Tuesday, March 03, 2015

USVI Day 9 - Culebra - Culebrita - Culebra

1/24 - Another dawn start. Today, we were headed for the neighboring island of Culbrita and we'd been told by one of our guides at the bioluminescent bay that there were plenty of mooring balls but that it was a very popular weekend day trip for boats from Puerto Rico, so you had to get there early to snag one. We had a fine, if short, sail over, it's only about 5 miles away so we'd planned to motor over, but we actually had a nice breeze and were happy to sail instead. 

The first spot we checked, on the southwest side of the island, didn't have any mooring balls, so we headed on around to the other side where we found a few boats already moored and plenty of mooring balls. It was day use only, but last night's mooring was so nice we were fine with going back to that.

We moored and hiked up to the lighthouse that stands at the top of the island. 

Neat old ruin - sturdy brick, with tall windows and black and white stone tiles on the floor; we all thought this must have been a pretty neat place to be a lighthouse keeper. 

TQ, Kat, Dave, Jenn and I all looked up in the old tower and then walked over to look at the view near the modern structure that replaced the old light, 

and then we heard Lenore call "Hello!" and turned to find her waving at us from the top of the tower!

- so then of course we all had to take turns going up there (not enough room for more than a couple at a time).

Lots of critters on the hike - a flock of goats, and tons of hermit crabs, and big shy lizards, plus some interesting giant cacti. And of course lovely views from up on top. 

A few shots from the walk back down

Eventually we headed back down, and when we got back to the boat, Lenore and I decided to go snorkeling again. We swam over to the big reef on the west side of the bay, which turned out (surprise surprise) to be another very nice snorkel spot The water clarity was pretty good, the reef was healthy (and shallow enough that I didn't feel like we were going to get run over by an incoming boat, of which there was getting to be a steady stream), and there were plenty of I saw a new kind of fish for this trip, trumpetfish, in blue and yellow. 

I started getting peckish pretty quickly though, it had seemed a little early for lunch when we got back from our hike. I'd just told Lenore that I was ready to head back to the boat, TQ and Kat showed up in the dinghy - while Lenore and I had been snorkelling, that steady stream of incoming boats had steadily filled up the bay, and the decision had been made to run back to Culebra a little earlier than originally planned. 

Another nice but short sail brought us back to the same mooring we'd left behind at dawn; we picked it up around 3 and then spent a quiet afternoon there swimming, snorkelling, and floating around with pool noodles and refreshing beverages. I actually decided to go for a swim swim, I'd mostly just been snorkeling but since this was such a nice quiet place with such lovely water temperatures, I decided to get out my goggles and do a little distance - don't know how far I went, it was measured out in "First I'll go to that boat over there, and then I'll cut over to that mooring ball, and then I'll go back to the Kinja". As I approached the Kinja, TQ came out to meet me - I wish I'd had a camera on me because he was floating on his back, wrapped up in a pool noodle as a sort of floating armchair, with his Tilley hat and his shades on and a beer in one hand and his camera in the other. He was wearing flippers and started motoring along next to me, grinning and taking pictures - do you know how hard it is to swim when you're cracking up? First few strokes with him I kept stopping to laugh - finally I just closed my eyes for a few strokes to get back into the rhythm and we went on back to the boat together.

Dinner on the boat, using up the leftovers. More turtles around!

Another very, very nice day.

Click here to read more about the Culebrita Lighthouse.

Friday, February 27, 2015

USVI 2015 Day 8 - Vieques to Culebra, more snorkeling, we almost get in a bar brawl, and a very good dinner

1/23 - I did a pretty good job on the journal for Day 8, so I'm just going to copy that to move things along a bit. There will be lots of pictures, too, this was a photogenic kinda day. 

Up at dawn, underway by 7:30. We are motorsailing back to the eastern tip of Vieques to save time, today we are going to Culebra, a 27 mile trip, so we're skipping the upwind leg to save tacking time. 

Under sail at 9:40, heading 20 degrees, not much wind. Tonight's destination is another Ensenada Honda, there is a restaurant there, Mamacita's, that is a particular favorite of Kat's.

Arrived around 12:30, happily picked up a DRLN mooring ball just inside the harbor (we'd pretty much given up on the anchor and you're supposed use the mooring balls whenever you can anyways, better for the sea floor), we'd gotten there in plenty of time for more snorkeling. I'd finally gotten going on Unfamiliar Fishes  (the book I'd picked up for the trip, been meaning to read this for ages, ever since I posted about it in March 2011), and while everybody else floated around the boat with pool noodles and refreshing beverages, I decided to stay in the shade of the bimini reading until 1:30 to give my skin a break from the midday sun after being out in it for a while as we were coming into the mooring field and picking up the mooring ball. 
After that I jumped in - snorkelling time again! There wasn't much to see immediately around our boat, but I found the deep channel that lead out to the reef that encloses thae harbor, and that was nice. What was really interesting was working over towards the mangroves that edge the land side of the harbor; we'd heard their roots described as fish nurseries, and sure enough, just off the mangroves, first there was a sort of miniature reef populated by miniature versions of the fish we've seen in deeper water, then eelgrass with even smaller fish -- tiny shiny things, I couldn't tell what kind. 

