Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

November 1:  


    It occurred to Emmett about 2pm yesterday afternoon that he didn't have a costume for Halloween--his favorite holiday of the year.  All signs were pointing toward a major meltdown, but somehow I managed to explain that when living on a boat, we sometimes have to get creative and make do with what we can find.  Just then Mom popped out some makeup and eyeliner pencils and before the first tear had hit the floor, Emmett was tearing through his wardrobe to figure out what he could make a costume out of.

    "Dad, can you draw a skeleton?" he asked urgently. 

    "Well, after four years of medical school, I think I can remember what one looks like," I mused while scratching my head.  "Are you going to be a skeleton?

    "No, I'm going to be the Grim Reaper.  Do we have a scythe on board anywhere?"   Emmett soon found some black clothes and, after remembering how darned hot it is down here, revised the costume to a black T-shirt and shorts.  As the afternoon sun began to go down in our bay, he put on his clothes and sat patiently waiting for Dad's attempt at make up application.  By the time the sun had sunk behind the hill to the west, Em was running up and down the marina dock here, banging on hulls and demanding his treats.  It seems by this point that his lust for candy had caused him to forget all about the scythe.  Just as well.  I was afraid he was going to remember the machete I keep in the cockpit locker.

Emmett get's his skeleton onThe final product

    I was a bit concerned about the welcome he might receive.  Boats come from all over the world, and not all of them celebrate the same holidays that Americans do.  A Danish sailor wandered over to say Hi after Em had visited his yacht.  In Denmark, the kids have a similar tradition but they do it in the spring, he told me.  So at least he knew what to do when a young boy dressed as a skeleton and holding out a bag appears at your door.

    Before long Emmett had been up and down the marina, making friends with everyone.  His loot was a bit non-traditional as chocolate bars melt pretty quickly down here.  He showed me a bag which held, among other things,:  a banana, a granola bar, and a three dollar bill with a picture of Barack Obama in a turban on it and saying some fairly pessimistic things about the US economy.  Must be a republican on one of these docks.

    Later we went over to a resort called True Blue that was having a kids Halloween Party.  Emmett was beside himself.  He hasn't had a lot of kids to play with lately so he was busily making up for lost time all night.  Kath and I enjoyed watching the stars come out over a meal of authentic fajitas.  Candy was passed out and they had a little parade, followed by costume judging.  And after having nothing at all for a costume just a few hours earlier...Emmett ended up winning second prize (among the 8-10 year old group) for the best costume.  There must be an important lesson there somewhere.

Halloween party

    We wandered back home that night, our way lit occasionally by fireflies and starlight.  At night, the flowers seem to literally pump out fragrance along the road.  It's like walking through a floral shop here.  Grenada so far wins the contest for "best smelling island."  Well, except for when I have to work in the engine room. 




November 4:

   Well, we're still in Grenada.  What I thought would be a one or two day project to re-do our refrigeration system on board has now dragged out into a week.  We have been victims of a classic contractor maneuver, the "start and run".  The refrigeration guy came running right over when we called with his two apprentices all ready to go.  They worked for a day, tearing into everything, then disappeared for four days--presumably to do the same thing to a few other guys.  This maneuver seems to assure that jobs don't go to a competitor because you're busy.

   Anyway, after no-showing on Friday, Monday, and of course the weekend, he sent one of his apprentices to fumble through installing some brackets for the new fridge compressors which took him most of the day.  The head guy finally showed up mid afternoon and assures me that "tomorrow is your day" and he'll have the whole system up and running by tomorrow afternoon.  This being the Caribbean, I'm not holding my breath.

   When I last wrote, we had moved to the dock of Martin's Marina to load on some new batteries.  But then it was windy and it would be hard to get the boat off the dock when the wind was pushing us onto the dock so we decided to stay for the night and plug into shore power "to charge up the batteries."  Translation:  "Oh, sweet air conditioning, we love you so!!!"

    So we were all planning to leave Friday morning back to the anchor, but we hung around all morning thinking we'd do the fridge guy a favor by letting him work from the dock.  But of course he never showed up and by mid morning that same wind was blowing again...and of course the inside of the boat was so blessedly cool with the AC going all night...

