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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Emma B-B goes to sea and the captain catches a fish
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Saturday, January 17, 2004: Culebra, behind the Reef at Ensenada Honda
    Emma 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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    The Navy has given up on bombing Vieques but are Click for a journal entry listholding 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.
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