan Dust / Hurricanes

I finally learned to plot a course on Maxsea.  About time, don’t you think?  I plotted our routes from Bonaire to Cartagena.  This is a first for me as Bill normally takes charge of that kind of thing.  I decided that it was time for me to learn a little more about the software.  I know how to do whatever might need doing while we are underway and following a route that Bill has plotted, but my Maxsea knowledge stopped there.  I plotted the trip into several routes since we do not plan a straight passage.  We will stop in Curacao for a week or two; Aruba only overnight; then Monjes del Sur, VZ; then move into Colombian waters.  In Colombia we plan to stop in Cabo de Vela, Bahio Cinto, Rodadero, Punta Hermosa, and finally Cartagena.   After I finished, Bill reviewed the routes and deleted a total of three waypoints on the seven routes that were not required and served no real purpose.  So I didn’t make any big mistakes on this first plotting attempt.

We will follow the course as laid out by Lourae & Randy on S/V PIZAZZ.  They have made this trip more than a half-dozen times and have collected invaluable data that they freely share with all interested cruisers.  Unfortunately, their GPS waypoints do not agree with either of our sets of electronic charts for the waters of Colombia.  There are no paper charts available for this area.  We have a large paper pilot chart that covers the entire Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and Bahamas.  This pilot chart covers the entire northern coast of South America and the eastern coast of Central America.  But it obviously provides no details of the coastline.  It is supposed to be an area of very, very rough heavy seas and strong winds from all directions.  That trip should be interesting.  We should be doing this trip during first two weeks of September. 

There is an underwater rock wall across the main Boca Grande entrance to Cartagena.  The Spanish built this wall to keep out the British and it is still very much intact.  There is a 50-foot wide break in this wall that allows small vessels to traverse the main entrance.  The water is brown and you cannot see this underwater wall.  Unfortunately, the waypoint for the entrance provided by PIZAZZ does not agree with either of our charts.  And the entrance waypoint provided by the marina where we will be staying also does not agree with either of our charts.  There is another Boca Chica entrance to Cartagena but it is miles further south.  It saves more than 2 hours sailing time to enter at Boca Grande through the break in the underwater wall.  I plotted our route through where we think the break is located.  Not sure if we will follow that route or chicken out and waste the additional hours going to the “safe” southern entrance.  We can’t make that decision until we get there in September.

Now for the Uh-Oh. 

When our Winlink email was set-up several months ago two letters of Bill’s HAM call sign were transposed.  This means that our Winlink email is wrong because your call sign is part of your email address.   This is a problem and we aren’t 100% certain how to fix it.  Plus, once we do get the call sign corrected on Winlink then all those people who already have the wrong email address will not be able to contact us.  You can only have one Winlink email address so we cannot also leave the incorrect one functioning.  Not only that, but it is also an FCC violation to use this incorrect HAM call sign.  We truly do not know how this could have happened because your HAM call sign is supposed to be verify through the FCC database when Winlink confirms your original registration.

I discovered this transposition of letters in the call sign whenever I linked to check our latest reported position report.  I tried checking our position by entering our correct HAM or Winlink call sign which I found on Bill’s HAM license, and it showed no report for us.  I questioned Bill about it and he gave me the transposed call sign and it worked.  Turns out that the transposed call sign is printed on our boat cards and that is what Bill looked at when he first set-up Winlink, thus explaining why our Winlink email address is wrong.  So we have been violating FCC regulations for months and did not know it.  We must get this corrected ASAP.

I should have mentioned this weeks ago.  We owe a big “thank you” to a young cruiser who was in Isla Margarita.  We have a life vest for our 5-yr-old granddaughter when she visits next week, but we did not have a life vest for our 6-yr-old grandson.   She is tall and thin and still weighs less than 50 pounds; he is tall and just flat-out big and weighs over 70 pounds.  I suggested that we make an announcement on the morning VHF cruisers net in Isla Margarita that we were looking for a life vest for a child weighing 70-80 pounds.  I figured with all the cruising families in that area that maybe a boat had a life vest that their child had outgrown.  A very nice young guy gave us a life vest!  He refused to accept any payment.  How very nice of him.  He said he had bought it for when his nephew had visited and he no longer needed it.  It was just taking up space on his boat so he was happy to pass it along to another sailor who could use it.  We promised that we will also pass it along to another sailor after we are finished using it.  We don’t know this man’s name and could never understand the name of his boat.  He is an American and appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties and is cruising with his German girlfriend.  Would like to acknowledge his generosity and sorry that we don’t know his name or his boat name.

BLUEPRINT MATCH is leaving Bonaire tomorrow or the next day.  We are sad to see them go but understand the desire to move on.  They have been in Bonaire more than 2 months and are ready to move over to Curacao.  They are one of the boats that we hope to meet up with on the passages to Cartagena.  Main reason that we are sad to see them leave is that they have two young children who would have been perfect age playmates for our grandkids when they arrive next week.  These were the only young children that Bill and I know in the area right now.  Paul and Michelle have a 5-yr-old boy and a 3-yr-old girl.  They would have enjoyed playing with our grandson and granddaughter.  Oh well, not to be.  Guess the grandkids will have to deal with just adult company.

We read on one of the weather sites recently that this Saharan dust in the air is actually beneficial.  It creates a mess on and in our boats that turns into red-brown mud when a bit of rain falls, and it makes the seawater less clear and sparkling.  But its benefit out weighs its detriments.  The benefit is that all this Saharan dust is keeping the Atlantic Ocean cooler than normal.  The sun cannot penetrate the dust to heat up the ocean.  This means that the water temperature is not high enough to sustain hurricanes yet this year.  We can live with this dust and hope it continues for the next two months if it will stop potential hurricanes from forming.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Containers to avoid on boats

July 20, 2007  Friday

Hair ---it seems to grow on the floors and in the crevices of the cushions inside the boat.  No matter how thoroughly I clean, little bits of broken hair show up in the strangest places.  How can so much hair accumulate inside a boat?   I do not brush my hair inside the boat.  I make it a point to go topsides to the stern to brush my hair so that any loose hairs will fly away from the boat.  And, as everyone who has seen the photos on our website or has personally met us knows, Bill has little hair left on his head to fall out.  So where does all this hair come from?  You would think that we both should be totally bald by the amount of stray hairs that continually need to be cleaned up.  Ah, ‘tis a mystery.

And those are my only thoughts for the day.  Going back to reading about dead Indians (anthropological novels about Native Americans dating 1500 BC to 1000 AD; interesting stuff).

July 21, 2007  Saturday

It has happened again.  Another container of liquid has leaked.  This time it was only a bottle of distilled water, and it was double contained so there wasn’t too much of a mess to clean up.  The constant movement of a boat makes everything, and I do mean everything, slide just a minute amount all the time.   This constant movement causes things to chafe and leak in a matter of weeks or months. (You also need to stuff your medicine pill-bottles with lots of cotton or any pills turn to powder in a short time.)   We take several precautions to prevent the movement from chafing holes in containers, but obviously we have not found any precaution that works 100% of the time. 

