Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Strange places and happenings!


Going west...... sailing into the sunset
When we left RSA, we were looking forward to cruising the wonderful Venezuelan islands and mainland. Colombia represented Noriaga, drugs and crime! How things change!

Sadly the stories of piracy, forced boardings, official corruption…. some true, some exaggerated,  led to our decision to cut Venezuela out of our plans. So many exciting anchorages and destinations, lost… thanks mainly to Mr Chavez.
 Many cruisers braver than ourselves report trouble free sailing in their waters, but there have also been enough first hand tales to justify our “wussiness”!

Monjes del Sur
We actually did visit Venezuela, and spend a night anchored behind a rocky outcrop belonging to them, Monjes del Sur. Certainly this was the strangest place in which we have ever spent a night! It is a real back of the moon, rocky little island(?), devoid of vegetation, and inhabited by a handful of Lighthouse attendants and officials. An artificial bay has been created by building a seawall between the big rock and the adjacent little rock. Across this bay, a polyprop rope has been rigged , on which there is room for 2-3 yachts to attach themselves.

Strange anchoring technique!
As we approached we were treated to a Spanish Inquisition on the VHF, regarding our intentions, destination, passport numbers, country of origin, registration etc.. We couldn’t understand a thing, but Chris on Scott-Free did pretty well, answering their queries. We just played dumb…Noa comprehendo, desculpa….(Actually that’s Portuguese anyway!)

We tied up in the fading light, and were troubled no further. Once again the inaccuracies of the Navionics charts were evident. Safely moored between the two bits of island, our plotter showed us well outside them!

Can't rely on the chartplotter all the time

Steve on Scott-Free had caught his first big fish while cruising , a big wahoo, and had invited us  for supper…. He’s a great cook too, and it was delicious! They are still eating Mr Wahoo morning, noon and night, 4 days later! We too finally got into the fish, catching 2 dorado…….yay!!!!

We were also visited several times by dolphins, big and small, playing in our almost nonexistent bow wave. Very special!

We slipped our lines at 5.00am and set out for Cabo de Vela, some 80 miles away. Now this stretch of water is where Petr Muzik had his personal best day of 220 miles in his Shearwater, “Shoestring”. Sheer Tenacity also set a record for herself….. the lowest number of miles logged in a day, in her life… 74! BUT, we landed (or shipped) another lovely dorado!!  There was little or no wind, and we saw no point in pushing Lord Perkins, only to get there in the dark! We elected to sail on, plodding along at 2.5 to 3 knots, until we reached the point where we needed to maintain 4 knots to arrive in Santa Marta at our planned time of 8.00am. So Lord Perkins was called upon to supplement the sails with 1400rpm for the last 48 miles, lifting our speed to about 4.2kt.

No wind and flat seas.........can't have everything
AIS, as I have mentioned before, is a great new bit of kit, and we would never sail without it now. It uses VHF radio frequencies to transmit a ships position, name, speed, course, and assesses any risk of collision.
It did however come up with a really unusual “Dangerous Target “ message on my last watch.

We were at risk from a ship coming backwards towards us, at 13.9 knots, apparently while at anchor! I was waiting for his name to come up (but it never did!) so that I could advise him that he was apparently dragging anchor rapidly in the direction of Santa Marta..
He passed us about a mile off, going forwards, but with no green (or red) lights showing, with the AIS still showing him at anchor and going astern!

A while later, I spotted a pair of ships coming towards us just off the starboard bow. I waited for them to show up on the AIS, just to confirm passing distance. It showed 0.8nm, which was fine, but that there was only one ship. By now the angle of the approaching vessels made it look as long as the Blue Train, if it really was only one vessel! My curiosity made me turn on the radar, which confirmed that there were 2 ships, one behind the other. Clearly ship no.2 had forgotten to turn on his AIS, much like my previous fellow had forgotten to change his status from “At anchor” to “under way”!
 Perhaps it was just a little reminder that there is no substitute for continuous watch keeping?

Approaching Santa Marta, Colombia, at dawn
We arrived in Santa Marta as the sun was rising to reveal that we were now in Latin American ,Colombia, having finally left the Eastern Caribbean , the island chain, and all its people, culture and music behind.
Santa Marta feels good, vibrant, and different, and exciting!

Sheer Tenacity in a strange place.........a marina

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