Trip Start May 20, 2010
181Trip End Ongoing
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As this seemed to be taking some time one of the boats on the Net who could speak Spanish hurried things along with a couple of Sattelite phone calls. Within an hour we were able to communicate back to Dick and Ann that help WAS on it's way and they should be rescued within an hour. Which they were, by the Venezuelan Navy and with the help of another yacht. They were then taken to the Venezuelan coast some 90 miles away, from there they were helped by the British Embassy and later we learned they had arrived at their daughters home in San Fransisco, having had to leave "Chinook Wind" and everything they owned behind
As we were heading that way it was a lesson that we would have to be vigilant with our navigation as it was not an area to be trusted.
So it was a sad departure in more ways than one as we said our goodbyes and set off with our "buddy boat" Awaroa. Our passage plan included stopping at some of the Venezuelan off shore islands and breaking up the distance to the Dutch island of Bonaire. It was a case of cruising under the "radar" as there were no places to check in to Venezuela, to do that we would need to go to the mainland but all cruising boats are currently staying well clear of there at present owing to the high piracy and crime rate.
We sailed overnight some 170 miles and stopped first at the island of La Blanquilla, very low lying and really only home to a few fishermen. Wind swept and barren it was a huge contrast to the liveliness and colourfulness of Grenada. We stayed 2 nights anchored off a pristine white beach with the occasional friendly fisherman passing by.
On 2 March we left for another over-nighter of 140nm to the islands of Los Roques
The next day we decided we would sail to the Las Aves reef where "Chinook Wind" was wrecked. It was a brisk and exhillerating sail there by midday we were motoring up inside the reef. We could see "Chinook Wind high and dry, on her side, with rocks, coral head and waves all around her. We were able to anchor in sand about half a mile from her and it wasn't a surprise that there were a couple of fishing boats close by. There appeared to be people either on her or near to her and obviously the locals were helping to make her "environmentally safe" by removing anything of value or use.
We were then approached by one of the open fishing boats, heading this was a young guy with a Coast Guard cap on and in very limited English wanted to use our SSB radio
They left us to it and we launched Awaroa's large dinghy. Chris, John and Helen set off to get a closer look at Chinook Wind. With the coral heads and seas it was hard to get too near but with photos taken it was time for a wee rum to say farewell to Chinook Wind and to wish Ann and Dick well. They were alive and well and that is all that really matters.
We anchored that night in shelter in the southern part of the reef, tucked in behind some huge mangrove trees that were home to thousands of birds. Frigates, red footed boobies, and gannet types were all setting up an amazing chorus. Nearby was some simple fishermen shelters, one sporting what looked like a sail as a new cover. At least the wreck was being put to good use.
We traded that night with some of the fishermen and had lobster to look forward to
The following morning we were once again greeted by Coast Guard Jose and presented with two sacks. One full of dried salted fish and the other full of very large lobsters. Once again he used our SSB and informed the Coast Guard we were on our way with fish for them. It was only about 12 miles away and we were soon there. They came out to meet us in an open boat and we asked if we could anchor up for the night. They the escorted us to the most amazing island. " Long Island", completely deserted, dazzling white sand, wind swept, and lonely out on a turquoise fringed reef. Once again we drooped anchor and "George" the Coast Guard man came aboard. We handed over his fish and lobsters and he in return checked our papers and said we were welcome to stay the night. We learned he had been part of the rescue team and already knew Ann and Dick were safe in San Fransisco. How frustrating his job must have been to only have a small open fishing boat and not be able to go immediately to their rescue. He had to wait until the Venezuelan Navy had mobilized and traveled the 90 nm to get there.
We felt happy to have helped him out as he in turn had helped our friends and it wasn't until that evening we figured out what the fish packages were possible about. We saw a large naval frigate anchored near the coast guard station and are guessing they were hosting the dinner that night.