Hitting the High Seas, Venezuela Bound

VENEZUELA – I am actually writing this about 100 miles off the island of Los Roques, Venezuela.

We left Trinidad and overnight sailed to Grenada to pick up a part before heading towards Venezuela on a 2-3 day sail. We were very rushed.

It was the day that we would leave again, set sail and be free. I can’t remember the last time I was this Happy. We had arrived to La Vagabonde about 5 weeks earlier and had completed a whole list of jobs onboard and also sailed down to Trinidad to install a water maker. We had been busy, I mean 10 hours a day, frustratingly busy. Mosquito ridden, humidly frustrated. The despondent, succumbing kind of frustration rather than burning fire kind. We were set to leave though now and were happy with the shape La Vagabonde was in.

We had woken up that morning in Grenada on a mad rush, jumped in the tender and headed into the restaurant/wifi area at Grenada Marina and hunkered down for a couple of hours. When I deemed I was no longer being productive I checked us out of the country whilst Elayna continued editing movies. Workhorse. Customs was there but Immigration wasn’t and we were to meet him at 4:30 that afternoon. We walked extremely briskly to the bus stop but managed to thumb a ride. Elayna shotgun, myself in the tray of a truck it turns out that with all these years wearing a seatbelt I hadn’t learned what the locals had who were in the tray with me. After the truck sharply breaking before some lights and myself being scraped off the back windshield of our truck I held on tight like everyone else was. Elayna later notified me that the driver was high and smoking a ‘fat doobie’ at the time.

We needed to upload a movie and having previously uploaded a movie in St George, Grenada, we knew that this was the only place upload speed was good enough that we could get it done before we were due to leave that afternoon. Rushing into the internet cafe, Elayna did her thing whilst I dashed to the shops to start the mega food shop incase there were no supplies in Los Roques. Movie uploaded, shop done, taxi home to meet immigration in the nick of time (4:30), food at the restaurant. We hadn’t had time for lunch Elayna proclaimed at some point of the day and I begrudgingly conceded that if we were to get there she was probably right. The sun was starting to hang low in the sky as we flew in the tender back to La Vagabonde. I looked at the channel markers. We still had to get the outboard and tender secured away onboard, put the shopping away and if we were lucky a shower would be nice too.

On a mooring ball in Grenada Marina, sun setting in the distance. We were leaving in a hurry and Elayna feeling a bit under pressure suggested we leave tomorrow morning, I eventually made the (wrong) call and said we were to leave.

I had made 2 mistakes, the first; I miss judged the speed we would travel at, the hull having been re-painted adding about a knot of speed it seems and as soon as we were away I knew we were headed for a nightfall arrival in Los Roques. The second was being dictated to by circumstance rather than weather. It seems this is a lesson I will never learn. We should have left a day earlier and not worried about uploading the movie, a day later was not an option as there was going to be a system moving in with very poor weather in a couple of days time that we needed to beat to Los Roques. Noting all this I sat down and realised that I didn’t care at all. I was in my yacht again and sailing, Elayna felt the same I could tell and despite our earlier tiff we were soon actually dancing and singing onboard. And I mean it, well at least I was, singing and saying really bad jokes with an overwhelming sense of joy.

That was the busiest day we had had in a very busy 5 weeks. I used to work away, offshore, Oil Rigs, construction etc. Sometimes at work these dorky looking engineers would appear with a stopwatch and actually time what you were doing. Like that wouldn’t piss of any human being in the world being timed by a bespectacled on-looker whilst you are sweating away working as fast as you can. That day, had one of these gentlemen been present, stopwatch in hand, we would have given him an erection I’m sure. I intend to spend the next week in Los Roquas in the sun and free diving (depending on ear infection). Yeehah.

As we rolled out the headsail, which is all we use going down wind on La Vaga in trade winds, a squall came through which was to be the first of nearly a dozen during the trip. We accidentally turned off navigation which zeroes the statistics for the trip including highest wind speed before I could check but I’m sure we had the highest wind I have encountered yet. We were just lucky we were heading with it. I read on the instruments 42 apparent during the squall and we were doing 8-9 knots but this would only have held out for 5 mins or so and the waves were holding their formation rather than crumbling and hadn’t had a chance to form into monsters yet. The ocean was a mess, white streaks of water and foam everywhere but La Vagabonde was holding course as we had seen the dark clouds coming early and had rolled in most of the headsail. I can honestly say that we were not in the least concerned, I didn’t even get too wet as I kept an eye on things from the companionway.

