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S/V Tiger Lilly
Rig heavy, reef early, and pray often; for God does not assure us an easy passage, but He does promise a safe anchorage...
TIGER LILLY's FRIEND - Captain Leroy "TURK" Thomas
cool and wet
13/10/2010, St. Michaels, MD

I noticed this fellow early one crisp October morning as I sipped a cup of Earl Grey, and contemplated my day from the cockpit of S/V Tiger Lilly. It was a delightful Chesapeake dawn; the soft pumpkin hued orb in the east was just beginning to cast a glow on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the morning stars were still bright and clear overhead, and rivulets of dew resolutely worked their way across the camber of the cabin top. The blush of first light was gently awaking the sleepy harbor of St. Michaels. Resident mallards were making their first round of the anchorage as they quacked and paddled from boat to boat looking for a handout. Overhead, a flock of big Canadian geese noisily winged their way north to a Wye River cornfield and breakfast. A large sailing yacht worked her way off the dock over at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, but as she made her turn towards the outer harbor the skipper had to heave-to and wait as the local waterman I had been observing worked his trot-line for blue crabs - right down the center of the fairway...
His vessel was a classic Chesapeake Bay jaunty-bowed workboat. The squint of her windshield communicated a sense of weatherlyness, her scarred sides bore testimony to many years of pullin' crab pots and dreggin' for oysters, and the raked dual exhaust stacks announced with a throaty rumble that this old diesel had all the gumption it needed. Although the vessel was a typical bay workboat, the waterman working her was unusual in that he was an elderly black man, when most of the Eastern Shore's watermen were white and middle aged. Even from a distance, his powerful frame and broad smile projected a sense of purpose and character as he simultaneously worked his rudder stick, engine throttle, and dip net with the practiced skill of a competent man happy in his work. As the trot-line rode up and over the idler sheave just aft of the cockpit steering station, dangling blue crabs were effortlessly flipped into a waiting sorting bin with a graceful sweep of his dip net - and another one of Michener's "beautiful swimmers" was on the way to market. It was a skillfully choreographed operation, deceptive in its simplicity. The trot-line laid on the bottom for some 300 yards, and was marked with a pick-up buoy on each end. He overhauled the line and collected the tenacious crustaceans, disengaged out at the far buoy, and sorted his catch as he ran free back to the start; each iteration of this process took about half an hour.
Although the day had dawned clear and bright, by nine-o-clock a front cloaked the Eastern Shore with dense cloud cover, and it began to drizzle a cool autumn rain. When Lilly emerged from the warm cabin below, ready for her morning row around the harbor, I pointed out the man I had been studying with my mug of tea and remarked "I'll bet that fellow is some character." She agreed, and told me that she noticed him yesterday morning, inquired at the Crab Claw, and they told her that his name was Turk. Hmmm. I told Lilly that based on my experience on the waterfront, "He did not get that handle over at the AME Baptist Sunday School..." Lilly allowed as to how she was going to row right over and meet her first Chesapeake Bay waterman, and "see what Captain Turk was all about." Lilly has yet to meet the person she cannot befriend, and her mission in life is to usually do just that - but let's let Lilly tell the story of Captain Turk herself...
As I pulled on the dink's oars, the grip of the cool wooden handles and the tang of the brisk morning air brought me alive; the exercise felt soooo good. Our dink rows like a dream, and with the light rain encouraging me on, she just skipped across the harbor to Turk's workboat, the Doris N. At first, I just sat back and watched this vigorous man work, and then I took out my camera and started snapping some pictures. The wind was slack and the water calm, and I edged in pretty close as we waved to one another. Yesterday I had seen this interesting looking man working his boat in the harbor, and I stopped by the Crab Claw Restaurant and asked Terry, the chief cook and dock master, about the black gentleman who crabbed every morning in St. Michaels Harbor. Terry told me that his name was Turk, he was a regular character around St. Michaels, and that he had been working these waters for as long as anybody could remember. As the Doris N. passed by, I waved and shouted out, "Hey Turk! Could I come on board with you and learn how you catch crabs?" He smiled and said in a kindly way, "Come on!" and I slid my dinghy alongside. I handed up my bow painter to him, and he said, "I'll take that, you just get on in." As I scrambled up the side, he quipped, "This here is a first, no one has ever asked to come aboard my boat." As I watched him figure-eight my painter to a cleat on his stern, I could see that here was a man who knew a lot about boats. His powerful calloused hands worked automatically, and he never took his eye off the trot-line. I thought of how Tom had been teaching me the knots I needed to sail Tiger Lilly, and Turk's skill and speed at making up my painter was one more reminder that I had a long way to go.
