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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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Issieism (2)

Issie notices a bumper sticker - "Drive slow, sail fast"

"But daddy, surely you would want to drive fast, so you get to the boat quicker, then sail slow so you spend more time enjoying yourself?"

I like her logic.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Helen has come prepared, she's bought a copy of 'The Rough Guide to Puerto Rico'

"That's no good," says Issie, "we need the Calm Guide."

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Underwater at Monkey Point

We had a couple of lovely days at an anchorage on Guana Island, recommended by our friends on Ta-B. They also told us we had to go down to Monkey Point and snorkel there.

We took their advice, left early and found one of the few mooring balls where we could sit for breakfast then take a swim.

The underwater life was spectacular, a very varied landscape of rock, coral, sand and other features just teeming with fish and animal life.

The highlight was a couple of huge shoals of small fish, some up to a couple of inches long, swarming and rolling in a huge group of silver slivers. Swimming through them parts the shoal and it reforms around you as you cut through the group. But we were not the only big creatures cruising through the shoals.

Out of the mass of fish would come tarpon, big, big fish up to six feet long, cruising along admiring their breakfast, but not actually eating at that time, for some reason. There were groups of up to twenty tarpon, following almost nose to tail, and it was a wonderful sight. Hard to capture on camera, although the photo below gives some idea.

The snorkelling was so good that even Max stayed in the water well over half an hour and we were sad to leave but on we must go, we had a day planned at Cane Garden Bay.

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Rapid Blog Update

Hard to keep up right now, so here's a summary:
- Corrine, Edo et al left after a great couple of weeks, rounded off by a lovely dinner at the Tamarind Club on Tortola
- Very nice week exploring new bits of the BVIs with Mum and Dad including a campfire on a secluded beach and a night at the popular CaneGarden Bay.
- Farewell to Mum and Dad from Sopers Hole, West End of Tortola. They left for the airport, we cleared customs and sailed straight to St John, cleared into the US islands and then...
- Met up with Helen, fresh from Amsterdam and here for two weeks exploring mostly Puerto Rico
- Went a few miles around to Gt Lameshur Bay in the National Park and had a very relaxed day and a half in this lovely spot.
- Helen took the kids for a hike then we met up and played volleyball on the beach
- Came round to Coral Bay for more nice snorkeling and then a trip to the local bar for a beer and burger
- Leaving early tomorrow for St Thomas to stock up with supplies in Charlotte Amalie
- Then depart probably Wednesday for Culebra, an island off the east end of Puerto Rico.
- Busy busy havin' fun, time flies when you're drinkin' rum.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beach Volleyball

Despite the fact that volleyball is how we met, and has played a huge part in our lives over the past ten years, we rarely get the chance to take our volleyball to the beach and knock around a bit.

We've had a couple of times when the kids got upset because we wanted to play by ourselves for a few minutes, which I guess is hard to accept when you get mummy or daddy attention 24/7, and only recently have we been able to leave them playing in the water and 'dig set spike' a few ourselves.

So it was a lot of fun today to get a chance to really play, and we enjoyed reliving a few of the old times when we would play quite competitively, even just the two of us, having fun challenging each other to pick up the ball we've just hit nice and hard.

Eventually, Isise and Max notice that we are giving each other more attention than them, and persuade us to stop and let them play. With a little coaching, both of them show that they are ready to learn this game, chips off the old blocks, we like to think. Max, of course, takes after his dad and will be able to rub his sisters nose in the sand in a years time....

We took some video too, if you have a moment.....

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Our cruising companions

Here's four out of the 1,398 photos we took whilst our friends were with us, so to introduce them:
- Sailing their boat, Trinity, a 40 foot centre cockpit Beneteau
- In the Bubbly Pool on Little Jost Van Dyke: left to right: Neils, Edo, Maurits, Corinne, Tessel.
- Enjoying the Ty Dewi water swing: Maurits on the swing, Corinne and Tessel wait in the water
- Best of friends, Issie and Max loved having playmates around for so long

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Full Moon party at Trellis Bay

We squeezed our way into Trellis Bay yesterday with little problem finding our comfortable anchoring spot in a massive mooring field. We had been here before and picked our spot with ease.

