Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Few More Islas de Venezuela

Who's there? Red Footed Booby perched in mangroves in Las Aves. Las Aves means "the birds" in Spanish - aptly named! There were boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, and just about every other species of seabird. All up close and personal - and smelly!

Brown Booby and chick on nest. When the chick stands up and asks (demands) to be fed, its bigger than the parents. We know what that's like!

Good to be in clear water after murk of Grenada. Temperature about 85F (30C).

Especially when you see cool stuff like these very large (close to 3') Midnight Parrot Fish. We also saw a school of equally large Rainbow Parrots feeding on top of the reef in water so shallow they were half out of it.

This water is not so clear. Some of the islands have fresh-ish water just below the surface. This was critical for the original inhabitants and is still used by fishermen. Even with our watermaker not working we weren't tempted to fill our tanks here!

We don't always anchor off a perfect tropical beach. This is the view from Idyll Island of the mangroves at the anchorage in Las Aves. Reminded us of the Ents in Lord of the Rings, though we couldn't hear a word they said over the noise of the birds!

On our way to Bonaire from Las Aves we were joined by a pod of dolphins for 20 minutes or so. It seemed like they were trying to see which of them could come closest to touching their dorsal fins to Derek's hand as he stretched over the forward crossbeam. They came within inches but never touched. They looked like they were laughing with the sport of it! (Or maybe because he wasn't wearing any shorts.)
A bit later we were welcomed to Bonaire seaspace by a Dutch Coast Guard plane that flew by at about 50' off our stern. They didn't look like they were laughing (Derek had shorts on by then). There is a lot of drug smuggling out of nearby Venezuela and Colombia, so they are pretty vigilant in this area.

Sailing up the southern, leeward side of Bonaire past the salt ponds and mountains of salt waiting to be shipped. One of the best sails in the Caribbean with 20 knots of breeze in flat water. We hit 10 knots reaching with our spinnaker which we had up for the full 35 miles from Las Aves and kept flying right to the entrance to Kralendijk harbour.

On the mooring at Kralendijk, Bonaire. View from the front porch.

After a month in the islands, the boys are off to do the laundry. OK, let's not stretch it tooo far but they are at least carrying the bags!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Las Islas de Venezuela

We left Grenada at "O dark thirty", in company with Randy and Lynn on High States. As dawn broke and we watched them pulling away from us with their big genoa, we decided it was time to get our spinnaker up. We had a great sail to Los Testigos - the first of many over the next few weeks. Downwind is good!

One fish ....

Two fish. Yellow fish, blue fish! Good fishing as we sailed over the reefs near Los Testigos. We were able to offer Randy and Lynn their choice of catch of the day for dinner that night. Both were mighty tasty.

On arrival at our anchorage in Los Testigos (about 4PM) the air was filled with wheeling frigate birds and various types of boobies which nest on the surrounding rocky islets. Most were juveniles now fending for themselves and lacking the graceful and successful fishing skills of their parents. We sat in a lovely bay looking over a sand isthmus to the open sea and low hills where small goats fed. We were a bit uncomfortable about several shots we heard and the rough looking fellow returning to his shack with something(?). Several of the locally built, very high prowed fishing and boats passed with friendly waves and smiles. The coral heads near the boat revealed three different types of morays within 15 feet. Next day we dinghied to the main fishing village on an adjacent island and were checked in by a very nice young member of the Venezuelan Garda Costa who was very tolerant and encouraging regarding our poor/non-existent Spanish. You never know what to expect from the officials. Would that they were all so friendly and helpful.

We spent a couple of days exploring the surrounding islands finding extensive sand dunes and beaches with very recent tracks of turtles who had dragged their massive bodies to and from nests, and little tracks, evidence of tiny turtles scrambles to their first swim. After one of our forays we returned to the dinghy and noticed that it had been moved, however all seemed in order. We later learned from the French couple anchored in the next cove that that the fellow on shore with the shotgun had rescued our dinghy and re-anchored it for us. We wanted to thank him, so gingerly approached his 'home' with a bottle of wine. He welcomed us, was very nice and showed us the dinner of seabird he was preparing which he said was delicious. We took his word for it and hope the wine helped to wash it down. There are no stores on these islands.

On to the island of La Blanquilla. We left in the evening so as to arrive in good daylight. Unfortunately, it was mostly a motor sail, but the seas were flat and the moon was full.

High States getting ready to drop the hook at La Blanquilla. We spent a couple of days here, enjoying snorkeling at spectacular Americano Bay, one of our favourite spots from last year.

