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Cruising the Offshore Islands - Blanquilla, Los Roques and Las Aves

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 22, 2012 09:55 PM

Published: 2012-06-22 21:55:30
Countries: Venezuela

We went through the Venezuelan Islands in March 2012, in company with another Kiwi boat. We are not sure if we would have done the following if we had travelled alone, but in saying that we felt completely safe the entire stay.

Here are our notes, hope they will be of help to others.

Amanda and Mark
SY Balvenie

VENEZUELAN OFFSHORE ISLANDS - BLANQUILLA, LOS ROQUES AND LAS AVES

REFERENCE MATERIALS AND EXIT PAPERS FROM GRENADA

When we checked out of Prickly Bay in Grenada we gave Bonaire as being our next Port of Call. We were unsure of whether we would be able to check in and out of Venezuela, so felt that would be the best option.

We used the Cruising Guide to Venezuela and Bonaire by Chris Doyle which was a good enough reference guide. Our CMap electronic charts weren't great, but we did have detailed paper charts also. As with any reef navigation it really is an eyeball affair and is best done with the sun behind or overhead and preferably clear skies, not always possible unfortunately. Remember "If in doubt - stay out".

BLANQUILLA ISLAND - Two Palm Beach
11 50.276N / 64 38.864W

We anchored in 12.4m clear water, could get in closer but we were under tow (what fun). Absolutely magical place, water fairly flat even though there was a reasonable swell running, good enough protection from the wind.

We came in from the top of the island, avoiding the southern tip as there is a settlement there and we didn't want to draw attention to ourselves. There were a few small local fishing boats around, including the helpful ones that towed us in. They brought us fish the following day, nice guys. Just nothing there except a wonderful long white sandy beach, reasonable snorkelling on the rocky/reefy outcrops off the beach. Had 2 nights there without seeing anyone of authority. No phone coverage.

LOS ROQUES
Several anchorages below.

We did not attempt either of the two channels that you can enter through the reefs before the island of Grand Roque. There was a very big swell running (wind around 25 knots and swell about 3 - 4 metres) so we carried on and went around the top of Grand Roque and down its western shore. We got fairly flat water once in its lee, but some pretty lively bullets flew across the water.

Probably was phone coverage here, but didn't check. No phone coverage, stores, restaurants - anything - anywhere else in the Roques or Aves.

Grand Roque
11 56.706N / 66 40.856W

Dropped the anchor in around 3m settled in 8m, hard sand and coral. Very shallow for quite a way out then drops right off.

We had planned to go ashore to try and obtain a cruising permit. Information on just what this would entail and the cost was very vague as no one else we knew of had been here this season and affairs in Venezuela seem to change by the day. Our friends on Bandit (who we buddy boated from Grenada to Colombia with) dropped their dinghy and went across to a neighbouring Swedish boat. The Swedes had just been ashore to get a permit and had been quoted USD900 (we think for just 5 days). When they tried to negotiate they were told they could not have a permit at all and had to leave immediately. They were heading east - into the swell and winds we had just come from - so objected strongly pointing out that it was unsafe to leave port. They were then given 48 hours to leave and were told they could not move from where they were currently anchored. Welcome to Venezuela!!

Bandit and Balvenie decided to slip out of the anchorage and away from the officials, find somewhere a little more remote to anchor, and play it by ear! We did not see or were not approached by anyone of authority during our entire stay in Venezuelan waters - spanning 02 - 15 March 2012.

Crasqui
11 52.934N / 66 43.852W

Anchored in 10m sand, down the bottom end of the island off a lovely sandy beach. Found many unrecorded shallow spots (3m) on our way into anchor but took it very slowly. There was quite some current where we were and we may have been better a little further north. Reasonably flat water but no cover really from the wind. Lovely long white sandy beach.

Landed dinghy on south of island and went through a shell lined short walkway to windward side for reasonable snorkelling off the beach. Huge pile of conch shells on beach (thousands). A couple of huts ashore that looked like they may have served lunch but a little hard to tell really, they were not that welcoming!

