Dahlfin II Status

Last updated: November 25, 1998

| Reflections on the Third Leg |

32) Fax from Venezuela, 9-2-97

Greetings from Venezuela! At last we have made it - or almost. Our goal is Puerto La Cruz on the mainland about 60 miles from here where we have reservations at a marina.

After seven weeks in Grenada, we finally felt it was time to leave. Carnival was a bit of a disappointment, somewhat disorganized, alot of waiting for events that never materialized. We did, however, enjoy the steel band competition and the parade on the last day with all the beautiful brightly colored costumes. Our departure was delayed by some kind of intestinal bug I (Bonnie) picked up. It got better after the antibiotics from a doctor kicked in. We also added a furler for the stay-sail which we never used on the way down because it was too much of a hassle to set and drag if forward from the sail locker. Hopefully in it's new position we will use it more as conditions warrant.

8-24-97, 11 22.17 N / 63 07.29 W, Los Testigos, Venezuela

Pulled anchor at 2200 Saturday night and set the main and full genoa for our first downwind sail in months (wind E/SE 10-12 knots). We hardly knew how to adjust the sheets! Encountered a strong NW current (2 knots) as we closed on the islands. The radar failed en-route. We set anchor at 1220 on Sunday, 91.3 nm. Not a bad average, really nice when you have the wind aft of the beam and the extra push from a current. Checked in with the local Coast Guard for customs, everything is pretty laid back here. The Testigos are quite wild and beautiful with sand beaches, rocky shorelines, and thousands of frigate birds. They are quite a bit drier than the Windward islands. Snorkeling is ok but not much coral. Lots of fishing boats come over from the mainland and Margarita. On the 27th we celebrated Ron's birthday with steaks from the freezer, they had been put in Jan 9 in Titusville!

8-28-97, 10 56.96 N / 63 49.85 W, Parlamor, Isla Margarita, Venezuela

Pulled anchor at 0700. Wonderful sail on full main and genny, winds 8-10 knots SE, beam reach. Set anchor at 1630, for a distance of 49.7 nm. Hired an agent the next morning to take care of customs and immigration which is quite a lengthy process here. Exchanged some money and visited Mercado Conjero (Rabbit Market). As always it is interesting to get a handle on a new currency which here is the Bolivar: 1 U.S. dollar is 500 Bolivars. Margarita is the tourist portion of Venezuela, it is duty free and many things are incredibly cheap. I helps to establish a few parameters: a beer is 180 Bs ($0.36 US), a triple burger Big Mac is 500 Bs ($1.00 US), a complete fish dinner is 1700 Bs ($3.40 US), three t-shirts for 1900 Bs ($3.80 US or $1.26 US each!).

The weather is absolutely the best since leaving the states. We found the Bahamas and Caicos very hot and muggy. When the wind dies here it seems about 10 degrees cooler and because there is very little rain it is quite a bit less humid. On the negative side, every few days we hear of boats being broken into, dinghies stolen, etc. We are on the alert and using security measures we have picked up along the way.

The "further out" we get the more aluminum boats we see. Most of them are unpainted on the hulls. We've seen everything from 35 feet and above and some very beautiful designs. All of the boats seem to be holding up well and don't leak. We are also seeing alot more windsurfers on boats. We thought of Peter in Testigos as we had a couple days of strong winds and the windsurfers were having quite a time. Since leaving the windwards we have met a number of true live-aboards, people who have been living on their boats for more than 10 years and have really adapted to the life-style. They often have babies and young children on board.

-- Bonnie

33) Fax from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, 9-15-97

At last we made it to mainland Venezuela! When we got stuck in Grenada, there were times I wondered if we would ever get here. It is hard to believe we've come over 5500 miles with our little boat.

9-6-97, 10 57.78 N / 64 10.70 W, Boca Del Rio, Isla Margarita, Venezuela

We had full intentions of going to Cubagua, one of the islands south of Margarita. On the way the wind came up from the SW which would have meant anchoring exposed to the wide open on a lee shore. It never blows from the west and the only thing we can figure out (which was substantially later) is that the Caribbean weather patterns are affected by the different pressure gradients of hurricane Erica as it passed the islands to the NE. Sure enough, the regular summer trade-wind patterns resumed in a few days. We opted for a more protected anchorage, a fishing village on the SW shore of Margarita.

9-7-97, 10 21.72 N / 64 26.58 W, Caracus Queste

Happy Birthday Kristin!! We sailed on a SW 8-10 knots into the islands NE of Puerto La Cruz, 42 nm. Coming into these islands is quite spectacular as they and the mainland are majestic with high-rising vistas and huge mountains on the mainland. Everything is gargantuan, in some areas it is like L. Superior's east shore, except everything is so much bigger. The area is more arid and dry and not as lush as the Leewards and Windwards. We head for the Caracus Islands where there are a number of anchorages.

We had a lay-over day the next day. Neither of us are feeling well with intestinal discomfort and once again start on some general, all purpose antibiotic treatment which in the past has worked well for us.

9-9-97, 10 17.49 N / 64 39.77 W, Chimana Grande

We continue wandering through these magnificent islands. Stop of at Chimana Segunda for a lunch stop. Row ashore to a thatched roof restaurant for a fish lunch. It is quite touristy as people from the mainland are brought out by the boat-load to this beautiful sand beach. It's a bit of a shock after the cheap prices of Margarita, we find everything is about double. Large iguanas with striped tails tamely roam the beach. We head on a few miles further to Chimana Grande. We have a difficult time finding a good spot to anchor as most spots are in excess of 40 feet.

