Golfo de Cariaco & Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela:  July 13-28, 2008

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Medregal Village

The Golfo de Cariaco is 35 miles long, stretching from west to east, and never more than 8 miles wide.   Night lights reveal that the southern shore is fairly well populated, but the northern shore is very wild, with only a few fishing settlements tucked into a few small protected bays.   On the extreme eastern northern shore are a few small villages, and the resort of Medregal Village.  Originally conceived as a hotel and restaurant for vacationers, the resort now seems to be surviving by virtue of its welcoming attitude toward cruisers, and by virtue of its associated small boat yard.  It is a friendly and relaxed place, with a dinghy dock and free cold showers, free swimming pool, free billiards, a laundry service, and an unattended bar at which each cruising vessel keeps their own tab.  Want a beer?   Dig one out of the cooler, find the mug with your tab, and mark it down.  Simple, no?   Besides being "relaxed", it is very international.   Jean Marc and his wife, the managers, are from France.  The anchorage was not crowded, but there were vessels from Canada, France, Sweden, Norway, England, USA, and probably others.   I went ashore each morning and ran down the flat wide dirt road that runs roughly along the shore from the east, petering out not too far to the west when it encounters the wild hilly landscape such as you've seen in my Laguna Grande pictures.   Met the Norwegian Jon, who was much amused by our boat name, and much delighted to speak a little Norwegian with me.   He told us the story of his run-in with banditos, which by coincidence occurred on the same night at the robbery on Andromeda in Margarita. 

Jon had gotten complacent -- he had been spending hurricane season at the Village for years, and had never heard of any incidents.   So his dinghy was not raised.  And the engine was not chained to the dinghy.  The burglars removed the engine from the dinghy, and then attempted to abscond with each.  Probably not the highest cards in the deck, they neglected to untie the line securing the dinghy to the boat, and the resulting "thunk" when they reached the end of the line awakened Jon, who came out on deck with his flare gun loaded and ready.  He found one individual in his dinghy, and two individuals (and his engine) in a pirogue.  The dinghy engine was the low horse-powered kind that gets by with a small built-in gas tank, which in this case had a leaky top.  Jon will not say how the fire got started, but it is just possible that the tank leaked gas into the pirogue.   In any case, flares were fired, and soon the pirogue was on fire.  (There seems to be some concern among the cruisers about making sure that Jon is not liable, so at this point in the story the possibility that the burglar was smoking is always mentioned.)  One of the occupants of the pirogue abandoned ship, and the other attempted to douse the fire.  Meanwhile, other cruisers recognized what was happening, and were lobbing additional flares at the would-be thieves.  At least one of the principals attempted to flee to the northwest, but locals had noticed the commotion and had assessed the situation, and proceeded to give him a thorough thrashing when he landed on shore.  A similar fate befell the occupant of the dinghy.  The third person was very badly burned, and was taken to the hospital.  Jon's dinghy was briefly retained by the authorities, but was to be recovered on the very day Jon told us the story.  The engine had disappeared, presumably having been thrown overboard in a belated and futile -- the gas had already spilled -- attempt to control the fire.

Medregal Village as seen from the anchorage

Laguna de Cariaco

At the extreme eastern end of the Golfo de Cariaco lies the bay Laguna de Cariaco, into which flows the lazy river Cariaco.  Along with John and Ann (Livin' the Dream), we moved our vessels to anchor off the small village of Muelle de Cariaco (Dock of Cariaco) and spent a couple of mornings and a couple of evenings exploring the river and the bay.   We were especially interested in seeing Scarlet Ibis.   Indeed we did, but it turned out they arrived too late in the evening for effective photography.   Likewise, they awakened and left their roosts too early.

Ann & John with us on our trip up the Cariaco River

Egret seen along the river...

... and a hawk

Approaching the roosting area at sunset with Ann...