We have multiple heavy duty solid plastic containers down inside the cockpit lazzarette.  These fit tightly together so they don’t move with the motion of the boat, although I’m certain that when we are heeled over and sailing hard in rough seas there must be some ever-so-slight movement of these containers from the pressure exerted to their sides.   Everything that goes inside the lazzarette is placed inside one of these containers.  We have one container of snorkel gear, two of cleaning products, one of sponges and brushes, one of bottles of oil, etc.  We try to wedge the cleaning products tightly inside the storage containers so that the individual bottles can’t slide around.   Some products are additionally placed inside heavy plastic bags to further reduce the chance of chafing just in case some movement occurs.  Plastic bag on plastic storage container means less friction and should reduce chance of chafe.  The gallon jug of distilled water that leaked today was inside a heavy plastic bag placed inside one of the storage containers.  The bag held almost all of the water that leaked so there wasn’t too much of a mess to clean up.  This mess was nothing like the 2 gallon jug of Tide liquid detergent in the floor storage locker last year; or the gallon of mineral spirits in the cockpit lazzarette when we first bought the boat.  FYI, this same chafing will also quickly wear through soft drink cans or beer cans stored anywhere on the boat.  It will even happen to canned food but it does take longer to wear a hole through those heavier cans.

Which brings me to another warning to other cruisers:  beware pop-top cans of food.  These are becoming more and more commonplace.  At first thought these seem quite convenient, but try to avoid them if possible.  Reason:  they sometimes explode!  While we were in either Carriacou or Grenada I felt industrious one day and inventoried all our food lockers.  This was a major accomplishment because we have a LOT of food lockers on this boat, and they are pretty full.   I am pretty good at remembering what food is on the boat, but it had reached a point that I could not remember if we had 16 cans of peas or 11 cans of peas, etc.   So how else would we know what to buy if we did not first know what we had on hand.  To inventory everything I had to unload each locker and then write the items on my lists as I repacked the lockers. 

This process disclosed 2 previously unknown food problems onboard.  A pop-top can of peaches had exploded inside one of the upper cabinet food lockers.  The syrupy mess had already started to mold.  Strangely, there was no smell from this nasty food spill; if there had been a noticeable smell then maybe we would have discovered it sooner.  Wasn’t too bad cleaning up the locker and washing each can.   This can of peaches had an expiration date of April 2009, so it did not explode because it was old.  Maybe the heat?

The second food problem was discovered in a bag of flour.   We have fifteen bags of flour vacuum sealed and placed in a floor locker; all-purpose flour, cake flour, bakers flour and bread flour.  I pull one out as needed and usually keep one bag of all-purpose flour open in an upper food cabinet because that is what I cook with most often.  We haven’t made our own bread in many months.  In an upper cabinet food locker there was an opened bag of bread flour that I had forgotten to re-seal after I last used it in the BVI in December.  I did not take the time to pull out the vacuum seal machine and inverter and seal it correctly; also did not know at the time that we would not be using bread flour again for such a long time or I would have sealed it correctly.  Anyway, I took the lazy way out and just stuck the bag of flour inside a large Ziploc bag, the heavy freezer kind.  A Ziplock bag does not remove the air inside like the vacuum sealer does.  This provided a perfect environment for weevils to hatch, which they did.  If it had been vacuum sealed then the absence of air would have prevented the weevils from hatching.  Thank goodness I decided to inventory when I did.  There were only a few hatched weevils and luckily they were still confined inside the Ziploc bag.  Another few days and there would have been weevils throughout the cabinets on that side of the boat.  Lesson learned.  I will definitely be more vigilant in how flour is stored in the future.

Last night we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3.  Funny; the last movie we saw was last July in Trinidad; and that was a Superman movie.   One movie per year.  What a change for me.  I used to enjoy going to the movies at least twice per month, usually by myself since Bill worked long hours and really wasn’t interested in movie-going anyway.  We had enjoyed the original Pirates movie, but #2 and #3 were each about one hour too long for our tastes.  There were too much computer graphics instead of actual live acting in those movies.  At any rate, it was something to do for the evening and got us off the boat for a few hours.  We stopped for drinks with a few people after the movie and enjoyed talking with them.

Today Bill is diving again with Tony (WORLD CITIZEN).  They decided to start their dive right off the stern of our boat.   Tony is an advanced, very experienced diver.  Bill is a novice.  Bill needs and wants to gain more experience, but he needs a diving partner.  You should never dive alone for safety reasons and I don’t like it and am not interested in the slightest.  Bill doesn’t want to tag along with all the more experienced divers because he feels like he would slow them down.  Tony is being a very good sport by diving with Bill and helping Bill gain experience.  And Bonaire is such a diving paradise that it would be a shame for Bill to be here all these weeks and miss out on this experience.

Last Wednesday evening we attended a screening of a half-hour video of diving around Bonaire that another cruiser has produced.  Grant on REALITY is an avid diver and has been in Bonaire for months.  He took video of many of his dives and edited them all together into a nice 30-minute movie with music.  Grant did a very good job and we enjoyed watching this short movie.  It started off with him following a good-sized octopus for several minutes.  There were numerous rock-fish and those are interesting.  One could be on a rock or coral and I would never see it.  They camouflage themselves to the color of the rock they are hiding on, but it takes 2 weeks for one to fully acclimate its coloring when it moves from one rock to another.  There are so many diving tours around Bonaire that these rock-fish feel they must move often, attempting to get away from the divers (poor, tormented fish).  Grant had captured videos of rock-fish that were green on one side and yellow on the other side.  One was mostly sort of pink colored to match his new rock home but still had some green remaining from his previous habitat.  These darn fish blend in with the rocks so well that you would likely never know you were looking at a fish.  There were many unusual live creatures and fish in this little movie.  There are some really weird things down there!

Bill did not take our underwater camera with him on the dive today.  Probably should have so he could capture some of the beautiful things there are to see down there, but he also probably should concentrate on safe diving while he gains more experience.  He can take underwater photos later when he is more comfortable with the entire experience.  He is supposed to knock on the boat hull when they return from this dive so I can hand down the camera to him.  They plan to stay under/near the boat while they use up the last bits of air in their tanks.  And I would like Bill to take a close-up photo of our prop.  At our haul-out last month he coated the prop in lithium grease in hopes that it might help keep barnacles from growing on the prop so quickly.  (We already know that painting the prop is useless---that does absolutely nothing toward preventing barnacle growth on a prop, despite what some self-appointed “experts” think.)  We had read of someone in the Med who claims that he coated his prop with lithium grease and it remained barnacle-free for an entire year.  We figured, what the heck; why not try it.  The boat has been back in the water for about 6 weeks, so I would like to see how the prop looks now.

