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Anthem Adrift
Old, New and Perpetual
11/06/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Desayuno at Bahia Redonda

November 6

Spent a glamorous and glorious day doing what every potential cruising sailor dreams about for when he can finally cut the lines, say goodbye to everyday woe and head out to far and exotic destinations. Reorganized the boat! Cleaned out lockers to locate tools, hardware and those innumerable little items that are collected over the course of time, which may or may not be critical to that next project, breakdown or emergency, for placement in boxes, jars and other containers allowing (theoretically) easy recovery when needed. Whatever good the intention (OK, this refers most specifically to me), stuff gets disorganized before the previous organization is even complete. There is, in fact, on this vessel, a jar for collecting bits and pieces that either have no proper place or cannot easily be returned to it. Does this help?... No! (and other more expressive phrases). Have tried writing lists to locate important items. Neither keep them up to date nor read them when appropriate. Admit to being hopelessly forgetful and incorrigibly lazy. Bad combination. Have carried a pocket DayTimer calendar for 35 years, with meager success, to partially replace truant memory. However, hope triumphs over experience, so the exercise continues.

Besides death of Icom VHF Commandmic II remote, radio itself, while sustaining reception, has elected to eschew further effort at transmitting. Left both with Senior Gonzalez's helper, who speaks cero Ingles as does he, for examination and, dare we hope, repair. Expectation to hear something today remained unrewarded. Monday? Old Standard Horizon spare saves the day. Also, battery charger does not charge battery (as name implies, this is an expected and often useful function). Voltage and frequency indicate within limits and control panel declares, unambiguously, that unit is working, but is shamelessly lying. Hope that Dutch (Bonaire) electricity creates a more conducive environment.

Discovered a coin with '12' on it. How much is it worth? Apparently (this from my clear-in agent, Alejandra, who gives them away as too confusing), they are 'old' bolivar and worth 1/8th of a 'new' bolivar. Old paper is gone (it is averred confidently), but moribund coin remains. Previous coins designated 500 (Bs as locals call them) equals 50 centimes or half a new B (newbie?). One US dollar can officially purchase 2.15 Bsf (f as in fuerte, i.e. strong bolivar), but actual ratio varies between 4.9 and 5.4 to 1. Banks and ATMs give official exchange. Everyone else transacts at the unofficial but closely monitored and used rate. See, that was easy.

Jack

Less is More
11/05/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Lizzie

November 5

Breeze built all night to seventeen knots by dawn for beautiful 6.5 to 7 knot passage across west-bound prevailing current, then fell as sun rose. Motored last two hours, dodging ferries and such (including Lizzie, at 365 and 35, length and width, rather petite for a tanker), to arrive Bahia Redonda Marina at 0900. As it has stern-to dockage, worked out all permutations of action based on wind direction and availability of assistance to perform this feat solo in a full keel boat without bow thruster. Rousting normally dormant synapses was no doubt critical in being given an easy port side tie. There's an immutable law of nature involved.

Most locals are nearly as fluent in English as I am in Espanol. This would be a better thing had someone applied himself more rigorously to Rosetta Stone. It's working out pretty well so far.

Initially gave consideration to visiting Angel Falls. Three day trip, alone, at cost of over half a boat buck caused that good idea to be de-thunk. Plan B calls for laying about in a semi-conscious stupor. Hard to go wrong at $12 a day.

El Morro Complex is Venice with wide canals and new architecture. Huge. Nice. Drove the dink longest corner to corner (almost two crow miles if he had nothing better to do; speed-limited butterfly miles by boat) to reconnoiter and obtain Chinese seafood fried rice and cerveza.

Tomorrow, less of same.

Jack

Locating Wisdom
11/04/2009, En Route to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Americano Bay, Blanquilla

November 4

Since asea again, have missed wifi for looking up Google Earth location on blog. "So that's where I am. Cool!" Of course, I'm pretty often, reasonably sure of general location and internet is, after all, useful for other stuff, too. It's sad when roughing it means no world wide web.

Still no sign of guardacostas. "Q" flag flying German boat of three days residence has not seen hide nor hair of them, either. Either they're waiting for a sufficiently large fleet to justify the effort in motoring around the corner or they just don't give a large stinky one. I'm going with that second thing.

