Thursday, March 26, 2015

Yo-Yo Cruising

This is what Henry has been calling it ... Our back-and-forth expeditions that seem to start and end in St. Thomas.

We arrived back in St. Thomas with the big boys.
Two days ago we completed the circuit we made to Dominican Republic which began on January 21st and put 590 miles under our keels. It was a circuit of highs - visiting with Ottawa friends in the DR and really discovering more of Puerto Rico, and lows - recurrent equipment problems and difficult weather, but we know that this last couple of months has really been what cruising is all about. The other noteworthy theme was that this has been a time of meeting up with other boats and getting to know some people that we will see over the next few months as we make our way down to Grenada for hurricane season. As we're all first timers on the way south, I've nicknamed us the class of 2015.

So, back on St. Thomas we were and wasn't it just fabulous to see everyone at the CYOA docks once more. We caught up on the happenings around the docks, visited with Erica and her dogs and even had a cuddle with an 8-week old puppy. Dinner out at Betsy's with Jay & Deb and then Bella Blu with Duane & Laura was fun but then we were ready to head off to the wilds of the National Park on St. John.

As is often the case we headed to the south shore and ended up in Lameshur Bay. In the park we pick up a mooring ball so as not to damage the seabed with the anchor and Mowzer & crew quite happily settled in for few days in this idyllic anchorage with a few other boats.

Not a building or street in site - just so peaceful.
We've been in this anchorage a number of times as a base for hiking on the island so we decided to set off this morning in a direction we haven't been before on land - over to Salt Pond Bay and Drunk Bay.

St. Thomas is off the chart to the left, we're the red chevron in Lameshur and we hiked to the bay just above Ram Head.
We set off nice and early to beat the heat and followed the road east with our first destination Salt Pond Bay and the trail over to Drunk Bay.

Salt Pond Bay in the background and the actual salt pond we walked around.
Back in January there was a wreck on the point just north of Drunk Bay and sure enough the beach was still full of debris from the broken boat. We met a couple of guys coming off the beach as we arrived carrying garbage bags - one of them commented that as his wife was searching for sea shells he was bored so he usually carried a bag with him to pick up what he could. What a great idea we thought and sure enough he had an extra bag he gave to us so we tried to do just a teensy little bit to help clear the beach of plastic waste.

Nanny Point where the boat went up on the rocks. Five people were rescued but the boat was destroyed.
You can just make out a couple of bigger pieces of white wreckage on the beach from far away.
Closer in, it's a mess. One garbage bag is not much but hopefully a few others will do the same.
As a direct reminder these two little guys waddled across our path on the beach. Not sure where they came from but they seemed pretty determined about where they were going.

We also found that at one end of the beach, people do the darnedest things.

Bits of coral and rock propped up on this outcropping.
This had the spookiest feeling, like a graveyard.
Reclining in the sun...
With his faithful pup nearby.
Leaving Salt Pond we passed this sign on the road. Not sure if this means that nothing is going on here on St. John, or if we're just so far down the road that culture just can't make it this far.

On our return to Lameshur, we turned off down the Tectite Trail which was a hot, dry hike out to the point. The views were certainly worth it.

Smokey the Bear say, "Please take care!" The whole area was dry as a tinder-box despite rain last night.
The view down to Ram Head at the end of the coast.
At the top of a 100' crag of rock, this has to be the most tenacious cactus ever!
And finally we finished up our morning stroll with a rocky scramble along the eastern shore of Lameshur Bay. We were hot and sweaty and the water felt oh so refreshing as we both jumped in as soon as we were back on the boat.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fixing A Boat In Paradise ... Sigh

We were so excited when we set off Friday morning with both engines running and Culebrita in our sights, but after about a half hour, right on cue, the starboard engine once again cut out. The port engine stoicly marched on so we pulled around the south shore of Culebra and up into the Ensenada Honda anchorage, just next to friends on Blue Blaze and Freedom.

Near the airport in Ensenada Honda we have swapped ferry traffic for airborne traffic.
Another day of trouble-shooting ensued and in the end Henry changed out our old prefilter for a new Racor filter that will clean out any water or grunge from our fuel, and then triumphantly found a split in the fuel line near a clamp. This may have been the cause of our most recent problems since the engine most definitely won't run with air in the line. We put Mowzer to bed once again with the plan to try to get to Culebrita. It's only five miles away, how elusive can it be??

Saturday morning found us up an on our way nice and early and hallelujah, we made it to Culebrita...with both engines running all the way! I know we're a sailboat, but engines are still essential for tight spaces and anchoring, at least for us they are.

Leaving Culebra, boats anchor behind the reef at the Dakity anchorage.
Now time to do some exploring, but first a swim since we are now back in he Virgins with lovely clear water.

