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Anthem Adrift
Rocking to Roques
11/12/2009, Isla Tortuga, Venezuela

Departing from Puerto La Cruz

November 12

Finally broke free of Puerta La Cruz at 0430, Chavez standard time (0400 EST), headed to Tortuga for the night. Anticipate overnight tomorrow sail (sail, he said emphatically) to El Gran Roque. Don't know how long there, but also plan stop in Aves, last Venezuelan islands before Bonaire.

Terrific sail for a couple of hours once out of Bahia de Pozuelos and past Isla Chimana, then, for rest of morning endured growl of iron brute as wind got lazy. Since this was a long day passage, wanted to assure approaching anchorage in good light. At least water maker and most rechargeables are happy. After noon, had proceeded sufficiently to allow flopping around for while at 2 to 3 knots, then wind returned enough to keep the beast quiet all the way to anchorage. Had planned Cayo Herraduro, the most favored, but from two miles out it looked like a stick convention, so stopped short behind Los Palanquinos reef with one other. Confidence in technology soars as electronic chart has boat sitting on top of coral.

Prefer sailing on the wind, beam or forward, up to a certain point. Downwind, unless helped along by plenty of breeze, can be steamy and rolly. If "Gentlemen Never Sail to Weather", they must be a rather stinky lot. Fortunately, on this boat, solo, hurling doesn't contribute to any malodorousness above that mostly averted by Dry Idea.

Jack

Think Again
11/11/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Map of Venezuela

November 11

Start the countdown. In a mere two years from today, for the first time in a century, the date, in format mm/dd/yy, will consist of all the same digits. Since you may not notice the next one, you should, for the next 730 days, prepare to party like there's no (11/12/11) tomorrow.

One trick to buying diesel and gas at 1 mille por litre (about $.80/gal., many times the local rate) is finding someone at the pump. It's a(n) hit or miss affair. Running a business is apparently not a well understood concept in this country. Not much to do today, so periodically dinking over seemed like a great way to fill up the calendar. Eventually had a taxi man, Carlos, take jugs to fuel station. Same price, plus he delivers and makes a tidy profit.

Finally finished Dominican coffee to start on vacuum packed Starbucks brought from home. Many friends rave about the DR stuff, but it just doesn't reach down and grab you by the short hairs like Seattle's better than Best. Makes the arduous trek each morning from V-berth to galley worth undertaking.

Occurs to me that the human ability to adapt and prosper in difficult situations, while enabling mankind to progress, is also responsible for the ability of oppressive and destructive governments to persist until the roots of a society are eroded so badly that the structure collapses. Thinkers, creators and producers enable tyrants.

Jack

Triple Threat
11/10/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Isla Paraiso, El Morro Complex

November 10

Previous meager opinion of Venezuelan people, however ill conceived, has taken a gratifying leap forward today with return of expensive, favorite sunglasses. Left them hanging in bano stall this morning after engaging in personal hygiene and before cleaning senoras arrived. ("Yes, Dear, you are absolutely correct and, if I may call on your forebearance the next time we speak, it will be redundant to issue a speech that, after 34 years of marriage, I have by memory - see, I do still have one"). Marina office said they would check. Fifteen minutes later a dock guy came by to return them.

Also, in a spirit of full disclosure, the English expat who runs a little food market at Bahia Redonda informed me that eggs were a thousand. Huh!? Each!? Oh, yeah, old bolivars. Immediately clicked that gasolina guy, yesterday, was quoting price in old Bs per liter, rather than new Bs for 60 liters. Oops! My comprende was compromised, but since departure papers will not be ready until tomorrow tarde (and I so want to do right by Hugo), have a chance to go back and correct that little snafu. By the way, how many non-military out there know the accurate words to that acronym? Hint, knucklehead begins with a "K".

One last mea culpa. Laundry lady had to take her daughter to the hospital and inexperienced, but trying-to-be-helpful, girl left in charge couldn't cope. Laundry is now clean and jammed into various lockers, eager to once more collect dirt, dinge and detritus.

Except for papers and fuel, systems are go for lift-off Thursday AM. With a little knowledge of what is occurring in this country, plan to be more attentive to its dissolution... er progress. Glad I came, met nice people, won't be back.

Jack

A Land of Promise
11/09/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Pueblo Viejo, El Morro Complex

November 9

Spanish vocabulary has tripled since Thursday and, yet, cluelessness reigns. Greatest proficiency occurs during complimentary exercises of ordering a beer and finding the bathroom. Have met long-time, seasonal, resident gringos who no hablo Espanol. Have no idea how they get along as few locals, even those performing work at the marina, habla Ingles... at all.

