Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday 30th April

Kralendijk
Bonaire

12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W

It was a public holiday here today to celebrate Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands birthday. The town is unbelievably quiet, there is just no one around – this is probably due to the fact that there is a festival in Rincon (the second largest town in Bonaire) and most people have made the trip there for the day. Again Gerry was up and fiddling with the generator first thing this morning – this time he was trying to locate the source of the vibration that he has noticed, personally I think he just likes to take the generator apart and make out he’s doing important stuff! Despite his best efforts thought there is still a vibration; this generator is definitely his nemesis and will be the death of him for sure. I kept out of the way of flying tools and foul language by going out on deck and reading my book until he had finished. The wind was less ferocious today so we decided to get in the water for a swim. We donned the snorkeling gear and took the plunge; the water was cold but quite refreshing once your teeth stopped chattering. We made our way along the line of moored boats taking in the sights at the edge of the reef. There were hundreds of fish, mostly small ones but we spotted the occasional parrot fish, puffer fish and trumpet fish along with jelly fish hiding in the coral that makes up the beginning of the reef. We noted some car tires had been dumped/ placed in a couple of locations and we think they have been deliberately placed there to encourage reef growth; other than the tires there was no trash to be seen anywhere – it was pristine water. A few feet from where our boat is moored the reef drops off and you really need to scuba dive to take advantage of the sites. All along the coast there are designated dive and snorkeling sites, many of these are in the areas where the moorings for boats are situated so you have to be extremely careful not to run over anyone in the water snorkeling or diving. The clear water makes it perfect for diving and snorkeling. As we began to get cold we returned to the boat, showered and had coffee and lunch. Then it was time for Gerry to get his beauty sleep whilst I typed up blog notes and made fish cakes with the left over cooked fish from last night. When he’d had enough sleep Gerry and I made some hors d’ouvers and cocktails and sat out in the cockpit watching the sun go down. It was a brilliant sun set but I still haven’t seen the green flash; maybe May will be the month!

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Sunday 29th April


Kralendijk
Bonaire


12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W
Congratulations to the Aussie cricket team - World one day cricket champions. Go Aussies!

How very strange it was waking up to find no Gypsy Palace alongside us. Gerry was up and making noise early, having checked the final score of the one day cricket final he got out the boxing kangaroo flag and ran it up on the flag halyard then it was time to get down to the serious stuff. He wanted to check out the generator as he had noticed that the voltage from it was lower than it should have been. He was banging tools moving bits of the casing around so I did the wise thing and stayed in bed – out of his way whilst he prodded and probed the thing. He eventually put all the bits back together and I got up. We had a cooked breakfast for the first time in a long while and then it was time to get stuck into other boat jobs. Gerry had planned to install a computer fan on the side of the seat covering where the water maker is housed to give it some air circulation, this was going to involve removing of seat cushions, tools spread everywhere and noise whilst he drilled the holes for the fan. Again I did the wise thing and got out of the way, I went out on deck with the snap tool and replaced some snaps that had rusted off then I cleaned the Strata glass curtains which were covered in dust from the marina, applied silicon spray to the catches that were getting a bit stiff and began cleaning the stainless steel in the cockpit that was getting a little rusty. By this time Gerry had finished his installation and as lunch time approached he said that he fancied a beer so we climbed in the dink and headed into Karel’s bar. As we tied up we noticed that we were the only dinghy there, then I remembered hearing a lot of radio chatter yesterday about invitations to a game of dominos being played today on one of the boats in the marina – obviously a lot of the cruisers had gone to the game. We had just one beer at the bar and then went for a walk down the road to the city café where we stopped and had some lunch. The whole town seemed to have died overnight, there was hardly anyone around. I paid a quick visit to the vegetable market after lunch and topped up on tomatoes, avocados and pineapple, then we bought an ice cream each and made our way back along the beach front to Karel’s bar where we collected our dinghy and made our way out to the boat. The walk along the waterfront is quite amazing, the water is clear and just a few feet from the shore we could see parrot fish swimming along. A few feet further out, perhaps about 70 foot, the reef begins and you can snorkel off the back end of your boat in water that changes from pale turquoise to clear indigo blue unfortunately it was too windy to go swimming off the back end of the boat that afternoon – we would save that for another day. Exhausted from our morning activities and the stroll along the waterfront Gerry hit the bed for the afternoon whilst I played spider solitaire on the computer. We cooked up some of the fish that we had caught for dinner and spent the evening watching a movie.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday 28th April

Kralendijk
Bonaire

12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W

We listened to the weather report this morning and speculated as to when Dale and Lorie would leave for Puerto Rico. It wasn’t too much later that Dale dinked across to tell us that they had decided to go at 16.00hrs today as the weather seemed good for their passage. We arranged to meet at the dock for lunch and carried out a few “boat jobs” before getting in the dinks and heading to Karel’s dock. We tried a couple of places for lunch but they were closed and we ended up at the city bar where we had burgers and discussed the route and weather for Dale and Lorie’s trip. We were all a bit subdued as it was going to be hard to go our separate ways from here – if only the dreaded WORK stuff didn’t have to be considered! After lunch Gerry and I went in search of some bread whilst Dale and Lorie went to clear out, retrieve their flare gun and prepare to get underway. Dale radioed us to come over for the final goodbyes, photos and promises, we dinked across and spent half an hour saying goodbyes then it was time for them to leave. We watched from our cockpit as they dropped their mooring lines and motored away from the field, turning back towards us to raise their main sail, it was a very sad moment. Thank you for sharing part of our passage with us, showing us some of your favourite places, sharing some fabulous and some not so fabulous meals with us, sharing boat problems and sometimes solutions, sharing your last vegetables and coke, teaching Gerry to fillet fish, and following us when the sails went up!
Fair winds and following seas, with none of the “COOPER FACTOR” to make your sailing hairy. Keep an eye on the ‘pit growth Lorie, Dale has spare elastic bands and don’t forget to braid the hairy legs when you go ashore – don’t want to scare the natives! Oh and stop telling people you work in law Lorie, we know what you really do – we have the video to prove it! We know that you will be reading this at some stage so stay in touch; you will always be welcome where ever we are. We love you guys and will miss not having you along side us for the rest of our trip.

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Friday 27th April





Kralendijk
Bonaire


12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W

A very happy birthday Dale, we are glad we got to spend this momentous occasion with you.

