Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical

Chapter 19

Our Cruising Log
Part 6

Trinidad to Venezuela to Puerto Rico

See the comments on our cruising log at the start of Chapter 14

My comments to this letter were made in June 2003.


July 12, 1993


"Down Time"

Lat 18o20'30"N  Lon 65o37'W


Dear Families and Friends,


Hello again, nine months later.  No, we didn't sail off the edge of the map; the computer display decided it was tired of living in a salt water environment and died.  Since you don't just run down to the local computer repair store out here, we had to wait six months to get some place where we could send it in for repairs.


When last you heard, we were in Trinidad planning to leave any day for Venezuela.  We did go to Venezuela, a month after we wrote the last letter.  Schedules never seem to work out as we plan. For a change, however, the weather cooperated and we were able to spend time in wonderful, deserted anchorages in the north eastern corner of Venezuela.  These anchorages are usually too rolly to spend much time in, but we hit a great weather window and they were flat calm while we were there. We stayed in one of the few anchorages that has been documented as a place Christopher Columbus anchored. We also spent three days in a small fishing village that normally never sees cruising boats.  We were such an unusual sight for the fishermen and their families, they kept coming by to make sure we were alright.  They were wonderful, friendly people.


As we sailed west along the Paria Peninsula (east coast of Venezuela) we saw two whales headed east.  We came within about 1/4 mile of them which was close enough since they were larger than our boat.


Venezuela is a fascinating country.  It has tremendous diversity in the physical environment and in its social structures.  Very poor families live near to resorts for wealthy Venezuelans that would fit right into any U.S. resort community.  High rise apartments in Caracas are as expensive as New York City and are surrounded by the slums of rural folks who have moved to the city hoping for work.  A middle class is just beginning to develop.  It is a country rich in natural resources and lacking in the technical skills and capital to develop those resources effectively. Since they have no income tax for most people (subsistence living being the norm) their oil revenues just cover the costs of running the country and don't leave much for additional industrial development. As is the case in many countries down here, those Venezuelans who have money to invest seem to put it in the US/European/Japanese stock markets rather than into developing businesses in their own country.  The rate of inflation and currency devaluation is such that you can get about 50% on a savings account.


Our first real port of call was the island of Margarita. This is a duty free resort destination for the Venezuelans as well as foreigners.  Margarita and the near by islands were originally settled by the Spanish because pearls were discovered there.  They say people still find them occasionally.  In Margarita we could buy all those US goods we had not seen in many months.  Liquor was also once again affordable.


From Margarita we sailed south to the mainland.  We explored the Gulf of Cariaco for about a week and saw only four other boats.  We stopped at Cumana to pick up guests who sailed with us west to Puerto la Cruz.


While we were in Venezuela, we left the boat in a marina in Puerto la Cruz and took a trip inland to the Andes.  The highest point in South America, over 14,000 feet, is in the Venezuelan Andes.  I can attest to the fact that its tough to draw a breath at that altitude after living at sea level for 3 years.  The "Indians" who farm in the Andes still till their fields with teams of yoked oxen and you can still see some of the pre-Columbian watering systems for the fields. Nonetheless, the quality of the vegetables they grow and ship to market puts American agri-business to shame.


We had more guests join us in Puerto la Cruz and took them

sailing in the islands just off the coast.


We spent a total of 4 1/2 months in Venezuela before our visas ran out and it was time to move on.  We debated all the various ways to get from South America to the Virgin Islands and finally settled on sailing a straight shot north across the Caribbean, a 470 mile trip we figured would take 3-4 days. Friends of ours, Dave and Judi Nofs, who have Fia, a sister ship to Down Time, joined us for the sail.  We had a wonderful and very fast trip, covering 175 miles the first 24 hours and completing the whole trip in just 75 hours

(including motoring the last 27 hours because the wind died).


On the trip up we told Dave and Judi, whose boat was in the Virgin Islands waiting to go south, that if we had it to do over again, we probably would have headed straight to Bonaire from Puerto Rico and then seen the islands from south to north rather than north to south as we had.  They thought that sounded reasonable, so they invited us to help them sail back across the Caribbean, headed south this time to take their boat to Bonaire.  Two Caribbean crossings in two months!  But it was well worth it.  For those of you who scuba dive, Bonaire is an absolute must.  Above the water the island is a desert that makes Yuma, Arizona look lush.  But below the water are pristine reefs, completely tame fish, and 100+ foot visibility that takes your breath away.


From Bonaire, our third Caribbean crossing was on American Airlines, back to Puerto Rico where we left the boat while we went south.  From here (the north east corner of Puerto Rico) we will head along the south coast to Mayaguez on Puerto Rico's west coast, then jump off headed back to the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas.  To our friends in North Carolina, look out, here we come.  All plans are subject to change, of course, but right now we plan to be back in the States around the end of August.


Even though our trip is coming to an end we would still like to hear from you.  Our mailing address continues to be:


P.O. Box 1947

Starkville, MS  39759



Jim & Diane

Send comments to: jkbarrentine@earthlink.net

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