We left Grenada on 1st July to get away for the Hurricane season and headed straight for Porlamar in Margarita where we met up again with Lawrie (Minshara), had a few lunches, stocked up on duty free Wine, Gin, Rum etc and then set sail for Marina Bahia Redonda in Puerto La Cruz (via 1 night in Cubagua) arriving just in time for Roger’s birthday.
Needless to say, we didn’t manage to get away by Mid August as planned but are still here in the Marina (as at 9th September) !!
However, not only did we celebrate Mishi’s 18th Birthday in August, we also managed to complete a lot of general maintenance. All our teak now looks lovely and brown, the cockpit has been varnished again, Roger has fixed our Outboard, both Toilets are fully functional, various other jobs have been done and we are ready to go…
Our departure was initially delayed by 2 weeks as we offered to look after the menagerie on “Lucky Dog”, an 80’ Motor Cruiser owned by our friends Troy & Winnie, whilst they returned to the UK to see their family. They have 1 dog and 3 cats including 2 Birmans (same breed as Mishima). We had the benefits of “walk-in” Fridge and Freezer, huge Satellite TV plus an Ice Maker – what luxury !!!
Roger was up every morning and out walking Reno (a massive German Shepherd Dog weighing over 10 stone) by 7am followed by a further 2 or 3 walks every day which was obviously doing him good…. Roger, not the dog !! Meanwhile, Vicki drooled over Presley who at 3 reminded her of a young Mishi – extremely cheeky and mischievous and into everything especially trying to escape and run around the Marina !! Luckily, the other 2 cats were both female and therefore no trouble at all…..
Troy & Winnie have now returned and we were aiming to leave here on 6th September. Alas, we have been let down by the Banking system yet again (2 ex-Bankers should know better) and, as we sit here getting more and more frustrated waiting for our transfer of USD to arrive, we do have to remind ourselves that some people still have to go to work for a living !!!
We are hopeful that the funds should arrive imminently whereupon we can pay our Visa extension fees, get our Passports back and head off to Tortuga for some peace and tranquillity …..
Whilst waiting for the missing funds to arrive, Mishi became quite ill, stopped eating and started to waste away. Luckily, we were still in the Marina and able to get him to a Vet straightaway. Sadly, old age had finally caught up with him and it was time for him to leave us. It has just not been our year.
As you can imagine, we were both devastated by this sudden news and decided to pack up and sail away from everyone to be miserable on our own. We left the Marina the day after our last visit to the Vet and dropped anchor at a small Island just out of PLC called Chimana Segunda for a brief sleep to enable us to have an early morning start for Tortuga.
Somehow, sailing without our third Crew member wasn’t the same and we arrived in Tortuga knowing that we had lost a big part of our life and that El Vagabond would never really be quite the same.
Tortuga was as lovely as we remembered it from last year and we spent 2 weeks swimming, walking and relaxing at the various anchorages.
The weather was superb and we even managed to get the Dinghy Sail out for an airing.
Lucky Dog had bought our new Ice Maker back from the UK with them so, for the first time, we actually had our own ice cubes whilst anchored off an uninhabited Island with no shops… Bliss !!! We saw Tim & Pauline (Nanou) at one of the anchorages and spent an evening with them enjoying the Sundowners with our new Ice Toy.
After 2 weeks, it was time to move on so we reluctantly left Tortuga and headed West for Los Roques. Again, the Islands were as lovely as last year and still unspoilt. You are only allowed to check into the Archipelago for a maximum period of 1 month which is why the Islands remain so uncluttered as there is no permanency granted to any visitors, We ended up staying for about 5 weeks during which time we had every type of weather except Snow !! Hurricane Omar flicked it’s tail at us and we had 45 knots of wind over the deck whilst at anchor – our Fortress anchor held firm and we didn’t drag although we did swing 180 degrees to end up on a leeshore. We awoke at about 2am to dreadful howling winds and Roger spent the rest of the night dozing in the cockpit. The next day we moved anchorages to one a little more protected which meant lifting our anchor under 35 knots of wind.
As you can see, our anchor got slightly bent during the excitement….
As a result of Omar and the subsequent weather patterns, El Gran Roque (the main Island) was hit rather badly with dinghy pontoons being completely trashed and huge waves breaking over the Beach. It got so bad that on one occasion we couldn’t even land the dinghy anywhere to get some supplies – back to Eggs on Toast that day!!