... and Barb

... and John

The dark birds are immature Ibis

Ibis who roosted here for the night and are about to take off

Tusen Takk II & Livin the Dream anchored near Muelle de Caricao

Morning near Muelle de Cariaco

John and Ann checking out the Roseate Spoonbills at a lake near Punta Cachipo

Chuck checking them out

Roseate Spoonbills

Birds in the lake near Punta Cachipo

Ann & Barb are trying to clean the mud off their shoes before getting back in the dinghy

Tusen Takk II at anchor near Muelle de Cariaco -- note preventive raising of dinghy

At sunset off Muelle de Cariaco

Laguna Grande Revisited

On our way back out of Golfo de Cariaco we once again spent a little time in Laguna Grande.  Our previous assault of the ridge had given us valuable experience, and we were convinced that we now knew a route that would be do-able by the wives.   Just in case any of the millions of readers of this blog expect to visit the Laguna any time soon, here is the best route to the top:   anchor where you will, but take your dinghy up the branch of the Laguna that extends directly north of the Laguna entrance.  Very near the end of that branch the ridge terminates.  Climb up (to the east) the steep slope and soon you will be atop the ridge, which can then easily be traversed, affording a spectacular view of the sea to the north and the Laguna and Golfo to the south.   Well worth the effort.

Proof that we made the top

View to the north -- Isla Coche in distance and Porlamar even further back

Looking south toward our favorite anchorage in the Laguna


On the way to Puerto La Cruz (PLC) we stopped at Cumaná, where we intended to fill up our diesel tanks.   We knew there were extreme restrictions on selling fuel to foreign-flagged vessels in PLC, but thought there were no restrictions at Cumaná.   Turns out there are restrictions, but less severe.   Specifically, they can only sell foreign-flagged vessels 1000 liters at their normal domestic price.   Cruisers in other parts of the world, where fuel has gotten quite expensive, might want to skip the rest of this installment of our blog.



If you are still with me, you will want to know the price we paid for 1000 liters.  The price was 48 Bolivars.   Converting liters to gallons and Bolivars to the current black-market value in dollars, that works out to be 264.25 gallons for $15.25   Yes, that is correct.  Less than 5.8 CENTS per gallon.  We could purchase another 1000 liters at the international price:  550 Bolivars (about $174.60) or about $1.52 per gallon.  Did we do so?  HECK NO!  We'll be passing by Cumaná again (and again, if necessary!)

Puerto la Cruz

Most cruisers who spend the hurricane season in Venezuela end up in Puerto La Cruz, and most of those settle into Bahia Redonda Marina.  It is a pleasant enough place, apparently quite safe with armed guards and high fences.  There is a morning VHF net, and weekly sessions of such things as Texas Hold'em and dominoes and pot luck.  There is a swimming pool.  By dinghy one can leave the marina and enter the network of canals that is reminiscent of Fort Lauderdale.  Fancy homes along the canal, built by oil company employees that have now left since the nationalization of the industry by Chavez.   At the far end of the canal network is a large shopping mall that includes a movie theatre and a large grocery store.   One night eight of us got together to attend a showing of the summer's smash hit "Bat Man".   Barb made a special trip to the theatre to buy tickets ahead of time, and affirmed while she was there that the movie would be in English with Spanish subtitles.  That is the standard practice for American films, and so the employee can perhaps be forgiven for giving the wrong answer.  In any case, after squeezing in to the packed theatre, we were all surprised and dismayed to discover that the movie had been dubbed.  An excellent job, by the way -- the lips really seemed to be mouthing the words we heard, but rarely understood.   So we missed all of the presumably witty repartee, and have only the vaguest notion of the plot.  Ah well.

On the other side of the armed guards and high walls is a barrio, said to be unsafe for gringos, and so my morning runs have been confined to a short stretch of pavement that runs between the docks and a sea wall.  We will bring the boat back later this summer when Barb visits her folks in the USA, but in the meantime we'll leave the marina and visit some of the outlying islands.   This place is just a little too confining for our tastes.

But it is a good place to leave the boat while visiting some of Venezuela's inland attractions.  Indeed, we have just returned from a four-day expedition to the world's tallest waterfall:  Angel Falls.  But to learn about that visit, the gentle reader will have to wait until the next installment of "Chuck and Barb go Cruising".