    We have developed a dangerous addiction to Air conditioning.  Nice as it is, spending night after night at a marina is NOT in our cruising budget.  An intervention was held and bright and early Sunday morning we unplugged and, damn the wind, pulled away from the dock and back to anchor.  That refrigeration guy had better hurry up, because now our only relief from the heat is coming from a cold beverage.



November 5:

    Without television, we ended up following the election returns via the BBC on radio and logging into a very spotty wifi connection that we hooked into from one of the homes on the hills here.  We had sent our absentee ballots in before leaving the USA, which was not nearly as fun as actually going to the polling place on election day.  But the radio talked about long lines everywhere, so maybe it was for the best.

    It has been interesting to be an expatriate on election day.  The excitement and interest in America electing a black president is truly evident even here.  All three of the locals who were working on our fridge were glad to hear we were voting for Obama.  Basil, the eldest of the three, commented that Obama "got a good running mate who could be president too, mon. You  know what I mean?"  Thinking he had some crack about Sara Palin coming, I agreed that I did.  He looked at my earnest expression and said, "I don't think you do."

    I had a hard time getting him to enlighten me, but he finally commented that he thought if Obama got elected, there would probably be an assassination...because too many Americans still are racists.  How sad and cynical, I thought at the time.  But Basil is probably in his late 50s.  He has probably seen a few things that seem unbelievable to us today.

   Alex, who must be about 20, was far more optimistic.  He had been up all night listening to the election returns just as we had.  The following morning he was just beaming about what a great acceptance speech he gave, and what a great concession speech McCain gave, ("he a good man, dat McCain...he know how to lose gracefully!")  At first I thought his attitude came from youthful naiveté...but the more we talked, the more it dawned on me.  This is a really big thing for not just African Americans, but for people of color throughout the world who have grown up seeing the worlds wealth and privileges being held primarily by Caucasians.  Alex seemed to be saying that if a black man could be president... if the son of an African could rise to lead the greatest country in the world... then maybe things are possible for me, too. 

    Obama definitely has his work cut out for him.  Expectations are unbelievably high, conditions are not so great.  But if he does nothing else but inspire a new generation of black men like Alex to believe in themselves in ways they didn't before...If he does nothing more than that, Obama will be remembered for having changed the whole world.  Uliad, and a couple guys in Grenada I know wish him all the luck.



November 9:

    After 10 days, the boys from Lagoon Marine Refrigeration finally finished up the work on Uliad.  The boss knew that I was unhappy with the pace of things, so he actually spent the whole day here with both assistants making the final connections.  Starting around 2pm, his cell phone started ringing incessantly with other sailors needing help.  At first his answers were, "Yes, I'll try to get over later today."  Then after a while he had one of his assistants answer with instructions to tell them that he was down in the bilge and couldn't talk now.  By 3 he just let it ring.  Now I understood why I couldn't get a hold of this guy all day on Monday.  Communication did not appear to be his forte.

    But what he lacked there, he made up for in perseverance.  By about 5:30pm, all the little connections of the water pipes, the air ducts, the electrical wires, and the refrigeration lines were all in place.  Miracle of miracles, when we finally threw the switch, the system actually works! We were thrilled to have the project completed.  By the way they packed up their tools and ran off, I think they were equally thrilled to be done.  At 6pm on Friday, they were in such a hurry to go that they left their vacuum pump, a spray can of something, a shirt and two socks behind!

    On Saturday I trudged to the ATM to get money to pay the guy, and by the time I got home he had called about his vacuum pump.  With bills paid, we were finally free to move on and start the fun of cruising.

    Except lately it seems like the whole world is conspiring against our voyage.  The wind has absolutely died.  We're talking flat calm glassy seas.  We have a diesel engine, of course and I was sorely tempted to motor the 80 miles to Venezuela...but Kathleen was also not feeling well for the past few days.  And a few other minor problems popped up on the boat.  Both were easily fixed but, taken together, it meant we stayed one more weekend in Grenada. 

   After caulking a small window leak and replacing a fuse, the boat is in top shape again.  We spent the rest of the day lazing about, except for me getting up to bring Kathleen more fluids every half hour or so.  Perhaps she was just dehydrated--easy to do down here.  By the end of the day, she appears to be feeling better.  And if the trend keeps up, we'll be charging out of here toward Venezuela tomorrow quicker than a refrigeration technician who is missing a Friday happy hour. 



