Friday, October 5, 2007

How fresh do you want your meat?

On the SW corner of the Golfo de Cariaco is the city of Cumana, the place to get your “free” fuel thanks to Chavez. We met up with our good friends with kids on “Sea You Manana”. The kids loved the ice cream and video arcade in the waterfront plaza. The next morning, it was off to the local marker. Unlike the touristy straw markets of the islands or the upscale farmers’ market back in Saratoga, this was a real local market where everyone comes to buy and sell food, clothing and supplies. Some vendors operate out of an old pick-up truck, others under a tarp or a tin roof. Most towns have a market with covered stalls housing the meats and fish vendors. The aroma reminded me of the days I use to spend helping grandpa at Ken and Bea’s Grocery. He used to take me to Smitty’s meat packing where I saw how the pigs in the corals ended up as pork chops at the other end. Here, we strolled by sides of cows and pigs hanging about as butchers would lop off sections as needed with their razor sharp knives. Chickens were pre-plucked and then “prepped” with the WHACK of a machete. If you prefer yours really fresh, you can carry them off flapping and squawking, swinging by their bound feet. Parker preferred to do his shopping at Hannaford and keep the butchering and related smell behind closed doors. We loaded up on everything (mostly vegetables and fruits) at prices that were a fraction of the US. The BolĂ­var rate was changing daily and was now at over 5000/$1 within a couple of weeks. While we were there the marina doubled their rate to cruising boats. We ended up paying $17/night including A/C before leaving, while our friends paid $8. Prior to leaving, we filled up our tanks and jerry jugs with diesel and 96 octane gasoline at $.04 a gallon, 100x cheaper than anywhere else! The “set” price by Chavez to keep the people happy is 47 Bolivars/gallon. At 4000-6000 bolivars to the $1, you do the math.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fisherman On!

We sailed off toward the mainland and the Golfo de Cariaco with Grace in light winds that moved the boats just fast enough to make Laguna Grande by dark. As we usually do, we trolled lines 100 yards behind the boat to see if dinner was out there. What was out there, were several fisherman buzzing at a high rate of speed between the mainland and Isla Margarita. Angie frantically yelling, la linea, la linea and making hand motions did not stop one boat. Our line caught the prop of a fishing boat. The zing of the reel as it spooled out confirmed why their boat was stopped. This was one ER situation we had not rehearsed. In case you need to know, here is the step by step plan when you catch a fisherman:

  1. Stop the boat (with no brakes, this one takes time).
  2. Yell to the fisherman as he tries to clear his prop.
  3. Watch the fisherman get pulled out of the boat and dragged as the fishing line gets caught around his hand.
  4. Get out the knife and cut the line to save the fisherman’s life.
  5. Hope the fisherman has better luck with your expensive lure than you did. Also hope he is not armed.

After that mini-adventure, we continued on our trip. Grace had better luck fishing and landed a nice tuna, much more edible than our catch.

Words cannot describe the landscape of this desolate place on the west end of the Golfo. The steep barren landscape is a collage of distinct earth tones ranging from white to rust to black. We hiked up onto the arid crushed rock hills created by seismic and glacier activity. The views were spectacular as were the unusual crystals and rock textures. We spelled our boat name in white rocks atop one of the hills. The water was a beautiful blue but very “cloudy”. Late that night as I was raising the swim ladder the water exploded in sparks of phosphorescent light given off by tiny jelly fish. Ahh, that’s why the water was so cloudy. I dove in looking like an asteroid shooting through space. Before bed we all laid out on the trampoline gazing up at the heavens above wishing upon falling stars.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Don't get anchored in prosaic detail

We weighed anchor and motored east further into the 30 mile long Golfo bound for Medregal Village. The peninsula’s mountains are shaped like a continuous line of soft serve ice cream that changed from arid to green to tropical the further east we went. There’s this place, Medregal Villlage, run by a former Belgian Congo expat named Jean Marc that has become a cruiser’s destination. Over the years he began welcoming cruisers ashore to enjoy the pool and tropical rustic facility. The market trips, bar tab, and meals are all done on an honor system that is settled up when you leave. Foosball and ping pong were the games of choice for Parker. Sabrina enjoyed the company of Jean Marc’s daughter “Ya Ya”. We rejoined other boats we had last seen in Trinidad or Margarita.

For those sailors who really got stuck here, they ended up buying property next to Medregal village. I had to say I took an interest in what property was available for many reasons: no hurricanes, no tide, no barnacles, very safe due to its remoteness, beautiful views, trade wind breezes blowing from land free of salt air, easy access to great cruising grounds, and pricing 1/10 -1/100th of ocean property elsewhere.

We passed the days away enjoying conversation with others, playing games, lounging by the pool, and best of all, water color painting with Terri of Sea Otter. Terri reiterates what an art teacher once told her as she instructs us in water colors, “don’t get anchored by prosaic detail”, (i.e. stop wanting perfection). She is such a giving person and hopes to inspire others who like herself, didn’t know they had it in them. The Johnsons as artists.. who would have thought.