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The Two Captains


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.

The 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.

We 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
e 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.

eanwhile 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!

Then, 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!

hile 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


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