Friday, 27 March 2015

Leaving St Thomas and onto Culebra

The Spanish Virgins 

Currently in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Leaving St Thomas and onto Culebra.
Friday 13th lived up to its reputation it turned out to be pretty awful and very expensive.
We had checked out yesterday from St Thomas (12/0/3) so we could make an early start to our next destination Culebra PR not a great distance and the weather had now settled down and the sea swell would be under 2 metres but very overcast never mind.
So off we go through the cut St Thomas from Frenchtown at 08:45 the seaplanes hadn’t started to come in yet, I do get a little nervous sometimes lol.

A very dull day departing St Thomas
A yacht in dry dock 
As we were heading West up went the parasailor perfect for the conditions under 20 knots just off our starboard quarter, we were flying along at 8 knots at first and having a nice smooth ride. A little over 2 hours into the journey the wind dropped a little but we were constantly watching the storms behind us on the radar we could see the rain in the distance over St Thomas.
So by around 11:00 we were almost at our destination and the storms were coming towards us we thought why get the sail wet lets snuff it in plenty of time in case the winds increased (we only had 12 knots by then).
Don went forward just about reached the rope to snuff while I stood with the sheets ready to release when “bang” we watched the sail rip apart and poor Don had a heck of a job to bring in the sail. We were very upset knowing that at the time the wind had only reached 14 knots by then and we went through all the right moves so we know we had done nothing wrong. When we reached Culebra we checked the sail and where its parted is at the stitching but the sail from the bottom has ripped the fabric pretty bad. 

So the 13th was a horrible day and very expensive if the Parasailor can’t be replaced under warranty.

The Spanish Virgins Culebra PR:
13:15 18 17N 65 17W dropped the hook. Calm conditions but very overcast.
 We missed this place last time due to the weather and swell coming in from the south so as other cruisers had recommended it for the beaches and the big anchorage we entered a huge bay. The bay is around a mile and a half in with various reefs each side which look stunning. At the end of the bay are a few hotels and the Dinghy Dock restaurant and bar. Some fellow cruisers were pretty close to us from Beyzano, Rob and Rhian we met them and they helped us with directions to the airport so we could check in and buy the cruising licence for the US. We had called the customs as required with all our details and were told to go to the office.

The Dinghy dock bar, it does get quite busy
Tarpon outside the bar
As it was pouring down we took a taxi to the airport but when we arrived there were 3 couples before us and only one guy doing everything. He asked who had called beforehand as we had but said he couldn’t deal with all of us, another couple had come in since. Well we waited for what must have been a couple of hours then paid our 38 $ for a year and then walked back to the dock. Considering we have checked in other islands in cafe’s in a few minutes ourselves it makes this a bit of a joke.

Well Rob and Rhian were still in the bar they introduced us to folks from a couple of yachts that they knew and we had a smashing evening eating drinking and exchanging stories and details. Pity we didn’t have the camera with us we didn’t return to the boat before we met the others.

Weekend madness: Well we know from previous trips in this part of the world that the folks from Puerto Rico know how to party so on Saturday the whole place filled up with mostly powerboats playing loud music and fun and frolics too. We were sandwiched between a huge catamaran with lots of folks onboard and another power boat just next to us which left their noisy generator on all night long.

The island is pretty small just over 11 miles wide and roughly 3 miles long has no local transport so we walked quite a lot, we noticed a lot of golf buggies around so on Tuesday 17th we took advantage to rent one.

Our very noisy and slow transport for the day but it beats walking
Wow, the buggies are noisy and very slow, you can feel every bump in the road and there are lots of them. First of all we went to the east of the island as far as we could the turned back and went west, there are only 2 main roads so its very easy. 
Playa Larga on the north east side

Good to see that the turtles can still come and still be safe
We found out that the hospital and pharmacy are closed due to some dispute so who know what happens if anyone is seriously ill. At one side of the island is a very famous beach named Flamenco which we thought would be quiet being a weekday but it was pretty busy in some parts. 

