Saturday, March 30, 2013

On to Culebra

We spent only one night in Vieques and left the next morning for Culebra.  We had wind…in the right direction…and we could actually sail.  Yay!  Well at least for a little while.  That fast Banyan boat zipped all over the place and still beat us there powered only by sail.  No matter, they scouted out a nice place for the night on the west coast.
culebra spanish virgins 041the next morning we moved just a few miles and grabbed a free mooring ball so we could do some snorkeling.  The water was about 35 feet deep and so clear we could see right to the bottom.  We jumped in and headed for the reefs near shore.  Fish by the hundred and then, a turtle.  He was swimming lazily right underneath us.  We would swim closer and he would swim away, but then turn around and come back.  I’m sure he was just as curious about us as we were about him.  This was the one time I forgot the underwater camera.  I did go back to the boat to get it but by then he had moved on.
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culebra spanish virgins 067After lunch Brian and I took the dinghy over to Luis Pena Island for a little more underwater sightseeing.  There was a beautiful beach and millions of small fish in the shallows.
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Blue Moose and Banyan
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The next morning we were ready for a little land time do we set off for the big anchorage and the town of Culebra.  With it being the Easter long weekend we were prepared for the boat traffic and there was a lot of it.
this one was about 4 feet
First stop was the Dinghy Dock Bar & Grill.  A great place!  Good food, a place to tie up your dinghy, free wifi and several huge Tarpon cruising the dock looking for handouts.
A walk through town, dinner at Mamacita’s which was….mmm, just OK, then back to the boat.
A little civilization goes a long way.  Next stop Culebrita.  Just a few miles and promises of more great snorkeling.

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Cricket's not taking any chances. 
She's wearing her PFD
Culebrita is a small island on the east coast of Culebra.  The only thing you will find is an old lighthouse, beautiful beaches and an underwater maze of coral to explore.
We hiked to the lighthouse and explored under the water.
a little underwater view

the old lighthouse
wild cacti
there in the distance is St Thomas
Hermit crab

Cricket's adventure

From the marina in Puerto Rico we set out on Sunday for Viegues in The Spanish Virgin Islands. The Moose was all shiny clean, we had fresh provisions and were looking forward to a new island. As we always do when setting sail, we secured everything that might go flying in a wave, systems checks, put Cricket in the forward head with her litter box and water. Ready? Ready!

Do you remember the game of Mousetrap? Well, here's how it worked on the boat:
~ nice day for a sail - maybe a little bit rolly
~ larger wave makes boat rock sideways
~ 1 gallon bottle of bleach on the counter in Cricket's head tips over (both of us missed putting this away) but does not spill (thank god)
~ bottle of bleach slides down the counter and turns on the faucet
~ faucet pours into the sink (remember that we have just filled the 95 gallon water tank)
~ sink gets plugged because there is a roll of toilet paper in it (we keep it there just....well just because it's convenient)
~ sink overflows onto the counter and into the litter box
~ the water by this time is quite hot because the engine has been running and the engine heats the water
~ the litter box fills to the top and the water along with cat litter soup overflows onto the floor (I had just emptied it)
~ the drain on the floor of the head had been taped over to prevent clumping cat litter from clogging the drain and the bilge (what a great idea!)
~ the water now rises on the floor of the head until it runs out under the door
This is about the time that I glanced down below. Oh shit! Brian, there's water on the floor! The first thought was that we had some how sprung a leak. I grabbed the wheel and Brian went to check the damage. When he emerged from the head accompanied by high pitched howls of terror coming from Cricket, he had the bleach bottle in his hand. I had visions of a somewhat blonder version of our princess.
Brian brought her out, put her in her travel bag and brought her up on deck. Because of the hot water, the temperature in the head was well over 100 degrees. Other than damp paws and being a little sweaty she was fine. For the next hour she told me all about it. Meoooooooowwww!
Once we were anchored the cleanup began. Did you know that clumping cat litter just about turns to cement when wet? After checking the water tank, we had lost about 20 gallons. What a mess.
We can laugh about this now and I hope you do too, but it was seriously not funny at the moment.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Rainforest

If we were going to see anything on land what would it be?  A trip to the El Yunque Rainforest.
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Our destination?  Up there in the clouds.
We brought along rain jackets, but we didn’t need them.  We had no rain, just plenty of shady spots under all the greenery.

way over in the distance is Blue Moose
and flowers
and wildlife
that's the peak
we almost made it

Friday and Saturday we had set aside for a Moose spa day and she needed it.  With fresh water at a relatively cheap 3 cents per gallon where in the Bahamas they were charging 40 cents with started the desalting process.003
We scrubbed the decks and cockpit cushions, waxed and then cleaned and polished the stainless.  The stainless is not my favourite job and it’s one of those things that never seems to end.  Armed with an old toothbrush I scrubbed and buffed. 
Cricket approves of a clean boat
Blue Moose now feels a little less shy in this marina full of big shiny boats.
Today……we’re off to Vieques.  The Spanish Virgin Islands.

