I am happy to report that we departed from Trinidad a week ago and the sun is shining and all is well aboard Seabird. Our stay in Trinidad was productive if not entirely enjoyable. The boat has never looked so good and many nagging repairs have been made but we were in Trinidad far too long. It is unfortunate that many of the larger projects that we had planned to do in Trinidad were not done due to the quality of the work we saw and in the inability to get detailed price quotes from the boatyards. We know that we made the right decision after hearing the horrible tales of others!! Trinidad is a great place to provision prior to moving on and interestingly for the first time in four months we were able to find fresh bagged baby spinach on all the supermarkets shelves. After watching the news from the states it appears that all the spinach that was removed from the US markets ended up in Trinidad. Luckily we have the internet and TV and had heard about the E coli scare.
Our first night after leaving Crews Inn we anchored in Trinidad Island called Chacachacare. The only inhabitant is a light house keeper but the history is fascinating. The Island was once a retreat for Trinidadians but its last history was as a leper colony that existed from the 1920’s until it was abandoned in 1984 when the patients were moved to the mainland. The structures of the colony are still somewhat intact and you can see the old X-ray machine and operating room table etc. We anchored just off the women’s ward where we could make a midnight departure for the Los Testigos Islands.
Los Testigos was our entry point to Venezuela and although there is no formal customs and immigrations office one does need to visit the “Guardacosta” and be recorded in their log book. Our lack of good Spanish language skills made this somewhat challenging. There was one cadet that could speak some English and he told us that he studies American in school and has read Michael Moore’s books as well as another he enjoyed called the “Ugly White Man’. This was all relayed in a very friendly non threatening conversation. We were granted a 48 hour visit to their beautiful Islands which was just what we needed after 4 months in Trinidad. The native Testigos are hard working and very gracious fisherman. There are less than 200 on the islands and one can see the great pride they take in their colorful and pristine boats. One enterprising couple has opened a restaurant in the bright green house over looking the anchorage. Several of us visited for a fresh fish dinner at a cost of $3.15 USD!!
The highlight of our cruise from Los Testigos to the Island of Margarita was catching my first fish!! I threw out a line as the seas were very calm and an hour later we had a small dolphin (mahi) fish on the line. It was too small and pretty to keep but our buddy boat Take Time caught a good size fish that we grilled for dinner that night. Margarita was not what we expected. The marina area looks like the newscasts from Beirut. The buildings were not bombed but were abandoned in all stages of construction due to financial and/or political pressures. The marina itself was only partially completed. We tied to a concrete wall along a dusty road and our end of the marina was without power stations. We did tour the city of Porlamar and visited one of the new modern malls. It is a good stop if one is in need of provisioning and we would have appreciated the luxuries available had we visited after an extended cruise. We used an agent to check in to customs which was difficult because we arrived on Friday afternoon and wanted to depart on Sunday. It took several calls to find an agent that works on the weekend. The cost was $150.00 USD and it took the agent 3 trips to get us cleared in and out with the proper paperwork (Zarpa) to enter Bonaire once we are through the Venezuelan Islands.
We are currently anchored in the Isla Tortuga at Playa Caldera which is a gorgeous low island with beautiful water and beaches. There are only a handful of people staying in fish camps and the Guardacosta station on the beach. We managed to be befriended by the only Island Shyster by the name of Nelson. Nelson’s English is excellent and he gave us a tour of his fish camp called Ranch Yemaya which is more like a Beach B&B. He suggested we come back and dine in the small beach restaurant. We went back for a luncheon of red snapper (whole fish) and rice and chatted with Nelson for the afternoon. He then presented us with a bill that was consistent with New York City pricing and he was absolutely shameless when we inquired as to where he came up with the price. He needed to support his fish camp and he found some Americans to help him!! Shame on Us!! Live and Learn! On another note we were boarded by three cost guard officers for a routine paper check and they were polite and very nice and we believe sincere!!
ADIOS for now…..