Saturday, January 19, 2008

Culebra, the Spanish Virgins

Hi from Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgins. We arrived 2 weeks ago and have been thoroughly enjoying our time here. It has the essentials that cruisers look for; protected anchorages, markets for provisioning, internet, etc and all on a beautiful little island.
Our depth sounder hasn't been working and was sent back to the states for repair while we were in Vieques. So here's Jim doing it the old fashioned way, with a lead line. Thanks to our friend Reed for making it for us. I inched the boat up into the anchorage and Jim measured the depth. Merengue has a shallow draft that allows us to go places many sailboats can't.

This sign sums up the feeling in Culebra. Very laid Back! It doesn't have the down island feel you'll find farther down in the Caribbean because after all, it is part of the U.S. and very Americanized. But there aren't big resorts and fast food restaurants to take away from the small-town charm.
We rented a jeep for a day to explore the island which is only 7 miles long. Here's some shots of the beaches of Culebra....... Zoni Beach

Tamarindo Beach
View from a hilltop road with Puerto Rico on the horizon.

Carlos Rosario Beach

Flamenco Beach
We are currently anchored behind a reef that is just outside the main harbor. We just calculated and have traveled almost 4,100 N.M. since leaving Milwaukee. And small world, the sailboat anchored next to us is from Traverse City, MI. Another Great Lakes sailor!
The wind is over 20 knots and the seas outside are up so no snorkeling and no heading to other islands. Oh well, guess we'll just have to hang out here for a few more days:)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Vieques, the Spanish Virgins

Sailing to Vieques, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands off of Puerto Rico.
We arrived a few days before Christmas.

Green Beach on the west shore. We have always wanted to visit here and Vieques did not disappoint us. It's a beautiful, laid-back island.

Green Beach is clear water and a beautiful strip of sand edged with palm trees.
Mérengue anchored off Green Beach.

View of the town of Isabel Segunda from Fort Conde de Mirasol which has been restored as an art museum.

Just a day at the beach!
The beach at Sun Bay near the town of Esperanza. We spent the holidays here. First time we ever went to the beach on Christmas Day! For New Years Eve, the town closes the main street and sets up a stage. The bands started at 9:00 p.m. with the last one scheduled to go on at 3:15a.m! We left the festivities shortly before midnight so we could watch the fireworks from our boat.

Waterspout forming a couple of miles offshore. The conditions were right this day and we saw 2 separate spouts form over a period of about 10 minutes.
After leaving Esperanza, we sailed east to an anchorage in Ensenada Honda. Originally part of the U.S. military land on Vieques it is undeveloped and peaceful. But the water was full of jellyfish, so no swimming there! The next day, Jan 3rd, we left to sail to the island of Culebra.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Puerto Rico 2007

November 15, 2007 and the weather forecast is good for our passage to Puerto Rico. After 5 months in one place it feels good to be moving again. The trip along the north coast of the Dominican Republic is typically done at night to take advantage of the night lee. We leave at 3:00 p.m. in the company of 4 other boats. We alternate being on watch for 2 hours at a time but I don't think either of us slept. It was too beautiful a night to miss and too exciting to be underway again.
The next morning we evaluated our position and re-checked the weather reports. We had the option of pulling in at Samana, DR or heading straight through to Puerto Rico. The weather report looked good for going straight through and all the boats that we were traveling with agreed that they would prefer to continue rather than risk getting weathered-in in Samana. Bailey was the only one not enjoying the trip. After 5 months at anchor, she got seasick that first night. The day was beautiful and we motor-sailed making good time. By late afternoon, rainclouds rolled off of Puerto Rico which is fairly typical. It rained hard but the wind stayed down. The lightening was far off in the distance which was our main concern. By daybreak the rain had passed and the weather continued to improve. We arrived in Mayaguez under a sunny sky 47 hours after leaving Luperon.

The U.S. influence is evident in Puerto Rico. New cars, fast food, cell phones and U.S. prices greeted us. Beer in Puerto Rico $3.50. Quillmes and Brahma Beer in the DR is about $1. Welcome to the U.S.A!

After Mayaguez we moved down the coast to Boqueron. Boqueron is a little tourist town and a favorite stop for cruisers. Sleepy and quiet during the week it comes alive on the weekends. The music doesn't stop until the wee hours of the morning. It was already decked out for the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving here and enjoyed a turkey dinner at one of the hotels with friends from 4 other boats.

Food stands in Boqueron feature fresh clams and mussels. You can see them here piled on the counter.

Jim, Lynn and Randy (High States) busy using the internet at Galloway's Restaurant. The restaurant was closed on this day but the WiFi was still available so they're sitting on benches using overturned garbage cans for tables. When you're cruising, you make do.

We rented a car and drove to the north coast for a visit to the Arecibo Observatory, home of the world's largest radio telescope. One of it's functions is to monitor sounds from outer space. You might recognize it from the movie Contact.
Is that a spaceship I see flying by?

The lighthouse at Cabo Rojo. We hiked up with friends Randy & Lynn (High States) and Kathy & Kerry (Bellagio).

The anchorage at Gilligan's Island. This is a beautiful spot to swim, dinghy to the beach or just hang out in the cockpit with a good book.

Taking a swim under the bough! (Ho Ho Ho!)

The lighthouse on Isle de Muertes. The hike to the top of the island turned into a sprint when swarms of mosquitos started chasing us. We were with our friends Hans and Kristen (Whisper) who happened to arrive on the same day.

The island is also called Coffin Island. Legend has it that a pirate buried his love in a glass coffin on the island. Other pirates thought he buried treasure with her so they began searching for it. Each suffered an untimely death!

The view from the lighthouse with Whisper (left) and Merengue at anchor together. We spent 2 days here snorkeling, hiking and giving Merengue's bottom a good scrub. The entire island is a park and very quiet during the week. We had the whole place to ourselves!

Hans and Kristen

The beautiful mountains rising above the anchorage in Salinas.
They looked like velvet!

Bailey relaxing at the helm........

...........and relaxing on deck.

Another car trip, this time to Old San Juan.

The wall surrounding Old San Juan is magnificent!

There are statues throughout the city, one more beautiful than the last.

Touring "El Morro" or Fort San Felipe del Morro which was built from 1540-1783 and guards the entrance to San Juan harbor.

The streets of Old San Juan.

Rum tasting at Casa Don Q.

Dinner at the Old Harbor Brewery than across the street to Carli's to listen to Jazz Piano.

Another tour of Bacardi and no photography inside, please....?

Mérengue's route to Puerto Rico through the Virgin Islands.