A bit of a reluctant start to the day as far as I was concerned, today we were going to be leaving the marina and going back out onto a mooring for the remainder of our time here. It was also the day of reckoning as far as obtaining the new hydraulic cylinder went – if it hadn’t arrived today we would have to stay here until next Thursday due to public holidays to celebrate Queen Beatrice’s birthday and the May day labour day holiday. Gerry was up and doing the peeling off of the masking tape from around the toe rails – unfortunately the sealing wasn’t quite up to his standard and will have to be repeated – probably whilst we are out on the mooring. We tidied away the tools etc. which were scattered from the bow to the cockpit and then Gerry went and fetched our propane and the laundry which was ready to collect. Whilst I secured the loose stuff in the salon Gerry got rid of our trash and went to pay the marina bill. Then it was time to leave the marina, Gypsy Palace was ready a bit before us so we threw their lines off and pushed them clear of the dock before getting our engine cranked up and following them out of the marina. We motored down the mooring field looking for 2 moorings close together, eventually finding them and tying up to them. Gerry decided that he was starving and we made steak sandwiches for lunch from the leftovers from last night. We had just finished eating when we heard a knock on the boat, I went outside to find Lorie snorkeling around off the back end of our boat, she had knocked to see if I wanted to come out and join her, I explained that I had only just eaten and didn’t want to jump in the water straight away. We arranged to go into town a little later on. Gerry and I read for a while and then it was time to dink across to Karel’s dock and hit the town. We arrived there at about 13.00 hrs only to discover that the shops all closed for lunch between 12.30 and 14.30. Gerry took off to go and see if the hydraulic cylinder had arrived, Dale went in another direction to check out if customs and immigration were open over the public holiday, that left Lorie and I to do what we enjoy doing most – browsing around the shops in peace looking for those elusive little “some things”! We all met back up a little later, the guys had finished their jobs, unfortunately the hydraulic cylinder hadn’t arrived so we will be here for another week and Dale found out the details of when the customs and immigration offices were open. As they didn’t really want to go browsing with Lorie and me they took one dink and returned to the respective boats whilst Lorie and I continued to leisurely shop. We managed to buy a couple of souvenirs but were a bit disappointed with the choice – there didn’t seem to be anything specific to the place. We eventually returned to our boats having made plans to meet up at the dock for dinner. I found Gerry fast asleep and had to wake him up in time to get back for dinner. We met up at the dock and had a drink at Karel’s bar, then went to The Ribs Factory for - you guessed it – a rib dinner. The restaurant overlooked the Karel dock and bar where a Mariachi band was performing for the crowd that had gathered there; we got free musical entertainment whilst we ate as well as a terrific view of the sun setting over the water. We all toasted Dale and sang happy birthday in a dreadful 3 part harmony (or as Lorie said – maybe it was just 3 different keys!). Having eaten our fill we clambered back into the dinks and roared back out to our boats for the night.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday 26th April

Kralendijk
Bonaire


12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W

Gerry took our propane tank across to the marina office to get it filled this morning, it wasn’t empty but it was getting down and we don’t want the hassle of trying to find propane in a tin pot place further down the track. It will be ready to collect tomorrow, along with our laundry which was supposed to be back today but wasn’t. When he returned from the office Dale, Lorie and I joined him in the car for the shopping trip. We knew we were going to have to cart the shopping back in 2 lots as there is no room in the car for it plus the four of us. We all browsed the shelves, adding all sorts of things to the carts, finally we decided that we had probably broken the back of the shopping list and made our way to the check out, we were surprised that it didn’t come to as much as I had expected but I have to add that there would have been a lot more in the cart if Gerry hadn’t been doing his shopping Nazi bit. Gerry took Dale and Lorie back first with their shopping and then came back to the store to collect me. On our way back to the dock we stopped at a dentist and asked about getting an emergency appointment, I was told to return in half an hour. We had just enough time to get to the dock and unload our shopping and put the frozen and cold stuff into the fridge and freezer then it was back to the dentist. Gerry returned the hire car whilst I had my tooth fixed. Luckily for me the filling that fell out was small, I needed no anaesthetic and the new filling cost $88 a lot cheaper than the original one which was done in Jacksonville, I just hope this one lasts longer! Having returned to pay the dentist bill for me Gerry then walked back to the boat with me, passing a few green parrots on the way. We had lunch and then spent the best part of the next 2 hours re arranging the food in the various lockers to fit the new stuff in. I began to vacuum bag some of the stuff and Gerry took off outside to finish sealing the edges of the toe rail. Once we had finished with those jobs it was time for Gerry to apply the sealer to the toe rails and change out a couple of LED bulbs on the switch panel in the Navigation station whilst I sat and typed up blog notes. Once these jobs were completed Gerry had to have an afternoon nap, I decided to go and see if I could get a couple of photos of the green parrots called Loras, they are indigenous to Bonaire and seem very noisy like our rainbow lorikeets in Australia – probably the same family. Anyway I found a few in the sea grape bushes close to the dock but they flew off as soon as they spotted me, I spent the next half hour wandering around the bushes and managed to get a couple of pictures, they are quite hard to spot in the trees as they are the same colour as the leaves, I hope you can pick them out OK, if not click on the picture to enlarge it. Back to the boat and it was close to dinner time, it was Dale’s last day of being 53 years old so we went to an Argentinean steak house for dinner and had enormous steaks – so big that we all had a doggie bag to bring home. I finally gave Gerry his birthday present, which I had bought in Puerto Rico and had had to keep hidden until Dale’s birthday as Lorie had bought Dale the same thing in a different colour. Both men appreciated the effort we had gone to for them. After dinner we strolled back to the marina for our last night there, tomorrow we would be going back out to anchor.

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Wednesday 25th April

Kralendijk
Bonaire


12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W

Happy birthday Lee, We will be drinking rum and eating chocolate just for you today!
Our sincere thanks to all the diggers on ANZAC day 2007.

Another day in the marina means another day of doing those irritating little jobs. Our day started with me masking the toe rails down both sides of the boat, ready for painting them. Gerry gave the auto pilot well a scrub out then he began painting the toe rails. With the spray paint being blown in every direction by the wind I retreated to the safety of the interior of the boat and began to defrost the fridge and freezer. Gerry gave up with the spray can and just sprayed paint into a container and then applied it by hand – this worked for a short while then his patience ran out and he decided to go and buy a can of paint instead, off he went in the car. Meanwhile I answered emails and finished the defrosting – a horrid task at the best of times which is made worse by being on a boat. I sorted through the squelchy green things that always seem to be found at the bottom of the fridge and ditched some questionable produce before repacking the food back in the fridge and freezer. Gerry returned whilst I was still doing this and he continued with his painting until the toe rails were all shiny silver. Then it was time for lunch which we ate on board. We spent the afternoon doing more jobs – cleaning the Strata glass, beginning to clean the stainless steel, re housing some of the stuff inside the boat etc. Not very exciting but things that we had to get done. Mid afternoon we took the car and along with Dale and Lorie went in search of the supermarket. We were quite surprised to find that the warehouse / supermarket was very well stocked with most of the things that we needed. It was only a discovery trip so we didn’t actually do our shopping – that would be a task for tomorrow. After exhausting ourselves looking at supermarket shelves we thought we needed a cold drink so we walked along the town main street looking on the shop windows, making a few detours inside the jewelry shops, not that we found anything we couldn’t live without; until we reached the café/bar. Luckily (?!) for us it was just about happy hour and drinks were 2 for 1 so we had a few and then went looking for somewhere to have dinner. We had noticed an Indonesian place and thought we would give that a try; we walked up the 3 floors to the place only to find it was closed. A quick re think found us sitting at an “international cuisine” place on the water front. The food was very nice and we were pleased with our second choice. A small debate went on as to who would be driving us home as Gerry had drunk a few beers, in the end he drove anyway as there seem to be no laws here about drink driving/ wearing seat belts or anything else to do with cars and the road. We went to bed and some time in the middle of the night I woke up with a piece of filling falling out of a tooth – oh joy! Something else to fix!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tuesday 24th April

