Okay, so another hurricane was headed our way (this time in the form of one of Jeffrey's other girlfriends!) so the time had come for me to leave the boat. Actually, it was pretty darned hard leaving the boat and Caribbean behind. After all, there are worse things to do than live on a sailboat, and worse places to be doing it! But considering that I was only supposed to be on the boat for a few weeks and I stayed almost 4 months - and considering that during that time I got to do a bit of sailing, live in paradise, spend some quality time with my buddy Jeffrey, and even battle a few tropical breezes - well I can't really complain now can I.
Technically, I didn't really leave the Caribbean. From Grenada I flew to Isla de Margarita, an island in the Caribbean Sea just 38 kilometers northeast of mainland Venezuela. Yes, the original plan had been to travel by sailboat from Grenada to Venezuela, but since our departure from Grenada had been continually delayed (and not because of me I might add!), and since I more or less got punted off the boat when said girlfriend was due to arrive, well I figured getting the boat to Venezuela was no longer my responsibility.
According to travel brochures, Isla de Margarita is known as the "Pearl of the Caribbean" because it's blessed with an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, it's wrapped with beautiful tropical beaches, and its temperatures are never too hot or too cold. Did the sun shine while I was there? Yes, there were blue skies and sunshine from morning till night. Does Margarita have some beautiful beaches? Definitely, I even sampled a few. But was it "never too hot"? Well, considering that I had just come from Grenada which was smokin' hot to begin with, and considering that Margarita was even hotter still, I'd definitely have to dispute that statement. All I can say is...thank God for air conditioning, shaded beach bars and ice-cold beer!
In addition to its beautiful beaches and weather, locals and foreigners also flock to Margarita because of its duty-free status. There's an abundance of stores on the island, supposedly offering good/reduced prices, and if the shop-lined streets don't strike your fancy there's also "Sambil", reputedly the largest indoor shopping mall in Venezuela. I went to Sambil, not because I wanted to do any shopping, but because it was conveniently close to where I was staying, I wanted to see how an indoor mall in South America compared to those in North America and, more importantly, it was air-conditioned so I could spend an afternoon in blessed relief from the heat!
Margarita is also considered south of the "hurricane belt" so yachties like to come here to escape the tropical storms and hurricanes that attack the other Caribbean islands in September and October. Lots of yachts were within view (which helped with my separation issues!), either seen out sailing on the horizon or in one of the various anchorages around the island.
I was on Margarita Island for only 3 days so had little time to do more than hop a few local buses and check out places near Pampatar, the city where I was staying. Admittedly I also spent a good portion of my time being lazy at the beach. Yes, the sand was scalding hot, the Caribbean Sea was warmer than bath water, and I got way too much sun...but considering where I was headed next, I figured I'd better enjoy the heat while I could!