June 8, 2008

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
10∞ 12.1’ North
64∞ 39.8’ West
June 7, 2008
3:30 PM VST

You observant ones may have noticed that I entered a time for the first time. VST stands for Venezuela Stupid Time, which is 30 minutes behind Atlantic Standard Time, which everyone else in this part of the world observes. Our friend Hugo Chavez created his own time zone just to be different, thus further screwing up his country.
We got here to Venezuela proper yesterday, after making a stop at an offshore island called La Blanquilla. It was a 450 mile straight shot across the Caribbean from St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, our first long passage for this trip. Mostly, it was OK. We ran into a local wind phenomenon south of Isla Margarita where the prevailing winds went from 23 knots to over 30 sustained, gusting to over 40. Other than the admiral asking me every 5 minutes if we were going to die, we did well (we didn’t die). Antares was reefed way down, and didn’t even notice.
If anyone ever gets a chance to go, St. Croix is very nice, and different than the other Virgins. It’s 30 miles away, which probably explains some of it. It’s also big, and was mostly Danish until recently. A pleasant surprise. St. John is beautiful, mostly pristine (much of it is a park donated by the Rockefellers), but somehow unreal, like a movie set. We did get to eat and drink at Skinny Legs bar, rated as one of the best in the Caribbean.
As we approached La Blanquilla, a voice boomed out on the radio “Antares, Antares”. It was the first voice we’d heard in a long while, as most people don’t approach Venezuela from that route, and, as we had been sailing for almost 3 days, was startling. There were 2 boats at this very remote anchorage, and, apparently, they had been anticipating our arrival (it’s a long storey). As it turns out, we were just around the point of the island, so they couldn’t see us. Five minutes later, we came into sight, flying all our sails at nearly 10 knots, looking good. It’s always a hoot to impress the locals. The movie rights are for sale.
We spent the next couple of days with “Silver Sea” and “Panda” in Blanquilla. One day, we had gone ashore to a beautiful beach, where we found mucho poopo of unknown origin, about which we had a great time speculating. Later that day, over sundowners, we noticed several white donkeys on the beach (definitely not native to La Blanquilla, which is nearly uninhabited). Naturally, the donkeys and the poop started a long conversation about the Democratic party, which is second only to the above named Presidente in screwing up (other than the Republicans of course; I have to remember that many readers are from Northern California, and I wouldn’t want to appear to be showing favorites in the screwing up area).
We’re at Marina Aqua Vi (very nice, with internet, TV, pool, restaurants, and a horrible slum outside the gates) run by our old friend Victor, who worked on our previous Amel “Lily Marie” over 20 years ago, and who claims to remember Phyllis (these Latins are such charmers). The town is larger, more expensive (but still pretty cheap), and a little more run down than I remembered (but then, so am I). Plans, such as they are, are to get some stuff done, put the boat to sleep, then leave for Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and maybe Brazil by the end of June, through end August, for a land trip. Previously, we were going to leave Venezuela shortly thereafter, mostly because of security concerns, and head for Las Roques, Aves (my favorite place last time), ABC’s, Columbia, Panama, Roatan, Belize, Yucatan, then the Florida Keys and Ft. Lauderdale. However, seeing as how we haven’t been killed yet, and it actually seems quite nice here, we may stay in Venezuela a while when we return from our land trip. Quien sabe?

Puerto Rican Salsa

Morning, starboard tack

Skinny Legs Bar and Grill in Coral Bay, St. John. Definitely worth the hamburgers and atmosphere.

Our arrival at Christainsted Harbor, St. Croix. From St. John it was a 35 mile close reach.

Cafe in Christainsted. We both agreed that St. Croix was our favorite Virgin Island.

Christainsted sidewalk

El Morro waterways of Puerto La Cruz. This was just being built when we were here 20 years ago.

Aqua Vi Marina

Stern to the dock is preferred .

Antares has her own gangplank.  Note the message on the life ring. It’s a going away present from my students.