9-10-97, 10 12.51 N / 64 39.77 W, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

We motored across to the sky scraper-lined shoreline. The area was impressively filled with large oil tankers (9 of them!) waiting to get filled. Found our way to Bahia Redonda Marina, I am glad we made reservations from Grenada. This is an unusual experience for us as we usually don't go into marinas and it has been over 8 months that we have been at anchor. In addition to the wonderful amenities, it is a necessity for security sake, particularly since we plan on leaving the boat to do some extended traveling inland. The marina is very beautiful with groomed gardens and palm trees and even a lovely swimming pool, but it takes a little getting used to the very heavily armed guards perched in periodic watch towers.

Puerto La Cruz is a very modern city, one of the largest in Venezuela. There are at least 7 marinas and the largest haul-out facilities in Venezuela are here. There are only about 25 boats anchored out in the harbor where there have been a number of problems with theft in the last few weeks. The marina area is part of a network maze of canals with exquisitely designed contemporary condominiums and private dwellings. Because of the oil industry, there is a fair bit of wealth in the country that we haven't seen the likes of since Florida. A very contemporary shopping center can be reached by the canals. The downtown area is a mixture of the old and new with dozens of high-rise buildings. Large areas of shoreline are beautifully developed along the main boulevard, Paseo Colon.

We don't know how long we'll be in Venezuela. We are taking some trips; up the river to Angel Falls, 10 days up the Andes for hiking and horseback riding, and visiting some of the natives cultures in the Orinoco Delta by dugout canoe. We would also like to go to Peru if possible and visit some of the ancient cities and ruins.

We find that we are really liking Venezuela and now wish we hadn't stayed in Grenada so long. Grenada was beautiful and a wonderful respite after pushing so hard through the islands to get south of the hurricane belt. We had alot of social life there, but it too became old and towards the end we were begging off on some of the activities primarily because it had gotten to be too much, but also we had to get some work done. Speaking of work, you should see the Dahlfin now, with 2 furlers the boat looks like a regular cruising boat. If the boat could be personified, it's almost like she sits a little more spritely at anchor sporting the second furler.

We are leaving Wednesday for Merida, a town up in the Andes. It takes 18 hours by bus. After a day or so in Merida we will then travel out to a restored monastery in the mountains where we will spend at least a couple days just relaxing, hiking mountain trails, and possibly a little horseback riding. On another trip from Merida we will take a 3 stage cable car up a mountain where we'll then take donkeys across the top for a 5 hours trip to Los Nevadas, a small mountain village. Another trip we have planned is to the German chalet which specializes in fresh mountain trout dinners, more hiking on trails and an overnight. We will get back Saturday Sep 27th and then leave early Monday morning for the Orinoco Delta. We are traveling with two other couples in a mini-van to the delta, will then board dug-out canoes that will take us up the river for 4 days and 3 nights. The Angel Falls trip is presently on hold because part of the river has dried up due to lack of rain.

It has been really hot! Part of the problem is that there is a lack of wind, the other is that P. La Cruz has had no rain in the last 2 weeks - and this is supposed to be the rainy season. The heat bothers Ron alot more than it does me. Thanks goodness for all the fans we have on board - especially the two in the fore-cabin which make sleeping bearable. We added poled out side-curtains to the bimini (which has been up non-stop since February in the Bahamas) and a huge sun cover over the main part of the boat from the mast to the bimini which really helps. We also have a small sun shade/rain shield over the forward hatch. Since being in the marina we've been taking brisk walks from 6 to 7:30 am, by 7:30 it's already too hot. We also take siestas from 1-3pm in the afternoon, just reading, napping, and being quiet. We try to go swimming in the late afternoon but the water is often too hot.

-- Bonnie

34) Fax from Venezuela, 10-8-97

10-8-97, 10 12.51 N / 64 39.77 W, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

At last I get a chance to write, things have been a bit hectic the past few days. I will try to bring you up to date on a few things that I haven't written about before and out trips inland which have been really neat.

First of all I want to tell you that it is very, very, very hot here, above 85 degrees and often with humidity to match. Because we are in the marina, we don't have the benefit of the wind you get out in the islands which makes these conditions more comfortable. When we are not off traveling, we get up at 5:45 in the morning to walk briskly for 1 1/2 hours, it is the only time of the day you can exercise safely. We have large awnings covering the boat and fans throughout. We try to get any work done for the day before 11 am - albeit our energy levels are quite low from the heat and our productivity doesn't even come close to what it was in the higher altitudes. Afternoons are spent reading/napping (it's even too hot to sit at the computer and type) and then cooling off later in the swimming pool. Evenings are a little cooler and so far have been comfortable sleeping but only because of two fans which go all night in the fore-cabin.

Because of the good exchange rate on the US dollar (@490 Bolivars/$1) we've been able to do some nice traveling. However, let me tell you about that currency. There is no coinage, only paper currency and because things are so cheap here the largest bill is 5,000 Bs (about $10 US). When you got to the bank to get a cash advance on your VISA, say for $1,000 US, often they have only 1,000 or 2,000 Bs notes available. Now that's a pile of cash - a whole backpack full - and just when you are trying to be discreet and not draw too much attention to yourself. If you can imagine this, along with our backpack, we bring along rubber bands and have the teller package the money in bundles about 3" high.

We have just returned from 2 weeks of traveling in Venezuela. Our first trip was to the Andes Mountains for 10 days. We took a bus for 19 hours to the far western end of Venezuela, where we stayed in a college town called Merida for a couple days. Merida is nestled in a valley between two impressive mountain ranges. While there, we rode the TeleFerrico - the longest, highest cable car system in the world to the tops of the mountains where we hiked on a donkey trail to the first mountain pass and were surprised by our lack of endurance in the thin air 12,000 feet up. You can't believe the views both going up and coming down suspended in our gondola car. The Andes are very rugged and it was interesting watching the topography change as we rode over valleys with rivers and then went above the tree-line.