November 12:

    High on the list of conversations I never thought I'd ever have was yesterday's:  Sitting down with my son to discuss, in all seriousness, what we will all do if we're attacked by pirates.  First was a discussion that these are not the lovable, "Yo, ho, ho", Jack Sparrow type of pirate.  These are 5 or 6 bad guys with guns who will think nothing of punching your mother, shooting your father, and then slowly and meticulously ransacking the boat, taking everything of value they can find before motoring off. 

    As I have previously lamented, these kind of pirate tales happen at least 3 or 4 times per year off the coast of Venezuela.  And while we're choosing our course to avoid the areas of most frequent attacks, we are nonetheless entering Venezuelan waters and hence the conversation.

    Our tactics boiled down to this:  keep a sharp watch and tell everyone if any boats approach us off shore.  Do whatever we can to prevent anyone from boarding us off shore, including ramming small boats if necessary.  While Dad is steering erratically to keep them away, Mom will be calling for help on the radio.  And Emmett's job will be to go to a place of safety: in his room, lying down on the floor below the waterline where bullets would be unlikely to reach.  (My God, am I really having this conversation?!)

    If we get boarded, we'll give them whatever they ask for and beg for our lives.  Simple as that.  While carrying arms and fighting off evil sounds valiant, the only murders of sailors in these waters seem to have taken place when the sailors was fighting back.  Just a few weeks ago, a yacht was boarded near Puerto La Cruz.  Three pirates killed, one sailor killed, another seriously injured.  Hardly a victory for the sailors, despite the lower body count.

    Emmett was of course filled with adventurous questions.  Will we shoot flares at them?  Should I lock my door?  Where would be a good place to hide my I-pod?  Maybe we could shoot our flares at them!!

    The actual crossing into Venezuela territory was, of course, anticlimactic.   We passed a few disinterested fishing vessels through the night and never saw a pirate.  Emmett slept soundly in the cockpit (and thankfully no nightmares after our conversation.)  I've tried to remind myself that, at the end of the day, it's like walking through Central Park.  Bad things do occasionally happen there, so be street wise.  But don't miss out on New York because someone once got mugged there.

    By morning we were approaching a small group of islands called Los Testigos.  They are populated by a few friendly fishing families living in quiet shacks along the beach.  The water is clear, the fish plentiful, the hills are green and the winds are cool.  This morning, we went to shore and climbed up to the top of the hill and looked down at Uliad floating peacefully in the bay.  From 800 feet above, we could see the mainland of South America some 35 miles to the south.  The view was breathtaking, and the summit of Testigo Grande proved to be the perfect spot to look around and remember why we've come this far.

Los Roques anchorage


November 15:

    After a few days in Los Testigos, we moved on to the island of Margarita.  This is one of the country's official ports of entry, so we arrived ready to clear in with customs, immigration, the port captain, national guard, and whoever else was part of the bureaucracy here.  Venezuela reportedly has a lot of bureaucracy.  We enlisted the help of a man named Juan who, for a small fee, will take the ships papers and run around and deal with all the hassle for you.  Except that he couldn't.  Apparently the port captain was away on holiday, and his replacement was only in the office for about an hour a day.  Given the difficulty with getting anything done, the immigration officer also decided to take a long weekend off.  Therefore, the soonest we could get our paperwork completed to "officially" enter Venezuela would be Monday.

    This is why we try not to keep to a schedule.  With nothing to do but wait all weekend, we decided to do some grocery shopping.  Margarita is a duty free zone, so prices tend to be pretty good here.  In addition, the Venezuelan government tries to control the value of their currency.  The official rate is a little over 2 bolivars to the dollar.  But on the black market, you can exchange at 4.5 bolivars to the dollar.  Always the bargain hunter, we quickly found someone to help us make a black market exchange.  No dark alleys or thugs to deal with...we just handed over a wad of dollars and a few hours later our friend was back with a larger wad of bolivars.