Have no recollection of ever hearing a Venezuelan talk on the VHF radio. Every transmission is shouted in full voice with great enthusiasm. Often the same words over and over and over. Maintain some curiousity as to what's being said, but suspect it would not be terribly instructive. As an advocate of having a passion in one's life, dislike to complain, but prefer a more muted expression. ('muted passion' - oxymoron? See unlikely-to-be-written monographs: "Passion vs. A Passion" or "Conflating Disparate Ideas into a Single Word, From Big Bang to Now")

Snapshots of day: First, took jerry cans via dinghy to fuel dock for 10 gals. diesel, 5 gas. A local, who arrived just prior, a quardia, who arrived just after, and I loitered with an employee and a fifth guy for 30 min. awaiting man with key who then loitered with us, between asking details on how much fuel was wanted and location of boat, for another 15 before explaining that 60 liters of fuel, previously 60 Bs would now cost 1000. Second, retrieved VHF when electronics technician who was to check it out Friday, then this morning, then this afternoon, might get to it manana por la manana. Third, returned as advised for clean laundry at 1600. Re-returned at 1700 for new advice to expect it at 1000 tomorrow. No mention will be made of breakfast or unfilled Scuba tank.

Inclination to leave grows as there is little to do except shop (sound of loud buzzer), work on boat or work/play on computer. If laundry materializes (pun intended? You decide) and departure papers are completed will not slam the door as I skedaddle at 0-dark hundred Wednesday.

Jack

Lacking Packing
11/08/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Mossberg 500 Cruiser

November 8

Met a very nice woman aboard S/V Chill after arrival. She was helpful in answering questions about the marina and general area. We discussed the current market for boats (her Beneteau carries a 'for sale' sign) and our respective plans. Discovered last night at dinner that a year ago, today, her husband was murdered and the husband of couple from accompanying boat was wounded in an unprovoked attack as they lay anchored at a nearby island staging for Tortuga. The three survivors were saved thanks to aggressive use by the wounded man of a shotgun carried aboard I'Lean, the boat on which they were having sundowners. VHF calls for help to Guardacostas were relayed to them by a civilian in the next door marina. They showed up an hour later in a borrowed boat. Rethinking current policy to go unarmed.

After a morning of diddling with one thing and another reluctantly levered torpid carcass free of boat by mid-afternoon to search for early dinner. Made a low pass, to say hi, by dominoes game where day would have been better spent, before strapping on trusty inflatable headed to Maremares Marina and Hotel, closest spot to restaurants near Caribbean Mall. Burrito and dos cervezas were good, but not quite the Texmex expected from sign. Most other choices were Japanese or Italian (they seem enthralled with sushi and pizza). As added enticement to visit, mall has huge Vegas style bingo parlor complete with large billboard and flashing lights. Is there a Spanish word that winners yell out? Guess not.

Appear primed to stay until Wednesday morning. Subsequent to soupcon of ciphering, figured that expenditures for clearing in and out with agent (almost a third of total), 6 day's marina fees, fuel, groceries, refilling Scuba tank and dining (last three days) will be around $300. Not excessively egregious.

Jack

Rollin' Dem Bones
11/07/2009, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

El Morro from Bahia Redonda

November 7

Own a few Swiss Army knives which are loved even better than Leatherman (not a gay super hero). Just discovered that one can buy a model with "87 precision engineered tools spanning 112 functions". It's 8 3/4" wide, weighs 2 3/4 lbs. and can be found at Hammacher Schlemmer for only $1400. It is monumentally unwieldy and entirely unusable. Gift wrapping adds $6.95. Shipment to Cartagena for Christmas would also be extra.

Met a couple, Jim & Jenny, at the flea market this morning who are selling their 52' Jefferson (?) power cruiser for move to South Carolina mountains (yes, it has some) because wife's new hips no longer approve of boating. Invited me to their house this evening for pasta (created by 'former Italian', he says (don't think he's allowed back there for some reason), retired radiologist Joe on Tayana 55) and four way Mississippi Marbles, a dice game that relies on luck and enough skill to maintain attention. Fewer moving parts than Mexican train dominoes (which is scheduled at marina tomorrow) and just as fun. Experience evidences that pleasure may still be derived while losing ignominiously. Following beer and rum, Jim plied me with ginger brandy - interesting, but not in top one hundred or so favorites.

As indolent lifestyle has led to diminishing mental acuity, will now away to repose for more of same tomorrow.

Jack

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

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S/V Anthem
Who: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
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