July 22, 2007  Sunday

The lithium grease on the prop has worked as well or better than any other anti-fouling you can put on a prop.  No marine growth yet.  Our friend Tony did a haul-out a month or so before we did.  He was switching brands of paint this time, so took his boat down to the barrier coat; and then applied the latest type Seahawk paint which is supposed to be so effective in the Caribbean.  There are barnacles already growing on his freshly painted boat bottom!   Tony borrowed our underwater camera to take a few photos to send to the Seahawk rep.  This same rep was in Antigua at the time of Tony’s haul-out and had seen Tony’s boat being prepared for the Seahawk paint, so he already knows that the boat was prepped properly.  The rep said that Seahawk will pay to have the bottom re-painted.  That is great customer service, but the extremely premature failure of the Seahawk paint is very troublesome.  We painted our boat with Micron 66 again.  Last year the paint was thinned too much and we had what I considered to be heavy marine growth by the end of the year.  This year the paint was applied correctly so we are hoping that it will last well.  Knock on wood, so far (it’s only been 6 weeks) there is no marine growth whatsoever on our boat bottom.  Really hoping that this paint lasts well.

We heard from our eldest son, Trey, on Friday and learned that our 6-yr-old grandson’s passport finally arrived.  This is exciting news for us.  Zachary has a ticket to fly to Bonaire with his Uncle Aaron & family on 30 July.  His parents had applied for his passport the first week of April; they even paid for expedited processing service.  The US State Department is so swamped with passport applications that it took 3 ½ months to process a passport for a 6-year-old US born kid.  Can’t imagine the delays others might be facing.  At any rate, it is a relief to know that Zachary will be able to visit along with BeBe.  Elisabeth, a/k/a BeBe, will celebrate her 6th birthday while visiting us on the boat.  We are very much looking forward to their visit.  Everyone will probably be bored stiff since our lifestyle is so very different from what they are accustomed to, but it will be good for them all to kick back and totally relax for a couple of weeks.  Recharge their batteries, so to speak.

The marina here in Bonaire has been sold to someone in the UK.  The marina also controls the moorings and the free WiFi that we have been using.  This weekend the WiFi disappeared.  Wonder what other changes are in store for the cruisers here in Bonaire.  The marina had been under the same ownership for at least 11 years.  The new owners won’t be here in Bonaire until December.  Some of the long-term employees fear for their jobs.  Hope the new owners don’t change too many things.  We are hopeful that another WiFi will become available in a few days.  If not, then we will have to investigate a fee service WiFi.  We plan to be in Bonaire for at least another month and we certainly do not want to go without internet access on the boat for that length of time.

Bill and I went to see another movie this afternoon.  Now we have seen both of the movies being screened in Bonaire for the balance of month of July.  Bill had me drive the dinghy when we went to town and our return to the boat.  That is a first.  I don’t drive the dinghy.  I handle the 53-foot boat very well but have no experience handling the 10-foot dinghy.  In the past my frozen shoulders hurt too much to maneuver the outboard.  Now my shoulders are pain-free (thanks in large part to movements required while living on a boat for a year), so Bill decided that it was time for me to finally learn to drive the dinghy.  I don’t have a problem steering the outboard (although I prefer to go slow and Bill prefers to go fast), but I do have a problem starting the outboard.  Guess eventually I will learn all the quirks of the choke and throttle and so forth.  I definitely will not be going off in the dinghy by myself until I feel more comfortable dealing with that outboard.

Speaking of which, Bill had the outboard serviced Saturday afternoon.  Don’t remember what all was done to it, but this is the first time that this outboard has been properly serviced.  They had to order a carburetor rebuild kit that should arrive in a week.  This is a 2003 outboard so it is about time that it was serviced properly, don’t you think.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Usual cruiser stuff in Bonaire

July 17, 2007 Tuesday

Sunday we played dominoes with the regular cruiser crowd.  There really are not that many cruisers here in Bonaire.  There are only 40 moorings available for the entire island.  The moorings are aligned in 2 lines.  Everyone wants on the outer moorings because if you are on an inner mooring and westerly winds hit, then your boat will be pounded  close to the seawall.  The inner moorings should only be used by smaller boats.  All the outer moorings are now filled but there are still several inner moorings available.  So that gives you an idea of how few cruisers there are here in Bonaire.  There is also a marina, but hardly anyone goes into the marina unless they are leaving their boat for a flight home.  The marina is directly across the road from a salty pond and the mosquitoes are horrendous in the marina; mosquitoes are not bad out here on the moorings.  So, anyway, mostly the same people play dominoes each Sunday.  A young woman named Sarah who is visiting  SCOTT FREE won; this was the first time she had played.

Then we attended the Pot Luck dinner on Sunday night.  Again, a small turnout; probably because the announcement was made too early in the day and most people had not yet turned on their VHF radios.  I made crab cakes with tartar sauce and haticots verts (slender green beans).  We had a very large bag of these green beans left over from the French islands and I wanted to get them out of the freezer.  There was a small turnout at the dinner so now Bill and I will be eating green beans every night this week.  Good thing that we like them.

Yesterday we did a small bit of grocery shopping.  Being a Dutch island, there is lots of gouda and edam cheese to be found; but they do not sell cheddar here.  Don’t think either gouda or edam will substitute well in cooking for dishes that normally call for cheddar, American or Monterrey Jack.  The Dutch prefer extremely bland food.  

We have not yet found any place on Bonaire that sells fresh fish; so, of course, that is what I wanted to cook yesterday.  Not to be had; only frozen fish in the supermarket and we did not trust that.  Bonaire is the first island we have visited that does not have a fresh fish market near the sea.  We watch a local guy go outside the moorings every evening and hand fish, but he is the only fisherman that we have seen.  This is just too strange.  Surely there must be a fresh fish market somewhere and we simply haven’t found it yet.  The guide books don’t mention one.  How can there be an island without fresh seafood for sale?

Make & Mend Day got off schedule when we left Isla Margarita on a Thursday.  Last week we did it on Monday and this week we are doing it on Tuesday.  Since our youngest son Aaron and his family will be flying down to visit us in a couple of weeks and will be arriving and leaving on Tuesdays, I think we will just temporarily change to Tuesdays for Make & Mend Day (laundry and making water). 

Such an exciting life we live, huh?

Note to fellow boaters:  anything with rubber in it will disintegrate on your boat.  Of course you all already know that if you have ever kept a rubber band onboard for any length of time at all.  I have a cheap Timex watch that has a rubbery type watchband.  It separated right down the length of the watchband during our last overnight passage.  (I only wear a watch during overnight passages.  I don’t care what time it is otherwise, but on night watches we each have a routine that we follow every 15 minutes so I need a watch then.)  Not hopeful that this glue repair will hold but Gorilla Glue has worked on everything else we have tried, so it is worth a shot.  Heck, sometimes it seems like Gorilla Glue would repair a broken rudder!  Stuff seems indestructible.