As soon as I boarded his boat, I began snapping pictures and asking questions. Captain Turk asked me if I was a reporter, and I told him, "No, I am just a curious woman sailing the Chesapeake for the first time, and I want to learn about crabbing." I told him that I thought that "Turk" was probably a nickname, and asked him what was his real name. He seemed caught off guard by my comment, he looked at me and reflected for a moment, and then quietly said, "That is the only name that anyone has ever called me around these waters." Then he shyly told me that his real name was Leroy, Leroy Thomas, and I told him that I would like to call him Leroy - if that was okay. He smiled and said that he would like that. When Turk found out that I wasn't one of those" rich city women," we just seemed to hit it off, and I had a new friend. As he worked, we talked about hard work, his boat, and his family.
I felt very secure in Leroy's presence, he treated me as an equal, and we enjoyed the morning together as we talked and he crabbed. Over the course of an hour or so, here is what I learned about Captain Leroy Thomas: He is 76 years old, and has been working on the water since he was a young boy. He married his wife Miss Doris when he was 19, and they have been together for all of these past 57 years. In the old days, Doris would come out and work with him, but now her health does not allow it. They have five sons, and they have put every one of them through college by his work as a waterman - what an accomplishment! He and Miss Doris still live in the same "tight" five-room home after all of these years, and he is so proud that one of his sons has a home with twelve rooms.
Turk seemed happy that I was interested in his profession, and was eager to tell me about his work. When he was younger he crabbed in the summer, and oystered in the winter - but now he leaves that oysterin to the younger men. He said, "Crabbing used to be a lot better, but there just ain't as many crabs anymore. In the good-old-days five or six would be on each lip, but today yur lucky to see one every other - and often they are too small to take..." The trot-line was baited with pieces of bull lip, each on its own short stringer at intervals of about four to five feet; each evening Turk overhauls his trot-line and replaces lost or worn baits in preparation for his next day's work. He starts very early in the morning, well before the sun comes up, and he works every day - at a station in life when many younger men in softer professions are retired... Turk accounted for his active lifestyle quite succinctly, "I just don't want to sit around and do nothing." The Doris N. is a neat and well organized vessel - and Captain Leroy is proud that he owns his own boat free and clear. Like working men all over America, he drinks his coffee from a small, chipped, Thermos, and each day Miss Doris packs his lunch in a stained Styrofoam cooler.
Everything about the workboat Doris N. and the rugged man who works her, gave off a sense of being well-used, well-kept, and balanced. Leroy "Turk" Thomas seems to be in harmony with himself, his environment, and the world. I told Turk that he looked kind of familiar to me, and he asked me if we had been to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum - and then I remembered that he was featured in one of the museum's watermen exhibits that I had just seen. He was a young man of about 30 then, and quite handsome. As we were about half way down the trot-line, Turk turned to me and said, "Lilly, you have just made my day" and my reply to him was, "Leroy, YOU have made MY day!" Oh my gosh! This man's heart was so very kind, and he had a genuine humbleness about him that I wish I could bottle. When I was getting off his boat, I gave Leroy a big hug and told him that I loved him, and that God loved him too. Then he gave me back a great big bear hug, telling me that he loved me. He left me with a beautiful smile that I know will last in my heart for a very long time. Wow, the friends we make cruising...
You can see more pictures of Lilly's visit with Leroy by simply navigating through our PHOTO GALLERY thusly: Ports of Call / USA / Chesapeake Bay / Captain Turk