Deliveries were also rather delayed to the Island and on one visit to the local shops there was no fresh meat anywhere in sight. However, we did find one very large frozen bird from the “Venezuelan Chicken Farm”. We duly purchased said bird thinking it would last us a few days……
Once thawed, we weighed the bird still in it’s packaging – 8lbs ie a very big chicken. It was only when we unpacked it and saw it’s very long neck that we realised we had bought a goose and not a big chicken !! Well, we put the beast in our oven and prepared the vegetables to accompany it – obviously, no roast spuds as we couldn’t get anything else in the Roasting tray. We were happily sitting in the cockpit waiting for it to cook when, in the distance, we saw a yacht looking remarkably like Consort (Duncan & Janet) and it was… They were only stopping 1 night as they had a deadline to be in Curacao to see an Engineman so, obviously, Sundowners followed (while the Goose was having it’s mammoth cook). By the time we had caught up with all their news (they had just got back from the OCC Vancouver Rally) it was 9pm and we weren’t really very hungry so ended up having Beans on Toast..
The following morning we investigated our giant bird and decided Goose wasn’t really like Chicken (and we have to admit to being very wasteful) but the Goose went out of the Galley window along with the Potatoes, Cabbage and Carrots that had been carefully prepared the previous day (yes, we know there are starving people but…..).
A few days later, it was time to leave Los Roques and return to Tortuga – we knew it was time when 10 boats arrived in one afternoon from PLC heading West and there were clearly more on the way to spoil our tranquillity.
We motor sailed back to Tortuga and ended up staying there another week as Lucky Dog arrived meaning “Party Mode” with them including a lovely afternoon Beach BBQ with Cheers (Zan & Bob). Troy & Winnie have all the beach toys and we felt very spoilt with beach chairs, parasols etc not to mention Reno’s very own Solar Tent which it took 3 grown men to erect….
We returned to PLC on Tuesday 11th November to get our anchor chain re-galvanised and arrived to a very subdued Marina – 2 American Boats had left the Marina the previous Sunday afternoon and anchored at a local Island (Borracha) to enable them to do the early trek to Tortuga the following day. Tragically, some local vermin had attacked the 2 boats, fatally shooting one Gentleman and shooting the other in his bottom. Both ladies were physically ok although emotionally very traumatised.
We were not planning to stay long in PLC as we are due to be in Grenada early December to meet “True Colours”- our old muckers from Hardway who are sailing across the Atlantic this year. However, this event confirmed our decision that this was our last visit to Venezuela.
Looking on the bright side, 2 days after our return to PLC, our good friend Aid (Squander) who has temporarily swapped his Yacht for a Winnebago was on the phone inviting us up to Breckenridge in Colorado for some Winter Sports. Now that we have no ties, we have arranged to spend 5 weeks skiing with him and Jan in the New Year leaving El Vagabond safely in Grenada and flying to Denver. We are really excited and can’t wait…. Look out for the photos next March as Rog has never skied before…..
Whilst the boat was safely tucked away in the Marina, we also took the opportunity to pay a flying visit to the UK for a week – the first time we have been able to fly together since we left the UK. Our Tenants had moved out of our Apartment and we had a fortnight’s void. We had just enough time to splash some paint around and catch up with as many friends as possible – great to see you all – before returning to Venezuela and getting the boat ready to leave for Grenada. We knew we couldn’t be late for Dave & Fi’s arrival…
Before we left for Grenada, we just had time to host a Dinner for Malarkey and Lucky Dog which incidentally happened to fall on Thanksgiving Day. Although we didn't have any Turkey, we had a very good Party which went on until the early hours - unlike the Americans in the Marina whose Party finished about 7pm.... that having been said, we had forgotten that our Deck speakers were switched on and we don't think our neighbours were too impressed with Dean Martin blaring out across the water at gone Midnight - whoops !!
We left PLC on 5th December for Margarita to see Laurie again and, more importantly, to stock up on as much Duty Free Wine, Beer and Rum as we could carry !!! We left Porlamar on Sunday 7th and had an eventful trip back to Grenada arriving in Prickly Bay on the 10th........ a tad longer journey than anticipated !!
All we can say is…. take heed.... watch out for the vast fishing nets off Margarita. We were taking a Northerly course (as it was all we could do in the prevailing wind) and got caught in one about 25 miles North East of Margarita. Not a good place to be at 3am in the dark with 3 Fishing Boats' lights in the vicinity and no Bolivars or USDs on board..... We immediately cut our Navigation lights, dropped our sails and Rog climbed out on our steering gear at the stern to cut the net - we then hoisted the sails and scurried off as fast as we could away from the lights - all in absolute silence !!! Needless to say, the net had got caught around our prop but luckily no permanent damage. Sadly, it did hinder our journey somewhat with the winds not allowing us to sail on any course that we wanted. It was only on the morning of the 10th that the Sea was calm enough for him to actually get in the water and cut the residual lines from under the boat so that we could motor the last 25 miles or so.....otherwise, we would still be out there !!!! Not one of our most enjoyable trips but, hey ho, that's life....