A Few Memorable Days
01 December 2010 | Trinidad to Bonaire
A few memorable days
It took a month to get all we needed done in Trinidad. During that time the incidence of robberies in the anchorage increased dramatically. The thief was known, the local police were less than useful and the cruising community was developing a certain amount of paranoia. A week before Peking went back into the water there came the report of a boarding near Isla Margarita, Venezuela. This was not the first such report, but only the most recent. It seems a single sailboat was boarded between Los Testigos and Isla Margarita and all cash and much of the navigation equipment was taken. The stretch from Trinidad to Isla Margarita is known as "Pirate Ally"
Peking was heading west; Isla Margarita was in the direct line to Bonaire and plans had to be made. Jerie and I had become friends with Gary and Kaija of the sailboat Kaija's Song. They too were heading west and we decided to travel together.
Our plan was to check out of Trinidad, anchor at one of the local islands for two days before heading west. If our departure were sent to the pirates, at least the timing of passage would be a couple of days later then they would expect. We also elected to run the night passage part of the trip with no lights on and would keep radio contact on a frequency not generally used.
So we left. The weather gods were kind, the sea was smooth and there was no moon. The day part of the trip moved along, but as night approached, and we got closer toLos Testigos, our vigilance increased. Normally we have one person on watch at a time while the other tries to sleep. Not here, we were both up watching the radar and checking the seas around the boat for the sound of the fast perogs favored by fishermen and thieves. We saw and heard nothing, the trip was uneventful and we got to Isla Margarita.
We anchored in the large bay and checked in with the manager of the Juan Barco Marina. He would arrange the customs and immigration clearance as well as get the cruising permit. The first advice he gave us was to be sure the boat was always locked, the dinghy put up each night and the outboard locked and chained. Do not wear jewelry of any kind, do not show any cash do not wander out at night, do not, do not, and do not. So we went through the threat zone of piracy to the threat zone of thievery on an epidemic scale. Welcome to Venezuela.
We checked in easily enough, but getting the cruising permit took a week. The good news was that we got the fuel tanks filled at far less than a dollar per gallon, had a delightful tour of the island and met some interesting characters along the water front. Some had been here for long periods of time (statute of limitation issues I suspect).
The day came when the cruising permit was issued, we checked out and left town heading for a small island named Isla Cubagua. It was an easy a day trip of about 40 miles. We anchored in the harbor behind sand dunes and a reef. The sun was warm, the wind calm and the water clear. As least until 5:30 pm when we experienced a wind reversal The wind blows from east to west almost constantly. The trades blow between 15 to 20 in the east Carib and seem to blow 20 to 25 in the west.
Not this night. The wind shifted to the west and the harbor was exposed. Large waves came barreling in and Peking was tossed about, rolled from side to side and shaken. We stayed up all night on an anchor watch, but aside from the uncomfortable conditions all was well. The anchor held and dawn saw a reduction of the wind velocity. It sort of reminded me of the Disney "Fantasia" version of "Night on a Bare Mountain"
We left that morning for Isla Herradura near Isla Tortuga. It was an over night trip which started well enough. The seas were calm and the wind light for a change. Shortly after sunset, I went to bed and Jerie had the first watch. At around 8:30 Jerie yelled we are caught in nets. It seems that a mile long drift net has been set, it was not marked and we ran over it. Out stabilizer vanes travel 14 feet below the surface and they caught the net. Damn. Kaija's Song was also trapped.
We were able to cut the starboard paravane free. The port vane was far out and Peking was unable to maneuver near it. There was nothing we could do from the deck so I got in the dinghy. Calm seas to Peking do not mean calm seas in a dinghy. I took with me a huge survival knife that Elaine and Edon Smith gave us as a present in Stewart Florida. It came in handy that evening. I pulled my self out to the paravane about the time the fishermen showed up in, you guessed it, a small perog. They began pulling the net in and I began cutting the lines around the paravane. The problem was I could only cut in one place for a short time then a wave would come, pull me away from the line and I would lose the place I was cutting so had to start all over again. Finally I cut through and the paravane was free.
I pulled the dinghy back to the Peking and there discovered a long section of net drifting behind the prop. Now this was not good. It meant that I would have to dive under the boat (yes it was moving up and down in the swells) and cut the line free.
So I dove, and to my surprise the prop was clear, but the line was attached to something. I dove again and found a float had become wedged between the rudder and the rudderpost. I freed it and we were good to go.
We pulled into Isla Herradura at around 2:00 pm. It was much more protected than the previous island. For the next two days the wind howled, but we were secure. Jerie, Kaija and I went hunting for shells on the beach, we took it easy, did some swimming and were happy not to be out on the water.
Gary got word that his dad had died and at the same time the weather eased up. We left for Bonaire and had a good trip except for a "may day" that came up at 10:00 pm. It seems a 52-foot sailboat ran up on a reef and sank. A near by oil tanker rescued the crew and took them to Curacao. Sad loss.
We are now in Harbor Village Marina in Bonaire and there will be three days of bad weather. We are staying put.