The first night was almost sleepless for me but I caught up the next day and as the weather cleared up conditions were nearing perfect and we were making extremely good time.

Life was good.

Comments 28

  1. You’re on a boat…living a life with no real schedule…keep that in check the next time you feel rushed!…Waiting for a window vs. escaping thru one! Good luck and lots of rest in Los Roques!

  2. 9:00 pm Lake Erie, Ohio USA
    Dear Elayna & Riley,

    I just watched your sail to Venezuela. I always like to read Riley’s commentary right after. It felt like you wrote directly to me today Riley. I work for GM here in the states as a skilled tradesperson of 36 years and absolutely hate it when some young geek with a clipboard, that has never held a wrench, tells me how to do my job “more efficiently”. I hope it is not too many years before I can live my dream and join you. I really appreciate when you cover what it costs to sail, such as all the fees, etc. because that is the only thing holding me back right now. I don’t want to retire from my job and set sail only to find out I have dreadfully miscalculated some costs and have to head home. You two inspire, educate and entertain me. Thank you and best wishes in the coming New Year!

    Capt. Tony

  3. Merry Christmas to the both of you! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful adventures with us. A little gift coming your way tommorrow. Be safe, love and peace to you always!

  4. Please be careful when samling near the coast of Venezuela. There have been many attacks on sailing vessels by pirate skiffs. Best of luck.

  5. Hi both, nice touch in the latest video to show that it’s not all ‘plain sailing…….!!’ (groan). I’m hooked on your YouTube videos and also now your blog. It’s Christmas Day here on a gas platform in the Southern North Sea off England (I’m from Scotland by the way) so I guess you’ll know where I’m coming from Riley :-). Hope things keep going well, and you continue to enjoy the experiences… both good & bad. Inspiring… can you tell I’m a wee bit jealous. Fraser

  6. Really good read, Riley!
    If you continue to write short stories like these you could eventually compile them into a book. I see a pattern there! 🙂

  7. Love it Riles,

    My wife got me some of your gear for Christmas. Proud to sport your shirt and Koozie. Also got a copy of “The Voyagers Handbook” and “Modern Marine Weather” per your advice. Cheers amigo!?

  8. Hey guys!
    Greetings from Sweden!
    Thanks for your great story!
    I’d like to make a contribution but paypal is grr#%!! frustrating. Is there another option to send you some €?
    Hope you’re enjoying Los Roques!

  9. Those tense and pressured moments are not fun. They often do lead to poor decisions. But glad it worked out and you two got safely underway! Sounds like it was an exhilarating sail to Venezuela, for sure. Get some
    relaxing ticked off your list now, guys!!

  10. It took a while, but, I finally learned. Bad weather isn’t what kills you. Schedules that put you into bad weather, are what kills you.

  11. The medical term is “Get-there-itis” and it can be lethal. Decision making is flawed and the ability to properly assess risks (fatigue, weather, safety et al.) are compromised. Fair winds, Roger

  12. Buzz been going around that you’re back on the water, and so it is, after I checked on YouTube.
    Couldn’t help notice that you’ve been sailing downwind under foresail alone in some heavy weather conditions (tropical squalls), with 40 knts apparent and decent size following swells.

    Since you’re an ex-oilfield trash like me, meaning you have a technical mind, here is a tip to make your downwind sailing more comfortable, more controllable and faster.

    When you’re running with the wind or broad reaching, the faster the boat speed, the lower the apparent wind. As you know by now, apparent wind is what acts on your sail and rigging to make the boat move. When you decrease apparent wind on your sails, you decrease the pressure on your sails, and you have less tension and stress on your rigging, and sails (fabric and stitches). Your sails will last much longer. So powering your boat with only that poor Genoa alone, means you’re shortening the life of that sail.
    It is usually better to spread the effort and pressure you have on your rigging and sails by putting up the main, even if you have to keep it on 3rd reef, and furling in 1 or 2 turns on your genoa.

