Saturday, April 23, 2016

Off to the Spanish Virgin Islands

Dinghy Dock Restaurant, Culebra.  Underwear as an outboard cover.  Let the quirkiness begin...

Puerto Rico is growing on us.  It's one of the bigger islands in the Caribbean with a mountainous interior (and a beautiful coastline with wonderful views of the ocean), much like the Dominican Republic.  I've been surprised by the number of resorts on the south side of the island including Cabo Rojo, Gilligan's and Punta Tuna.  Too bad we didn't plan on more friends and family visiting.  Of course, we never know until we arrive.  We hadn't planned on being here this long!

The strong easterly trade winds makes slow going.  When a weather window of calm winds arrives, we decide to move quickly.  (Next time we'll stop in Salinas then take a car back to Ponce, spend more time at Muertos, visit the east coast and stop at the island of Vieques.  Perhaps we could haul out here one hurricane season, just for fun.  Just throwing it out there, Captain!). We've been told and I now understand why, many cruise the area from PR, through the Virgins and back.  Why not?

Caja de Muertos with a view of mainland PR
Caja de Muertos:  With only 8 miles to cover, we casually check out of the marina, wave to our friends on sv Moorhame and motor over to Caja de Muertos at 8:30 am.  It's a nice day on the water and we wonder why we didn't get up earlier to cover some miles.  However, we're rewarded with shallow clear waters and a mooring ball when we arrive.  A single powerboat is anchored just off the beach.  After a short nap, I'm in the water to scrape off the 1/4" of growth since Samana.  (The circular rust colored discs are new.  Must be from PR).  The Captain hates taking the dinghy off the davits when we're only staying one night, so we didn't get to explore the lighthouse or the snorkel park on the other side of the island.  The only other people we see is a park ranger walking back up the dock after an evening swim.  We're in bed early and up by 3:00 am.

This has to be a typo in the Offshore Forecast, Caribbean AMZ023:  "WED...E WINDS 5 TO 10 KT. SEAS 3 TO 4 FT."

Nope!  "E bound Mona-PR:  Optimum motor travel Tue12-Wed13 under very light wind."

I feel a run to Culebra coming on...

Stats:  Total time 1:35, avg speed 4.9 kts, total mileage 7.8 nm.  2-engine motor.

Passing Cayo Barco, Salinas & the wetlands national park. Sunrise through the rain showers over the VI's, 100 miles ahead.

Anchored at the base of the mountains with Moorahme in Patillas
Patillas:  As we slide off the mooring ball at 3:00 am, Moorahme hails us on the radio to say good morning then drops in behind us.  It turns out the lights I see on the horizon will be just before Patillas at the refinery.  Moorahme passes us about 7:00 am and drops anchor just ahead of us.  Our first drop drags, so we head over towards a known sandy area.  It's mostly occupied so we wiggle our way into the line.  ("Is that sv Encore?")  Without a dinghy or kayak in the water to explore, I head in for a nap.

Stats:  Total time 6:36, avg speed 5.0 kts, total mileage 32.7 nm.  2-engine motor.

Looks line rain.
Enjoyed the radar while we had it :-(
We contemplated an overnight from Patillas to Culebra but threatening storms and the question of "why?", when it is forecast to be 5-10 kts & 3-4 ft seas the next day.  The skies over the island get blacker and the San Juan radar is out.  Contrary to the weather systems in Ponce, this one may hop offshore.  The Captain jumps in to dive the anchor and finds that instead of the reported mud, we are surrounded by sea grass so thick, he had trouble finding the anchor.  Moorahme has moved closer and 3 more catamarans have shown up, anchoring closer than we like with a half buried anchor and a storm brewing.  The temperature drops as I close hatches and commence some pasta marinara with bell pepper & sausage.  

I coax The Captain into raising the genoa for awhile, even if it's just as a sunshade

The possibility of squalls later in the day has us pulling up anchor for a tentative destination of Cayo Santiago at 5:30 am.  As we round the SE corner of PR, we decide to continue on for Culebra.  It's a beautiful day.  It's the nicest day we've had on the water since, since Rum to Mayaguana?  We had following seas then.  Sailing would be nice, but not bashing into a head wind & short period waves is nice.  (The Captain is already contemplating moving on to St. Thomas before this winds kick up again.)  I get a nap in our berth while underway and heat up some leftover pasta.  There are lots of masts in sight.  Everyone is on the move.  The fisherman's floats made out of plastic jugs turn into the small clear plastic water bottles, a little hard to spot.

We don't eat the reef Barracuda
Hey, that was one of my good lure's from WalMart!

As we cross the Vieques Sound, FISH ON!  He isn't really fighting, more like we're dragging him behind us.  As we reel him in, we realize a) it's a barracuda, so we'll throw him back and b) he has teeth marks on him.  The Captain briefly reels him back out, hoping for some entertainment, I guess.  Then releases the poor guy back to the sea.  The line & lure is set up again and upon reeling it in before entering Culebra's waters, The Captain finds something took the hook and most of the skirt from his heavy duty lure.  There's something big out there, and we're simply helping him catch his lunch!

Just after 1:00 pm the wind becomes a steady 7 kts off our beam from the north, so The Captain reluctantly unfurls the genoa.  We're SAAAAILING!  (Kelly Nicole's texts that they are waving from the Culebrita lighthouse.  LOL)

A Culebra, PR sunrise

Culebra, baby!  We've broken free of mainland Puerto Rico.  We're also at the part of our journey where we can see the next island from our departure point.  Hello, Saint Thomas USVI!  I see you over there :-) After making the required stops at recommended eating establishments, we're hoping to cross before our weather window goes away.  If not, this isn't a bad place to hang out.

Stats:  Total time 9:07, avg speed 5.5 kts, total mileage 50.0 nm.  Motor 2-engine, ocassional genoa.  Calm winds 0-8 kts, & 1-2 ft seas.

Zaco's Tacos.  Pulled pork nachos.  YUM!  It's been a long time since I got some decent nachos.  I suspect the Chef is from TX

Traveling is not for everyone.  I'm still a child of the US.  Should there be a chicken wandering around the restaurant?  Do I care?  Is there a USDA inspector who gets paid a nice salary and isn't concerned?  Too many questions.

Culebra airport, facing out into the bay where we're anchored

s/v Encore

After hanging out laundry to dry, we walked 2 miles to Flamenco Beach (named one of the most beautiful in the world).  We caught up with sv Encore on the way, then stopped for refreshments (frappucino for me, Encore two-fisting beef empanadas above!), before The Captain and I did a quick snorkel to cool off.  Sadly, the reef here doesn't look great.  A hot walk back into town was rewarded with a/c and lunch at Heather's Pizza.  Good day!

I had my first Bushwhacker at Heather's.  It was a creamy, chocolatey milkshake full of booze.  It originated in St. Thomas, but I have the best one in Culebra.  Recipe from the Drinking Man's Guide to the BVI, in a blender:
      • 1 part Kahlua
      • 1 part Bailey's Irish Cream
      • 1 part Amaretto
      • 1 part white rum
      • 1 part coconut rum
      • 1 part vodka
      • 1 generous squirt of Hershey's chocolate syrup
      • Ice
      • Freshly grated nutmeg

The anchorage is crowded with boats stopping over on the way north and south.  Time to go.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, if I were in the mood for a liquid dessert, that Bushwhacker sounds good. Glad to read all is well. Thanks for letting us cruise the Carib vicariously.

    m/v Diva Di