Vieques, Puerto Rico
catching up on our laundry, grocery shopping, and internet usage, we left Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas on Nov 29 and headed
west. It was nice to have convenient shopping and services but we were definitely ready for a quiet anchorage and good snorkeling.
This is exactly what we found in the Spanish Virgin Islands. The Spanish Virgins lie just east of
Puerto Rico and consist of many small islands with the largest being Vieques and Culebra. I have read that
the Spanish Virgin Islands are what the BVI was 30 years ago. I’m not sure about that, but it is
beautiful and unspoiled here. We started in the Spanish VI, anchored in a beautiful bay, Puerto Manglar,
in Culebra. We had read that the area was virtually empty during the week but a little crowded on the weekends
with weekenders from mainland Puerto Rico. Since we arrived on a Saturday, we quickly realized that intel
was spot on. This bay was somewhat split in two by an underwater island. The bay south
of the island was filled with about 40 power boats all tied together, almost like Olive Park in Chicago. In
the northern part of the bay there were 2 sailboats (us and one other). By Sunday afternoon, everyone was
gone and we had the anchorage to ourselves. We spent the day on Sunday, swimming and playing on a gorgeous
beach, Bahia de Tortuga, on Culebrita. The whole island is a wildlife refuge with no homes, bars, or restaurants.
We took a really long hike and of course searched for treasure. Grant did find some treasure, a
beautiful stone called Caribbean Quartz which we later saw made into jewelry at a local shop (maybe Mom’s birthday present?).
While we were on Culebra, we also anchored in Ensenada Honda and went to the only real town on the island, Dewey.
It was a cute little town and we had a very nice meal at Mamacita’s. It was surprising because
most of the people that we met who owned or were working at the shops were from mainland USA. It is definitely
a place where you could escape and forget the rest of the world.
After a nice stay
in Culebra, we headed for Vieques. Even if you have never heard about this area as a great cruising ground,
you have probably heard of Vieques. Most of us in the states, remember a few years ago that many Puerto
Ricans were protesting the Navy bomb testing on a small island. This island was Vieques which much of it
was used as a Navy testing ground until 2003. At this time, the Navy stopped using the area for bombing.
Because of this it is still not developed and much of the area is still pristine. Of course, as
we found out the hard way, much of the eastern part of the island is still restricted. After a nice 2 hour
sail from Culebra, we scoped out a protected anchorage on the southeast corner of the island, Bahia Salina del Sur.
Both guide books that we had said that it was a good anchorage with a great beach – since Noah had been begging
for more beach time, we thought that it would be perfect. As we pulled into the anchorage, we noticed signs
on the beach but could not read them with the binocs. I did think that the land might still be restricted.
Soon after seeing the signs, we saw three pick up trucks high in the hills. By the time that we
were tucked in nice and close to anchor, we saw that one pickup truck was down at the beach and we soon heard on the VHF,
“Sailing vessel in Bahia del Sur, you are entering a restricted area and must leave immediately”…..ok,
that was a little scary. But they were very nice and polite and recommended the nearest non-restricted
anchorage. So we headed over to Ensenada Honda. It was a huge, beautiful bay and we
were the ONLY boat in the entire bay. Unfortunately there was no beach but some great snorkeling.
The biggest excitement of the day was diving for our first conch and making our first conch fritters. We
soon found out that you need a lot of conch to make conch fritters so we only had appetizers, but it was actually quite good
and we were all excited to be a part of finding and preparing dinner. Our next goal is to find lobsters
that are also common in this area.
Well, I have to admit my favorite part of our trip (so far) happened next. On Vieques,
there is a bay called Mosquito Bay. Thank goodness, the name means nothing and there are no mosquitoes.
The reason that you come to this bay is because it is bioluminescent. Don’t worry, this is not from Navy bombing
but from phosphorescent microorganisms in the water. So, we took our dinghy from Ensenada Sun bay over
to Puerto Mosquito. It was a dark, long dinghy ride, and a little rough and I have to admit that I was
starting to wonder if it was going to be worth it. We had to dinghy through a narrow passage to reach the
bay caught a fisherman’s net on the way in (twice). It was a little eerie but when we got to the
bay, I put my hand in the water and Wow. My hand actually glowed with blue/green light and when I pulled
it out you could still see the light on it. We all dove in and snorkeled and played in this amazing water.
Every time we moved we could see the trail of lights behind us. It was really magical.
As we left the bay, we could actually see the glow of all of the fish swimming around us and we could see glowing flying
fish coming out of the water. It was absolutely an amazing site. We all agreed that
night, right there made that 8 day Atlantic Ocean crossing worth it and this is just the beginning.
