November 1995 - Venezuela to Curacao

1 November 1995   Isla Cubagua, Venezuela
A school holiday today, hurray!  That Glenys is a slave driver.  I spent most of the day creating a database in Excel to keep track of all my jazz songs on CD, in Band-in-a-Box and sheet music.  I then joined the others snorkelling and shot a couple of fish to supplement the two small ones I got yesterday. If we have to live on my spear fishing, God help us!  

When we were in Trinidad, I bought myself a pair of headphones.  I hung them over the EPIRB over the chart table and issued dire warnings to the children not to touch them.  The children have destroyed every pair of headphones that we have bought because they leave them lying about and they get stood/sat/ jumped on.  While I was snorkelling, Glenys called me back in a mild panic, telling me that the engine compartment was smoking and it smelled like battery acid.  After a few minutes of searching, I found out that the batteries in the EPIRB were leaking and the acid had dripped onto my nice new earphones.  Exit one EPIRB and another pair of earphones!  The weather at five o’clock was horrible with squalls all around us, so we decided to stay another day.

2 November 1995   Isla Cubagua to Playa Caldera, Isla Tortuga (Day 1)
It didn’t rain last night and it was very calm this morning.  I now wish we had gone last night.  I’m getting very tetchy and snapping at the kids – it’s definitely time to move on.  We had breakfast and, with clear blue skies, we motored to Robledac, a village on the west coast of Margarita.  It gets us ten miles closer to Tortuga and looked nice.  

What a bloody awful anchorage – very rolly. We dismantled the dinghy and prepared for a night passage.  By mid afternoon, there were rain squalls marching across the sky – this must happen every day and we’ve been suckered into staying for two days too long! We left the anchorage at five o’clock.

3rd November 1995   Isla Cubagua to Playa Caldera, Isla Tortuga (Day 2)
We only had about 15 knots of wind all night and just poled out the genoa.  We slopped along at 3-4 knots with a bad rolling motion.  It was a lovely night and we sighted the island at dawn. We anchored in 3.5 metres of water on hard packed sand amongst three other yachts.  The anchorage is surrounded by a brilliant white beach, but it is a rolly one.  

We relaxed until about ten o’clock when I assembled and inflated the cursed dinghy.  We went for a walk around – very hot and a typical deserted island.  Not many shells, so we went back to the boat.  We had bean stew for lunch – we’ve not caught fish for two days!  

We had a siesta to catch up on lost sleep and then Glenys and I went to check out the snorkelling.  We arrived at a likely looking place when the outboard engine cut out.  We dropped the anchor and I started to strip down the carburettor.  I’d bought some new screwdrivers in Margarita to put in the tool kit for the outboard, but unfortunately the cross head screwdriver wouldn’t fit properly.  I was struggling when (fortunately) another dinghy came around the corner and we thumbed a tow.  Back on the boat, I stripped down the carburettor and put it back together and all was well again.  I’m getting sick of this outboard – I want a new 15hp!  

Still no fish, so we had soya mince spaghetti bolognese which was OK.  We’ll have to get more of that when we get to Curacao, so that we don’t need to rely on my fishing!  

The stereo system finally packed in and I tried in vain to repair it.  I’ve got lots of jazz music, but no way of listening to it now that my headphones were destroyed two days ago.  I’m a bit cross with myself because I half-heartedly looked at buying a new stereo in both Trinidad and Margarita but didn’t bother!

4 November 1995   Playa Caldera to Los Palanquinos, Isla Tortuga
We had breakfast and motored around to Los Palanquinos, which is a small crescent shaped reef about ½ mile offshore.  We anchored in 4 metres of water with 2 other yachts about 100 yards away.  This place has beautiful blue water and it’s fairly calm in the lee of the reef with the sound of waves crashing on the reef itself.  We went for a quick snorkel before lunch and the wire loop on my spear gun broke.  

This prompted me to get out a broken spear gun that Gareth had given me.  I repaired both spear guns and gave my old one to Brett who is delighted with it.  I taught him how to load it and we went spear fishing.  I got 3 fish but Brett didn’t manage to get any.  Fried fish balls for dinner.

5 November 1995   Los Palanquinos, Isla Tortuga
School work in the morning and then Brett was hopping about wanting to go spear fishing again.  We went out for over two hours – I got 2 big 2lb Groupers, a 1½ lb Snapper and 4 small fish.  Brett was very pleased with himself because he shot 2 fish, a Soap fish (which we tossed away after showing Mum and Craig) and a Grunt.  He’s very sensible with such a lethal weapon and it’s just about the right size for him.  

