Thursday, 19 April 2012

Spanish Virgin Islands - Culebra

Hi from Clare,                                                                     Wednesday 18th April 2012

We have now been anchored in the main bay of Culebra for a week.  This was not out original intention but we have been sheltering from a tropical low crossing the Caribbean.  Fortunately we have had the company of ‘Tuatara’ and ‘Tactical Directions’ and entertained ourselves with board games, happy hours at the local Dingy Dock Bar, drinks and dinners together, a walk across the island to the surf beach, a couple of ferry trips to Puerto Rico and a day trip to it’s capital city San Juan.

Culebra main harbour and Flamenco Beach

So we have survived our first experience of checking into the USA. On our arrival into Culebra we phoned Puerto Rico Customs and Border Protection and were put on hold for half an hour.  Alan from ‘Tuatara’ and Tony from ‘Tactical’ couldn’t check in on the same phone call and ended up waiting hours for return calls from CBP.  After this was done, the Skippers and Crews presented themselves to Culebra Customs and Border Protection at the airport with Passports and Ship’s Papers to answer questions and complete numerous forms. The process took the best part of the afternoon which is quite astonishing.  Only a week ago Andrew checked us both into the French Island of Les Saintes using an online computer in a coffee shop and after printing the form the girl who made the coffee stamped us into the country.

So just to complete the picture, this morning our English friends Carol and Steve (from London) on their yacht ‘Innamorata’ arrived into Culebra harbour. They came over to our boat and phoned the CBP to check in.  Steve was equally astounded by them, especially when they couldn’t understand him and asked if anyone on the boat spoke English – the poor guy was lost for words.

Approach to Fajardo and cannonballs at Fort El Morro

Before the wind picked up we spent two days and a night anchored out.  We firstly went up to Turtle Beach on a tiny island on the N/E corner of Culebra. This is a gorgeous horse shoe bay with soft white sand and brilliant aqua water.  We swam and played in the warm shallows and sat in the shade of palm trees.  In season Turtles lay their eggs here and so the beach is off limits between dusk and dawn. We arranged to have drinks on the beach with Alan and Jean at 5.30 before sunset.  We stayed all of five minutes before being driven off by thousands of midges; no amount of repellent would suffice.
The following morning, to avoid the north easterly swell which had robbed us of sleep for most of the night, we moved into a large bay on the east side of Culebra.  Around 2pm the rain started, heralding the arrival of the front so we came back to the main harbour which is big enough to cater for hundreds of boats at anchor.  We anchored as close as possible to town so we could come and go in the dinghy without getting drenched with every trip.

El Morro fortress, San Juan

There are a few ferries daily traveling between Puerto Rico and Culebra.  Andrew is on the ferry as I type as he is retrieving our headsail from a Sail Loft in Fajardo, Puerto Rico after some repair work.  After seven seasons of sunshine some areas are weakening. He, Tony and Alan took the sail into Puerto Rico last Friday to ensure it would be added to this week’s repair jobs.

Smallest House (in yellow) and an MGB of all things!

Yesterday Tony, Alan, Jean, Andrew and I caught the 6.30am ferry and then hired a car and drove to the capital San Juan. We visited the Spanish El Morro Fortress built 1530-1790; we saw the smallest house in the old town plus many lovely shops, parks and monuments. The city is very progressive with beautifully restored old buildings, spotless streets and ample parking.  The patrolling police in many areas are helpful with directions and sight seeing information. We had a great day in this busy city with its relaxed and welcoming approach.

Ben & Jerry ice creamery and Government House, San Juan

Our ferry back to Culebra was due to leave at 7pm. With Tony behind the wheel we were under a bit of pressure to get back in time to refuel and return the car. The pressure wasn’t helped by an unknown warning light flashing on the dashboard, a non functioning rear blinker, a sticking accelerator and a useless map.  However Tony did a fabulous job driving and with Andrew navigating we arrived back at the ferry by 6.20pm for the 7pm departure.
No need to panic, the ferry didn’t leave till 8.20pm. None of the locals seamed to mind, lateness must be a regular occurrence.  It was a very slow trip home and although we were starving we didn’t get back to the boat to enjoy a light dinner until 10.40pm.

Tomorrow after rehoisting the headsail we will sail to the Island of Vieques and then slowly make our way along the southern coast.  ‘Tuatara’ will head south and east from Vieques as they are heading to Trinidad for the hurricane season.  

Love Candy xx