Published: February 1st 2010January 31st 2010
We had not done any extended passages for quite a long time so the thought of heading our for a couple of nights at sea brought some mixed emotions. We had really been enjoying the short island hops and now we had to get the boat ready for a bit more a serious sail work. We planned to sail to the A.B.C’s, being the islands of Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba, via the islands off the Venezuelan coast. Unfortunately, due to piracy issues, a lot of the Venezuelan coast we had hoped to cruise in had been classed as a no go zone and there were some concerns being raised about the islands off that coast as well. About three weeks before we were due to leave, yacht had recently been boarded and robbed by armed pirates between Trinidad and Grenada so it was apparent that the bandits were moving further north and into areas that had traditionally been classed as safe.
The sensible thing to do of course is to sail in company where possible and this suited both the plans of John and Helen from Nika and of course ourselves so that is what we did. We arranged our
departure from Grenada for around lunchtime to allow us sufficient comfortable cruising time to get to the isolated and very beautiful islands of Los Roques, some 300 odd miles to the west. From speaking to other cruisers and from emails from Adam and Leonie off Elena and Wilhelm and Heike off Small Nest, Los Roques was held to be a place not to be missed.
We did our usual rig checks and Nikki and Luke went up the mast adding padding to the 1st and 2nd spreaders to allow us to let a bit more mainsail out on downwind legs. Our VHF has not been working satisfactorily and we have ordered a new one to be picked up in Bonaire. We stocked the boat with fuel and water and plenty of food to see us through the short passage and hopefully allow us a few days in Los Roques. John and Helen had not ‘buddy boated’ before so we spent some time over coffee with them organising sked times, waypoints to the north east to avoid issues of security and calculating cruising speeds to allow us to cross the reefs into the Los Roques region.
We were able
to catch up with Mikey and Nic from Pandora and John and his mate Tai from Pantenamous and spend some time with those guys before casting the lines and heading off. The weather had been a bit unsettled and that continued as we headed away from the coast of Grenada, leaving the marina about 1400.
So we were leaving the Caribbean and as we sailed away we talked about our time there and the things we remembered about the islands and places we had visited. I think the highlight had to be New Years Day on Mustique with Syd and Bridge but little things like catching the local taxis come mini buses also brought back great memories. These were simple little mini buses with a driver and his assistant who sat in the middle, touting for business wherever they could, rushing people to get in at bus stops before the Police caught them, all the time, reggae music blaring along. They were a really cheap form of transport and we just loved riding around in them. But all that was behind us now as we sailed west for new countries and new experiences.
As the afternoon closed and
the evening approached, the weather was not the kindest and throughout the night we were hit with squalls, lots of rain, cold wind and pretty confused seas. Overall it was just one of those crap nights and for our first night at sea for a long time, no one was enjoying it at all, so really, the least said about it the better.
The next day was better and we got the fishing rod out and tried out some of our new lures, the big favourites being the pink and purple Williamson lures, now these lures are the business and it wasn’t long before we hooked up a huge Dorado that unfortunately broke free of the lure before we could slow the boat down to try and get settled into a good fight. The lure was back out again and pretty soon we hooked up a marlin, this time being a white marlin and there was no way this fish was going to be landed. He just headed south and spooled all of our line off, snapping the last couple of inches, we couldn’t even take a foot off this fish, it was just too big and too powerful.
Damn, there goes number one of three of our favourite lures. We re spooled the reel and put on number two, and not long after had another marlin on the line, and with some rapid head tossing, this one snapped the line and then took off across the ocean surface like a skimming stone, trying to shake the lure.
As Lukey Bill would say, ‘holy crap’ there goes lure number 2, and the score was fish 3, Sunboy a big fat zero. We were down to our last favourite lure and thankfully this one rewarded us with a great Sunboy crew sized Wahoo which was quickly cleaned up, filleted and dispatched to the cooler box for dinner.
The weather was improving and we had got through our first 24 hours which has always proven to be the hardest of any passage. We were having a great time sailing along with Nika and the two boats seemed to be matched up pretty well. The poled out headsail was getting a good workout and the repairs we made in Rodney Bay seemed to be holding our really well.
We feasted on the fresh wahoo for dinner, simply frying some
up and trying out an Indian Fish Curry Paste we had bought at Captain Gourmet on Union Island, which turned out to be delicious. We had not eaten wahoo before and it lived up to it’s reputation as being an excellent table fish and the curry was fantastic but a bit too hot for the tender palates on board.
The next night was much calmer with patches of very light winds and we had to put the engine on at various times to keep up our cruising speed but that didn’t present any problems and the nav lights of Nika were a constant companion off our port beam. We didn’t see very much shipping on either night, just a couple of cargo ships and the odd fishing boat. We had sailed far enough north to consider ourselves completely free of any security risks so we didn’t adopt any preventative measures such as radio silence and or blackouts on the boats.
The morning of the 20th brought in beautiful conditions and we were well on course to arrive at the southern entrance to Los Roques around late morning. The low lying islands of the area and the breaking sea
on the outer reefs made for fascinating viewing as we approached. We gibed and altered course to the south west, bringing us up to a brilliant reach for the last few miles of the passage. We were aware that our chart plotters were not in sync with the GPS in this area so some serious eyeball navigation was required as the plotter was about .75 miles off the actual location where the boat was.
We planned to enter through the Boca de Sebastopol Channel around 11.46.61N and 66.34.85W and on the way down there we could see the shattered wreck of a fishing trawler that had come to grief on the reefs, a sight we had no intention of replicating. John and Helen very kindly offered to go in first as their draught is a bit less than ours and we tucked up behind them and headed into the channel entrance, totally in awe of the most turquoise blue water we have ever seen anywhere. It was a bit strange not being able to use the plotter but fortunately, the level of the sun made picking out the channel quite and easy task but having said that, there was
still some very close attention being paid to the depth instruments and Nikki and Luke were up on the bow keeping a close watch as well.
