We have just spent the last two weeks in the most beautiful anchorages we have seen to date. At first we thought that maybe we were just reacting to the wonderful change from Trinidad but each stop has been a special treat.
Cayo Herradura is a beautiful beach island just off the coast of Tortuga. It has a long stretch of beach with a protected anchorage in about 10 feet of water. The beach had about a dozen very small tents set up and each one had a large antenna. As we came to shore you could hear Honda generators and a lot of Spanish voices, It appears that there was a Ham Radio group set up in the middle of nowhere and it was up to us to speculate what they were doing….war games?!? When we first arrived there were only a couple of boats in the anchorage but as the weekend approached the local boats from Venezuela arrived for the weekend. There were several beautiful sportfish and Eurostyle yachts in the harbor. The biggest surprise were the folks that arrived by helicopter to spend the day on this narrow spit of beach. Clearly here is some wealth in Venezuela!!
One curious thing we have seen on all the Venezuelan Islands is the presence of small white crosses. You see them on the beaches and on reefs. Most of these beaches are on Islands that are uninhabited or have a small fishing village. One fellow told us that the crosses are for the bodies that have been washed up on shore and buried by the fisherman.
Each group of Islands has a unique landscape. The most unusual and beautiful are the Los Roques. They are basically a collection of reefs with some mangroves and beaches with crystal clear water with all shades of blue and green. The area is poorly charted so you need good light to navigate between the reefs. The snorkeling both here and in the Aves is incredible. You can stop the dinghy on any coral reef and jump into a natural aquarium filled with hundreds of different tropical fish. It is the best we have seen anywhere to date. On one snorkel outing we managed to pass the nesting grounds of some birds called boobies. Thousands of birds swarmed our dinghy until we left the area. Of course Steven was thrilled to tell the tale if being chased by so many Boobies!!
We could have spent a month cruising the Los Roques Islands but we had some immigration issues with guarda costa of Venezuela. We had cleared out of Margarita Venezuela on 9/24/06 for Bonaire via the Islands. We also had a visa that allowed us to be in VZ for 180 days. We were boarded in Francisquis for a paperwork check and drug search by the local guarda costa. They were very nice but told us we had 24 hours to leave VZ waters or we would have to go to the mainland and clear in and out of the country again. We decided to leave that anchorage and head west to a more isolated area where we less likely to be seen by the authorities. Since they are all gorgeous we had no problem moving on as long as we did not get caught. Our boat tends to stand out and draw attention when all the other boats in the area are small sailboats!! We moved on to the Aves where once again we were boarded but this time we had our engines started and we were departing Venezuelan waters for Bonaire.
I mentioned that most of these Islands are uninhabited with the exception of the local fishermen that live a very simple existence in tiny shacks on the beach. On several occasions they would come out to the boat to see if we could offer them needed supplies. The first group we met had us fill 8 five gallon water jugs and in return they brought us lobsters. One fellow visited and asked if we could supply him with a bolt and washer while another wanted D batteries and writing paper. Each time we stopped the fisherman would come to visit and we always offer water, coke and cigarettes. I feel fortunate that we can provide some basics for these hard working people!
We really enjoyed our tour through the Venezuelan Islands and hope to return again in the future. For now it is on to the ABC Islands!!