Buchiyaco, Los Roques
10 February 2008 | Los Roques
We made a fairly early start of it this morning in order to reach the southeast reef entrance at Los Roques in decent light, a trip of about 85 nautical miles. Exiting the anchorage at Cayo Herradura and heading west puts you almost immediately into deep water. The wind was nice, up in the high teens, but the sky was a little gloomy with stratus and scattered cumulus all around. No rain though so the crew was happy.
Shortly after getting into the open water we were joined by a large pack of Tucuxi dolphins. These guys are smaller but very athletic. They inhabit the waters along the northern edge of South America but also have a fresh water flavor that can be found well up the rivers of Venezuela. Very entertaining as mammals go.
We continued on with about 80% cloud cover running an engine to keep the speed over 10 knots. The seas were up in the 8-10 foot zone and fairly steep but sailing down wind made the conditions reasonable. We have greatly enjoyed the down wind sailing since Grenada. Having beat to windward on nearly every passage since we left Fort Lauderdale has made us all that more appreciative.
The passage was fairly event free. As we neared Los Roques we noticed a continuous stream of cumulus clouds marching like a train south west from what seemed to be La Orchilla. It was unbroken and clear on both sides. Certainly the most distinctive cloud formation I've ever seen.
We were approaching the reef by four in the afternoon. El Gran Roque is the only island you can really make out from any distance as the entirety of Los Roques is otherwise right on the water (or just under it!). We came in on a waypoint I had set but we very cautious with this because our electronic charts don't match reality in this part of the world. Everything on the Navionics charts seems to be plotted a bit north of its actual position with some other noise in the equation to boot.
This entrance is a little exciting your first time in. The light is also not optimal in the afternoon as the sun is in front of you and not overhead. The entrance is fairly wide however so if you can make out the limit of one side you are in good shape. There is a wreck on the northern part of the reef but it is too far north to be of navigational assistance in entering the reef complex. The south extent of the reef has a lighthouse and you can follow the rocks and breaking waves north from there. By making the northern most extent of the southern reef and then adding half of the width of the entrance you can fairly safely make you way into the channel. It is rugged getting in with big seas but you get the benefit of seeing the seas breaking on the submerged rocks.
After zig zagging on our way in a bit we had a good enough picture of the entrance zone to clear the reef safely. Once in we turned north around the back of the outer reef but close in to the middle reef where the deeper water is. We dropped sail and motored a ways up behind the outer reef.
The entire area is spectacular. Los Roques was quickly becoming one of the most impressive places we'd been in the Caribbean. The water is electric blue with reefs everywhere, but thankfully clearly visible in good light. The central area of Los Roques is low and covered in mangroves. We saw a lone fisherman wrestling with Bonefish in the flats. You could have quite a time exploring the channels through the mangroves with a dinghy or kayak.
There is a solitary small mangrove island on the outer reef called Buchiyaco. The southwest side of the island is a popular anchorage for new arrivals or those looking to head east early the next day. The charts report various rocks and shoals but we found the main anchorage to be fairly open with the exception of a 7 foot area smack dab in the middle of the main anchoring area.
The Rocna set quickly and the holding seemed to be good. Everyone stretched out on deck to relax from the rigors of the crossing. The view out onto the breaking reef was fantastic. We could all tell that this is one of those places you'd like to spend a couple of weeks exploring. Hideko made a wonderful dinner and we all settled down to a lovely nights sleep with the surf lulling us to sleep.