AWAKENING log Winter 06/07


Forty years is just too long between visits.  Since the mother and son reunion in California a couple months ago, we have been planning the second visit.  This time the location was Turks and Caicos.  Michael and I are spending an extended trip in the Caribbean aboard AWAKENING with Jib, and started at the house on Providenciales.  Tom, Liz, Claire and Clay extended an existing travel plan to Texas, on to the Caribbean.    We were all very excited, and could hardly sleep the night before they arrived.  Actually they could hardly sleep either.  Since our Texas home is fifteen minutes from the DFW airport, we suggested they sleep there.  Without us home, it was a little strange, but apparently Claire gave the house tour and Tom pushed all the buttons.  Since they had to get up at 3:30 AM, it didn't leave much time for sleep.

When the Kirksey family arrived the first order of business was snorkeling.  Clay, seven, had never used fins before.  Nine year old Claire had never snorkeled in 80 degree ocean.  The conditions were difficult with a current and chop, but Jib swam with Claire and me out to the big coral head off the beach near our house.  Claire and I immediately spotted a big turtle!  Then another big turtle!!  Then a little turtle!  Wow, three turtles at once.  We were really giggling.  Everybody saw the turtles.  Michael and Tom saw an Eagle Ray, and the fish were going about business as usual.  Great start to our party!

We settled into the Gecko Beach House, with Claire the card shark killing us at Oh Heck.  After sunset the baby sitter arrived to become Claire's latest victim, while the adults went out to dinner.  A fine meal at Magnolia was even better with all the continued conversation of "getting to know" my own son.  Michael is just as intrigued as I am, and can't believe his luck to have Grand-children "of a sudden".

The big challenge for this visit was dive certification.  Scuba diving was the medium that brought Michael and me together, and I urged Tom and Liz to step up to the sport.  As they are already water people, it was an idea easily accepted.  Liz is a master of water ski, Tom is a surfer, and they own a ski boat and 35' CABO powerboat.   With time of the essence, they really had to push to make the deal happen, and it did.  We boarded the Caicos Adventures dive boat with Claire and Clay listed as "bubble watchers".  The power cat is comfortable, and we headed across the Caicos Banks for the West Caicos island.  For me, it was a dream come true.

The two dives were hectic for Tom and Liz, still learning how to manage the skills and equipment.  They both improved rapidly and like most divers were grinning and talking a mile a minute about fish and sea creatures we had seen.  Clay and Claire went snorkeling with the boat captain, Scott, and saw a sleeping nurse shark.  They were both jumping off the stern and swimming like the fishes.

Everybody agreed that it had been a great day, and the vote to go again was easy.  We booked the longer day, with three dives and found that we had the entire boat to ourselves and only two other divers.  Back to West Caicos!  Boat captain Scott took on the kids again, and dive master Liz (coincidence), went with the two other divers.  Tom and Liz joined Michael and me for my favorite dive in these islands.  The Spanish Anchor.  I lead the group through a cut in the coral reef wall, where a Spanish Anchor has been lodged for some 500 years.  Tom even pointed out a huge crab I hadn't noticed.  We moved along the coral wall at about 75 feet deep, and I was leading the group when a nice reef shark swam over the wall edge above me.  Liz was very close and moved quite a bit closer to me!  We could see the underside as the shark swam over our heads about twelve feet away.

When we reached the hang bar below the boat for our safety stop the kids were snorkeling over head.  Claire used the spare regulator to come down for a visit.  Clay got to release the mooring line when we moved the boat.  The water was warm, the sun was out, lunch was good, it was heaven.  It just kept getting better.  We were visited by two big sea turtles on the top of the wall at about 55 feet.  They moved amongst us slowly, and one wiped a flipper on Tom's mask.  I found a juvenile Spotted Drum fish.  Liz found a Spotted Eel.  Dive master Liz took photos of all these wonderful sightings.

