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Isla Margarita, Venezuela, March 29th -April 3rd   2006     (by Dagmar)

We were sooo excited, when for the first time in 5 years on the morning of March 29th, we saw Isla Margarita, the Venezuelan island on the horizon. Strange feeling to arrive here by boat and not by airplane as we always did in the past. Coming from Grenada the other day we just passed a group of islands in the night, Los Testigos, as well dependency of Venezuela. A cruise-ship passing by there in the night lighted up the contours of this small group of islands. We had to navigate thru a lot of fishing-boats on the way to Margarita.

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At 10am we anchored in the harbor of Porlamar, the capital of the island. Bart went to shore right away, because we want to clear customs the same day, so we hoped to leave for El Yaque, the windsurfing capital of the island, the same day to say "Hello" to all our friends. But in 5 years it seemed we forgot how everything works in Venezuela. We had to come in before 9:30am for all our paperwork to be done the same day. So the next morning we had to try again. We came to Porlamar also for filling up our diesel-tank, while the prices here are so low. But same thing with the gasoline-boat, it works in the early morning.

Several yachts were anchoring in the harbor. We were a little bit worried about all the armed robbery stories from here and one of the neighbor-islands. So Bart talked to one of the other boat-people and they said that they had stolen dinghies lately, therefore close everything on the boat, leave nothing outside, switch the music on while you are gone and in the night pull the dinghy up on deck.

So around midday we decided to take a taxi to town, change some money into Bolivares, the Venezuelan currency, do some shopping in Porlamar and we had a Pizza on Av. 4 de Mayo.....yummy...

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Next morning no tank-boat to see. Bart dropped off our passports at the immigration-agent, who promised everything would be done by 5:30pm.

At midday we took a taxi to El Yaque. We were so curious when we entered this little fishing village, which at the end now was lined up with a lot more windsurfing- and kite boarding centers, then years ago. We left El Yaque in Spring 2001, after we sold the Happy Center to Chrissy and Kai and the Planet Windsurf Center to Udo. They are still owners and managers of the centers there.

We said "Hello" to a lot of friends: 

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Only Colette and Diego we have seen one year ago, all the others not since 5 years. We were really surprised how many people still remembered us. And even the employees of the hotel still knew our names.

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Soleil was 1.5 year old when we left Margarita. So she was a little bit confused about all the people there greeting and kissing her, she doesn't know. We were having lunch with Denise in her restaurant "Ipanema Cafe" in Hotel Windsurf Paradise, a fresh tuna salad. The tuna was incredible.

In the afternoon we left for Marina Concorde, the harbor in Porlamar, to see if our papers were ready...and they were. The agent told us that for every authority (immigrations, customs, port authority) he had to go to a different bank to deposit the money we had to pay. Couldn't get any more complicated then that, but that's Venezuela how we knew it. We got back a whole bunch of paperwork.

Next morning, finally we could fill our tank. We had to pay BS 46.000.-, this equals US$ 20.-, for 230l of diesel. Only for this it was worth while to stop in Venezuela. At 9:30am we left Porlamar to sail to El Yaque. While we were sailing into the bay in front of the hotels, some windsurfer-friends were greeting us on the water. Anchoring was not so easy, we had to make an extra turn, because the bay was getting shallow very fast close to shore.

First thing we were talking to Miguel, the sail maker, if he could repair our deck-cover. Then we spent the whole day on the beach with our friends Chrissy and Kai, and Hugo and Fernanda, their girls Marina (she is a little bit younger then Soleil) and Celeste. Soleil and Marina spent hours in the pool of Windsurf Paradise. Soleil was very happy to have a friend here. Bart and Hugo went windsurfing in the afternoon.

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We were the only ones anchoring in the bay, therefore we had to do the same security procedures for our boat as in Porlamar and we wanted to be back on the LUNA before sunset, because we were still worried about theft.

Sending and receiving our e-mail as well as updating our website and to do Skype was not so easy in Venezuela. After trying out several different location we were able to send and receive the e-mails but Skype was impossible. We spent the day on the beach again, having dinner at "Fuerza 6" with our friends, the famous chicken place. The watchman of the hotel was keeping an eye on our dinghy.

