Having lived through 20 hurricane seasons in the Virgin Islands, both British and U.S., when the 2006 hurricane season arrived, Dave and I decided that we would head south. Following Hurricane Ivan in 2005, our insurance policy was changed to only cover our classic trawler, Swan Song, at a latitude below that of Grenada, so we looked at our options and decided, based upon what we had heard from other cruisers, that Puerto la Cruz (PLC) would be the perfect spot to sit out the season. It was a decision I will never regret—in fact, we enjoyed Venezuela so much that we are returning again this year. Never mind the politics—that if anything make Venezuela much safer for cruisers, in our opinion—we are headed back for some great Latino music, food and friends.
Located at latitude 10*13’N, 064*40’W, PLC is the perfect place to congregate and enjoy South America. There are many excellent marinas and boat yards there; we happened to choose Bahia Redonda Marina at the entrance of the extensive canal system known as El Morro that serves as a highway for cruisers in their dinghies. Our marina came with everything, including WiFi, for one third of the price we had been paying in the Virgins and you can shop, provision, and visit the medical community using the canal system.
What you cannot find on water, you can easily acquire by taxi. Cruisers love their favorite taxi drivers who are often highly-educated professionals, many dismissed when the oil companies nationalized, who speak English and know PLC like the backs of their hands. They not only will drive you to your destination but will interpret, purchase on your behalf, and then take you to the best restaurant in town—of which there are many.
Besides loving the inexpensive fuel, southern latitude, and friendly faces, we find many other assets to PLC. English-speaking cruisers can monitor VHF Ch. 72, where the “Cruisers Net” broadcasts Monday through Saturday at 0745. This is one way to find out anything you
need to know. All social and professional services go through the net, a community network that we really missed when we returned to the BVI this past spring. Mail, however, is the one downfall of visiting South America. Although mail and package services to Venezuela are almost non-existent, excellent courier services are available. We have a close friend keep our mail while we are away and Fed-Ex only items that we really need.
To illustrate how we believe safety for cruisers has improved in Venezuela, I will relate a personal story. We were alone, anchored in one of our favorite bays in Mochima National Park, where I had the dinghy out snorkeling with guests. I misplaced the dinghy key and was relaying this information to Dave, who was back on the boat, via VHF. As it happened we found the key, returned safely to Swan Song, and had settled down in the cockpit to tell Dave about all of the gorgeous fish we had seen. We looked up to see a power boat approaching with no markings to indicate its status. The boat came directly to us with two men and a woman aboard. The woman, who spoke perfect English, asked us if we were all right. They were Park Rangers and had heard our VHF conversation. Wanting to make sure that cruisers were safe in their area, they decided to check with us in person.
After that we felt well protected and extended our cruising further along the Venezuela shoreline; where we never, in five months, had any incident of boat theft or crime nor did we know anyone who did. However, I suggest that, when ashore, cruisers act as they would in any large city—avoid wearing jewelry ashore; be alert and careful.
So if you are looking for a very viable option for hurricane season this year, I suggest you try PLC—get out of the hurricane rut—and add adventure to your life by cruising Venezuela.