Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 19, 2007 - Los Roques to Las Aves, Venezuela

We had another rolly ride as we made our way west from Los Roques to Las Aves, the westernmost islands off the north coast of Venezuela, this time sailing under jib alone (no pole) instead of main only. Every few minutes we would be rolled by a swell and the jib would collapse. We would lose half a knot of boat speed each time. It would take a full minute before we would be back up to speed. We are going to have to do a better job of getting the boat to move dead down wind before we get to the Pacific.

The highlight of our sail was a rainbow around the sun. Really amazing, but we didn't have the photographic equipment to do it justice.

Las Aves get their name from the thousands of birds that nest in the mangroves along the coasts of these islands. As we approached the south coast of Aves de Barlavento, our fishing lures drew the notice of some boobies, and Sten called me back to the stern rail to help him reel in the lures before we caught a bird. With the luck we've had lately, we would catch a bird rather than a fish. We're now officially 2600 miles without a mahi mahi. Sheesh. A girl could go into sushi withdrawal around here.

We rounded the southwestern corner of Isla Sur around 3pm and picked our way to the easternmost anchorage (back out towards the reef we just rounded) through the coral in decent light. No sweat. After Los Roques, we're much better at reading the water. There are three visible wrecks, one is the upside down hull (what is left of it) of a 30+' dual inboard fishing boat, another is a smallish sailboat, and the third is around the corner to be explored tomorrow. Deep into this maze of reefs, I wonder what kind of weather caused the carnage.

There are no stores, houses, or gas docks in Las Aves. There is only a lighthouse and a small fishing camp in Aves de Barlavento. On the other Aves, a dozen miles west of here, there is a small coast guard station. Other than that, there is no development on these islands. They are pristine. There are only four sailboats here now, including us. We chose to drop anchor away from the others, which are all tucked in by the mangroves. As soon as we were anchored, Sten was off to a magazine perfect flat to see if there were any bonefish around here. Unfortunately, there weren't. He returned with a conch, then decided to try his luck at snorkeling for lobster. He returned, looking downright dejected, so I guess it is conch fritters for dinner. Yum.

As Sten was cleaning the conch on the fillet table on the stern rail, a local fishing boat came charging up. They asked for cigarettes and bread, but we didn't have any of either. I ended up giving them some super preserved hamburger rolls that we bought about two months ago in Guadeloupe. They were thrilled and promised to bring fish tomorrow. I may have to get off my duff and actually bake some bread.

The water here is crystal clear, and it varies in shade from dark aquamarine in the deeper parts to the palest of teals in the shallows. Sten reported that the snorkeling was the best he'd seen since our honeymoon almost three years ago in French Polynesia. There is a large variety of good sized fish and vibrant coral life. We both feel so privileged to experience this unspoiled location; but, we wonder what our impact is on it - from the conch we took for dinner to the dish soap and shampoo that flows out of our drains.

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