We then took a 3 day trip from Merida to Los Frailles, an old monastery (1600's) high up in the mountains which has been restored into a beautiful hotel with cobblestone courtyards, water fountains, and even a waterfall and a stream running through the complex, complete with ducks. Did lots of horse back riding and hiking back to waterfalls and lakes which they call lagoons. It was quite cold so high up (a refreshing change from the heat) and we slept in sweat suits with blankets and down comforters. During the night I kept thinking it was raining, but it was only the waterfall which is right next to our room. The food was absolutely excellent and most reasonable for being in such a posh place: thick steak or sweet mountain trout dinners - $5. It was also nice sitting in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace in the evenings and I got homesick for northern Wisconsin.

Our final trip in the Andes was when we took our back packs and a por puesto (the local form of transportation - a van packed with 20+ people) for 205 Bs ($0.42) over one of the mountain ranges into the next valley where there is a small town perched on a mesa sticking out of the side of the mountain. No one spoke any English in the town and it was interesting finding our posada (hacienda with overnight rooms much like a bed and breakfast) and ordering meals in our broken Spanish. We were the only gringos in the town at the time and quite a novelty. We hiked on an old road a couple miles out of town that wound high on the mountain side, the views are absolutely spectacular as we looked down into the valleys and across to the rugged snow capped mountains on the other side. It is doubtful we have captured even a small portion of the beauty with our wide angle lens.

We have now just returned from a 4 day trip to the Orinoco Delta which was at the far eastern end of Venezuela and quite a bit different in topography. We took a van with 2 other couples through the grasslands where we saw lots of cattle ranches and oil fields to a small town (the last outpost) part way up the delta. From there we took a canopied boat about 30 miles up that branch of the delta through some pretty impressive jungle to a base camp. The camp was all built on stilts with board walks between the buildings (because of snakes), a little primitive, but beautifully done. There was an open air bar/eating area complete with toucans, macaws (wings clipped), and even a small monkey which entertained us with her antics, swinging/jumping this way and that. The sleeping buildings had wood half way up and then screen with a thatched roof. At least we had beds (not hammocks like they have in some jungle camps) complete with mosquito netting tents. It was kind of neat sleeping in the jungle in our little cocoon and hearing all the sounds that come out at night, it was quite a symphony and in many cases they sounded like they were right next to us.

While we were there we toured small jungle streams in dugout canoes (paddled by locals, not us). They were pretty slick to glide on top of the water but had very little freeboard, we had about 1.5" above the water and they were kind of tippy. In some areas, there were canopies of trees overhead from one side of the stream to the other and I couldn't help thinking "what if a snake drops down on us". One morning we went on a jungle hike, actually it was a swamp hike and they gave us big boots up to our knees (as far as I was concerned they could have given us boots up to our armpits), which they said were for the mud and water but I couldn't help thinking maybe it was for snakes. They told us not to reach out and grab anything. It was quite an undertaking for me since I have a phobia of snakes. Fortunately we saw only one snake, it was eating a live frog. One afternoon we visited a Waro Indian tribe way back in one of the tributaries. The whole village (about 20 family dwellings) was built out on stilts over the water and connected with board walks. Living conditions were very primitive; sleeping in hammocks, cooking on wood fires right on the floor, very few pots and pans or amenities. Due to the missionary influence, the older folks now wear clothes, but the little ones were jumping, swimming, and playing gleefully in the water in their birthday suits. They brought out their wares to sell: jewelry made out of shells, wood carvings, beautiful hand-made baskets woven out of palm leaf fiber. It was neat "shopping" in the jungle wilderness, a bit of a challenge since the Indians speak only their own language and not Spanish. I remember getting down on my knees to try to pronounce a little girl's name, all the children gathered around me and laughed, it was great fun; a warm and wonderful experience.

We went piranah fishing - no, you don't stick your finger over the side in the water, we used bits of chicken skin. They're pretty good fighters when you get them on. We heard and saw howler monkey - you can't believe the tremendous sound they make - they can be heard for miles. On the way back from the delta we spent a night in Caripe, where the world's largest cave is - they still haven't found the end. The next day we went a ways into the cave, it was eery and complete with a good sized stream rushing through; also bats, rats, and centipedes.

Tomorrow we are going to take another trip inland through the jungle for 4 days to Angel Falls, the highest falls in the world. Will write more about that later. We will be heading back to Margarita where hopefully our new radar will be, so far we're not even sure if it has been shipped from the States. Then we will head east a couple hundred miles to Trinidad.

-- Bonnie

35) Fax from Venezuela, 10-20-97

10-20-97, 10 12.51 N / 64 39.77 W, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

We have just returned from an inland trip to Angel Falls. We took a four hour bus ride to Ciudad Bolivar, toured the old part of the city, and stayed overnight in a hotel. We then flew a couple hundred miles via a small 4 seater plane (it was like a mosquito - I had my doubts if it could even get off the ground) to Cainama where there is a large lagoon and several magnificent waterfalls. We spent a few hours checking out the waterfalls, we walked completely behind one of them and then did some swimming beneath another. Then we took a large (50' long, 3.5' beam) motorized wooden canoe 30 miles up-stream to a base camp where we slept 2 nights under just a thatched roof in hammocks. Sleeping in hammocks is not as romantic as it sounds, the trick is to lie at an angle and stretch it out.

The scenery was spectacular in every direction we looked. The topography is comprised of huge tepuis, the grandeur of which is difficult to describe. A tepuis is a huge (many, many square miles) flat topped plateau which is lifted thousands of meters above the rest of the ground. The vertical sides are spectacular both in the sheer rock formations and the waterfalls that pour off the tops.