The island used to be used a lot by the military for target practice and there are a couple of tanks still here one of them is on the beach, both have been painted in very bright colours. They say that Flamenco beach is one of the best in the world but we don’t agree we have been to much nicer. The views while we travelled about  are pretty good, some of the houses are pretty big and normally pitched high on the hillside to take advantage of the views.

Flamenco beach

People camp at the beach
Its a very small airport 
Some of the houses have great views 

This is a view of part of the reef at the entrance of the bay

Don washing the sand off his feet
The information centre very "arty"
Thankfully the internet is pretty fast here and we were able to pick it up on the boat so getting weather forecasts was easy without having to go ashore and to update the blog.
The wind had gone we had water like glass
A little way from the dinghy dock is a old lifting bridge which obviously doesn't any more we took a ride through on the dinghy to the bay on the other side to take a peek.
Now de funked bridge
Even if it did lift this is there just a few metres alongside
We found this fella throwing big rocks in the water
We noticed a decent forecast for our next stop which is Vieques another 23 ish mile trip Should be good.

Glenys and Don
Agua Therapy

Monday, 16 March 2015

The US Virgins, Isles that is

So we departed from the BVI'S just a short distance through the channel.

Looking over the cemetery to St John bay 

Motor sailed to St John US Virgins, I’m afraid the wind had deserted us normally the channel between the island funnels it so its always good sailing, today the wind only topped at 14 knots for a few moments then down to 6 or 8.

Our plan was to anchor just outside the bay, I was on the bow ready to drop when a park ranger told us we couldn’t anchor there, he said to go inside theres room, well yes there was some room but we dropped the anchor and ended up grounded and stuck sitting on the rudder not the keel. We had tried there on previous visits but the bottom must have been churned so so much the anchors just pull through the sand. The only way out was to gun it while dragging ourselves with the anchor. We were not amused so it was back to Caneel Bay to try and find an available mooring ball when we passed earlier there were none free. Eventually we did but then it was a long dinghy ride into the bay to check in. The dinghy dock was pretty full and the folks from the big charter boats had tied up their dinghies so tight its very difficult to get in or out. So we are now officially checked in 2 forms filled in with the boat and our details, fingerprints passports stamped and photos done. It seems very silly that we have to check out of the “US” and check in with the same in Puerto Rico governed by the US  and out before even getting to the US.

We didn’t fancy the staying on the ball in Caneel as the fast water taxis and ferries make it very uncomfortable.  
Francis Bay one of our favourite anchorages, just a short 25 minute motor sail away, there is nothing there but mooring balls and a few beaches. One of the beaches is  reached by road but its a long way from anywhere by car but can be a popular place for family picnics at the weekends. We make sure we have a ball out of reach of most swimmers apart from the turtles. As we picked up a ball I noticed a turtle pop up its head to say “Hi”. I counted 37 boats some power some sail here most on balls the rest at anchor in deeper water, the reef runs at the entrance across the middle which should but down the swell from the channel and the ferries, its a big bay so we still have our privacy we mostly choose balls well away from other boats.

February 9th 
We fancied a change of scenery so off we head for Coral Bay which is on the south side of the island making our way tacking several times through the Sir Francis Bay channel doing our best to stay out of the many charter yachts and fast ferries. I did manage not to mention the “racing” with another yacht going in the same direction although we did pass him even with the sails reefed in.

Lets just say Coral bay was very busy packed with yachts at anchor, its a deep bay with varying depths and the dinghy dock is always full. We went ashore to the famous Skinny legs bar to eat and have a drink or two. As it was so busy in Coral bay we decide to leave for Water Melon Bay which meant us going back into the channel, its almost certain to have lots of wind and activity going through.

Water Melon Bay has around 15 mooring balls all of which were soon taken up. There is a small reef and a beach which is next to the road while we were there it always seemed pretty busy. Its a lovely spot well protected from most of the winds so we just chilled out watching the turtles and snorkelled on the reefs.

12th February Off we go again all be it not very far just 15 miles to St Thomas. Although this island is pretty big the places available to us are limited as a lot of the anchorages are quite shallow and not very well sheltered. The obvious choices with the swell being from the north for us are Red Hook Bay but thats small and always busy with ferries churning up the water and not enough room to swing or Charlotte Amalie. 
So Charlotte Amalie it is for us, this is one huge bay which the cruise ships, ferries, day charter boats and cruisers come in oh and I almost forgot the sea planes.

