From a previous posting here, we found out about rentals thus saving a
substantial hassle with equipment moving, so thanks whoever (forgot
your name). The conditions we experienced were great, good wind,
temperatures, nice beaches, etc. Prices are good, for local stuff at
least. We had a two bedroom/two bath condo for two sailors for
$35/day. I wouldn't stay there again though, because it was 20-30
minutes from the beach. The price does indicate what you find
elsewhere though. The most expensive food we had was in the Hilton on
a splurge with VERY good food, and all you could want for $25 p.p.
More typically you pay $5-8 for a meal minus drinks in a good place.
People are friendly, pleasant surroundings and relaxed pace. Just
don't expect everything to happen NOW or smoothly all the time.
Sailing on the island is restricted to El Yaque, a beach near the
airport. Due to the situation w.r.t. the mainland and another smaller
island named El Coche a strong thermal wind is generated every
afternoon. Typically, during our stay, the wind came up about 11 am
and lasted til at least 4 and more generally until dusk. Just to
gauge, I am 175 lbs. and I used from Sunday til Saturday the following
sails: 5.0/4.4/5.7->5.0/4.0/5.0->4.4->3.9/5.0/4.0. The 5.0 on Friday
was more like 4.0 to 4.4 at the beach, but we went elsewhere that day
(see below) so overall I'd say it was pretty windy.
The conditions at the beach are good for me, better than for example
Aruba at Fisherman's Huts. The beach is clean and white sand. The
rentals are directly on the beach, so it's a 20-30 yard carry of
rigged sail etc to the water. Inside is shallow, gradually working up
to chest deep at a drop off to deeper water. There is a sand bar that
on certain days set up perfect 2 foot ramps that for those skilled in
the art led to some big jumps. Outside is 2-3 foot chop, and further
out still you get nice swells that are more predictable for gybing in.
The wind is side shore, left to right going out, and fills in better
outside. Due to natural inclination and easier conditions inside, I
am now noticeably better carving to my left than right. On Friday we
went to El Coche in a small fisherman's boat. He wasn't so small, the
boat that is. We had 10 people and their equipment plus two crew
going over, 2 more who had done the sail downwind coming back, so it
was a crowd. (And a soaking in the heavy chop coming back). Coche
has a natural bay formed on one side by a narrow spit extending about
a mile or so towards Margarita. Inside this bay is perfectly flat
water and completely unshadowed winds. It was a 5.0 day, and we spent
about 5 hours making speed runs within arms reach of the shore, gently
riding up and over the small swell while ripping at what I am sure
seemed much faster than we actually were going. Gybes were fun, since
there wasn't even ripple to upset your balance. Easy to feel like a
hero in these conditions.
Air travel is something of a hassle, with few direct flights. JFK has
one direct / week on Viasa, Saturdays only. Car rental is cheaper if
you show up and get one there, even through American companies! Local
transportation (bus) is very cheap, but you need to spend some time to
figure it out. If you stay at El Yaque you can forgo the car. At
present there are a number of places there, including Sharks where we
rented equipment. They have fairly spartan rooms with cold water
showers, but they are cheap.
Got away with a twinge of Bolivar's revenge, no major problems
however. With all the wind, we really used all the time to sail and
recover, so sightseeing was almost restricted to the times we got
lost! It's a good place to be able to speak Spanish, as most people
there don't have much English to speak of. Quick summary: It was a
very relaxing holiday, with more variety in local culture and sailing
conditions than other places I have been. Not yet discovered by U.S.
sailors, that is soon to change as the expansion planned for the next
years is remarkable. I recommend it quite highly.