Thursday, February 12, 2009

Los Roques

February 10, 2009
Caya de Agua, Los Roques, Venezuela
coordinates 11 50.386N,066 55.623W

We've just rounded out an incredibly peaceful week in the islands of Los Roques, Venezuela. Without any true guidebooks and charts that were measuring a consistent 1/2 of a mile off to the north, the navigation was interesting but worth the effort. We entered the archipelago at the southeast entrance and snug ourselves in behind the reef at the Sebastapol anchorage. Small spits of soft white fine sand surrounded by old piles of coral and light blue waters. You can walk forever in the water up
to only your knees. No palm trees to be seen but green patches of salt wort, a low lying succulent of sorts, cover parts of the tiny island bits. Piles of conch shells are left behind with the distinctive hole cut into their side where others have made a tasty meal out of them. Shelled creatures of the smaller size, specifically hermit crabs o' plenty here. Once you sat on the beach and let your eyes adjust, you would see the entire sandscape come alive as the hundreds of tiny critters were busily
going about their business, walking to and fro across their own horizons. The only other living creatures we spied were the occasional day trip boats coming out to view the islands and then head back to the main island of Gran Roque. We spent 4 wonderful days there filling our mornings with school and boat projects and afternoons with swimming, exploring and hermit crab races. The ideal spot with calm flat shallow waters, consistent 15-20 knots of winds, made this location perfect for kite boarding.
Our challenge for the moment was a misbehaving alternator we thought. We changed it out with the back up only to find out it is the regulator instead. Changed it out again with the back up to the back up that happens to have it's own built in regulator. Though not as efficient, for now it will do fine. The great winds and bright sunshine are keeping the batteries topped off nicely, but no rain to speak of.

Since we are officially checked out of Venezuela, we are technically treading illegally in Venezuelan waters. They have created a system that makes it nearly impossible for sailors such as ourselves to visit these islands legally. The only place to check out of the country is back at the mainland and to sail back there would be too great of a challenge. So people do as we are and simply avoid the main island of Gran Roques just a stones throw away. The locals we have met thus far have been very
friendly and cordial, letting us know that we are safe to continue on as we go. Very rarely the coast guard will do a sweep of the islands at which time we would likely have to pay a fine and head on our way. So until then, we continue to play ignorant and apologize after.

Next stop was the island of Francisqui in the northeast corner just beside Gran Roque. The few happy tourists that are visiting here are brought over in water taxi's each day to enjoy the same shallow waters and simple beach. Again a great location for kite boarding though we are spoiled now with having the anchorage all to ourselves and perfectly flat waters. We lasted only two nights here before moving on. Further west, the island of Crasqui was our next stop for one night. Anchored in 10 feet
of sand we spent the time watching the pelicans scoop up their fair share of the plentiful fish. Sometimes soaring from high above to dive bomb and capture their prey but just as often, here they simply sit in the water, dunk their heads in and scoop up a mouthful. We have also noticed the green cloud phenomenon that we've seen on one or two other occasions. As the low cumulous clouds roll over the widespread shallow light blue waters and green islands, they reflect the green colors off their bottom,
giving your green clouds as plain as St. Patty's day.

Last stop, Caya de Agua, the farthest point west in Los Roques. Again, anchoring in only 10' of sand after negotiating our way around some coral reefs. This island seems to be home to hundreds of small black and brown lizards and to the thriving population of Brown Boobie birds. Dozens of their nests dot the shoreline set back up in the grasses. The mommies are all protectively sitting on their clutches of 4 or so eggs. No babies have hatched yet that we can see. After our experience in Isla
Isabella, Mexico, we know that you don't mess with a Bobbie mama and her babies. They'll chase you and go straight for your toes and ankles to keep you away.

A lovely anchorage, we stayed 3 nights. The waters here are a bit more choppy and rolly, and the waters not quite to clear close to shore. We took a quick snorkle at a nearby reef to find little coral and a few fun fish but not much else. The locals seems to come up with some great goods of lobsters, large fish and conch shells every time they go down. We'll have to see if we can go with them next time.

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