We were so close to the dinghy dock just the other side of the big cat
 Last time we came we noticed that there is a small marina in Frenchtown which has mooring balls just outside however its in between Hassel Island where the seaplanes and ferries constantly pass through. Lets say at times the planes land very close to us and it does get very noisy at times. Its amazing how some of these planes manage to miss some of the “crazy” folks on jet-skis and boats speeding through the channel.

So its a very short ride in the dinghy to the dock for us and we can either walk into town in about 25 minutes or get one of the safari busses which constantly run by.

However when the cruise ships come in sometimes 3 here and more in Crown Bay the taxi’s and busses are full.

Some of the alley's are very well done
Just a few cruise ships in this day when we took a walk to the supermarket at the other end of town

One of the "party boats" which went past most days with a live steel band on board, at least we heard it coming, Looks like a shed.
I'm afraid this pic doesn't do the main shopping street justice, the cruise ships didn't come in this day
The park a shady place to relax
We quite like the town centre when its not so busy but its lined with jewellers all touting for business one of which we went into last time and into the VIP free lounge with free WiFi, telephone calls, 4 computers and anything you like to drink. 
So of course we took advantage of the offers, in fact we did visit a few times, we were not hassled to buy anything. We met two very nice couples one of which live in Puerto Rico, when we go there if its convenient we may meet up again. The others Jason and Kelly from Canada were on a cruise ship going through the Caribbean, we had a great afternoon with both couples and shared a few drinks.

I did mention earlier in the blog about the autopilot failure, Don did rig up a temporary switch but that wasn’t to successful so we searched for various places for help but it wasn’t vey forthcoming having walked for miles to no avail.
Don has narrowed down our autopilot problem and found that the part we need is not available off the shelf anywhere in the Caribbean, all the dealers return the complete unit back to the factory, ours from the UK so he managed to speak with the technical folks and persuaded to get them to send just the clutch to us via Fedex to here. 

19th February
As we are here for so long to get off the boat for a while is great and as we did a tour of St Thomas last time we decided to take the bus to Red Hook Bay then take the ferry to St John. When we were in St John we couldn’t go too far in the dinghy and even when you go there the dinghy docks are always very busy so the ferry was just a fast 12- 15 minute trip. St John, Cruz Bay has the ferry dock a nice town square with a bandstand, a taxi rank and lots of places to eat. We just wandered through the streets checking out the shops and ate in a waterside place.

24th February 
Still in St Thomas, waiting for parts, so much for the delivery yesterday, Fedex tracking says that the package is in Memphis TN and has been there since the early hours of Sunday morning, it also says the weather problems in the USA are causing delays.
So here we wait. Don is trying to tidy up cables in the autopilot system we took the bus to the shopping mall on the way to Red Hook to buy cable and plugs, Im helping to test them.

Thursday, Well the parts arrived “brilliant” I removed them from the box and Don shook his head and mentioned they didn’t look right. So off came the motor again and he took it to bits, its very annoying when Don had given the exact part numbers on our unit to find out the wrong bits were sent out. Another telephone call to the UK and Lewmar agreed to exchange the parts but there was good news the new ones are cheaper and they would be sent out ASAP. So here we sat waiting and only when we hadn’t heard anything via telephone or e-mail Don called again. No one knew if they had been sent or not but the person who would have sent them went into hospital on Friday. Grrrr! Monday arrived still no news and no answer by telephone then we found out the person we needed was away for a meeting. Tuesday came and then we were told they would be sent that day, its now Thursday and the tracking from Fedex said it would be here today, no way according to them its still on its way.

Ok its now late Monday and yes at last the bits are here correct this time, Tuesday Don fitted them and tested them. So all we need now is a weather window as its been blowing hard Friday is looking good the seas should be more settled now.

Ok next stop is the Island of Culebra part of Puerto Rico

Glenys and Don
Agua Therapy