With only a short sail today of just under 80NM from the Netherlands Antilles to Venezuela, I’m hoping the wind is kind and nothing goes wrong…
Bonaire: 12°09.850’N 68°17.110’W
Chichiriviche: 11°06.758’N 68°13.283’W
With only 76NM to Venezuela and apart from a very rolley sea, and being sick again, nothing much else happened on this sail from the Netherlands Antilles.
Reality sails well, is a gorgeous boat, and is very comfortable.
Reaching Chichiriviche, we anchor behind a little island before moving up to the lake area to see the Caquetios cave.
Sheer craggy cliffs against the clear blue sky surround Reality and quite dramatic.
Some cliff-sides are over 200 metres high and sprawl right down to the water’s edge.
This area is dotted with caves and inlets.
Taking the dinghy to a small cave, which was used by the Caquetios since 3,400 B.C., this cave is still used today as a type of shrine.
The whole area is covered in small religious statues, people’s medical cards, photos, rosary beads, ornaments, and an array of other various religious artefacts, cemented into the rock forms.
The cave also contains numerous rock carvings of various meanings such as the dawn of time and birth – it’s an extremely fascinating region.
Chichiriviche: 11°06.758’N 68°13.283’W
Puerto Cabello: 10°28.596’N 68°00.751’W
After a couple of days exploring around Chichiriviche, we sail down to Puerto Cabello to officially check into the country.
When checking into Venezuela with a boat, it’s supposed to be easier if you use an “Agent” for all the running around to the various departments, for a fee of course.
Our agent Carlos speaks fluent English, which is a bonus but also means that he is savvy to making loads of money.
He turns up in a bright new shiny Harley Davidson and over the next few days, arrives in 3 different expensive vehicles.
Our first quote to check in is USD$800 – I nearly choke!
When I baulk at this price, the following day Carlos advises the fee decreased to USD$500, but also advises, “if we sailed to another port it would probably be cheaper as this was a commercial port” – yeah right. Now I know how Carlos affords all his expensive vehicles.
It appears that the entry cost is at the Port Master’s discretion (and pocket) – so much for Venezuela being a cheap destination!
We are allowed to stay in Puerto Cabello for a few days before officially checking in to Venezuela, although the private marina doesn’t really want us here and the boat isn’t in a safe spot.
Loads of locals warned us about where and where not to walk for our own safety. Later, we learn that this town has the worse violence in Venezuela, although walking around, I don’t really feel threatened or unsafe.
Whilst here, a sole-sailor we met was robbed at knife point on the beach opposite the marina. This was at midday on a Sunday with children and people watching around him. No one came to his aid. After all, he is a Gringo.
Two guys held a knife at him, ripped his shorts half-off, and stole his wallet. Whilst walking back to the marina still in shock, a local laughed at him and yelled out “hey Gringo, you got robbed!” – obviously, a common occurrence here and a big joke with everyone. The sailor came back to Reality for a drink and compassion.
Hearing what appears to be artillery firing in the hills most days and throughout the nights, it’s worrying. As tensions are increasing between Colombia and Venezuela, we’re not sure if this is actual artillery fire or training. Later, we learn that the Festival of the Drums is on in a couple of days and the firing is only the sound of fireworks – rocket launchers…talk about paranoia setting in!
There is a lot of violence in this town.
Whilst here, our yachtie friend who’d been robbed got to know some locals and invited to a street party. Whilst there, someone was shot in front of him. Everyone apart from our friend danced on as if nothing happened and he wasn’t sure if the guy died or just injured.
We met some really helpful locals and don’t have any problems with anyone or with any violence…maybe good Karma?
In the streets, some people smile at us and others just look, but this happens everywhere. We are the only 3 Gringos in town, so we do stand out – not many foreigners visit this town.
Decided to sail the 67NMs to the next port, for a cheaper entry fee, which still cost USD$350 to check in. At least it’s cheaper than USD$800.
We’ve since learnt that it may cost another USD$200 to exit this country yet…gotta love corruption. Again, the cost depends on where you exit Venezuela, so have to do a little research before leaving.
The easy overnight sail to La Guaira sees us sailing East, whilst catching glimpses of Venezuela’s beautiful coastal mountain range: Cordillera de la Costa, whilst nearing Caracas at dawn.