The next day we took the canoes through some pretty impressive rapids another 30 miles upstream and then took a vigorous hike through the jungle up to the base of Angel Falls. Looking up into the spray of Angel Falls was breathtaking, the vertical drop is 979 meters. Beneath Angel Falls is another set of falls where there is is large pool where we went swimming. The trip back to the base camp in the canoes dropping down through the rapids was exhilarating, a little like white water rafting. We scrapped bottom and rocks on the sides a couple times. On the 4th day we returned to Cainama via canoe, then flew out to Cuidad Bolivar and bused it back to Puerto La Cruz. Of all the trips, the scenery was individually probably the most spectacular, but it is hard to compare with the Andes and the jungle of the Orinoco Delta.

We were going to leave Puerto La Cruz today, but Ron wanted to stay through the weekend. He says he still has to do a few things to get the boat ready. Secretly I think he really likes his swimming pool time. Actually it isn't all that much of a luxury here as it's the only way to cool off. We will leave on Monday and take about a week to Isla Margarita. We will install our new radar which has arrived on the island and then will head east against the trades, which fortunately this time of the year aren't too strong, to Trinidad.

-- Bonnie

36) Fax from Venezuela, 10-29-97

10-20-97, 10 23.19 N / 64 21.05 W, Mochima, Venezuela

Mochima is a long (5 miles) inlet into the mainland resembling a fjord banked by lush green mountains. It is probably the most beautiful anchorage along this segment of the coast and has at least a dozen good anchorages. Snorkeling is average, a little coral around the shoreline, the water still lacks the crystalline clarity of the Bahamas. There is a fair amount of fish, and thousands of the most brightly colored Christmas tree worms we have seen yet: deep blues and purples, bright oranges and reds. We took the dingy exploring to the town at the far end and had a nice lunch in a local restaurant.

10-23-97, 10 35.56 N / 64 02.20 W, Laguna Grande, Gulfo Cariaco

This area is another of the big attractions of the area, a huge land-locked inlet again surrounded by mountains, with a dozen good anchorages. The topography, however, is quite different: a dry, desert landscape which we find rather austere - not unlike pictures we have seen of the Sea of Cortez.

10-25-97, 10 49.80 N / 64 09.78 W, Isla Cubagua

Strong easterly wind (20-25 kt). Nice downwind sail out of Gulfo Cariaco, brisk beam reach across the end of the peninsula, miserable beat to windward the last 12 miles. We used the stay sail on the new furler and were pleased with the performance. Barely got into the anchorage by dusk, we still don't like going to windward.

10-27-97, 10 57.06 N / 63 49.83 W, Isla Margarita, Venezuela

Wind still pretty strong so we laid over Sunday. Still had to beat 22 miles to windward to Margarita. Ugh. The new radar was waiting for us. Ron is busy installing it while I do some re-provisioning.

That last beat to windward was awful. It took us 8 hours and 36 GPS logged miles to make good 22 miles to Margarita. Of course it doesn't help that our keel is encrusted with barnacles from sitting in Puerto La Cruz. We were able to snorkel in Mochima and get most off the hull, but the keel is much harder, many times I wish we were certified for Scuba and had tanks on board. There is a 4 day course we can take in Grenada, it's not the expense, the main drawback is we just don't have any more room on board for storage!

37) Fax from Venezuela, 11-4-97

Reflections on the Third Leg

  1. Distances: It's 5,545 miles from Bayfield WI to Puerto La Cruz Venezuela, 2,259 miles from West Palm Beach to Puerto La Cruz, 870 miles from Virgin Gorda to Puerto La Cruz - island hopping the way we did down the Leewards and the Windwards.

  2. To Windward: You are still hard on the wind until at least half way down the island chain. This came as a big surprise to us because we expected to be able to turn off the easterly trades after leaving the Virgins. But at that time (May/June) the winds were E/SE. So we were still beating hard all the way to Antigua. From Antigua to Martinique we were still closed hauled hard on the wind and it wasn't until after Martinique that we were able to even began to ease off the sheets. By the way, it was confirmed many times when sailing with others that our wind speed was off - at least 5 knots lower than actual strengths, we were apparently sailing often in 20-25 knots with winds slightly higher in squalls. The radar was quite useful in detecting size, distance, and movement of squalls and sometimes we were able to evade them.

  3. Sail Management: We never used the stay sail even though there were times we could have. When the winds piped up it was easier to just roll in the genny a bit as opposed to move the inner forestay out from the mast, bring the stay sail forward from the locker and hank it on. We were able to do this because we had the genny custom made to be sailed in reefed positions and it worked nicely for the conditions we were in. Clearly in stronger winds or more prolonged conditions it would be more prudent to use the stay sail. When we were in Grenada we move the inner forestay out permanently, added a luff tape to the staysail and put it on a roller furler. Hopefully with the staysail ready to go and controlled completely from the cockpit, we will use it more often. We have had the chance to do some windward work since installing the furler and it isn't as hard to tack the genny through the slot as we anticipated. At least five of our friends have made the same change and alot of boats down here have staysails rigged on roller furlers.

  4. Customs/Immigration: In most instances in going from island to island you are going to different countries and so it is necessary to check both in and out. (Note: in some islands because we were traveling so fast we did not bother to check in or out but flew the yellow Q flag. We did not go ashore and left the next morning.) We made our own courtesy flag for each country using patterns from the book "Courtesy Flags Made Easy", Vol I, The Caribbean by Mary Conger which can be purchased from Bluewater Charts. We bought regular nylon flag material from Frostline before leaving the states and sewed them on a portable Sears sewing machine. Some islands are easier than others on these procedures with the French islands being more laid back and the English islands quite a stickler for formality. Most of the islands require some sort of fee. About half way down the island chain we wised up and made up an official looking "Crew's List" on the computer. This has basically all the required information that we had to laboriously write down into forms each time. For us it consists of 3 parts: 1 for the boat and 1 for each of us. The boat section has all the pertinent boat information: length, beam, draft, color, description, documentation number, tonnage, where and when it was constructed etc. Our portions have our passport numbers and expiration dates, birth-date, place of birth, age, citizenship captain/crew etc. At the bottom we have blanks where we can fill in dates and last port of call and next port of call and a place for Ron's signature. We cannot tell how much this has simplified checking in and out procedures as usually the officials just look over the form and staple it to the blank form. Often they require 3 or 4 copies - we just print more with the computer. We even have the form done in Spanish which really knocks their socks off.

