Saturday, February 19, 2011

We woke up the other day and realized that we'd spent almost three weeks hanging around in Culebra. (Overheard two graybeards on the bridge: "I came for the day, and that was five years ago...."Yeah? I came for two weeks, and that was 20 years ago!")

A planning session was called, during which someone pointed out that it's almost a thousand miles to Florida, where we plan to leave the boat. We do 50 miles a day, on a good day, with good weather, which is all we care to have for sailing days. If I'm to have at least a rudimentary garden in Lake Annis this year, we have to put our skates on. Plan A is pretty much the 2005 trip in reverse. Puerto Rico, DR, Bahamas, Florida, with some variation on ports, bays, anchorages and activities. Less fear and barfing. More fishing. I'm actually, sort of, looking forward to it.

Plan B is sell the boat somewhere along the way. So far, Plan A is what we're working with.

In the meantime, we enjoyed another couple of days in Culebra. Did laundry at a clean, completely functioning laundromat. Martin was there too, doing his wife's laundry, and entertained me fully while I fluffed and folded. He'd been coming to the island for 12 years, and had lots of stories about his life, most of which would help to explain why he ended up in Culebra. I forgot my hat on the dryer, and he chased down the road to hand it to me. We've had two hats go overboard recently, so I was grateful.

The fruit and veg guy comes on Friday mornings and sets up at the crossroads by the airport. Everybody goes. We loaded up: papaya, grapefruit, bananas, parsnips (parsnips!!), little red potatoes, shallots, spinach, beautiful organic sprouts, tomatoes. A real vitamin bonanza.

Another cruiser told us about the great butcher at Milka, one of the grocery stores. Looks like a little building on the outside, but inside, there's nooks and crannies with everything you need, and a real butcher. If you show up when the right song is playing on the radio, the guy at the cash will be singing and dancing.

Just to add to a cruiser's joy, Culebra has a brilliant community library: run by volunteers and stocked with donated books. It's the first left past Milka, close to El Eden, and they have wifi, a table with free books outside, computers, really nice staff, and free arty bookmarks. Our friend Laurence works there. We hadn't seen Laurence since a snazzy party on Lughnasa in 2006 in Grenada, so it was a treat to run into him again and catch up. He likes Culebra so much that he's stayed almost three years, and everyday he's got stuff to do. We had lunch at the Dinghy Dock, where they brew their own beer! Laurence was disappointed that they were out of stout.

We decided not to wait for the stout, and we said hasta luego Culebra, and headed for Vieques. The island was used by the US Navy for bombing practice for many years, but it has been turned over to Fish and Wildlife, and the Navy is still in the process of cleaning up unexploded ordinance. The eastern end of the island is still off limits.

Lovely sail, figured we were doing about 5-6 knots with full sail on, but with a wicked current pushing us west, we took most of the afternoon to get around the eastern end of the island. Too late to get safely into Ensenada Honda (same name, different island), so Mi Amante and ND anchored in Bahia de la Chiva, with a fabulous view of Blue Beach. No buildings in site, but Michelle and I joked about checking for wifi reception. Rolly night, but there was a lovely beach walk in the morning, and then both boats motored back to Ensenada Honda, with good light to see the reefs. Street and Van Sant give different directions, for the entrance, but we anchored, no problem.

This is probably the most remote, deserted, flat-calm, isolated, wild and gorgeous anchorage we've seen. No indication that civilization is anywhere within reach. Randy said "if it wasn't so much trouble, I'd rig the wifi antenna just to freak Michelle out."

Bird noises in the mangroves, fish jumping, a couple of jellyfish and starfish, and then a full moon.

Next day, it's quiet, still water, huge puffy clouds, gentle breeze, tweedly birds, and I'm reading quietly in the cockpit and there's a hell of big bang, and I leap up to see a big plume of black smoke a couple of miles away. I'm guessing that would be unexploded o
rdinance, getting "cleaned up."

Moving again, Esperanza, then over to Puerto Rico proper the next day. Fishing in the near future! Photos below.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Flamenco Beach, very lovely, but with a tank.

Intrepid snorkellers at Tamarindo Grande (we were freezing after an hour in the water - back to the boats for rum!)

French Angelfish, big as a dinnerplate

Spotted eagle ray

Fans, fanning

Pina Colada at Flamenco beach. We couldn't get ice cream, so pina colada would have to do.

