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Date: 28 Mar 2008 19:16:44
Title: It's never too late for an update in 2008. Great!

Position 12:27.4N 61:29.3W

 

Now of course the problem with keeping a blog, and then not keeping a blog for a long time, is that you tend to get a bit behind…Still, we’ll have a go at bringing it all up to date and if we can do that without sending you all to sleep we’ll class it as a good result.

 

So, where were we? Ah yes, Venezuela. One of the more enjoyable things we did before leaving Hugoland (well if Cecil Rhodes could do it, it’s only a matter of time…) last year, along with our splendid trip to Merida in the Andes which we’ve already told you about, was a trip to Angel Falls. The tallest waterfall in the world at around 1 kilometre high, it / they were discovered by Jimmy Angel when he carelessly crashed his plane onto the plateau from where the falls, well, fall. It’s not too easy to get to – by car to Cuidad Bolivar on the banks of the Orinocho river, then light aircraft to Canaima, then a trip upriver in a 12 metre canoe (with outboard) to the base of the falls which is situated in the area which Conan Doyle used as the basis for his book “The Land That Time Forgot”. And didn’t it just.

 

 

The general landscape is relatively flat but everywhere you look there are huge “mesas” or flat topped towers of rock, one of which our Jimmy crash landed on to and so “discovered” the falls. A bit presumptuous really as I’m sure the locals knew the falls were there all along. Anyway, the most uncomfortable bit of the whole trip was the canoe ride, four hours or more sitting on a wooden seat while holding on for dear life. Because it was quite late in the season the river was fairly low so the rapids were a bit on the shallow side, countless times we’d round a bend in the river and see in the near distance an area where we were plainly going to have to all (12 of us) get out and carry the canoe around a particularly dodgy stretch. Not a bit of it, the native Indian helmsman and his mate on the bow with a wooden paddle would somehow manage to steer the canoe through impossible gaps. We hit the bottom a few times and broke one steering paddle but we got there. They’d also taken the precaution of stopping on the way up and putting a very bent and broken propeller on as they knew they’d clump it a few times and didn’t want to damage the good one. Very sensible as it turned out.

 

So here’s the falls (which are apparently somewhat more impressive in the rainy season) and our pilot catching up on the news while flying the plane:

 

 

Here’s where we stayed, in hammocks, across the river from the falls (canoe on the left):

 

 

Anyway, can’t really do it justice with just a few piccies but you get the drift.

 

We finally dragged ourselves away from Venezuela in mid-November, having been there for around three and a half months. Overall we enjoyed our time there, it’s a fascinating place with some spectacular scenery etc, but I personally wouldn’t hurry back to Puerto La Cruz where we spent the bulk of our time, since that’s where the boat was and we live on it. But it was most certainly time to move on, or in our case back, since we headed off for Trinidad, in the company of Squander (Jan & Aid) and Scorpio (Jan & Richard). Tracy became an honorary Jan for the trip to avoid confusion. After a short stop in Margarita we set off in convoy, into the wind and current since there’s no other way. This stretch of the north Venezuelan coast had a reputation for piracy in recent years so we decided not to stop but just stayed a couple of miles off the coast and kept on motoring. I was quite excited by the whole thing, yelling “Ah Jim lad” at inappropriate moments and asking Tracy to load with grape and put one across their bows etc. which only earned me one of those looks, and of course we didn’t see another soul for the whole 24 hours or so, which was fine by us.

 

Ah Trinidad. Now we like it there, as I’ve said before. Everyone has their own opinion of course, and for the opposing view see the blog by “Jaywalker” on this site. We’d planned to spend just a little while here before moving off, but like all our plans it didn’t work out that way…We left Scorpio in Chaguaramas as they were waiting for some boat work to be done and set off with Squander for Tobago, which lies upwind and up-current again. Oh goody. Actually the trip wasn’t too bad and it was great to drop anchor in Store Bay in the south of Tobago. Back in around 1996 b.t. (before Tracy) I (Neil) had come to Tobago with our friends Dave and Gwen for a holiday. I distinctly remember standing on a hill above a bay and looking down on an anchored yacht, and thinking “that looks good, I fancy that, I wonder if…”. Well, eleven years or so later we made it, and here’s the picture to prove it, taken just before we dragged our anchor for the umpteenth time:

 

 

This is off Charlotteville in Man of War bay, which may not be the same bay I remember at all but what the hell it’s close enough. Slap me the next time I have a bright idea like that would you?

