July 20, 1996

Puerto Cabello,


Dear Friends,

We left Bonaire on July 2 to head across the 75 miles of Caribbean sea that separate the Dutch Antilles and Venezuela. We left at 7:00pm in order to arrive in the morning. In the Caribbean it is necessary to be able to read the depth of the water by it's colour as not all shoals are marked and even if it is shown as marked on the chart the mark may not be there or the light may not be working. So we plan to arrive at an unfamiliar destination in daylight with the sun over our shoulder on final approach. Our sail across started with a wonderful reach along the south west coast of Bonaire. This portion of the island is just barely above sea level so you have about 20 miles of flat calm water but with the full force of the easterly trade winds. We sailed until 3:00 am when the wind died completely and we motored the last few hours to the coast.

Our first stop in Venezuela was the small town of Chichirivichi and the Golfo de Cuare. The town itself is small and unattractive. The streets are dirt and the dust and litter are blown about everywhere. There are a few stores and restaurants but not a place I would visit again. The out islands are nice, much cleaner than town and the Golfo de Cuare an interesting place to see. On the southern side of the golfo the coral cliffs rise over 200 feet from the water. Over the millions of years since these cliffs were pushed up out of the water rain has eroded the limestone causing numerous caverns. In places the caverns have collapsed leaving sink holes 100 to 200 feet deep. One of these sink holes is accessible from the golfo through a fissure in the cliff wall, another through a smaller cavern. We anchored beside the entrance to one of these sites for two days to explore this interesting geological formation.

Pirate Jenny anchored off indian site in Golfo de Cuare - Venezuela

We motored south from Chichirivichi to Morrocoy national park on July 5th, Venezuela's Independence Day. The Park and out island beaches were crowded with Venezuelans. Hundreds of power boats from Tucacas and several park marinas zipped this way and that as 'Pirate Jenny' , the only sailboat, and only non-Venezuelan sailed slowly through the crowd. We were welcomed with waves and shouts of 'Hola Canadiense'. Everyone was in a holiday mood.

Morrocoy National Park is a maze of navigable inlets and lagoons laced through a mangrove forest. Many of the barrier islands are surrounded by white sand beaches. The area in a nesting ground for numerous species of birds including the Scarlet Ibis. In the early morning and evening the sky is filled with birds swooping and soaring, some plummeting from hundreds of feet to dive for small silvery fish. Within the mangrove forest the water is absolutely calm yet the fresh sea breeze filters through to even the smallest lagoon. A wonderful, quiet place to relax and enjoy nature. Except perhaps on the week-end!

Week-ends bring thousands to the park. Besides the privately owned power boats there are hundreds of converted open fishing boats that ferry people out to the beaches. It seems there is no spanish translation for the expression "No Wake". The channel into Tucacas is about 20-30 feet wide (10 to 12 feet deep) as we motored into toward the town the power boats passed going in both directions at full throttle waving and smiling as they passed. There is no point in getting upset, so you proceed along at 4 knots, smile and wave. The experience was something like it might be riding a bicycle down the middle of a freeway going in the wrong direction! With all the relaxing one does while cruising you need a little excitement now and then.

Postcard - Morrocoy National Park

Tucacas is a small resort town with a number of large hotels, lots of restaurants and bars. We spent an afternoon window shopping and had a very nice fresh seafood lunch on the patio of a quaint yet surpriseingly inexpensive restaurant. After picking up a few supplies and ice we headed back to a quieter anchorage for the night. In all we spent 5 days in Morrocoy and thoroughly enjoyed the park, even the hustle and bustle of the week-end.

The port of entry for foreign yachts in this part of Venezuela in Puerto Cabello. You are permitted to stop for a short while on your way to and from the ports of entry but you must eventually face officialdom. We had been given varying opinions of Puerto Cabello from other cruisers. Comments ranged from 'Don't stay a minute longer than you have to' to 'It's a nice place, just be careful'. So we were a bit wary as we sailed the 25 miles south from Morrocoy. The cruising guide tells you to radio the Capitannia de Puerto on approach. This proved to be a fruitless effort. The VHF radio is so unbelievably congested it is almost useless. Though I called the port captain several times I had no response. I motored to the Port Captain's dock, a large grungy commercial dock with several tugs and pilot boats tied alongside and rafted to a pilot boat. The port captain's officer came to the boat to start the paperwork. Five hours later we headed for the marina with all but the cruising permit completed.

