Captain's Log, Stardate:

11/13/05

Arrived Margarita for the Fifth Time!

Hello to All:

Here's a quick update: Mary and I arrived in Grenada on Oct. 26 and set about getting Escape Cay ready for another winter. I just can't say enough BAD about being in a boatyard, breathing toxic chemicals and having to get dressed and climb down a dangerous ladder in the dark just to go to the bathroom at 2 a.m., to name just two things we don't like about it. But our "rent-a-kid" Pete (high school friend of our kids) was with to help us get the work done so it was relatively easy this year.

But finally, we were on our way to beautiful and remote Los Testigos. The Spanish word "Testigos" actually means "witnesses." Apparently, before the age of N.O.W., only men had the balls to testify in court proceedings, hence the similarity of the word to the male appendage.

We arrived in Margarita on Nov. 7 and began the many trips to the store to provision the boat for the entire winter. Then last night at 8 p.m., we went to the main marina to order a cab so Mary could be picked up this morning for church. We were met on the dock by a couple from Belgium. She spoke French but not English and seemed quite upset. Her Spanish was much better than the "Me Tarzan; you Jane" level I'm at right now. Nonetheless, she was able to communicate that they had been traveling for 24 hours, since having left Brussels, and were supposed to move aboard the Beneteau 50, "Cooky," in the harbor. They were supposed to go to "Marina Juan" and call the boat on Juan's VHF radio when they got there. However, being Saturday night, Juan's was closed. They had been in the nearby "Pescadora de la Marina Restaurante," which does not have a radio, for 3 hours and wondering what they would do when it closed as well! Needless to say, they were very glad to see us pull up in a dinghy (there were none at Juan's). We took them back to our boat, then got on the radio. I guess Cooky's dinghy didn't work or something because he never came to our boat. The radio conversation was all in French so I'm not sure. Anyway, a neighboring French boat overheard all the ruckus, saw my anchor light flash on and off, on and off, and dinghied over to take them back to Cooky. Then this morning, all four came over to thank us once again. The funny thing is, it was on the same dock much later in the night three years earlier that Mary and I were seeking a ride out to Escape Cay. (See http://www.escapecay.com/Tales/Paradise.htm.)

In addition to all the improvements to the boat, we have been looking for a semi-permanent crewmember who can help with all the maintenance, cleaning, polishing, etc., that needs to be done. Our plan was to offer free passage on a half million dollar yacht plus pay for food and drink aboard in return for two hours/day of labor. What do we find on the bulletin board ashore? An ad from a man who wanted to crew on a boat who was willing to work AND pay for his own consumables. Great! So we interviewed "Ivan Castronov," the potential crewmember from Kazakhstan. He was perfect to crew for us and handle all the maintenance, perfect in every way but one. He spoke 7 languages including Russian, Spanish, English and even Portuguese so he could easily teach me Spanish and interpret for us as we traversed the Spanish Main this winter. He was polite, knew how to cook, was willing to clean and polish, is strong, doesn't get seasick, and willing to work the entire time not just two hours a day as I had asked for. Plus he would pay for all his out of pocket expenses. He wanted to get to Panama so he could drive to the US border. That too was perfect because that's the direction we are heading this year. His finance, whom he had never met except on the internet, has been sending him money and seemed really nice when Mary and I talked to her on the phone to where she lives in Memphis. She told Mary she loved Rus more than her own kids. Isn't the internet wonderful? He was really grateful that we would be willing to help and would be indebted to us for the rest of his life.

Oh, almost forgot. The one bad thing? He "lost" his passport. But he had a UN document that permitted him to enter any UN member nation country without a passport as a "refugee." When he got to Venezuela (from Ecuador), they wouldn't let him in until he claimed refugee status. Why was he a refugee? Because--he made this up he told us--the KGB was after him! Of course our customs/immigration agent "Juan" wasn't buying any of it and when I asked if it would be difficult to get him on our crew list to leave Venezuela, he said "impossible." "There's no place for the immigration official to put a stamp," he told me. "Rus" told me it was illegal for Venezuela to refuse to let him leave. Maybe so. Then I guess he will have to take it up with Chavez. Oh well. At least Mary and I got a few free beers out of him, er, out of his sight-unseen, yet someday-to-be wife.

Otherwise, everything is normal down here. Hope all is well with you and your family.

~~~~_/)Lee~~~~~~~~~~_/)_/)~_/)_/)~~_/)~~~~_/)