Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 234- Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra, PR

We knew it was time to move on when we saw the thick growth on our anchor chain. We are now in a gorgeous spot inside a very protective reef on the eastern side of Culebra. Over the past week, we were able to accomplish a lot of tasks that had been put off for a while. For example Pablo got a haircut (way overdue), from a meticulous barber, straight razor and all. His hair is the shortest it has ever been and he looks a lot like all the locals. The amenities (fairly reliable, fully stocked market, good restaurants, resort swimming pools, great beaches) were so plentiful that Pablo and I almost felt that this shouldn't count as cruising. The very wet dingy rides between the boat and town did dampen that thought quickly. By this morning were ready to leave the "hustle and bustle" of the town of Dewey to hang out in a quiet spot for a bit. We found the people of Culebra very friendly and passionate about their island. There is a sizeable ex-pat community here and a mixture of tourists from mainland PR and the mainland US (though it did seem disproportionately high from MA). There are many fabulous anchorages around Culebra to pick from. We may spend more time exploring them at some point.
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An iguana taxing to the airport terminal

Another drive in-back out gas station

El Eden, a 'high end' restaurant, "can't judge a book by its cover!"

Pool time (because we don't get enough time in water)

Lunch view at Flamenco Beach
Mia overseeing Pablo's mooring inspection at Bahia de Almodovar
Bahia de Almodovar from above

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 230- Culebra, Puerto Rico

I have been reminded by several  folks that it has been a while since the last post.  Poor internet access and a busy social schedule put blog entries on the back burner.  We arrived in Culebra, Puerto Rico one week ago, to meet up with a friends, fulfilling the only real commitment on our calendar this year.  We've had the pleasure of exploring the island of Culebra with the Candell's, good friends from home.  Not only were they kind enough to bring us mail, critical boat parts and a replacement camera but also willing to write a guest blog.  Doesn't get much better than that!


23 February 2012

Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico

Guest Blog Entry

Larry Candell

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Larry Candell, a close work colleague of Pablo Hopman, and family friends with the entire Hopman Family. When the Hopmans  announced their plans to take a sailing adventure, my family (my wife Amy, and our 14 year old daughter Allison and 11 year old son Jeff) decided that a rendezvous somewhere in the Caribbean would be a great adventure of our own. We took pains to select our destination, and to plan our intense journey. On the 18th of February, 2012, we began our passage to Puerto Rico. The passáge (as we learned to pronounce it from Mia) was challenging at many levels: a cab ride to the airport, a 6 hour air flight to San Juan (with a connection mind you! Through Baltimore!) and after only two days to recover, a short flight to the island of Culebra off the coast of PR.  We then walked ¾ of a mile from the airport to our hotel, Villa Boheme, on Ensenada Honda Bay, and within an hour, our connection with the Hopmans was complete as they pulled up to our dock in their much heralded dinghy. At that moment, we knew that our grueling trip was worth it!

The Hopmans are remarkably at ease in their Caribbean paradise. Whether it was the evening drinks on board Borealis, a day sail to a perfect deserted beach on the tiny island of Culebrita, or body surfing at Flamenco Beach (rated the second nicest in all the Caribbean!), the Hopmans really know how to enjoy themselves, have an unusual ability to work together as a family (though don’t let her cute looks deceive you, Remi is a bit of a slave driver J), and were the ideal travel companions.  It was especially fun to watch our kids get along so well. Apparently, they have lot’s of practice: Everywhere we went, they would bump into other sailing families they have met throughout the islands. Far from the image of isolation, they seem to have as much, if not more community than most of us back home.

Culebra was a wonderful place to spend some time, and I would not be surprised if we return someday, but catching up with the Hopmans, and getting a small taste of their life at sea was easily the highlight of our trip. Now for the long struggle to get home. It will literally take hours!
Captain Allison

At the famous Flamenco Beach
Playing off the boat in Culebrita

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 221 -Buck Island, St. Croix

After a couple of days of catching up on all kinds of goodies from the US, we're getting ready to move on. We had an amazing meal at Tavern 1844, run by a New England couple. Get this, they fly in Maine lobster, mussels and oysters and make incredible burgers with them. The infrastructure is much more developed here than other islands we've been to. There is no way something like that could be done reliably in most of the other islands we visited. Also, this is the first place we've seen fresh milk since leaving Virginia. We rented a car for a day and had quite an adventure. The custom is to drive on the left here, even though the steering wheel is on the left. Surprisingly Pablo only had a few "Oh Shit!" moments. We had a nice time driving around the island and found several nearly impassable roads. We spent today at Buck Island, an underwater national park 5 miles from Christiansted. The snorkeling was great and the beach beautiful. There were a few day trippers here earlier but now we have the anchorage to ourselves. Can't figure out why there are not more cruisers here.
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School of Blue Tang

Elkhorn coral in the background and brain coral in the foreground
Listed as scenic route Highway 78 on the map
Not sure which stimulus grant provided the pavement for the middle 5 miles

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 218- Christiansted, St. Croix