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TIGER LILLY - Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Cool & Sunny
12/10/2010, St. Michaels, Maryland

After a busy week of hustle and bustle at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, we were ready for a change of pace. Just a day-sail east across the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis is bucolic Eastern Bay, and the historic village of St. Michaels. The crisp and sunny October afternoon found the Chesapeake Bay covered with white sails, and made our crossing over to Maryland's Eastern Shore perfect.

Our principal reason for visiting St. Michaels was to tour the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This outdoor working museum brings the history, heritage, and ecology of the Chesapeake Bay to life. Watermen are the backbone of the Bay, and the restoration of traditional working watercraft is central to the theme and activities of the museum. Touring the museum, and re-reading James Michener's "Chesapeake" has really enhanced our cruising experience on historic Chesapeake Bay.

Cruisers have many of the same practical needs as do "Earth People," so we were happy to see that St. Michaels had a clean laundromat, small town grocery store, and a Unites States Post Office - all within walking distance of the harbor. The Village Council provides yachties a convenient dinghy dock behind the popular Crab Claw Restaurant on the northwest shore of the harbor. The Anglican's friendly church bells remind us of the time, and serenade us with our favorite hymns at noon and evening meals.

During our Sunday evening walk around the village of St. Michaels, we found the homeowners and shop keepers to be quite friendly and easily engaged in conversation. The ambiance of the Colonial and Victorian era charm is unmistakable almost anywhere one looks. The streets are quiet and serene, and we felt completely at ease here in small town USA. As the setting sun's last muted rays filtered through the oaks and elms, we viewed families framed in shuttered windows, gathered around their supper tables, enjoying the warm glow of candlelight and the camaraderie of their fellow diners while taking their evening meal together. This sacred family time brought us back to values too often lost to our busy culture - but still alive in the backwaters of America...

St. Michaels Harbor is quite interesting and busy, and the view from the cockpit of S/V Tiger Lilly is always changing. With the rumble of a pulsating bow-thruster, a visiting sailing yacht (every bit of 65 feet and gleaming from stem to stern) backs away from the dock, then heaves-to and waits while an elderly black waterman in his jaunty-bowed work boat overhauls his trot-line for blue crabs - right down the center of the harbor's fairway. The owner and his party on a huge mega-yacht slips in at sunset for dinner at a local waterfront restaurant, and then leaves early the next morning for points south - including the West Indies. The ubiquitous community of south-bound Mom & Pop cruising sailboats take up their anchorage at the harbor entrance and scurry about purposefully in their dinghies - visiting amongst themselves, running errands, and provisioning ship. At day's end a garrulous flock of big Canadian Geese circle in and splash down in a quiet corner of the harbor; honking their arrival from the Arctic tundra for all to hear, as they migrate south down the Atlantic Flyway. The autumnal panorama before us is ever changing and colorful.

We hope that you get a chance to see St. Michaels for yourself one day, and do not miss the experience of visiting the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum if you do! To see some of the pictures we took at the museum, please navigate our Photo Gallery thusly: Ports of Call / USA / Chesapeake Bay / Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

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12/10/2010 | Doug & Mary Louise Menikheim
Cya tomorrow at the Crab Claw.....Doug & ML
14/10/2010 | Joe and Kaye McCarthy - ex NAVI-GATOR
Jogged our memories of the 5 summers on the Chesapeake- St. Michaels one of our favorite ports and nearby Shaw Bay with it's flock of swans
15/10/2010 | Richard Hood
Tom and Lilly, Brings back great memories of the old stomping grounds. Hope you had a chance to explore the North fork of the Wye! Thanks again for all your help getting us back on track. Safe passage south, looking forward to to seeing you again.
TIGER LILLY - Enchanted Cumberland Island
Hot & humid
30/09/2010, Georgia ICW

Just one half days travel north up the Intracoastal Waterway from the St. John's River is one of the National Park's Service best kept secrets, Cumberland Island National Seashore - truly an enchanted place. Part of our plan to sail north from Jacksonville to the Chesapeake Bay was to stop at Cumberland Island, and stage the boat for sea. Cumberland Sound's outlet to the North Atlantic is a deep channel used by the US Navy's Trident submarine fleet stationed at King's Bay Georgia. As we approached the southeast shore of Cumberland Island, Lilly spotted a herd of wild horses grazing in the emerald hewed salt marsh; these wetlands transition the lagoon of the Sound into the maritime forest of the high interior. We knew right then that both the serene beauty of God's natural world, and the early history of our country was waiting for us on this intriguing island.
Here is a short excerpt from the Park Service's description of this multi faceted eco system:
"Forests so quiet that you could hear yourself breathe, sunlight filtered and diffused through over-arching trees and vines, sounds of small animals scurrying in the underbrush, the gentle splash of water moving through the salt marsh, the courting bellow of the alligator, blinding light on water and sand as you emerge from the shadows of the live oak forest, a standing row of slave cabin chimneys, fallow gardens and crumbling walls of mansions from bygone eras."