    Shopping.  Our friend Juan runs an establishment called "Marina Juan."  It might better be called "Dock Juan" as it consists of a long dinghy dock and a small bodega on shore.  From Marina Juan come all the little services a yachtsman might need.  In addition to acting as a ship's agent for clearance paperwork, he arranges a daily bus to a shopping center in town, collects garbage, does laundry, sells ice, and what not.  We took the bus to a large modern grocery and stocked up on as much as we thought the storage lockers on Uliad could hold.  After checking out, we flashed a little Marina Juan ID card and they boxed up our groceries for us and packed them in a van that then followed the bus back to Marina Juan.  There the dock guard hauled our stuff right down to the dinghy for us.  Easiest provisioning ever!

    Of all the bargains to be found in Venezuela, the best bargain is fuel.  In this oil producing country, diesel sells for 50 cents per gallon.  Unfortunately it can sometimes be hard for foreign vessels to get.  So I was thrilled when another fellow called "Dieselman" by everyone but his mother motored by asking if we needed fuel.  Dieselman returned the following morning, his boat filled with barrels of diesel.  He and his assistant then hand pumped as much as my tank would hold.  It wasn't the cleanest fuel I've ever seen.  Fortunately I was using our big baja filter to screen out quite a bit of dirt before it came aboard.  But at those prices, I'm not complaining.

Dieselman in PorlamarThe sinking boat in Isla Margarata

    While I was licking my chops over the cheap fuel, another drama was playing out nearby.  An old rusty sailboat was noted to be sitting rather low in the water after some rough squalls overnight.  The alarm went out over the radio and, as usual, the cruising community sprang to life.   Soon there were half a dozen dinghies tied on and lines of people with buckets tried valiantly to keep the boat afloat.  In my opinion, from the rusty, dilapidated look of the hull it looked like a lost cause, but by the time our diesel was onboard, someone had brought over a powerful gas operated pump and the bucket brigade was just standing around watching it.  So we got out of having to go over and throw buckets of water all day.   And as of this writing, the thing is still floating.

    So that's Venezuela so far...some things so easy, some things maddeningly difficult.  The anchorage here has been rolly, so we probably won't stay here any longer than we have to.  We'll probably explore the city some more tomorrow and get ready to move on as soon as we can get our paperwork completed on Monday. 



November 17:


     One unfortunate side effect of Venezuela's super low gas prices is that the streets are filled with a combination of large SUVs and 1970's gas guzzlers.  Ever wondered what happened to your dad's old Ford LTD, or your cousin's Dodge Aspen?  There's a good chance it may be cruising the streets of Porlamar.  In fact, if they make any more Starsky & Hutch movies, Hollywood can come here for props.  Just take a look at the taxi that took us to the market today:

Our taxi in Porlamar 

I thought this wouldn't be a very luxurious ride until I sat down on the seat that had been newly upholstered in woodland cammo print cotton twill.  The door panels bore witness to the fact that this driver was not afraid to mix it up a bit in traffic. So as I fastened my seatbelt, I thought to myself that climbing into a car like this could only be the beginning of a very interesting day.

     We wandered the huge open air flea market for a few hours in the morning.  In an area the size of several city blocks you can buy anything from underwear to live chickens!  We settled on some delicious empanadas in the food court, after which Em and I wandered up a side street and we both got a trim at a barbershop.  Two haircuts, $9.  Including, for me, the ever exciting straight razor neck shave that these Latin barbers seem to love.

    After the outdoor market, we went over to a nearby mall.  It suddenly seemed like we had entered bizarro world.  The big department store had rows upon rows of dusty, unopened boxes and randomly thrown piles of merchandise across the back of the store.  Had a tornado struck?  But sales clerks wandered by like this was always this way.  And in the front of the store everything seemed fine.  We went upstairs to re-orient ourselves.  Found a coffee shop with an espresso machine, but the counter girl said no, they don't have espresso or cappuccino here.  Hmm.  And then to top it all we walked past a plus-size women's clothing store.  I suddenly did a double take and asked Kathleen, "Is that store really called Mi Gordita?"  I not very good at Spanish yet, but I'm pretty sure that translates to I'm a Fat Chick.  Any Spanish experts out there please tell me I'm wrong.  Not surprisingly, the place was deserted.