As if that were not enough, on our last dive site there were two reef sharks below the boat when we arrived.  The kids got to snorkel in clear view of the action, along with most of the adults.  We saw these sharks throughout our dive, and have the pictures to prove it!   OK, so I've progressed from unwed Mother to unfit Grandmother.

The last day of our visit was spent aboard AWAKENING anchored in Grace Bay.  There was a snorkel reef off the bow, where Tom and Claire spent most of their time.  Tom took both kids out on my kayak, and Liz finally got to just lay in the sun.   Our last night was another adult dinner out, this time at Coyaba.  We drank some wine, ate well, and talked of many things.  The story is getting better all the time.

Part 2

We made it!

Our morning on West Caicos was filled with memories of family.  I wish you had been with me snorkeling.  Keith, our "third body" snorkeled for the first time, at the Spanish Anchor mooring, and seemed quite delighted.

We sailed away about noon, in a very light breeze, so by the time we turned to our heading, it became a motor sail.  Just the main up, making 8.5 knots.  Seas were very reasonable, and we had it easy.  By night fall, things were sorted out, and we felt Keith could take an occasional seat at the helm.  Auto was the pilot of course, but we needed a spotter for lights, or bad sounds and such.  80 percent of the time was either Michael or me at the helm.

We had a few tugs towing barges, headed North, one SUN PRINCESS mega cruise ship, and two freighters.  The wind turned slightly North around midnight and we were able to turn off the engines and sail with main and genoa, doing 5.5 knots.  That was perfect for our timed arrival into the marina on the Northern shore of the Dominican Republic, island of Hispanola.

The DR is the most mountainous of all islands in the Caribbean, and very green.  Within 100 yards of our boat right now, we have seen more than a dozen dolphin, two sea lions, sting rays, nurse sharks, fresh water tropical river fish, ocean fish, toucans, parrots, love birds, and two tigers.  This is not the average marina.  Their grand opening is next week, but the OCEAN WORLD marina is a Disney World wanna be.  We have a casino the size and shape of Avalon, and the music went until 4AM.  There is a swim up bar with all the bells and whistles.  We've been told there is a Vegas style show at night, free to "yacht" people like us.

We three yacht people preferred to walk out of the Ocean World compound, and find a lovely local restaurant last evening, with an upstairs ocean view open air dining room.  Many Presidente bottles accompanied the sea food meals, including my steamed whole Red Snapper.  We really slept well.

The marina is so new, there is no crowd.  The docks are concrete and a huge breakwater is the only protection.  We have more surge than we would like, and the weather is supposed to be kicking up by tonight.  We already have lines on all points, and AWAKENING is dancing gently now.  Still, this is the spot to wait for our Puerto Rico weather window.  The Mona Passage is not to be trifled with, so we need to get a good shot.

Certainly by now Clay and Claire want to know about the tigers, at least, if not the other animals mentioned.  It seems the builder of this "destination" is a Disney wanna be.  All the mentioned animals are part of a tourist attraction.  People are bussed in from other hotel areas, and there are animal shows hourly.  You can "swim" with dolphins, sting rays, sharks (nurse only of course), fishes, seals, and tigers.  Yes swim with tigers.  There is a white and a golden bengal who have a nice big compound which includes a deep grotto pool.  It is plenty warm here, so the tigers do swim.  There is a glass window between their pool and a larger swimming area for tourists.

The dolphin have a large area of pens and even a beach, where tourists are allowed to wade in and have an encounter.  Just walking the board walk yesterday we spent time talking with the dolphins, who kept coming up to say hello, or maybe it was "Get me outta here"!  We were the only people there.  Today we hope to see  some of the shows, though we saw the seal show from back stage yesterday, as it is about 40 yards from AWAKENING.  Yesterday we petted parrots, say toucans up close without bars between us, and fed love birds.  With a palm full of bird seed, we were quickly covered in love birds.

It is a strange place.  I do hope we get a chance to see the real DR, but the priority now is a safe place for AWAKENING, and a sailing plan to get Keith to Puerto Rico on his schedule to meet his girlfriend there next Friday.  Any port in PR will do, as land transportation can be arranged.  We won't need the third person after reaching PR, as we plan no night passages.  Our return, whether it be February, or June, will again require the body.  You are top of the waiting list.

