Sunday, November 13, 2011

A New Chapter

Mark and I had been talking about it for a little while, but now we are actually doing it! After three years of sailing up and down “the island chain”, spending months at the time at each “end” and focusing on work, projects and errands, we have broken the routine and opted for something new and different. We left the popular and easy Eastern Caribbean. Oh, to be traveling again… and to be sailing without knowing what to expect. Doing longer trips, including night sails. It sure is a whole other world and concept and we did leave comforts and friends behind, but we are both ready for new territories, adventures and priorities. And, with every move comes a new experience…

October 27th, 2011 (happy birthday, dad) was the day we left our beloved Grenada behind. From the moment we lifted anchor at 5am, the clouds emptied themselves and we got drenched in a massive squall. Just like when I said farewell to my best friend Rosie the day before, Mother Nature didn’t seem quite happy to see us go. For hours we were surrounded by massive clouds and the sun came up with a few more downpours. Mark and I estimated an average speed of 5 knots when planning our first trip, but, not being used to downwind sailing and expecting a bit too much from our little cat – of which only the jib was useful (wish we managed to find a used spinnaker, but all our attempts failed) – we only did about 4 knots the first 24 hours.

The seas were calm and we both managed to do our night watches, but the following morning, the engines had to come on. We were adamant to make our first stop before nightfall on day two. Unfortunately that meant running the engines for 8 hours. We learned our lesson, so we thought. The last two hours before arrival, the wind picked up and we had a wonderful and quite sail towards flat Blanquilla. Our speed picked up as well, we hooked a small barracuda, passed a drop-off, and … caught a big one next! A heavy and meaty creature – we think it was a king fish – turned into 7 wonderful fish meals! This way, our stocked up meat (luckily frozen) lasted forever…

The anchorage at Blanquilla was pretty rolly, but we both enjoyed a great day of exploration ashore and some rest during the afternoon. A visit from the Coast Guard ended our first full day in the out islands of Venezuela. The wind was predicted to die even more over the next days, so we decided to head to Los Roques sooner than later. This time, we counted on an average speed of 4 knots. The first day out, we barely did 3 knots, because the wind was dead behind us at a velocity of less than 10 knots! With our small jib, we barely moved. Irie did manage to catch a fish trap and I had to dive into the ocean to cut the tangled line loose from the prop. Other than that, the trip was very relaxing and the seas almost flat to say the least, but … we had 120 miles to go and hoped to reach reef strewn land before 4pm (when the sun is still high enough for optimal visibility) on the second day out. The way this was going, we were looking at a whole day of motoring again.

Then, at night, we lucked out with northeast winds. We pulled our mainsail up and managed to sail all night on a broad reach, doing 4.5 knots in about 10-12 knots of wind. It was a happy ride, with clear skies and millions of bright stars. More traffic in this area as well, but all the ships were lit. We caught up some of the “lost” distance and reached Los Roques under sail (during the day back to only jib and slow speeds), apart from the last hour. Now we were ready for a few days of fun and relaxation in these beautiful and out-of-the-way cruising grounds!

Pretty big fish caught at the drop-off to Blanquilla. King fish?

One of the many meals we made with the fresh fish: steak with spinach and plantains

Not long after leaving Blanquilla for the 120 miles to Los Roques, we caught a fish trap. I "went in" to cut the line off the propeller.

View of El Gran Roque from our first anchorage in Los Roques.

Slow sail through Los Roques to explore different islands.

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