Kralendijk
Bonaire


12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W


How nice to wake up to cool air and plenty of water. Gerry got stuck into the “jobs” as soon as there was enough light, he tore apart our auto pilot as it has been leaking hydraulic fluid periodically; he planned to get a replacement cylinder here or if that wasn’t possible to try and get it re sealed. As soon as the shops were open he took off in the dink to see if he could get a replacement part plus some of the things that we had on our “ongoing list”. I gathered up laundry, sorted it into bags and then started to do washing – just the stuff that I knew would dry quickly on the boat rails. I was about half way through the washing when Gerry reappeared, he was grumpier than usual – the store needed more information on the type of auto pilot in order to locate and order the spare part; it meant downloading the manual from the web site. Soon he was on his way back to the store, hopefully for a more successful outcome. Lorie and I dinked across the marina and left our heavy laundry loads with the dock office – it will be gone for 2 days, Just as well we have enough clothes to see us through! On our return I finished hanging out the washing I’d done on board and then Gerry arrived back only to head straight out to organize a hire car. When he returned again it was just about lunchtime so he asked Dale and Lorie if they wanted to go out for lunch, they didn’t but we went as there wasn’t any bread on the boat to make sandwiches with. We went back to the place that we‘d eaten at on our first night here – they did good burgers fairly cheaply and that’s what Gerry fancied for lunch. The burgers were good but the service was slow, it took us and hour and a half to have lunch then we returned to the marina to pick up Dale and Lorie for a tour of the island. A word or two here about the hire car – I think it should have been called “hire a wreck”- it was a Suzuki jimny (like a jeep), with the back window missing, the 2 rear seats had no locking system so they were permanently in the recline position, the zippers were missing on the side windows and the whole interior was covered in orange dust! Lorie and I climbed in the back and decided it was very uncomfortable. Gerry drove us all around the island; we visited the salt ponds and saw the salt mountains waiting to be transported on the cargo ships, we visited the sites of several different coloured obelisks – which were used to indicated to cargo ships which dock to go to in order to pick up their cargo, then it was on to the slave huts which have been restored for historic purposes. The next bit of the tour took us around the southern tip of the island where we finally saw the ponds full of flamingos which Bonaire is famous for. Lorie and I climbed out of the car and walked over the scrub to try and get close enough to take photos of them, they seemed very shy birds as they began to move away from us as soon as they noticed us approaching; we did get some photos though. As a lot of the trip was along the coast road we saw how the weather had deteriorated on the same passage we had taken to get here – the waves were crashing on the beach with unbelievable ferocity. The trip turned inland for a while and became quite boring – not too much to see apart from cacti and a few rocks, then we hit the shoreline on the other side of the island and followed it for a while finding the nudist colony and the popular windsurfing area. We made our way to Rincon, the second biggest “city” and planned on taking the loop coast road back – only to find that it was closed to traffic and we had to retrace our route to return to Kralendijk. The car spluttered and died on us at the bottom of a steep hill, Gerry turned it over a couple of times and got it going again but from there on we were concerned that we wouldn’t make it back so we headed straight home. Once we were within sight of the car hire place it all seemed to be working OK again – obviously we had taxed it too much doing a round island trip! We stopped at a supermarket to pick up some soft drink and then made it back to the Marina. After a shower and change of clothes we were back in the car and heading out for dinner. I had read about Richards – a restaurant which the cruising guide recommended and suggested we try to find it. We almost gave up as we were heading away from the popular town area and seemed to be running out of restaurants but we found it and what a find! It was a terrific restaurant on the water front, the food was fantastic – the best steak I’ve had since Ruth’s Chris. We all agreed it was well worth finding. Dinner eaten, it was time to head back to the boat for the night.

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Monday 23rd April

Kralendijk
Bonaire

12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W

First thing in the morning Gerry and Dale gathered up the boat documentation, passports etc and dinked into customs and immigration. Whilst they were gone I caught up with my blog notes and began loading them onto the site. After about an hour Gerry reappeared, when I asked how it had gone he said that it was like the mating of elephants and they had to go back. Why? Apparently the customs people had asked if they had flare pistols on board (what boat doesn’t?) and when they said yes they were told that they had to hand them in until we leave the country. What a pain in the butt, it means that we have to retrieve them half an hour before we leave the country – just another thing to add to the job list! Anyway Dale and Gerry went back with the flare pistols, Lorie went with them as they were also going to have a quick look at the marina we were planning on going into for a couple of days. I decided to stay onboard as I was half way through loading the backlog of blog notes and once I was on a roll I didn’t want to stop. They all returned at lunchtime with the news that the marina was disorganized and they could find no one to acquire a slip allocation from so they went to a different marina and made arrangements there for us to go alongside at 13.30 hrs. We had some lunch on board and then got ready to move into the marina. When it was time we decided to fill up with fuel at the fuel dock before tying up in the slip. We followed Gypsy Palace to the fuel dock and then had to do a bunch of circles and figure of eights whilst they filled up with fuel first – there was only room for one boat at a time on the fuel dock. Once they had finished and moved away we tied up, filled the jerry cans and topped off the main tank. We cast off and headed across the marina to the slip we had been allocated – both Gypsy Palace and us were on the same end slip. As Gypsy Palace were already tied up we had to go in behind them; Gerry decided to back into the slip as he wanted to be into wind and also all the plug ins for power and water were in the center of the slip so it meant it would be easier for us to run lines to them. It meant that the sterns of both boats would be together in the center of the slip and we had to be careful not to touch Gypsy Palace’s arch with our arch as we tied up. Dale and Lorie kindly caught our lines and helped us into the slip, Gerry said that it was a breeze getting into the slip stern to stern (he has done it many times before) but Dale seemed very nervous about it, it’s a good job it all went well! One we were tied up, plugged into shore power and water Gerry got out the deck wash down gear. I offered to help scrub but he said I could get on with finishing loading the photos onto the blog site once we had cleared all the cushions etc. out of the way for the cleaning session. So whilst Gerry acid washed the deck I finished loading the blog, feeling a little guilty but not too much! At the end of the cleaning Gerry came below and asked what was wrong with the air conditioning – it wasn’t running. He ended up re priming the cooling water line but still it didn’t want to run, so out came the manual. Gerry then reset the incoming voltage and after letting the unit cool down it started and stopped again at will. After resetting the temperature control we left it, thinking to look at it again later. We showered and then set out for dinner at the restaurant in the marina. The food was nice but I could have eaten a lot more vegetables than they served up, Gerry said the same thing. The short walk back to the boat finished us off for the night; we were pleased to find that the air conditioning had kicked in and was working properly again on our return to the boat –just in time for a good night sleep in cool air.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunday 22nd April


