June 2009

June 1st is the official start of hurricane season. People we have met here are either staying for the season in one of the protected anchorages, getting ready to haul out here or in Trinidad (an overnight sail away) or leaving for the ABC’s (like us). Charter boats are nowhere to be seen now, the season is over for another year.

While at Hog Island, we dingyied over to Le Phare Bleu resort, the kids played in the pool, and the parents relaxed inside with a drink. Pure Bliss.

Le Phare Bleu resort

Learning to dive

We are working like mad fiends trying to finish the school year. Chris had an alternator repaired and we are getting some sun covers for the cockpit made. Once school is done, we plan to go on an island tour as a celebration. Then we are very excited to start heading west into new cruising territory. We plan to go to the Venezuelan offshore islands, then the ABC’s which are Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. We are getting ready to say good-bye to the Eastern Caribbean!

We met a few other families with young children. SV Airbender, a couple from California have six year old twins on their 60 foot catamaran. (We thought we had a lot of room until we saw their boat)! They are on the same route as us and we plan to buddy boat with them which will be great as Ryan and Elliot were so happy to make acquaintances! They introduced the children to knee boarding. SV Heat Wave with six year old Charlotte on board was another boat we spent time with in Grenada. They took the kids ski bobbing a couple of times. Sv Wild Vanilla has two children on board and we spent a couple of afternoons hanging out at the beach.

We went to an oil down which is the local dish of Grenada where they throw a ton of locally grown vegetables, and chicken in a pot then boil it down on an open fire with coconut milk that they make themselves. Everybody helped cut the vegetables and prepare the food. It was absolutely delicious and the kids loved it too.

June 11, 2009

The school year is over!! We just finished Grade 3 and Grade 1. Hurray!!!! Hurray!!!! I'll be hauling all the completed school work and books down to the post office tomorrow. This is a milestone, our first year of homeschooling is officially over, well I guess we have to wait until we receive their report cards!!!

An unopened 750ml glass bottle of honey sitting innocently in our pantry somehow broke (while we were at anchor) and the whole thing dripped inside the cupboard, down behind the plumbing and just everywhere, we spent hours cleaning it up. All my harping about not eating inside the boat because of bugs was for naught! Why couldn't it have been the bottle of white vinegar??

Chris asked me to give his hair a little trim, but all he had was a pair of beard trimmers, I had never done it before but we are really starting to feel like real cruisers, we are baking our own bread, catching our own fish for dinner, so I thought well I should do this as well. Big mistake, his hair was too long and the trimmers were too small (that is my excuse) it didn't turn out like either of us thought! The next morning he donned a cap and off he went to find a barber shop, he came back with a very nice crew cut.

We have met with 3 other boats heading to Los Testigos, Venezuela, we are planning on sailing together in a convoy for safety. We signed up with Chris Parker and it was worth it, he told us that he wouldn't go anywhere tonight but any other day of this week would be fine, so we relayed the message to all the other boats, and we all decided to wait (we met another boat who did leave that night and they encountered 50 knot winds!)

June 17, 2009

We spent our last day in Grenada touring around the island. We met up with our buddies on Strider in the spice market and took a public bus to Grand Etang National Park. We got to see and feed the wild Mona monkeys who were introduced to Grenada from Africa approximately 200 to 300 years ago during the slave trade era. There are not any acutal pictures of us feeding the monkeys but we really did, we fed them alot, we went back 4 times to buy more bananas, it was just everytime the monkey would come close to any one of us instead of calmly holding the banana so the monkey could take it from our hand we would spasmodically throw it at the monkey. At first the monkeys just stared at us but luckily there was a local man sitting outside the store across the street and he yellled over to us to leave the peel on the banana, that the monkeys peel the banana themselves. Once we figured that out, we were in business.

We walked down to the Grand Etang Lake, which fills the crater of one of the island's extinct volcanos. Then we walked along the road to the base of the Seven Sisters Falls. We then walked through a private plantation where we saw cocoa, nutmeg and banana trees, down a beautiful trail through the rainforest to the 2 lower waterfalls and swam in the cool freshwater pool. Such a great activity after a hot and sticky hike. After our swim, it was time to head back, we went out again to the Creole Shack for dinner then had to say bye to our friends on Strider. It was a sad occassion as we are not sure when we will see them again. After we got back to the boat, it was time to get ready to head to Venezuela, we are leaving the Eastern Caribbean behind and on to new cruising grounds. We head off with trepidation and excitement for what lays ahead.

