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Cruising Notes for the Los Roques/Venezuela

By doina — last modified Aug 24, 2005 10:05 PM

Published: 2005-08-24 22:05:07
Countries: Venezuela

General

We navigated with Imray charts and C-Map electronic charts. Both were often out as much as half a mile. Especially good to know that the dreaded pass of "Sebastopol" lays 0,45 miles further south than what the charts were indicating. We navigated on WGS 84 chart date. The light house at the "Sebastopol-entrance" was working in February 2005 and is situated about 0,2 miles south of the actual pass. We recommend daylight usage of this entrance. Even if you can find the pass in darkness, once inside the reef eyeball navigation is compulsory. Good little transit anchorage behind the little Mangrove island Buchiyaco just a good mile north of Sebastopol.

Sea birds nest on all islands from September to February. Please be very considerate. Their nests can be extremely well hidden on the ground. Birds DO HAVE a superb sense of smell and young ones touched by humans will be deserted by their parents with certain death as a result. Please DO NOT touch the nests, the surroundings and certainly not the young bird unless you wish to consider yourself a bird-killer!

And please DO NOT plant any vegetation you brought along. Animals should certainly not be brought ashore. Stray cats especially have already devastated the bird population on some islands. While it is completely unpredictable what the "new" plant or a runaway cat will mean to the environment, one thing is sure: It will unbalance existing nature in this National Park!

The area is used by fishermen who live in very modest, mostly temporary camps. They have always been friendly to us, but there have been examples of not so nice encounters. Yachts are often approached by fishermen when they wish to sell langoustines or look for medicine, batteries, spare parts and rarely for rum or cigarettes. It is good practice to ask what the medicine will be used for. The many crosses marking graves on these islands tell a story of the difficult life these men live. Many of them suffer from "the bends", with the decompression sickness being a result of too many and too deep dives. Aspirin i.e., given to somebody suffering from "the bends", is still under discussion with diving doctors. Some of them claim it can, in this case, be a deadly drug, thinning out the blood and increasing the illness.

Anchorages

There are far more anchorages than we can describe here, so just a few extra beautiful ones shall be mentioned:

Grande Roques

Anchor off the western end of the village to avoid being in the way of landing planes! Also when approaching be aware that aircraft fly extremely low over the beach to reach the runway. The anchorage is rolly and windy at times. Check in first with Guarda Costa in the low, yellow building right by the western end of the beach. Then follow given procedures for the remaining clearance at Guarda National, Port Captain and the National-Park authorities. At the National-Park authorities you will be charged the park-entrance fee of about 2 US/ft boat length plus 29.400 Bolivar (about 13 US) per person on board. This is valid for a maximum of 14 days. You can not clear out internationally to and from Los Roques. But you can clear out nationally to a port within Venezuela. Bonaire does not really ask for a clearing out form from Venezuela if your other papers are in good order. Though we have personally never encountered any control boats in the Los Roques, these are the rules.

On Grande Roque you can find diesel and gasoline from a converted fishing trawler moored at the very western end of the beach. Alongside bunkering from a hose. There are several small stores for essential groceries, even some fresh produce, but all at a price as this is far away from the mainland.

Flights to and from Isla Marguerita, Barcelona/Puerto La Cruz and Caracas. Ticket offices on site. No ferry to the mainland, but a converted fishing boat serves as cargo boat. Nice little guest houses, hotels, and even an ice cream shop and disco! Very popular with Italians, Germans and Americans. Superb fly-fishing and windsurfing. Many day excursions and dive trips offered on various size boats to a wide variety of islands.

Francisqui

Very popular day-anchorage in a splendid lagoon. Lots of tourist-boats, windsurfing rental and even a little restaurant. No swell, very protected. Watch the shallow spots in the entry of the lagoon! Great snorkelling and shallow dives on the eastern side of the island group.

Nordisqui

Secluded anchorage, no swell, and no people. Great dives on the outer reef for the brave diver with a good, following dinghy. Eyeball navigation in good light to get there.

Carenero

A small lagoon on the very southern tip of the island. Perfect anchorage and a great snorkel on both sides of the exit. Please DO NOT bring your garbage ashore. There is always a pile, but it is NOT a collection point. Beware the 5 ft shoal right in the middle of the entrance! Langustinos are sold by the fishermen on the "mainland" - Carenero, which is also a superb walk on a picture-perfect beach. Good fishing all around in the mangroves and at the entrance of the lagoon.

Crasqui

One of the longest, nicest beaches you have ever seen. Very protected anchorage in any depths over sand. Popular with the large motor-yachts of Venezuelian owners.

Sarqui

Another picture-perfect beach. Great snorkelling in the "Rip" in the canal between Sarqui and Espenqui. Here is also superb fishing from the beach possible. Best anchorage at the NW-tip or off the lagoon on Espenqui. Shallow draft vessel (4ft) can enter the lagoon at times.

Dos Mosquitos

Must be approached from the very SW. Many shoals, but possible to approach for vessels up to 8 feet. There is a magnificent turtle station to be visited ashore. The island is private and has it's own little airport and "Guarda Coasta" station. The officers will want to see your "Zarpe" (cruising permit). The southern end of the island offers a spectacular dive to 150 ft. NO spear-fishing, though there are the biggest snappers, parrot fish and barracudas here! This is clearly our favourite dive in the Roques.

Caya de Agua

Ancient Indian water hole. You can still dig for brackish water in the palm-tree oasis on the northern side, which is also the best anchorage. There is a pass half way between Caya de Agua and Becqueve, but it is not easy to find and carries a mere 12 ft of water where there are no coral heads. The approach around the NW end of Caya de Agua by the lighthouse is far safer and easier. But even this approach should be treated with care and used in good daylight only. There is stunning diving and snorkelling on the south western end of Caya de Agua. The sandbank connecting Caya de Agua with West Key has now risen to become a sand dune and offers a new, good anchorage on both sides. Late arrivals from the West i.e. Los Aves, will find the bay behind this connecting dune a safe approach, even if it might not be completely free of roll.

Though the sticky-prickly grass seeds can be a trying experience for those without shoes, the walk to the lighthouse is spectacular and delivers the most stunning views.

If you like solitude, diving, snorkelling and sea birds, Los Roques will be a wonderful experience!

Lilly Vedana, Thomas Müller

Yacht MIZ MAE March 2005

www.mizmaesailing.de

François Tabourdeau of s/v "Méroé" adds: On the main island of Grand Roque in Los Roques (Venezuela), there is a bank, phone shops where you can have national and international calls, internet access but with opening hours difficult to understand, diving clubs. But fresh water is difficult to get. Enjoy!

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