Friday, April 27, 2007

Los Roques, Venezuela

Los Roques is a beautiful cruising area made of about 14 by 25 miles of protected, reef-studded water, dotted with hundreds of pretty little islands. The colors of the water shade from the deepest blue and greens to pastel hues over white sand. There are some 80 species of birds that live or migrate through here. It is a Venezuelan National Park and with regulations aiming on preserving the reefs and islands in their natural state. There is a small community on Gran Roque, a few fishing shacks around, and one research station. Other than that it remains pristine. The few small hotels on Gran Roque send motor boats out with their guests to the more remote islands for the day with umbrellas and coolers. They and the fishing men were the only people we saw during our stay here (and then only occasionally). There were very few other cruising boats.
We spent two nights at each anchorage over the next eight days. At our first, as at each, we kayacked, snorkeled and walked the beaches. Our second night "Angel" had us over for drinks and homemade pizza, one with salsa and cheese and the other with rosemary and olive oil. Fabulous! Our next anchorage was Sarqui, another small flat island with a lovely long beach. We tucked in behind a protruding reef close up to the beach. Bonefish and tarpon fishing is a big sport here and the rest of our stay we kept company during the day with sportsfisherman ferried out to the reefs by guides and left for hours to fly cast. Early morning and late afternoon were the most popular times. I wouldn't want you to get the wrong opinion about how crowded it was here. We saw the same three fisherman (from the States) only during our stay.
Scott made his first loaf of bread in the bread machine on board - a milk and egg bread on the fast bake cycle. It turned out great. We were inspired by Val on "Angel"'s flax seed bread. She baked two loaves a few days before and gave us one. A few days later he made an olive rosemary bread. The winds picked up again here: we were seeing consistently 20 knots, but we were well protected. At night we had "Angel" over for mexican train dominos - fun!
Our next anchorage was tricky getting into but so beautiful. Two small islands, Felipe and Remanso off Isla Carenero's eastern end, and a reef form a 9/10 circle around a deep lagoon. The entrance is divided by a 4 foot shoal. Still at 10:30 AM with the sun behind us, the deep blue channel was very clear. Once inside there was lots of room to anchor and it was very calm. We kayacked over the Carenero to walk the long beach. There we met a fisherman who invited us into his shack (picture) and Scott was able to have a long talk with him.
I made encouraging faces and noises - it was very convivial. At the end he indicated that although the lobster season was over, he'd been keeping some aside. We had to admit we had no money (no cash given our problems in Margaurita). Our friend was nonpulsed; vino tinto would be the perfect exchange. Needless to say the lobsters were fantastic and we like to think he felt the same about the French wine he got in exchange.
Besides cash our other problem was water. In Margaurita we had ferried jugs to the boat and hadn't gotten a lot. On the trip from there to Blanquilla, the faucet in the bathroom had opened slightly, but enough to drain one tank. We were low on water. Luckily "Angel" had a water maker and every other day we filled up 2 - 5 gallon plastic jugs. Thankfully this solved the problem. With severe rationing we would have managed but we are used to having a nice fresh water shower every day.
Our last anchorage in Los Roques was the most beautiful, although it's a hard choice. This most western group of islands is comprised of West Cay, Cayo de Agua, Elbert Cay and Bequeve. It's a bit of nervous navigation into the anchorage on the north side of Cayo de Agua but worth it once we got there. Again the sketch map in Doyle's guide is very accurate. We looked first at the west side of Cayo de Agua but it looked tight and rolly, although the next day several boats went in there. A huge pod of dolphins escorted us into the channel and out again several days later. We've seen dolphins of course many times before, but this was one of the largest groups.
On the way here Scott caught a three foot barracuda. We have thrown these back many times before but our guide book (and friends Diane and Mitch Korbey) have said that cigatera is not a problem down in this part of the Caribbean so we decided to eat it. On advice, Scott ate a small portion and waited an hour. He felt fine so we had a wonderful two meals of it, very white and delicious.

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