Part 3

Good news, it looks like the freezer is on the mend.  The second frig guy replaced the dryer, and worked well with Michael to make it all happen.  I'm hoping to get my frozen meat back tomorrow.  The radar has not been as successful a project so far.

We managed to get to the fuel dock yesterday morning when a truck came in with diesel for two large fishing boats.  First we dinged the slip, then we drug the greasy black hose over the white life lines.  Then the first tank overfilled, shooting diesel all over the kyack, deck, etc.  Made it back to the slip, and spent several hours cleaning up the mess.

Keith is leaving today, flying to Puerto Rico to meet his girlfriend for the weekend, before returning to Wash. DC.  We are on our own for the crossing.  Weather looks good for Sun Mon and Tues.  Waves are down, but it will be motoring.  So, I guess we are here for tomorrow night and the Grand Opening party.  We hear the president of the DR is coming to hear the Beach Boys with us.

Part 4

Keith left Friday, and yesterday was the GRAND Opening here for Ocean World.  Many big shots and much hoopla.

We did dress up slightly, took advantage of the food and drink.  Beach Boys sounded as tacky as they did when we were in high school, and Michael noted the majority of the band was not yet born in the early sixties.  Since I've been getting up before the sun, and was born before the Beach Boys, I was ready to crash before the locals really got going.  The massive fireworks display did wake us for a brief period, but not long.

The marina charged us $35 per day, but comped the Grand Opening weekend.  Power was cheap if you don't count the coal soot I had to wash off every morning.  Water was 10 cents a gallon, versus $1 a gallon on Provo, to make up for the soot.

Weather for the crossing looks as good as can be expected this time of year, from Mon through Wed.  So, we are going to leave the marina late this afternoon with the plan to motor through the night.  Seas are predicted 5-6 feet.  Winds are on the nose but die down in the lee of the island during the night hours, to our advantage.

We'll try to find a spot tomorrow morning to anchor, and get some rest.  Then head out in the wee hours Tuesday for the Mona.

Michael just finished cooking his chicken stew for the night watches.  JIB got a brief shave, dockside, and I'm considering a nap and shower.

Part 5

It was a rough night, but we are safely anchored.  Left the marina at Ocean World in the Dominican Republic about 5pm without a bump or scrap, always a good thing.  The problem with this time of year, direction of passage, and area of the Caribbean, is that we are going up hill.  The wind, waves, and often current are on the nose.  Supposedly this is milder at night, so we did that plan.  Michael and I took turns at the helm, with the main sail up for stability only, and making about 7 knots running one of the two engines.  It was lumpy, about 4-5 feet, but about 3AM it got considerably less comfortable.  Somewhere about then, the engine seemed to lose forward motion, as if we had hooked a fishing trap.  We put it in neutral and started the other engine while we talked about it.  Under the rough conditions there wasn't much to be done, and when we tried it again, it seemed fine.  I'm not sure we hadn't experienced a strong current for awhile, but it is most likely we just got free of a trap.

Michael found a spot called El Valle, in one of our guidebooks that promised a safe resting spot in our passage.  We approached it this morning at 8AM in a light but steady rain.  It is a Jurrasic Park type spot.  Two mountains rising with a river feeding the head of the inlet.  The surrounding cliffs are sheer and covered in palms and exotic jungle.  We are anchored in 18 feet of water, on sand, about 100 yards from shore.  The beach is probably 1/8 mile, and there is a fishing village near the river mouth.

Ate breakfast like starving dogs, and slept for a couple hours.  Ate lunch, napped.

We saw fishermen in a dug out with paddles of tree trunk.  They are using a massive net which takes about eight men to haul.  I saw women and children returning from the hills carrying citrus fruit and coconuts.  When they seemed to settle down for the afternoon, I took JIB for a swim ashore.  We are officially checked out of the Dominican Republic as tomorrow we head for Puerto Rico.  It would not be good to run the risk of dealing with a local "official" today.

