Well, we’ve finally done it…….. We have left Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean behind and are heading West to Panama. (yes, really..…).
We eventually left Prickly Bay (our second Home) on 7th May and had a cracking sail down to Porlamar in Margarita. It was Monty’s first overnighter and he did really well and thoroughly enjoyed being up in the cockpit with Mum & Dad all night. Luckily, we had great weather and averaged 6 knots losing the nasty swell after the initial couple of hours.
Margarita doesn’t change much and it was nice to see Laurie & Yvonne over at Juan’s Flea Market when we arrived. Needless to say, Lunch was arranged for the following day but, horror of horrors, Pepe has finally closed down his Restaurant……. We had to make do with the Peruvian restaurant next door which we have to say does have an excellent menu although somewhat lacking in Pepe’s uniqueness !!!!!
We had a relaxing weekend doing very little but then launched into activity on Monday with the usual Sigo Supermarket trip to stock up on Rum, Beer & Wine – Vicki having just finished her last bottle from our November stopover…… Then it was off to find some Jerrycans for the cheap Diesel to keep us going down to Chile. We’ve got the cans but now need to find the Diesel Man to fill them – at Bs1/2 a litre (about 5p), we are going to wait until he appears !!!!
Well, it's now Thursday 14th May and we are fully stocked with Fuel and Booze so we will be leaving Margarita early on Saturday.......
Our last day in Margarita, being a Friday, involved lunch out with Lawrie plus Penny & Peter (s/v Inn for a Penny), a very nice Australian couple, followed by the usual Friday afternoon at Juan’s Happy Hour. The topic of the day was what to call Lawrie & Robert’s new water delivery venture. Eventually, Penny’s suggestion won the day – H2O 2 go. So, if you are heading for Porlamar, there is now a water delivery service in the anchorage on Tuesdays and Thursdays provided by 2 very nice English Chaps...
We left Margarita early on Saturday and managed to avoid all the fishing nets this time (just) heading for Los Roques and had a lovely leisurely sail with the wind coming nicely from behind.
We arrived at Francisquis to find Peter & Penny well ensconced. They have a 45’ Catamaran which leaves us standing still (along with the entire 2008 ARC Fleet as they won their class) !!!! We spent a relaxed few days in Los Roques enjoying our favourite anchorage there on Sarqui. We didn’t stay long having been there in 2007 & 2008 but did enjoy a lovely meal aboard 'Inn for a Penny' before heading West to the Islas de Aves on the 21st May. What an excellent day sail – we managed to hit a top speed of 9 knots – our fastest since Guadeloupe last year !!!!
Islas de Aves
We anchored in what looked to be a lovely spot on Isla Sur safely out of reach of the reefs but, unfortunately, not very well protected from the howling wind which kept us awake most of the night. We changed anchorages after 1 night and spent another couple of days pottering on the beach and spotting the various species of birds native to the Islands (hence their name).
From the Aves, it was off to Bonaire – another lovely day sail (we could get used to this) where we caught up with ‘Inn for a Penny’ again. Bonaire is a very pleasant Dutch Island heavily geared up for Scuba Divers. As diving is ‘not our thing’ it was rather like being a man with no arms looking at a sweet in a wrapper…..
We did a bit of snorkelling and hired a ‘Scoop’ for the day (a 3 wheeled Dutch Scooter) which was an absolute scream.
Monty loved sitting on Vicki’s lap watching the World go by as we (very slowly) toured the Island stopping to look at the Pink Flamingoes in their sanctuary and for lunch on the Beach at the 1,000 steps Dive Site and, no, there aren’t 1,000 steps – only about 80… Sadly, before we could return the Scoop, it broke down !! Luckily a very nice man gave all three of us a lift back to Town in the back of his pickup Truck – an eventful end to the day !
Having only met Peter & Penny a couple of weeks earlier, we had got to know them quite well and really enjoyed their company so we were quite sad when they headed off to haul out in Curacao whilst we stopped off at Klein Curacao which is a pretty much deserted Island.