-Later

After due (doodoo?) consideration and realizing that arrival in ABCs before end of month not imperative, have decided to visit Venezuela mainland. It's just over there a bit. Besides, might get to meet Presidente Chavez. We could talk, work out some kinks between our countries. I might say, "Ooogo, amigo (a little Spanish lingo to loosen him up), let's ease up on that saber rattling, satan stinking crap, OK? What's it getting you? I don't want to talk out of school, compadre, but your citizens hate you (well the smart ones, anyway) and the world thinks you're a buffoon. No offense, but you have an opportunity here. Read a little Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand. Talk it, you don't have to do it. Come on comrade, meet us half way. I mean, we have a wise and tolerant president now who isn't prejudiced against pretentious commie dictators and holocaust denying terrorists like that other guy. We can be friends, buddies, uh-mee- goes." So, waddayathink? Yes!!!

Another beautiful night as two-days-past-full moon is still hiding behind a cloudy horizon. The Milky Way shimmers, a million stars flicker and Saturn points the way southwest toward South America.

Jack

Three Squares and a Cot
11/03/2009, Playa Yaque, Blanquilla, Venezuela

Playa Yaque, Blanquilla

November 3

Just after 1000, arrived abeam guardacostas installation on Blanquilla for check- in. After radio discussion with Night Hawk, who along with two other boats had not done so the previous day, decided to eschew that aggravation and continue around to Playa Yaque, west side anchorage. They left a few hours later for Los Roques after only one night, presumably not to avoid Venezuelan prisons which are probably quite nice.

Tacked downwind until 0400 when wind became too light without nudge from Westerbeke. Finally furled sails when flogging disallowed snooze had that been occurring. Except for encumbering racket during last six hours and short rain shower, passage was tolerably pleasant. With anchor securely planted, indulged in practice nap preparation for real thing later.

Supped on special salad recovered from marginal lettuce (limited supply at Chaguaramas Hi-LO) and special chicken/rice concoction. Special, in this instance, meaning different vice extraordinary. Good help is hard to find.

After ample rest, plan additional progress west, either tomorrow afternoon or early Thursday, reference destination. Tortuga is 67 NM with good angle for sail, Los Roques nearly twice that and most likely downwind. Foolishly expect weather weasel forecast to help with decision.

Jack

A Night at Sea
11/02/2009, Northeast of Isla de Margarita, Venezuela

Small Red Grouper

November 2

Awoke early for SSB weather, hope-to-make-it-a-habit exercise and breakfast (cereal to finish off rapidly ripening bananas). Scrubbed grunge from lifelines, recovered piles of sand and dust hippos from sole (not soul, Cal. It's the floor of the saloon (i.e. cabin, not a bar, except sometimes)) and spent balance of morning tediously picking out diminutive pebbles from razor cut soles (this one refers to boat sandal bottoms). Soles are clean; soul... well.

Besandwiched (not a real word) a little grouper caught for lunch, then continued various projects to improve (as if) below-decks arrangement. Also recommissioned watermaker and put additional markings on anchor chain. By departure time swell plus surface chop made retrieving motor and dinghy an adventure. Ten to twelve knot wind is, unfortunately, headed same direction as Anthem, so tacked north of rhumb for quieter, better ride. Speed over ground with following current, a tolerable 6 to 6.5.

Harvest moon is brilliant. Light sparkles off black water out to a sharply defined, encircling horizon. Milky Way and lesser stars are washed out, but one bright beacon (not red or close to western horizon, so probably Saturn) almost competes. Anthem's motion is busy, yet mostly gentle as swells roll under her transom and past, except occasionally when caught out of phase with the sea, she waggles like a duck shakes water from its tail before settling back into rhythm.

Jack

Drifting Along, No Tumbleweed
11/01/2009, N. Observation Bay, Testigo, Venezuela

Red Grouper

November 1

Late start to easy day of minor maintenance and moderate arranging (will engage in real organization after gaining that capability in next life) interrupted by blackened strawberry grouper lunch, freshly caught by Ray & Genna. They left shortly thereafter for Blanquilla as wind picked up. Expect, as last night, that it won't last, but forecast is for even less tomorrow. Initiation of long period, six foot, north swell, this evening, will not adversely effect sailing, but may make this anchorage a smidge rolly.

Magically, boat speed and depth have leaped to action following installation of transducers. Who knew it would be so easy? Interior of boat is now navigable after removing most flotsam, heretofore awash in saloon, to hiding places that will, of course, prevent rediscovery when needed at some future date.

Tomorrow will consist in much the same activity, plus, possibly, stalking the illusive grouper as was done by others so successfully today. Anticipate afternoon departure (guardacostas limit stay to two days without clearing customs on mainland or Margarita) to possibly catch up with Night Hawks in Blanquilla. After that, crystal ball only shows Santa with swirling snow (probably using wrong ball), but future landfall likely to be either Tortuga or Los Roques.