Glenys stayed in, typing her cookbook into the computer.  She’s just started to use the computer, so it’s in great demand now with her cookbook, my memoirs, Band-in-a-Box and the boys playing games.

6 November 1995   Los Palanquinos to Cayo Herradura, Isla Tortuga
I’ve finally got my memoirs up to Cherbourg – at least we’ve left the country!  Glenys forced us to do school work and then we motored to Cayo Herradura.  This is a mile long crescent shaped island with fantastic white beaches – yawn!  We had a quiet afternoon and then went for a quick walk on the beach before dark.

7 November 1995   Cayo Herradura, Isla Tortuga
School work in the morning and after lunch I took the boys to the beach to fly kites.  Craig and Brett had bought some really cheap kites with their pocket money in Margarita.  The kites were only 60p each and what a load of crap they were!  Brett’s was manufactured wrong and wouldn’t assemble properly and Craig’s kept falling apart and then ripped.  I gave up on their kites and got out my Peter Powell kite.  It wouldn’t fly either and I tried to adjust the bridle.  Two hours later, I gave up and went back to the boat for a beer.  

I spent the evening formatting Glenys’ cookbook document for her.  I couldn’t resist editing a bit of it and adding a few sentences.  Glenys, rightly, got a bit shirty about me changing her book.  I suppose it was a bit presumptuous of me.

8 November 1995   Cayo Herradura, Isla Tortuga
We did Lesson 20, which was a test.  We then motored over to Los Tortugillas which are two deserted islands with a 3 metre deep sandy patch in between.  We had to anchor about 400 metres from the north island because it shoaled to 2.6 metres.  Once we had anchored, we stood and marvelled at the beautiful blue water surrounding us and (you’ve guessed) the incredibly white sandy beaches.  

After fish sandwiches for lunch, Glenys and I went for a dive which was disappointing, with just broken, dead coral on sand.  To make up for it, I shot two Groupers and two Snappers to stock up the larder.  We then went for a walk on the gorgeous beach to look for shells but weren’t very successful.  We motored back to Cayo Herradura for the night.  

Glenys and I have two main topics of conversation at the moment – what are we going to do when we get back to the UK?  And the design and equipping of our boat when we retire in 2010!  The only ideas that we’ve had so far is setting up a company to distribute good quality melamine tableware and another company to import/export stuff to Portugal.  It’s not very encouraging so far.  It looks like I might have to get a “proper” job!

9 November 1995   Cayo Herradura to Ave de Barlovento, Los Aves (Day 1)
We got up at quarter to seven and started to run around getting ready to sail.  When we left at quarter past eight, the wind was coming from our starboard beam, so we put away the awning and got the main out.  About thirty minutes later, the wind had veered enough that I could pole out both jibs.  It took us two hours to set everything up, take the main down and put the awning up.  We collapsed with a well earned cold Pepsi.  

We are heading about 10° too far south and only doing 4 knots but at least we’re in the shade.  We must set up some sort of awning that we can use when the main is up.  We slopped along all day and at five o’clock, I took down the awning, put up the main and we headed for Los Roques on a broad reach.  We had only covered about 30 miles in nine hours so I decided to head for Los Roques which was 30 miles closer than Los Aves.  Just before dark, the wind picked up to 20 knots and we romped along.

10 November 1995   Cayo Herradura to Ave de Barlovento, Los Aves (Day 2)
It was a beautiful full moon night and we made good progress.  At midnight I plotted our position, (Thank God for GPS!) and decided to head for Los Aves again.  

Glenys had a bit of a trauma with an oil tanker that either didn’t see us or didn’t care.  She ended up waking me up at half past three for moral support.  We changed course and ran downwind until the bastard had passed us.  

At ten o’clock, we were 3 miles from Aves De Barlovenco, but had to head south to avoid a big squall.  When the rain passed us, we dashed for the anchorage but got delayed by another squall that beat us to it.  We had to hang about outside the anchorage for twenty minutes in the pouring rain waiting for enough light to find our way through the reefs.  When the squall had passed,  we made our way through the reefs and into the anchorage.  We just got the anchor down before another 30 knot squall hit us, phew!  

We had eggs, corn beef hash and beans for brunch and I put up the dinghy, managing to drop the adapter for the pump into the water.  I put on a scuba unit but couldn’t find it.  We waited for a gap in the weather and moved further into the anchorage away from the mangroves.  Brett and I went spear fishing and I got 7lb of fish – 3 Snappers and 1 Grouper.  Fish, fish, bloody fish for dinner.  I’m starting to get aching finger joints, it’s actually quite painful and worrying.  It’s probably the start of arthritis but it could be Ciguatera.  At three o’clock in the morning, I worry about it a lot!  Like you do!