Our plan is to leave first light tomorrow and make the dreaded Mona Pass.  This will require all day, all night, and some of the next day.  Destination is Mayaguez to check in.  Meanwhile, Rack O Lamb for dinner!

Wish you were here.

Part 6
Dec 2006

I think it is Thursday, so this must be Puerto Rico, and probably December 21.  WE MADE IT!

When I set the goal of sailing to Puerto Rico, it really was just a goal to give us the challenge of learning more, and just making it happen.  We have been happy sailing from the Turks and Caicos among the islands there and into the Southern Bahamas.  The rest of the Caribbean sailing is supposed to be easier, though more crowded, diverse in language and of course all manner of experiences.

In my first log report this trip we had sailed to the Dominican Republic for the first time, and spent a week at the new Ocean World Marina, then sailed during the night last Sunday to a little anchorage for some rest before the Mona Passage.  The ocean between the DR and Puerto Rico is a well known and often dreaded stretch due to severe currents, an extremely deep trench and some shallower shoals.  All that plus dramatic weather can make the passage a nightmare.  Most boats, us included, wait carefully for a good weather window before making the move.  This would be over 24 hours straight through for the two of us, and that is not something we find desirable.

The window found us, and we were ready.  Well rested and fed, we pulled anchor at first light in the little hideaway of El Valle Tuesday morning.  We skirted the towering cliffs of the mountainous island and headed North East to get a good angle on our Eastern passage.  We needed to avoid the treacherous Hour Glass Shoals.  The seas were from the East Northeast, and only about 4 ft, very good for this passage.  The wind was light, and on the nose.  We decided to sail while we could, and set a course to tack our way along.  This plan worked well until the wind died down a bit mid day, and the current increased against us.  With a schedule, we started one engine and motor sailed for a few hours.  At nightfall we reefed the main and continued to motor sail on our course.  During the night we took turns at the helm and watched our waypoint on the chart get ever closer.  The sky was clear and the stars were not dimmed by ambient light.  The seas actually calmed as we approached Puerto Rico.  We could see the lights of Mayaguez, the third largest city in Puerto Rico, from many miles out.  We had two cruise ships pass us, the Disney Magic, and a Celebrity ship, plus a big ferry boat, and several large freighters.  This is the excitement of sailing at night, seeing the lights and trying to figure out, "what is it, and are we going to run into it?"

Just as Michael planned, we arrived outside the harbor of Mayaguez at first light.  We put our sail away and motored into the anchorage behind a huge ferry.  The sea was completely calm, not a breath of wind.  We anchored in about 18 feet of muddy water.  We needed to check into the country (USA!!) before moving to a more desirable location.  I used fresh water from our tanks to rinse the salt off the boat, and we took the dinghy ashore for JIB's needs on our way to customs.  The officials were very nice, and we are legally in the USA again.  This is the first time for AWAKENING since we bought her and left West Palm Beach in 2002.

After lunch, we motored peacefully along the Western shore of PR to a more Southern bay called Boqueron, known for good anchorage and cruiser friendly.  Well, I'll say!  As we rounded the point and could see the lovely beach, big bay, sailboats, beachfront resaurants, and ANOTHER CATANA 431!  Amazing.  There are probably less than 100 boats like ours in the world, and one was anchored in Boqueron.  Her name is MERIDIAN, and her owners are Rick and Allison.  They are on there way to the Virgin Islands for Christmas.  Since we are on no schedule, we are planning to spend a couple days here.  We'll visit this evening and have dinner with them ashore.

We slept well last night and this morning I headed to town with my two weeks of laundry.  Got that done and bought fresh milk for my coffee, which Michael had ready with breakfast when I returned in the dinghy.  JIB and I swam the quarter mile to the beach this morning, and the water was warm and smooth as silk.  We have been doing chores and enjoying the rest.  We'll decide how long to stay, based on the reputation of Boqueron being the college weekend crowd destination of Puerto Rico.  I suspect it is going to really crank up by tomorrow.  We hear there will be street vendors with local oysters to sell, besides plenty of music, jet skiers, and party goers.  Might be too much for us old folks.  We'll see.