 

From a sailing point of view Tobago’s a pain in the arse as it lies northeast to southwest meaning that unlike most of the other islands there’s no defined “windward” and “leeward” side and the swell can be problematic, particularly for those not sharp enough to have bought a catamaran. Tee hee. They also have bizarre customs regulations which we all fell foul of as we didn’t know you’re supposed to check in and out of each place as you leave or arrive, which as it happens is impossible as there aren’t customs offices everywhere of course. Anyway after a dressing down we were free to carry on, but it certainly doesn’t make life easy. When I queried the wisdom of this rule with a customs officer he pointed out that T&T customs law is of course based on that from the UK. I refrained from pointing out that no-one likes a smartarse.

 

Despite all this Tobago remains one of our favourite islands and it was great to go diving again with Goran from Manta Dive and Adrian from Squander who turned out to be shark spotter numero uno, finding the biggest nurse shark I’ve ever seen. It’s the uniform that gets me every time.

 

But we were on a deadline, having to be back in Trini for an appointment at the US embassy in order to get a visa. Special relationship they call it, ha! If you’re entering the US by sea or land you need a visa, wherever you’re from. This costs us Brits $100 (gone up to $130 recently) and an interview at the embassy. Anyway it was all a formality and now we have visas which we’ll probably never use but there aren’t many places in the Caribbean where they’re obtainable so just in case…

 

The next thing we knew, it’s Christmas. We’d rejoined the Scorpios by now, back in Chaguaramas, and had a fine Christmas lunch with them and Squander at a posh-ish restaurant. Well I say fine, it was a bit light on roast potatoes and heavy on Caribbean rice but when in Rome…

 

New Year was spent with new friends on Mojo, another catamaran, and was a multinational affair with us, two from Belfast, a South African, an Israeli, a Swiss and two Austrians.

 

We’d planned all along to haul Adonde in Chaguaramas so while everyone else headed north we stayed behind to get the boat lifted for some routine maintenance. Just for five or six days. Remember the plan? Six or seven weeks later we relaunched, having sorted out all the various unforeseen problems. The most irritating thing we found was that one of our funky expensive Gori folding propellers (when sailing they fold away to reduce drag) had gone all floppy about it’s central bush, for no apparent reason and after only 500 hours use. Worse still the only cure was to send it back to the manufacturers for repair. In Denmark. Hrrmmph. For much the same cost as air freight to baconland we bought two new fixed blade props which seem to work just as well so that’s that, but it all took time…

 

The hull was a bit grubby as you can see – this was after just three weeks in Chaguaramas where the water is like soup, we struggled to make any speed at all. The blokes that hauled the boat said it was the first Rasta boat they’d seen!

 

 

Mind you, all this tardiness did mean we were in Trini for Carnival again so it’s not all doom and gloom. Now I know I’ve said it before, but you can’t beat a full-blown steel band when their tails are up, oh no. A splendid time was had by all, although we had said last year that if we were to be around for carnival again we’d take part in it properly. Well we didn’t, and we said the same thing again. Maybe next year. You’ll have had your fill of Carnival piccies from last time but here’s a few from the Kiddies Carnival which Tracy attended:

 

 

And so the boat was finally finished and relaunched, and after another couple of weeks had slid by we finally set sail for Grenada. Where does the time go? Probably on things like sitting in the stands at the Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain with my old mate Simon drinking beer while watching Jamaica play T&T that’s where. I’ve never understood cricket in the slightest, nor had any interest in it, but on a sunny Sunday afternoon I begin to see the appeal, particularly as I’ve now had the rules explained to me and know the difference between a googly and a full toss, and what’s more now understand how after five days the match can be a draw. I’ve always wondered. Still a bit vague on all the silly-mid-on stuff though. Slowly slowly catchee monkey.

 

And so to Grenada. We left just before dawn so we’d get there in daylight and so we did, a lumpy bumpy old ride as this stretch of sea always seems to be and Tracy felt a bit under the weather but we arrived with time to spare. A couple of weeks in Prickly Bay, which is fast becoming home, then off to Carriacou for a few days where I’m typing this.

 

Here’s a Caribbean sunset over Prickly Bay. Nice eh?

 

 

 We’ll be heading back to the south of Grenada in a day or two as Sarah & Trevor (Tracy’s sister and husband) are coming out for a week which we’re looking forward to – our first visitors in the Caribbean. Who knows, I may even update this blog before the new millennium and tell you all about it…anyone still awake out there?


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