Venezuela - Profile
- Lying on the direct route to Panama and also being rarely affected by hurricanes, the Venezuelan coast and particularly the offlying islands are a convenient cruising destination. The islands abound in picturesque anchorages and diving is excellent almost everywhere, particularly among the scores of islets and cays of Los Roques. The Venzuelans are friendly and there is little tourism or charter boats to spoil the anchorages.
- Sadly however, the number of foreign yachts visiting Venezuela has declined substantially in the last couple of years, not only due to the high crime rate but concerns over the unstable government, corrupt officials, high consumer prices, widespread shortages and so on.
- An increasingly popular destination is the Delta of the Orinoco, much of which can be explored by keeled boats (see security advice below for this region).
- Those interested in the mountainous interior can leave their boats in the safety of one of the many marinas.
- Venezuela is cheaper when provisioning for price controlled goods, such as fuel, beef, chicken and coffee, but little else.
- Repair facilities are generally good and the prices competitive since labour costs are low; however, a written estimate should be obtained before embarking on any major work. There are good repair facilities and several boatyards in Cumaná, however be sure to check on the current situation as in the past there have been a number of attacks on yachts here.
- The majority of cruising yachts that need work done choose Puerto La Cruz where there are haulout facilities and spare parts can be obtained. Puerto La Cruz has now become the boating capital of Venezuela as far as foreign vessels are concerned, due to the good shipyards and marinas that have opened in recent years. Security is good also.
- The Venezuelan Coastguard (Guardia) do on occasion stop boats for spot inspections. They will ask the name of vessel, ask to see your boat papers and perhaps inspect the boat. If all is correct you are free to go. If something is found to be wrong they can and will ask you to return to their port. Local cruisers advise however that the Guardia are not well trained in seamanship or piloting and the Captain should use discretion and only follow their orders if he/she feels it is safe to do so.
In recent years, Venezuela has seen a decline in the number of visiting yachts due to the steadily deteriorating safety situation. In certain areas (in particular Margarita and Testigos) there have been an increasing number of muggings, robberies and even knife attacks reported by visiting sailors, which have caused many to avoid this beautiful country and change their cruising plans for elsewhere.
It is not so much the number of attacks that cause concern, but the violent nature of these attacks. However, it is important to remember that with a coastline of nearly 1800 miles and 100’s of offshore islands, Venezuela is a vast cruising area, and whilst there are some parts that should perhaps still be avoided or at least approached with care, there are other areas that are safe to cruise where sailors do not encounter any problems.
Perhaps the "safest" places to anchor in Venezuela are Los Roques, Isla de la Blanquilla (as it permanently has the guardia nacional sited here) and the islands of Aves de Sotavento and Barlovento. If considering other places, it is recommended to consult ONSA's webpage.
Whilst noonsite has received reports that the Venezuelan Coastguard are patrolling eastward along the Paria Peninsula, a cruising yacht was boarded by pirates here in November 2013 (see below). The Paria Peninsula where this incident occurred has been the site of several other violent piracy attacks, one of them fatal. Cruisers should fully consider the risks before traveling in this area and those using “buddy boats” should have firm, agreed plans in place for routing and regular communications as well as emergency communications and response plans for use before, during and after any perceived threat or event.
General advice from cruisers here is "don't let the beautiful surroundings put you off guard". Be careful not to flash money around and be sure to secure all items on deck and always lift and lock the dinghy and outboard at night, wherever you are in the Caribbean.
The US State Department issued a warning concerning Venezuela on 22 November 2013.
In 2013, one fatal attack and one pirate attack has been reported:
Dutch skipper shot on board trying to resist a robbery in Porlamar, Isla Margarita - see here.
Boarded by pirates, robbed and attacked off the Paria Peninsula - see here.
If cruising the Manamo/Orinoco area of Venezulea, locals advise that visiting yachts SHOULD NOT go to villages or towns like Boca de Uracoa. Stay between the very friendly and peaceful Warao people and at the Eco Lodges, of which there are several in the region.
The Caribbean Safety and Security Net (firstname.lastname@example.org) gather information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behaviour and precautions wherever they decide to go. Should you have information about a security incident, as well as contacting Noonsite please also forward details to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, as theirs is the most comprehensive source of Caribbean security incidents against sailors on the net. Please be sure to include boat name, date of incident and anchorage/port where the incident took place.
Last updated November 2013.
Venezuela has a tropical climate and there is little change between the seasons, although it is drier from December to April. The northern coast and offlying islands are under the influence of the NE trade winds, which blow strongly between December and April. Summer winds are lighter and Venezuela is very rarely affected by tropical storms.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.