One day we plan to go back to this special place and spend more time there. Perhaps we may even get the opportunity to share Cumberland Island with our family and friends.

To see some of the pics we shot at Cumberland Island navigate through our PHOTO GALLERY thusly: PORTS OF CALL / USA / ICW / CUMBERLAND ISLAND.

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30/09/2010 | Jay and Mary Lou
Enjoy Cumberland Is. One of our favorite places on the coast. Get up to Plum Orchard if you have time and duck outside at Brunswick, GA.

Also enjoy the SSCA gam. We won't be there as we're in Newfoundland getting the boat ready for a winter in the frozen North!

Nice beginning to your blog; looking forward to reading it as you travel.
30/09/2010 | Devi & Hunter- Arctic Tern
We will be following you...
30/09/2010 | Peter - Grace
Where are you guys now? Love the blog. Keep it up.
30/09/2010 | Deb
It was lovely hearing from you. Glad you are both enjoying life. Keep in touch.

05/10/2010 | Joyce Barnett
Lill I am so pleased for you and I will be following you and Tom all the way. What a dream come true.
08/10/2010 | Lee Chesnesu
Looks like this neat place escaped Sherman's brutal march to the sea!
10/10/2010 | John Titterton
Great to hear from you! I have bookmarked your blog and will see if we can meet up again for another braai with some SA meat - safe sailing and fair winds - John (The Delivery Guy from South Africa)
Hot & humid
20/08/2010, St. Johns River, Jacksonville, Florida

We are currently working the TO-DO List and planning our cruise up the East Coast from the St. Johns River to Chesapeake Bay. We plan to leave during the second week of September and sail direct to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. We will attend the SSCA GAM, the OCC dinner, and the Annapolis Boat Show. We want to tour Washington DC, and gunkhole the bay. Hope to see you there!

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10/09/2010 | Richard and Lucia
Tom and Lilly, great start to your new blog site. Safe trip north. Looking forward meeting you in Annapolis.
26/09/2010 | Jenia and Michael
Hey Lill and Tom, I just showed Michael this blog, and we love it! Hope to see you soon :)
30/09/2010 | Chet Bowens HT2 john young
Tom thanks for the info on your blog, i will pass it on to joe cooper. i'm sure he knows about it already. happy sailing, be safe, and maybe someday our paths will cross. chet.
30/09/2010 | Tom McMann
Hey there shipmate. Good to hear from you andLilly and knowing you both are doing what you love. It's also good for me to see that you are under supervision. Keep the lines taught, and sail safe. T
10/01/2011 | Chuck and Bonni Morrell
Congrats on tying the knot. Enjoy your blog. We are on Stargazer at Brunswick planning on heading South on or about Jan1 18th .

Met you at a CSY get together in FL years ago.

Chuck Morrell
11/01/2011 | Woody
Was a pleasure meeting both of you and taking your picture. Congrats on the engagement, and the well written account of your Starbucks meeting.
Email me if you need a crew one day-I'd love to spend a day out with you.
TIGER LILLY cruises Eastern Venezuela - Rio Pedernales Pilot
Hot & Humid
09/08/2008, Rio Orinoco Delta, Eastern Venezuela

Pedernales Pilot
Several of the international sailors who explored the Rio Orinoco Delta before S/V Tiger Lilly (previously known as S/V Jean Marie) have contributed to various Orinoco Delta Pilots. These helpful documents are passed down to succeeding generations of cruisers that call at Chaguaramus, Trinidad each year. They can be obtained for a reasonable duplication fee from Jesse James' Members Only Maxi-Taxi Service at his office in the Tropical Marine yard in Chaguaramus. (You do not have to be a member, because there are no members - it is only a name mate...) To all those who have gone before us, and taken the time and effort to write down your notes and pass them on, we say THANK YOU - your cruising notes were quite helpful to us. Here is our contribution:

