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At midnight on July 23 2000, we weighed anchor and departed from Prickly Bay on the southern coast of Grenada, headed for Los Testigos, an out island of Venezuela.  The wind was on the stern quarter of the boat making for a sloppy sail.  Fortunately the winds were only 10-15 so waves did not wash into the cockpit.  Shortly after departure, the moon in its latter half crept up from the horizon, casting a pale silvery light upon the black surface of the water.  Our friends Mel and Jackie on Drogheda were off our port side, their white and green navigation lights twinkling in the dark.  For the first time since we began this adventure, the current was with us, adding 1-2 knots to our forward motion.  What a change from fighting the current!

About noon, we arrived at
Los Testigos, a national park of several islands and a Coast Guard station but no services or supplies.  You enter between two of the larger islands to get to the protected areas for anchoring.  Drogheda chose the anchorage furthest to the west where it was less rolly.  Tucked behind a narrow sandy white beach, we were close enough to the Atlantic Ocean to hear the swells crash against the rocky shore on the other side.  Ten boats were there when we dropped anchor but more arrived, totaling 17 by the end of the next day.  We learned that this was a long holiday weekend in Venezuela, celebrating the birthday of Simon Bolivar, liberator of Venezuela.  By Tuesday, the visiting nationals had left and there were only us foreigners. 

Each place we visit has its own charm and uniqueness with varied topography, color and clarity of water, wind, fish, birds, etc.  The natural beauty of these islands is striking.  The water is clear,  emerald green in color due to the fresh water flow from Trinidad's Orinico River.  As the water shallows, the color pales to a light mint green before it breaks into gentle surf onto the white sandy beach.  Each day we dinghied to shore and stood or floated in the warm salty water.  So relaxing!  We also explored the rocky shore, glimpsing fish through the clear deep water.  Many birds perched on the rocks or flew around in search of fish.  One of the more unusual birds was a booby, colored like a penguin only in a dark brown rather than black tuxedo, white breast, long beak with eyes far down the beak, and webbed feet like a duck.  There were frigate birds with forked tails and pelicans.  One day as we were puttering along the shoreline in the dinghy, a gentle rain began to fall.  We noticed that many of the drops remained for a few seconds upon the water's surface, like drops of water on a freshly waxed car.  Bob said it was the heavier salt water's surface tension that kept the lighter-weight fresh water drops floating on the surface for a few instants, but it looked like magic.

One night Jackie prepared a wonderful dinner of cracked conch, fries, and slaw.  I took lemon squares and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Mel regaled us with stories about Venezuela and Trinidad.  They have been in the area for three years and he has written an article for publication.  The following night, they came to our boat for dinner and gave us our first lesson playing dominoes, a game of chicken foot. 

Beach at Los Testigos

Sunset at Los Testigos

On Wednesday, July 26, 2000, we departed with Drogheda at 5:50 a.m. for Margarita.  As we got into the deep water, I saw a fin, then several more, and realized these were dolphin, not sharks.  Six leaped out of the water, gracefully arced into a dive back into the water, swimming along in the boat's wake, then under the boat and to the other side, biding us adieu and inviting us back to their beautiful home.  We motor sailed in a gentle wind and calm sea, again with a knot of current.  The sky was a deep robin's egg blue, wispy clouds along the horizon, some as if dabbed on lightly with an artist's sponge, others lightly brush-stroked horizontally like apostrophes with long tails.  What a glorious day!

The passage from Los Testigos to Margarita was 49 1/2 miles.  As we approached the island of
Margarita, we could see a skyline of many tall buildings, the likes of which we had not seen since Nassau in late December.  The mainland of Venezuela is less than 40 miles away.  Imagine!  We actually made it to Venezuela.  That's South America, another continent.  Had it not been for Mel and Jackie, we would not have ventured here alone.  Venezuela is reportedly less safe than the other countries we have visited.  However, Nashville is not exactly safe, either, especially for tourists.  We try to be careful and hope for the best. 

Margarita is the playground of Venezuela with beaches, high-rise hotels, condos, and casinos.  It is very cosmopolitan in a rough sort of way.  Our first trip into town was a real eye-opener, so different from the Windward and Leeward Islands we passed.  The grocery stores had delis, wine sections, bakeries, housewares, cosmetics, and almost anything you might want, almost but not quite like a Walmart.  We bought a whole beef tenderloin for $17.00 which the butcher trimmed and cut into medallions.  He takes a slab of meat covered in fat and trims it down to the tenderloin, cuts the filets then either slices the rest of the meat into thin pieces or grinds it into hamburger or leaves it in pieces for stir-fry.  We also got two thick New York strip steaks for $2.78.  A small percentage of the market's meat is prepackaged but most is cut to order.  People take numbers and wait very patiently for their turns.  One of the stores has padded stools to sit on while you wait.  Keep in mind that these prices have been converted to US dollars and actually cost 11562 Bs and 1892 Bs, respectively.  The money is mind-boggling with an exchange rate of 686 Bs to the US dollar.  We went to the bank to get money from the credit card. $300 US was 205,800 Bs.  The sheer numbers take some getting used to.

Note local bus with route marked in white shoe polish

Stalls on the streets of Porlamar, Margarita

Friendly local selling water

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