Friday, March 22, 2013

San Juan

We joined Alex and Dave on a fun trip to explore Old San Juan.   002
With very steep and narrow streets it was a bit like a roller coaster ride.  Up and down and tight turns with cars parked everywhere and spaced only inches apart.

blue cobblestones
          We walked the streets


checked out the shops

and then explored Castillo San Felipe de El Morro



puerto rico 007Palmas Del Mar is a really nice marina.  The entire complex is huge with condos stretching all around the harbour.  The staff are all very friendly and helpful. You have only to step out onto the dock and someone will more than likely ask if you would like a ride in the golf cart somewhere.  If you are walking with a bag of garbage they will often offer to take it to the can for you.  We went to get a bag of ice yesterday and it was delivered right to the boat.  We’re feeling really pampered.
Also within walking distance there is a small marine store, bank, car rental, numerous restaurants and a lovely pool and Tiki bar.

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So, first thing Monday morning we hiked over and rented a car for a couple of days.  Thinking ahead we brought along our trusty TomTom GPS from home to make things easier.  Well that was the plan anyway.  It seems that there is a little language barrier between a Canadian GPS and the streets of Puerto Rico.  I’m not sure if it’s the way the streets are abbreviated but we couldn’t find anything.  Not to worry, Target Car Rental gave us detailed instructions on how to get everywhere.  Just in case, I programmed our present location into the TomTom so that we could always make it back.

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this one was easy
We enjoyed the scenic route several times (that means we got lost) but eventually found our way.  After a bit I did start to understand a little of the Spanish.
From marine supply store (no autopilots) to Walmart (no diesel oil, flour, crackers or fishing lures), to West Marine (still no autopilots, or VHF radios and their lures were a crazy price), back to marine supply store, and back again to West Marine. 
We had read that Sam’s Club offer a free one day membership to cruisers.  Once at the service desk the story was a little different.  They charge you and extra 10% on top of your purchase at the till.  No thanks!
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After a full day of trying to collect provisions for the boat we decided to call it a day and head back.  We could get the food tomorrow.  I pressed home on the TomTom and it told me that no route had been entered.  What?  
On to plan B.  Follow the direction in reverse.  It was then that we came upon a Walmart Super Centre and chose to make one more stop.  New shorts for Brian, a muffin tin, flour, crackers, UHT milk, juice.  Mostly the stuff we have used up since leaving Florida. 
Back at the marina we loaded all our goodies into a cart and hauled it back to the boat.  The finger docks here are concrete and just a little bit wider than the wheels on the cart.  As Brian passed me the bags from dock to boat I had a terrible vision of the cart falling in and us going for a midnight swim to retrieve our stores.  The next challenge was finding a spot to store it all.
Tuesday we did it all again.  This time we found Ralph’s Food Warehouse.  Something like a Costco without the membership.  This was the best we have seen since Florida and all in one place.  The selection of fruit and veggies was wonderful after just seeing the basics for so many weeks.
Driving in Fajardo is interesting. A Kia Rio is no match for a speed bump.  Apparently you can park wherever you like, facing whatever direction you like. You may be sharing your parking spot with a horse. Oh, and a red light is merely a suggestion.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Puerto Patillas

We started the day with a plan to head just to Ponce. We would lay over for a couple of days in the marina, rent a car, reprovision and tour a little bit. Then Dave called us on the radio with an alternate plan. There was a little weather heading in on Saturday night and what did we think of doing a big day today, skipping Ponce altogether, anchor for the night then head to Palmas Del Mar in the morning?
We checked it out on the charts and quickly agreed that this looked like a good idea. The marina had really good reviews and had slips for only $1 per foot. We had great weather so why not? Our plans are very flexible and we're up for just about anything. We motor sailed and watched the mountains glide by for most of the day.
The captain prepared us a wonderful lunch of California rolls, which I am now going to refer to as Blue Moose rolls. Their filling totally depends on what is in the fridge on that particular day. Rice, of course, maybe some mango, or avocado, red peppers and perhaps some ham. Accompanied by an icy cold Canada Dry ginger ale. I'm spoiled.
As usual Brian had the fishing rod rigged and ready. What will we catch today? A tuna would be awesome.
This is the Mahi Magnet (my pick)

And this is (was) Brian's favorite. Some fish is no doubt sporting it as a lip ring

