Monday, July 30, 2007

Juangriego-Blanquilla, Venezuela July 2007
Having completely filled all the lockers on RAFT, it was definitely time to get out of Porlamar, quit shopping and get on with exploring. We motored east, past Pompatar, which we could see this time, no haze, and then sailed up the east coast of Margarita island, past all the resorts and beautiful sand beaches to Juangriego. This is a quaint fishing village, quite the opposite to Porlamar. Although there are lots of touristy shops. We toured the fort, mainly just a scenic view point and the boat building factory. The guys there we great, letting us look around, take pictures, even took a tarp off a big Caterpiller diesel engine so I could take a picture for Ron, Bev’s brother in law who works on Cats in Canada.
Next day: off to Blanquilla, a small fishing island 50 miles north of Margarita. The only people who live here are fisherman and "guarda". so why are we here? ... to get away from everything Porlamar is...shopping, traffic, noise, city lights. Here the beaches are so beautiful, certainly rival any we have seen in the Bahamas and the Virgins. The water is so clear, you can watch the gurnard crawl along the bottom in 25' of water. We can snorkel right off the boat. And at night, the stars are fantastic, even saw a shooting star and there is lots of phosphorescence in the water.
We had a great day sail from Margarita island here. Early in the day the winds were light and from the south east (stern quarter). Ideal conditions for our spinnaker (light nylon colorful sail) which we hadn't used since we left Canada. Our inexperience showed when Bev mishandled the sheet and got a rope burn on her right hand. Really our first onboard accident. Now before everyone gets worried, we have lots of prescription antibiotic cream onboard she is using this "hurt' as an excuse not to do her usual household chores, so Ross gets to cook and clean. She can still manage the helm, type one handed, but will baby herself for a couple of days.
We are basically anchored on the the west side of the island hiding from the tradewinds. When we were in Margarita we were out to the "Trade Wind" belt. Now that we are back north we are back into steady east winds blowing 10-15 knots, no roll so very comfortable. Blanquilla has white sand beaches mixed in with granite outcrops. Looks a little like a moonscape with the craggy bits. The sand is very powdery and very comfortable to walk on. There are about 12 boats in the anchorage, all sail except one large fishing boat (Wooden 60 ft long.) This is the mother ship that all the local fisherman bring their catch (average around 25 fish a day per boat) to and then weekly they return to Margarita to sell the catch. This is the type of boats we saw being built in Juangriego.

The local fisherman only fish when the big boat is here as they have no way to store the caught fish. Once a day the small boats pull up to the mothership and off load their catch. Because Blanquilla has only a small fishing village, we have only seen about three different boats come along side. The mothership has a crew of five who don't seem to do much all day long and even less at night. The boat is in complete darkness-no music day or night. One guy cooks and four tend to lounge around on the deck waiting for the local fisherman to return. Wedon’t know whether the motherships are part of a national (gov't) operation or private. I suspect national to help the local fisherman get their product to market as this whole Agro Economy is subsidized by cheap fuel ($0.03 per litre) to keep the cost of food down. Anyway I digress.
These fisherman which are always touted as being the source of the "we Cruisers" problem. We anchored beside this boat the day the we arrived which was late in the afternoon on Saturday. During the night at 2:30 am we bumped into the mothership. We were more concerned than them but it brought all of us on deck, we let out some more rode so hopefully that would solve the problem. We thought they would be upset with us, but the next morning after we re-anchored the fishermen were all smiles and nods.
Later that afternoon two of the crew were dispatched to our boat and we both though that now we were going to hear something about interfering with their operation or that we had damaged their boat in the night. These were the type of ploys we had been told to watch out for. What they wanted after much pantomime was a to see if we had replacement brass fitting for the pressurized gas system on their boat. I rummaged through my stores and found a some partial pieces that could get them started but were not a direct match. Off they went to other boats to try and find a replacement. At 5:00 pm on our way to another boat for Sundowners they call us over to say that they got system working and here were the parts that I gave them back. We thanked them and carried on to "Dreamtime" for drinks. On our way home from "Dreamtime" they waved us back to the mothership again. This time was to present us with a 10-12 lb Tuna to thanks us for trying to help them. Looks like we will have sushi for happy hour today. Off course Ross had to clean this in the dark last night because it would not fit in the fridge whole. Bev's hand injury strikes again.
Other activities we managed to fit into our week here: dinghy picnic to Americano Bay – absolutely beautiful, must be seen, pot luck on the beach where we cooked a 36" Barracuda on a fire and shared with all the boaters (another gift from the fishermen), plus a day exploring the south bays and fiords, where once again we ended up anchoring among all the fishing boats.
Pictures: Americana Bay iguana, coral fossils, rock bridges Last Picture: unusual rock formation weathered into girl like statue, south coast of Blanquilla