Speaking of Santa, if you think Wal-Mart jumps the gun, Trinidad was, by my observation, rife with Christmas music (and decoration) since at least 15 October. Oh sure, there's the Christian thing, but I really think, based on song choice, it's the snow angle that gets 'em.

Jack

Trick or Treat
11/01/2009, N. Observation Bay, Testigo, Venezuela

October 31

Arrived on anchor in N. Observation Bay, Testigo Grande at noon. Napped. Accompanied by Night Hawks checked in with guardacostas at 1400. Napped. Repaired to previously mentioned vessel for modest (quantity not quality) rum tasting. Asleep by 2100. Left pumpkin uncarved and light off so no costumed munchkins would ring doorbell.

Jack

Testigos, Spanish for Knackers?
10/31/2009, North of Peninsula De Paria, Venezuela

Ray, Genna, Trish, Sonny, Blake, Robert - Roti Hut

October 30

Anticipating noon at the Roti Hut to say goodbye to Bristol Rose and Slow Mocean, went with bowl of cereal for breakfast. Ordered Raisin Bran with cold milk (warm is an option). Got granola and a glass with rapidly melting ice bits in warm milk. Waitress is a pretty girl, but a couple heifers short of a herd.

Except for lunch (mediocre food day as duck buss-up shot could have been aardvark for all I knew due to mistake of requesting pepper) can't recall any indolence in preparations for putting to sea, but customs mandated departure time, 1800, left without me. Finally slipped (pun intended) out undetected at 1945 to begin an unexpectedly wonderful sail until midnight when the wind became poopy (archaic nautical term once used to mean 'light wind with sloppy following sea') as forecast.

Was aggrieved to discover that both boat speed and depth instruments were inoperative. This was very frustrating atop death of cockpit VHF mike. Electronics are evil. Of course, one possible fix might be to reinstall respective transducers which were removed for storage. May try that before engaging in more rigorous troubleshooting.

Have not been boarded and killed, yet, by marauding Venezuelan pirates. As it is now after midnight, trust that it's past their nappy time.

Jack

Dashing for Decadence
10/29/2009, Crew's Inn, Chaguaramas

Too Much Chaguaramas

October 29

Varnishing - close, but no cigar. Probably done tomorrow... honest. May still try to break the shackles of Trinidad by nightfall, which could allow arrival Los Testigos, Venezuela with a fair current and no wind around noon. Really should begin to research points west, but then where would lie the adventure?

Mostly accomplished necessities for the day, that is, found a DVD player that works and, uh, some other stuff - fuel, bending on headsail, buying bits and pieces and discovering that replacement, in a day, of freshly inoperative remote VHF mike not possible - new version not backward compatible (like Windows 7 for you Gatesian reprobates).

Moving about Port of Spain is like bumper cars without bumps. Horns honk, vehicles veer, pedestrians pedest. How they interact without gristle and viscera splattering pavement is a mystery. Speaking of which, had daily special (6" Black Forest ham) at downtown Subway (exactly the same except no honey mustard dressing and they charge extra for honey oat bread) as primary nourishment of the day.

How can cruising the Caribbean be so busy? Oh wait, that isn't happening, yet. Perhaps this twaddle will achieve more vigor with augmented leisure after leaving Chaguaramas.

Jack

Getting What You Want
10/28/2009, Crew's Inn, Chaguaramas

More Chaguaramas Bay

October 28

Rain again bedeviled varnisher, Fred Graham, who yet performs yeoman service making Anthem look presentable and persists in predicting a Thursday finish. C'est demain. C'est possible? Just on the edge of likelihood to blow this pop stand on Friday evening for overnight to, probably, Los Testigos or, possibly, Grenada. Forecast not favorable for westing next several days (a following sea and no wind). She sucks when the wind, she don't blow.

Incredibly cheap Coby DVD player resists all entreaties (tried good cop and bad cop) to operate or even make disk go around, so contemplate purchase of replacement before bidding a fond farewell to civilization until Bonaire or possibly Curacao. Los Testigos, Blanquilla and Los Roques likely have minimal facilities. Reading a guide might be instructive. May do that sometime.

Wine tasting at Apadoca liquor store 5 o'clock and dinner at Sail restaurant afterward with several friends rounded out a plausibly well-spent day. Tomorrow could be even better if stars align, creek don't rise and wandering mind can maintain focus. Friday, before departure if it happens, will consist in putting all the bits that make this thing a 'sail' boat in proper place, including, as it happens and you may not be astounded to hear, sails.

"The trick in life isn't getting what you want, my dear, it's wanting it after you get it." - Katherine Hepburn as grandmother Janou in Love Affair

Jack

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