11:22.097N 63:07.866W Los Testigos, Venezuela
11:22.097N 63:07.866W Los Testigos, Venezuela
Sunday 24th August 2008
It was too rough to do anything, but not too rough to leave the boat to its own devices. Bob also gave up on his ‘to do list’ and gave me a lift to dominoes, for which I was very grateful. I won, again; nice for my last game to go out a winner.
I was ready to go and the wind was good for Tobago, well as good as it gets for the slog to Tobago from Trinidad. I could not make up my mind and took that as a ‘don’t go’. Customs decided, with no notice, that the fuel dock was not allowed to sell fuel to foreign flagged vessels. There must be about a thousand yachts here in storage, so it will have to be sorted quite quickly. They would not even sell petrol for the outboards. There are always alternatives, jerry jug it from the petrol station if nothing else. I am ok as I always fill up by can before I launch as my filler caps are right on the transom and one pirogue flying past would mean water in my diesel.
I am gradually re-sewing the sprayhood where I had ripped it when fitting the solar panel.
I am leaving today.
Immigration gave me a tough time, everything I had done was wrong, their people would not be wrong. Strange that they have on file the required letter when I left by plane and it is the wrong copy and not signed. I have the original signed copy, that was my fault too. I could have filled in another form, but he changed his mind and said I had to pay 75TT departure tax, but they had no change. I had to go to the shop and I bought some rolls for Jim. This gave me 95TT change and the exact money for the Immigration. Customs was not too bad, but I had to pay 50TT harbour fees. They counted the day I came in as part of a month. All I did was go to the Customs dock and reverse straight into the travel lift and haul out, but whatever. The officials have the upper hand and they know it. It certainly removed any doubts about leaving Trinidad.
I left before 1pm and it came over black and tipped it down as I was going through the Boca, but the visibility was ok. The main stuck as soon as I tried to put it up, the sail is not properly wound in the mast and I will have to climb up and tuck it in, I had one go, but decided that could wait until I am anchored. Hurricane Gustav has sucked all the wind north and there is none here and I will have to motor.
I am bound for Los Testigos, a small group of islands 40 miles north of the Venezuelan coast.
The direct route is nearly 100 miles, but the nicest way would be to bay hop along the N Venezuelan coast. Unfortunately the coast is not advisable at the moment and so I went out 20 miles to the Hibiscus oil platform and then when it got dark I sloped off left and up, WNW. This probably added 4 hours to my trip.
Another boat, Kathleen Love (KL) left about 3 hours after me and we were going to keep in radio contact, but reception was bad. Also it makes our presence more obvious and I was trying not to be noticed. I did not put lights on, but kept a full lookout every 15 minutes, exhausting for a first trip in such a long time. As soon as it got dark I was counting the hours until daybreak.
I had been going for 7 hours before I checked the engine, and there was 4 litres of sea water in the engine bilge. A small leak from somewhere, but I cannot fix it now unless it gets worse. I emptied 2 litres every couple of hours. I did have strange wave sounds, but realized that it was dolphins.
KL behind me was hailed by a guard boat to a seismic survey vessel towing 5 mile cables and they had to change course to go round that.
The equatorial current is generally westerly going, but the tidal current runs to the moon, which means that every other six hour period, Nadir and Zenith, it runs to the east and the boat speed over the ground drops from 5 to 3 knots. I am pleased that I actually understand this and can use it when planning a trip. I just have to look up the meridian passage of the moon time tables, which I have only got until the end of August.
Daybreak arrived, it usually does, but it is not to be taken for granted. Soon I could see the island about 30 miles off and KL is parallel to me, about 10 miles closer to the coast. At 7am I was able to radio them with good reception. The island was lost in a rain squall and that was going to come to me, but for half an hour I had some wind. Unfortunately it went from one side to the other and ended up on the nose.
The last 20 miles are always going to take at least 4 hours, but it seems much longer than that.
2pm I anchored in beautiful jade clear water and went in to check in to the Guardacosta. The island has a contingent of very young soldiers, who spoke no English, but were very friendly and we got the forms completed. That was the island with the main village, must have been 12 buildings, the largest of which by far was the soldiers unit. Then we went over to the larger island and anchored. Here there are another 12 buildings, but not as substantial as those in the main village. There is nothing here, it is so peaceful. No roads, no vehicles other than boats. They do have electricity as there were a few lights at night, but there was no fan in what was the office, just a table and chairs.
If you are not a fisherman or an artist I cannot think what you could do here. They are building a quite large fishing boat on the beach which presumably they tow to the mainland to put the engine in and finish.
The water is 29C and I went in without my wetsuit and scraped the hydrovane rudder, which is not antifouled. I had done this quickly in Chaguaramas, but it needed more. I could also see the prop and had to go under and get the barnacles off the collars either side of it. I had my noodle on a rope anyway and used some of the extra length to take round the prop so that I could pull myself down and keep me there while I scraped. This was probably my best underwater session yet and I was pleased. There are not many times that I would be happy to have a rope round the prop, but this was one.
I had a couple of glasses of wine with Gillian and Graham and at 7pm came back and dropped into bed totally exhausted.