Sunday, December 9, 2012

Culebra - Part 2

As we carried on with our visit to Culebra, following Thanksgiving the crowds left the island and we pretty much felt like we had the place (almost) to ourselves; after Sunday that is.

Since we last visited two years ago, there are more mooring balls but they are still all free - sweet!

November 25

Sunday morning arrived and we knew the bays would be filling up with last-day holiday makers from Puerto Rico; Tamarindo beach on Culebra was no exception.  We headed up to the bay bright and early and were the third boat on a mooring ball.  However, as the morning progressed we had front row seats to the technique of stern anchoring to the beach/breeze and the ensuing raft up.  By the time they were finished there were about 15 boats in the bay at Tamarindo and we weren't too impressed by the guy who rafted up to a boat half his size and then tossed an anchor out the side of his boat leaving no room for our scope on the ball - just a little too close for comfort.

We have not yet swung our stern towards this anchored boat.
With all that excitement out of the way, we enjoyed our time at Tamarindo and the short hike over the hill to Flamenco Beach on the north side of Culebra.  Apparently The Discovery Channel rated Playa Flamenco the second most beautiful beach in the world and it is not hard to see why.

Not forgetting Culebra's history as a bomb practice range for the U.S. Navy there are still unusual sights on the beach.

We couldn't resist naming this guy with delusions of grandeur as "the Puerto Rican Army".
Not sure how I managed to pass up getting a picture, but tucked in by the parking lot for Flamenco is a kiosk stand with the requisite souvenirs, bars and cantinas.  The whole place is built on a wooden platform that keeps the sand at bay, the food is great and running around is a whole passle of cats and chickens.  It's a weird mix of tourism and local charm and with Spanish the predominant language along with the music you feel a bit like you've been plunked down in another world.  Loved it!

November 26 & 27

We loved Tamarindo so much we decided to stay a second night.  On the first we were completely to ourselves after the weekenders pulled up and left, and on the second we had just two other cruising cats in the bay with us.  A hike up the west coast of the next bay and rugged Rosario Beach this time and then back over the hill to Flamenco for a swim and a cold beer.  A pretty laid back Culebra day.

On Tuesday we thought we should actually do some sailing and so we headed out for a little excursion around the cays that run up between Culebra and Puerto Rico.  Up went the main sail on the mooring ball (super easy in the light winds) and as we headed west out of the 'protection' of the bay we soon discovered that there wasn't much to be protected from.  The winds climbed to a whopping 8 knots, the swell topped out at about 3 feet and we bobbed along making 3 knots if we were lucky.  Change of plans was called for so we fired up the engines (to charge the batteries, don't you know) and continued on our little jaunt.  Circling around Cayo Lobo and then Cayo Lobito we checked out the minuscule anchorages on the rocky crags and were caught up with Don Street's description on the back of our chart that with the ground quickly sloping away, if you didn't set your two anchors well, you'd drag all the way to Puerto Rico - not a pleasant thought for the middle of the night.  So far as we could see, there's wasn't much room to swing a cat of the four-legged kind, let alone a sailboat.  We carried on until we'd pretty much circumnavigated the cays and came back up to the bay on the south-western shore of Luis Pena, the largest island just off to the west of Culebra.  Two day moorings are available there and the snorkelling in this bay is great.  Apparently, later in the year the island is a nesting site of Boobies that fly all the way from the Galapagos Islands so as a nature reserve it is unpopulated and off-bounds for part of the year.

We finished off the day back at Culebra on a ball by the ferry dock.  The high-speed ferry comes and goes without too much excitement but I tell you, almost better than watching TV is watching the fun of loading up the ferry with the trucks and cars that come and go to the island (yes, we're lame and it doesn't take much to amuse us.)  Even the garbage trucks come over from the big island and then return at night.  It's quite an operation manoeuvring the big trucks, including dump trucks and cement trucks, in the tight space by the shops to reverse back onto the ferry where they are packed in tightly for the crossing.  One poor fellow must have put his big delivery truck on and off the ferry four times as the loading foreman figured out the best configuration of the trucks and cars that wanted to make that last crossing of the evening.  At one point there was a horrendous crunching sound, followed by lots of shouting and we can only surmise that the last spot in the parking area by the road is not the premium location.