June 17, 2009 - Prickly Bay, Grenada to Los Testigos, Venezuela -- 91.83 nm

The plan is to leave Prickly Bay, Grenada at 1830 and sail together, also we are going to meet at a certain waypoint once we get closer to Los Testigos. The boats we are going with are Odin (Germany), Lycka (Germany) and Nebula (England). The thought was it would be safer to turn off all navigation lights and keep our VHF on low power. The weather turned out to be very nice, there was 15-20 knot winds, the seas were calm and the night was clear. We all managed to stay together for the whole 90 miles except for Lycka (a 39 foot Najad) who was a speeding bullet, they had to keep slowing down to wait for the rest of us.

As we were pulling the fishing lines in, we caught a little tuna and Chris made some sushimi.

We encountered no problems whatsoever. We anchored at 1000 the next morning. The Guarda Costa never came over to the anchorage to see who we were. We had the whole anchorage to ourselves. It's absolutely phenomenal. Happy Hour on Stray Kitty tonight.

Los Testigos is very remote, there are no ferries or airports, the only way to get here is by boat. There are about 200 residents. It is so beautiful here. The sky is so high and open, there are gorgeous beaches, huge wonderful sand dunes, lots of fish and corals and magnificent views. Bertil on sv Odin caught a large tuna so we decided to have a bbq beach party and cooked it on the open fire. It was delicious. We went for a hike through the cactus, it is very arid here, we saw birds and eggs in their nests and a gorgeous view from the top. You really do feel independent out here, there are not many people around.

Everyone from all four boats hopped on the Stray Kitty and we motored over to the anchorage by the sand dunes, the South Observation Bay anchorage. We crawled up the sand dune which was boiling hot and down to the deserted beach on the windward side of the island. It was so remote and gorgeous, we all went for a walk and a swim, then back to Stray Kitty for cocktails. We saw a huge yellowy greenish jellyfish float by, I will have to check on the internet to find out what type it is. We had another beach bbq and bonfire to finish off the tuna. We had a really special time on Los Testigos.

All the other boats were heading off to Margarita Island, so we had to decide; do we sail off on our own to Blanquilla or do we go with our friends to Margarita? I had safety and security concerns about heading off there, we heard many negative stories. However, both Nebula and Lycka had been there before and loved it, so we departed Los Testigos and set sail for Margarita Island.

June 21, 2009 - Los Testigos to Polamar, Margarita Island, VZ - 50.13nm

We left at 0530 and we stayed together the whole way. At 0845 we caught a 37 inches, 8 pound mahi mahi using the yellow horsehair lure. Then at 0900 we caught a tiny tuna, 13 inches, 1 pound, using the yellow horsehair lure.

We arrived in the Polamar anchorage at 1520. There were around 35 boats in the anchorage. Trying to be proactive (and me being a tad on the paranoid side) we took everything off the outside of the boat (i.e., strobe lights, jack lines, life float etc.) and locked it in the storage locker. We hung a towel and a sheet on top of the electronics and printer. We hid all of our documents and wallets and left a decoy wallet in the drawer with a little bit of $EC and US just in case we get robbed. We put our large flashlight, our portable VHF radio, the air horn beside our bed. Well, welcome to Margarita!

We couldn’t understand the guy patrolling the the dingy dock, he spoke no English, just Spanish and was talking a mile a minute. He was asking our boat name but we thought he was asking for a number and he was not going to let us pass. Richard saw our stunned expressions and came over and spoke Spanish and told us what he wanted. He seemed to be high on something anyways, by the look of his eyes.

We went out for a drink at 1700 with Nebula and Lycka and took a walk down the beach and stopped for a 40 cent beer at one of the bars. Both of them had been there before and they can both speak Spanish so it was a great relief to have them with us.

This area is a vacation area for mainland Venezuelans. The beach was very crowded and fairly dingy, they have a few restaurants that serve oysters. The beach was absolutely packed and the bar was packed with people singing and dancing, then we realized that it was a holiday – Father’s Day!! Which I totally overlooked, I feel bad! Sorry Dad and Chris! Both Chris and I were feeling some culture shock, but after a couple of days we adjusted just fine.

There is a cruisers net at 0800 Venezuelan time, which is half an hour earlier, the net finished at 0805, the fasted net I’ve ever heard.