Approaching Puerto Cabello, Venezuela

The boat securely moored (mediterranian style) in the marina, paperwork done and sunset approaching it was time to head to a restaurant for a well deserved dinner out; Imagine….

Sitting in the restaurant Lanceros with an ice cold cervesa and frosted glass on the table. Above the ceiling fans stir a cooling breeze through the warm moist air, spanish music plays softly in the background. Heavy century old spanish style shutters and a wrot iron railing frame the late afternoon activities of the Caribbean port town of Puerto Cabello. Beyond the street and harbour wall white sand beaches greet each wave while palm trees sway in the trade winds. Pelicans soar and dive to pluck the small slivery bait fish from the sea. The ensalada de casa arrives, a bed of crisp lettuce leaves covered with generous slices of market fresh vegetables while outside the sunset is obscured by the dramatic black clouds of a distant thunderstorm pressed against the towering coastal mountains. As afternoon slowly gives way to twilight the main course of a large tender cut of fillet mignon warped in bacon, a tasty mushroom gravy, creamy mashed potatoes and slices of fresh tomato accompanied by a basket of warm bread is presented. Gradually the thunderstorm lifts up and over the mountains, the town lights sparkle as they encircle the harbour. Couples stroll along the harbour front while fishermen withdraw their hand lines. After a small cup of sweet expresso coffee con leche the bill is requested, 5,125 bolivar (about $12. CDN). As we walk along the harbour front to return to Pirate Jenny moored along side one Dutch, one French, one British and one Italian boat I recall the poster in the office of the Capitannia de Puerto; "Venezuela, Secreto megor guardado en el Caribe"; the best kept secret in the Caribbean.

Since that evening almost two weeks ago we have thoroughly enjoyed Puerto Cabello. Lots of shops with excellent prices, a farmers market with table upon table of fresh fruits and vegetables and wonderful people who all speak only spanish. It has been a challenge to communicate at times frustrating but more often fun. We still have to point a lot and sometimes get something entirely different than what we thought we asked for but slowly the words and expressions are becoming more part of our daily routine. Mornings it's cool enough to shop, a stop at the bakery for bread, butcher for fresh meat and poultry, the market for fruit and vegetables. Though there is a supermercado it is really only good for canned goods and at that is not well stocked. A shopping trip means a very enjoyable long walk through town with many stops along the way.

Old Spanish bridge in jungle near Puerto Cabello

Market in Puerto Cabello

In Doyle's cruising guide he says "the one person you really need to know in Puerto Cabello is Marianella". I think everyone in Puerto Cabello knows Marianella. A kindergarten teacher in the mornings, Marianella spends the rest of the day looking after cruisers. Her infectious smile and bubbly personality enliven every gathering she attends. A walk down the dock with her can take hours as she stops to say hi to everyone answering questions helping to organize laundry, propane, parts day trips here there and everywhere and of course the complex process of the cruising permits required by all foreign yachts. Marianella knows where to get anything you need and always has a joke to tell, usually three times, once in english, once in spanish and once in french. A wonderful, helpful woman we have thoroughly enjoyed meeting

During our stay in Puerto Cabello we have visited Valencia, the hot springs in the nearby mountains and Fort Solano an old spanish fort high on the mountain overlooking Puerto Cabello and the Caribbean. We are now re-provisioning and preparing to head out to the out Islands of Las Aves and Los Roques for two or three weeks of what all we have met have called paradise. Crystal clear waters teeming with fish, white sand beaches, palm fringed islands and no towns, no shops, no one but other sailors anchored amongst the numerous Islands and reefs.

That's all the news from 'Pirate Jenny'. I hope all are enjoying a warm and breezy summer.

Fair winds and best wishes,