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Venezuela tracks

Here is our track through the Venezuelan offshore islands.  Again – first part was reconstructed due to loss.  Enjoy.

View 2009 Venezuela in a larger map

Fish soup

So who says we can’t catch fish. Just caught a massive Tuna. Problem is, something else caught it just afterwards. All we got was it’s head. Must have happened fast as the head was still twitching and bleeding. Oh well. Fish head soup for lunch.

Wind is slightly up. Kind of a up/down day.

Enroute from Los Testigos to Margarita

We woke at 3am this morning in the pitch dark. The moon had not yet risen and was only due to be a sliver. Off on the Venezuelan coast thunderstorms flashed every few seconds. Where we were the winds were below 10 knots. Code Zero weather for sure but we didn’t want to raise it in the dark.

We therefore motored for a couple of hours until it started getting light. We then hoisted the Code Zero, sorting out a problem with the wrapping on the way. The sail works a treat giving us more than half wind speed in 8-10 knots of wind. This is very good news for our downwind sail around the world.

Right now we are again surrounded by dolphins. Not so many today but bigger than yesterday and more acrobatic. One, off our port bow, is doing back flips as I type.

A day with no chores

It happens from time to time. We get a day with absolutely chores to do. Not that we don’t have any jobs or projects to do. We’re just not doing any and enjoying our brief stay in Los Testigos.

Last night we barbecued two huge racks of ribs we picked up in Grenada on our last day there. It was a real pig out that we totally enjoyed. We went to bed reasonably early due to the previous nights overnighter. We both slept long and well.

In the morning we listened into the short wave weather and signed in on the coconut telegraph for the first time in quite some time. Straight after this we dinghied ashore. We hauled the dinghy up onto the sand and locked it to a tree.

We soon found the track we were looking for which eventually took us all the way to the top of the 820ft hill where there was a solar powered lighthouse. The last part of the hike required us to climb some vines up the side of the final rock to reach the top. The views were really worth it. From where the lighthouse was perched we could see a slightly higher point not far away. We made our way there and took more pictures before descending all the way down.

A local helped us get our dinghy back into the water. We do feel as though we’ve shifted into a different world. The beaches, flora and fauna look much the same but the people are radically different. We’ve been used to English/French/Dutch colony islands with their descendants from slave and master. Now the locals are distinctly Spanish in ancestry. The boats are different too. The smaller boats are similar but with more upturned bows. They also have what looks more like house/party boats which we’ve not seen before.

Back on Dignity we electric motored just over a mile up the coast to Playa Real. The heavens opened on us as we arrived so we didn’t take much time picking our spot. We had the place to ourselves but we just dropped the hook as soon as we could and waited the deluge out. I took the dinghy out to take depth soundings and pick a better place to anchor. In the end we shifted up the bay a little so we could easily snorkel over to the nearby reef straight from the boat.

After lunch Helen read while I tried to catch some of the small fish beneath the boat. I caught 8 to 10 of them doubling my Caribbean haul (in terms of numbers) in one go. All I used was a nice sharp hook and some bread one a line that once got tangled on the anchor chain. The first fish got away. The second became bait for the rest of them. Most of the time the fish would go into a frenzy around the bait. I would tug and catch them just about anywhere but in the mouth. The hook was my smallest but too small for these fish. The rest of the catch was bagged and put in the fridge to be used as bait later on.

Later in the afternoon Helen and I took to the water to snorkel the reef. We both spotted spotted eels amongst the usual reef denizens. Before returning to the boat we walked the beach. Where we are is a thin spit of beach and a straight between the east and west sides of the island. The strait separates the island into two. From the boat we can see the waves crashing on the east side while we remain in the calm on the west. On our walk we were able to see the east side up close.

Right now we’re again just relaxing on the boat. Soon we’ll prep for tomorrows sail. We expect to up anchor around 3am. Next stop Margarita.

Los Testigos

We made to to Los Testigos and anchored off Testigo Grande albeit not without incident.

Having put all the lines out (three of them with Ballyhoo attached) at dawn I had hopes for a catch. We were pleasantly surprised to be joined by dolphins which stayed with us for two and a half hours. If we had any chance of a catch beforehand, being surrounded by a top predator certainly didn’t improve our chances.

We marveled at the hundreds of frigate birds soaring above Conjo island before the wind again died on us. We engaged the electric motors for a mild assist before deciding to bring in the lines as we came around the south side of Testigo Grand.

As I was sat on the starboard transom reeling in the first line I looked over my shoulder only to see us about to pass over a large fender. I yelled at Helen who was on watch to cut the motors which she did just in time. We weren’t that lucky though because the boat ground to a halt with no sign of the fender behind us.

I threw a line of the stern, put on my face mask and snorkel and jumped in to assess. The fender tied to a stout rope had jammed between the rudder and the propeller. With a 2-3 knot current trying to push us north and the wind also behind us and the sails still up it was not going to move. Further more, the three remaining fishing lines and their lures, with sharp hooks, were getting all tangled.

I first disentangle the lures and lines which were dumped in the cockpit without proper spooling. We then lowered the head sail (perhaps we should have done this first) but the main could not be lowered with the wind behind us. I went in the water again, fighting the swell and current, to tie a modified clove hitch to the rope using one of our dock lines. The other end of this went over a winch. Whenever we had slack Helen winched us in while I kept the lines clear. We soon created enough slack for me to go down yet again and remove the fender and rope from our rudder/prop. It was saddening to see the damage to our lovely new paint job down there. Having removed this I had to make yet another submersion to retrieve my safety line which had now tangled itself round the same prop.

We tried for a while to reverse Dignity enough to loosen our dock line from the rope attaching the original floating fender to whatever was on the sea floor. To no avail so rather than risk having a nasty accident with tight lines I cut our dock line close to the knot losing about 3 feet in doing so. We were free. And a little exhausted.

We quickly lowered the main and motored round the corner to where we are now anchored.

Having lowered the dinghy I dinghied over to Iguana Island to clear in at the coast guard station. My first challenge there came when I passed a couple of guys looking to carry a large fridge up the dunes/hill to the school at the top. I had to offer to help but boy was it difficult and painful on the fingers. Next stop was the coast guard station to obtain permission to stay. My ‘Spanish for Cruisers’ bridged the gap between my lack of Spanish and their lack of English. I believe we ended up with permission to stay in these islands for two days. That’s more than we need.

Back on the boat Helen had sorted out the mess from two of our hand lines and I got to untangle the last. We had lunch then collapsed for some well needed rest.

We’ve decided to do not a lot this afternoon and stay the night here. In the morning we’ll try and climb the nearby hill for the exercise and the alleged great view from the top. We’ll then head north and anchor at the top end of the island. An early night to bed followed by a very early start will get us to Margarita sometime Thursday afternoon.