Monday, June 25, 2012


From the beaches to the banos, Culebra is colorful.

Banos at Mamacitas
Seen around Flamenco Beach

We really liked Culebra when we passed through last year (see 'Weather or Not' April 2011) and decided to work in another visit to this pretty island. We've been spending time both on Culebra and Culebrita, which is a nature reserve. Beaches on both islands are sea turtle nesting grounds and we're hoping to see some little sea turtles hatching. Meanwhile we're seeing other local creatures....

Culebra gato begs to become a boat cat.

How did this iguana get here?
He swam!
Culebrita is a short sail to the east of Culebra and a very busy weekend spot. We practically had the place to ourselves until the weekend when hordes of small powerboats zipped in from Puerto Rico to enjoy the place with us. There are usually several generations of one family all together on a boat and they bring the best water toys. Kayaks, paddle boards, noodles, floaties of every conceivable color and design and even a little electric sea scooter! Yes.... I'm a little jealous of their water toys.

In addition to people watching, we did some hiking on Culebrita. We made our way to the lighthouse at the top of the hill and on down to the windward beach.

Views from and from within Culebrita's lighthouse
Our most unusual windward beach find to date.... piece of an airplane!
At the lighthouse we came across these two little boxes filled with odds and ends and this note. It was one of almost 2 million "geocaches" placed around the world that people can hunt for. As explained in their website - it's a "real world outdoor treasure hunting game". We came across it by accident but you can search for hidden 'caches' all over the world using GPS. You take an item from the box and leave one of your own to keep the cache constantly changing. There's also a little log book in each geocache. We signed it and also saw signatures of some sailing friends that had been there before us! 

Signing in to the geocache
At the northeast tip of Culebrita there's a spot called the jacuzzi They're more or less huge tide pools and the seas were down so there wasn't much jacuzzi-ing going on but it was a great place to relax in the water. The sea would wash up over the rocks bringing with it little colorful fish. It was like swimming in a crystal clear aquarium.

Clear water under the surface at the Jacuzzi
The one night we anchored at Flamenco Beach we were the only boat there, but the beach was busy with the weekend crowd. We found out later that it was San Juan night - where Puerto Ricans flock to the beaches and try to ensure their luck for the coming year by walking backwards into the water at midnight. Another photo opportunity missed!

It hasn't rained in Culebra for months and though the clouds looked like they might deliver some rain, it stayed dry.

Saralane at anchor at Flamenco Beach
Lots of wind... but still no rain
Skip on the phone in the Culebra office of Pond Yacht Sales.
Seen on the beach... a solar boom cooler. Now that's smart.
The snorkeling here is really good and we've spent a lot of time in the water in and around Culebra and Culebrita. We usually swim out over the anchor to see how it looks before we head off on a snorkel excursion. Here are two recent displays of our anchoring abilities. Anchoring is sand is easy! Anchoring on a solid rocky bottom? Not so easy. Not to worry... Saralane is (almost) always where we left her regardless of our anchoring success.

Snorkeling around Luis Pena (another nature reserve on a small island off the west side of Culebra) we saw the biggest queen triggerfish either of us has even seen. It was about two feet from nose to tail... and really pretty!

Queen triggerfish.
School of blue tang and surgeon fish
School of little fishes
BIG French angelfish
We're meeting people and sort of settling in here in Culebra... it's another one of those places where there are lots of ex-pats that came for a vacation and never left. We still have a few weeks before we haul out; we're tempted to spend it all here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

BVI pit stop

We had an easy downwind sail from St. Maarten to Virgin Gorda and anchored the first few nights in Eustatia Sound where we reconnected with friends Penny and Colin who run a beautiful charter boat in the BVI called Sabore. We met them more than a year ago when they 'borrowed' our unlocked dinghy to chase after a fifty dollar bill that had flown out of Penny's hand into the unswimmable water of Road Harbor in Tortola. Our dingy was the only unlocked one at the dock and their fifty was drifting away! We happened to walk back over just as they were tying up the John T after retrieving their cash. They looked a little sheepish and explained what happened and Colin had the good humor to thank us for keeping the outboard running so smoothly. 

They know just about every place there is to know in the BVI and have shared some favorite hiking spots and anchorages with us. We'd been meaning to hike over and check out a new (and still in progress) private resort called Oil Nut Bay on the northeast tip of Virgin Gorda and Colin and Penny gave the hike a thumbs up. 

We may have lucked out last month by getting an inexpensive deal to stay at swanky Cupecoy Marina, but we don't think they'll be running any deals that will allow us to stay at Oil Nut Bay any time soon. One thing that had us especially interested in checking it out was that they imported the sand for their beach.... from Barbuda!