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El Yaque, Isla Margarita, April 2nd  2006  Bart's Birthday!!!!!!   (by Dagmar) 

In the morning we had breakfast with Denise on the terrace. She was greeting us already on the beach with flowers for Bart. We had a delicious breakfast with fresh fruits, fruit juice, pancakes, carrot cake, scrambled eggs....All of Bart's favorites. Soleil and I bought him a new hat and a beautiful handmade hammock for the boat. Chrissy and Kai were having a T-Shirt for Bart and some really nice sweets and treats. We were walking up the hill to have a look at Colette and Diego's house as well as at Diony's.

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Soleil was already waiting for her friend Marina. When she arrived, they were leaving right away for the pool. In the afternoon we had a "surprise Birthday celebration" at Chrissy and Kais windsurfing center. Fernanda baked 2 delicious cakes. At 5:30pm we had to say bye bye to all our friends. We wanted to leave first thing in the morning for Islas Los Roques. I had to cry so much.. I was so sad to leave so many friends behind again. Same thing as in Maui. The memories of this came all back. It was very hard. Later Colette past by windsurfing at the boat and said "... we will meet again"...that was very sweet Colette.

We want to say "Thank you" to all our friends in El Yaque for giving us such a warm and remember full welcome after all this years away from them!!!!

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Islas Los Roques, Venezuela, April 4th - 6th   2006    (by Dagmar)

At first light in the morning we pulled up the anchor and left for Islas Los Roques, an archipelago of more then 200 little islands, west of Isla Margarita. We calculated a full day and a full night of sailing and hoped to see the islands on the following midday. We wanted to anchor in the lagoon of Cayo de Agua, the island the most to the west of the archipelago. At 4pm we dropped anchor in the bay between all the reefs and reef heads. We went swimming right away in this turquoise blue water.  Soleil was practicing her forward- and backward roll in the water. And this time she could do it perfectly around both ways. 

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Next day we explored the island which was very narrow and it would take less then an hour to walk around it. We tried to cross it, but we were surprised by the thorns getting stuck in our sandals therefore we decided to walk on the beach and went for a little snorkeling trip. Many conch-shells were lying on the shore. Pelicans were flying all around us. The wind picked up. After Bart's turn, windsurfing , it was my turn. Bart climbed the mast and made some shots of my windsurfing. I was really proud to have some nice shots on the website, too. Sadly I couldn't sail my new Diva sails from Hot Sails Maui. They were all under 5 qm, so I took Bart's 5.8sqm. I couldn't remember that I windsurfed this big size in Maui. Afterwards I did my Pilates exercises. I try to do them everyday. More then 2 years ago I had a disc prolapse in my lower back. Pilates was the only exercise I was able to do to get my back strong again. I am really happy with it. So I could even start my Running training afterwards again.

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Los Aves de Barlovento, Venezuela, April 6th - 9th   2006    (by Bart)

In light winds we sailed the 30 miles to Los Aves de Barlovento. For me finally a totally new island I haven't been before. And what an island. My expectations were high since I have been reading a lot of stories from other sailors who passed by these islands. But it was even better than I expected. One big horse shoe reef surrounds a lot of smaller islands and reefs in beautiful water colors. On one of islands it's full of mangroves with hundreds of birds: Pelicans, boobies, frigate birds and lots more of which I don't know their names. Specially the boobies are funny birds with blue bills and big floppy feet. We anchor between the reefs next to the mangroves and sit in silence to watch the nature show around us.

Next we go to one of the reefs to snorkel again, what a beautiful place this is. You can see the difference with all the other islands in the Grenadines. Here are very little boats coming and there is no other human waste. Therefore the reefs are very healthy with  a lot of different corals, anemones, sponges and fish. 

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Next day I did a little windsurfing (thanks to Kai& Chrissy who helped me out with a bigger board in El Yaque), Dagmar did Pilates and Soleil, like always swam every 20 minutes. We snorkeled again on an other reef. And it was time to prepare for Dagmar's birthday. Soleil and I baked a cake, we packed the presents and made a necklace out of a piece of coral we found on the beach. 

Next morning Soleil woke me up at 6:00. She was all exited for  Dagmar's birthday. So we started preparing a nice breakfast with cake, fruits, pancakes and all the presents.  Then we tested our new hammock.
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Next we went to shoot some photos of all the wild life in the mangroves. The boobies just had some fluffy babies. They call them boobies because the first Spanish sailors a few centuries ago, could so easily catch them ,that they called them bobo's (in Spanish stupid).

