November 14, 2005
Update from Cartagena, Columbia
After we left Margarita, VZ, our computer died on the overnight passage to
Isla Tortuga. We had to send it back to Dell in the USA, an enormous hassle
that took nearly 3 months (thanks, Mom for helping us with that!). Consequently, we haven't been able to keep up on our
web site updates! So we'll try to catch up now....
We spent longer than we anticipated in Margarita, watching the weather and
shopping for a high-resolution camera to take pictures for magazine articles.
The anchorage at Porlamar is near a long dinghy dock that stretches out from the
shallows from a place called "Marina Juan"; it's not really a marina,
but the office of the agent who checks sailors in, a small store, and a place to
hang out and drink cheap Venezuelan beer. We had the good fortune to hear, one
morning on the cruiser's VHF radio "net" that someone was selling
their old hard-bottom dinghy. We've been wishing we could upgrade ours for a
year now; as great a dinghy as it is for Maine waters, it's just totally
unsuitable for this lifestyle. So we bought this old, 9-foot Caribe rigid-bottom
dinghy for $130. It has some leaks that Neil, by now, has managed to fix the worst of,
and we love it. It came with a dinghy cover that was falling to pieces, so,
before we left I took it apart and pattered it onto the small amount of
Sunbrella I had left over from other projects. I had just enough.
When we arrived at remote Isla Tortuga, the computer had
died.... we debated turning around and beating
back to Margarita to try to get it fixed. I had a writing assignment
that I did not want to put off, and needed the computer to download all the
high-resolution pictures I was taking for the article. But we really didn't want
to turn back. We tried to call Dell from Tortuga, but the one satellite phone on
the island was not working: this is a very rustic place! We did find another
boat with email, and were able to make contact with the states, and we decided to send
the laptop from Curacao when we got there. Along the
way we found many generous cruisers who let us use their laptops to download the
pictures to disc. In that way we were able to spend many weeks exploring the
Venezuelan islands, which has turned out to be the highlight of our trip so far.
We stayed almost a week between the long white sandy beach anchorage at Playa
Caldera, and the other gorgeous beach at Cayo Herradura. There were a handful of
cruising boats and a few fishermen in makeshift huts; the snorkeling was
mediocre but the beaches and views were unsurpassed!
We arrived in the afternoon after an uneventful passage begun at midnight at
Tortuga. We'd wanted to get some daylight fishing in, but got no bites at all
until we were approaching the tiny cut through the reef at the southeast corner
of the large archipelago called Los Roques. Then we
got a lovely mahi-mahi on the line. We were just yards from the reef entrance,
in fairly blustery conditions, but Neil just headed us up to sail parallel to
the reef while I reeled in and bled the fish. Then we turned in and passed
though the cut and up into the gorgeous, narrow channels between reefs, all
under full sail. Inside the reef, the wind was still blowing about 18 knots but
suddenly the 5-to-7-foot swell was gone and it was flat calm. We could see
highway-like ribbons of deep blue water snaking between the shallow
light-colored reefs, some no more than 70 feet apart, and we hardened up onto a
close reach and absolutely flew along. The scenery was breathtaking; it was
truly exhilarating sailing!
We enjoyed Los Roques, except for the boatloads of "day-trippers"
who would be ferried out to our remote anchorages from the posadas (small
hotels) on the one island that had a village. El Gran Roque is a beautifully
kept village with expensive, but charmingly rustic hotels and restaurants. There
were lots of hip European travellers there. Los Roques is also a national
park, which meant that spearfishing is illegal. Still, the snorkeling was great,
the beaches were beautiful, and there were loads of anchorages to explore. We
spent one night "out on the reef", anchored far from any island behind
the protection of the barrier reef. We particularly enjoyed Dos Mosquiques,
with its uninhabited island full of bird life. The fishing on the north side was
incredible! At our last anchorage, Cayo de Agua, we found interesting
"oasis" patches, where underground water fed stands of palms. Over the
years native americans, and later fishermen and sailors, have dug holes into the
sand for fresh water. We saw one with a bit of greenish water still in it, even
though it was a very dry season when we were there.