44' Luxury Catamaran Mustang Sally

Doug, Wendy and Mustang Sally cruise the Virgin Islands. Follow along on their adventures meeting funky local characters and visiting hot spots and hidden treasures with links to our favorites websites and additional interesting information.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

LOS ROQUES, VENEZUELA - SINT MAARTEN
























































September 20th, 2008 Los Roques, Venezuela – Sint Maarten, November 6th, 2008

I left off the last log in Carenero, Venezuela where we had hauled Mustang Sally and anti-fouled for another year and did some other general maintenance etc. Once we splashed and had received our renewed passports we made tracks for Los Roques, the beautiful out islands of Venezuela that Doug has wanted to see for years. I must admit I was pretty curious to see them as well as this is where the rich Venezuelans head to for their weekends in their large sport fisherman’s, yachts or to stay for an entire week in the beautiful posadas (guest houses). Los Roques is considered to be very safe as it is 200 nautical miles north of the mainland of Venezuela. The islands are an atoll (reef islands, not volcanic) consisting of 15 or so small islands with long white sand beaches and lots of great reefs to snorkel with fish seemingly on steroids. Make sure you take everything you will need for your stay as there are no stores to buy much with the exception of a small store on Gran Roque.
We motored all nite to arrive in the morning. Unfortunately there isn’t much wind in the summer so we seemed to motor pretty much everywhere. We watched numerous electrical storms in the nite sky that gave us quite a light show to watch, the moon was close to full and also illuminated the nite sky and the water was very calm reflecting all of it. We enjoyed all of this while we took our turn on watch and listened to some great music.
Once we arrived at Los Roques we hooked up with what seemed to be a Canadian convoy of boats. Gypsy Blues, Meggie, Tyee III, Spyglass and our one token American boat, Sunrise were all anchored close to each other. Altho we were tired from our nite travel we were more than happy to get together for a potluck aboard Tyee III that evening to catch up with everyone and find out what their next travel plans were. Los Roques seemed to be the point for some boats to continue westward, and some to head back east.
We spent the next week enjoying the company of our friends, snorkeling and having lots of potluck cocktail parties and dinners. The weather was very hot and sunny with the occasional squall and reverse winds which always made the nites very interesting. These squalls never hit thru the day when you can see your point of references on land, only at nite, of course.
We said good bye to our friends who were all headed in different directions while we had the pleasure of enjoying the islands for 3-4 weeks before we had to start out trek back to Isla Margarita and then north. Meggie was headed further west to Bonaire, then Jamaica and further westward again to spend Christmas in Guatemala, while Gypsy Blues and Spyglass were heading into mainland Venezuela to have their boats hauled for antifouling and miscellaneous other tasks.
Our water pump broke on one of our engines and we did not have a spare. Altho we had two engines and therefore no biggie, it was a bad place for this to happen as there are no part/repair stores out here and we still had a long way to go to before we could replace it. Doug got on the single side band and asked for help. In a few days we learned of a boat, Mystic Journey, headed to Bonaire from Grenada who would be able to obtain the part and bring it to us on their way thru less than a week later. Very kewl.
While that was going on we worked hard polishing the cat and getting ready for the upcoming season. I would jog on the beautiful beaches early in the mornings, while the pelicans would dive into the water from high in the sky in pursuit of breakfast. We would also work on the cat in the morning and then call it quits in the afternoon as it was simply too hot. We spent the afternoons reading or snoozing in the hammock. Temperatures were well above 50* Celsius without a breath of wind and the days were spectacular with sunshine all day, no rain and beautiful starry nites. We enjoyed dinner out a few times on Gran Roque enjoying the quaint, high end boutiques and restaurants on sand streets where no cars are allowed (or needed).
After four lovely, leisurely weeks it was near time to start our trip back to Margarita but tropical waves had begun moving thru the islands one after another. Every morning we were up early to listen to Chris Parker give the weather reports over the single side band radio so we could determine when we would have a good weather window. Unfortunately, for many days, there was nothing but low pressure systems and tropical waves and the weather just deteriorated from bad to worse. Squalls would roll thru nite after nite with winds of anywhere between 30-50 knots. We had moved to a well protected anchorage which would keep us safe from the large swells produced by the storms and some of the wind and we put out a second anchor, a Danforth, in addition to our 60 lb “Brucie baby” which brought the total of our anchor weight up to 100 lbs. Those 100 lbs. did not count our all chain rode we had paid out at 10-1 ratio which brought the grand total on the seabed to approximately 800 lbs. We felt we were as secure as we could be. The bad weather was becoming rather tiresome tho and we were tired from sitting anchor watch most nites. After a few days and nites of this we learned tropical storm Omar was headed our way before tracking north east with 50 knot winds plus. Of course, this was the beginning of Hurricane Omar who would become a category 3 hurricane which would head north and cause a great deal of damage to St Martin and numerous other islands. We weathered the storm quite well and MS didn’t budge although at times it was quite hairy. We listened to the weather report the next morning we realized that Omar who was now well north of us had called all of the low pressure systems in the Caribbean to him like a dog on a leash and so now it was clear for us to head to Isla Margarita 160 NM to our east. Heading east from Los Roques to Isla Margarita means that like many easterly routes, we would have the prevailing winds and equatorial current against us until we hit the lee of the Windward Islands. Of course it meant a motor the entire way but at least there wasn’t much wind on our nose as there was no wind at all. The trip was uneventful and we managed to duck a few local squalls. We did have a visitor on board, a very large land bird who had been blown off land during the big winds. We determined to the best of our ornithology abilities that he must be some type of hawk. He was desperate for a place to rest and so hung on to MS enough time to get some much needed rest before heading off again, hopefully to land.
