24 July 2000
-- Simon Bolivar's Birthday Porlamar, Margarita, Venezuela (10.57N;
life in a communal-type anchorage lulls us into communications complacency.
Our first week in Margarita was one long sequence of socialization,
shopping, eating out, entertaining in, and shopping some more. Projects,
of course, continued with Don and Adam spending a lot of time in Don-the-rigger's
workshop breaking down the Aries windvane into pieces, cleaning up the
corrosion and reassembling it into the sensitive moveable piece it's
supposed to be. It is now remounted on the stern, about 16" higher than
our first effort, the hub is on the wheel, and all that remains is finishing
the route for the control lines, which involves a fiberglass tunnel
through the cockpit coaming.
the halfway point of the week, we took an all-day island tour in the
company of Judy & Bryan of Ursa Minor. Our guide was Bernardo, a third
generation Venezuelan of German descent, with a comfortable, air-conditioned
mini-van...properly equipped with a cooler in the back. Bernardo gave
us an overview of the history, which as ever is mostly comprised of
a struggle between colonizers and natives, in this case the Spanish
and the local Indian population to begin with, and subsequently the
Spanish and their own rebellious colonists. Same story, different players.
This led to the great campaign led by Simon BolÝvar to throw of the
yoke of Spanish oppression and create one huge country called Gran Colombia
that would have encompassed present-day Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.
His generals however then warred with him and the Gran Colombia then
this historical overview we plugged the usual round of chapels, fortresses,
and museums coupled with drives and overlooks that covered the whole
northern "half" of the island. Margarita is really two mountainous islands
linked by a long, broad sand isthmus. The whole is almost forty miles
long, and the strange effect we'd noticed on arrival -- unblemished
mountains behind Miami-beach like lowlands - turns out to be due to
a law making all land above 80 meters national park. It is so close
to the mainland, you can see the mountains in some detail on a clear
had an amazing "tourist" luncheon on beach of Juangreigo (named for
a Greek pirate who shipwrecked there) with a seafood plateful of grilled
shrimp, mussels, baby octopus, and squid! It made for a pretty busy
plate, and all those arms, legs, heads and shells gave the American
palates a pause. But good adventurers that we are, we shoved aside preconceptions
and cleaned our plates.
step of the meal was to purchase several cultured pearl necklaces made
from local oysters. (more on that later!) and listen to a narration
of island history by two children about seven years old in tandem! As
it was in Spanish, Bernardo had to translate every few words, and we
got the impression that the performance had been done before! Still,
with a bit of the history already in mind, I was surprised to find I
was able to follow a substantial part of the tale!
Friday we tore ourselves away from all this good life, and sailed west
with Ursa Minor to the small island of Cubagua. Cubagua was the site
of the first European settlement in America, Nueva Cadiz! What stopped
Columbus in his tracks was the island's rich pearl beds (ah, those pearl
necklaces!) In typical fashion, the colonizers exploited the Indian
labor and the pearl beds, exhausting both in fairly short order (in
one year the Spanish exported 820 pounds of pearls.) Then in one of
those cataclysms with distinctly moral overtones, Mother Nature wiped
out Nueva Cadiz with an earthquke and tidal wave on Christmas Day 1541.
Tucked behind the northernmost point, we found an almost deserted landscape
but for a line
of fishermen's shacks. Burnt umber cliffs rose to a flat-looking tableland
inland. We were put off of the idea of investigating the ruins of Neuva
Cadiz by reports of thievery from unattended boats, but we did indulge
in the snorkel of a sunken car ferry and adjacent reef. The viz was
poor and the water very cold, BUT it felt like climbing back in the
saddle again. It was the first real snorkeling Don and I have done since
Sept 1 1999, almost eleven months!! Had the viz been better it would
have been a very interesting dive!
The deserted nature of this anchorage very much appealed to us, so we
stayed two days. Then, since Judy and Brian have to work their way back
eastward to Trinidad, we started back toward Margarita with a rousing
windward sail to Isla Coche. This was our first windward sail in the
new TII, and with a reef in the main, the staysail and the genoa we
were thrilled with the morning's performance.
cruising guide we are using was published in '97. In those three years
the Punta Playa anchorage we dropped the hook in has gone from a deserted
strip of sand with net fishermen and throngs of seabirds to a riotous
holiday resort destination. There was not just a hotel with all the
attendant beach chairs, jet-ski's, windsurfers, and well-oiled, bikini-clad
bodies, but there were at least four huge day-trip party boats...one
with a waterslide from it's top deck. What a din! After the party boats
left, we five ventured ashore to walk the beach and check out the possibility
of dining ashore. The resort turned out to be fancy and unappealing,
an unusual combo. But we did glean in a mix of halting Spanish and halting
English, a recommendation for a restaurant in San Pedro, the village
on the next point. We went and enjoyed a delightful dinner, more mixed
seafood (but no arms and legs this time!) with real hospitable service
-- at El Bohio de Do˝a Carmen.
This morning we motored back early before the wind and current could
build, and by 10am, we'd dropped the hook in Porlamar, in almost the
same spot we'd left. Honey, we're home!
BTW (By the way)- Problems with the "twocaptains" email
address (which arose when changing forwarding instructions upon departure
from Trinidad) have been sorted out, and that address, which we pick
up from cyber cafes, is back in business.
BTW #2 -- An email from a former charter guest alerting
us to the fact that I got a mention in the August issue of SAIL magazine.
The writer Amy Ullrich (who did the terrific feature on Whisper in '96)
compared notes with the subjects of the article - Randy and Shelley
of Three Moons to discover that they shared the same dive instructor...me!
31 July 2000 Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela (10.12N; 64.39W)
We left Margarita
Saturday, overnighted again at Coche, and sailed Sunday to mainland
Venezuela. We got the Aries working before we left, in time in fact
for a test sail with Don-the-rigger and the Gallivanters (who now covet
one), and it brought us most of the way! A mechanical autopilot saves
a lot of amps over the electric one! Last night we anchored in El Oculto,
a cove with no other boats and no human habitation in sight! If we'd
swum to the beach it would have been our first footsteps on a foreign
continent. Instead we snorkeled. Billions of Christmas Tree worms and
a particularly healthy brain coral garden. We saved the South American
moment for today Puerto La Cruz, and then forgot to think anything of
it upon our arrival here. Puerto La Cruz is another biggish city with
naked mountains behind it. However there is a big oil terminal here
and some real industry besides internal tourism. The island cluster
just outside the city are the grayest fractured moonscapes I've ever
seen near a sea! Our marina - Bahia Redonda - is just at entrance to
the huge El Morro marine complex, is mix of canals, condos, expensive
homes, hotels, condos and boatyards. We haven't toured the rest of the
complex yet, but Bahia Redonda, at least, is again an overstatement
of architecture with an understatement of actual use! It seems there
is money to build in Venezuela, but little to operate and maintain!
We hear it has to do with the fluctuations in the political situation.
However, several boats we knew in Trinidad, stood by to help us in and
make us feel welcome. It's a very heartening phenomenon! Tomorrow we
leave at 0500 on our Angel Falls adventure.