And this is a trolling plate to take the lure down deep where the big guys hang out
The Mahi magnet has been very successful. it may be the pink colour or it may be the holes in it's head that make bubbles as it's towed along. The silver spoon has also worked well. That's the one we (OK Brian) caught the snapper on.
After a few lure changes we had a "FISH ON!" We had to consult our fish charts and books for a species check and still aren't totally sure. We first thought it was a Wahoo, but it isn't blue enough so it may be some type of Mackerel. It did have an impressive mouthful of teeth. To keep the blood and guts to a minimum in the cockpit Brian cleaned it on the deck. I watched rivers of gore run down the deck and out through the toerail. A few buckets of seawater and a scrub brush later and good as new.
With the fish in the freezer we continued on and watched the scenery.
A call from Banyan came in "whale just off our starboard". A few minutes later, there it was right beside us. Every few minutes blowing a spout of water up in the air. I googled it to find out what kind of whales they might be, and it looks like they are humpbacks. I think it's a good thing that I googled it after the fact because humpbacks grown to 50 feet and 50 thousand pounds. That's 9 feet longer and twice the weight of our boat. A little scary, don't you think?
A short time later another one appeared off our port side, but closer. I believe Brian said at this moment "Sally! Holy S%#*, it's coming right at us! We have to get out of the way. So....who has the right of way? A mama humpback whale and her baby or a sailboat under power? I don't believe this was covered in any of our training. Ah ha! I know. She was restricted because she had her baby with her and it couldn't swim as fast as her, so she has the right of way. I'm quite sure she heard us and thankfully altered course. It was pretty exciting though.

watch the video here 

Celilo opted to stop before us because they were running low on fuel. They would catch up to us in the morning. Banyan and Blue Moose continued on to our nice little anchorage in Puerto Patillas where we were settled by early afternoon. A wifi signal, nice shelter, a short hop tomorrow, perfect! An hour later, out on the horizon we saw a sailboat approaching. Celilo must have had a power refueling because they had caught up to us. The trio was together once more.
The three of us were anchored in a triangle a nice comfortable distance apart when another sailboat entered the bay and proceeded to head directly at us. We watched, a little curious. Yes, it looked like....are you kidding me? He was trying to anchor right smack in the middle of us. One attempt, and they pulled the anchor up with a big clump of grass. Second attempt, same thing. Brian called over and politely told them that we were leaving at first light and that he was parked right over our chain. They pulled the anchor and tried again...and again. Celilo called over and suggested that maybe behind us might be a good place. They tried that a couple of times with no success and then came back in the middle once more. This is a very big bay with lots of room for 50 boats. Why right on top of us? It must have been the disapproving looks we gave them, but they decided this wasn't a very friendly place and were soon seen heading around the corner.
Dinner.... Yes, food again! was steak...and baked potatoes...and sour cream...and carrots...and sautéed mushrooms aboard Banyan. Oh yum! We haven't had a steak since Florida. It was delicious.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Bio Bay and Gilligan's Island

We all decided that a tour of the bioluminescent bay was a must see. For $6 we would go in the Johnny boat. Even better, they would pick us up at our boat! So Alex, Dave, Roberta and Michael came for dinner on Blue Moose first. We had breaded Mutton Snapper, cauliflower au gratin, pound cake with rum, coconut, banana and chocolate and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Oh yum!

The bio tour was supposed to start at 7:30 so we started scanning the dock with binoculars. There didn't seem to be much happening there. Finally we spotted not one, but two boats approaching us. They pulled up alongside and we all piled in. We zigzagged in the dark through the mangroves to the secret bay and our boat stopped beside the other one. Then our captain stripped off his shirt and jumped into the water. As he swam between the boats we could see his hands glowing with bioluminescence. He then said we could jump in too. Dave and Michael and a few of the other passengers did and they actually glowed even more. But, you know...that dark water thing. Nah!

It was worth the price of admission but I was a little disappointed. We had seen a better display off the bows of our own boats while sailing at night.


How could we sail right past Gilligan's Island and not stop by? The real Gilligan's Island? We don't know but it was worth checking out.

This looks like a nice resort

Once anchored, we took off for a tour of the island. It took about 15 minutes. There were lots of picnic tables and bar-b-ques and people lounging in the shallows under umbrellas. There wasn't a whole lot to explore because the path ended very quickly.


Next we headed to the mainland to see what we could find. Fishing boats bobbing at the shore. A mama dog with a litter of sleeping puppies. A ferry dock and restaurant looking out over the island and barely a person in sight. It would have been perfect except it lacked one main menu item. Beer.



We continued up the road towards the resort hoping for a cool down. Here we found the Copa Marina Resort & Spa. It had beautiful grounds, a nice pool and most importantly a wonderful open air restaurant. The food took some time to get, but we're fine with that. A very pretty young waitress made sure we had everything we needed.

A somewhat lazy afternoon on our boats and then we dined aboard Celilo. roberta made Mahi Alfredo. Delicious! How many ways can you prepare fish? Lots. almost every day of the week. It's good for you, it's fresh and it's free. It sounds like all we do is eat, but we have really had some amazing galley creations. We can't be eating that much because we're both still much lighter than we were.

An early evening, hoist the dinghy onto the davits and get ready to leave at first light tomorrow. We are looking forward to a marina night with long showers, some land excursions and water to wash the Moose.


About Us

Brian, Sally and Cricket the cat sailing on our 41 foot Morgan Classic sailboat. In October 2011 we sold our house, quit our jobs and set out for Florida in search of a sailboat. We found her in Madeira Beach Florida. A 1987 41 foot Morgan Classic. Our plan is to sail for a couple of years. First to the Bahamas, after that...who knows.