December 1-31, 2002 -- On the Hard Part 2

We returned from Margarita on Sunday.

For more information on the political background that led to the strike, please see the Political Background link to the left.

Monday morning, when the workers did not show up, we immediately headed for the office where Luis explained that on Friday, the Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) ruled that the CNE (National Electoral Certification board) decision was invalid and unconstitutional. Due to this, and the replacement of the Police Commissioner in Caracas the yard decided to participate fully in the strike. However, it was still a civilized strike as transportation and critical services would still operate.

We took advantage of the yard being closed to do some much needed varnish work on the boat, without the dust from the workers. While getting ready to come to Puerto La Cruz, we had let our varnish work slide. This was the perfect opportunity to catch up on it.

That evening, we watched the local news reports. There wasn't much going on and it appeared that the strike was not very successful. The news reported that because the strike would be extended a second day, the grocery stores would be open from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM each day the strike continued.

Tuesday morning, we headed to the bank and grocery store. It was closed! We figured that we had misunderstood the news and headed back to the boat. We talked with Luis, who confirmed that the grocery stores should be open from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Later, we heard from another cruiser that the grocery store we had been at was open from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. So, after another day of varnishing we planned to hit the grocery in the morning.

Wednesday morning, we headed back to the grocery store. We got there at 9:15 AM. The place was packed! We purchased enough food and supplies to get us through the week, and then returned to the boat to commence another day's labor. We noticed that more stores were closed, and there were less cars on the road. The rest of the week was fairly simple, we worked on the boat, doing things that couldn't be done with the yard in full production. We watched the news and read the English newspaper.

On Saturday, the yard manager held a meeting to discuss what had been happening. He stated that they would open the yard in a limited capacity. They planned to complete already contracted work, and only on international vessels.

Sure enough, Monday morning, there were several people working on boats. However, our work wasn't being done. We made our pilgrimage to the office and spoke with Luis. He said that he would look into our work orders.

Everything else seemed to be going ok. Then, the employees of PDVsa, the national oil company of Venezuela, joined the strike. While this wasn't a big impact for us, friends started expressing concern over the availability of gasoline and Diesel fuel. We watched as gas stations started closing because there was no more gas. Every time we hopped in a taxi, I checked to see how much gas the taxi had. The taxi lines all have radios, and one time we were in a taxi when the report was given that a gas station in Barcelona (10 miles away) had gas. The taxi driver laughed and repeated the message to us, and said that he would head there right after he dropped us off.

Tuesday, we had a team of people working on the boat! When we spoke with Luis, he explained that due to the midstream change in work, our principle work order had been canceled. He reinstated the work order, and the remainder of the work went on the employee work lists.

Wednesday, it was time to go to the grocery store again. We wound up being delayed, and didn't get to the store until later in the morning. It was so packed, we decided not to purchase anything. The lines to check out extended into the shopping aisles. There must have been 15 people waiting in each of the lines, and all of the lines were open.

Thursday morning, we went to the grocery store before we did anything else. The store shelves were starting to go bare. There was no more fresh milk only long life milk, and Chicken and beef were also starting to get scarce. Most notably, beer and sodas were almost all gone.

On Friday Morning, we hit the pharmacies and grocery store with Stephanie off of Mima. Upon getting back to our boats (theirs was on the hard as well), we got into a discussion about what our vessels draw. So, we pulled out our tape measure and measured from their water line to the bottom of the keel. Surprisingly, we discovered that they draw 4 inches less than they thought. Next, we measured ours. We found out that we draw a foot more than we thought! We measured in at 7 feet 6 inches! This explains running aground a few times when we should have just squeeked in.

The week of December 16 the food shortage grew gradually more severe. Now, when we go to the grocery store, there is no more milk except UHT, and there is no more beer and soft drinks at all. Most of the grains and pasta are getting low. Fresh fruits and vegetables are still available, surprisingly. Fresh meat is available.

On Friday December 20, the yard closed for Christmas and New Years. They will reopen on January 6. We hope that the bottom of the boat will be dry enough at that time to finish the work.

Things were quiet for Christmas. It was just us. The morning after Christmas, we were looking out and happened to see the fast ferry running! We called Conferry and found out that the fast ferry was working again, and would run for the next several weeks. We called friends in Margarita to make sure that things were still going well there before we made arrangements to go up for the week of New Years. We spent the rest of Christmas week arranging everything on the boat so we could be away for a week.

Monday morning, we boarded the ferry and headed to Margarita.

New Years eve, we had dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant and then went to Jak's for the party. It was great fun celebrating with our old friends. Several people bought fireworks to set off, and several people from the Guardia station joined us as well. The Guardia's fireworks were much louder than anyone else's!