Oranjestad to Monjes del Sur

David & Valerie Allen
Wed 25 Nov 2009 14:51
12:21.68 N   70:54.17 W

Monday, November 17, 2009.

At last we are moving again!  The anchor came up easily at 0530 and we exited the boat channel between the reefs safely.  Then the excitement began!

We suddenly realized we had a huge freighter very close to us on a collision course.  We wouldn't be able to outrun it, so we altered course to starboard (that's to the right for the landlubbers reading this) in order to pass port side to port side.  Then we were startled by a high-power spotlight from our aft starboard.  There was a tugboat rapidly approaching the freighter.  And we were in the middle!  We steered hard to port and hoped we could clear the tug and then get behind it.  Meanwhile, the freighter was now blasting a warning signal!  (To think I used to dread the shock of hearing the alarm waking us up in the morning!)  Talk about playing a game of Cat and Mouse.  In the end we did pass and circle around behind.  Our day had officially begun.

Then we had the most leisurely passage ever!  The weather reports had promised 12- 15 knots of wind.  We found 7-8 instead.  We did travel under sail for 2 hours, but VERY slowly.  The seas were almost flat- a brand new experience.  Motoring was the order of the day.  Once again there were dolphins to welcome us at our destination.

This destination was MONJES DEL SUR in the westernmost part of Venezuela.  It is a small pair of islands which the Venezuelan navy at one time decided to link together with a vast rock wall.  A lighthouse and coast guard/naval base were established.  Cruisers know it as THE ROCK.  That is just what it is.  There is very little greenery there.  In the harbour there is a wharf for larger vessels.  The rest of us are discouraged from anchoring.  We are to tie up to a ROPE stretched between the islands.  As long as the wind blows steadily from the east, the boats stay securely in place and do not drift into each other!

Dave rowed over to the wharf in CHERUB, our dinghy to pick up three young coast guard/ nanal officials who checked our papers and safety equipment.  I had contacted them by radio when we were 10 miles away, as prescribed by PIZAZZ's  internet cruising guide.  I had practised the necessary Spanish expressions en route.  Except for forgetting to say cambio ("switch "or "over") each time I finished speaking, I wasn't doing too badly.  That is, until the guardacostas started asking me QUESTIONS in rapid Venezuelan!  I muddled through with many "losientos" and "repita por favors".  I felt like I had fought a major battle afterwards and was very averganzada (embarrassed).

These young men spend a month at a time on the island.  It must seem like a year to them!  They were very friendly and we all managed to make ourselves understood.  They were pleased with the beer and pretzels from us and the homemade cookies and apples from Ralph and Karen.  I also gave them some carbon paper as they were making all the copies of the paperwork by hand.  We have been invited ashore for a tour of the facilities in the morning.

Even though it was almost sunset, I couldn't resist a quick swim.  The snorkelling is excellent!  I found thousands of fish of many species, a couple of dozed squid and a forest of sea fans.  Beautiful!  The forty or fifty barracuda swimming along with me were a little off-putting and helped me decide when to return to ANGEL for the night!