Sunday, April 08, 2007

Los Tostigos

Our night passage from Grenada was great. We had 10 - 15 knots of wind from off our port stern quarter and averaged 6.5 knots the whole way, registering 8.4 at least once. We sailed the whole way and unfortunately needed to occasionally run the generator to top up batteries as the auto pilot uses a lot of energy. It was a clear cloudless night with a three quarter moon up for most of it. We could always see the lights of our boat buddies nearby, Gypsy Palace and Orpalleur. The only downside was a lot of rolling side to side with the following waves - it does make sleeping a lot harder. By five thirty as the light began to come up, we could see the first of the islands, I. Noreste, rugged, rocky and deserted. We went between two more and then rounded up the south end of Testigo Grande. The settlement on Isla Iguana Grande across to the west was very small and a few houses lined the beaches at Balandra Bay. There were a number of cruisers anchored there and they looked like they were rolling a lot so we continued on to Playa Real further north. Chris Doyle says this is the prettiest anchorage in Los Testigos and he sure is right. A narrow gap between the end of Testigo Grande and Testigo Pequeno is bridged with a sand bar that is more or less covered with crashing waves depending on the tide and the size
of the rollers. A small home huddles on one side, the dwelling of the patriarch of the island and his wife. His descendants live nearby. On the other side is a open shack that is used by short term visitors for camping. What a lovely spot for it.
The three of us anchored there with five other boats. It was Easter Sunday! The holding was excellent and we were over the side in a short time enjoying clear blue green water. After our traditional big breakfast following an overnight trip, we were both in bed asleep for most of the morning. Later we snorkeling into the beach and explored.

Los Testigos means The Witnesses in Spanish and there are approximately 160 inhabitants. There is a small school and church. That afternoon several family groups visited to picnic and swim on the beach. There is also a vast colony of frigate birds and watching them float above and dive into the water is delightful.
The next day was so peaceful and relaxing that we decided to stay another day. The six of us took our dinghies over to the other end of the island and visited the sand dunes on the other side. The initial walk up the steep deep sand slopes was very difficult but it was worth it. A huge expanse of sand, a mini desert extends out to lovely long beach with crashing waves. The water felt so good as we were very hot by then. That night we waved goodbye to our friends who were off to Blanquilla. We had Dave and Valerie from "Angel" over for drinks. They are from Canada and like us, have been cruising for three years. They are candidates for Commodore status with the Seven Seas Cruising Association and their pictures/bio appeared in the February bulletin with "M'Lady Kathleen" and "Dreamtime", our's was in January. We've been associate members for three years and it's an honor to be raised to Commodore status. Two recommendations by existing Commodore's, live aboard status for at least two years, and rigorous distance/travel requirements are the requirements. Our names are published for four months before being inducted. We'll trade our associate pennant navy flag for the red swallow tail commodore's flag and hope to extend a helping hand to other cruisers as we have so often been helped.
The next morning at 6 AM we were off and sailing. This time the wind was a little lighter and further behind us so we were slower. Still we averaged about 6 knots overall and were anchored in Porlamar, Margaurita Island, Venezuela by three thirty. Scott went in to talk to Juan at Marina Juan (fellow offering all around assistant for cruisers) and arrange for a variety of needed services; diesel fuel, gas for the dinghy motor, water, trash, laundry and propane fuel for both our tanks. We were concerned about not checking into the country and wanted to ask his advice. He felt if we only stayed a few days, it would be OK. We went in that night to the dock our guidebook indicated as the hotel's but something was clearly wrong. It
was very dilapidated and the Rhum Bar beside it and it's customers equally so. They could have been a casting call for "bar you shouldn't walk into without a body guard". We had one drink with a German fellow who spoke English and after one rum, everyone looked friendlier. When we asked about a restaurant, the bar tender took us out to the dirt road and gave us directions. Happily we had a wonderful fish dinner at El Pesador de la Marina. No one was there that early but by the time we left after eight, there were quite a few people and live music. The band sounded a bit like my Cuban CD. The cost was so reasonable that we rather over ordered and the
portions were enormous so we waddled back to the dinghy.
Early the next morning the diesel boat appeared and we took as much as they had and arranged for another visit the next morning. Scott took in the propane, trash and laundry to Juan while I watched for the water boat. When it still hadn't arrived at 2 PM, Scott and I took a taxi downtown to the Ratan Super Marche - a Cosco like facility with supermarket and department store all rolled into one. The taxi trunk was full when we came back but unfortunately we had to pay by credit card as the ATMs wouldn't accept our credit cards and the bank needed a passport, which we hadn't brought. Our money was now very low and we couldn't pick up the propane and laundry as we needed cash. We had quite a lecture from a single handed older cruiser at Marina Juan's on paying too much for the taxi, food and liquor and not seeking the advice of experienced people (like himself) about everything. The group hanging around there at 4 PM drinking looked like the same men in the bar the night before.
As we had no propane we had a cold but delicious supper and later watched "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" - still fun. The anchorage was rolly that night and I was up early. Scott's going in town this morning to try and get some money. Meanwhile our bank account is getting very low and we haven't had internet for a while to check on it. Making a telephone call is a big production here but hopefully he'll be able to do it. I'm on board waiting for the water boat. We are really low on water!

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