At the notice of Hugo Chavez unfortunate death last night, I got reminded of our impromptu visit to Venezuela a couple months ago. Maybe you'd like to hear the story?
We had spent a month in lovely Grenada, the final stepping stone out of the West Indies, and were eager to get moving Westwards. Bonaire was the first on our radar, and we hoped to make the 400 miles in approximately two and a half days. We decided to leave in the night so we'd get the first twelve hours of darkness quickly over and done with and then only have another night left before arrival. That was the plan at least. But you might know that on the seas one shouldn't attempt on making too many or too firm plans, as they often tend to get turned around. You never really know what mother nature has in store for you before you actually know.
Anyways, for a long dark night ahead of us, Alex prepared the yellow jacklines from the bow to the stern, would we ever need to go up and do something on deck in darkness.
Raising the sail, off we go from the cruise ships and town of St George's.
Now, I don't have any images at all from the following 24 hours, because as soon as we had raised the sails and got going towards Bonaire, huge squalls came over us. That could have been refreshing in a sense, if it wasn't that they decided to stay with us for the following 24 hours sharp. You can already see them lurking above the mountains in the image above.
There was a predicted 20-25 knots of wind for the first few hours, then it was supposed to drop down to 16-20, but the same goes with this. You can never really rely upon the weather and wind reports, as they always tend to be intensified when you least want them to.
20-25 knots turned quickly into 25-30 and gusting occasionally close to 40. The consistent wind kicked up large waves as it always does and the whole night we rode waves of around 12-14 feet. Wonderful. I doubt anyone of us got any sleep that night, and we were three people onboard for this crossing mind you.
As the morning arrived, the wind slowed down a little, not too much, but at least we could get a better stability and finally could we, exhausted as we were, get some sleep. One hour here, another hour there. As the morning sun got stronger and our minds got sharper, we realized what we didn't wanted to see.... our mainsail had dramatically ripped during the stormy night.
With two hundred something miles to go, we agreed on that we had to repair it, as we wouldn't want to risk it ripping apart completely up to the next reef. Our options at this time were A.) Repair it while on the sea, meaning lowering the sail and stitching it while bobbing around in, now, 8 foot seas. An operation that would take at least 2-3 hours and involve at least one of us three throwing up in the process. Or option B.) Stop at the first Venezuelan island that we passed, anchor and stitch that sail in peaceful waters and also get a peaceful nights of rest. Luckily or unluckily who you were to ask in this moment, one island of Venezuela proved to be just a couple hours sail away from where we were in this moment of discovery.
Venezuela has a beautiful and vast coastline on the Caribbean sea with a plethora of islands and bays. We would have loved to visit, weren't it for the violent robberies towards sailors that seem to be so common these days, and Alex and I had specifically said it is the one country on this side of the world we'd keep away from no matter what. Some people go to Venezuela and they never have problems, but we aren't into taking risks like that in areas where statistics makes its own good job in keeping us away.
This is not to say that Caribbean where we just came from is much safer, we have been victims of people stealing from and even inside of our boat on a few occasions, and on many islands there's been armed robberies brutally violating, and sometimes even killed, people like ourselves.
But Venezuela seemed to top the game of violence and now we were here, planning on stopping for the night. Luckily it was La Blanquilla that was the nearest of our position, the tiny island from which we had never heard any reports of violence. Main concern seemed to rather be on the shoreline of the mainland, as well as the islands of Los Tesigos and Isla de Margarita, some sixty miles away from us.
Getting closer to la Blanquilla, one of the tiny islands around 100 miles from mainland Venezuela.
We arrived and dropped anchor just after sun had disappeared in the horizon. I can't say we were relieved as yet. Michael and I kept ourselves busy with pirate stories all night long till we passed out of exhaustion.
Morning arrived and it was time to get busy with that sail. Here's Alex inspecting the first of the two large rips.
Up with the Q flag as we now were in new territory. One funny side note is that while we were worrying in the darkness of last night if we had anchored too close to a pirate village, we now in the morning got to realize that we had in fact anchored right outside the coats guard as well as a military base. I guess it would be hard to find a safer place to sleep.
French for the captain, Finnish for the first mate and Irish for the second mate Michael. Michael who normally lives in Boston has dual citizenship, American is his second - but we figured in areas like these where USA isn't hugely popular, it would feel better to fly the Irish flag to not stir up some potential annoyance with authorities, or pirates for that matter..
Land looked inviting but even if we felt safe having the coast guard right outside, we were anxious to get moving.
Luckily wind had dropped during the night to a pleasant 17 knots or so and sun was shining like never before.
Sporting my new Tommy Hilfiger bikini.
Captain laid down to rest with a good book.
Panfried chicken legs and roasted potatoes with a blue cheese salad with lettuce, pear and honey.
Peanutbutter cups, anyone?
Always fixing with something.
Night approaching and we could begin to see the large ships passing between Panama and Venezuela.
An easy meal for dinner.
And after the sun had set, we could arrive to safe harbor in a new country and island... I told you, we always manage to arrive at night!
To see how much we loved Bonaire, check out our wonderful stay at a breathtakingly beautiful villa here and here. I still have so many photos to show you from that island by the way. One of these days..
Bonaire was definitely one of the highlights of our sailing journey thus far, please make yourself the favor and go there if you ever get the change.