found some extremely cheap flights to San Juan with a stop over
in New York. This gave her a chance to visit friends in that extremely
frigid city before enjoying the mid 80's of the Caribbean sea.
We took off for St. Thomas to provision for her visit and braved
the cruise boat fleet in Charlotte Amalia.
Ancient Danish fort, rows of megayachts stern tied at
the quay and elephantine cruise ships slipping in early mornings and going out,
lights ablaze, in the evenings. The crossing to Culebra was uneventful and we
spent a last couple of quiet days getting laundry done and enjoying Culebra before
the pre-dawn dinghy ride to the town dock and walk to the ferry. Our plan was
to ride the 6:30 ferry in to Fajardo from Culebra and meet Emma at the ferry
building and then just take the return trip on the same boat. Emma's cheap flights
and busy days in New York left her quite ready for some sleep. We went straight
back out to the reef and practiced front flips into the water from the dinghy
(structural modifications to the dinghy davits having left the transom unsuitable
for acrobatics). Next stop was Culebrita where we picked up a mooring just outside
the surf line. Rock and Roll became the word of the day as the swells started
coming in. A rolly first night is becoming an Eaux Vives tradition. If you sleep
through that, you're good to go.
Vieques was our next stop. We had a wonderful sail across
the sound and felt our way in past the reefs to a well protected and completely
deserted bay. I suspect that the numerous, large signs warning against high explosives
left over from the Navy bombings may cut down on the crowds. Despite walking
the deserted beach, no one lost any fingers or toes and we can highly recommend
this largely untouched island. The only time we weren't the sole occupants of
the day's bay on Vieques was our last day spent in the thriving metropolis of
Esperanza. Several other boats shared the large harbor where we anchored near
the ruins of the sugar cane pier around the corner from the world famous bioluminescent
bay. The bioluminescence of the bay is a truly wonderful effect produced by billions
of dinoflagellates who thrive in the highly confined waters of the mangrove surrounded
and shallow waters. We joined a tour organized by Blue Carib who provided us
with a ride to the bay and sit-upon kayaks. The little one celled plankton called "Pyrodinium
bahamense" spend their days using the intense Caribbean sun for photosynthesis
to store chemicals for use in the dark of night. These little guys are relatives
to the critters who provide the occasional spark in the dark when flushing a
marine head. Instead of the usual concentration of perhaps one or two per vigorous
flush, this bay holds them in concentrations of up to 750,000 per gallon. When
disturbed (as perhaps by marauding fish or kayaking tourists) each releases a
short burst of light. It is truly a wonderful experience to venture out in the
warm, shallow waters on a moonless night and see a bright glow surrounding everything
disturbing the water. Paddles emit bright blue/green sprays of light. Swimmers
have clearly visible auras and a hand dipped into the water looks like a special
effect from a sci-fi movie.
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Navy has given up on bombing Vieques but are holding their ground
at Isla Pineros. We had planned on overnighting on this island near
Puerto Rico the night before bringing Emma to San Juan but we were
chased away by a patrol boat shouting something about "live
fire" exercises. In this case we felt discretion was the better
part of valor and conceded the island to our defenders of liberty.
Next time however, we are definitely alerting the demonstrators.
Fortunately, there is always another island and we were not forced
to sail in circles for the night.
Our big day on Puerto Rico consisted of an
early arrival at Puerto Del Rey, the self described "largest marina
in the Caribbean". The home of the famous Puerto Rican Navy, this
marina holds scores of the enormous sport fishing boats so popular
with those inhabiting the southeast corner of the homeland. Little
golf carts drive furiously up and down the piers towing short trains
of dock carts. Free rides are provided because otherwise the long hikes
to the offices, showers and laundry facilities would keep people away.
We were able to get an enormous number of errands done quite efficiently
and enjoyed, among other things, one of the more effective washers
and dryers found so far in our wanderings. We rented a car and toured
up the mountain ("El Yunque") to see the only tropical rain
forest administered by the US Forest Service, a division of the Department
of Agriculture. Beautiful pictures to follow.
San Juan's traffic was tied in knots by a 4
day street party organized in the old town. Narrow cobbled streets
reminiscent of old Europe thronged with colorful crowds and lots of
live music. Colorful pictures to follow. We wandered around and Emma
treated us to a fine diner before we took her by a particularly scenic,
circuitous route to the airport. Her only instructions to us were to "catch
a fish". Each crossing she had with us, saw us trailing fishing
lines in the water which we used to donate lures, lines, hooks and
sinkers to passing fish. Our first crossing (back to Culebra) after
our sad parting at the airport saw us snag a fine tuna. Fish picture
to follow. Emma please note: WE CAUGHT ONE! We actually got him into
the cockpit and were pouring horrible rum all over him in an attempt
to stun him. (Sarah and Quincy may remember this nasty stuff from last
year). Instead of the advertised effect of instant bloodless insensibility,
this rum caused him to jump over the transom where he became precariously
entangled in the swim ladder. Having not yet secured photographic evidence
of the beast's existence, our fearless captain dove head first after
him. His toes wrapped around the wheel in a thoroughly seaman like
fashion, the captain manfully grabbed the flopping (and now bloody)
bugger by the tail. Somewhat late, he realized that we were still racing
along on a beam reach trying to beat a squall to Culebra. The autopilot
(being a somewhat less steady a hand at the wheel than human helmsman)
was making life as precarious for the Captain's grasp as the fish was
attempting to do at the opposite end.
Alls well that ends well. The Captain did not
go overboard. We escaped the rain. The tuna did not escape us. Grilled
with a little olive oil, pepper and salt accompanied by salad and rice.
Available only at the oceanside restaurant with the ever changing sea
views. Eaux Vives.