From St Lucia we quickly sailed south stopping at the islands of Bequia, Union and Granada, before heading westward for 140 miles to Venezuela. It was our first overnight sailing trip since crossing the Atlantic, but fortunately we had a full moon, calm seas and 15 knots of breeze, which helped make the trip more tenable. We were certainly apprehensive about cruising in Venezuela as in recent times there have been several cruising boats attacked by pirates.
Unlike Somalia where they tend to kidnap you for ransom here they just shoot you. Even ashore there have been lots of muggings and when we arrived at our first stop in Margarita, a large offshore island just off the Venezuela coast, the local cruising boats advise you not to leave your dinghy in the water overnight as it will be gone by the morning – even though you might have padlocked it onto your boat. All the jetties where you leave your dinghy have security people there to keep an eye on them.Originally we were only going to stay for one night – but after our first trip into town and speaking to the cruising people who live here full time we soon realised it wasn’t as bad as everyone was making out. As long as you take the usual travel precautions and keep away from certain areas the place is just as safe/dangerous as anywhere else in the Caribbean.
So our one day was extended, probably the deciding factor was that the shopping is so incredibly cheap – a bottle of Gordon gin is $5, clothes are 75% cheaper than Australian prices, you could eat out including drinks for under $10 and most importantly the price of fuel . We took 1000 litres of diesel and it cost $150, and even then we paid about 10 times more than a local boats. The cost at the service station for petrol and diesel is 2 cents a litre!!!! You used to be able to get fuel at the local price, but they have now decided to charge foreign boats the higher rate – but who cares, at that price we are still laughing. We understand now why so many cruising boats end up here and stay for years as it is so cheap.
From Margarita we sailed 180 miles to the Islands of Los Roques and de Aves. They are located about 65 miles off the Venezuelan coast line and consist of small mostly uninhabited islands surrounded by protected coral reef. You certainly have to be careful when navigating through them as the chart plotter is about half a mile out and the charts are very inaccurate. It’s all done by looking at the colour of the water – the darker the water the deeper it is, unless of course its rocks!!On Islas de Aves it’s like a bird sanctuary. So many sea birds mostly red footed boobies with their little white fluffy chicks seemingly suspended in the mangroves. You are advised not to anchor to close to the trees as you could be splattered by defecating birds and bitten by bird lice.
Next stop Bonaire –the first of the ABC islands. It is meant to be sensational for diving, so we are both looking forward to that.