Saturday, October 25, 2008

Island Images

No catch and release this time. And very tasty he was too!

Cathy, the Polar Beer Girl. Having a cold one for breakfast on the beach at Los Testigos.

A man and his boat.

Night sailing from Los Testigos to La Blanquilla. So beautiful you never want to get there...

Cruisin' along under spinnaker.

Anchorage at La Blanquilla. Not tooo crowded...

Exploring at American Bay, La Blanquilla.

Even cooler snorkeling underneath!

Coral fossils at La Blanquilla.

View from the front porch on Idyll Island, tucked in behind the outer reef of Los Roques.

View from the back porch. Sunset over the island of Gran Roques.

You want good light for navigating the passes through the reef. Electronic charts for this area are off by about 500m, about what the ship in the background appears to have missed by....

The new rod casts nicely, I'm sure it will play a fish well too - some day!

A flying booby.

One year old green turtle at the Los Roques Turtle Research and Conservation Foundation on Islas Dos Mosquitos. Just about ready to be released into the ocean.
Local fishers...

Where to next?

Island hopping - Grenada to Bonaire

October 25, 2008

Well, it’s been a while since we left Grenada on September 12th. Lots of adventures, exploration and above all, great people along the way. Some of the high points:

A calm overnight passage (not enough wind to sail but an easy, comfortable 12 hour motor – engines worked great, thanks to Mike at Palm Tree Marine in Grenada!) from Grenada to Los Testigos where our friends Chris and Kelly on Verna Breeze welcomed us over the VHF while we were still 10 miles away. Nice to hear a friendly voice as you’re coming into a foreign anchorage! Caught a barracuda on our approach to the islands. This one we kept, and it was delicious!

Hung out in Los Testigos for the two days we were allowed by the Venezuelan Garda Costa. Busy little place; the week long Festival of the Virgin was just wrapping up and it looked like it had been a very big party with lots of visitors from the mainland camping out on the islands. Only store we found was a “beer bunker”, as it was referred to by Cathy. Just a cinder block building 10’x15’, ½ full of Polar beer. We only bought 2, as it wasn’t yet 10:00 am – Cathy seemed to actually enjoy sipping on an ice cold breakfast beer as we walked along the beach!

Left Los Testigos around midnight and had another wonderful overnight passage of about 100 miles from Los Testigos to La Blanquilla. Bright moonlight and calm seas with 10-15 knots of breeze from astern. As soon as it was daylight, we hoisted the spinnaker and sailed idyllically for the next 8 hours – at one point accompanied by a dozen dolphins playing around our bows - all the way into the anchorage, arriving about 4:00 pm. The Garda Costa had just finished checking the boats at anchor, and waved cheerfully to us as they left to head back to the port (4:00 pm quittin’ time). We took the wave as our official clearance so we just relaxed and enjoyed another couple of idyllic days. La Blanquilla is a low, flat island about 12 miles across, covered in cactus scrub. The beaches are fantastic, cool rock formations, good snorkelling, and hardly anyone there.

After 2 days it was time to head for Los Roques. Another calm, overnight passage of about 100 miles, with not enough wind to sail. Arrived Los Roques about 10:00 as planned, so the sun was high enough to allow us to see the tricky entrance through the reefs and the clear channels once inside. This was a good thing as our electronic charts were up to 500 m off and absolutely not reliable. Los Roques is a plateau of mangrove islands inside a protecting reef about 25 miles across. There are shallow mud flats and innumerable coral heads and reefs studding the vast miles of shallow sandy sea. It was a bit buggy while we were there, so we tried to anchor far away from the mangroves, just inside the fringing reef. Some of them still found us. We spent 6 days in Los Roques; snorkelling, exploring, and hangin’ out. Unfortunately, where we snorkelled, the coral was mostly dead and the visibility wasn’t that great. Los Roques is reputed to be a mecca for bonefish (spectacular fighting game fish, or so legend has it…). Derek finally broke out his fancy saltwater fly fishing gear, and caught a few small and miscellaneous in-shore fish, but no sign of a bonefish. Visited the turtle research station on Dos Mesquitos islands. As well as the turtles, there were lots of pelicans and other bird life. And mosquitoes. Our last couple of nights were spent at Isla d’Agua, where we were welcomed to the anchorage over the radio by Doug and Wendy of Mustang Sally, another Canadian Voyage catamaran. Amazingly, the other 4 boats in the anchorage were also Canadian – a floating enclave. On our second night, just at dusk we were treated to the most spectacular display of lightning we’ve ever seen. Huge explosions, across the whole western sky, often half a dozen at a time. It was just after sunset, so the flashes mingled with the last rosy rays. It was “down weather” to the west of us so we didn’t feel threatened, only awed for the couple of hours it lasted. At about 1:00 a.m. we were treated to a surprise encore right overhead as the storm had moved towards us instead of away. Accompanied by westerly winds of up to 30 knots (potentially nasty, as boats often anchor with a reef in front of them to protect them from the prevailing easterly trade winds – a westerly puts the reef right behind you, and if your anchor drags….) with buckets of rain. We had lots of room in the anchorage and our trusty 73lb Rocna anchor held roc solid, so no worries. Next day we visited our first flock of flamingos out on a little sand bar.

Wanting to make sure we met up with our friends Russell and Jane of Ta-B, before they had to leave Bonaire, we left Los Roques on September 24th, headed for Las Aves, a short 30 mile passage, once again with no wind, so we motored – again! Spent one night in Las Aves – lots of bugs. Cathy did see many of her long sought after blue-footed boobies there though, so worth the stop. Next morning it was off to Bonaire. A bit of wind this time, so got to fly the chute once more – great romping reach up the lee side of Bonaire in 15 knots of breeze and flat water. Then time to take the chute down, but the snuffer jammed, so had to do the old standard leeward takedown, except we weren’t flying a mainsail to blanket the wind. Got it all down with no problems then headed to the mooring field off the town of Kralendijk to find a mooring accompanied by a small pod of welcoming dolphins! We were then welcomed by our friends Russell and Jane on “Ta-B” who came out in their dinghy to help us tie up. It was great to see them!