I was up in the cockpit riding Escape Velocity’s backwards launch into Chaguaramas Bay when I remembered that Catnip, our long suffering dingy, wasn’t tied to the boat any longer but was left tied to the dingy dock a short swim away. One of the launch crew jumped in, swam over and towed her back to EV.
In my defense I’d like to point out that starting the engines on land was on my mind, problematic because without a small specialized tool called ear muffs which in our case we have not got, caused this step to be skipped. I’d added fuel line cut-off valves to aid in changing fuel filters, changed oil, filters, and impellers all of which you’d want to check before launch. Any one of these half dozen or so projects could cause havoc while launching but with fingers crossed, remaining calm and carrying on, we trundle backwards into the bay. But for the want of a nail, etc. etc. Once we were partially in the water we found out that the port engine was sucking air and wouldn’t start properly leaving some impressive white clouds of smoke. The launch crew looked askance. After a quick trip down to the engine room I could at least get it started. We serenely slipped into the bay and gave the new autopilot a short test drive. I don’t know why they all work fine in the harbor, but the engine wasn’t smoking at least. The holding in Chaguaramas anchorage is notoriously poor and it’s crowded, busy, and deep. It’s a bad combination. We’d had good luck up till now but after three attempts we finally found something to hook onto down there.
Another trip down to the inner sanctum revealed shoddy workmanship and the reuse of bad hose clamps on my fancy new fuel line cutoff system. Heads will roll. We decided to give EV a short shakedown cruise over to uninhabited Chacachacare Island which used to be a Leper colony until 1984, formerly a sugar and cotton plantation and military base. It’s unoccupied now. It’s crazy to think of World War II being fought down here but Chaguaramas has only recovered a few hundred of the thousands of water mines that were deployed to try to stop German U-boats from gaining access to the shipping in the harbor. Many sunken wrecks litter the bottom of the harbor.
I was feeling a little nervous because the white smoking engine was now emitting black smoke and overheating. Pulling into Chacachacare Bay on one engine was really spooky. No other boats, no people, just the second highest lighthouse in the world, water so clear that I could lean over and see the anchor thirty feet down, trees, ruins, and thousands of soaring birds that looked a lot like vultures. If you’d ever played that computer game Myst you know the feeling.
We’d heard that there was a path from a beach somewhere that led to the lighthouse somewhere, that is so high that you can clearly see Venezuela from its heights. That’s as close as we’re getting to Venezuela because the couple on the boat anchored in front of us in Chaguaramas was boarded, pistol whipped and robbed by five thugs five miles off the Venezuelan coast the day before.
Now, dear Escapees, I’d like to report here that after Marce sussed out where she thought the path up the mountain might be, which was a mile across the bay we immediately scampered right up, but in all good conscience I have to say that it was a near thing. The thing looked like Alpe d’Huez with switchbacks, false summits and disturbing swishing sounds emanating right above our heads like those crazy guys with those flying suits that go whizzing past you so fast that all you’re left with is, “what the hell was that?” The island is said to be haunted, what with leprosey and all, and Marce read that a nun committed suicide in the chapel which we didn’t even know about at the time.
It took about an hour what with all the stopping under any patch of shade on the path and there wasn’t much of it, believe me. It was a hot one and we had a rather full dance card that day so after chasing the vultures guarding the lighthouse we took in that magnificent view of Venezuela and gave the place back to the buzzing buzzards and started down.
I never saw any wildlife so what are all those hundreds of vultures living on? Beats me but we sure were relieved to see Escape Velocity after rounding the last bight of land. Beautiful but creepy place.
One month on the hard definitely diluted some of our perishable skills and remembering the passagemaking skills before making the passage seems to be the way to go. But why start now?
That’s life, finally back on the water.