We anchored up at a small island called Buchiyaco for lunch and a swim and decided to head further into the region to find a more protected anchorage for the night. It was quite a few miles of ‘between the reef’ navigation to get to the anchorages but that time was spent ruing the loss of our last Williamson lure to what we think was a huge barracuda but revelling in the success of Nika in their capture of another big barracuda.
We had been pottering along behind Nika, heading up along the reef when they called us on the VHF to be alert for their lure which had spooled out from their reel. We looked behind us and didn’t see their lure but did see this huge fish being dragged through the water, about fifty metres behind our boat!! It appears that they had been trolling and in the process of concentrating so hard had not realised they had had a strike and the fish had spooled them.
his son Jess then spent considerable time getting the fish back to their boat, the time delay not only caused by the size of the fish but also the sheer length of all the line that had been taken out. This was the first sizeable fish these guys had caught and their excitement was completely contagious.
We made our way to the island of Crasqui where we spent our first night, after giving some guidance to the crew of Nika about cleaning and preparing their fish which they thoroughly enjoyed for dinner that night. The next day we headed over to the Noronquises anchorage which was just stunning, small white beach with deep water frontage, nice snorkelling and pretty good protection. This was a popular little area for day trippers from the main island who would be brought out by small runabouts, armed with eskies and umbrellas, they would set up camp for the day, sunbaking, swimming and snorkelling, activities we had great pleasure in emulating ourselves. The sand on these beaches is so white and so fine, it is like powder. The water, like the channel where we entered is just the most beautiful turquoise colour and so,
so clear. There is a brilliant variety of tropical fish and the occasional barracuda lurking around looking for a bite to eat. To top it all off, turtles are a plenty, regularly surfacing just near the boat and just the best fun to snorkel with in the shallows.
We had a couple of nights with Nika in this anchorage before they had to head further west to keep in line with their passage plans. We thought Elena and Small Nest had already left the area for Curacao but got a great surprise when Wilhelm called us on the Sat phone to say they were still at anchorage at the island of Carenero and suggested we head down there to catch up with them, which we did, later that afternoon.
We hadn’t had a good catch up with these guys for so long and we had a brilliant night on board our boat, having dinner together, a few beers and wines and comparing notes about the Caribbean and where we had been and what we had been doing for the last month or so.
We went over to a lagoon with them the next morning, looking on with
envy at the power and size of their new dinghy and outboard as we puttered along in our little number. The lagoon was beautiful with an entrance on the sea side that had beautiful swimming and snorkelling with lots of coral and a great variety of fish. It was on another part of Caranero where some local families live, spending their time fishing the surrounding waters.
Willem and Heike headed off a couple of days later for Los Aves and beyond and we ended up staying another couple of nights, heading up to Sarqui for an afternoon and then back to Caranero which proved to be the most protected of all the anchorages.
We set sail for Los Aves, which are an even more remote and isolated group of reefs, atolls and small islands to the west but which provide a convenient stop over on the way to Bonaire. We had a pretty sloppy old sail with pretty rough conditions and a very confused sea but we ended up arriving about 1600 to be greeted by the sight of a small boat with four men in it, making a fast course straight for the stern of our boat.
Deb raised the question as to whether the intentions of these guys was a good one and my only reply was that we were soon to find out. All good though as they were in fact the local Guarda Costa (Coast Guard) and were very happy that we had chosen Curricai Island for our anchorage in the Aves de Sotavento group.
We got in as close to the island as we could and dropped the pick but it landed on some loose gravel/coral and just wouldn’t hold so it was either a case of persist in finding some sand or head off and make our way to Bonaire, something we didn’t really want to do. Patience and persistence paid off by getting in even closer and find a nice patch of sand that was holding really well. Lukey did the usual trick that either he or Nikky do by grapping a mask and snorkel and swimming over the anchor to make sure it has set well. As we were in very shallow water, our usual practice is to swim around in a very wide arc, checking for rocks and coral heads to make sure our keel isn’t going to
hit anything. Lukey was in the process of doing this when he bobbed his head up and said in a meek voice “is it alright if I get back in the boat now?” Of course the obvious reply was yes but an even more obvious question was why and in amongst his world record time to the back of the boat was his reply that a huge barracuda had taken a very strong interest in him and was not leaving him out of his sight.
Fortunately the water was so clear that we could see there was nothing to concern us even though we expected to swing a fair bit during the night as the wind was picking up and ended up blowing really hard throughout the night, setting the anchor alarm off on a couple of occasions. The next morning, Debs and I did the sensible thing and got the whisker pole all set up, ready to hoist the headsail as we new we were in for another dead downwind run to Bonaire, we also got the gibe preventer all rigged and ready to go so that meant we could up anchor and get underway without having to
call anyone else up on deck.
It was a shame to have to leave the Aves as they were just incredible, so beautiful and so isolated but we were determined to see John and Helen before they left Bonaire as we were (are) not sure if we will catch up with them again as they plan on going through the canal much earlier than us and being back in Australia a fair bit before us.
So on Australia Day 2010, we set sail for Bonaire, hoisted the main on a nice broad, broad reach, set the headsail on the whisker pole and took off the Bonaire. The sea conditions were much more pleasant and we had a brilliant sail for the next few hours before turning up at the bottom of Bonaire for the final few miles along the western side of the island to the moorings off the township of Kralendijk, where we tied up next to Nika. And so that completed our passage from the Caribbean to the A.B.C’s via Venezuela and we are now enjoying a complete change of culture from that we had been experiencing since arriving in the Caribbean on the 10th of
December. More about Bonaire in our next blog ok.
There are more photos below