There are hundreds of cruising sailboats that call at Trinidad each year; mainly during either Hurricane Season (June - November) or Carnival (February or March); but only a relatively few boats explore the Rio Orinoco Delta, just 50 miles across the Gulf of Paria - just a day sail south across the Gulf of Paria. Considering the over-crowded, over-priced, typical Eastern Caribbean port-of-call, it is a mystery to us why so few boats take advantage of exploring a remote yet easily accessible, un-crowded and interesting place like the Rio Orinoco Delta. These pilot notes are provided so that perhaps more folks will give this remote area the serious consideration it deserves as a cruising destination.

Point-of-view is important when deciding just how to use cruising information that someone else put together; especially someone you do not know. Deciding how this information applies to your boat, and your cruising objectives, is important. So to help you sort it out, here is a brief description of our crew and our boat:
Skipper - Tom is a retired US Navy Salvage Officer, and has owned S/V Tiger Lilly (then known as S/V Jean Marie) for 23 years. Tom cruised S/V Tiger Lilly on the Rio Pedernales and the Rio Manamo single-handed for 19 days in July and August 2008, in-company with another single-hander, Tony, aboard his Rival 32 S/V Tarnimara. When in Trinidad, we use the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association at Harts Cut in Carenage Bay as our base of operations.
S/V Tiger Lilly:
1977 CSY 44 walkover
44ft X 13.3ft X 6.9ft - we use 7 feet as our navigational draft (Note: the boat was designed at 6.5ft draft, however like TBS's belt, it has been expanded 3 times in the last 20 years...)
Displacement is approximately 40,000 pounds (she was designed at 37,000 pounds, see above note)
Fuel 160 gallons
Potable water 400 gallons (No water-maker, but we do have a deck rain water catching system)
Engine 60HP naturally aspirated Perkins Prima Diesel
VHF / SSB / GPS / Chart Plotter & Radar with CMAP
Speed Log / Fathometer
Wind Vane Self-Steering Gear / Electric Autopilot
Lofrans Falkon 1500 watt anchor windlass
Primary Anchor: 66 pound Bruce on 200 feet 3/8 chain
Secondary Anchor: 45 pound CQR on chain & nylon double-braid
40 pound Danforth mounted on the utility arch
75 pound Fisherman disassembled and stowed in the bilge
Center cockpit dodger & sun fly
Primary dinghy: 10.5 ft Cape Dory sailor & rowing boat
3.5 hp two-stroke outboard
Back-up dinghy: Achilles SPD-4 rubber ducky

Getting across the Gulf of Paria, making an approach to Boca Pedernales, and then running the Boca up to the Pedernales Village is quite straightforward, and can be accomplished in one very long day. Here are the waypoints we used:
CARBAY 10-39.65N 061-36.67W (Carenage Bay)
BPAPCH 10-05.30N 062-08.30W (Boca Pedernales Approach)
These two waypoints cross the Gulf of Paria from Carenage Bay, Trinidad to Boca Pedernales, Venezuela. (A distance of 46.43 miles at 222 degrees true.)

The approach to Boca Pedernales:
PRECHL 10-03.83N 062-09.17W (Preferred Channel Buoy)
Between BPAPCH and PRECHL we saw no less than 12 feet - corrected to low tide.
PLTENE 10-01.68N 062-11.71W (Platform "ENE" at Punta Tolete)
Boca Pedernales:
These three waypoints - approach / buoy / platform - lay out safe passage of Boca Pedernales in a southwesterly direction between the Middle Ground extending seaward from Isla Cotorra to the west, and the shoal extending seaward from Punta Tolete to the east. Safe water around the shoal to the east is marked by buoys, as shown on the charts - but these buoys were well in the distance as we transited the Boca Pedernales. There is a strong current running WNW out of the Serpents Mouth, and care must be taken not to be set on to the Middle Ground while transiting the Boca Pedernales. The CMAP chart show a 7 foot bar oriented NW-SE crossing Boca Pedernales at the Preferred Channel Buoy location, but we saw no less than 15 feet (corrected to low water) on a direct line between waypoints PRECHL and PLTENE.

