Wednesday, May 30, 2001

2001: Spanish Virgin Islands

Spanish Virgin Islands? Not quite as famous as their American and British sisters. Sure, you've heard of Puerto Rico, but haven't heard of Vieques unless you follow the news about the former US Navy bombing range on the island. OK, I admit I wouldn't have heard of it if I hadn't been in the Navy. Even though the sailboat lacked naval artillery for me to be able to shell the beach, I had just read an article in Men's Journal on Culebrita that sounded pretty good. And, the opportunity to save a few pennies by shopping on base in Puerto Rico sold me on this trip. Don W agreed to skipper again, so we planned on two boats and sent out the word through MHA. Dawn and Don R signed up again quickly, and the rest came along by association: Mary and Karen N on Don's boat, Beth on mine. Jim got tired of listening to us at the FACs and joined up, along with Corey, Karen H and her friend Ron. We thought we were leaving with 11 when Susan B joined MHA, heard of the trip, and signed up for it as her first event.

We flew into San Juan and were provided rental vans to head to Marina Del Ray on the east coast. We went to the marina and checked in, then I snuck my "sisters" Dawn and Karen N into the commissary and package goods store on base to provision. We packed it all into our Sun-Odyssey 42's Blackbird and Bloody Mary.

Monday was underway to the Palominitos, a quick shakedown sail. Lots of time to spend in the water...
Tuesday got off to a rocky start as BBS nearly lost the jib fairlead block during a tack because the stopper broke. Coupled with a kayak overboard and a bowline knot that slipped, it was a good drill (more like a chinese fire drill) for the crew. After retrieving the kayak and relaying to base through Don's boat since our radio didn't reach, the repair boat came out with the ice that Don requested but no new block or stopper. We settled for tying off the block and got underway for Culebra.

Seas were out of the southeast, the direction we were heading, and the roughest we'd seen to date, about 2 feet. We sailed upwind well, but due to the late start wound up pulling in to Luis Pena with very little light left, and picked up a mooring ball there. A great morning swim & snorkel, then off to Ensenata Honda and Dewey, the major town on Culebra (at least by Culebra standards).

Wednesday night was dinner at the Dinghy Dock, about the only restaurant we found. Dewey harbor didn't look too great for swimming, so Thursday we headed back out to a recommended area for snorkeling just west of the lighthouse on Culebrita. The seas were running hard and I was worried about the anchor holding, so I stayed onboard to plan out a course of action. Nobody seemed too keen on taking the seas on the beam for a long sail to Vieques, so we decided to stay local and went around to the north of Culebrita to enter the beautiful half moon bay that lays well protected there. With the seas running from the SE, we didn't have any problem getting into the bay and the water was glassy as we entered. Turtles popped their heads up to watch us, and their tracks were still in the sand on the beach. This is BBS territory...

Friday we went back to Dewey for more ice, booze and some food. Jim, Don & I rented scuba gear and got a nice shore dive in on the reef along the west coast of Culebra. We originally anchored to the north of Luis Pena, but returned to the mooring balls to the west after Don had trouble holding. Saturday Jim & I used our second tank diving under the boat and along the reef in the bay with the snorkelers around us, then returned the gear and headed back to Isla Palominitos for a last swim before pulling back in to the marina.
We had a great group dinner ashore before packing up and catching a few hours sleep. Sun brought an early departure to return to San Juan airport for the flight back to Chicago, and a return to reality.