Part 7

Just your standard Christmas day of snowmen, sledding, drying pine needles on the living room carpet.... not!

Hope you are each having a wonderful and memorable holiday, and I wanted to share some of the sea and sun with you.  The view from my office window is the "cute" town of La Paguera.  It is small and charming, mostly a weekend destination for Puerto Ricans.  There is a small university on an island, enough restaurants within walking distance ashore, tourist boats to charter or rent, and several scuba dive operations.

Michael and I spent two extremely memorable nights here ten years ago.  We did dive as well, but the memory Michael recalls the strongest is a dinner preparation of an entire Red Snapper, fried to perfection.  Guess what he ate last night for Christmas Eve?  Yes, that and a nice red wine.

Saturday morning we left Boqueron in the peaceful part of the day, and motored the short distance to Cabo Rojo which is the Southeastern tip of Puerto Rico.  The light house on the point was built in 1881 and is very pretty with slat gray walls and white trim.  Our anchorage was slightly protected in shallow water behind a mangrove covered arm of land.  MEREDIAN, the other Catana 431 joined us by late afternoon.  This anchorage is well suited for an early morning departure to grab the brief calm that occurs in the wee hours of the morning.

We pulled the anchor at first light and motored around the point.  The seas were as expected, but not too bad.  It was only eight miles to our waypoint, so even with 20 knot wind on the nose, and seas about 4-6 feet, it was not a problem.  MEREDIAN headed for a different anchorage, and I took the helm to work our way into the La Parguera town area which is protected by several small mangrove covered islands.

As we came around the last little island, we found ourselves right in front of the largest hotel on the waterfront, with a wedding in progress.  Usually anchoring requires much swearing and yelling.  I was trying to hold down the volume, but Michael can't hear me then.  We were too close for my liking to a moored sailboat, so we picked up the anchor and went back outside to try near another little island.  We tried twice, and disagreed as to whether the anchor was set.  Michael tried to snorkel it, but could not get to the bottom for confirmation.  Finally he decided to give is a good "pull" using the engines in reverse.  It is my theory that we pull it out of soft mud/sand/grass doing that maneuver.  I stand by that theory.  As we were preparing to lower the dinghy, I noticed the island coming toward us rapidly.  NOT GOOD!.

I yelled that we were dragging anchor and told Michael to start the engines, while I ran forward and began to haul in the anchor chain as fast as the windlass would go.  A near miss.  Or as we have come to call them, another AWAKENING.  She seems to give us these little lessons, sort of wake up calls.  If we survive, don't break anything big, and learn a lesson, it is OK by me!

We moved back into the first town area spot but slightly up the channel and successfully anchored.  I snorkeled the hook and found it buried nicely in muddy sand.  When the wind dies in the evening we swing to within a few yards of a mangrove island, but the depth is fine.  So, we have the music of bars, restaurants, waterfront vendors, and roosters in the morning too.  Very colorful little houses extend from the shore on pilings and many are decorated for the holiday.  We took a little ride in the dinghy this morning to enjoy the scene.

The dive operators are going to be busy this week with vacation crowd, but we'll try to get aboard.  Otherwise, the priority is another "whole fried Snapper" dinner.

Part 8

As we motored very slowly into the bay called Salinas we were greeted by two whisker faced locals.  I was on the starboard bow looking for a likely anchoring location when the two large greenish mammals surfaced just a few yards ahead of us.  We had never seen Manatee in the flesh, and there sure is a whole lot of flesh!  JIB of course set up his alien alert warning system bark.

We have been happily anchored for a few days now in Salinas which is a very popular hurricane hole area surrounded by mangrove islands.  The marina and small town are just a dinghy ride away and the bay has about thirty sailboats at anchor.  Yesterday afternoon the manatees spent hours near our boat, and three of them used our anchoring bridle to get a nice back rub.  JIB stood on the bow "talking" to them, then went to the stern and quietly slipped in the water with hopes of swimming.  Michael caught him at it though and wouldn't let the Poodle play with the vegetarian big dogs.