Over the last couple of days, we sailed over to Puerto Del Ray in Puerto Rico and have spent a couple
of days on the main island. Before sailing to PR we had a great day at Green Beach on the western end of
Vieques. The beach was different than the other beaches that we had been to. It
was surrounded by coral so we had to be very careful getting up to the beach. We had a nice snorkel and
the “he-men” of the family finally caught our first lobster. Unfortunately, it was too small
to eat but we’ll get one. The kids saw a shark that had washed up on the beach – very cool
and on the sail over to PR we caught 2 barracudas. Unfortunately, we seem to be catching a lot of these
big ugly fish and we can’t eat them. When we reeled in the second one it was only ½ a fish
so something bigger must have eaten it. Since the barracuda was about 3 feet long, the other one must have
been really big. We were told by a local fisherman that it was most likely a Wahoo. We
definitely need bigger bait!
had a great day on Sunday in Old San Juan. It is a beautiful old city and the architecture reminded us
of New Orleans. At one point it was a walled city and much of the original fort built
in the early 1500’s is still in existence. It is managed by the National Park System and is a museum.
It has been maintained incredibly well and was a great history lesson for the kids (and us). Ok,
it’s probably not great for the teacher to admit it but I have also learned so much on this trip about our history,
whenever I teach them something I learn too. I feel like I’m in school all over again which is much
more fun this time around. We didn’t think Puerto Rico would have been one of the stops along our
journey, but we’d highly recommend it, and was great for provisioning. Yesterday, was also my (Jane’s) birthday!!
I was treated like a queen – I didn’t have to make one meal or do any dishes. Marc and
the kids gave me beautiful jewelry. It was a special B-Day in a special place.
2008 – Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Island
Sorry that we haven’t written for awhile. We have been so busy…..fishing,
conching, school, etc. I know that you all feel very sorry for us. After we left Puerto
Rico, we met our friends from Stray Kitty on Vieques. We spent a few days enjoying the beaches and quiet
anchorages of Vieques with our friends. The hit of Vieques of was conching. One day
our kids and the kids of Stray Kitty found 14 conch. We had a massive amount of conch fritters that day.
When the wind died down a little bit we made the beat into the wind to St. Thomas. It wasn’t
the best passage but it wasn’t too bad. It’s never fun to go directly into the wind because
then you can’t sail and you have to motor. Since a sailboat likes to sail, motoring isn’t as
smooth as a nice sail. But we did it and after the 1500 one day of discomfort is nothing anymore.
In St. Thomas
we stayed in Charlotte Amalie and Christmas Cove. We spent the whole time with our friends at Stray Kitty
and also met up with another boat from the 1500 Glass Slipper. St. Thomas wasn’t the best place for
snorkeling or conching so no good stories to report but it was just nice to catch up on school, shopping, phone calls, and
to spend time with friends.
We also met a new family on Ketching Up. They have 3 boys, ages 10, 9, and 8.
They are on the opposite path as us. They left from Oregon 18 months ago and are on the final leg
of their cruise up to the east coast. They had a lot of insight on Panama and Columbia and it sounds fabulous.
The kids played together all day.
This is probably a good time to brag about our fishing skills. Since Marc and
the kids are the real fishermen, I can brag about them. Almost everyday that we have had the lines out
we have caught fish. It has been so fun and has provided some fabulous meals. This week
the best fish were a Big Eyed Tuna and a 45 inch bull Mahi Mahi. They were both excellent!!!
We have caught quite a few Mahi’s since we left but this was the most impressive. Since it
was a bull it had the big bull head and was just beautiful. We had enough Mahi to feed 10 that night at
a little party on Stray Kitty. It has been so much fun and rewarding catching our own dinner whether with
conch or fish. When we told the kids that we wouldn’t be able to fish in the BVI because we don’t
have a permit, Noah said, “Well what are we going to eat?” That summed it up.
We are leaving for St. Martin
tomorrow where we probably be through Christmas. The decorations are up on the boat and we are ready for
Santa. Next time we write we’ll be speaking French and eating Baguettes!
25, 2008 – Grand Case, St. Martin
Christmas!!! Christmas in the Caribbean, we can’t complain. Santa found us in
Grand Case Bay. He was able to get a lot of toys under our 2 foot tree and the stockings that were hung
from the hand rails were filled to the top. We were anchored by our friends Stray Kitty and a new kid boat
named Pickles who actually had 4 kids on board. We played at the beach (on Christmas) and made Christmas
yummies. We had a wonderful Christmas dinner with both families and other friends from Ariel.
have been in St. Martin since December 19th. It’s a nice island and the people are so
friendly. Due to the stiff winds out of the east we weren’t really able to enjoy their nice beaches
which are all on the East Coast. But we did enjoy the small beach at Grand Case and spending time with
our friends and all of the kids over the holidays. The food here was great, of course, it’s French.
The first day we were here we bought four baguettes and ate them on the same day. Brie and bread,
Marc is in heaven.
We were able to attend a beautiful Christmas Eve mass at a small one room church. It was done
in French, English, and Spanish – you thought that the service that you attended was long. Before
mass started a woman came up to us and asked if Caroline would like to participate in their processional. I
guess someone hadn’t come to church that was supposed to be in it so they needed a replacement. We of course, said yes,
and they outfitted her with a golden crown and white dress and she was an angel. She looked beautiful.