    Of all the countries we visited, Venezuela will not be out done on the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy. At this time there is a question if yachties need to have a Visa or not. Some people have entered the country without and apparently have had no repercussions. Most boaters are still getting the visas and we did because we knew we were going to do alot on inland traveling, there are alot of military checkpoints. We got the visas at the Venezuelan embassy in Grenada. It took two days and $30 each. Checking in and out of the country involves not just customs and immigration but 5 different agencies so it is necessary to hire an agent to do all the paperwork. Not only that, you have to check in and out of each state you are entering/leaving. Here is what it has cost us so far:

    Entering Venezuela through Margarita$38.00
    Leaving Margarita$14.58
    Entering Puerto La Cruz$20.24
    Leaving Puerto La Cruz$20.00
    Entering Margarita$14.28
    Leaving Venezuela from Margarita$43.00

    Since leaving the Virgin Islands we have paid out $305.44 in customs/immigration/visa fees.

  5. Security: Dealing with security problems has become a fact of cruising life in many of the islands and portions of the mainland. From what we hear, things have improved drastically since last year. Yet, four of our close personal friends have been robbed (one when we were present) and half a dozen other people we know. There is a safety net on SSB which keeps track of reported incidents and lets cruisers know where the current trouble spots are. We have done a number of things to secure our boat and belongings:

    1. We have chains on Ron's wallet, Bonnie's fanny pack and our backpacks which we hook to ourselves and leave hanging out so they are quite visible. Depending on the area, we sometimes carry small canisters of pepper spray.

    2. We have a cable on the dingy which runs through the motor and gas can. We can lock the dingy wherever we go. The motor is raised each night and locked to the stern pulpit. The dingy is usually also raised and belted in on the davits. Depending on the location if the dingy is left in the water, it is locked to the boat (dinghies are usually stolen for the motors).

    3. Depending on location, we have the capability of locking ourselves in the boat at night. (We have a fear of being boarded in the night and woken up a knife point with a demand for money - we know people this happened to about 6 weeks ago.) Before we left, Ron had an extra set of sea-boards made for the companionway with a lattice work on 1/4" stainless steel bars which we can lock in place from the inside. We have also brought a couple of motion detectors to be placed in the cockpit which we have yet to use. We have a bright light which is connected inside the boat that we can hang in the cockpit.

    The idea behind many of these precautions is deterrence - we want to visibly discourage anyone even thinking about approaching us for theft. Finally, there are places to which we just do not go.

  6. Ground Tackle: Our primary anchors are a 33 lb. Bruce and a 35 lb. Delta. We find the Bruce quicker to get a set and more reliable, thus we use it more often. We have added yet another 30 feet of chain to the Bruce which gives us close to 150 feet. This is adequate for most depths we have been in so far. We have friends who were anchoring on 25 feet of chain and nylon rode outside St. Georges Grenada who found their boat missing one night when they cam back from a Carnival activity. The rode had chafed through on the coral and the boat drifted a couple miles out. We had both anchors and all the chain regalvanized in Puerto La Cruz. It was incredibly inexpensive, $150 for everything.

  7. Charts: We are using the Imray-Iolaire medium scale charts for our primary navigation and then the charts in the cruising guides for harbor/anchorage entrances and small area detail. At first this took a bit of getting used to as we were spoiled with the accuracy of the charts we had been using state-side. The cruising guides (we've been using primarily Chris Doyle's) have been incredibly accurate and even have GPS way-points.

  8. Heat: The bimini has been up since last January in the Bahamas. A dodger and bimini are minimal for sun protection. Two different schools of thought on this: the first is attach the bimini to the dodger, an asset for deflecting spray while underway but lacking air flow-thru at anchor. The second is to have them separate but overlapping which is what we have. With our low dodger and the bimini right under the boom, we have almost a foot of air-flow which is very nice at anchor. A bimini without side curtains extending outward beyond the boat is ineffective for much of the day. We have detachable sides we put up at anchor. We also used a white vinyl for the bimini which is light blue on the underside, this is very restful and reduces the reflective glare from the water. It is also important to have large awnings with side curtains covering the rest of the boat. We have one extending from the mast to the bimini. By attaching the aft ends to the running backstays put into position, we have been able to avoid using cumbersome poles or battens. It's height allows comfortable air flow-through and it is easier to walk forward. We have a large spray hood covering the forward hatch so we don't have to close it each time it rains and this also gives a lot of sun protection. Quite a few people use air conditioners at marinas. We have 4 Hella fans plus two spares (long life, low power draw) which are absolutely essential: 2 in the forecabin, 1 in the galley, and 1 in the nav station which can also be turned around onto the settees in the main cabin.

  9. Expenses: Some islands are more expensive than others. We thought St. Marten and Martinique were more expensive, but it may be because we were buying more there because they had more variety. Grenada is also somewhat expensive. Basically, buying local products is generally cheap and imported goods expensive. Margarita (which is duty free) and the Venezuela mainland have by far the best buys. But even they are catching up. Some of the marinas and boatyards in Puerto La Cruz rival Florida in expense. Yet, diesel is less than $0.50 a gallon and Venezuelan beef is excellent, we got 4 nice steaks for $7. At almost 500 to 1, the US dollar still has a lot of buying power. Traveling, meals out, etc. are still quite reasonable, a fact a lot of yachties are taking advantage of by traveling inland.