Our leisurely route has taken us along the Southern shore of Puerto Rico and soon we will jump off the coast and sail for the island of Vieques, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Our trip from La Paguera took us just a couple hours along the coast to Punta Jacinto, a bay with one resort called Copa Marina and several private homes on a scenic point.  We anchored between two mono hulls, SUNRUNNER and KATE.  Soon a vintage looking sailing vessel named YANKEE dropped anchor and entertained us with naked teenagers diving overboard.  Since we are in the middle of the holiday season there are locals coming for seaside party locations.  The island called Gilligan's is really popular here, with a ferry boat coming and going every couple hours.  We took the dinghy to a "creek" called Bellena which is just a cut between mangrove islands, but makes for a nice current of water.  I was able to walk upstream on the nice sand bottom, in chest deep water while JIB got his swim workout.

We had Paul, off SUNRUNNER, over for rack o lamb dinner, and enjoyed his sailing tales.  The next morning we were the only boat left anchored in the bay, and Michael arranged to have a radar tech come to check our dead radar.  Being in the USA makes this sort of project much simpler!  Brought the young man aboard and hoisted him up the mast to access the scanner.  It looks like a total replacement will be called for, probably at the end of this trip in the marina mid February.

We left Punta Jacinto at first light the next day and made our way along the shore line between reef areas to the second largest town on Puerto Rico, Ponce.  The marina is very nice and we took advantage of their great fuel dock to top up the tanks with diesel, before taking a mooring ball in the small bay.  Who should show up to help with that, but Paul.  So, we had SUNRUNNER off our bow, KATE in a slip nearby, and even GYPSY WIND was there too!  We met Ron and Beth in Turtle Cove and caught up with GYPSY WIND in the Dominican Republic again.  They went through a series of engine crisis and are just about recovered.

The malecon (waterfront boardwalk) is much of the boundary to this anchorage and the music played by multiple vendors there is LOUD and constant.  With New Years approaching, the party seems to go all night, and makes sleeping very difficult.  One night Paul joined us ashore for dinner and people watching.  There was one live band with three guitars and the Latin dancing was terrific.  Couples of all ages were on the dance floor and the place was jumpin'.

During the days we took cab rides to the heart of Ponce and toured the classic square and local market places besides museums.  New Years eve Paul joined us with Ron and Beth for a dinner out at Pico, the waterfront restaurant about ten miles away.

When we left Ponce our sail was brief but pleasant, to Coffin island about seven miles off shore.  There is a ferry boat to this lovely island which has a lighthouse and park setting.  We made a few attempts before finding a good enough anchorage to spend the night.  Ashore we hiked to the light house, through cactus jungle on a narrow trail.  JIB picked up a few thorns, and it was pretty hot, but we made the light, and got some photos.  Back aboard we entertained ourselves watching the local powerboat crowd hanging out on the beachfront.  When it came time for them all to head home to Ponce, we watched the comedy routine of one capt with an ego too large for his anchor.  He powered over the anchor repeatedly using the screaming windlass with abandon.  The sound of grinding chain was painful.  Finally the anchor "came loose" and the chain was hauled in easily.  WITHOUT AN ANCHOR!  The crew person on the bow had to hold up the last link on the chain to show the capt just exactly what he didn't have anymore!

We spent a peaceful night with a nearly full moon for light at 4:00 AM when we hauled our anchor successfully.  The idea is to make a passage in the early morning before the wind really picks up, as we are headed nose into it, and the waves are from the same direction making all things uphill.  Despite good advice from our friend Frank, Michael selected to sail a long tack out into the deeper water before heading for Salinas.  We ended up predictably over powered in rough conditions.  I scrambled to get a reef in the main and we tacked back toward shore.  With a reef to our downwind Port side we furled the Genoa, and started the engines.  The Port engine was fine, the Starboard had no water..... YIKES.  I took the helm on one engine and motor sailed while Michael changed the impeller.  Never a dull moment.