The music was incredible. It was traditional English Christmas carols, loudly sung to a Caribbean
beat. It was a fun experience.
Through modern technology we were able to Skype (call from our computer)
all of our family. Although, we weren’t able to be together, it was great to talk to everyone.
We miss everyone very much. We hope that you all had a fabulous Christmas and are preparing for
a very Happy New Year.
as the winds die down we will be headed for Barbuda. It is suppose to be a beautiful quiet island with
perfect beaches – can’t wait.
December 28, 2008 - St. Barths
We are anchored tonight in a very pretty bay in St. Barths. For an island that we weren’t
going to visit we are actually really enjoying it here. The last that we wrote we were headed to Barbuda.
Well, we definitely need to get used to the fact that the weather doesn’t always cooperate with our plans.
After years of rushing to meetings, flights, or carpool pickups, it is really difficult to get used to not being a
set schedule all of the time. We actually have to make ourselves be flexible and if we don’t make
ourselves the weather will. So we left St. Martin at 4:00 AM on the morning of the 27th.
We were out about an hour in some pretty stiff winds and big waves and decided instead of making a very uncomfortable
70 mile run to Barbuda we’d make a 15 mile run to St. Barths. Guess whose idea that was?
But Marc didn’t argue. We were anchored in St. Barts before the kids even woke up.
They were so confused when they finally got out of their bunks.
It is really beautiful here and definitely a place
for the beautiful, wealthy people. Poor Imagine looks like a dinghy compared to the Mega-yachts that are
here. It is amazing, everywhere you look you see 100+ ft boats, many with their own helicopters on deck.
anchored yesterday in the harbor at the main town of Gustavia. It is by far the cleanest city that we’ve
seen yet in the Caribbean. The shopping is amazing, you feel like you are on Rodeo Drive. Caroline
is quite the browser but here we only did window shopping. It is probably also the safest since everywhere
we looked we saw French police. We actually had a slight encounter with a very polite French policeman
in shorts. Some of you may know that Marc had a little bit of a lead foot when he used to drive on land
well since the dinghy is now our car that lead foot has moved to the throttle. Granted it is only 15 HP
so you can’t go too fast but apparently he was going over the 3 mph speed limit in the harbor. Luckily,
we were given a warning but I can’t believe that they actually write tickets for that. I guess they
don’t want any wakes bothering the Mega-yachts.
This morning we came over to a great beach in Columbrier. It
is very nice and can only be accessed by foot or the water so it was fairly quiet. There is one house that
you can see from the bay and it was built by the Rockefellers. We tried to climb up the stone steps but
there was a big Private sign and we didn’t want any more run-ins with the Police. But we did take
a great hike over the hill toward the town. It burned off some energy for the kids and I got a little exercise.
Well the winds have slowed
and the waves have laid down a bit so tomorrow we head for Barbuda, we think.
I’ve heard from some friends that they not
only like to hear about the places that we’ve been but also some of the practical parts of our life. Well,
you can’t get more practical than laundry. Well the good news is that Imagine was already equipped
with a built in washing/dryer machine. The washer part works great but the dryer part not so great
but who needs a dryer when it is 80+ and sunny every day. But the bad news is that it wasn’t designed
for a family of five and it uses a lot of our precious water and energy. So, we have to supplement with
a little hand laundry and Marc has officially become “Laundry Boy” on the boat. About once
a week, while I am teaching the kids, Marc sits on the back deck in his sun shirt and Panama Jack hat with a bucket (yes a
bucket) and does laundry. Now, if the laundry room hadn’t doubled as his workshop back in our house
in Chicago, I don’t think that Marc would have known where it was so this has been quite a role reversal.
He does a great job and I am definitely not complaining. He even used a shell to scrub the stains
off of my white T-shirt the other day……..what a life.
Happy New Year from Barbuda!!!
For the last couple of days we have been anchored off of a stunning 11 mile beach. There is only
one small hotel on the entire beach and only a handful of boats anchored off of it. It is the most beautiful
beach we’ve seen…..so far. The beach has a pinkish tint to it due to massive amounts of tiny
pink shells that wash up on it. Caroline and I are desparately trying to find a way to make jewelry out
of the little shells. We have spent most of our time relaxing and enjoying this beach. We
have utilized all of Santa’s new water gifts especially the boogie board and have been practicing passing the football.
It’s a tough life.
Barbuda is an interesting little island. It is very flat, only 124 ft high which is only twice
the height of our boat. We didn’t even see land until we were almost here. There
are only about 1500 residents on the island and they are very friendly. The customs agent, who runs customs
out of his home, let me make several local phone calls to boat supply stores and the woman who runs the computer center had
her young daughter who was about Caroline’s age open it up for me to go online. As I understand it
the land on the island is owned communally by the residents so since there is no individual land ownership land cannot be
sold to outsiders. Therefore, there has been very little development.
We are going to
enjoy one more night on this quiet little piece of paradise and then head for Antigua to meet Grandpa Dave and Jenna.
We are very excited to see them.