Saturday, 17 March 2012

Heading West to the Venezuelan Islands ….. March 2012

03 – 06 March 2012Getting towed into Blanquilla
First stop the island paradise of Blanquilla.

It was a fast 173 mile overnight sail running before the strong trade winds from Prickly Bay in Grenada. The night watch was busy with ships getting in our way and the occasional rain squalls.  We sailed in company with fellow kiwis Brenda and David on Bandit, they are a Moody 46ft and our boats are quite evenly matched, after all those miles and different sail plans we arrived within minutes of each other.   They however, had a far more normal arrival than us, e.g.  sails down, motor on, into the bay, anchor down and relax.  We went for the slightly more challenging option when Olive the Volvo cut out as I was engaging gear, just after we had rolled in our sails, and she just couldn’t be convinced into starting again.  P3050008  

Well we are a sail boat and although we have never sailed in to anchor before it is a reasonably straightforward manoeuvre – on a good day!  Things didn’t go quite our way, we were restricted to using only the staysail as the headsail pole was still deployed, the designated anchoring area between the coral bommies was directly to windward, it was gusting 30 knots, we had a daisy chain of anchored fishing boats in our way and then the staysail sheet jammed in the block and had to be cut free rendering the staysail unusable too.  David had dropped their dinghy and come to assist but there was just too much wind for him to tow us into shallow enough water.  Eventually one of the fishing boats came to our rescue (after we had sailed by his stern very closely yelling apologises in Spanish!), they took our line, towed us in and went away very happy with a bottle of Mark’s most treasured Mount Gay Rum for their troubles.  
Take only photos, leave only footprints, Blanquilla

Of course our troubles hadn’t gone away, we were safely anchored but Olive still refused to fire.  These symptoms were very reminiscent of last year back in Spain when we needed our only other tow, that time into a marina, the Volvo men arrived, went through everything and eventually the injector pump was removed, sent away and repaired.  Here we were now in the middle of nowhere, a little island north of Venezuela, having just spent two weeks in Grenada where anything could have been fixed – the engine had run every day there for the refrigeration without a hiccup, c’est la vie!!  And so began another chapter in Skippers book of “Maintenance in Exotic Places”.   The engine was bled, filters were changed, injectors were tested, the lift pump changed – the list of checks went on until he had exhausted his repertoire, Olive kept on sounding like she really wanted to start for us but just couldn’t. Happy Hour on Blanquilla

Worked stopped for a wonderful stroll along the beach, the sand some of the softest and finest we have ever squished between our toes.  The water clear, the bay was now empty as the fishing boats had gone to enjoy their rum – just Balvenie, Bandit and the local pelicans dive bombing to catch their supper.  We cracked open the bar, dug holes in the sand and nestled in to watch the sun dip in the west. 

Despite our misfortune it was a wonderful place.  We did however go to bed and discuss our options - try to sail into the anchorages between here and Bonaire but many were reef anchorages - just try the easy ones - sail straight to Bonaire for repairs timing our arrival for when Cuttyhunk and Awaroa had arrived so they could help us in – stay put and apply for Venezuelan residency!!!  friendly fishermen at Blanquilla

Next morning reinforcements arrived, David joined Mark and they went through everything yet again.  David was adamant that Olive was only a machine and him and Mark humans therefore much smarter than an engine, thereby it was just a matter of solving the problem.  An excellent line of thinking and his persistence paid off.  After bypassing much of the fuel line with a direct feed into a fuel container held higher than the engine she kicked over and the sweet sound of Olive purring away filled the air.  Very hesitantly she was turned off, pipes all reconnected and started again, presto – more purring, and long may it continue!!!  A huge thanks to David for his support , expertise and help.P3050015

So we ended up with some time to enjoy the island, the shoreline was magical, a selection of interesting shells littered the northern end -  the sandy beach was up there with the best.  The snorkelling was good, it was probably the best we have seen so far in the Caribbean.although the water is still not that warm and 10 minutes is about my maximum,   We have been previously spoilt with snorkelling in Papua New Guinea which will take a lot to beat and also parts of the Red Sea;  our expectations are high but we will keep looking!  

We enjoyed fresh fish for dinner, our fishermen friends had brought us a fish, we declined the one in the photo and went for a smaller option which just did two nights dinner and one lunch, let’s not be to greedy! 
Life was good again.

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