Okay, since I brought it up:  our routines during overnight passages.  Whoever  is on watch follows this routine every 15 minutes.  Like all other cruisers, we do not sit at the helm during our watches unless traffic is nearby or the weather is severe.  Sitting at the helm behind the windshield and dodger can get quite warm and still.  More than 99% of the time we sit back on the cockpit cushions on a Sport-A-Seat braced against the mizzen mast on the high side.  This affords a clear view all around the boat and places the watchperson out in the wind.  This helps greatly to avoid feeling seasick during black nights – a little wind on your face.  We each wear a watch.  Every 15 minutes the watchperson gets up and turns on the monitor to verify position on course and make any necessary course adjustments, turn on the radar (usually kept in standby mode overnight in order to save battery) and verify no targets or track those that are nearby; and check the trim of the sails and any changes in wind direction.  Doesn’t do a bit of good to look at the water because if something is ahead of you (like a tree trunk or flotsam), it would never be seen on a dark night.  Every hour or so of your watch, you usually get a bottle of water or hot cocoa or tea or whatever.  Bill also likes a few chocolate cookies or cracker snacks.  For some reason you always want to snack more when on watch at night by yourself.  Maybe to relieve boredom? 

That’s what we do.  Would love to hear from other sailors as to how they pass the time during night watches.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Arrived in Bonaire (again)

July 12, 2007  Thursday

Sunday we cleared in with Customs.  Immigration is closed on weekends so we did the Immigration clearance at the Police station.  The guide book says that if you clear in at the Police station rather than the official Immigration office, then you are supposed to check in with Immigration within 2 weeks.  But I wrote on the Immigration form at the Police station that we want to stay in Bonaire until October 5; the police officer stamped the form and gave me a copy; and he stamped our passports for entering Bonaire.  He did not tell us anything about also needing to go to the Immigration office within 2 weeks.  So in our opinion we are cleared into Bonaire until October 5 and do not plan to visit Immigration at all.  Others we know have had problems with the Immigration officers; so since we have a form with an official stamp on it that says we will be here until October 5 and our passports are also stamped, we see no reason to possibly complicate matters by visiting the possibly contrary Immigration officers.

Sunday afternoon we played dominoes; only 6 of us showed up to play the weekly dominoes game.  Bill & Carol of S/V HOPE and Louise & Gary of S/V LULU were the other players.  LULU is a 61-ft Oyster; a lovely boat.  We had met Louise & Gary last year here in Bonaire.  They are a couple of born and bred New Yorkers who have been cruising since 1999.  I especially appreciate Louise’s sense of humor.  She writes a column for Blue Water Sailing.  Her cruising logs can be found at if anyone is interested in reading yet another sailing log.  Michelle of BLUEPRINT MATCH also dropped by.  Great to see that they are back on their boat.  Paul & Michelle and their 2 young children left BLUEPRINT MATCH here in Bonaire last November while they returned to Florida to work for 6 months.  Now they have replenished the cruising kitty and are delighted to be back out cruising again.  They also plan to go to Cartagena in September, so we should be seeing again.  Michelle told us about several boats that we know planning to make the passage from Curacao/Aruba to Cartagena in late Aug/early Sept.  If the timing works out right maybe we can be part of their flotilla through the Colombian waters.

Sunday evening we attended the Taste of Bonaire.  This was rather blah-blah-blah.  Just the same old Taste of Anything format; a lot of local made costume jewelry and a few food booths.  We didn’t hang around there very long and went to dinner with Tony & Heidi of WORLD CITIZEN.  Bill ate way too many ribs as Sunday is all-you-can-eat rib dinners.  I opted for what they consider to be a Greek salad.  It did at least have feta cheese in it so I guess that was their tribute to the Greeks.  But it was drenched in a sweet dressing and had no kalamata olives, so definitely not my idea of a real Greek salad.  Funny how our standards have changed while living in the Caribbean because I was perfectly happy with my “not-so-Greek” Greek salad.  (Oh, but we will definitely visit Niko-Niko’s while we are in Houston during December for a taste of real Greek salad and those wonderful Greek potatoes.)

Monday we vacuumed the entire interior of our boat.  There was a constant grit blown into the boat while we were in Isla Margarita.  This dust has been bothering both of us but we delayed cleaning it thoroughly until we got away from all that dust in the air (WE HOPE!!).  Monday night we went out to dinner with Gary & Louise of LULU and John of TANGO.  John is batching it while his wife is visiting home for a few weeks.  We walked to three restaurants before finally finding the fourth one that was open and not serving a buffet.  Neither Bill nor I like buffets.   I had the best grilled tuna dinner with a fresh tomato/basil sauce.  By far the best tuna I have ever tasted.  Bill opted for the sesame coated tuna with soy-ginger sauce.  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Gary & Lou.  John had to leave early because his dog was on the boat all alone.

Tuesday we walked around town, ate ice cream and visited the grocery store.  Exciting, huh?

Wednesday night we went out for pizza with Tony & Heidi.  Again, an enjoyable evening.

Today we awakened to a hard rain with lots of wind and some lightening.  Thank goodness!!  Everyone has been wanting a good solid rain to wash all this reddish-brown Saharan dirt off our boats.  All the rigging is coated with the red dirt.  Every time it has rained, it has rained so little that it just causes tiny rivulets of red-brown water to make a mess all over the topsides.  This morning’s rain was heavy and long enough to wash away all the dirt.  After the rain stopped we got out and I held the dinghy while Bill washed the sides of the hull down to the waterline.  Much easier now that it has a fresh coat of wax from our recent haul-out.  Cleans right up.  I stand in the dinghy and hold onto the toerail of BEBE while Bill uses a brush on a broomstick and a bucket of fresh water mixed with Joy dish detergent to wash the sides of the hull.  Our fresh water hose is just long enough to reach the entire length of the boat so we can rinse the sides with fresh water.  We should do this daily because it is great exercise for the midrift.  But that would use a bit too much water even for our high-capacity watermaker.

Bill is not feeling well.  Too many ribs on Sunday night; too many sesame seeds on the tuna on Monday night (and way too much wine); and too many onions on the pizza last night.  This is the first time that his Crohn’s has acted up since we moved aboard more than a year ago.  Guess he will have to start watching his food intake more closely.  Right now he says he will never eat on this island again, but I bet he changes his mind about that once the pain stops.  There is a cruiser cocktail hour and book exchange in about an hour, but doubt we will attend.  Bill is supposed to go diving with Tony tomorrow.  Hope he gets to feeling better so that he doesn’t have to cancel.

July 14, 2007  Saturday

Bill feels all better and he did go diving with Tony on Friday.  Bill said it was just “peaches.”   I’m glad he got to try out his new BCD.  Now we know it works fine in case he needs to make another emergency dive on another fouled prop.   Hope Bill gets the opportunity to go diving often while we are here in one of the diving capitals of the world.  I don’t share his enthusiasm about diving so he must find others to go with him.  Tony dives almost every day so maybe Bill can tag along with him sometimes.