    By doing so, you will have:
    – a more balanced sail plan, allowing your boat to better handle the following seas.
    – More boat speed (1 to 2 knots)
    – less apparent wind = less pressure on sails
    – more control on your rudder, because the boat is moving faster through the water
    – and more comfort

    The more comfort part is a little bonus. Following seas (which travel faster than your boat_) can generate quite a roll (auto pilots don’t like this part too much) when they reach your transom, go underneath your boat while moving forward until they exit forward of your bow, This is where faster boat speed brings an advantage. The closer your boat speed is to the speed of the swells catching up with you, the more time it will take for the swell to travel under your boat. This means the roll will take place over a longer period of time, hence it will be softer. Vice versa, if you boat speed is slow, the swell will move under your boat in 2 or 3 seconds only, meaning the roll will be quick, brutal, and will generate higher angular velocity in your standing rig and sails.

    In a nut shell, put up your reefed main when sailing downwind and reduce you genoa area a little bit if it makes you feel better, because you’ll sail faster, in more comfort, with more control, while taking it easy on your sails.

    Just so you know, with 2 turns in the genoa and 2 reefs in the main, You can safely sail downwind in 50 knt true winds, especially in Squalls which are generally short lived, meaning not enough time to build breaking seas.

    Try it, next time, and when you do, don’t forget to put a preventer on your boom, in case you jibe accidentally

    Beware of that area between Venezuela and Panama (off the coast of Columbia) known for uncomfortable sailing conditions, a bit like the bay of Biscay in the Atlantic off the coast of France and northern Spain.

    Signed: Ex-oilfield trash

    1. Post

      This is good stuff. Thanks mate, I will keep that in mind. I have probably been being a little soft on the gear. I might run some main next time. We did that on the atlantic but will have another crack at it.
      Cheers, Riley.

  13. Really enjoyed the video.. It appears you have changed style a bit; short, sweet, and honest. I really liked the style. Wishing you happy and safe travels.

  14. Hi guys,

    As a Venezuelan guy, I can tell you Los Roques is the MOST beautifull place in the world. Entering the archipelago by the south east point called “Sebastopol lighthouse” and you will be sailing into a pool. Yopu must go to Gran Roque witch is the only habited island. This xmas days will be too crowded. This is Lobster season, so dont let it pass. You can go to Madriskí island and ask some fishermen to sell you those. And find in your map “Cayo de Agua” located at the far south west, where you will find two islands united by a tiny white-sand path and the tortugas nursery at “Dos Mosquises”.

    Any issue, dont hesitate to contact me. I live in Caracas.-

    1. Hi Paulo, we are in Grenada at the moment, but considering sailing to Los Roques in September. Would you still recommend this from a safety perspective? I haven’t seen much from the sailing community on Los Roques lately. You can connect to us on Instagram @SailingLifeWarriors and message me there. Thanks very much for your help. Dave

  15. Ohh and f**k whomever is calling you whatever, you are providing joy, education, and vicarious experience thru your affairs , Can’t listen to the ankle biters!

  16. R & E
    Do I understand correctly from having watched previous vids that you are NOT planning to come to the U.S or Bahamas before heading for the Panama Canal?? If this is true, I have to say that I think you are making a mistake and would encourage you to reconsider. The Florida Keyes and Bahamas are as or more beautiful than most any other place you will sail on your trip around the world!!! As well, if you would come to the U.S. and perhaps spend some time in the Southeastern states, I’m sure MANY of your devoted followers would be more than happy to shout the two of you for many unique adventures and home-stays — just say the word that you’re available to come visit and you’ll be amazed at the outpouring of offers to show you our American hospitality. You’ll have to draw the offers out of the hat much the same as you’re now planning to draw names of people to come visit you on La Vaga. Have you ever given any thought to maybe: catching a Tarpon, seeing or even hunting an alligator from an airboat, swimming with Manatees in a crystal clear spring, seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Dismal Swamp, or the wild horses of the Outer Banks. Don’t forget all the different cultural experiences that could be enjoyed as well. The Mikasoukee (sp?) Indians of Florida, the ‘crackers’ of North/Central Florida, Bluegrass music, traditional clogging, the true ‘watermen or islanders’ of the Outer Banks of North Carolina……. the list is endless…..
    In return for the enjoyment you have given, by sharing your travels thru video, let us, some of your viewers, show you parts of our world that will only enhance your total experience and broaden your adventure.
    Feel free to contact me if any of this sounds interesting or worth considering.
    Jed – Western North Carolina

    1. Riley made it pretty clear that he was not interested in being around hoards of American tourists. Sad, but I can’t say that I blame him.

      Sure would have been nice to meet them however.

  17. Not meaning to be sexist at all, but I think you could get more subscribers and patrons by having Elayna appear more frequently in swimsuits!

    Good luck on the travels!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *