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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

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