  10. Community: A lot of people are no longer going to Venezuela or Trinidad to weather out the hurricane season. They are staying in Grenada where it is cooler, often less rainy, and there usually is a pleasant breeze. Hurricanes and tropical storms generally turn north and rarely come down this far and along the southern coast of Grenada. There are a number of good anchorages to weather a tropical depression there. After leaving Grenada we saw a lot less US boats. Many of the Americans we have been with have come through the Panama Canal from the West Coast, have been down here for years and have not cruised the Greater Antilles, Leewards, or been north of the Grenadines. We are also seeing alot of boats from the Netherlands, Sweden, England, Germany, France, and South Africa. Many people have been down here for 10 - 14 years or more, they just go back and forth along the South American coast or up and down the island chain. Some go to the Virgins each winter to work or run charters. Many have children aboard who have been born en-route. These are the true live-aboards who follow the seasons and are in tune with the winds and make their home in the islands.

-- Bonnie

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41) Fax from Isla Margarita, Venezuela, 5-5-98

Bequia: We stayed through the Easter Regatta and were glad we did. The races of modern boats like ours didn't interest us too much. But what we call the older folk or inter-island boats really were great. Engineless, strangest "gaff" rig with the main held up by a bamboo pole much higher than the mast, brightly colored sails, they were a delight to watch. We got into the excitement of the locals cheering on their favorites and quickly admired the sailing skill of the different crews.

4-14-98, 12 52.66 N / 61 11.39 W, Mustique, the Grenadines

We beat our way 14 miles to the west against 15 kt easterlies. The autopilot is not working again. Mustique is a private island with beautiful homes and manicured beaches. Home of the rich and famous, it abounds with names like Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger, and Raquel Welch. We especially enjoyed walking along the lovely roads and raked (yes, raked) beaches. It was immaculately clean and lacking the inland debris seen on other islands. We replaced the ram for the autopilot.

4-17-98, 12 37.92 N / 61 21.39 W, Tobago Cays

Wind E/NE 10-12 knots, door to door sailing, 21 nm. The autopilot is working. We especially liked the coral reefs in the Tobago Cays, the best we've seen since leaving the Bahamas and did lots of snorkeling. We did some canvas repair on the dodger, dingy cover, and outboard motor cover. The little Sears sewing machine is working like a champ. Sunday we had lots of rain all day. Clearly we've got to work on rain-catching with the awning, we hate to see all that water go to waste.

4-22-98, 12 38.86 N / 61 23.45 W, Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau

One of the prettiest little harbors in the Grenadines, beautiful sand beach, waving palms, manicured because of the resort. We hiked over the hill for lunch. Everything is really dry and brown, everyone is waiting for the rainy season.

4-23-98, 12 32.06 N / 61 23.03 W, Petit St. Vincent

We sail to Union to clear out, then over to PSV (PSV is another private island with a fancy resort - rooms are $500-$800 per night double occupancy). Bonnie is sick, she drank water from a cistern at lunch on Mayreau. On Saturday morning we finally go ashore and walk around a bit - quite beautiful.

4-25-98, 12 27.35 N / 61 29.26 W, Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou

Late in the afternoon we rolled out the genny and had a nice sail over to Tyrrel Bay. Wind E 12 knots, 10 nm. Windlass is not working, the gears are slipping.

4-26-98, 12 02.69 N / 61 44.88 W, Lagoon, St. Georges, Grenada

Great sail, door to door. Wind E 12-15 knots. Can't believe we stayed in the Lagoon, last season was notorious for thievery. We had no problems.

4-27-98, 11 59.98 N / 61 45.62 W, Prickly Bay, Grenada

Motored around the south end of Grenada against the wind and current. First time we motored on the whole trip up to Bequia and back. We ere only using the engine for setting the anchor and refrigeration. Cleared into customs and received our waiting mail package. Tuesday/Wednesday we went to the Venezuelan Embassy to renew our Visas. We got our teeth cleaned at the Dentist and bought a few provisions. We are getting ready to head to Tostigos and Venezuela.

5-2-98, 11 23.01 N / 63 08.15 W, Los Tostigos, Margarita

Pulled anchor at 2 am. Set the genny and sailed the whole way downwind on an east wind of 15 knots. Made excellent time with the help of a 1-2 knot westward setting current. Set anchor at 1630, 91.4 nm. Tostigos are beautiful in a rugged, barren sort of way. Lots of frigate birds and local commercial fishing with a number of fishing camps on shore.

5-4-98, 10 57.08 N / 63 47.79 W, Porlamar, Isla Margarita, Venezuela

Pulled anchor at 0700 and set genny and sailed whole way, even right into the anchorage on a east wind 12-15 knots. Set anchor shortly after 1600, 49.8 nm. For customs, the best way is to hire an agent which takes care of everything (5 different offices) for a modest fee. We are looking forward to some duty free shopping and visiting some of our favorite restaurants from last year.

The autopilot is not working again, we are sending back the ram. One of the VHF radios went out also, sent that back for repair from Grenada.

-- Bonnie

42) Fax from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, 6-11-98

5-12-98, 11 05.04 N / 63 58.72 W, Juan Greigo, Margarita

Sailed around the east end of Margarita to the harbor/town of Juan Greigo. Wish we had known about this one last year. The town is lovely, much newer and cleaner than Porlamar with lots of high rises, good shopping, excellent restaurants, and one of the nicest beach front developments we've seen in a long time. It appears that you could get anything here that you could in Porlamar - and much easier as the distances are shorter. There is a nice new marina for locals where we were able to get a can of diesel that we didn't get in Porlamar because of the inconvenience there.