Rio Pedernales to Capure:
Once abeam of Platform "ENE" stay on the south side of the river (the Isla Capure side) between the Punta Tolete and Capure. We saw no less than 20 feet (corrected to low water) on this leg.
Note: Between Punta Tolete and the Village of Capure the CMAP charts (using a Furuno chart plotter) showed us aground and ashore in several places, but we were actually quite safe and in 20 feet of water; this was our first notice that the CMAP CHARTS ARE NOT ACCURATE FOR THE RIO ORINOCO DELTA REGION. However, they worked fine for the approach - when we needed them most. Once in the rivers and canos we navigated by fathometer, and watching the banks.

Rio Pedernales Town Anchorage:
Our first anchorage was at 09-58.09N 062-14.7W in 12 feet (corrected for low water) in the Rio Pedernales across the river from the Guardia Costa Station. We stayed over on the east side of the river for the first night because there is less traffic in this area than on the Pedernales Village side. After a long day getting there, we elected to hoist the Quebec Flag and check in at the Guardia Costa Station the next morning. The next day we shifted anchorage to the west side of the Rio Pedernales and anchored in about 30 feet just off the Guardia Costa Station.
Note: the bottom is foul off these docks, and anchoring closer in invites a fouled anchor...
We used the Guardia Costa Station pier to moor our dinghy and gain access to the Station. It is a good secure place to leave your dinghy while in the Village, and the Guardia Costa personnel welcomed us. If you come back to the Station and the gate is locked, simply push the buzzer button at the gate to alert the watch.

Based on the inaccuracy of the CMAP charts in this area, the fact that there is an extensive shoal off the village in the Boca Pedernales open roadstead, and that very strong current flows in the Boca, when we transited from the Rio Pedernales to the Rio Manamo we went all the way over to the Isla Cortorra side of Boca Pedernales to clear that shoal.
To navigate around the extensive shoal NW of the Pedernales Peninsula when transiting from the Rio Pedernales to the Rio Manamo we used these waypoints:
RPRS01 09-58.73N 062-14.69W (Pedernales Roadstead #1)
RPRS02 09-58.99N 062-14.99W (Pedernales Roadstead #2)
RPRS03 09-58.93N 062-15.35W (Pedernales Roadstead #3)
RPRS04 09-58.56N 062-15.90W (Pedernales Roadstead #4)
RPRS06 09-58.37N 062-15.99W (Pedernales Roadstead #5)
RPRS07 09-57.49N 062-16.21W (Pedernales Roadstead #6)
The least depth we saw while making this transit was 14 feet (corrected for low water) NW of Capure, and the majority of the time we saw 22 to 25 feet. Watch the set and drift on the cross-current legs as you work your way around this shoal: with a couple of knots of current on the beam it would be very easy to get set right down on it.

There is an absolutely incredible amount of water that flows in and out of this huge Delta every day: The Rio Orinoco is the world's 8th largest river with a watershed that extends from Columbia in the west, to Brazil's Amazonia to the south, and most of Venezuela to the north. Additionally, during the tropical rainy season this entire area is subject to torrential rains almost daily. Superimposed on all of this freshwater running out to the sea, is the saltwater tides ebbing and flowing in the Lower Delta - which experiences about a 4 to 5 foot tidal range, swinging the current around every 6 hours. What a dynamic place - from a hydrological point of view... If there ever was a place that set and drift need to be taken in to account while maneuvering and navigating - this is it.
When entering the Rio Manamo, and skirting the west side of the Pedernales Peninsula, we stayed to the east (close to the Pedernales Peninsula side), until the Rio Manamo narrowed (and deepens). In this area we saw an average of about 22 feet, with a least depth of 16 feet (adjusted for low water); but the CMAP chart shows a lot less water.
Once in the Rio Pedernales or the Rio Manamo proper, practical navigation is pretty much to keep her between the trees, watch the fathometer, and forget the chart plotter.

General Notes:

1. In river navigation the bends have the deepest water. So, if you need more water, always try the outside of the bend first. This system worked well for us.