Kralendijk
Bonaire


12 09.387 N
68 16.822 W


Another one of those 08.00hr starts. We planned on arriving in Bonaire early afternoon so that we could pick up a mooring in daylight. Overnight the wind had died away to nothing so as we hauled up our anchor and began to motor away from our overnight anchorage we discussed tactics for the trip with Dale and Lorie. We all agreed that to get there we were going to have to motor sail. We hoisted our main sail and were managing 6 knots with it and the motor, it was just enough. Dale wanted to run his generator for a while so he tried to goose wing his sails and turned his motor off, the result was a slow and wallowing ride; he eventually hauled in the sails, turned off the generator and motored for most of the trip. Just for a laugh we threw the fishing line in the water again, we nearly had heart attacks when the peg flew off the rail and the last of the line vanished off the back end. Gerry said words which I can’t begin to repeat here but the gist of it was what were we going to do with more fish? He tugged on the line and said that there was something on it so he slowed the boat down and I began to haul in the line. As the lure came into view we both laughed and breathed a sigh of relief we had cleanly hooked a piece of rope! I dragged it up and unhooked it then released it back to the deep. We decided not to tempt fate any further and reeled the line in and packed it away for the rest of the trip. The wind was all over the place but not where we were – we motored for a while, flew the jib for a while and then when we finally turned around the southern bottom end of Bonaire we managed to fly both the jib and the main for the last hour and a half of the trip. As we went along the coast to Kralendijk we noticed the restored slave huts (restored for historic purposes) and the huge mountains of salt. Bonaire has 2 main industries – salt production and tourism. We could understand both, the salt flats are huge and the waters around Bonaire are to be seen to be believed, they are just magnificent – clear blue of every shade imaginable. We hauled our jib in and then dropped our main when we reached the commercial dock as the mooring field was just behind it. Bonaire has a huge mooring field and you aren’t allowed to anchor anywhere – you must use a mooring. We motored to a mooring and a couple of men in a dinghy helped us to tie on to it, it turned out they were our neighbours – from Denmark. Dale and Lorie moored a little way away from us and once we were all settled in we all dinked into the nearest bar for a drink followed by an early dinner. Conversation was a bit slow; we were all tired after a day of sailing/ motoring, salt air and sun. It was going to be an early night for all of us. The checking in would be a thing for the morning.
Now that we have an internet connection again I will be loading photos over the next few day so check back to April 7th to see them.

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Saturday 21st April

Palmeras Island,
Aves de Sotavento


12 01.213 N
67 41.035 W

Happy Birthday Barb, STITCH! miss you.

The night was hot and humid, not a breath of wind, it made sleeping rather difficult, it’s a good job we hadn’t got to do much today. After breakfast and a few minor jobs it was time for some exercise, we decided that we were going to go snorkeling on the nearby reef. The snorkel gear went into the dink closely followed by us. We motored the short distance to shore where we beached the dink. A short walk along the beach found us staring at a huge pile of conch shells – the remains of a bumper harvest by the looks of things. There were 2 more huge piles further down the beach, we had to wonder if there was any conch left to find. The other thing we found were loads of plastic bottles, a great shame as the beach was ruined by them, we guessed that most of them must have been washed up on the beach but it is a bad reflection on boaties in general that these beautiful tropical beaches are being spoilt by trash which is non bio degradable. After our walk we donned the snorkeling gear and plunged into the water, the shallow shoreline quickly dropped off and we snorkeled around a reef in about 20 foot of water. Again we could have been in an aquarium, the tropical fish were plentiful and there was a huge variety. After snorkeling for about an hour Gerry’s head was getting sun burnt and we were both getting tired – it was time to go back to our boat for a shower and rest. I had taken the camera with me and shot lots of pictures but the lens fogged up and not a single one of them came out – I was very disappointed but will try again. Luckily Lorie had taken much the same group of photos so I have copies of hers. Gerry spent the afternoon checking his eyelids for light leaks whilst I did a bit of cooking and read my book. We joined Dale and Lorie on their boat for a delicious thrown together meal of pork and left over bits; watched the sun go down and then returned to our boat for the night.

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Friday 20th April




Palmeras Island,
Aves de Sotavento


12 01.213 N
67 41.035 W

Make a note of this date on your calendars – today was the day we caught our first ever fish! More of that later.
We secured the dink to the davits and readied the boat for a short passage to the other Aves – a distance of 23.3miles. We wove our way out through the same reefs and coral heads that we had come through on the way in – in fact I just used the same chart plotter track on the way out that we had made on the way in – it makes things easier! Then we headed west and slightly north until we reached our destination. We put the jib up when we first cleared the reef but the wind was very light and the jib kept collapsing so Gerry wanted to try the main by itself to see if we could get along with just that. Away went the jib and we turned into wind (what wind?) hoisted the main sail and then turned back on course. At least the main didn’t keep flapping about but we could only manage 4.5 – 5 knots and at times less. We slowly crept past Gypsy Palace who had started out in front of us but were only flying their jib, we both looked like we were wallowing in the water rather than sailing. As the afternoon began to take on the feeling that we wouldn’t arrive at our destination until dark Dale called us to say that he thought motoring was the only way to get there in day light, we agreed and we began to motor, stopping briefly to drop our main. Once we were motoring at a reasonable speed we threw the fishing line out, joking that it was a waste of time as we had noticed a large flock of birds diving into the water about half a mile off of our port bow. Just as I was getting into the last chapters of my book the fish alarm (the yellow peg on the safety rail) went ping and the last of the line vanished out of the back of the boat. We didn’t get too excited as this has happened before when we increased speed but Gerry tugged on the line and yelled that we had a strike. We both leapt about like idiots, Gerry slowed the boat down whilst I began to reel in our catch on the Cuban hand reel, it was heavy and hard going to say the least but eventually I dragged the fish up alongside the boat. We had no idea what it was so we called Dale on the radio and described it to him – Wahoo!!! Now we were stuck with what to do next, we couldn’t haul it aboard as the dink was on the davits – one of the few times that we traveled that way. I couldn’t bring it up over the side rail as it was too heavy for me and in the end I gaffed it and with a hand gaff and hung it from a cleat on our back arch, hoping that nothing bigger took a fancy to it whilst we dragged it along. We were so close to our destination that we decided to deal with it once we were anchored. We motored into a small gap between islands and dropped our anchor, Gerry dove the anchor to make sure we weren’t going anywhere and then it was time to deal with the fish. Dale and Lorie came over to our boat so that Dale could instruct Gerry on cleaning and cutting up the Wahoo. We took photos to brag about and then it was time for the serious stuff. The next hour or so was too painful to record, we did get the fish cleaned and filleted and we practiced the fillet and release program that we have so often joked about. The Wahoo was a good size – about 30 -35 pounds and we got a good amount of meat off of it, I hasten to add that there was also a lot that we wasted but we can only store and eat so much. Once we had dealt with the fish it was time to clean up the blood and mess at the back end of the boat, luckily not too much but it still took a while. I made some coleslaw and then we dinked over to Gypsy Palace to share our fresh catch for dinner. Lorie had made some killer potato salad and we hade another great meal watching the sun go down and wondering what the poor people were doing. (Eating fish on the back end of their boat I think!)
Photos of fish on cleat and Me with my catch from camera of Gypsy Palace

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Thursday 19th April




Isla Sur
Aves de Barlavento


11 56.755 N
67 25.940 W

Many happy returns Carmel, hope that you have a good year.

After a good night sleep we decided to go exploring a bit more. The trusty dink was launched and off we went around to the first bay that we had bypassed on our way to this anchorage. We had noticed a cut through the mangroves and thought we would go and see what was hidden down there. The water was a bit murky; full no doubt of bird crap and feathers. It was also quite shallow so we could only get so far up into the cut. Again the trees were full of birds, loads of boobys, a few herons, frigate birds and pelicans. Only the pelicans took flight when we got close enough to take photos, all the rest seemed to be unaware that we might present a danger to them. Once we had exhausted the photo opportunities in the cut we headed back out and a bit further down to where the lighthouse sat. We beached the dinghy and walked along the beach where we found a small ? not finished ?derelict building. It had been built of coral and the walls were very straight sided almost as if someone had put them together and then cut them with a saw to make them straight. There was a window shaped opening in one side and the view looking out of it was fabulous – an artist would have loved it. There was also a small shrine or grave – we couldn’t decide which just outside of the building, marked by a whole lot of conch shells. The lighthouse was ultra modern – a steel tower painted with red and white stripes, with a solar driven light on the top; not as pretty as the older types of lighthouses but at least it worked! There was little else to see on the beach so we then dinked in the opposite direction and made our way to the reef. We found a small patch of sand to anchor the dink to and then donned our snorkeling gear to explore the reef. It was a spectacular reef, not very deep – perhaps 18 inches at the deep parts. Plenty of live coral, mostly brain coral and a huge amount of tropical fish live d in this area. We saw some of the smallest fish I’ve ever seen and if we had had the camera I’m sure we would have got some fantastic pictures as you could get reasonably close to them. The sun was quite hot and as we began to burn we decided to head back to the boat for the rest of the day. We spent a lazy afternoon doing very little except prepare food for the evening meal – dinner was on our boat so we fired up the bar b que for ham steaks and pineapple, The dinners are becoming very creative as we are running out of all sorts of things, we really will have to do a big shop when we get to Bonaire.
Photos of Derelict building and Mangrove tree from camera of Gypsy palace