5-15-98, 11 50.21 N / 64 38.77 W, Blanquilla

Pulled anchor at 0400 and had a great sail over to Blanquilla, wind E/SE 13-17 knots. Set anchor around 1500, 62.4 nm. Blanquilla is quite austere with miles of white sand beaches, palm trees (we anchored next to the palms) and the rest is cactus and scrub brush. It is very, very hot. The coral rivals that of the Tobago Cays - we saw many different kinds of coral and lots of fish we had never seen before. The water however was more turbid, lacking the clarity of the Tobago Cays and is very cold - even with wet suits we could only stay in about 45 minutes. There are a number of commercial fishermen out here eeking out a bare existence in very crude camps a number of miles from out anchorage. Took the dingy over to one of them in Americano Bay and saw some caves on the way that reminded us of those in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.

5-23-98, 10 57.46 N / 65 13.57 W, Playa Caldera, Tortuga

Pulled anchor at 0330. Another door to door sail, wind E 10-15 knots. Set anchor at 1600, 67.2 nm. Tortuga is even more austere than Blanquilla with more sand and less vegetation. No good coral at this anchorage for snorkeling, the only coral is outside in the pounding surf. A couple of large sailboat wrecks on the outside reefs, a grim reminder of what could happen with inaccurate navigation. The main attraction here is a flat strip of packed land where the Venezuelans bring there small planes from Caracas on the mainland on the weekends. It was quite a show complete with sky divers and parachutes, at one point we counted 9 parachutes coming down. Sunday morning we woke up to a submarine anchored just outside the harbor. The heat is incredible.

5-26-98, 10 59.46 N / 65 22.79 W, Cayo Herradura, Tortugas

Nice down wind sail to the west end of the Tortugas. Good anchorage, but again very desolate with little vegetation. The protecting coral reef is dead so snorkeling is poor. There are a lot of starfish on the sand bottom and I (Bonnie) see my first sea snake. It is beige with mottled spots, it was not an eel. It was skinny and out in the open on the sand bottom. The anchorage is the site of quite a commercial fishing operation. The men are out here for 4 months at a time and then go home to their families for a 10 day break. Their living conditions are very primitive - just a thatched roof on poles and sometimes a blanket hung out to the side to break the wind. It is too hot to do much walking on the beach, the only cool place is under the bimini.

5-31-98, 10 32.34 N / 66 06.95 W, Carenero Bay

Pull anchor at 0530. Motorsail SW over to the mainland. Wind E 7-8 knots. Set anchor at 1615, 52.3 nm. Carenero Bay is one of the best keep secrets around, it is 90 mi west of Puerto La Cruz. Surrounded by high, rolling green hills, mountains in the background, we anchor next to some lovely mangrove islands. Just a very short distance across the canal is "Fort Lauderdale": high rises and fancy marinas where the wealthy keep their boats and come to play on the weekends. Although security is supposed to be quite tight, we manage with out broken Spanish and a smile to gain access to the grounds. On Monday we take the dingies (we are cruising with another couple for companionship and security) 3 miles down the canal into the town of Higuerote. It is much older than the outer complex, a true Venezuelan town. We appear to be the only gringos in town. We have lots of fun buying fresh fruits and vegetables in the open market and eating at one of the local restaurants. Late Tuesday afternoon, an hour before dusk, we take the dingy down to a wide lagoon and set anchor to watch the birds come in and roost for the night. The scarlet ibis are absolutely fantastic and we see much more than in Trinidad's Caroni Swamp because we can anchor much closer. It doesn't take long before the trees are just a mass of red. These are followed by thousands of sqwaking green parrots and as the sun sets the shoreline is alive with sounds and color.

6-3-98, 10 09.52 N / 64 57.79 W, Islas de Piritu

Pull anchor at 0500, use GPS and radar to wind out way through the canal and out of the harbor. We had some concern about beating against easterly winds to Puerto La Cruz. But surprise, being this close to the mainland (about 8 miles offshore) the wind is from the south 10-15 knots (on this day) and we beam reach all the way across with no seas! Late afternoon, sail through a couple rain squalls. Set anchor at 1835, with only about 1/2 hour of light left, 73 nm.

6-4-98, 10 12.51 N / 64 39.78 W, Puerto La Cruz

Nice sail (19 nm) again on a south wind to Puerto La Cruz. Get into Bahia Redonda marina around 1330 and even though we are a bit ahead of our reservations, they have a slip waiting for us. As we come in we see 7 or 8 good boat friends from anchorages past. A nice welcome back from all the marina crew we made friends with last year. We started with the paper process for clearing in. At 1700 we meet all out friends in the pool for "home-coming". As last year, we enjoy being in Bahia Redonda and will be here for a few months, using Puerto La Cruz as a base for our travels inland.

-- Bonnie

43) Fax from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, 7-3-98

Just a quick note to let you know we are back from our side trip to the Venezuelan Andes. The scenery was very beautiful, just like last year. We were able to see alot more this time as we drove up in a van which took "the scenic route" as opposed to the Express Bus which stayed on the main highways. Because of a road wash-out in the mountains due to heavy rains, we had to take a 13 hour detour through the back country which provided some of the most beautiful scenery: tropical rainforests, incredible narrow roads with tight switch-backs, high mountain vistas and villages, beautiful panoramic mountain valleys, and crossing the highest mountain pass in Venezuela at night in the fog. We went back to a number of spots we visited last year, including Los Frailles, the restored 17th century monastery in the mountains. While there we had a lovely hike following the mountain streams and alpine meadows. I had forgotten how much I missed conifers. We also rode the longest/highest gondola in the world, it was great to be cold again!

We are now working with out travel agent in earnest and planning a big trip on the continent. It seems a little confusing right now but we hope it will all come together.

-- Bonnie

44) Fax from Puerto Natales, Chile, 9-7-98

Greetings from Chile!

