June 19-27, 2010 -- Isla Cubagua & Isla Tortuga, Venezuela

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

Isla Cubagua

On the afternoon of June 19 we left Porlamar at about 2 pm and moved to the small flat and dry island of Cubagua which lies to the south of Margarita.  There are fishing huts there, and a Coast Guard outpost.  We hoped that by arriving late, we would not be driven away by the Coast Guard, and that anchoring in their bay would afford some measure of security.  It worked.  We arrived at about 5:30 pm, and were hassled by neither the Guard nor banditos.  We left early the next morning without incident. 

Large pod accompanied us ...

... for a good part of the journey

Cubagua lighthouse and wreck on the northern point

Panorama from the protected bay at Cubagua -- mountains of Margarita in the background

Sunset at Cubagua

Isla Tortuga

Playa Caldera

Concerned about light winds, the Terns left Cubagua at about 4 am.  We gave them a sporting chance, and departed at 5:25, cruising the 75 miles to Isla Tortuga in lovely conditions (for a trawler), waving as we passed them, and arriving at a northern bay of Isla Tortuga called Playa Caldera in time to tuck in and discover rolly conditions.  Perfect chance to try out the modifications to the flopper stopper system:  new support lines and nylon washers for sound dampening; but Arctic Tern would have no such ameliorations.  So as they arrived we suggested that we move on to a better bay.

There are fishing huts and a small airstrip at Caldera

Cayo Herradura

Quiet Times

We found bliss at Cayo Herradura, a small horseshoe-shaped (hence the name) island north of Tortuga.  There were fishing boats in the protected bay, and several semi-separate fishing camps.  A couple of foreign-flagged sailboats, a couple of Venezuelan motor yachts, and ourselves.  We went for a walk on the small island; here are some of the pictures:

Approaching a fishing camp

One of the camp shelters

"Fish and Lobster" sign

Huge parogue

Each camp had its diminuative chapel

Interior of the chapel

Approaching the light house

Peering into the lighthouse

Vegetation growing in the sand near the lighthouse

Fish remains and an opportunistic tennant

Closer view of the occupant

Smaller cousin

"fisheye" view of Tusen Takk II

Grave site

Rocky shore on the north

Devi and Hunter at the west-most small camp

Panorama looking southwest

Our boats and two local fishing boats

Ville del Sol II

We stopped to chat with the folks on one of the Venezuelan yachts, and discovered a Brit (Julien) and his Venezuelan wife (Rita) and their two guests (Alberto and Marisol).  The former live in Caracas, and the latter two divide their time between Miami and Caracas.  All speak excellent English -- even the Brit.  We had them over for drinks the next night, and on the following night they had us over for dinner.  Super people, with extremely interesting tales to tell;  discretion dictates that they not be repeated here.

Marisol and Devi

Alberto and Hunter

Rita and Julien (in a picture suffering from camera motion)

Alberto serving delicious beef

Villa de Sol as they left on Friday

View from our Boats

One of the Venezuelan fishing boats leaves the anchorage

Several of the few "tourists" walk the beach

Devi gets a haircut

Locals from the camp asking for (and getting) sealants for a leaky boat

Hunter rerouting a mast line -- which gives him an idea

I am sent up the Tern's mast: unusual angle to photo TTII

Looking straight down to my three accomplices

Pan of the anchorage from atop the mast

Sunset at the anchorage

Devi relaxing on TTII's pulpit

Fishing camp at dusk

Looking north toward the lighthouse at dusk

Dusk panorama


Garbage Run

We made a dinghy run south to "mainland" Tortuga in order to reduce the amount of trash on board.  Strictly sorted through our garbage and took only burnables.   Gathered firewood to make a nice hot fire so that damp paper towels, etc., would be thoroughly consumed by the flames.

Holiday Times

The folks on Ville de Sol warned us that the anchorage would soon be crowded:  Thursday was a holiday,  the birthday of Simon Bolivar.  That meant that many power boats would be arriving to spend the long "weekend" from Thursday to Sunday.  They were correct, at one point on Saturday we counted over 120 yachts and power boats in the anchorage.  We were impressed with everyone's behavior.  Yes, there were teenagers that hotrodded a bit in their daddy's dinghies.  A few boats played loud music.  But the affair was really a family vacation, including small children, and the music was appropriately muted as bedtime approached.

Folks asked to be photographed, and ...

... so ...

... I did!

Only unoccupied sand was the narrow strip at the south end...

... and even that was often visited

Many tents on shore: too many people for onboard berths

Sometimes the tents were more conveniently located

Smaller boats w/o built-in generators brought along portables

Thongs were very popular apparel

"Rafting" was a congenial way of solving the space problem

Panorama from shore on Friday -- TTII above swimmers head

Another pan from shore on Friday -- not yet as crowded as it will get

Closer look at some of the rears in the previous pan

Pan from TTII at peak of crowding on Saturday

Tubing at sunset


We took the dinghy around the south end of Herradura, and found a marvelous spot to snorkel.  We simply followed the edge of the reef as it swings first eastward and then follows northward up the eastern shore.  Dead elkhorn coral reaching almost to the surface, falling off to deeper live coral beds that themselves fall off to still deeper sand. The number of fish we saw was simply amazing.  Ever been in a snow shower with no wind?  Surrounded by big fluffy flakes?  Sometimes it felt like that.  Enormous loosely-packed school of silversides swirling around me, so numerous as to obscure visibility of anything else.  And then, for hundreds and hundreds of yards, a long tightly-packed school of a smaller species, hugging the edge of the reef, oblivious to my presence, letting me enter their mass and experience the wonder of their flashing blue.  And then they turn, and suddenly they are all silver and green.  I exit the school, and look down, and for as far as I can see the floor of the reef is crawling with slowly swimming juvenile grunts.  It stays that way for a hundred yards, and then suddenly I spy, just on the edge where reef meets sand, a swirling eddy of long thin fish.  It is a big school, but they are not quickly moving along.  Rather, they are circling in a whirlpool.  I dive into their middle and get a close look.  Later, back at the "fish book", I see that they were sennets.  Another first.  We swam through and over armies of sergeant majors.  Through thousands of brown chromis.  Past parrot fish of every description.

We went back three times, and every time were impressed with the number of juvenile grunts, the swirling school of sennets, and the gazillion silversides.  On one of our expeditions, folks from the Simon Bolivar holiday were out with spear guns, and having a lot of success in hunting large grunts and grouper.

Our best snorkel experience in the Caribbean to date.



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