We arrived back in Porlamar, Isla Margarita after dark and managed to find a good spot to anchor in the busy anchorage, ate a bit of din din and crashed after 36 hours of motoring. The next nite we hooked up with our good friends Alex and Maria for dinner and got caught up with them. We enjoyed being back in some form of civilization and went grocery shopping and had a few dinners out while waiting for Doug’s Mom, Kathie to fly in from Canada to sail north to St Martin with us and visit for 10 days. We also continued to keep a sharp eye on the weather in preparation for our 400 NM trip north east, which we estimated would take us 3-4 days with winds predominately out of the northeast, of course.
I spent an entire day cooking hearty one pot dinners and casseroles and freezing them so that we could pop dinner in the oven while underway, making our lives as easy as possible. Doug spent that same day going thru his engine checks and changing belts, oil, etc. so that the girls were in top form when it was time to go.
We determined we had a good weather window the day after Mom (Kathie) arrived which was perfect. It would give her a chance to recover from her long flight and we could also enjoy some very fresh octopus and cervesas, Venezuelan style, for lunch and a delicious dinner of beef medallions and wine aboard MS before leaving early next morning. We said a teary good bye to Alex and Maria who had handmade us beautiful wind chimes of sea shells as a going away present.
Our first day out was beautiful and sunny with head seas running about 7-8 feet and head winds anywhere between 10-15 knots. A bit bouncy but all in all not bad and MS had no trouble keeping us comfy while we enjoyed good sailing. We had the pleasure of having dolphins joins us for awhile which we consider a good omen. That nite we encountered one squall after another but managed to dodge most of them with the exception of one that came upon us very quickly while I was on watch and brought big gusty winds from all directions and lots of sleeting rain. I hollered for Doug to help me as the wind continued to build and the sails backed. Thank goodness for the double reef that we always put in right before daylight disappears. We did a little 360 pirouette to get the sails set right again and as soon as the squall showed up it left. I was drenched but after a hot cup of tea and a light breeze I dried out in no time. Whew! What fun!
Second day was another beauty of a day with gorgeous sunshine and nothing but water everywhere. We were 150 NM offshore directly west of St Lucia making good time. Had the pleasure again of visiting dolphins thru the day and saw three freighters in the nite. We had hoped the head seas and headwinds would have lightened a bit but we were pointing well and averaging 7 knots so we were happy.
Third day was another treat and we were still making very good time averaging 150-160 NM per day. We had planned on anchoring over nite at Nevis but just at dark the winds switched to the beam so we decided to take advantage of this good point of sail and keep her going, headed for St Barth’s. The head seas diminished considerably and it was perfect sailing on flat water with a fresh breeze. Woohoo!
Mom was amazed at this passage making experience never having done anything like this before. She was a real trooper as it can be a little overwhelming when you realize that there is no one to help you if something bad happens and you can’t get “off” if you want. A couple of times she asked thru the trip “Where are the other boats?” Not sure if it is something she is eager to do again anytime soon but she told us it was an adventure she will never forget and one she is glad she experienced. Now she can envision our travels clearly in her mind.
We arrived at Ile de Forchue, St Barth’s at 10 a.m. on another beautiful day. We were very happy to be there but a wee bit tired so we all enjoyed a lovely, silky swim, and a nap. Then of course we celebrated with Caesar’s all around (Bloody Marys with slight Canadian adjustment for you Americans!)! We lolled about the remainder of the day; BBQ’d a delicious and well deserved dinner and had a solid nite of sleep.
We had a leisurely downwind morning sail next day to St Martin and headed into the lagoon so we could be ready for the work that we were about to start the next day. Over the next week we had the mast stepped for some work, had our favourite mechanic, Pedro, trouble shoot some issues and give both of the girls a tune up and installed top of the line refrigeration that now means we can keep ICE CREAM in the freezer!! The week was a jumble of work, work, work. Provisioning, cleaning, fixing, breaking, installing, blah, blah, blah. We did manage to enjoy a fun Halloween nite at a few different costume parties (Mom was a ghost while we were lame-ass pirates) and a couple of fabulous dinners with Mom during this frustrating, crazy time before she had to fly back home and thank goodness for those few quiet times as the rest of the week couldn’t have been much fun for her. Big thanks to her for her patience and understanding. Hey!! You’re hired Mom! You’re good crew!!
I will sign off for now … next log is out trip back to the beloved Virgins Islands and the start of our visiting guests. Partee!!
Fair winds …..

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