Street meat at the beach after frolicking in the waves. Michelle made me.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

We're in Culebra, which means Randy speaks to me in English with an outrageous Spanish accent. Very entertaining.

In 2006, we zoomed through here on our way south, and I only remember two things about Culebra - a huge power yacht blasting awful music in the main anchorage, and scary thunderstorms and waterspouts when we left for the BVI.

This time around I'm happier and more relaxed, the weather is better, and the place is excellent. The town is a lovely size, with just a few nifty shops and groceries and ice. We spent a couple of days in the main harbour, Ensenada Honda. Very good anchorage, flat, with just a wind chop (long fetch with the wind out of the east). Don Street also recommended Bahia de Almodovar as an excellent anchorage, so we picked up a mooring ball there after a day at Culebrita. And it was excellent too - flat calm behind a reef, great breeze, and wonder of wonders, wifi. I always try, no matter how remote we seem to be, because you just never know.

Culebrita, the little island next door, is beautiful - beaches, snorkelling, hikes all over the island. The trails suggest that goats and horses are roaming around, but it wasn't until the second visit that we saw any evidence, and then only poop, and goat noises in the distance. (Also I saw a dead goat just behind the beach, but he'd been dead for a very long time.) Lovely hikes with gentle slopes and mild sorts of hills and dales. There's the ruin of a lighthouse and a large home at the top of the biggest hill, with marble tiled floors and brick and stucco walls. It once must have been very beautiful. There's some evidence that people have tried to make it a party-camp, in spite of the chain link fence (you could drive a truck through a hole in it) and the No Traspassing sign, but there's a large nest of bees or wasps or hornets that seems to have rendered one building out of bounds.

There are mooring balls, three or four or five, in every nice anchorage, and the place is spectacularly uncrowded. No charterers to speak of at anytime, and only on the weekend do the local folk get in their boats and join us on the water, or load up with gear and take a bunch of happy kids to the beach. If it wasn't for hurricane season, we could just plop ourselves down here and get stuck.

Snorkelling in the middle of Tamarindo Bay was very interesting. Not too much in the way of coral or crowds of fish, but a few stunning sightings: a bright orange tulip shell, as long as your hand, displaying a porn-star tongue when Charlie picked it up for a photo op. Lots of the normal black spiny urchins, but we also saw the mothership of urchins - the size of a cabbage, long black spines with bright, almost glowing orange stripes on the body and some sort of eyeball-sized thing perched on top. Very bizarre. Also close encounters with a green turtle and a hawksbill. They seem very tame.

Snorkelling in Tamarindo Grande, one bay north, was... well, we broke into applause when we got back in the dinghy. I shouldn't even tell you about it. For starters, it's right below the dump, the dump that was on fire all night, and still smoking all day. But it's another beautiful bay, lovely beach, hills, all that, and the dump smoking up above. Underwater, OMG, a field of sea fans. Purple, gold, yellow, brown, mauve, more purple, wavy this way, wavy that way. More types of soft corals and hard corals that I could hoist in. Flamingo tongues, schools of blue and purple tangs, dogfish, snappers, angelfish, big parrotfish, a spotted eagle ray and more and more.
We snorkelled until we were nearly blue, two days in a row, and when I brushed my teeth before bed last night, I could still see the marks from my mask on my face. Snorkelface - it's an occupational hazard. Silicone hand lotion on the face before the mask goes on can help a bit, but basically, for mature snorkeller, the imprint is with you for hours.

Today, we take a break and go into Culebra for supplies. Eggs, bread, milk, green vegetables, cookies (swimmers need cookies), internet. Laundry, again, will have to be investigated. Perhaps I'll just toss some stuff.

More photos coming when I get a better connection.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

We're exploring Culebra and Culebrita and it's all gorgeous. Great anchorages and beaches.

Ensenada Honda - the bay by the town of Culebra

the post office

A meal that comes with teeth of its own.

Truly blue rocks from the beach at Culebrita

the beach, so beautiful

We hiked across Culebrita, and found these hermit crabs on the trail. You can't tell, but they're devouring a dead bat.

The trail to the windward beach got narrower and narrower...Michelle's turn to break trail.

All this walking is why my legs are so skinny. No laughing.

We dinghied all over Bahia del Almodovar looking for a spot to snorkel, but all we found were a couple of starfish. The bay makes up for it by being a terrific anchorage. Flat calm behind a reef.

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