My return to Discovery was not exactly welcoming, nor even pleasant. A long flight from Seattle to Caracas, a sleepness night in a ratty hotel near the airport and then an early flight to Puerto La Cruz burdened with three massive bags and boxes stuffed with gear, parts and galley equipment only to be met with a frantic Nico. The water pump to the freezer had quit the night before and we were losing all our frozen goods. I dumped all the gear, hooked up the cooling water intake to the shore water and ran to the chandlery to purchase a new pump (and spare). The next 5 days would be of much the same. Replace the impellar for the generator after overheating, two of the 4 electric heads were down and needed replacement,…not a fun week in the blazing heat.
With Discovery mostly back in working order Nico and I motored 80 miles up to Margarita, the start of our next trip. We made the anchorage at 3 am, music on the beach blaring and skyscraper hotels ringed the beach. I’d heard Margarita was a party joint and it didn’t take me long to want to leave. Not really my cup of tea. Jody joined us via ferry the next morning and she and I spent most of the day tracking down two of her bags that went missing in Miami three days before. Her bags held many of the parts I needed to fix a host of other problems, pushing us to the wire for the start of the trip.
Our group arrived Saturday night: Rawleigh Ralls, Jerry Moffat, Craig Powell, Craig Mcmahon, and Wink Jones. Each has traveled extensively around the world. Jerry just completed a successful summit bid on Everest this spring and each have paddled some of the hardest rivers in Bhutan and Nepal. Luckily this experience played to our benefit as two of the heads (toilets) were still down as our needed shipment of parts from the US was held up in customs. These guys were used to such minor inconveniences.
No matter, time to have some fun. We motor sailed around the corner with our new gennaker to Coche, launched Rawleigh off the stern, which would link the next 5 straight days of kiting, each day in a new spot. Nico served up the best ribs any of us have every eaten and Jody and I were familiarized with “Dirty Clubs”, a card game that you play only not to lose as the loser has to serve a “forfeit”. Some of the forfeits are hysterical. Eating breakfast with mask and life jacket in the dinghy, eating lunch in full wetsuit in the dinghy, riding in the dinghy behind the boat…
The boys had Coche and the winds all to themselves on Monday. I however spent the day back in Margarita frantically trying to run down our missing parts and trying to resolve a crashed laptop. Sometimes being the captain has some serious drawbacks. But thankfully, my reality was soon to change. I returned to a very jubilant group aboard Discovery, a heated game of Dirty Clubs underway and another stunning meal of con fit of Tuna with an orange and basil sauce, cajun style beef tenderloin skewers served with guacamole and pesto pasta. Nico has now been our chef for over 3 months and we’ve yet to have the same thing twice.
With light winds we pulled out of Coche at 3 am for an 80 mile motor up to Tortuga. Tortuga is barren and flat, a stunning island with turquoise waters, gargantuan lobster, white sand beaches and only us to experience one incredible kite spot after another. I’d heard some incredible rumors regarding Tortuga’s kiting potential, but not since I left the South Pacific have I experienced such remoteness and beauty. By day the treeless landscape shimmers in the heat, and each day begins nearly windless. We spend the days freediving, snorkeling, playing cards, eating; but as sunset arrives the wind inevitably pipes up and the kites come out. A nearly full moon keeps us going well into the dark, much to everyone’s delight.
In fact I had probably the best session I’ve had so far on the expedition since beginning in February. On our first night in Tortuga with the sun just setting and the moon breaking over the horizon Jerry and I were putting the kites away with plans of joining the group ashore to have a drink in the local shack bar (one of just a few buildings on the island) when we noticed the winds were still cranking and even increasing in strength. We thought a kite would be a lot more fun than a drink, so we blew up the 12M and off we went, taking turns for a couple hours right in the flatwater bay, much to the delight of the few other boats in the anchorage. These special moments are why we’re out here. These moments of sheer joy erase the days of frustration that are as inevitable as our evening winds.