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!