Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March 20, 2007 - Las Aves, Venezuela

This place is spectacular. When Sten first stuck his head into the cockpit this morning he was awed. About an our later, I went on deck for the first time of the morning and was stunned. Picture yourself, alone, in paradise, whatever your version of it may be. This is ours. And we are beside ourselves.

When Suzy visited last month she was bemused by how unimpressed we were with the eastern Caribbean. We would enter another postcard pretty harbor and be more interested in how the anchor was set, whether there was any decent provisioning nearby, and whether the French cruiser or charter boat that came in after us was seriously going to drop anchor so close to us, than the environment around us. After a while, all of the islands started to seem like variations on the same theme: more or less arid, more or less verdant; piles of conch shells on the shores, but no live conch to be found in the water; settled by the French or English or both, if the former the provisioning would be better; peopled primarily by the descendants of the slaves those colonists imported; spending Euros or EC dollars; drinking Presidente, Caribe, Piton, Carlsburg, Kubuli, or Haroun. We had become blase.

Las Aves has knocked us both back on our heels as we try to take in the beauty around us and come to grips with how lucky we are to be here.

This morning, we were joined in our solitary spot on the reef by a flamingo. A single pink flamingo in the wild. I've never seen one before that wasn't the plastic lawn ornament variety. As we explored the mangroves in our dinghy we were surrounded by blue and red footed boobies. They see so few people, they haven't learned to fear us. We were able to observe nesting boobies with tiny little hatchlings in their nests, just a few feet from our boat. We spent a few hours this afternoon snorkeling. The coral life and fish life is both diverse and thriving.

This morning, when I started to pull out the ingredients for baking bread, I asked Sten to fire up the generator to heat the engine room so that the bread would have a place to rise. He soon noticed that there was a saltwater leak. Very quickly we went from a relatively tidy salon to a work zone as Sten moved the companionway ladder aside, removed the panel that covers the front of the generator, and started mopping up saltwater. My yeast was already proofing, so we worked around each other. He diagnosed the problem (a hose connecting to the saltwater cooling pump inlet was leaking), fixed the problem (pulled up some slack in the hose, cut it back an inch and reattached it), and had the mess cleaned up and the generator restarted, heating the engine room, before I was done kneading the dough. What can I say, the promise of fresh bread will make the man do marvelous things.

The local fishermen came by this afternoon again, this time asking for cervesa. We gave them each one, and a loaf of the bread that I had baked this morning. They didn't have any fish for us, but they asked for rum anyway. Sten managed to get across in his limited Spanish that we would like some lobster or fish first. "Manana," they said. Manana. We'll see.

After they left, Sten went off to surf cast on the windward side of the reef for dinner. He came back with a blue runner and a jack and a report that "on the first cast half the ocean converged on my lure. By the time I reeled in the lure it had been hit at least 4 separate times and had lost its tail. The next cast resulted in a similar phenomenon, and a missing lure. I switched to a orange surface popper, a larger lure than before, and soon landed several small, spectacularly beautiful black grouper with purple spots. I threw them back because they were too small. I eventually ended up with a blue runner and what I think is a horse eyed jack. I lost a good sized grouper that had been swirling at my lure for about 10 casts before I hooked him. He dove back into the reef and was gone, luckily giving me back my lure." He had a great time, and came back grinning from ear to ear. Lenore had the trimmings, and we had the runner in a cumin, coriander, salt and pepper dry rub with a variety of sides for serve-yourself fish tacos.

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