click for a bigger view if you can't see the little fish 

My turn to get followed by fish - it was totally unfair, our most novice snorkeller got bugged by a barracuda. What scary beastie decided to come after me? A bunch of mullet. Oooh scary (not). I'd gone from the reef back to the boat before heading over to the mangroves, and on the way back I passed a huge school of mullet and a group of about a dozen were apparently completely enamored of the yellow fins I was wearing, broke off from the school, and followed me back to the boat. Funny. They liked the shade of the dinghy and decided to stay there while I went to the mangroves, stayed there for quite some time.

Snack and showers back on the boat, and then we jumped in the dinghy and headed into town a bit before 4.

First stop seemed nice at first, Kat had heard that the Dinghy Dock Restaurant was a fun place to have a drink, so we stopped there. Everything started out fine, we got drinks and sat down at a table, all well and good.
Things turned unpleasant fairly quickly, though. It started when Capt. Kat got to talking to a cruising couple - started out just wanting to say hi to their adorable little dog, but they were very friendly and seemed to know their way around and it occurred to Kat to ask them if they knew where we could get rid of our trash (we'd brought a bunch from the boat). The lady told us to just take it up the short flight of stairs that led from the bar to the street and we'd find some bins about a block away. Kat and I went and got the bags out of the dinghy and started heading towards the stairs, as suggested - but then this guy (who I thought was the owner because of his officious manner, but he wasn't, just somebody who's very comfortable being bossy with total strangers) got all huffy about it, and then as Capt. Kat tried to smooth things over with him, a couple more of the regulars started to get belligerent too - not much of a way to treat visitors. They shouted us back to our dinghy, which we took over to the town dock, as the first guy told us we had to do to get rid of our garbage, and then we went for a quick spin down the little canal that runs through the town to check out the restaurant (there, open, friendly owner brought a menu over to us to peruse and it looked very nice) and shopping opportunities (check).

We then headed back to the bar, where we found out that the belligerent regulars had continued to verbally abuse the rest of our group (who tried to explain that we'd just been given bad advice, but the cranks were unwilling to be appeased). Our friends had looked to the staff for some assistance and not gotten any (they were setting up for a band so I guess they were kind of busy, but still...), and so the decision had been made that no more money was being spent there. The guy who'd started the nastiness had told Kat (who tried to settle him down by asking him for advice) that Mamacita's had at one time been owned by the Dinghy Dock owners, but they'd sold it to someone else and it wasn't the same - well, at this point, "not the same" sounded awesome, so we split and headed back to the canal. We went shopping first, we were running low on beer and (we thought) a few other odds and ends, so we took care of that; we even found Pringles here, hooray (this had been a running gag, Jenn and Kat and I all consider Pringles to be a most important salty boat snack and we'd been dismayed to find no Pringles at the grocery store in Red Hook)! We also met the prettiest kitty, a long-haired calico with one blue eye and one gold eye, she was so sweet, Jenn wanted to take her back to Brooklyn but settled for buying her a can of Fancy Feast at the grocery store (she was healthy and there was a gentleman at the store who did look out for her, but she was a bit on the thin side and she absolutely inhaled the food, I think it was a real treat for her).

Groceries laded, we headed back to Mamacita's, where we had another scrumptious Caribbean meal and drinks (now in peaceful, friendly surroundings, ahhh). The canal is lit with blue underwater lights and besides the huge tarpon that are all over the place here in the town, we also saw large bats making regular passes over the lights, and when Jenn thought to look in the water under the patio where we were dining, she found a whole rookery of young spiny lobsters, plus a beautiful red and white striped shrimp. Great meal!

One more odd encounter on the way back. We got pulled over by the Policia. They came up on us in a large and fast-looking speedboat with no running lights at all, which was a bit creepy, but when we told them we were just heading back to our boat out in the mooring field, they just asked us to add a light aft to the forward light we already had to make ourselves visible all the way around.

Back at the boat, we had a couple more drinks with the rum cake Lenore had ordered at Bili's the day before for Dave's birthday today. Delicious!

Early start to head to Culebrita tomorrow. Plans there are to hike to a lighthouse, go swimming, and try to eat some some of the excess food we're discovering we may have bought (we were definitely running out of beer but I think the odds and ends we'd thought we were short on just turned out to be stashed someplace other than where we'd thought they were).

To bed now - is that a flock of oystercatchers flying around out in the dark out there? Sort of sounds like it! 

More pictures from the day - no more writing, click on the first one for slideshow view.