2. The wider the river was, the shallower it was likely to be. When the river narrows down (bank to bank) it has to carry the same volume of water, so it tends to be deeper. We slowed down and paid a lot more attention when the river was wide.

3. We hit the "WAYPOINT" button on the chart plotter every mile or so to keep a record of our track. These electronic breadcrumbs - that the birds cannot eat - made returning back up our track much easier. There are a lot of islands and forks in the river, and it can become quite confusing when returning from whence you came. The reason for this is that the river looks very different when travelling in the opposite direction. (I hesitate to use the terms upstream or downstream, because we were always in areas that had reversing tidal currents.)

4. Running with the current (flood or ebb, depending on which direction we were heading) to get free miles seemed like a good idea until we grounded S/V Tiger Lilly going upstream on a 2 knot flood (with the current running up her skirt...) on a broad stretch of Cano Angosto. We did not have the power to back off with that much current going with us, and when we tried to pivot around and get the bow into the current to power off, she would not go beyond broadside-to. We found ourselves with a 2 knot current on the beam (and a rising tide) setting us further and further up on to a mud bank. This is when having another boat in company really paid off. S/V Tarnimara had less draft, and Tony was able to get close enough to take a tow line from our bow and pivot us around, then we easily powered into the current and off the mud bank. If he was not there to help, we would have been taking anchors out with the dink to kedge off, and we probably would have needed an additional tide cycle to get off. (Read that - working in the dark with LOTS of friggin mosquitoes...) After this experience we did not go exploring in shallow canos running downstream, we waited until the tide turned or slackened, and did our sniffing around by depth sounder with the current on the nose. This problem was not an issue in the main river as there is usually enough water to navigate. Also, after this experience - which occurred early in our cruise - I always kept a tow line rigged to the bow ready to deploy.

5. We used the hand-drawn chart from the September 2006 version of the Manamo / Pedernales / Angosto Cruising Notes (created by S/V Do It, S/V La Gitana, and S/V Sea Loon) extensively for daily planning purposes and VHF radio discussions with our cruising mate Tony on S/V Tarnimara.

6. Although we saw no security problems on the Rio Pedernales or the Rio Manamo, we were warned by the local authorities that there was drug trafficking in the Delta, and that was the greatest threat security wise. Having another boat in company seems to increase the odds in our favor.

7. The land throughout the Lower Delta has very little elevation, and at high tide during the rainy season there isn't much dry land anywhere. Consequently, we spent a lot (almost all) of our time aboard our boat or exploring in the dinghy. There just are not many places to go ashore other than the Eco Lodges or Pedernales Village. Also, according to the locals, there is no shortage of poisonous snakes in this area... So, our social life while on the Delta consisted of visiting the other boat in company and the Waro Indian stilt villages.

8. When we were exploring the side canos with the dinghy we had to be independent and ready for most eventualities. Here is some of gear we carried in the dink on these expeditions: spare fuel; effective oars; a good anchor with plenty of chain & rode; O/B motor repair kit (shear pin, spark plug, starting cord, tools); a powerful flashlight; a headlight (we only explored in the daylight - these lights were in case we screwed up and found ourselves in the jungle at night); handheld VHF (but there was NOBODY to talk to within VHF range...); machete; pocket knife; strong bug repellant; long-sleeved shirt / long pants / neckerchief / hat; lots of drinking water, granola bars, and apples. It took a long time to collect all this stuff and load it in the dink, and all we ever used was the machete, water, and apples. BUT, we took dinghy ops away from the big boat very seriously, we absolutely did not want to spend a night in the jungle ...

9. We kept the camera and binoculars handy in the cockpit, or the dink at all times. We wish we owned a good South American bird book, because we usually had no idea what we were looking at or what just flew by. It was actually easier to see birds from the dink in the mid-sized canos as they flew from bank to bank. When we were in the sub-canos in the thick forest or jungle, we could not see much of the canopy, and that is primarily where the birds were.