On our way into shore, we stopped by the wifi guy to chat. He has been living on his boat in Polarmar harbour for around 5 years and runs a website about Margarita Island. He told us this anchorage is safe as well as Juan Griego on the North side of the island. We discussed diesel, gas, and propane. He said it was safe to travel at night here (ie., to sail to Juan Griego) except to watch out for fishing nets.

We met Lycka, Odin and Nebula at the dingy dock. Chris took a cab to get some money with Odin and Lycka, the exchange rate is 6 Bolivar to 1 USD!!! Amazing. They knew where to go to get the money exchanged (as your never suppose to do it on the street or on the beach) while I went with Nebula to the restaurant. If you exchange your US$ at a bank or go to the bank machine you will only get a 2 to 1 exchange rate. The black market is legal in Venezuela.

Breakfast was a traditional Venezuelan meal, shredded meat or fish in a thick tortilla shell. Yummy. Cari liked the meat. We spent the rest of the day shopping and strolling down the main street (Quartor de Mai) and relishing how inexpensive it was for us to shop here. We were told not to walk to the marina so we hopped a cab back (for $3US).

We took a cab to Playa Bolivar, another shopping square, we bought sheets, beach towels, sun shirts. When we got back to the boat, the diesel boat came over and filled our tanks and six jerry cans for $40US. If we had known that we were coming here we wouldn't have filled the tanks in the Grenadines, we also wouldn't have stocked up on groceries in Grenada but I'm sure I can find room for more provisions. We saw the what I think was the South American jellyfish floating by the dingy dock. We have seen so many different types of jellyfish in all of the Caribbean, I'll have to get one of the kids to do a research report on them for school next year.

Juan Marina schedules a bus to take cruisers to the Sigo three mornings a week, it is a huge grocery store that also sells liquor and beer, and beside it is a shopping mall. We spent the morning shopping again. We were planning on leaving Margarita tomorrow but have changed our minds and will stay for another week. It is Hanna's 60th birthday so we all met for pizza and treats at the bakery, which has the best cafe con leche. The kids made her a huge card and some crafts. We had another birthday party dinner on Stray Kitty that night.

Every Friday night, Marina Juan has a happy hour with 25 cent beer. Chris stayed and met a lot of the other cruisers that live in the harbour for hurricane season. We were starting to feel very comfortable here in Margarita Island.

We took a cab to the New Market of Los Conejeros, another huge shoppers destination of hundreds of small stalls selling clothes by Billabong and Roxy, T-shirts, shorts, towels, swimsuits, sandals. We only made it to the eastern end where they sell the clothing. and never made it to the western end where they sell fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, food and dry goods.

That evening at around 2000 I heard some men shouting in Spanish, I looked out the hatch and saw flashlights being shone around the harbour, then the boat anchored right next to us shot their flare gun!! I yelled for Chris that something was happening, he went outside and shone our large light on a small fishing boat, when he was spotted he held up his fishing rod to show us that he was not doing anything illegal. Then as soon as we turned our flashlight off he took off as fast as possible with another boat that was on the other side of the harbour. We had our radio on Channel 70 and the wifi guy came on to tell us what was going on. Turns out that one of the boats in the harbour had their dingy stolen as it was not locked. Another rule in Margarita is you never leave your dingy unlocked after dark. Even when you are visiting other boats after dark, you lock your dingy to the mothership. We always raised ours out of the water and locked it twice! In the morning another fishing boat came into the harbour and started picking up a net out of the water, to us, it looked like this robbery was very well thought out and planned. So much for starting to feel comfortable, we felt like fleeing but we didn't.

We took a cab to Playa El Agua along with our friends from Lycka and Odin. Playa El Agua is the most famous beach on Margarita Island. It is on the windward side of the island and beautiful. The sand is fine, there are plenty of palm trees and numerous restaurants. We rented some beach chairs and umbrellas and it was a welcome change from shopping everyday for all of us,especailly the kids. We ate empanadas for lunch. Although even on the beach, there are vendors walking up and down every 2 minutes trying to sell everything from bracelets,hats, food, t-shirts. The only thing I bought was some sand toys for the kids!

That evening we went over to Nebula to say good-bye as they are leaving. We hope to see them again. We said good bye to one boat and hello to another. We met Jamie on Paramour III who anchored right beside us. He wants to go to Blanquilla as well, so we decided we would sail there together.

Before we left we decided to go on one more shopping trip, we went back to Sigo on the Juan Marina bus and loaded up again. We also went to the very modern shopping mall Sambil to have a look around.