Tomorrow is the weekly dominoes game.  There will also be a cruisers’ pot luck tomorrow night.  Pot luck is different here in Bonaire because there is no grill.  The restaurant in the marina is closed on Sundays and the owner graciously allows the cruisers to use his table and chair facilities for a pot luck, but there is no grill available to us.  Normally at a pot luck you bring a dish to share with everyone and you bring your own meat or seafood to grill.   Since there is no way to cook your own meat there and providing meat or seafood for 20+ people would be a bit expensive (not to mention a lot of darn trouble to cook on your boat and haul it down to the pot luck), there is no telling what foods will be served at a Bonaire pot luck.  Often it is all vegetables.    Plus, they meet for drinks at 6:00 p.m. and don’t eat until 7:00 p.m.   Obviously any hot food you bring down there at 6:00 is lukewarm at best by 7:00.  So it is never a hot meal.  I plan to bring crab cakes and a large dish of green beans.  Both of those can be served room-temp.  After all, the main purpose of this event is to socialize; the food is secondary.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Isla Margarita to Bonaire

July 5, 2007  Thursday
Isla Cubagua, VZ
10.49.903N; 064.09.730 W          Sailed 24 miles, Average speed 6.86 knots

We left Porlamor, Isla Margarita, about 9:30 this morning.  Had a gorgeous downwind, down-current sail; and anchored at Isla Cubagua atbout 1:00 this afternoon.  Winds were 27-30 knots but they were from behind us.  We were sailing flat and smooth with poled out genoa and preventers on both main and mizzen.  Perfect sailing conditions.  Didn’t even notice the high winds until we furled in the sails and turned crosswise to the wind to enter the anchorage.  Then it was like:  Man! Where did all this wind come from!

Winds have continued to stay in the 30 knot range all afternoon.  We are really pulling on the anchor snubber line.  Winds are supposed to die down during the night and should be about 20 knots tomorrow.  So we are expecting another great downwind sail to Tortuga.  If we are enjoying the sailing we might just continue on to Bonaire and not stop in Tortuga tomorrow night.  We will make that decision tomorrow evening.

I have had a slight fever all day and slept a lot.  Hoping to sleep a lot more tonight and that I will feel better tomorrow.  Bill is on his own for dinner tonight.

There have been a couple of armed robberies at Cubagua over the past few years.  Advice is to lock yourself inside the boat at night, and that is exactly what we plan to do when it gets dark.  With our loud alarm system and flashing bright lights, we really are not the slightest concerned about a possible robbery.   The only structures on this island are a dozen or so homes of fishermen.  But it is only about 15 miles from the western end of Isla Margarita and that is where robbers supposedly come from.  At any rate, we aren’t worried about it at all.  Besides, we are flying our very large “we have guns onboard” flag, a/k/a the USA flag.  Funny, absolutely none of the boats that have been robbed that we have heard or read about were American boats.  All have been European boats; the last one was from Iceland.  The native inhabitants of the Eastern Caribbean and coastal Venezuela believe that all USA boats carry guns.  Fine with us if they believe that.  Just encourages them to target other boats instead of us.

Isla Cubagua was the first European settlement in the Americas.  It happened because Christopher Colombus saw some natives with pearls.  Within a year, two adventurers, Christobal De La Guerra and Pedro Alfonso Nino, discovered the source of the pearls to be the pearl beds off Cubagua.  In 1492 fifty fortune hunters arrived and founded Nueva Cadiz on the eastern side of the island.  They took Indians as slaves and forced them to dive for pearls.  They worked them so hard that hundreds of Indians died.  At the height of the pearling industry Cubagua pearls provided Spain with a wealth almost equal to the gold transport from the Inca lands.  In one year alone Cubagua exported 820 pounds of pearls.

In 1520 a force of 200 well-armed Indians attacked the town and forced the Spaniards to leave.  The Spaniards came back in force and rebuilt the town stronger than before, fortifying their houses against attack.  A fort was also built over the mainland to secure a water supply.  After a few decades of heavy exploitation the supply of pearls decreased and new beds were sought in Coche and Cumana.  On Christmas Day in 1541 an earthquake and tidal wave destroyed Nueva Cadiz.  Now Cubagua is uninhabited except for a small research station and a few fishing camps.  Pearl fishing has been prohibited since 1962.  And the Europeans think the Americans are bad about butting into other countries.  They literally raped the Americas of natural resources and murdered thousands upon thousands of Native Americans simply to gain wealth.  Do as I say and not as I do (or did).

Off the northeastern tip of the island there is a partially sunken car ferry.  This ship caught fire and the cars it was carrying began to explode.  It was quite a fiery site.  Advanced divers can dive on this wreck and see the cars still inside the ship.  It is far too windy to do this today.  We would have liked to snorkel this area as there are supposed to be something called basket stars and large star fish.  We are quite familiar with large star fish of all colors, but we have never seen anything called a basket star.

July 6, 2007 Friday
Pta. Arenas, Isla Tortuga, VZ
10.55.518N; 065.25.450W           Sailed 77 NM; 10.5 hours; average boat speed 7.33 knts

Today was our first experience sailing with double headsails.  We used both headsails for about 2/3 of the passage from Cubagua to Tortuga; then the winds shifted slightly more to the north; so we took down the starboard headsail and left the port headsail poled out with preventers on the mainsail and mizzen.  There also were following seas for the first 2/3 of the passage, but about the same time that the winds shifted more northerly, the swell also changed to be off our beam.  Still, it wasn’t too rolly and we made very good time.  There is normally about 1 knot current in your favor when sailing westward along the outer islands of Venezuela and that seemed about right today.

The double headsails are supposed to be used in winds not to exceed 20 knots.  We were right at that limit all day.  These poled out double headsails are designed to be used when the wind is more or less directly behind the boat, a point of sail that normally cannot be sailed.  Using both headsails made for a very comfortable ride with the following seas.  We both could do that for weeks.  It is a very flat and fast form of sailing and makes cooking and doing regular boat stuff very comfortable.  We hope to do much more of this type of sailing when we reach the South Pacific.

Putting up the second headsail was quite an experience.  Like everything else, it will be easier the next time since now we know how it works.  Our forestay has 3 tracks; most boats have only 1 track.  Ours has the normal genoa installed in the port side track.  The starboard headsail goes into the starboard track and locks into place at the top of the forestay when the sail is hoisted fully and correctly; then we insert a “mouse” into the center track and hoist it to the top of the forestay to release the starboard headsail when we are finished with it.

First we had to remove the second headsail from the foredeck sail locker and bring it to the cockpit.  We had to flake it so that it would feed upward correctly.  Then we carried the flaked sail back to the bow.  Bill fed the sail into the starboard track on the forestay while I hoisted it up with a halyard on the mainmast.  Neither of us could tell if it had clicked into place at the top of the forestay.  Bill gave it a couple of really hard yanks and we assumed that it was clipped into place, so we tightened the sheet and poled it out to the starboard side.  Wrong! 

