If you've ever been to Auckland, New Zealand, you're no doubt familiar with Westhaven Marina, foreground, and Viaduct Basin, in the background. City authorities have wisely agreed to remove the storage tanks in the center to create parks and space for expanded marine services.
from the Guardia Naçional patrol boat, the crew of which cited Eduardo, our landlord, for "the possible pollution" of the canal. As if the canal could be any more polluted! Apparently, his neighbor had called them and reported us for sanding and grinding on the decks. It seems that our sanding dust was more of a problem than all the oil, raw sewage, diesel, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, trash bags, and dead rats. After a trip to the Guardia station and the port captain's office with Eduardo to explain, we were allowed to continue sanding, but would not be allowed to spray paint. A day later the neighbor blew the whistle again, and there was another visit by the Guardia, but this time they stopped all work. Fortunately, Jose Luis found us a spot at the old marina in downtown Puerto La Cruz where we can finish all the work. So we loaded up all the boys, their tools and materials, and headed downtown. It turned out to be a nicer location for doing the work, so the decks, now to be a lightcolored gel coat painted with non-skid, should be finished in a few days. The
floorboards and much of the interior have been sanded and varnished, so things are looking better, and we're almost ready for Christmas. Things have changed a bit since our earlier visits to Venezuela. First of all, all the hurricane activity in the last two years has meant that all the yachts in this part of the world — including the Eastern Caribbean — are going all the way south to Trinidad or Venezuela for the summer months. Venezuela just hasn't been able to catch up with their new-found bonanza, so all of the marinas, boatyards, and service personnel are stressed to the max. As hurricane season comes to an end and yachts have started to head north, things have started to loosen up, but there's still a frustrating wait for any type of professional services. Most people are probably aware of
the verbal sparring between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and President Bush. It can be a little unnerving when you're down here, but for the most part the local Venezuelans remain very friendly. However, the local Guardia Naçional continues to hassle and fine cruisers over paperwork, speeding in dinghies, and things like that. Of course, Christmas is just around the corner and there is a need for government workers to fill the stockings of their children. There have been a few more reported incidents of boats being boarded and robbed, but most of those have happened in isolated anchorages. Fortunately for us, the dollar has remained strong — particularly on the black market — and there are some great bargains in the wining, dining, and travel department. Money changing was always been a bit of a chore in the past, but there is one guy — 'Charlie Alpha' — who will still take checks on accounts in U.S. banks! Charlie Alpha is a good-looking guy who drives around all day in a black sports car with an attractive chica and a briefcase full of Bolivars. He monitors the VHF radio for his daily deliveries, so in that way he's sort of like the local drug dealer. But dealing with him sure beats standing in line at the bank. We'll probably stay around here until the end of January to complete a few more projects, although we'll probably make one last trip inland. We're unsure of our future plans, but will most likely be heading west toward Panama. After all, there are still many anchorages in Central America and Mexico that we haven't seen. And on the way there, we'd certainly like to re-visit Cartagena and the San Blas Islands. In any case, we're looking forward once again to calm anchorages with clear water. — steve & pam 12/20/05 No wonder Steve and Pam are smiling. They just got their money changed by chica-clutching, convertible-driving Charlie Alpha, not a bank. VIVA
The April 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.