AYSS speaks this month to Chris Patterson, CEO of Jakera about the current political situation in Venezuela and what that means for the marine industry.
What can you tell us about the situation today?
In short, the humanitarian crisis that the country has been facing since last spring is the result of current government officials and its opposition party accusing each other of staging a coup. A large number of anti-government protests ensued resulting in many deaths, and this has created a crisis that will mar the history of this amazing region for years to come. It is a delicate situation and one that is very complicated. I am not sure what the future might bring especially considering that the international community seems to not be concerned with what is happening here, or doesn’t know how to help.
What advice would you give to captains today about cruising the region?
There are a few well-known superyachts making inquiries, and I am advising them to avoid mainland Venezuela altogether. This includes Isla Margarita and any of the islands closer to the shore. Strangely enough, the offshore islands of Los Testigoes, Isla Blanqiua, and Los Roques are as safe or safer than ever. With so little traffic these days, there has never been a better time to visit if you can imagine that. The local authorities are so happy to receive the occasional superyacht that they bend over backwards to accommodate us. Often they will arrive alongside with live lobster and fresh fish to trade for whatever the crew may want to give away… coffee, sugar or even a case of beer. In this sense, it is like the old days when I first arrived here 20 odd years ago.
Can you give us a short description of the itinerary you would suggest?
The cruise I would recommend would begin in Grenada or Trinidad to pick up guests. Cruise overnight to Los Testigoes where the vessel will be joined by a special security and shore liaison who will manage pre-clearance procedures allowing the yacht to stay there for a few days. This area is famous for its untouched spectacular beaches that are great for water sports and to see turtles nesting. Then it’s an overnight sail to Isla Blanqiua for some more incredible beaches and snorkelling opportunities before cruising on to Los Roques. Upon arrival in Los Roques, we bring the authorities to the yacht for clearance procedures, and then the yacht is ready to continue the exploration of this incredible archipelago before moving on to Los Aves and finally Bonaire, or Caracao, to drop off guests. It’s an amazing cruise and perhaps the best-kept secret in the Caribbean.
Chris can you tell us how your career in yachting started and why Venezuela?
I arrived in Venezuela about 20 years ago after sailing the Caribbean for 7 years and fell in love with the country and especially her interior and indigenous peoples. I quickly made a name for myself as a jungle guide and expedition leader, taking groups of young backpackers and yachties from the marinas into the heart of the country. Film crews and well-heeled tourists followed, and then one day MY Leander arrived into port. The Russians onboard wanted adventure and beach parties and the captain was so happy with everything I organized that he recommended me to the next superyacht that came down and the rest is history.