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We wanted to leave that evening for Curacao but this island was special so we decided to postpone again and leave manana.  We anchored at an other part of the island next to a nice beach, an other part of the mangroves.

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After Happy hour, a nice dinner and a cup of tea in our hammock at moonlight, it was time to go to bed.

 

Curacao, Dutch Antilles, April 10th-21st   2006    (by Bart)

Arriving in Curacao is a Dutchman's delight. Not that it's so overwhelming beautiful. But it's more the supermarkets after being 7 months away. It is just marvelous to find all the goodies there, like drop, kroketten, Dutch cookies, meat which looks save enough to eat.

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We arrived in Willemstad. You enter right in the middle of town. Between little Dutch looking buildings and a lot of Venezuelan fisher boats who have a fruit market right at the quay. Under a giant 200 feet high bridge.  Although they speak Dutch here we tend to speak English since they all speak Papiamento between them. Papiamento is a mixture of a lot of Spanish, some English and some Dutch. After checking in, we put our anchor down in Spaanse Water, a small inside lake with 50 boats, some staying forever, some just traveling trough. We hadn't seen so many Dutch boats together since Holland. Among them "de Pelikaan". Soleil was jumping up and down the LUNA, obviously very Happy to see her friends River and Roxy back again. 

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We spent 11 days here doing all kind of chores around the boat and stocking up for the Pacific. Just before we left Lars ( my cousin) visited us for 2 days. He is a KLM airline pilot and requested this flight to visit us. We had a wonderful time, good food and a lot of talks. We made a snorkel trip to the sunken Tugboat just on the other side of Spaanse Water and were amazed by the abundance of fish. The tugboat is lying on shallow water of only 4 meter. Many different fish use it as there hiding place. For the first time we saw the Blue Parrotfish. They get very close by and have a striking lightning blue color. Another first was Dagmar and Soleil's encounter with a big Barracuda. Although we know now that they never attack, they still look very scary with there big mouth full of teeth, always slightly open and the meanest eyes. After a goodbye dinner with Lars in a nice little restaurant, which looked like you were having dinner in the jungle, we set out for Aruba.

 

Aruba, Dutch Antilles, April 22nd-24th   2006    (by Dagmar)

Aruba, known for its strong winds, didn't disappoint us when we were entering the harbor in Oranjestad. We were thinking about anchoring in the bay close to the harbor and to town, but it was too windy and rolly that day, so we stayed for one night in the Renaissance Yacht Club. After more then 8 years we were soo excited to see our friends Eef and JP again. Now we have all kids. Soleil was super excited to play with their two boys: Nik 9 years and Mack 7 years. 

Upon our arrival we called them right away. Just the day before they came back from their vacation in the Dominican Republic. But there was one other reason, why especially Soleil couldn't wait to go there, because we could use their mailing-address to sent Soleil's 3rd Grade School books from Calvert School to them. She was very curious to see all the new books. We went by bus to their house in Malmok. Soleil was too excited, that's why she forgot her backpack in the bus and JP raced behind it, so she got it back. A hectic start for the visit. The kids enjoyed the pool and played pool-billiard, too. We had a wonderful dinner at their house. Soleil stayed right away for a sleep-over.

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They picked Bart and me up at the harbor the next day and we all went to Boca Grandi, a wild and deserted beach in the east of the island, famous for Wind- and Kite surfing. The kids were collecting a bunch of stranded things, including wood and were busy building a hut. The beach was lined with lots of small huts built like this. What a wonderful day on the beach for all of us, but in the afternoon we had to say bye bye again. Thanks to Eef and JP and the boys we spent wonderful days on Aruba.

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San Blas Islands, Panama,  April 29th-May3rd   2006    (by Bart)

After 2 nice days in Aruba we left Aruba in the afternoon. We could have stayed a few more days/weeks but on a boat you always have the feeling that you are late because the hurricane season is over in the Pacific and we are still in the Caribbean. Most boats are already well on their way to the Galapagos or Marquises in the Pacific. Generally the Pacific hurricane season is November until March, and the Caribbean, June until October. So those are the months when one shouldn't be there.  When your are sailing around the globe like we are, you should always sail with the seasons to avoid the hurricanes. That takes away one of the biggest risks of sailing on big water. 