The mountains are over 900-metres high and appear to push downwards to the sea. The sprawl of the city creeps upwards from the sea deep into the hills, which are covered with a million lights and rooftops.
Finally reaching La Guaira’s commercial port in the early hours of the morning, we soon realise that this port isn’t set up for pleasure craft.
The height between our boat and the jetty means that the officials can’t, and won’t, climb down onto the boat to do our check-in to Venezuela. Half-heartedly, the official motions that we’re free to go – bonus.
As the morning is still young and a lovely breeze about, we to continue on a short sail to Caraballeda, to find a marina or at least somewhere to drop the pick.
I radio the marina ahead of arriving for a spot but advised nothing is available. So, anchor outside the marina, deciding to try our luck in person instead.
As a result of the 1999 floods this marina is still under renovation and not accepting any new boats. We only manage to get 3 nights here as the berth belongs to another boat returning in a few days.
Also tried the surrounding private marinas and clubs, which are extremely upmarket, and full of berthed multi-million dollar launches – mostly American.
Later we learn that one club’s membership is USD$80,000 per year…how obscene! Guess this gives you a picture of the amount of money that’s sitting in Venezuela.
Walking around Caraballeda, you can’t but help notice massive hotels such as the Hilton, closed down and deserted…a legacy of the 1999 floods – nothing around here happens in a hurry.
Such a waste of a massive building and infrastructure, especially as there are so many homeless.
Caraballeda is a seaside resort town and very popular with Venezuelans, but most of the resorts are abandoned and I can only imagine the opulence here before the floods.
Caracas for one day
The bus swerves around huge mountain ranges and it’s is very picturesque trip, albeit a little nauseating.
Caracas is a sprawling and bustling city.
One thing that is noticeable is the security bars everywhere. In fact, thirty-storey apartment blocks have bars on windows, around balconies, doors, and right up to the top floor, which resemble jails.
Actually, walking around this city, you notice that most homes have security iron bars on all doors and windows. And, the tops of 3-metre high walls have cemented in broken glass and bottles, then topped with an electric fence. Surely this is overkill? Obviously, there’s a huge problem in this country.
Strolling around for the day, wanting to see the museum and the cable car, but both are closed so, opt for a wander through the street markets instead.
Venezuela is full of street markets and stalls selling a myriad of stuff – pens, lollypops, drinks, food, lingerie, and clothes. You can even buy a single cigarette from a pack and just about anything can be purchased on the street.
It’s common to see a lady sitting on a small stool on the broken pavement with half a dozen mobile phones, securely chained to her stool, selling phone time, which is cheap and a great system. This means you don’t need to scour the streets looking for a public phone, which usually doesn’t work in most countries.
Pirates in Caraballeda
Staying around a week in Caraballeda, mostly on anchor outside of the marina during the day, then re-anchoring inside the marina each night – for our own safety and under the Port Captain’s instructions – he’s worried that we may be held up at gunpoint and robbed, if anchored outside. Comforting thought!
As it turns out, the Port Captain wasn’t exaggerating.
Two weeks after leaving this exact spot, we heard that a French Catamaran was boarded by pirates in this very anchorage. The skipper was shot and later died from four gunshot wounds.
This further confirms how dangerous Venezuela is for a cruising boat.
Sail to the Los Roques Archipelago
Caraballeda: 10°37.302’N 66°50.807’W
Los Roques: 11.8575° N, 66.7575° W
This area belongs to Venezuela and is only an 80NM sail from La Guaira.
The short distance ensures the area is frequented by many Venezuelans from Caracas on day trips, and many wealthy tourists, especially from Europe and the US.
I’ve never heard of this area until arriving in Venezuela and checking the Nav charts.
Consisting of approximately 350 stunning islands, cays, and islets in a total area of just over 20 miles and scarcely populated (only 1,500 permanent inhabitants), this area receives approximately 70,000 visitors each year.
Spending a few days sailing around this gorgeously beautiful Archipelago, exploring the pristine waters, which offer wonderful swimming, snorkelling, relaxing, and good sailing breezes.
Pueblo del Gran Roque is a quiet village with a few small restaurants, Cafés, and supply shops. Local islanders are much friendlier here and life is very relaxed, much more than even in Bonaire.