So, the manatee welcome as we approached  Salinas was just what we needed.  Now we have added to that with the arrival of KATE and GYPSY WIND too.  Ron and Beth came over for dinner last night and we'll both be headed toward Vieques in the next couple days.  I'm looking forward to our daily manatee visit again this afternoon.


Part 9

Yes!  We made it!  Isla Culebra!!  This was the goal that moved us out of our comfort zone in the Southern Bahamas.  I said Culebra for Christmas, but the holiday was not a deadline, and we now have a couple of weeks to enjoy Culebra and all the islands that surround it.  This has been a great learning trip, and we are still speaking to each other.

We motored from Salinas on Tuesday afternoon, once Michael solved the mystery of the belt.  Not the ones that don't fit us anymore, the new one for the Port engine.  When we left Florida five years ago we purchased and stored the recommended spare parts for engines and all things boat.  The port engine has been calling for a new belt, and when Michael took on the task, as always, it was not simple.  Even Capt Ron was scratching his head over this one.    However, the computer geek prevailed and we headed off on schedule.

Anchored overnight off a small mangrove cay in Jobos bay, with CAT SASS, and two other boats.  A nice steak dinner and red wine made for good sleeping until our 3:30AM wake up time.  We quietly pulled anchor and motored out the cut in the reef just after 4AM.  We have started to work these deals with me at the helm, and Michael below reading and interpreting the charts, both electronic and paper.  He steps up to the cockpit and gives me the changes in heading.  I watch the real world, water color, lights, boats, and the rest.  So far this seems to work well.

We motored head into the wind for a couple hours, passing KATE, and at daybreak the wind was still on the nose but very light, as predicted.  As we turned toward Vieques Island, the seas was very calm and the lights of Puerto Rico glowed brilliantly.  It was just spectacular.  Our arrival at the west end of Vieques Island was right before lunch, and we picked up a handy mooring.  The beach was calling, with palm trees and everything else a Poodle could want.  JIB and I swam the long way to shore and both felt much better.

The afternoon was spent snorkeling and resting.  I can't get over all the mountain views, after years of sailing the TCI where 40 feet is the tallest mountain.  The anchorage was delightful, and KATE arrived late afternoon, with CAT SASS just making it before dark.  We left Vieques on another flat calm sea day with little breeze.  Raised the main, but motor sailed to Cayo Luis Pena.  Our first Culebra stop!  We arrived to a deserted beach, a mooring ball, and sunshine.  WOW.  We three snorkeled ashore, and it was grand.  We celebrated with rack o lamb and White Star for dinner.

This morning we went snorkeling again, and I can say this is some of the best I've seen.  It is clear, clean, diverse coral and fish and warm water.  Heaven.  Can't wait to show it to my Grandkids before the developers get a shot to ruin the area.

A US Customs boat found us enjoying the day, and pulled over to board!  Very impressive new 40 foot boat with four huge outboards, and seven uniformed crew.  We got the classic hero of novels, the petite woman in charge, with her two big strong male subordinates.  Seems the latest scam is catamarans chartered in St Marten bringing wealthy but illegal aliens into the USA.

After breakfast and another snorkel we motored to the inside of Isla Culebra.  The island is only about 4 miles long, but has this protected inner bay called Ensenada Honda, and we are sitting on a mooring.  KATE is close by.  Headed into town soon.

Now would be your chance to visit!  After all, we are in the USA, a flight to San Juan, and a hop to Culebra.  You can even reach us by cell phone.  817-907-2171.