It was not clipped into place correctly at the top of the forestay and within a couple of minutes it started to come down.   I released the tension on the sheet and went forward to help Bill try to contain the sail as it lowered down onto the foredeck.  About 4 feet of the foot ended up in the sea for a moment, but we managed to get the entire sail back onto the deck.

Second attempt.  This time Bill again fed the sail into the track and I hoisted it up with the halyard.  By the time the sail was at the top I was too weak to pull it hard enough to make it clip into place.  Bill decided that this time we would put the halyard onto a winch and give it a turn or two to make certain that the darn thing was actually clipped in place at the top of the forestay.  Our instruction book says to do this part by hand, but it did not work the first time we tried doing it by hand so we felt that a winch was in order.  It worked perfectly.  The sail stayed up this time and we truly enjoyed sailing with the double headsails for about 7 hours.

Then the winds shifted too far north (starboard side) to allow us to continue to use double headsails.  The instruction book said to turn toward the wind until the wind was on the beam before dropping the sail; this should make the sail drop onto the deck instead of into the water.  We tried this once, but something wasn’t right – not sure what, but something wasn’t right.  So I turned the boat back to the original course and we started the dropping procedure all over again.  Bill sent the mouse up the middle track until it was almost to the top of the forestay.  Then he moved as I turned the boat toward the wind to move the wind up to the beam,   I also let out 5 meters of the sheet so that the sail would have no outward tension as it came falling down.  I hit autopilot and went forward and stood down inside the starboard deck sail locker and pulled the sail down while Bill pulled down on the opposite side.  This time it worked perfectly.  The sail came down smoothly and was easy to stuff down inside the sail locker.  Flaking it and stowing it in the sail bag will have to wait until we are in lower winds in Bonaire.  According to the weather forecast, we won’t be using the double headsail configuration during the rest of our passage to Bonaire.

As we passed the south side of Tortuga near the western end, we saw many large power boats – all lined up and anchored stern to the shore behind a small area of reef.  I wondered if the rich Venezuelans who own those boats brought them up here themselves for the weekend, or if they had their captains bring them up and they will fly their little planes up for the weekend (probably with their bimbos – sort of like deer hunting back home).  There is a small airstrip on virtually uninhabited Tortuga.  The rich Venezuelans fly up for the weekends.  Wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn that they might also send their boats up for their weekend use around this beautiful isolated island.   This also explains where they might be staying for the weekends.  Bill and I had been talking about this earlier today.  The guide books say that the rich Venezuelans like to fly their airplanes to Tortuga for a weekend getaway.  But there are no hotels, resorts, villas or even plain homes for them to stay in.  So we wondered where they slept.  Open camping certainly did not seem to fit the social profile for these guys.  The nice large power boats anchored on the south side answer that question nicely as they would certainly provide a level of comfort to which these guys are accustomed.   It is supposed to sometimes get “interesting” for sailboats anchored at Playa Caldera at the northeastern end of Tortuga.  Their tall masts are in alignment with the small airstrip.  The guide books say that the rich Venezuelans drink too much and it gets lively when they are taking off to return to the mainland at the end of the weekend.

We had planned to anchor on the northwest side of Tortuga tonight near Pta. Tamarindo.  But the winds were blowing like mad and were still coming too far from the north.  So we tucked in and anchored next to a Venezuelan fishing boat just off Pta. Arenas on the true west side of Tortuga.  There really isn’t much shelter from the winds and there is a bit of movement, but not nearly as much movement as there was back in the anchorage at Porlamar during tide changes.  We will only be here one night so it really doesn’t matter if we move around a bit as long as the anchor holds.  And our anchor always holds.  The Buegel anchor by Wasi is a wonderful anchor and we would recommend it highly.

The spot where we are anchored is positively gorgeous.  There is a long beach of sand that is so white and fine that it looks like sugar.  The water is clear and sparkling.  A perfectly beautiful place.

Time to cook dinner and then enjoy much needed showers.  It was a good day.

July 8, 2007 Sunday
Kralenkijk, Bonaire, Netherland Antillies
12.09.315N; 068.16.796W           Sailed 187 NM, 23 hours, average boat speed 8.13 knots

We arrived in Bonaire at 8:00 a.m.  Tony & Heidi on WORLD CITIZEN had saved us a mooring by tying on a fender yesterday afternoon.  So we are on an outside mooring in the middle of the mooring field.  No anchoring allowed in Bonaire, anywhere, any time; must take a mooring or go into the marina.  We prefer the mooring rather than the confinement of a marina.  Tony came out in his dinghy and assisted Bill with tying off the lines for the double moorings.

We left Tortuga at 9:00 a.m. yesterday, so our 187 mile passage took a total of 23 hours.  The trip was just plain wonderful.  We did have to motor sail for about 5 hours when the wind died down so low that our boat speed was only 6 knots.  Bill did not want to go that slow so we motor sailed.  The winds picked up and we sailed without engine for the rest of the trip.  The overnight part of the passage was especially nice.  We passed a total of 5 large ships but they were all at least 2 miles away so no problem.

At one point our GPS started giving us an alarm.  It did this 3 times before we figured out what that was all about.  Apparently the previous owner had set the GPS to alarm if the boat speed exceeded 11 knots.  And, thanks to the 2+ knot current, we did exceed 11 knots several times!!!!  We have never sailed so fast in any boat.  Not sure what our top speed was because we were busy trying to figure out the alarm thing instead of watching the speed indicator, but it was over 11 knots for certain.  The hull speed on our boat should be around 11 knots so we assume that is why that alarm was set.  But we felt no instability and had no inconsistencies in steerage, so it was fine to hit those speeds in the favorable sea conditions.  Could be a totally different story if we had been surfing down big seas in a storm.  But we were in almost flat seas and consistent winds.  It was great.

Already found out that several friends are here in Bonaire.  Looking forward to meeting up with them.  Time to go do the Customs/Immigration clearances.  Will upload a few photos later.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

How we got here

July 4, 2007  Wednesday

Happy Independence Day to all in the US.  Enjoy your day off work.  Hope you all find a good way to celebrate.  We have cleared our of Venezuela today (takes all day long with an agent) and we plan to leave tomorrow morning towards Bonaire.  Haven’t decided if we will do a straight sail or stop a few times along the way.  At any rate, we probably will not have internet access again until Monday or Tuesday so don’t expect any blog updates until at least Tuesday.