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Wednesday 18th April

Isla Sur
Aves de Barlavento


11 56.755 N
67 25.940 W

08.00hrs arrived much too soon and we were hauling in our anchor and motoring out of the narrow entrance. The day was a little overcast to begin with the wind was very light and the sea almost flat calm. Once we had cleared the entrance we turned into wind to hoist our main sail, all of it as the wind was so light, then we turned back on to our course and cut the engine to see how we would go. It was painfully slow so Gerry decided to try and fly the jib as well, knowing that it would be a battle to do so. The wind was coming from almost directly astern so he decided to play a bit and put the jib out on the opposite side to the main – goose winging it. As the sails flapped and collapsed in when they back winded he then thought he would deploy another toy – the whisker pole. This pole attaches to the bottom corner of the jib and to the mast at the other end, holding the jib out. The whisker pole we have is a locking telescoping one and on the first attempt to use it Gerry didn’t telescope it out far enough. As the main was the driving force of the boat Gerry decided that the jib and the main needed to change sides, down came the pole, the jib was dragged across to the other side and then the main was forced out to its opposite side. Re attaching the whisker pole, Gerry lengthened it this time and it held the jib out a bit better, still not perfect as we were still getting some back wind from the main. We were getting along a little better but it was frustrating sailing. Dale had deployed his asymmetrical spinnaker and had found he couldn’t fly both the main and the spinnaker together in this wind so he had put his main away and was just sailing with his spinnaker; they were getting along quite nicely with just the one sail. Our spinnaker is stowed beneath the forward bunk, under the hatch which is covered by the dinghy on the deck – to get it out would have been difficult so we are saving it for even lighter weather. We again dragged the fishing line behind us all the way; we were managing 6 knots of speed so we thought we might have a chance of fish for dinner – yeah right! Now we have the fishing completely sussed, any fool can do it, it’s the catching bit that we have to work on! Needless to say the fish had the last laugh again, we caught nothing. As we got closer to the Aves the wind became even lighter and changed direction slightly, we furled away the jib and then the main, choosing to motor to make sure we arrived in daylight so that negotiating the reef wouldn’t be a horror story. We were suddenly surrounded by a pod of dolphins, there had to have been at least 20 of them, leaping around our boat, playing in the bow wave and chasing each other. I grabbed the camera and managed to shoot a couple of shots but they were so fast in the water that it was hard to catch them at just the right moment; I did manage a couple of half way reasonable shots though. We flew the jib again for a short while just before we arrived but not without the motor. The Aves are 2 separate little island archipelagos separated by about 10 miles of water, they are surrounded by an extensive reef which provides some protection to the islands. The other claim to fame for these islands is that they provide a habitat for a large number of birds, mostly species of booby but also herons, frigates and other sea birds. We were going into Isla Sur rather than Isla Oeste, it had 4 anchorages and we were going to anchor in the second one. We wove our way through the reef and coral heads which were easy to pick out in the sunlight. We made our way into the second anchorage and joined the 4 other boats already there, dropping our anchor in 15 feet of water. Once we were happy with our anchoring we put the dink in the water and did a tour of the surrounding mangroves, snapping pictures of the birds resting in the branches. They must be very used to tourists as they seemed to have no fear of us, even the fluffy looking baby boobys just stared back at us. They have a distinctive feature – red webbed feet, I’m not sure that any other species of bird has this, it was quite odd to see and very distinctive. Dale and Lorie knew a couple of people on another boat here and we were all invited to join 3 other couples at the “trash burn site” for drinks and a burn session at 16.30hrs. After returning to our boat we gathered drinks and nibbles’ and then dinked to the location where we were introduced to the couples from Excalibur, Island Dreamin and Moon Goddess. The others had all brought along paints and markers to leave their “autographs” on flat beach stones. The trash burn site had a wall of these stones where various visiting boats had left their boat names and dates. Lorie searched for a stone to draw on and tried to talk me into doing the same. I have “a thing” about leaving such memorials behind and refused to make one, much to Lorie’s surprise. After making one for their boat Lorie then made one for ours and left it on the pile with all the others, she then wondered if it had upset me! After a couple of hours we all returned to our own boats and we had a quickly assembled dinner before falling in to bed for the night.

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Tuesday 17th April



Carenero
Los Roques


11 53.051 N
66 50.686 W

Today was a really laid back chill out sort of day. A fisherman came by the boats at 07.30hrs offering to sell us lobsters, they were about $20 per kilo (negotiable). Gerry said they were huge and that he only wanted the tail – the man didn’t understand what he was talking about and even offered to exchange the lobster for a bottle of red wine! Gerry eventually declined as he didn’t want to have to kill the lobster himself, and was concerned that we didn’t have a pot it would fit into to cook it (he forgot about the bar b que); I’ll never forgive him for not buying them. Once I got up, we cooked breakfast, did house work jobs, then Gerry put up the hammock. We don’t put it up very often as there is nowhere we can leave it up, we have to attach it between the forestay and the mast – obviously it can’t stay there whilst we are moving so it was a notable event. The day was hot and sticky but there was a breeze blowing out on deck – just perfect for a swing in the hammock. I made full use of it for an hour or so until I began to get sun burnt then I covered up and ducked into the shade in the cockpit. One thing we noted when we arrived yesterday was that there was a large mound of rubbish on the beach. Our cruising guide said that the rubbish was collected from the boats at the major anchorages every few days, it looked like this lot had been here for quite a while so we decided not to add our rubbish to the pile (we only had a small amount anyway). To our amazement mid way through the morning a couple of motor boats stopped at the beach, bagged up all the trash and made a pile of it all, Gerry and Dale checked it out and as the guys were going to haul the trash away both Dale and Gerry added bags to the pile, sure enough the boats took it all away leaving the beach clean again. Gerry went off and snorkeled the reef behind our boat, coming back to say there were thousands of fish over there. I was quite happy reading in the shade and didn’t want to get wet so I didn’t snorkel - apparently a big mistake. Dale had bought 3 lobsters and invited us over to share them, I threatened Gerry with death if he so much as sniffed at the lobster – I didn’t think it right when he had the opportunity to buy some and didn’t. We took some chicken that I had marinated and Lorie asked to swap some lobster for chicken as she is not a sea food fan – it all worked out in the end. The sun set was much better viewed from their position in the anchorage, it turned the sky a fantastic shade of pink but there was no green flash – I really doubt it even happens. Our last thing for the day was discussing plans for the next day’s sail – we planned to leave at 08.00hrs for Aves de Barlavento.
Photo of pelicans from camera of Gypsy Palace