Honest to God, this is the sign for the store

     Along the waterfront here is a line of shacks selling fresh shellfish and beers.  On Sundays, the beach is filled with families.  Depending upon their age, these family members are either crying, swimming, trying to be noticed, drinking, eating, or chatting with friends.  Funny how life goes through those stages, isn't it?  While Emmett played with his new Venezuelan friends, Kath and I tried the local specialties.  (So I guess we're in the "eating" stage now, huh?)  My top vote went to a plate of fresh octopus ceviche, dusted with some hot paprika and olive oil.  If you can get past the appearance of the suckers, it was delicious.  Kathleen favored the dozen small oysters, still at sea temperature and shucked right in front of you for $2.  And then there was the plate of mussels, or the "mattress breaker"--which consisted of a sort of mixed shellfish cocktail in a plastic cup.  I can only guess that its name comes from the reputed aphrodisiac properties of the oysters.

    After nearly watching a yacht sink the other day, it came as no surprise to see no less than 5 other half sunken boats from our chairs on the beach.  Several have been taken over by kids as a sort of water-jungle gym.  Emmett's underwear-clad friends Joffrey and Rosemary showed him all the ins and outs of how to jump from the top deck of this sad ship:

Em's water toySwimming with friends in PorlamarPorlamar beach fare

    With fun like that, not even a tasty plate of octopus tentacles could lure Emmett back to the beach.


November 19:

    We finally got our paperwork completed and are legally in Venezuela.  The paperwork returned to me included some dozen sheets of paper, some with 5 tax stamps on them.  In addition, I had to sign and fingerprint one page.  That and over $100 gets you up to three months cruising in Venezuela.  I can see why so many people skip Venezuela and sail right past to the ABC islands.  They don't make it easy to come and visit.

   With freedom in hand, we sailed on to Tortuga.  Or at least we planned to.  Several weather sources predicted 15 knots of wind from behind us the whole way.  Instead we alternated between dead calm and light headwinds.  So it was a long, slow day of motoring.  We had been warned by some boats ahead of us of two dangers on Tortuga:  charts and mosquitoes.  It seems that the charts for this island place it about a half mile further south than it actually is.  In the age of GPS chart plotters, you don't expect this, but there we were, sailing right toward a reef that was supposed to be well to the south of us!  With our slow passage, we ended up approaching land in the dark with a chart plotter that was dangerously wrong.  If I never use our radar again, it will be worth having on board just for last night!  I was able to clearly see the shoreline, and a half a dozen fishing boats that were already at anchor, and weave our way around the point and perfectly into our anchorage.  If I had been relying on GPS and our chart plotter, we would probably have run aground on a reef.  After setting the anchor in 12 feet of water, I glanced back at the chart plotter one last time to see our little boat plotted squarely on a nearby spit of land.

    As for the mosquitoes, Kathleen sprung into action as soon as the anchor was down and put the boat in high security mode with screens covering every hatch, bug spray at hand, mosquito coils ready to light, and so on.  But they never came.  Perhaps they had gone to bed.  Maybe they saw our defenses and knew they had been beaten.  Maybe radar waves repel them.  Whatever the answer, we slept well after a long day's sail. 

    This morning we awoke to see what we couldn't last night:  a beautiful sandy arch of a beach that appears to go on for miles.  Clear blue water with schools of fish darting about.  And silence.  Beautiful, peaceful silence.  (And no mosquitoes!)  What a gorgeous island Tortuga is!


November 23:

    We moved up the coast of Tortuga the following day and anchored behind a large reef which gave us protection from the swells rolling in from the Caribbean Sea.  I took a swim around the reef...the coral was fair and I couldn't help but notice that the local fishermen seemed to have stripped it bare of anything edible.  A few juvenile lobster and grouper were seen, looking blissfully unaware that their time was coming.

    Yet the fishermen kept trying.  All day long pirogues would come by...after anchoring, a couple boys would strip down to their underwear, don masks & fins and dive around looking for something to harvest.  A few hours later, one of the boats drove past waving a broken fan belt and asking if we might have a spare.  With our pirate paranoia, I wondered if this was some ploy to board us, but a careful glance at their faces led me to conclude that nobody looked anything but honest. 