So we are late, so what!  We enjoy the places we go and if we don't, we leave the next day. So we didn't go to the Panama Channel just yet. First we wanted to see the San Blas Islands. A group of 365 islands on the coast of Panama. 

 

The first few days we had a nice wind from the back. This crossing is notorious for it's dangerous high seas. The whole force of the trade winds are piled up in this corner and on top, there are strong currents going against the seas. I am glad we don't have too much wind. We stay far out at sea and don't get to close to Venezuela and later Colombia. The pilot recommends to stay well away from the 1000 meters depth line to avoid high seas.

On the 2nd night we caught a nice big yellow fin tuna, good for 4 evening dinners and 2 sashimi happy hour snacks. After the tuna we lost 2 lures. Although I use a 200lbs nylon line with metal the first 30 cm. Must be some pretty big fish to bite that straight off.

The whole crossing it looked like we were gonna make it in 4 days. But 130sm out of San Blas the wind turned against us and than died. In the evening the wind picked up again from the right direction. But we had to slow down the boat, so we wouldn't arrive in the dark. All 365 islands are surrounded by reefs and the charts who haven't been updated since 1930 are 1/2 mile off. 

We arrived in the early morning hours after 5 days at sea. And what a sight. This is Robinson Crusoe,  'Blue lagoon' and FedEx Tom Hanks' 'Cast away' pure. We anchored at Cayo Holandes between 2 small islands connected by reef. Both island are overgrown with palm trees. 2 other boats next to us.

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Also underwater it's spectacular. It's not super clear, but what an abundance of fish. I try to shoot my first fish with a spear gun. And it's not as easy as it looks. First you have to shoot pretty straight, second only the fish you don't want to shoot gets close enough, and third the big fish dive deep under water. You have to hold your breath, like a whale, to get deep and close enough. On the outside reef we saw some beautiful fish, like barracudas and manta rays, which silently fly by .

In the next days we met Ben and Rosangela and their kids, Lukas and Joshua, from the 'Zazoo'. He is an experienced diver, who 's crazy about skin diving. Sometimes gone for 8 hours. The day before he saw a lot of good fish, like red snapper, grouper and some sharks. I went to the outside of the reef looking for fish and I was all exited, because I was sure that I would meet some sharks underwater today . I just came out of the small channel, going to the outside, when I saw 3 manta rays about 3 feet wide. A couple of minutes later I saw one reef shark about 2 meters long. I have never seen a reef so much alive. For an hour I went up and down the reef and enjoyed the underwater world. I  tried to shoot a jack but only aggravated him by just missing. Directly 2 reef sharks showed up who picked up the vibes from the aggravated jack. They were kind of nervous. Just then I saw this big 4 meal size grouper on the bottom sand. But I didn't dear to shoot with the reef sharks closely watching everything I was doing. I went back to the ship without any evening meal but with a big smile on my face after the whole experience.

The next day we wanted to do a barbeque with all of the crew members of the 4 boats in the bay. The next day Ben shot a big red snapper ( see picture). After he hooked the speared fish on his buoy on a long line and started looking for another fish. Suddenly he felt a big pull on his buoy line and when he looked back, he saw the shark biting of a big piece of his red snapper. Next the shark went over to Ben. He held his spear in front of him. The shark got as close a the spear and then moved away still closely observing Ben. Although he had encountered a lot of sharks in his live, they never bothered him. But this scared him. He went straight back to the beach and waved me to come and pick him up. Just half an hour later he went back out again and shot another red snapper.

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We had a a nice barbeque with the French, Italian, English/Brazilian and American boat crews. Everybody made something, Ben brought his fish, I had caught a small barracuda, Dagmar made a salad and Soleil brought the marshmallows as dessert.

After 6 days we had seen 1 island of the 365. But with pain in our hearts, said goodbye to our new friends and sailed over night to the start of the Panama Channel, the city of Colon. On the next morning with Colon in sight, Dagmar woke me up with: "Dolphins!" We were welcomed by a group of dolphins, who played for half an hour in front of the boat.

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We arrived in Colon in the early morning. From Paradise back to Urban real life. A big port showed up on the horizon and in front at least 30 big tanker and container vessels were anchored. On the VHF radio was busy traffic between all the ships and Port Authorities.  For it was hard to get between them and request permission to enter the harbor. At 10am we dropped our anchor at the "Flats", the waiting anchorage for the Panama Channel.breedDSC05423.jpg (45192 bytes)

 

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