AWAKENING log Winter ‘06/’07
Forty years is just too long between visits. Since the
mother and son reunion in
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
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
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
We made it!
Our morning on
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
The DR is the most mountainous of all islands in the
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
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
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
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
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.
It was a rough night, but we are safely anchored. Left the marina at Ocean World in the
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
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
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
Wish you were here.
I think it is Thursday, so this must be
When I set the goal of sailing to
In my first log report this trip we had sailed to the
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
Just as Michael planned, we arrived outside the
After lunch, we motored peacefully along the Western
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
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
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
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.
As we motored very slowly into the bay called
We have been happily anchored for a few days now in
Our leisurely route has taken us along the Southern
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
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,
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
When we left
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
So, the manatee welcome as we approached
Yes! We made it! Isla Culebra!! This was the goal that moved us out of our comfort zone in the
We motored from
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
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
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
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
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.
Hiked a trail over to
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
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
Better to tell you of the fun we had our week on Vieques.
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