Someone posted on our message board asking how we prepared for cruising.  The basic steps were as follows:

  1. Went on large tall ship cruises
  2. Bill took a few sailing lessons
  3. Read a lot and learned a lot about boats and sailing
  4. Bareboat chartered with more knowledgeable sailors
  5. I took a few sailing lessons
  6. Bareboat chartered solo (just the 2 of us, many times)
  7. Bought a boat; put her into charter; and sailed her 8-9 weeks per year for 5 years
  8. Bought a boat more suitable for living aboard comfortably and cruising safely
  9. Took classes and obtained our USCG Captains licenses (OUPV) for up to 100 tons
  10. Bill attended training specifically for our model diesel engine
  11. I attended Offshore Emergency Medical training
  12. Bought a lot of sailing guides and charts
  13. Sold our house and everything in it except basic clothing
  14. Moved aboard and sailed away

Not to bore all those who already know all this; here goes:

For Christmas 1983 I gave Bill a 10-day vacation aboard a Windjammer tall ship called the FLYING CLOUD.  Bill was working himself to death back then and I wanted him to have a restful vacation away from all telephones.  So the Windjammer cruise in the British Virgin Islands seemed like the perfect vacation.  I have always been plagued by severe seasickness.  But the Transderm Scop patch was newly available, so I was willing to give it a try.  Needless to say, I was still seasick even with the patch (even in the no-motion sailing waters of the BVI!); but Bill had a wonderful time.  One afternoon he looked over the rail at all the small sailboats around us and said that one day that was what he wanted to do.   He was hooked on sailing even though we really hadn’t even sailed yet.

For the next several years or so we went on a Windjammer cruise at least once annually.  From Antigua south to Grenada twice on the MANDALAY and in the St. Martin/St. Barths/St. Kitts/Nevis/Saba/Statia area on the POLYNESIA.   We may have also done the FLYING CLOUD again, can’t remember for certain.  These tall ship cruises were great fun but after a few years we began to feel that it was time to move on to a bareboat charter.  So Bill made a deal with friends who sailed.  We would provide free airfare for a bareboat charter if they would teach us how to sail.  Bill also took a few private sailing lessons on Galveston Bay prior to our first bareboat charter.  We chartered with our friend listed as captain and us listed as crew for at about 4 times; each time out of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.  Then we were ready to start bareboat chartering on our own.

I finally took a few private sailing lessons by the same teacher that Bill had used on Galveston Bay.  Cannot say enough positive things about Bob Marlin; he was a wonderful sailing instructor.  Bill’s sister, Helene, also took a few sailing lessons from Bob Marlin.  We were ready to charter by ourselves.  Helene joined us as crew on our first solo bareboat charter; this time out of Road Harbor in the BVI.  We all had a great time; didn’t sink the boat; made it to where we wanted to go; and didn’t hit another boat.  So our first solo bareboat sailing adventure was a success!

The next year we again chartered and Helene tagged along.  Another couple joined us for one week (a disaster because the wife became a prima donna the instant she boarded the boat).  Our daughter-in-law, Kristina, joined us for the second week.  The Christmas Winds arrived in the BVI during Kristina’s first week on a sailboat.  It was great fun sailing down the Sir Francis Drake Channel with the dinghy surfing along sometimes 8 feet higher than our cockpit!  Oh, by the way, I was still getting seasick every time I stepped on a boat.  But it was fun regardless.

 Then we started chartering boats with just the two of us.  That is when our sailing knowledge began to be firmly established.  Once we had a 32-ft boat in 12 to 15-ft seas and winds over 25 knots.  It was really fun because we were heading downwind.  Shortly after that charter trip we purchased our first boat, a Beneteau 463, and placed her in the charter fleet with Moorings in BVI.  We sailed either our own boat or a similar boat for 8 to 9 weeks annually for the next 5 years.  Once we went to Tonga and sailed a 463 there for 10 days; our first South Pacific sailing experience. 

The Beneteau was scheduled to leave the Moorings fleet during the summer/fall of 2005.  We decided that we would refit the boat and move aboard to cruise the Caribbean for about 5 years.  We anchored in St. Martin in March 2005.  We were there to put a deposit on a dinghy and outboard motor.  We planned to move to move aboard in early 2006 to begin cruising the Caribbean.  As luck would have it, we anchored right next to the boat that we now own.  The story of that original encounter is reflected in the early postings on this blog.  Not wanting to go into all those details again, it can suffice to say that we purchased the 2003 Amel Super Maramu 2000 and she did not need any refit before we moved aboard to start cruising.

Bill had already arranged his employment contract to terminate on April 28, 2006.  We listed our home for sale in early July 2006.  The house sold within 24 hours and the purchasers leased the house back to us through April 30, 2006.  Man, did that work out perfectly!

We had 3 garage sales over the following 8 months, clearing out 36 years accumulation of “stuff.”  It is absolutely amazing how freeing it is to get rid of your “stuff.”  We never want to go back to that lifestyle.  The less you own, the better.  You honestly do not need or really want all the things that the media have convinced you that you cannot live without.

During the final months prior to moving aboard, we each attended Captains license classes and passed the tests.  We each hold a Captains license for vessels up to 100 tons, and can carry 6 passengers if we chose to get into the charter business or the yacht delivery business.  This is commonly called the Six-Pack ticket; proper name is the OUPV license. 

Bill also took a 4 day class for diesel engines; working specifically on a 100-hp turbo Yanmar engine, which is what we have in our Amel.  I attended an Offshore Emergency Medicine class to learn how to treat emergencies when there will be no help arriving anytime soon.  This is quite different than what would be taught in a First Responders course, where you learn only how to stabilize a patient for short term because help will arrive or be available within a couple of hours.

We arranged all our finances to be handled online or automatically.  We set this up several months prior to moving aboard so that we could test to see how well it would work for us.  We are happy to report that this has worked extremely well so far.   Our wonderful daughter-in-law, Kristina, is kind enough to handle what little snail mail that we require and the extremely limited banking that must be done manually.  She has been a Godsend.  Don’t know what we would do without her help.

So, that is how we prepared to move aboard a sailboat.

It isn’t possible for everyone to obtain the USCG Captains license because they might not have the hours of sailing experience required.  It was easy for us because we had owned the Beneteau in the charter program and we had sailed her so frequently by ourselves.  The hours added up quickly and we each easily met the requirements.  If someone is contemplating cruising and does not already have the hours required for a Captains license, then we would strongly advise attending several ASA courses.  These are available all over the country.  And we would very strongly recommend bareboat chartering in various locations at different times of the year so you can experience sailing in varied locations and varied weather conditions. 

Once you have done that, buy a boat and go!   Don’t try to have the boat perfect before starting out.  No boat will ever be perfect.  They are boats, after all.  They are supposed to constantly need something fixed or improved.