We went on a 4 day trip to the extreme northern end of Argentina (600 mi) to Iguazu Falls. This area was very warm and humid, very tropical. The falls are fantastic - not as high as Angel Falls in Venezuela but very wide - at least 4 times bigger than Niagara Falls. Went back to Buenas Aires and then started traveling down the Argentine Atlantic coast by bus. The highlight of this segment of the trip was an excursion by boat in the Atlantic to see whales. We had perfect weather. The whales come up to this area of the coast to breed and we were fortunate to see lots of huge southern right whales as they came right up to the boat out of curiosity. One even turned the boat around while trying to scratch fungi off its back. We saw two different sets of whales mating and a small (15 ft) baby whale that was only 4-5 days old. We then continued south by plane (another 600 mi). We then took a bus inland to some enormous glacier fields. From there we bused to Punta Arenas on the Straights of Magellan which is less than 200 mi from Cape Horn. It was very cold and windy, no sailboats, only a few commercial fishing boats and a few naval ships as the military presence is very strong in this part of the world.

We then bused to Puerto Natales where we made connections to go into a fantastic National Park (Torres del Paine) in the Andes for 5 days. We can't even begin to tell you how rugged, majestic, and beautiful the scenery was. We stayed in "refugios" which are primitive buildings with only a mattress (we rented sleeping bags in Puerto Natales) and there was no electricity or heat. It is late winter/early spring here. It got very cold at night, we wore everything we had. The 3rd day was really miserable as a storm passed through. It has very high winds, lots of rain which later turned to snow. We had to hike in 2 hours to the refugio and 2 hours back on a muddy trail.

We are presently waiting for the next leg of our trip which is to travel 800 miles north through the fjords of Chile on a tramp-steamer to Puerto Mantt. We leave on Wednesday and arrive Sunday night. The scenery through the fjords is reported to be spectacular.

We are finding it a bit of a challenge to travel in a foreign country where we don't know the language. Making bus connections, finding hotels, etc has lead to some interesting experiences. We are learning more Spanish each day and I am glad I studied what I did in the weeks before we left. It helps but certainly is not enough as most places we visit are remote and no one speaks English.

-- Bonnie

45) Fax from Santiago, Chile, 10-2-98

The trip through the Chilean fjords was fantastic. 800 miles of magnificent scenery with rugged, jagged snow-capped mountains and sometimes very narrow channels. On one of the days we went through a snowstorm with 40 knot winds and decided this is not a trip we ever want to take in a sailboat. We were unable to take the regular boat as it was in for repairs. We ended up on a smaller boat which was really a tramp steamer. The regular boat took 200 passengers, this one took 20.

Although the scenery was pretty grand, there is nothing romantic about being on a tramp steamer. We had 3 trucks jam-packed with sheep, 1 truck with cattle, and 1 truck full of horses. Some of the sheep didn't make it. Fortunately, they were all down below and our quarters above. We were also fortunate to have the only private cabin which measured 6 feet by 7 feet including the area for bunks. The other passenger cabins were dormitory style with 4 and 8 bunks. It was a slow trip because one of the engines quit and we were only able to make 7.5 - 9 knots as opposed to 14 knots. the trip took us an extra day which was fine with us. The hydraulic steering went out 2 hours from the port, there was no back up system. There was a bit of a panic as all the crew went down into the engine room and the passengers were left topside to speculate. We think it was the cook that actually fixed the steering.

Because there were so few passengers on board and they found out we had sailed our own boat down from the U.S. to Venezuela, we were allowed on the bridge whenever we wanted and for me that was most of the time. Interestingly, they don't use GPS much even though they have it on board. They primarily use radar for navigation, GPS is only for position fixing according to them. The captain and I became "buddies" and he taught me a couple neat navigation tricks.

Another interesting trip was a 2 day bus trip we took through the lakes and mountain passes from Puerto Montt, Chile east to Bariloche, Argentina. Once again, the scenery was absolutely fantastic with high snow covered mountains all around. We had the opportunity to do some hiking on this trip through the forest and up to some pretty large waterfalls and pristine lakes up in the mountains. The trip back into Chile by bus through the mountains was equally beautiful, very rugged and a very remote border crossing.

We then continued to travel north through Chile by bus visiting one small town after another in Chile's beautiful lake district always in the shadow of the Andes. Some of the volcanos there are active. In Pucan, we stayed at the base of one of those volcanos which was smoking. We got to do some more hiking through the forest here and probably one of the most exciting things we have ever done - white water rafting!

Since we have never done this before we were scheduled to go on the easier/lower rapids. No one else signed up for the easy trip and so our only chance was to go with a group of youngsters to the alto/high rapids. No knowing what we were getting into, we went. They provided everything including wet suits, boots, overshirt, life jacket, and helmets. We were 1 hour 45 minutes on the water, most of it whitewater rapids. Apparently they grade rapids 2 to 5 with 5 being the worst and only for experts. Our rapids were all 4's with one 4+. This was not a passive experience! We were all given paddles and a 15 minute lesson on what to do, commands, what to do if someone goes overboard, etc. The trip was exhilarating to say the least. On some of the falls we went down, I was sure we were going to flip. Many times we were completely under water, when we came to the top there was only 4-5 inches of water in the inflatable which had some kind of self bailing mechanism. All-in-all it was quite an experience. Tomorrow we fly to Quito, Ecuador for the last leg of the trip. One of the things we'll be doing is a jungle river trip for 4 days.

-- Bonnie

46) Fax from Trinidad, 10-30-98

We made it back to Trinidad. I really hate going to weather against the trades and a 2 knot current to boot. We worked hard for every mile of easting.

When we got back from our tour of South America, the engine would not turn over. We were facing a complete overhaul when a fellow cruiser looked at it and freed it. It is working great now.

We will be back in the states from just before Thanksgiving to after New Year's.

-- Bonnie

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