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Monday 16th April

Carenero,
Los Roques


11 53.051 N
66 50.686 W

After a good nigh sleep we were ready to continue on our trip. We had to check in with the authorities before going any further as Los Roques is a national park and there are rules and regulations to follow including checking in with Guardacosta, Guardia Nacional, Inparques and Autoridad Unica (PHEW!) To check in with these bodies we had to make our way to El Gran Roque which was just over 4 miles away. We upped anchor at 10.00hrs and motored the short distance, dropped our anchor just out side the “township” and Dale and Gerry dinked over to the dock with documents and cash in hand to do the right thing. Lorie and I remained on our boats to guard the crown jewels. The men returned a little under an hour later with the news that they had caused problems by saying we were only in transit and not staying in Los Roques for any length of time (apparently this is unheard of!) anyway they were told that they could stay in El Gran Roques for 2 days without paying any fees –bonus, more of that in a moment. Then they asked if they could stay at a different island in Los Roques for the 2 days instead – well you knew they were difficult didn’t you? The answer to that was a little unclear so they offered to pay but were waved away; we assumed that it was then OK to stay at one of the eastern islands for the 2 days instead. According to our cruising guide the fee structure to stay in Los Roques was US$2 per boat foot plus US$12 per person and who knows what else, and these fees were based on 2002 information so they were probably even more by now. It would have meant that we could have parted with US$100 just to pass through the place so we were delighted to motor sail our boats over to the eastern island of Carenero which was just over 11 miles further on. We approached Carenero and entered into a beautiful anchorage through a narrow channel with reef on both sides, easy to navigate in the light of day. Inside the anchorage there were supposed to be 6 mooring buoys but it turned out to only be 4, of these 3 were taken and one was set in the mangroves and not useable for a sail boat. We dropped our anchor in the clearest water we have seen to date. The anchorage had a small beach on one side and reef and mangroves on the other; it was totally protected and flat calm, a perfect spot for a 2 night stop over. Once settled in we put the dink in the water and went on a tour around the surrounding area, not too much to see from the dink but there was meant to be excellent snorkeling on the reef – that would have to wait until tomorrow. Dinner was on our boat; unfortunately the mangroves obscured our view of the sunset so we planned to eat on Gypsy Palace, who were anchored a bit further away from us, the next night purposely to see the sun set (and possibly the green flash that we still don’t believe exists!). Over dinner we tried to guess where the boat anchored next to us was from, they were flying a flag with red, white and red horizontal stripes (any guesses?) we ended up looking it up – they were from Latvia! Amazing how far some people have traveled to arrive at the same place we were at. Other boats in the anchorage were from Canada and Venezuela.

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Sunday 15th April

Francisquis,
Los Roques


11 57.403 N
66 39.025 W

As the sun rose we had about 8 miles left to go before we would arrive at the entrance to Los Roques. We had planned on arriving in daylight as there was a serious reef to negotiate. The approach to the entrance was marked by a lighthouse and as we got close to it Gerry noticed that our C-map navigation chart on the chart plotter seemed to have us in a different spot than our eyeballing told us we were. We very slowly and carefully made our way towards the entrance, realizing that the chart plotter was about .2 of a mile off. We made it through the entrance by eyeballing the reef and moving slowly, we radioed back to Dale & Lorie, who were busy catching a fish, to warn them that our chart was out by .2 of a mile and to take care incase theirs was (they uses navionics on their chart plotter), Dale later came back with the information that his chart was also out by about the same amount. We were all glad that we were doing the reef part in daylight as it would have been a disaster in the dark when we would have had to rely on the chart plotters. We followed the reef line from the entrance for 10 miles, awe struck by the fabulous colours of the water over the reef and the landscape on the other side of the reef. We passed a couple of wrecks on the outer reef – big ships that hadn’t made it; we wondered what chart they were using! One of the wrecks is even mentioned in the cruising guide as a prominent landmark to navigate by. We navigated the reef without incident and made our way to one of the small islands, Francisquis, to the north of the chain of islands that make up the Roques. Again we had to carefully make our way into the bay where we planned on anchoring for the night. As it was the weekend the bay was full of party boats and visitors, the beaches were crowded with Venezuelans who had come there for a weekend away from home. We dropped our anchor just off a white sand beach and sat watching the locals windsurf, water ski, and generally enjoy what was left of their weekend, by 17.00hrs most of them were packed up and gone, leaving just us cruisers in the bay for the night. Gerry did a quick tour of the area in our dink, there was a lagoon inside the bay which was accessible if the boat draft was less than 6 feet, at 5’10” we decided that we didn’t need to go into the lagoon that badly so we stayed where we were. As I have already mentioned Lorie had caught a Tuna just after sun rise so we went over to their boat for dinner – the first fresh fish we have had this trip between the 2 boats! It was delicious. After a long night at sea and a 10 mile trip dodging the reef we were all ready for an early night.

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Saturday 14th April

At Sea

We began our day with the decision to take the dink ashore and go for a walk along the beach. It was a picture perfect day, beautiful blue sky and fantastic pale blue sea framed by the white sand on the beach. Gerry got the dink off the deck attached the outboard and prepared everything for the ride ashore whilst I downloaded pictures from the camera onto the computer and typed up some blog notes. Then with camera in hand we took the dink on a ride around the perimeter of the bay, scaring the pelicans and snapping photos of the deserted fishing shacks as we went. Once we reached the spit at the furthest point away from our boat we beached the dink, hauling it far enough out of the water to ensure that it wouldn’t drift away without us (we didn’t need to make fools of ourselves by loosing the dink!) and began to walk along the spit. The view was spectacular on both sides; contrasting blues and greens of the water, different kinds of sand on each side, one side had more shells and gravel than the other, small areas of reef visible on both sides and all divided by a low lying sand spit which was about 50 yards long. We reached the end where the water from either side met and made our way back to the dink. We were a bit disappointed to find empty plastic containers of engine oil strewn along the beach farthest away from the bay where we were anchored; it somehow ruined the whole scene. We re launched the dink and made our way to the fishing shacks for a look and a second walk along that part of the beach. Our cruising guide said that the shacks were always occupied but there was no evidence of any recent occupation. We stopped at several of them and took pictures as they were a great study in contrasts. One of them had a shrine inside it, we think it was to the Virgin Mary – but couldn’t be certain. It was quite elaborate and had various offerings inside it, including some money in a dish – I was surprised that it had remained there. Anyway as we walked further along the beach we came across another shrine on the beach, also quite elaborate and again with offerings inside it – no money in this one but there was a fresh apple there, obviously someone had left that very recently, it may have been a fisherman or a passing boat we will never know but the shrines are evidently cared for by somebody. After taking even more photos we made our way back out to the boat and secured the dink back on the foredeck. It was then time for a swim to cool off and get some exercise, we raced over to Dale and Lorie’s boat where we rested and chatted with them for a while then we raced back to our own boat. We had had a change of plan instead of leaving early and anchoring outside the reef we were going to leave at 20.00hrs and head straight out as our out bound passage took us away from the reef that we had dodged on the way in. After showering and changing into dry clothes it was time for some lunch, reading of books and a short sleep before the overnight sail to Los Roques. As the afternoon wore on several boats joined us in the harbour, most of them were flying Venezuelan flags and we think that they must come to this anchorage for a week end stay, it is after all a beautiful spot for a short stay. We had an easy dinner in the cockpit and watched the sun go down; it was pitch black as we readied the boat for our overnight trip. At 20.00hrs Gypsy Palace began to motor out of the harbour with us following about 10 minutes after them. We both put up our main sails and shortly after our jib, turned off the motor and began sailing. We managed to sail all night, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing but we got along at an average speed of 6 knots making it to the outskirts of Los Roques by mid morning. Again we dragged the fishing line behind us, mostly to keep the fish amused I think as none of them were interested in becoming part of our dinner. At least we didn’t loose the lure this time!