As all the sailing books will tell you, the hardest part is letting go the dock lines.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

June 28, 2007  Thursday

A quiet day at anchor.  We never even got off the boat.  Bill spent most of the day cleaning up both computers.  We also took turns hand-washing the cushions on the saloon settee and seats.  These are ultra-suede and clean up very nicely.  We took the cushions up into the cockpit and cleaned them with a brush and Woolite and Clorox 2 non-chlorine bleach mixed with hot water.  They look so nice now.  I recently spent several days on my hands and knees scrubbing the blue fiberglass floor lockers with Soft Scrub with bleach and a stiff brush.  The floor lockers cleaned up several shades; Bill didn’t realize that there had been so much dirt build-up until he saw them clean again.  Those floors really looked dingy but now they are a bright blue again.  We have agreed that no one wears shoes down inside the boat any more because shoes track in too much dirt from the docks and dirt roads.  Today we also washed all the little back pillows that we use in the cockpit.  We have been leaving them in the cockpit overnight lately and that was a dumb thing to do because they were getting slightly mildewed.  Those will now go back to being brought downstairs at night.  We both feel better when everything on the boat is all nice and clean.

Tracking our DHL shipment now shows that it has cleared Customs this morning.  But it is supposedly still sitting on the mainland in someplace called Maiquetia. 

Mañana. mañana, mañana.

Bill also got the Spanish tutoring program off the old computer and put it on the laptop that we now use daily.  A little late to learn much Spanish for our time in Venezuela, but maybe I will pick up a little Spanish by the time we reach Cartagena.

We have decided that as soon as we receive the DHL shipment (new outhaul for our mainsail) that we would like to sail down to the mainland and visit Laguna Grande and Laguna Chica in the Golfo de Cariaco.   We want to see Laguna Grande but we are also ready to get on to Bonaire.  We have seen and done all of Isla Margarita and it is time to move on ----- if we ever receive that darn DHL shipment.  All of our friends have already sailed on either to the outer islands, the mainland or to Bonaire.  There are not that many moorings in Bonaire and we want to arrive before they are all filled.  Anchoring is prohibited everywhere in Bonaire.  That is how they keep their coral alive and pristine.

July 3, 2007 Tuesday

Finally!! We finally received our DHL shipment today!  I was beginning to feel like we were being held hostage in Venezuela by DHL.  Also, a several more boats arrived yesterday; one of which were our friends Ed & Linda on DREAMTIME.  We had to go to the DHL office to pick up our package (tracking had shown it on the delivery truck for 2 days but it wasn’t getting delivered), so Ed & Linda shared a taxi with us and then we all went out to Sambil mall for shopping and lunch in the cold air-conditioning.  (More beautifully presented delicious sushi for me!) This is Ed & Linda’s first visit to Venezuela so we were sort of showing them the lay of the land.  Linda was very glad to find this nice mall.  Like most men, Ed could not care less.

Back to the boat this afternoon and we installed our new mainsail outhaul.  Bill came up with a few improvisations that enabled us to really tighten the outhaul before he did the final whipping.  This time we feel like the outhaul is correct.  Of course, we won’t know for certain until we sail with it in some heavy winds; but it certainly seems tight and correct.  Bill also had ordered new lines for the mainsail traveler and both car travelers (most boats do not have these but we do).   Now that this project is complete we must decide if we want to clear out tomorrow or wait until Friday.  Thursday is a holiday here---VZ Independence Day---and government offices will be closed. 

We need to plan everything right so that we arrive in Bonaire on a Saturday or a Sunday, so this will require a bit of planning concerning sailing times between here to Bonaire or alternatively from Laguna Grande to Bonaire.  Don’t want to arrive during the night and don’t want to arrive on a weekday.  If you arrive on a weekend then you simply visit the police station instead of the Immigration office.  Immigration officials there can be a real PITA, so informed cruisers all try to arrive on weekends.

An observation about the supermarkets here.  They employ easily 6 to 7 times the number of employees that the same business would employ back in the US.  Many of these employees just stand around and talk amongst themselves all day.  Many of them have the job of watching shoppers.  One would assume that shoplifting is a major problem throughout the Eastern Caribbean and here in Venezuela.  There will be a “guard” at each end of every aisle in the supermarkets.  And you must check any packages or backpacks at the door; you are not allowed to carry anything into a store except a small handbag.  We were a bit taken aback by this at first but now we are used to it and ignore the “guards” like everyone else.

A few other observations while on a shopping trip yesterday, the sunglass kiosk in the supermarket tells something about the wealthier shoppers.  They carry name brands like DKNY, BC BG, Vogue, Fendi, Police and Ray Ban.  Those are some fairly expensive name brands to be selling in a supermarket kiosk.  And the liquor babes!  Bill loves watching the liquor babes.  These are very good looking young women dressed in very tight black pants and low-cut tank tops.  They work in the liquor and wine department at the supermarket, and they are very attractive.  We have not figured out exactly what work they do in the liquor department.  All we have seen them do is stand around and look beautiful.  Maybe that is all that is required to bring more men into the liquor section.  Not really sure how it sells more liquor because these women really do nothing except stand around.  What a job.

We always enjoy a great lunch at the supermarket restaurant; for a cost ranging from $3.98 to $6.58 for both of us.  Can’t buy food and cook your own meals for that price.  The soup yesterday was called Sopa de Res.  Our dictionary says that res means animal.  So, they were serving animal soup.  We opted not to try that particular delicacy.  Bill had huge servings of black beans and rice, and I had a Caesar salad.  We both had a soft drink.  The total was $3.98.  Gotta love it.

A few more observations.  One is that some of the Europeans on the bus from the marina to the supermarket are the worst people in the world about not tipping.  And most of them have apparently never discovered deodorant.  This is especially true of the German cruisers.  We cannot believe that they can’t tip the young man who boxes their groceries and loads them into the truck and then unloads them at the marina.  You are only requested to tip this guy 2500 Bolivars per person; so 5,000 per couple.  At the current rate of exchange, that is a whopping $1.43.  This young guy must buy his own boxing tape and black markers to mark the box.  Tipping him $1.43 for his boxing and carrying services is dirt cheap.  And these cheap-ass cruisers are stiffing him on the tip.  What trashy people.  I am proud to say that we have not seen one American ignore the expected tip.  I’m sure there are cheap Americans too, but we just haven’t seen any acting quite that cheap.

This observation is about the homes of the poor people on the main boulevards.  Someone (Chavez government?) has built pastel colored facades in front of these homes.  These are attractive and have white doors and window sills, etc.  This is obviously done to hide the poorest of the poor.  But when going down the street in a bus or taxi you can often see inside some of the open doors.  The level of poverty exhibited through these open doors is shocking.  Some of these are worse than the worst living conditions that we have seen in Mexico.  They have nothing but dirt ground and pieces of tin strung together as a partial shelter.  Stones on the ground make a “stove.”  No plumbing of any kind.  These people have no hope of rising above this level of poverty.  Contrary to what the media in the US says, Chavez is good for the poor people.  He is providing them with free medical care and unbelievably inexpensive medications; price controls on all basic foods; and all government workers and military just got a 30% increase in wages.  No wonder they re-elect him.  Bill says that democracy is not for all countries, especially one like Venezuela.