14 July 2000
What a thrill it is when from the back deck, comes the first swvizzzzzzz
of the first fish to strike the lure trolling behind the boat. We
left Los Testigos at 6 am with a gorgeous day dawning, a little abashed
that we had been so lazy and done so little exploring there. But Judy
and Bryan, our friends sailing south from the Virgins were approaching
Margarita, and since they modified their cruise itinerary to meet up with
us, we felt we should be there.
wind was from a great angle, although light, and though we set full sail,
we never turned off the motor. Still it was gorgeous, sunny and
steady, making 6-7 kts, and when that reel sang out we all leaped to the
aft deck in time to see a large dolphin (mahi, dorado..i.e excellent eating
fish) make a terrific leap at the end of or line. Adam, the number
one ranking fisherman aboard, brought him in with more than a little work.
A 15-pounder! One could get into this!
I never expected
the likes of Margarita! I knew it was built-up, I knew it was a
big resort area, but I didn't expect Miami Beach plotted on the shoreline
of a steep tropical island! Twenty-story hotels with wild rooflines to
snatch as much view as possible make for a wild skyline, while the hills
behind them are untouched! Even before going ashore you can guess
that fortunes are unpredictable as new buildings go up even while others
look abandoned or unfinished!
Our catch of the day sparked an impromptu dinner party with Judy (whom
we hadn't seen in over a year), Bryan, whom we hadn't yet met, Pam and
Wayne of Gallivanter, and Sharon of Winifred, a former mooring neighbor
in St. T.! Everybody brought something, and it was a great evening...all
against a spectacular backdrop of lights.
This morning we saw our first Margarita grocery store, called Rattan.
I was shocked. It was practically a Zabars. Nobody led me
to expect the kind of gourmet stuff they had for sale there! Pinch
me! I am starting to sablle with my new Spanish. It's truly amazing
what a toehold my dozen or so lessons has given me.
Don and Don-the-rigger are already at work on the Aries. They have
removed the whole set up from the transom and have it disassembled in
the shop. I'm am very impressed with the pace....I am a little less impressed
with the four pen bolt-holes in the stern. Don-the-rigger insists
we raise it higher...why didn't he tell us when it was on the hard...he
says because we didn't want to hear it. Meanwhile we had a memorably
fine lunch at the amiable little lunch spot run by Don-the-rigger's wife
- Jackie - from cheeseburgers to fish & chips to Thai curry to liver
and onions, for 2,700 Bolivares.....$4. There's a real risk that
the saga of our travels could be a saga of what we eat!
Dinner on Ursa Minor tonight! Potluck BBQ tomorrow afternoon!
Ah, the rewards for all that time in the yard!
12 July 2000
A tropical wave is going through. Rain and mucho wind. Our
hard top and new enclosure are keeping us dry and the wind generator worked
hard all night...we saw it put out 15 amps this morning! Before
Los Testigo, we'd never seen more than 3! Judy and Byran on Ursa
Minor are slogging through all this 150 miles north of us! They
are already farther west than they need to be to come here, so we will
rendezvous with them as planned in Margarita. We'll head out tomorrow.
June 24, 2000
11 July 2000
After so many months in Trinidad where rain clouds roll through several
times a day, it has been intense to have two virtually cloudless days
in a row! Thanks to the steady wind, it has not gotten hot.
Also it makes Captain Don purr to see the wind generator making a real
contribution to our amp load. Indeed between the efforts of the
solar and wind energy, today is a record with no artificial power generation
of any sort!
We dinghied across to Isla Iguana to check in with la Guarda Costa, which
holds court in a round fiberglass building with a flag on top! The "official,"
in camies, spoke no English. Another youngish man interpreted.
There were no issues and we were welcomed to stay for three days, or longer
if our friends sail in. We talked to Judy and Bryan this morning
one-third of the way of their way south from the Virgins. Tomorrow
we may to to persuade them to stop here before our Margarita rendezvous,
so we won't have to rush back to another civilized place. The simplicity
of this place is a nice antidote to the overindulgences of Trinidad, and
the town on Isla Iguana is VERY simple, with fishing boats in various
stages of repair pulled up on the beaches. I confess I didn't venture
much of my new Spanish, but we exchanged friendly "holas" with
all the children.
tackled the giant sand dune before lunch passing over water that was like
emeralds. Two of the large local fishing boats were moored stern-to the
beach taking their lunch break. The dune itself was hot, soft and steep,
pockmarked by clumps of sea-grape! On the other side it sloped like
a lunar landscape down to to the sea where a teenager and a little kid
were boogie boarding in the surf. Not another soul in sight. Adam
had abandoned his flip flops halfway up the dune. When we returned,
the shoes were gone! Don asserted himself with the two boatloads
of fisherman, who pointed out the shoes under a tree? Strange!
Don and Adam worked on more boat projects through the afternoon and I
made French bread to go with a spaghetti dinner. Not so easy now
that I lost the paddle for my bread maker. Adam ordered three from
the manufacturer, but they didn't come before he left. Heavy sigh.
We planned to snorkel after chores, but we'll have to fit it in earlier
in the day. By afternoon it's way too chilly! Who'da a thought!
24 June 2000
were/are all set to leave the dock tomorrow morning and leave Trinidad
several days later. However something is amok with my computer...even
though I am writing on it right now. It starts up with a scandisk
situation every time, but each time I let it run the scan, I seem to lose
more and more sectors of my hard drive. Several other people
are having similar problems. I'm beginning to suspect a virus.