   I went below with their fan belt to compare it to my spares, watching them through our blinds.  One false move and I'd...well, I'd lock ourselves inside!  Nothing.  I found a belt that was a bit smaller than theirs, but they looked grateful and motioned that they could make it work.  They smiled and said gracias.  That was when I saw them in the bottom of their boat.  A dozen big fat lobsters.  I looked back up and smiled just as the rain started to fall from a passing rain squall.  I searched my lexicon furiously for the Spanish words that it would take to say, "Hey, maybe you could trade me a couple of those beautiful lobsters for my fan belt?"  But my memory failed me.

   The guy driving the outboard looked at the sky and gunned the motor as his crew continued to smile and wave, nodding thankfully for my spare fan belt.  And off they went into the rain.  That about sums up our luck with fishing lately.  Every boat we talk to has been catching fish on passage.  We've had nothing.  And after no luck trolling, I can't find any lobsters.  And I can't even trade with a couple of desperate fishermen for one. 


   That evening we set sail for a group of islands far off the coast of Venezuela called Los Roques.  By morning we were entering a gap between the reefs and into a large, deep sound.  Here the water is a deep sapphire blue, interspersed with pale blue green blobs where sandbars and reefs rise up 50 feet to within a few feet of the surface.   There is a broad labyrinth of reefs to wind through as you travel northward, but by daylight, they stand out in the clear water as brightly as lines on pavement. 

    Most of Los Roques is uninhabited.  The whole area is a protected national park.  Apparently the shallows between the islands are world famous for bone fishing.  A few fishing lodges on the main island serve a largely Italian clientele, of all things.  The town lies next to a small airstrip, and the airplanes and boats are the only motorized vehicles around.  The streets are paved in sugary soft sand.  The narrow streets provide breezy shade perfect for lazy afternoons sitting on your stoop and chatting with passers-by.  Stucco buildings are washed in pastel hues, creating a sort of "old Mexico turned gay" motif.  Even the fast-talking Italian tourists seem sedated by this unhurried, timeless village.

    We arrived in Grand Roques to finally catch up with Independence and Salt & Light.  Both of these boats have kids onboard, so Emmett was overjoyed to have playmates again.  We met a few new boats who were also anchored here.  After basking in everyone's compliments about our pretty new boat, I politely listened to Otis as he told me about all the fish he's been catching with some great new lure.  Then, fortunately, the subject of conversation moved on.  We ended up sitting around in (of all things) beanbag chairs, ordering mojitos at a beach front bar late into the night and catching up with Jenny and Otis (Independence) who we hadn't seen since Nevis last spring.  With great friends, you can pick up again after a long absence like you didn't miss a beat.  And so it was with them.  We squandered the evening laughing in amazing little unknown spot out in the middle of nowhere...with good friends...and a beautiful starry sky above...and waves lapping against the beach in the starlight...and another cold mojito.  Boy, this is the life.  At one point I glanced up last night to see a bright meteor shoot across the sky.  I thought to myself that I should make a wish, but all I could come up with was, "just keep it like this." 

    Why didn't I remember to ask to catch a fish!



November 28:

   Los Roques is quickly becoming our latest favorite place.  We left the village on Grand Roques a few days ago to anchor off the nearly uninhabited cay of Crasqui.  I say nearly because there are a few run down fishing shacks on shore, and a couple equally run down shacks serving as restaurants.  The Posadas in Grand Roques bring tourists over on their boats and set them up with a sun umbrella and a cooler of drinks for the day on this, or any of dozens of other beaches in the area. 

    Further up on shore are the ruins of a larger building that was once a hotel here.  We were told that the government closed the hotel here to conserve the natural beauty of the area.  So now it is all day trippers, boaters, and a few hearty restauranteurs here.  It is very refreshing to see such incredible beaches in the Caribbean being protected from development.  Apparently large resort chains like Club Med and charter boat companies like The Moorings have all tried unsuccessfully to get Venezuela to let them set up shop here and I can understand why.  The archipelago consists of one pristine island after another with perfect sugary soft beaches.  The clear waters literally boil with sea life.  I have never seen so many fish jumping all around us as schools of minnow are alternatingly assaulted by mackerel from below and pelicans from above.