Americano Bay, La Blanquilla. Very cool to snorkel under this 20' arch.

We then sailed off into the sunset headed for Los Roques, temporarily leaving High States. We had a full moon, a 15 knot breeze from behind us and only a 1-2m swell. Perfect conditions to fly the spinnaker - our first time at night with just the two of us (only one on watch at a time). It was magical as we sailed along at up to 10 knots with the bright silver moonlight illuminating the sea and the sail, with the sound of the boat swooshing through the water and surging gently on the swells. And of course the air was a soft, velvety 28 degrees!

When we arrived in Los Roques we spent the first 3 nights anchored in behind the barrier reef. Our only neighbour was this trawler who some years ago miscalculated the position of the entrance through the reef. A grim reminder to keep a careful watch! We travelled through the archipelago in mid-day with one of us perched up high to make sure we could see the reefs.

The beach scene at Gran Roques. The previous day was a bit more stressful when we went to check in with the Garda Costa. We were hit up for a $60 "fee" which went straight into the officer's shirt pocket. In return we were assured we could stay in the wetern half of the archipelago "no problema" for 10 days, instead of the official 24 hours for a vessel in transit. We later heard from an Italian boat that they paid $100, while our friends on High States didn't pay a peso. Probably depends on who's watching...

Off to explore one of the dozens of cays (keys) and islands that make up the Los Roques archipelago. Most of them deserted.

Even in paradise there's laundry to be done. The watermaker must have been working that day!

Derek fishing for the elusive bonefish. Los Roques is reputedly a mecca for those who pursue this wily fish.

And still fishing. He did catch a small bonefish and released it after a scrappy fight.

You'd think they'd be easier to catch when you're snorkeling and see them swarming like this!

Friday, September 4, 2009

July in Grenada

Our last installment ended with Tristan flying back to Victoria after a great visit on Idyll Island. He had to return to his responsibilities of earning money working as a lifeguard and as a vineyard worker to help support himself at college, while his wayward parents fell back into the relaxin’ lifestyle of Cruisers in Grenada. It really is a great island with friendly people, just enough challenges in finding parts and provisions to keep things interesting and to have something to complain about. Highlights included meeting old friends, Jim and Renate (well, Renate is not old) who finally caught up with us after being a couple of islands behind us since January! Of course they started in Florida – in November… They anchored their boat, Emerald Seas, right beside us so we were able to keep an eye on them and vice versa. We had lots of good times and just hangin’ out floating around in the water keeping cool. We also consumed a few bottles of wine that had somehow survived the trip from St. Martin. Emerald Seas is an Island Packet 37, a solid, seakindly boat that is looking after them well. They also have a fancy new dinghy, a Walker Bay Genesis hard bottom inflatable (RIB) with a 15hp outboard. Jim told us how well this boat performed and Derek was particularly interested because our Avon RIB of the same size (11’), with the same engine goes fast but cavitates badly when trying to turn on the plane. So a couple of days later Jim and Derek are heading off to town in the Walker Bay to buy some boat bits. Jim gets her on the plane and then asks, “Want to see how well she turns?” He cranks over the steering handle and within a nanosecond, Derek sees Jim disappear over the side with the most amazed expression on his face. Derek was laughing so hard he could barely get the boat back to pull Jim out of the water. Luckily no one was hurt and yes indeedy, that boat does corner like its on rails. After that we noticed that Renate seemed to do most of the dinghy driving…

No season in Grenada would ever be complete without at least one visit to Gouyave (we went twice) - the Fish Capital of Grenada. Every Friday night they close off several streets and dozens of vendors set up to sell many types of fish cooked any way you like as long as its fried. Actually, we found a tasty wahoo pizza and a snapper steamed in foil with veggies. But the fried flying fish were pretty darned good! And then there's the free rum sampling....

Its a great scene and everyone is really friendly and havin' a good time, Mon!

Looking for one more piece of fish....

And the beat goes on ....

Another fine dinner on Emerald Seas. Jim and Renate look pretty happy with their cruising lifestyle!

Before we left Grenada, we were lucky to have good friends Bruce and Laura on Amaryllis sail in from the USVI. It was great to see them and have another chance to say “Farewell”, before we headed west and they back to the US for a couple of months. In Grenada, we also reunited with Lynn and Randy on High States, whom we met last year just as we were starting out from Soper's Hole in the BVI. They are also from Victoria. Fortunately, we don't have to say "So Long" to them just yet, as we are going to buddy boat with them through the Venezuelan Islands to Bonaire.