Much like human colds, I figure if I could give it to you, I already have.
I hope not. So we are in touch with Toshiba (it's a weekend , of
course!) and we may have to wait around for the ship-out-and-return sequence
which will probably take ten days!!!!! (Venezuela is not a trustworthy
shipping destination.) Yikes. This afternoon, someone who has had
luck fighting viruses is going to take a shot at it.
we will go back out to Scotland Bay. We had a great long weekend
there last week (Monday was Labour Day here) , including a real boaties
party day with a hike, a "noodle" afternoon (yakking in the
water with various floation aids!), cocktails, dominoes and a fish BBQ!
Thursday was yet another holiday (Corpus Christi), which we celebrated
taking our friendly maxi taxi driver Musket, his lady - Miss Coop, and
five boys -- Kaylon (14), Clydell (12), Kwesi (12), Rondel (6) and the
ever-irrepressible Anton (6) -- sailing. Yes, we put up the white
things, the wind blew and at the very least the two captains were thrilled.
Other than a few things tumbling from cupboards without latches, the boat
performed very well!
The Trinis were good
sports even if a few seemed a bit gray, and they perked up right fine
when we anchored in Scotland Bay and someone caught a fish off the stern
before the anchor was even down! The gang kept us hopping the next
five hours, fishing, dinghy riding, swimming, snorkeling and "waterpolo"-ing
broken by an all-too short calm for lunch of grilled chicken, macaroni
& cheese, salad and pineapple . We got home at about six pm,
the Trinis leaving with a bucket full of 4" grunts that the boys
caught along the mangroves, which they assured us were terrific when fried
up. They offered to leave us some, but we passed!
in Scotland Bay, we waved farewell to Gallivanter who got a jump start
on us to Los Testigos. Fortunately, they move slowly, so if we don't
catch up to them there, we will down the road.
The countdown to departure has had us scurrying to pack in last-minute
"tourist" trips. I wrote earlier about Asa Wright, but
only just realized I have neglected to report on our most amazing overnight
trip to Grand Riviere at Trinidad's remote northeast corner to see the
giant leatherback turtles nesting. The beautiful drive took us about
three hours, faster than we'd expected. It was, of course, raining
as we arrived at our little eco-resort in the mid-afternoon, so our first
impression left us a bit skeptical. However, the inherent charm of the
place quickly won us. Built by Pierrot, a thirty-something Italian
photojournalist who got snagged here while on assignment from Manhattan,
Mt. Plaisir Resort (perhaps a bit grandiose a name) has evolved over time
and combines rustic make-do with ecological ingenuity, with artistic flair.
Our rooms (we were with another couple) were rather like horse stalls,
with double doors opening directly onto the beach. Our front door
was an oil painting! Our double shower was also painted to be like a garden!
For the first time we had a bed (very comfy) with a big mosquito net,
but we never felt the need of it. And dinner, despite being three
hours from quality provisioning, was creative and continental!
But of course it was the turtles we came to see. At this time of
year, not only are the mothers nesting -- each one nests every
ten days for a period of about two months (the whole season last from
March to September) --, but the first hatchlings are starting to emerge.
The beach itself was probably three hundred yards long with a large and
small river emptying into the sea at opposite ends. The beach was
surprisingly short, maybe fifty feet from tree line to water's edge, and
the waves were eating away at the bank. Yet, hundreds of huge turtles
are nesting here, probably a couple of score a night!
We have heard so much about the wonders of the phenomenon, but our first
impressions had to do with sobering ecological realities. In the
late afternoon predators of the eggs/hatchlings ranging from dogs to vultures
prowled the beach, occasionally actively digging, while the husks of exposed
eggs litter the waterline. After school, a band of local kids show
up to chase off the dogs and collect those hatchlings whose biorhythms
launch them while still light. The first hatchling we saw had already
been gored by a vulture!
The wondrous part started to kick in about dusk when the kids released
their washtubs full of hatchlings at the beachtop from where they scurried
into the sea. It's a wonder to me they had any energy left since instinct
had kept them all scurrying for their two-hour stint in the tubs!
After dinner we went back to lie down for an hour or so before the first
alert. Then in intermittent rain, we went forth to witness the EVENT.
Our first mother had selected a nice stretch of beach right in front of
the inn, and from what we could tell, she did a textbook sequence of scooping
her body pit, then once settled, using her hind legs to sculpt out a symmetrical
three-foot deep cylinder in the sand in which she deposited her 80-100
eggs. Interestingly, the last layer of eggs are small and infertile,
serving as sacrificial superstructure to protect the lower layers after
she tamps down the sand. Finally,
after about an hour or so, she goes into camouflages mode where she uses
her body and flippers to churn up the surface in ever-widening circles
to confuse predators as to the actual location she laid!
Meanwhile quite a few more turtles had emerged from the water. Some
came barely above the high water mark, others set to work while touching
each other! The suddenly, we realized that the sand at our feet
was swarming with hatchlings emerging from the sand. We were afraid
to move for fear of squishing them!
The next morning at first light we found four turtles still at it.
One turtle, too close to the river, worked well into the morning as her
nest kept caving in! The natural light allowed us to take pictures.
On our way home we stopped at a lighthouse overlooking the corner of Trinidad
where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. More like Maine than any
place I've seen, it was not a place you want to be in a boat! I'm
not sure I'd want to be a turtle! A few degrees off course, and
smush! How do they do it, navigate so precisely over and over and
over?? The wonders of nature!
Now, back to the bedevilments of electronics!
Don & Gwen, The Two Captains