Then we could sit back and watch with amusement as boat after charter boat made its way into the increasingly congested harbour to try and carve themselves an anchor spot. Some coming too close to us for comfort, others not watching their depth sounder and running aground!!! They were all here, as we were, to watch the Full Moon Festivities that happen each month here in Trellis Bay, right next to the airport. This is less grim than it sounds, the airport is tiny and well hidden, apart from the occasional take off and landing you wouldn't know it was there behind the palm trees. It also has the best airport-boat commute in the western world, just a five minute walk sees you at the dock and in the dinghy to our anchored boat.

The highlight of the full moon party is the fireballs, three big hollow steel sculptures supported a few feet off the beach, over the water. They are stuffed with kindling and wood, covered in lighter fluid and set ablaze mid way through the evening. Gesa was far too tired..930pm is way too late for her, but the fireballs eventually did get lit, the juggler could sort of juggle, and the people in stilts managed not to wobble too much as throngs of boaties took photos of them.

We found our friends on Ta-B and the kids had a ball climbing the tree house, bouncing in the giant hammock and dancing to the reggae beat. Here is a composite photo of the night's festivities. Windy and squally this morning, but we have hopes of making our way back to the Baths today.

All well, but everyone VERY tired. There's so much to blog about the past two and a half weeks cruising with our friends and parents, but let's make sure we keep up with current events and try to fill in the past as we go along!
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Friday, January 02, 2009

Christmas and New Year in the BVIs

We've been quiet on the blog because we've been busy on the water! Our friends Corrine and Edo arrived Christmas Eve, with their three children, and then they picked up their charter yacht on Boxing Day. We had a lovely Christmas Dinner at Marina Cay, and have since been touring the sights of the BVI's. On Gesa's birthday, my parents arrived to join us and have been on board since then. We've also been travelling in company with our friends on Ta-B, who also have guests with them. It's been a near non stop party since then.

So we're all well, have a fair number of adventures to relate and no time to tell them. I'll try to blog a couple of stories and photos when we can.

Happy New Year.N.

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Issie is getting into her swimsuit and goggles and preparing to join her friends for a swim.

"Daddy, can I go in the water?"
"Sure, I don't think you need much supervision right now, off you go"
Issie looks at her goggles hopefully. "What sort of super vision could I get?"

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More treasure

The BVI's is a rich hunting ground. We took everyone to the beautiful Baths, a popular stop. We anchor and snorkel to check it. I notice a piece of rope on the seabed. It's only fifteen feet down so I dive and pick up one end. As I surface, we pull it up, and it turns out to be about twelve metres of good quality 14mm rope. Probably over a hundred dollars worth, neatly finished at each end so it has just dropped of a boat, not been cut by a prop. Very nice.

On a beach, my parents go for a walk and find a washed up or left behind pair of sandals, which fit one of the kids perfectly.

On another beach, we all go ashore to play, but when it is time to go Gesa rushes round collecting everything and being an efficient, maybe even fanatical, tidier upper. Back on the boats, belongings are redistributed to where they belong, except a nice pair of waterproof men's sandals. Despite enquires, no-one claims them. Our best guess is that someone else carelessly left their sandals within Gesa's 'tidying radius' and has paid the price of such carelessness. She feels a bit guilty but I have a perfectly fitting pair or sandals.

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Maurits, Corrine and Edo's youngest son, is five, just like Max. One morning he helps me make bread. He is interested in the ingredients and we get to talking about yeast.

"So, yeast is a little bug that eats sugar and makes a gas called carbon dioxide, and alcohol"
He looks at me thoughtfully. "Alcohol? I've heard of that."

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