Part 10

Isla Culebra is truly a hidden jewel.  Even as a travel agent, and diver, I didn't hear much about it.  You hear about the "Virgin Islands", but it is always the US or British Virgins, never the Spanish Virgins.  Long ago it was said that the diving and snorkeling in the Virgin islands had gone to waste due to development and too many boat anchors etc.  But, the well kept secret of the Spanish Virgin Islands has saved these sweet beauties.  Much easier and cheaper to get to besides!  Fly to San Juan, and add a cheap one hour ride on a big ferry boat, and you are in Dewey, the town on Isla Culebra.  The island is only seven miles long and many of the roads are still dirt.  No big name hotels here, mostly little 2-4 room places.  Plenty of small and diverse places to eat, and three little markets.  If you really need something, there is always Puerto Rico an hour away by ferry, with Wal Mart, Cost Co etc

We are safely and comfortable swinging on a free mooring in Ensenada Honda, about 300 yards off Dewey, surrounded by the green hills of Culebra.  No loud music at night either.  KATE and GYPSY WIND are here, and there are about 20 boats in total.  We rented a jeep with Ron and Beth for a day.  Flaminco Beach is called the prettiest in the Caribbean, and whether we agree with that or not, it is truly beautiful.  The sand is powder white and the sea is azure and warm.  The four of us spent time shoulder deep, floating with the incoming waves.  Reminded Beth and me of our childhood in Southern California, only the water is clearer and warmer.

Hiked a trail over to Tamarindo Beach and went snorkeling too.  Then we drove the jeep for at least two miles before finding the perfect bar for rum drinks.

Michael and I went diving the last two days with Walter and his Culebra Divers.  He is Swiss and has been here with his wife Monica for quite a while.  The conditions were rough, plenty of surge and current off Cayo Raton, but the fish life and coral was super.  No big walls here like TCI, but more diverse sponge and coral life.  I especially like the Blue Bell Tunicates.

Today is boat work while we wait for a weather window to take AWAKENING to Culebrita.  That is the island here with the oldest lighthouse in the Caribbean, natural "jacuzzi" bath rock formations, great snorkel and diving too.

Meanwhile, the laundry, generator issues, bilge pump switch, crusty speed indicator wheel etc

Boats in marinas are like horses living in stalls, bicycles on racks, and dogs on leash.  This is not the best part of boating.  However, it is part of the deal of owning any boat, that thing about always having stuff broken, throwing money down the hole in the water your boat makes.  "We be boatin' now" as the saying goes.

Yesterday we had a fine day sail from Vieques Island to mainland Puerto Rico, near the town of Fajardo, and into Marina Del Rey, the largest marina in the Caribbean.  It may be average by Southern California standards, but it looks big too me.  We are in a slip and starting the projects list to deal with as much in the last 14 days of this trip, as possible.

Better to tell you of the fun we had our week on Vieques.  Sun Bay was certainly a great spot to spend our time.  The mooring was so nice, with a tiny "shoreleave" beach for JIB just a kyack ride or swim away, and the big beach where we parked the rental car and anchored the dinghy.  The snorkeling was wonderful and we went diving four days.  Nan Sea Charters, Dave Evens business, picked us up on AWAKENING and we did two tank dives just a short distance from Sun Bay.  The coral and sponge life was dramatic, healthy and diverse.  We saw several large green moray eels, southern sting ray, turtle, nurse sharks and several fish we had not seen before.  I found a nudibrach that even Dave had not seen before, called a Leather Back Doris.    We saw a Soap Fish and I saw a Night Sargent.  When you've been diving over 35 years, it is very cool to still find new things.

Speaking of new, JIB has learned a new trick.  Aboard he has a small hard plastic dinner bowl kept under the navigation station table with his water bowl, out of the way.  Sometimes he empties the bowl and I don't know he is out of food.  Since his dry food is free choice, he should not have an empty bowl.  I decided to teach him to bring me the bowl when it was empty.  The first day, I rattled his food canister and asked him to bring the bowl.  Did the same thing the second day.  The third day he brought Michael the bowl when it was empty.  Yesterday JIB brought me the bowl while I was sitting in the cockpit reading, and again in bed last night.  I think he has figured out the deal.

We return to the states Feb 14, and I sure hope JIB remembers his agility moves, and that I can get back in shape enough to run him, as we have AKC nationals in Ohio at the end of March.