Barbuda sand! On the beach at Oil Nut Bay.
View from the bulldozer on the cliff
Common area
Private dining. That table is from ONE slab of wood cut vertically out of a tree.
Lots of attention to detail everywhere... even on the floors. 
We walked on the Barbuda sand, but it didn't feel much like Barbuda.
The weather was beautiful for the few days we were back in the BVI and the visibility in the water was incredible. I didn't have the camera with me every time we snorkeled so of course I didn't get a shot of the shark we saw the first day back in the water there. I'll add it to the list of great shots I missed. It was only about a 5 foot reef shark and didn't seem terribly interested in us, but I had visions of being on an episode of "Shark Week" showing the jagged bite mark scars that the marine biologists measure to determine the size and type of shark attacked me.

Apparently... Skip wasn't thinking any of those kinds of things. He suggested that I have an overactive imagination. Me? No way. Hey, those "Shark Week" stories come from somewhere. Anyhow - here are a few less exciting underwater shots.

Sea fan
Brain coral... I feel smarter just from swimming over it.

Moon Jellyfish... not quite as dangerous as a shark... but they do sting.
School of blue tang and a few surgeon and doctor fish.
We swam far! That's Saralane out there posing in front of George Dog.
The north coast of Tortola is subject to swells in the winter but the weather was settled while we were here so we tucked into Brewer's Bay and hiked to the top of Mount Healthy (which we decided should be renamed Cardiac Hill). It's steep and unshaded - but the view from the top was pretty nice 

Sugar Mill at top of Mt. Healthy
Mt. Healthy park gnarly tree

Saralane in Brewer's Bay, north shore Tortola.  
We also stopped at the overrated Sandy Spit at the east end of Jost Van Dyke.This is really just a, well... a sandy spit... not very exciting. But - we overheard a few people here saying that making a trip to Sandy Spit absolutely made their vacation. I'm beginning to think we're spoiled. 

Skip finds a shady spot on Sandy Spit
We'll be back in the BVI again next month but the idea was to continue on to the Spanish islands so off we went to Culebra. 

House along the shore on Culebra's south coast. Somebody loves orange.
There were a few spots we wanted to revisit but mostly we wanted to snorkel the places we missed the last time we were here. The sea conditions were rough when we were last here and right now they're not much better so we're using our time to do other things until the weather settles. We walked around town on Sunday hoping for a repeat of a great meal at Zaco's Tacos - but alas....

Happy Dia de los Padres!
We'll come back when you're open.
We're in Ensenada Honda where we're protected from the bumpy seas by a reef right in front of us, so while the visibility isn't good for snorkeling... the water's fine! I'm testing out a new pool toy, since snafting is so last year.

I'm not really stuck... it just looks that way.
Our big outing today was to a laundromat. This may not seem like a big outing but considering we haven't been to a laundromat since February 27th (the captain's log records more than just latitude and longitude info!) it's a big deal. To do laundry here cost us about $ Antigua or St. Maarten it would have cost us about $100. We're accustomed to doing laundry by hand and hanging it out to dry, but it's NICE to have really clean stuff! Time to get it all dirty again....

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Porto Cupecoy

When we were looking for a place in St. Martin to stash Saralane for a few weeks we checked into all the usual places around the lagoon but we also decided to check out a new marina in Cupecoy we'd heard about that was offering good deals to encourage new business. We're glad we did. It's NICE. We're rarely in a marina but since we had to tie up somewhere - this was definitely the place to be.

The marina is a small part of a much larger complex full of restaurants, shops, gardens and beautiful new condo and apartment buildings. After we tied up and chatted with Mitch, the dockmaster, people from other boats in the marina stopped by to say hello. When they heard we were leaving Saralane for a few weeks they offered to keep an eye on the boat. The marina had great security but it's always nice to know your neighbors are looking out for you.

Aside from being a pretty swanky place, it's only a short walk across to Cupecoy beach. They show movies on a big outdoor screen once a week and have live music in the plaza several nights each week too. There's also a big grocery store here, which was great for provisioning when we returned. But the best thing about the place was the GIANT POOL.

Me in the GIANT POOL.
In case you can't see me in the middle of the GIANT POOL... here's a close up!
This pool was huge, the temperature was just right and it was almost always deserted. One end had steps and the other end was sloped, so entering was like walking into the ocean from the beach. I'm a sucker for a nice pool and this one was really great.

Skip in the GIANT POOL.
The only apparent danger is the red lightening and spiky crown that's lying in wait under the bottom if you dive in.

No diving!
When we weren't in the GIANT POOL we did odds and ends on the boat and ran errands around the lagoon.

Putting on the new furling line
We picked up some new bottom paint at Island Water World where the trusty John H was practically alone at the dinghy dock. During the season this dock is so jam packed with dinghies it's hard to find a spot to tie up.

We finally dragged ourselves away from the GIANT POOL and the nice folks at Porto Cupecoy and spent our last night in St. Martin out in the anchorage at Marigot so we'd be outside the bridge and ready for an early morning departure to Virgin Gorda. 

St. Martin sunrise
We'll spend the remaining weeks before our haul out sailing around the BVI and the Spanish Virgins. We skipped by the Spanish islands on our way south last year and have been wanting to go back and explore a bit more. We'd better brush up on our Spanish, si?