Augustin
11 52.168N / 66 43.338W

Anchored in 12m sand off the fishermens huts. Need to eyeball reef end on entry, CMap was a little out. Nothing much there, again quite a lot of current so fairly agitated sea all night slapping against the boat.

Sarqui
11 53.588N / 66 48.356W

Dropped in 4.5m, settled in 8m in a sandy spot. Lovely small island. Tried to find our way in to anchor off Espenqui but couldn't get in close enough so carried on to Sarqui.

Did some good snorkelling off the windward side of the island, just walked around there and swam out to coral heads. Super beach for watching the sunset, but as with all the anchorages so far, it offered very little respite from the constantly howling wind. Nothing ashore.

Cayo Remanso at Isla Carenero
11 53.103N / 66 50.679W

Headed straight towards the sandy wee beach on the right as you come in and dropped in 5m. The good thing about the trade winds blowing constantly is that you know you are not going to swing! We stood off the entrance while 2 yachts came out, the entrance does not have a passing lane, very narrow but short and easy to see once you are abeam of it in good light. We loved this anchorage, all round protection, dead flat water, shelter from wind behind the mangroves, small but "big enough for sundowners" beach, clear water and the most stunning lagoon with good snorkelling off our stern and plenty of places for dinghy exploration. Absolute top spot and we risked two nights here.

Elbert Cay/Bequevé
11 50.606N / 66 55.806N

Sat in 2.4m (yes we draw 2.3m!!!) and we were still a fair way offshore. Anchorage was quite different to what we were expecting from the guide book. Wasn't great but ok. The wind whistled through. Big long beach to walk along, good for birds and lots of jet black lizards. Good jump off point to Las Aves.

LAS AVES
Anchorages below.

Isla Sur - Aves de Barlovento
11 56.677N / 67 26.379W

Anchored in 12m sand/mud? Think we were in the western most anchorage of the four shown in the guide book, tucked up behind mangroves out of the wind and off a small beach in the corner. Was reasonably straightforward to enter. Wonderful inlets in the mangroves to explore and we took the dinghy in with our happy hour drinks and spent ages floating around watching all the bird life. Exceptional. Nothing ashore on this island but there was some sort of shack on Isla Oeste that looked to have inhabitants but we saw no one. Lighthouse was operational.

Chinook Wind Reef (named by us) - Aves de Barlovento
12 00.574N / 67 25.928W

Set in 8m in sand patch amongst coral heads. Not somewhere we would normally have gone to anchor but we wanted to visit our friends' abandoned boat Chinook Wind which had ended up on the reef here in the middle of the night just 2 weeks prior to our arrival. We were anchored inside the outer reef in reasonably flat and very clear water. The roar of the surf breaking on the reef and the unobstructed wind howling through the rigging were somewhat off-putting, but we dropped anchor, launched our dinghies and went with Bandit the final distance inside the reef to Chinook Wind. She was a sorry sight but we were pleased we made the effort and said our farewells. Conditions eased to just under 20knots so we decided to stay the night.

Snorkelling on the surrounding coral bombies was excellent, an abundance of fish life and very clear water, although the corals were not very colourful. Note there is no lighthouse at this northern end of the reef - it is on the southern tip quite some distance away.

Curricai/Long Island - Aves de Sotavento
12 02.524N / 67 40.768W

Ended up in 7.4m sand with coral patches, probably could have gone in much closer and only had sand. We came in around the top of the group, cleared the reef then made our way down in deep water on the leeward side.

This island was just gorgeous, another sundowners on the beach island, walks along the sandy shore, snorkelling on the windward side was good. Great spot and could have stayed longer, but there is a coastguard outpost on a neighbouring island and we had had a very good run at being undetected, so we just stayed one night and quit while we were ahead. From here it is just 43 miles to Bonaire, and back to civilisation.

click here to go to our full blog with the stories and photos on all our travels. To find the updates on the Venezuelan Islands click on that link in the labels on the left sidebar.

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