August 13, 2000 Cayo Herradura, Tortuga
It's Don's birthday, and we couldn't be in a situation that suits us more. This little island on the NW coast of Tortuga (an island whose outline looks just like a nudibranch (a shell-less sea snail -- say that 3x!)) is a mile-long crescent of sand with calm, warm, turquoise waters about 10-15' deep behind it and a steady breeze over top it. It was almost deserted when we arrived Friday afternoon, and though the boat population picked up over the weekend, it has stayed plenty tranquil for us.
We got out of Puerto La Cruz Tuesday through brute determination. My innards continued iffy, my fresh provisioning for our four remote weeks was haphazard, there were parts we should have tracked down, and there were social events looming among the exceptionally kind and friendly dock denizens...BUT...we felt claustrophobic. We just couldn't bear getting stuck to a dock again. So we broke free Tuesday afternoon, fueled up at 27 cents a gallon (cheaper than beer, which is cheap!) even as thunderclouds were massing, and motored out to Isla Borracha.
Isla Borracha ("The Drunk Woman") clustered with "The Drunk Man" and "The Little Drunks" is another group of rocky arid islets off the Venezuelan coast. Isla Borracha has a charming little rock-encircled anchorage with a building on the beach that almost looks like a restaurant except that there's no one around...not counting the guy on the beach we waved at three times before we realized he was a wooden cutout. Borracha comes with a warning about "vampire" bats, and, sure enough, come dark, TII was surrounded by squeaks. LOTS of squeaks! We ended up staying two nights, and although we never actually SAW a bat, you can be sure there was no sleeping in the cockpit and all the screens were in the hatches! Very weird!
On Thursday, we left before first light and "sailed" north to Tortuga. >From the quotes you can infer that Perky (the engine) did most of the work. The sails were up and the fishing line was trolling, but all that was for show. We did have a school of small spotted dolphins who zipped around us more chaotically than is usual. We decided later they were laughing at us for towing that big black garbage on our lure! We anchored the first night at Playa Caldera, at Tortuga's NE corner (the "nudibranch's" antenna) which was also a long curving white sand beach. However the NE swell wrapped around rocking-&-rolling us all night, so we moved west to Cayo Herrdura, where we thought we'd found heaven!
We could stay indefinately, walking the beach each morning, chatting with the fishermen encamped here, making friends with the Venezuelan powerboats and other cruisers, swimming in the balmy sea........BUT the alleged jewels of Venezuela are before us, Los Roches and Los Aves, and beyond them our Sept. 5 rendezvous with Tiffany in Bonaire. So, tomorrow being a full moon, ideal for the necessary night passage, we will probably tear ourself away and head on.
Thursday, August 17, 2000 El Gran Roque, Los Roques Is. N 11*56.713 W 66*40.791 *=degrees, correct symbol not available in Airmail)
I'm sure that when most of you think of us sailing in the Caribbean, you imagine something out of a Moorings ad; that is, perfect conditions, joyous sailors. The fact is it is rarely like that. When we left Cayo Herradura, however, Tuesday evening at 5pm in the company of Bev and Gil on Moondancer, we enjoyed seven hours of the best sailing we have ever encountered. Winds were east, 12-17kts, across the beam, seas kindly, and this old tub made 7.5kts steady! The full moon, rising fat and buttery on our stbd. quarter, was so bright we had shadows in the cockpit, and we had no need to turn on the radar.
Of course, it was too good to last. At midnight the wind veered to SE and increased as the southern end of a tropical wave passed over us. It's amazing how close superb and lousy are to one another! About 0030 the autopilot decided it had had enough, which meant we hand steered the rest of the night (we had decided not to work on our learning curve with the Aries autopilot on a night passage, so it wasn't rigged.) Then, while reefing down to our third reefing point in the main, the wind generator (that we've been pleased as punch with the past few weeks) got into our swinging radar. Don had to climb out on the stern and get it stopped and lashed down. It's our own damn fault (isn't it always!) Greedy for all those extra amps. The wind generator should have been secured, and we knew it. Now it's kaput. (Hopefully, temporarily?)
Our rapid pace had us closing in on the Sebastapol entrance through the reef earlier than planned, so between concerns over the lumpy sea and reduced visibility, both boats changed course to come up around the north end of the island cluster. This meant our last few hours was in more lumpy stuff instead of nice protected waters. So, upon arrival off the town dock, we dropped the hook, did the few essential chores (lunch being one) and went to sleep. In the afternoon we woke to a visit from the Venezuela Coast Guard, but fortunately that went politely and smoothly, so that we segued right in rum time and supper, through which we could hardly keep our eyes open!
It's another day this morning. Dinghy is launched, an we will explore town. Bev and Gil want to share a favorite restaurant tonight and we want to check into some diving opportunities. After that we will move around to some of the highly touted remote Roques anchorages.
Good thing sailors have short memories! The Two Captains