We spent a couple of days there playing with Monty on the Beach (once the Day Trippers had gone home) and getting ourselves ready for our voyage to Cartagena – we had got rather lazy with our recent downwind day sailing …
The anchorage at Klein Curacao was getting a little rolly and, as we wanted a good night’s sleep before leaving the ABCs, we decided to knock a few miles off our journey and spend a day in Curacao which wasn’t our original plan as Curacao is another ‘Diving Mecca’. We anchored in Spaanse Waters which seemed quite pleasant although it was a Sunday and all the locals were enjoying the sunshine with dinghies, windsurfers etc… We enjoyed our usual Sunday Roast, didn’t even get the dinghy off the deck to explore and left earlyish on 1st June…
You hear all sorts of tales of misadventures by Yachts travelling from the ABCs to Cartagena (one of the trickiest stretches of water in the Caribbean) but, luckily, we had picked our timing exactly right and enjoyed our sail from Curacao arriving in the Bay of Cartagena on Thursday afternoon at about 4pm feeling rather pleased with ourselves. It just goes to show, you really shouldn’t listen to all those Scaremongers and ‘Armchair Admirals’!!!
Unfortunately, our chart of the Bay was rather lacking in detail and, just as we had entered the Bay, a serious squall hit us and the visibility became non-existent. As a result, we ended up pootling about in the Bay for nearly 2 hours dodging Cargo Ships and Pilot Boats before we caught sight of the Statue of the Madonna which is next to the anchorage and only about half a mile from the Boca Grande entrance to the Bay…. which we had used !!!
As we finally approached the anchorage feeling a tad wet and looking like 3 drowned rats, it was a real pleasure to see 2 big smiling faces aboard a still “very fine looking” blue Beneteau. Yep, we had caught up with Malarkey. Needless to say, a few Beers/Rums/Wines were drunk that evening on El Vagabond as Monty got introduced to his Aunty Jo & Uncle Trevor…
Trevor & Jo had been here a couple of weeks so we were very lazy and allowed them to show us the ropes – where to check in, where were the best places to eat, where the local Supermarket was etc, etc. Club Nautico is the local Marina / Meeting Place and if you join the Club (about £12pw), you can use their dinghy dock, showers, bar, restaurant, get water etc which makes life very easy.
We have really enjoyed our time here. We have eaten out rather a lot but for £2-3 for a 2 course lunch it’s cheaper than cooking on board. We also had a super Sunday Roast aboard Malarkey (to make up for missing their Christmas spread). Wine is a bit expensive but everything else is very reasonable and on a par with Venezuela.
There is one big difference to Venezuela though and that is that it is totally safe to walk around. We have found it very refreshing to be able to wander along any time of the day without feeling threatened or worried about being mugged or worse. That having been said, Roger did manage to get himself stabbed in the forehead with a ‘bic biro’ by an over enthusiastic shop assistant in the local Homestore - he just can’t be trusted to shop alone !!! The other Shop assistants and Security Staff looked after him very well – cleaned up his blood, disinfected him and patched him up with a nice plaster – all without laughing too much (not)…. They were still chuckling when we went back a week later !!!
The quality of workmanship appears to be very high and Roger finally gave in and agreed we could have a new Cockpit Table made. The Guy has done a terrific job with a solid piece of teak and we can now eat in comfort for about £120 – what a bargain…
Well, we are now shopped out and need to head off for a quiet place to relax. Tomorrow (June 18th) we are leaving Cartagena for the Rosario Islands – about 20 miles away. From there, it’s off to the Panamanian San Blas Islands.
We left Cartagena with fair winds for a pleasant sail to Cienaga de Cholon (about 20 miles away) where we had arranged to meet up with Malarkey for a few days.
We were greeted by a smiling Trevor exercising in his yellow kayak offering us a freshly cooked Crab & Lobster lunch.
We spent a relaxing week in the anchorage – well, Vicki did whilst Roger was busily scrubbing our bottom clean of all the Cartagena sludge !! We also enjoyed the hospitality of Robert, a retired LAPD cop, who was in the process of building a house overlooking the bay. He and his Columbian wife invited us all up to “the Crow’s Nest” for a Pot Luck evening and to enjoy the views…. Sadly, all 4 of us forgot our cameras!!
From Cholon, it was off to the Rosario Islands just around the corner. We found these lacked much appeal so we only stayed there for a few days and arrived in the San Blas islands on 3rd July.