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Friday 13th April

Cayo Herradura
Tortuga


10 59.573 N
65 13.662 W

After our almost sleepless night we all agreed that we needed to stay for at least a day to recover but Lorie suggested that we move anchorages and go about 10 miles further to Cayo Herradura another lagoon which appeared better protected from the prevailing winds, we all agreed and set off at 10.00hrs. I have to add that by now the wind had dropped back down again and was pretty mild compared to the night. We had to first pick our way out through the reef and then we unfurled the jib which turned out to be a total waste of time, it was flapping all over the place and not doing anything to help move us along so it was very quickly furled away again. We motored the 11.4 miles, picked our way very carefully into a very pretty bay where we were the only sail boats and anchored in shallow, clear pale blue, water over sand. The shoreline was spectacular, quite flat, white sandy beach with a few derelict huts on the beach and a red and white stripped lighthouse on the point.
Almost as soon as we were anchored we decided to go for a swim and snorkel around, the water was cool and refreshing, there wasn’t much to see as far as the snorkeling went but it was good to get in and have a swim. I volunteered to cook dinner and set about getting food ready for that night. Dale and Lorie went off in their dink to explore the island. Gerry did a few small jobs around the boat – fixing a hatch support that broke when we opened it, emptying the lazarette and mopping out the water that had gotten into it – he needs to find the point of entry for the water but that will be a job for another day. Dale and Lorie came over for dinner and we ate in the cockpit, watching the sun set and wondering what the poor people were doing – see we do think of you! As the night fell we began discussing our next passage, we were going to be doing an overnight trip to Los Roques and the suggestion was to leave at 20.00hrs. By now it was 19.30hrs and it was pitch black out – not a sign of the moon and you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face – this was about the same time we planned on leaving the following night! Lorie and I were both concerned that with no moonlight getting out around the reef was going to be a nail bitter. We compromised in the end and decided to leave the anchorage late afternoon, anchor a bit further out and then take off as planned, this way we don’t have to do the reef dance in the dark. Dale and Lorie returned to their boat and we cleaned up the dinner debris before going to bed for a long overdue good night sleep.

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Thursday 12th April


Playa Caldera
Tortuga


10 57.343 N
65 13.662 W

The coast guard had ignored us and left us alone last night and we had a half way reasonable sleep after the wind died down. We were up at 05.30 hrs, getting ready for a day sail to our next port of call – the island of Tortuga. We had discussed our next stop with Dale and Lorie, our original plan was to head to Los Roques from La Blanquilla, a distance of 116 miles; but as the trip would mean we would be square on to the wind making it extremely uncomfortable we had decided to take an alternative route to get there. Our new route was going to be 2 short hops, first to Tortuga, 66 miles and then on to Los Roques, 85 miles. Whilst the extra miles were something we didn’t need we would at least have a chance of sailing it and we wouldn’t be bashing into the seas. At 06.00hrs we hoisted the anchor, watching the sun rise and began motoring out of the anchorage. We raised our main sail with the reef in place and then unfurled the jib fully. The wind was quite light but we were getting along at about 5 knots so we cut the engine and began to sail. It wasn’t too long before we decided that if we were going to Tortuga in daylight we needed to shake the reef out of the main sail and see if we could get along a bit faster. It worked for a while then the wind came further back aft of the beam and the jib began to flap about. We tried tightening it right down, loosening it off and goose winging it all to no avail – it just wasn’t dong us any good so we ended up furling it away and sailing with just the main. For quite some time we managed a respectable 6 + knots and we even dragged the fishing line behind us in the hope of catching something edible. Unfortunately we did get a bite, in fact it was a huge bite and took our lure right off at the line, we put another lure on the line but that was it – no more fish were interested. As the afternoon wore on the wind gradually dropped until we were only managing 3.8 knots, at this rate we were going to get to Tortuga at night, something we wanted to avoid as there are reefs surrounding the anchorage. We finally decided that with 16 miles left to go we were going to motor sail the rest of the way and turned the noisy engine on. We reached the anchorage at 16.30hrs – it had taken us 10.5 hrs to do the trip – far longer than we had expected. We wound our way around the outside of the reef and into the large horseshoe shaped lagoon anchorage. The water here was a really pretty light aqua but it was a little cloudy. We anchored in sand and began clearing our stuff up in the cockpit. Gerry discovered 3 flying fish on the deck as he did some of the clearing away, maybe we should give up with the lures and just eat what lands on the boat! Lorie called us on the radio and said she was cooking dinner that night and to bring over potato salad and dessert. Whilst Gerry continued with the clearing away stuff I prepared the things we needed to take over to Gypsy Palace for dinner. Dale had volunteered to pick us up in their dink as it was on the arch of their boat and quicker to get in the water than ours which was secured to the foredeck. So just after 18.00hrs he came across to collect us. The wind had increased a bit and we had a choppy short ride across to their boat. We watched several other boats pull into the lagoon and anchor after us, most of them had been at the anchorage in La Blanquilla with us. Dinner was good as always but we were all a bit tired after the long day trip and decided to call it an early night. Dale had to ferry us back to our boat and it was then that we realized just how much the wind had kicked in; it was now blowing 20 knots! The ride back top our boat was a little rough but we made it safely and climbed aboard, waved Dale off and then watched as the weather got even worse. One boat left the lagoon soon after, we weren’t sure where he went but we thought he was mad considering the reef surrounding the lagoon and the lack of moonlight; despite everything he must have made it to some place without problems as there were no distress calls and we have found no wrecks on the way out. It wasn’t a very peaceful night, the wind howled all night and we had strange noises inside the boat that I had never heard before, not that we could find the cause of any of them – guess it was just the creaking timbers (well fiberglass anyway!). Despite all this we agreed that the decision to go this way was a good one as the trip we had originally planned would have been far worse – we would have been bashing into the sea all the way.