10' below the anchor set is easy to see.
Our first reef snorkel in a while.
We've been to Culebrita a few times before and always enjoyed the hike up the hill to the old Spanish lighthouse, and across the island to Tortuga (Turtle) Beach and the bubbly pools, or as they are signed on he island "The Baths". I guess they are trying to piggy back on the famous BVI Baths, but we will always think of them as the bubbly pools.

We set off to hike "down the garden path", through the sea grapes pressing in on all sides.
At Treasure Beach, Henry pondered the passage to St. Thomas, just 15 miles to the east.
Culebrita's resident goats: we could smell them along the way, now we see them.
The tip of the lighthouse, next climb is up that hill.
A closer view of the top of the tower.
Sadly, the climb up the tower is now closed. It was pretty rickety but I wonder what someone did or complained about to get it closed. Too bad.
Still love the colours of the old brick and paint, and their busy propping it all up and making it seem very civilized.
Now, back down the hill to the beach - sure, there's a beach down there somewhere.
Lots of lizards and birds scampered off through the bugs out of our way. The hermit crabs just curl up in their shells. This one was particularly pretty.
Tortuga beach, with a bit of wave action, just too much to consider anchoring in the bay.
At the north end of Culebrita the waves hit a huge crevice in the rock and the water then flows down through a series of pools to the bay on the other side of the island. Some days you can sit in the pools like a gentle jacuzzi, and on others like today, you risk being pummeled on the rocks like laundry on a wash board.
Wave action into the top pool.
Henry found a calm spot to ponder his surroundings...
While I went off to smell the frangipani.
So, we fixed the boat (fingers crossed) and we're definitely in paradise so I guess the adage is true.


Friday, March 20, 2015

More Culebra Snippits

Culebra has been a delightful rest stop for us for the last couple of weeks, although the reason we've been sitting here so long has been due to a fuel problem. After much trial and error it turns out that we had a clogged fuel line and filter and most likely lots of water and sediment in our fuel tank.

We had hoped to fill with fuel in Salinas on the south coast of PR, but the pumps there were empty. So, as we bounced up the coast, we churned up whatever was in our tanks and along with snagging the crab pot that led to a propeller change, we lost power in our starboard engine and eventually had problems with port - thankfully after we were anchored in Culebra.

With Robert's help troubleshooting and with Jason's diesel pump, Henry was able to get the lines clear and then for two days we filtered all our fuel back and forth between the main tank and jerry cans - a process called polishing. As the fuel went round and round, and the diesel drips and fumes accumulated in the cockpit, I went off to the store to buy (shares in) more paper towels, but not a drop was spilled and the turtles continued to visit us each afternoon.

Out of the main tank and into the diesel can.
And now back to the main tank, all thanks to that trusty little pump!
In the meantime, life continues on Culebra with the ferry arriving multiple times a day to pick up and drop off beach visitors to the island, and locals bound for the mainland PR shops. Even the garbage truck for the island comes and goes on the ferry. We tend to go ashore for a bit most days, either to pick up some groceries, take a little hike or meet up with friends.

Mowzer, anchored at the back on a day with very few other boats around.
It gets busy in town when the ferry arrives.
The tourism office has lovely painted panel doors.
Creativity is everywhere - even Heather's Pizza sign is a work of art.
There are a couple of I little grocery stores, but the local fruit stand is open Tuesday and Friday for best selection.
Out of the little town, the roads invite you to see what's around the next corner.
Not sure what there is to eat here, but mom and baby seemed quite happy.
And don't ask sleeping dogs to move - the jeep just drove by and this guy barely lifted his head.
How about a day trip? Looking suitably rustic with its wooden lining.
Three to six in the afternoon finds the dinghies lined up at The Dinghy Dock bar and if you want to meet the local cruising crowd hanging out on Culebra, this is the place to be. As the sun goes down they feed the frigate birds and tarpon, and eventually the hungry crowd gathered round the tables.
Just look at the wing span on these birds, and they're so agile they will steak food from other birds in flight.
The tarpon, up to 4' long, make the water boil
Jason, the happy customer said the fish was fresh!
One of the reasons we were happy to make Culebra our home for a bit, is the easy proximity to the marine shops on the east end of Puerto Rico. Once again we took the ferry over to pick up parts we'd ordered.

See why we double-check the ferry schedule? It just might have changed since yesterday.
Leaving Fajardo with a seat by the rail.
We made it onto the quick ferry this time - looking forward to a nice easy ride.
But I think I'll sit in the comfy seat, a bit more sheltered from the wind.
Goodnight to Fajardo.
We still need to change our fuel filter but the good thing is that we can now move on. A stop at Culebrita, the little island north of Culebra and then we will be heading back into the US Virgin Islands.