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Friday, January 23, 2009

Buenos Dias and Adios Culebra

As so often happens, when we are on a tight timeline, we find places we'd love to spend weeks in. We have heard good things about Culebra, this little island just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and now we know why. We had a smashing sail across from St Thomas, a lovely downwind sunshine trip, near perfect apart from the loss of a fish, which Helen saw jump and take our line, that was the last we saw of fish, line or lure, snapped right off at the boat end.

We negotiated the protective reefs around the entrance to the harbour, Endsenada Honda, which is a superb protected stretch of water ending up at the little town of Dewey, named for an Admiral in the US Navy, maybe the same guy who invented the Dewey Decimal system, but since we're not on wifi I'll leave you to check if that's so. Whatever, Ty Dewi is now in Dewey, which sort of fits. We called the immigration office at the airport here, which is where we go to clear into customs, and the web said office hours 0900-1700. At quarter to three we called and he said 'better hurry up, I'm closing soon'. So we high tailed it into the dinghy, landed at a dock which turned out to be a private house but they said no problem. Outside, we asked the way to the airport (aeropuerto? says our spanish speaker Helen, putting her arms out and making 'neearrr' aircraft noises) The amused construction crew points up the road and we find the smallest, dinkyest, neatest little airport I've ever seen. In a corner office is a hassled customs officer finding it very hard to deal with the queue of two that has inconsiderately built up just as he's trying to close and catch his plane back to the mainland. But we get cleared in OK and return to a nice beer in town.

Dewey, and Culebra in general, is a pleasant antidote from the Virgin Islands where tourism rules. Here, not a lot seems to rule, except maybe stubborn resistance to mainstream tourism. There's a really nice laid back, run down vibe to the place and we fit right in. After a morning exploring town (takes five minutes to walk from one end to the other) we moved around the corner to an anchorage in crystal clear water behind a barrier reef. The place is full of free moorings, laid by the local government to save the area from anchor damage. We pick one up, but it's a bit different in colour from others so I pop over to a neighbouring boat to ask. It's fine, and I chat. John lives aboard, mostly staying here, and is dismayed to hear that we're only staying a day or two, he clearly loves this place and it's not hard to see why. He offers us use of his little sailing dinghy I and reckon Max would love that and I say so. He also has a windsurf board on deck, and Helen has already said that she wants to rent a board sometime in this trip so I ask if we might, possibly, borrow it. Sure. Before we know it, John is taking Max sailing, he and I go fishing in the dinghy and we all gather for drinks and dinner as the sun goes down. We have a lot of fun, even if the kid's bedtime goes out of the window and we'll probably pay for that the next day.

The next day dawns, and John comes alongside with fish he's caught whilst spearfishing early this morning, so we are set for dinner tonight. Another local liveaboard, Paul, sails past in his little dinghy and offers the kids a trip, and before we know it Max is sailing with him, then Helen is sailing with John and our competitive little boy is urging Paul to go faster, faster, faster. A great time is had by all, whilst Gesa and I prepare the boat for a lunchtime departure and comment on how we'd be hanging out here longer if Helen didn't want to see the big island (Puerto Rico) and we didn't have a date to meet our next visitor, Maik in the Bahamas in the second week of February. Time ticks on and it becomes clear that the sensible answer is to stay another night here and persuade John to rig the windsurf board for Helen so she can achieve one of her holiday objectives! He's more than willing, and the afternoon is spent sailing and playing.

Max takes to the sailing dinghy like a duck to water, and Issie's pretty keen too. So I spend most of my afternoon hunched in a tiny boat as the kids sail in circles around the yachts. They get the hang of it really quickly, not surprising given where they live, I suppose, but I am reminded how much fun it will be to get them sailing starter dinghies as soon as we can, and give them the independence to control their own boat. Sailing Ty Dewi has none of the instant thrill of a small dinghy, voyaging is satisfying in ways that just don't matter to a five year old.

Our total novice, Helen, is taking to the life with gusto, but does seem a little accident prone. We will be telling Helen stories for years to come and she's only a third of the way through her trip at this point. Helen's injuries today include, but are not limited to: Bumped head on woodwork above bed, rash on arm from pulling up windsurf sail too often, bruised ankle slipping on wet deck, minor burn on hot kettle, and a few more. We're all good at banging our heads on things on board, but she's certainly leading in the minor injury stakes. Apparently there's a saying in Holland - zelfs een ezel stoot zich zelf niet drie keer op dezelfde steen. It means something, you'll have to guess.

Tomorrow we depart for Vieques (vee-ek-ez), another island that used to be run by the US military and used as a bombing practice range, so we'll be careful not to touch too many rusty metal cylinders. We'll make a brief visit, but it is supposed to be stunning because of the paradox that dropping high explosives on a place is much better for the environment than selling off plots for mansions-by-the-sea. More later...

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Blogger Julia said...

We have some great pictures tucked away of Peter as a boy in one of his sail boats...very cute. I can only imagine what Max will be like once he has one of his very own.

7:48 am  

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