We arrived in St. Croix mid day on Saturday.  The passage was nice and fairly uneventful, the winds were consistent, the nights moonlit.  It did get really hot during the middle of the day.  The boat had to be closed while underway since waves were breaking on deck.  And the fact that we couldn’t get out of the sun as much as we usually do in the middle of the day made the heat more noticeable.   We did have a little bit of excitement when we were intercepted by the US Coast Guard about 10 nm from St. Croix.  We thought we would be boarded and inspected for sure but were told to have a nice day after a bunch of questions.  Guess we didn’t meet the profile they were looking for.
We’ve noticed that the nights are cooler now that we are farther north.  We were as far south as 11 deg N latitude in Grenada, now we are 17 deg N. (For reference Boston is about 42 deg N.)  We actually used covers last night as the temperature dipped into the mid 70’s.  Albeit it was only a sheet but still chilly enough to need covers at night.  The last time we used covers was about three months ago.
The water is incredibly clear here.  We can see the bottom in over 70ft of water.  We look forward to snorkeling on some of the many reefs. 
So far St. Croix is a pleasant surprise, the pace is very low key and in general things are understated compared to our expectations.  We decided to stop here for inexpensive clean fuel and because it was a convenient intermediate point before meeting friends in Culebra, Puerto Rico.   We assumed that it would be similar to the other US Virgin islands, which we’ve heard are over run with cruisers and charter boats.  There seem to be no charter boats here and only a few cruisers.  The prices for food are the least expensive we’ve seen in the Caribbean, similar to home.  And we seem to be able to get anything we can dream of.  It is a little shocking, though, to see huge American pick-up trucks everywhere and we were told that it was WAY too far to walk to the market a mile away.  We were a bit surprised not to find efficient public transportation (another indication we are back in the US).  In general we have been very impressed with public transportation in the Caribbean.  Buses for the most part are privately owned and operated with only fares being regulated.  This makes for an incredibly efficient system, which we’ve found on most other islands.  For example in Grenada the buses are vans (about the size of a mini van at home) that are packed FULL of people, 21 was the most we counted on one van.  Though comical at times, the efficiency of moving people from place to place is unbeatable.  It is hard to walk more than a block without a bus or two trying to compete to get you aboard. 
As we were returning to the boat yesterday, a couple of guys from a sport fishing boat offered us some of the wahoo they had just caught.  I thought he was joking when he handed me a 10 lb bag of wahoo steaks.  I packed as much as I could into our tiny freezer compartment and cooked four big steaks for dinner.  There was still quite a bit left over so we offered it to fellow cruisers.  It was delicious, what a treat!

The Danish influence makes Christiansted architecture distinct and colorful

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 216- Grenada to St. Croix

Still on passage to St. Croix. It has been nice and uneventful. The winds are fairly steady but the waves a little confused at times. Confused waves make for rolly conditions. We were visited by a large pod of dolphins at dinner time yesterday. It is always a joy to watch them play. We'll make landfall in St. Croix later today.
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 214- Grenada to St. Croix

We're underway on a 400nm passage from Grenada to St. Croix. We made 91 nm in the first 12 hours under a nice broad reach with 20 knot winds and 5 ft waves. Everyone is excited for new adventures but still getting used to be underway for an extended period.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 213 -St. George, Grenada

There is a lot to do in Grenada!  We spent a few days exploring the anchorages on the south side of the island (True Blue and Clark's Court) and since have been in a marina in the capital city harbor.  The last time we were in a marina with water, power, real showers and ability to step directly onto a dock was more than two months ago.  It has been a treat to be able to wash the boat with fresh water inside and out.  And it gave Pablo a chance to do maintenance (change the oil, tune the rigging, fix the leak in the dingy).  We've met more kids here than anywhere else in our travels.  It is great to see the kids communicate in various languages without much difficulty.  There are kids from Finland, France, Slovenia, South Africa, Italy, Germany to name a few places.

Grenada has a lot to offer to cruisers.  We really enjoyed the annual local sailboat regatta off Grand Anse beach.  One of the events included a Caribbean twist, beaching the boat, running ashore, drinking rum and then returning to the course.  Another favorite was the tour of Rivers Rum, the oldest rum distillery in Grenada.  Which supposedly produces some of the strongest rum in the Caribbean.  The machinery is simple water mill driven in use for several hundred years.  The output is so small that it is not even shipped to the other side of the island.  Being here for Grenada's Independence Day was another highlight.  Grenadians displayed their pride for their country by "dressing down" in red, green and gold, the colors of the flag.

We're saying good bye to our good friends on sv Arwen.  They are heading back up the island chain while we're heading to St. Croix.  By far the best thing about this trip has been the people we have met.  And a hard part is saying good bye.  We spent six weeks exploring with the crew of Arwen and couldn't of had better company.  Really hope our paths will cross again and bring more adventures together.

A cool bar/ grocery store/ local hangout in Woburn

Local regatta

School kids "dressed down" for Independence Day

Sugar cane processing at Rivers Rum

The goopy banana in the toes of the monkey was a little much for Pablo

The escape after he scored two bananas at once