    Hats off to Venezuela for wanting to keep this place just as it is.  As a result, even Venezuelans have to be pretty adventurous to come here.  The accommodations are spartan, the amenities few.  But nature provides all one really needs here.

    Independence introduced us to their friend Roberto, who is the closest thing to an international playboy as I've met.  He's a charming Italian man who made his fortune in the New York fashion industry before selling out to live on his yacht.  Here he is blessed by fly-in visits from his fashion model girlfriends.  Not a bad life, eh? 

    Anyway, we were all lamenting that we didn't have the ingredients down here for a proper Thanksgiving dinner.  No turkey.  No stuffing.  The potatoes in the Grand Roques market all looked pretty rotten.  So Roberto mentioned that he knew the two Venezuelans who run the little shack-restaurant on our beach.  Maybe he could call them and see if they could whip up some sort of Thanksgiving feast for us.  It wouldn't be turkey, but hey, scholars will point out that the pilgrims probably didn't eat that anyway.  Living in coastal Virginia they undoubtedly caught some fish.  Patricia, the co-owner and chef agreed, and sent her husband off in his skiff to fetch some.

   The mom's organized kids craft day on the beach where they all made Indian feather hats and constructed a sort of teepee on the beach.  The pilgrims kind of got left out of it.  And by mid afternoon on Thanksgiving day, the feast was spread on a long picnic table in the sand.

Thanksgiving IndiansThe Thanksgiving Feast Table

   First came arepas--which are a sort of Venezuelan fried dumpling.  On the side was a spicy mayonnaise for dipping and a large plate of what can only be described as French fried minnows.  Combine the three together into a sort of sandwich and it was pretty darned good.  I can see why those pelicans look so happy!   Next came platters of fresh lobster, fried whole snapper, and tuna carpaccio with side dishes of conch salad and rice.  As is the Thanksgiving tradition, we all stuffed ourselves.  It might not be a traditional Thanksgiving menu, but it was definitely a feast that gave us much to be thankful for.

   There is an hour around sunset when the mosquitoes swarm here, so the party broke up pretty quickly when they arrived.  We agreed to reconvene onboard Uliad in a few hours for dessert.  Salt & Light brought over a pumpkin pie, and we supplemented that with cookies, brownies, chocolate soufflé, and lots of adult beverages.  The party resumed again and continued on late into the night. It was a holiday to remember. 

   This morning, several of our friends pulled anchor to head back to Gran Roques for groceries, and a few other boats were moving west.  Uliad felt content to just stay put for another day and watch the pelicans fish.  We're a long way from anything out here in Los Roques, but somehow, we seem to have everything we need.



November 30:

   After our Thanksgiving feast at the little island of Crasqui, we moved west to another island with another exotic and lyrical name: Becqueve.  This place is just a long, thin strip of sand and scrub brush that forms a perfect arc of protection against the prevailing winds and waves here.  It is uninhabited, silent, and untouched.  Beneath the surface of the water, the coral reefs are crowded with all sorts of colorful fish that have grown to sizes we are unaccustomed to seeing elsewhere.  The water is clear and is a living Eden.

   We spent several days here enjoying the jaw dropping beauty around us.  We soak in it all afternoon as if the scenery were a bubble bath.  What an indulgence to give in to inertia, be still, and simply listen to the waves roll across the beach.   Emmett is, of course, too young to appreciate such luxuries and rouses us from our daze to go to the beach.  He has been struggling with an ear infection for a while now and has been banned from snorkeling until it heals.  He's been mostly filling that void with his PSP, but I can't help but let him near the water once and a while. 

   Despite my stern warnings to keep his head above water, he soon has a wet scalp and a "but I couldn't help it!" look on his face.  I roll my eyes toward the clear blue skies and hope that this second round of Venezuelan antibiotics will do the trick.

   The islands of Los Roques have been an amazing discovery...the kind of discovery that you hesitate to tell anyone about.  If people knew how beautiful these islands were, how perfect the beaches, how good the fishing, how lush the snorkeling, how funky and quaint the town... well if people knew those things, they'd surely want to come here.  And so much of what makes Los Roques so amazing is the fact that almost nobody comes here. 



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