Enthused by our first taste of reef navigation we wasted no time exploring other anchorages in Los Roques.
It would easily be possible to spend a month in Los Roques moving to a new anchorage every day, but our brief stay gave us an enticing sample of the kind of navigation and remoteness we're hoping to experience in the Pacific and en route to Panama.
After Los Roques we arrived at the stunning Aves de Barlavento - the island of the birds. An uninhabited, coral atoll with clear water, a huge quantity of bird-life living in the dense mangrove, and stunning sea-life. We'd arrived in paradise which we shared with half a dozen other yachts spread between five anchorages.
Underwater we entered a world full of a huge variety and quantity of the most stunning and vividly coloured fish and coral we'd seen. On our first snorkelling expedition we found ourselves face to face with a large stingray in a narrow coral passage. It remained on the bottom eyeing us suspiciously before stetting off in our direction through the break in the coral. We hastily retreated, marvelling at its effortless motion. Other delights included the poe-faced trunk fish and the huge groupers. After two days in paradise, we departed in the evening for Bonaire. The channel we'd easily picked between the reefs on our entry proved difficult to navigate with the sun in our eyes as we left just before sunset. We were fortunate not to run aground again with the depth under Kika suddenly vanishing to less than 2m as we crossed a shoal patch we'd failed to spot. It was clearly visible when we turned round, but nearly impossible to see with the sun in our eyes. Around the Venezuelan islands we've relied on eye-ball navigation; the positions of the GPS and charts appear to differ, sometimes by as much as 1/4 of mile. Thus with some relief we identified the unlit island to the west of us before sunset, and confirmed our course to Bonaire.
An overnight sail brought us to Bonaire for the long planned rendezvous with Ellen's family. All went according to plan apart from some confusion over flight times meant we missed them at the airport, but found them in their apartment with James and Henry already excited about their first sighting of an iguana.
Spent a great 10 days in their company with snorkelling, a couple of sailing trips to some dive sights, general relaxing and Ellen's first bath since leaving the UK. I've been working on Kika between visits to the family. Bonaire has proved a great place to spend some time with a laid back hassle free atmosphere combined with just enough infrastructure to meet our needs ie a chandlery, bars, supermarkets and for the first time since Lanzarote we're connected to the Internet in the boat via Wifi - no need for perilous dinghy rides with laptop to hang around outside Wifi enabled offices here! The sea-life has been spectacular. Between us we've seen a turtle, an octopus, moray eels, stunning parrot fish, much coral and many other vividly colour reef fish.
The conservation policy of the Bonaire has meant our fishing tackle has been forced to remain idle, but it hasn't stopped us from studying our fishing books and replacing our lost lure. We're confident that we'll be reporting more success soon.
There's a definite sense of purpose about the boats we're meeting now - the destination is Panama and excitement, mixed with some trepidation about the canal passage, is growing.