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Wednesday 11th April

Playa Yaque
La Blanquilla


11 50.274 N
64 38.832 W

The sun rose a little before we arrived at a small group of Islands (big rocks in the middle of nowhere) called Los Hermanos. We were both on deck at the time as we wanted to be sure that we didn’t make any mistakes going through the gap between them, especially as we were tired. From these rocks it was just 6 miles to the anchorage where we planned on stopping. Thinking that we had about an hour to go I went below to cook up some biscuits (scone type things) and sausage. I had just about got them done when Gerry called out for me to come out on deck, turn on the motor and help get the main down, breakfast was left to get cold! Now that we were ready to drop the sail and anchor the wind began gusting up to 25 knots – just what we didn’t need whilst we were putting the main sail away and trying to anchor between the boats already there. We made our way towards the anchoring spot and dropped the anchor in a sandy patch just in front of the only palm trees on the beach; as soon as we were happy that the anchor was set we ate our sausage and biscuits, which were still warm, whilst we watched a 4 masted cruise yacht anchor behind us and begin to disgorge passengers onto the beach. We watched the coast guard board Gypsy Palace and waited for our turn – it was sure to come but after a wait of nearly an hour they put - putted off in their boat and vanished around the corner. It turned out that they boarded Gypsy Palace and did a safety inspection, not just the routine checking of boat documents, we are still expecting them to return to see us as I type. Gerry spent the rest of the morning sleeping; I couldn’t get to sleep so I just read my book. After lunch Dale and Lorie wanted to go exploring, possibly snorkeling: Gerry went along with them but by now I was tired and falling asleep so I went to bed for an hour. On his return Gerry told me that they had dinked around the end of the island to a place called Playa Los Americano, where there were ruins of a small house and a natural rock arch which sticks out into the ocean. We both read for the rest of the afternoon and watched as the coast guard boarded the boat to the left of us, there are only 5 boats here so we are pretty certain that our turn to be boarded is coming – we are just waiting!
Photo of Playa Los Americano from camera of Gypsy Palace

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Tuesday 10th April



At Sea

We began the day with a couple of small chores, Gerry cleaned the marks off the side of the boat where the travel lift slings had been, whilst I did a general tidy up and made the bed. We had a late breakfast, made some water and then just as we were getting ready to go for a swim Lorie called to see if we wanted to go ashore with Dale, her, Scott and Heather further along the island. We all dinked around the bay and beached the dink at a small sandy beach which had a sort of pathway leading up a huge sand dune. Gerry made his way to the top of the dune which was very steep and called out from the top that this was the path way. We all began to follow, it was a case of one step forward and slide three backwards unless you crab walked from side to side. The rest made it to the top but I gave up - I didn’t think it was worth the effort and it was hurting my knee which doesn’t need to be causing me any more pain than it already does. The trip back down was like skiing, except on sand. Gerry joined me as he didn’t want to walk to the beach on the other side and we both went for a swim in refreshingly cool clear water. The others made it back after trekking to the beach on the other side; Lorie looked extremely red in the face but began to return to a normal colour after floating in the sea for a while. Once we had all turned into prunes we got back in the dinks and made our way back to our boats. We said goodbye to Scott and Heather as they are heading in a slightly different direction to us but we may meet up again in a few days time. Back on board it was time for lunch then Gerry had a nap whilst I prepared our evening meal. Later in the afternoon we put the dink back up on the deck and prepared the boat for our evening departure. We began hoisting our anchor at 18.00hrs and motored far enough out of the anchorage to turn into wind and raise our main sail – reefed of course! The wind was very light to begin with, we unfurled the jib and attempted to fly it but it kept collapsing and in the end we furled it back away as we couldn’t stand the noise of the flapping. With just the main flying and the motor turned off we were only managing 4-5 knots until we were some way out to sea. The wind gradually picked up but it was aft of our beam so we were rolling from side to side for most of the trip. Our speed increased with the stronger wind and we managed to do a respectable 6.5 -7 knots for the rest of the passage. Both Gerry and I tried to fly the jib at various times during the night, but the wind just wouldn’t stay in the right direction to fly it. Eventually we gave up trying leaving just the main to do the work. The worst thing about that was that the boat rolled from side to side all the way making it very difficult to get to sleep when it was time to be off watch, neither of us slept very well all night. Again we saw the Southern Cross in the night sky – it’s beginning to feel like we are really on our way home.
Photos from camera of Gypsy Palace

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Monday 9th April


Los Testigos

11 22.896 N
63 08.087 W

Many happy returns of the day Jean, we hope you have a good birthday, with love from both of us.

It was to be a very laid back and easy day for us. We woke fairly early after catching up on our sleep. Dale, Gerry and Scott took off in the dink to check in with the coast guard as this was the thing to do here. There are no immigration or customs officers here so we continue to fly the Q flag; in fact there isn’t a clearing in place at any of the next 2 or 3 places that we intend to stop so it will be the Q flag for a while. We aren’t going to stop on the Venezuelan main land which I think is a shame as I would have liked to do some of the inland tours but as we are on a time limit and our travel companions are a bit nervous about being on a USA registered boat (the US is not greatly liked in Venezuela) we have decided to only stop on the outer islands on our way through to Bonaire. Whilst Gerry was gone I ran the water maker to top up our tanks, made a dessert for the evening meal and then as I sat down to read my book he reappeared. The coast guard had apparently been very pleasant to them all, took our details down for his log and that was it. Gerry spent the rest of the day trying to load some charts on to the computer, it was one of those occasions when it was best not to go anywhere near him nor to ask him how it was going unless you wanted your head bitten off. He did eventually succeed but the language would have made any sailor blush. I spent the day vacuuming, washing down the inside of the boat and then polishing the wood – it was a job that needed doing as the blue dust from the paint we had removed was everywhere, even in places that you would never have expected it to be able to get into. We had a visit from Lorie to make sure that we were going to be OK to have dinner around 17.00hrs on their boat; any time I don’t have to cook is good – I can’t imagine why she had to check! Gerry had a brief nap before we loaded a bag with rum punch, some hors d’oeuvres and the dessert I had made and made our way to Gypsy Palace. Dale and Lorie had been saving a prime rib roast for the occasion and we had a wonderful Easter dinner, I think it will be a while until we have such a good bit of beef again. We watched the sun go down and then we dinked back to our own boat for the night.
Photo from the camera of Gypsy Palace

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Sunday 8th April


Los Testigos

11 22.896 N
63 08.087 W

As we made our way in towards the anchorage we noticed a whole load of birds just ahead of us, I commented to Gerry that there must be fish there and as we approached we were suddenly surrounded by a large pod of dolphins. They were having a ball in the waves, diving, racing alongside us and riding the bow waves – they were a joy to watch but they disappeared as fast as they had appeared.
We all arrived at the anchorage spot within minutes of each other the trip had taken us 13 hours from anchor up to anchor back down. We dropped our anchor and it seemed to set quickly, Gerry decided to dive it to make sure it was OK as there was quite a lot of wind gusting through the place, lucky he did as the anchor wasn’t set properly, it caught on coral and the chain was wrapped around another piece of coral some distance away. We did a repeat anchoring and when he checked the second time we were well set in the sand and not going anywhere. We raised our Q flag as we were only going to be stopping here a short while and had no intention of checking in to Venezuela, which the Los Testigos belong to. It was then time to clean up, have a shower, eat breakfast and get some sleep. Although we had done 3 hour watches overnight neither of us had slept very well on our time off watch and we needed to catch up. After 4 hours sleep we were feeling a bit better and went on a dink around the place with Dale and Lorie to see the scenery. It struck us all as a very isolated place and I certainly wouldn’t want to live here. There were a couple of nice sandy beaches and some very barren looking land. Apparently the islands are inhabited but only sparsely. Quite a few boats were anchored in the designated anchorages, most of them flying Q flags – it’s obviously a popular “stop over whilst in transit” spot. The anchorage was a little rolly but we were too tired to care much, we could put up with it for a brief stay. Loads of frigate birds were playing the thermals over the anchorage and every so often one of them would fold its wings and dive bomb into the water, as they never seem to come up with fish we think they must do this for fun or to rid themselves of parasites. It’s spectacular to watch anyway. After our brief sight seeing dink around the place Dale and Lorie joined us on our boat for a couple of drinks and a post mortem of the night passage. Once they left we ran the generator, made some water and read for a while before fixing dinner. Eventually it was time to have a shower again and go to bed.
Photo from the camera of Gypsy Palace

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