Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cruising the Golfo de Cariaco August 2007

Pictures: RAFT and Drumbeat at anchor in Laguna Grande, Mike, Marlene and Bev hiking

Now that we have found our summer home our next priority was to make arrangements for our trip back to Canada in September. Usually arranging our flights is no big deal, we just check things out on the internet and book the flights, paying by credit card. But in Venezuela there is one big difference: to take advantage of the exchange rate differential (as discussed in Venezuela General Info July 2007) we needed to pay for our flights in Bolivars. However we did not have sufficient Bolivars or even American cash with us and even if we did it is hard to stuff them in the computer. Jean Marc in Medregal had a contact who will cash cheques in Carupano, but JM only goes there once a week, and we figured making our arrangements would take more than one visit. We decided to head to Cumina, a city at the west end of the Golfo, to see how we would make out.
Picture: Old and new towers, one for spotting fish, the other for modern communications.

The marina in Cumina, Marina Cuminagato, is a basic marina, but has finger docks, fuel (most of the time) and offers free water, electricity and wifi is available at most slips. For us it costs 22,500 B per night (about $6 US). Once we were in our slip, we were met by Alexis, who speaks English, French and a few other languages. He gave us the name of a travel agent who speaks English and should be able to help us. Of we went by local bus (800B about 25cents) to downtown Cumina to see him. Arranging the flights –no problem—but Luis wasn’t going to help us with our cash arrangements. It was then suggested we visit the local business where the owners spoke great English. Theyd agreed to accept a wire transfer, and then release the B’s to us. 24 hours later, we had our airline tickets in hand, RAFT full of diesel, water, market shopping complete, interneting and skyping done and we were ready to head back out into the Golfo.
We were heading for Laguna Grande, and this time we knew Dreamtime and Paridise were there to keep us company. We hiked, kayaked, and dinghied around this impressive basin, exploring all the little bays. (The pictures only start to show the desert beauty of this anchorage). And then came Dean…and we had no worries, knowing no weather issues could hurt us here.
Pictures: Bev kayaking in Laguna, various beautiful views, Ed and Manuela (Dreamtime and Paridise) putting their "rocks" on the summit pile

Once Dean had passed, we had been joined by Avalon V, our sailing companions from Trenton Ontario, whom we have been sailing with since the Bahamas. George and Mary had shown us the way in and out of West Caicos, Luperon, and Grenada. But it was their first time in the Golfo so it was great to be their tour guide, leading them from Laguna Grande to Medregal, and then back to Cumina.
We have been playing with dolphins, every time we sail up and down the Golfo. You can count of being entertained by a couple or a lot more. We have seen up to thirty at a time, but other boats have reported more. All of our friends have also seen a whale, up close, but we have not yet had that experience. They say you have to get into the middle of the bay….we usually have been on the north side. But now we have a mission…..We want to announce on the radio "There she blows!!"

Pictures: Laguna Chico, a small fishing village on the north side of the "Golfo" with bar and dance floor, afternoon storm clouds passing over most afternoons

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Medregal Village August 2007
We have found our summer home, Medregal Village and Marina, on the Northern coast of the Golfo de Cariaco. To us it is everything we have been looking for, a safe anchorage in about 12 feet of water, 15 boats to keep us company, great dinghy docks, and the owners Jean Marc & his wife, do everything to keep the cruisers happy. Jean Marc speaks English, French and Spanish, offer free water, and an honour system bar. The pool and showers are available to us. He drives his old Landrover to different towns and for a small fee takes cruisers where they need to go, ie for shopping, parts etc.. They have just installed a travel lift, so are now hauling boats. There are no slips, but we don't like being at dock anyhow. Talking to the other boaters, they are telling us about all the day trips you can do from here, by boat, dinghy or land...to see caves, birdwatching, desert hiking...lots of places to go, things to see, all from this safe location. Sounds like heaven to a cruiser.

Pictures: Loading Jean Marc's van at Cariaco market
the chicken lady selling her goods -- now that's fresh!!
The Golfo de Cariaco is 35 miles long, about 8 miles wide....with only one entrance to the Caribbean about 2 miles wide at the west end at Cumina. It reminds us of lake sailing, except of course the water is salty. Medregal Village, is about 2/3rds of the way down the length. The Araya Peninsula is very mountainous, so we are well protected from any adverse weather coming from the south, east and north.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tortuga, Venezuela July 2007
We really enjoyed our stay on Blanquilla and now we are off to another deserted sand island, Tortuga. Fine white coral sand that makes all ou pictures look out of focus because of the shimmering heat rising it. Only things here are the Guardacoasta Station and the fish huts. This island is a rich & famous haunt for the mainland crowd. A small airstip was built some years ago (very narrow -- 15 -20 feet). The affluent mainlanders fly out in private planes and helicopters for a day at the beach with coolers and umbrellas in tow. On the Saturday we arrived, three planes just as we were anchoring, and the next day, Sunday, three more planes and two helicopters. Nobody stays overnight, they all leave before dark because there are no lights on the airstrip and it gets very dark. Once the weekend tourists leave, we are alone in the harbour with 6 other boats.

Our time in Tortuga is being cut short due to weather. Both Chris and Eric do not have a handle on the tropical wave which is developing in the Atlantic, not sure whether it will or not develop into a closed low system. The problem we have, is that if a low does develop, (no one expecting a named storm or hurricane), we could experience some strong west winds and seas. Unfortunately these out islands don’t offer much protection from west winds, so we will enact our hurricane strategy….run south!! We are only 70 miles north west of Cumina and the mouth of the Golfo de Cariaco. This large bay is south of 11 degrees latitude, and has many well protected anchorages.
We set off at 1pm anticipating light winds on the nose, expecting to motor into light seas and stronger current. Figured we would average 4 knots and arrive at Cumina by dawn. Of course that didn’t happen, within an hour we had northeast winds 25knots and we were doing 7knots, and if that continued we would be in the Golfo at 3am. We slowed our progress, and the winds died as well, so ultimately we did have light to find the golfo entrance and motor to Laguna Grande. When we found that we were the only boat in that large bay, we continued on to Medregal Village, (Photo Page)where we knew we would find company.