10. Our bug drill was as follows: We screened-up every night about 30 minutes before sunset. A bug coil was lit and set in a dish on the cockpit deck, just outside the main companionway screen. A large citronella candle was lit and set out on the dinette table in the main cabin. Then the interior of the boat was given a quick shot of aerosol bug spray. We tried to spend nights on the relatively bug free broad areas of the main river, and then move the boats into the more confined, and buggy, areas during the day. We often found that during the night, beginning about 2 hours after sunset, we could usually go on deck with few bug problems. Cano exploration during the day in the dink was another matter entirely. Every time we brushed a palm frond or overhanging limb, here came the Venezuelan Air Force - in hoards. We just had to cover up pretty good, and dress like it was cold out - with temperatures throughout the day in the mid 90's...

11. The water hyacinth fouled our anchor chains almost every night. The most effective, and easiest, method that I found for removing it was as follows: I would remove the chain hook and then power straight up into the current for about half the distance to the anchor. I would then turn hard to starboard and back full (we have a right-hand propeller). This would usually get the boat broadside to the current, and as we backed away, the weed came off the bow and anchor chain. We would then settle back on the chain, stemming the current, and if any weed remained, it was easily removed with the boat hook. We then recovered the rode and anchor in the usual manner.

12. Be prepared to anchor in 30 and 40 foot deep water, with plenty of current. This is typically the depth in the middle of the channel, and away from the banks, where there are fewer bugs. Wind and waves were never a problem, and even in 40 feet, if we deployed 180 of our 200 feet of chain (less than 5 to 1) she still stayed put. We found that our Bruce did a great job of anchoring the boat in the usual thick clay and heavy marl bottoms that are prevalent in the Delta. The Bruce has a good reputation for resetting itself - and the current reversed direction every 6 hours or so. Bring good ground tackle to this show, so you can sleep well...

13. The water in the Delta is very turbid, with a heavy content of silt. It is clean dirt (biologically), but it will foul expensive water-maker filters very quickly. There is just no substitute for large potable water tankage on a proper cruising boat.

14. Anytime we anchored on the main rivers or large canos, we showed an anchor light at night. There is boat traffic on the river during the hours of darkness - and they don't seem to slow down even though they can't see where they are going at night...

15. We were not very interested in trading with the Waro, they simply did not have anything we wanted. We were interested in having contact with them, and the principal way that we did this was when they paddled out to our boat as we passed by their villages, we slowed to bare steerageway, and distributed hard candy to each person in the canoe - usually kids. We did bring some needed material to a family farming on Isla de Monos, and we did bring some school supplies for donation to the Indian schools.

16. We don't usually get involved in "buddy boating". However, in the Delta we found it was quite worthwhile to have another boat in company. Tony aboard his boat S/V Tarnimara was also single-handing, and we agreed that there were many benefits to this system for this particular cruising area. We recommend a pairing of boats. Any more than two makes for a gaggle that just seems to go into paralysis whenever any decision needs to be made - and that happens multiple times a day. Also, it just doesn't make sense to overwhelm the relatively shy Waro people with too many visitors at the same time in the same place. This is a really big area and there is plenty of room for several boats to cruise, and not be crowded.

The Gulf of Paria has a lot of Oil Patch infrastructure. Unmarked capped well-heads are quite common. Although these structures are required to be lighted, I would be surprised if anyone in either the oil companies, or the Coast Guard, is paying much attention. The Gulf of Paria is not a place for the uninitiated to sail at night...

Well there you have it, our input to the ongoing development of cruising information for the Rio Orinoco Delta. Our cruise on the Rio Pedernales and the Rio Manamo has encouraged us to see more of this wild and remote area. We intend also to explore the Rio Macareo at a future date. Although it is possible to enter the Rio Macareo from the Serpents Mouth and cruise upstream, and then cross over and sail downstream in the Rio Grande to the Atlantic Ocean, subsequent exploration by Tony aboard S/V Tarnimara has shown that the authorities do not want international yachts on the Rio Grande. If you are looking for something different from the usual Eastern Caribbean anchorages - perhaps a bit of exploring in the Rio Orinoco Delta will put some adventure back in cruising for you - it certainly has for me!

To see the pics that go with this Pedernales Pilot post, navigate through our PHOTO GALLERY thusly: PORTS OF CALL / SOUTH AMERICA / VENEZUELA / PEDERNALES PILOT.

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11/12/2010 | calvin
It is because of people like you guys that I am looking foward to living my dream of life aboard my rasmus.@ 74 y/o ,if not now when?

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