07/14/2010, Spanish Waters
13th July 13, 2010
Sorry about the delay with the blog but here, finally, is an update of the last month. A lot of time in the first weeks was spent with Vossie recovering and the odd trip to the supermarket and of course to watch World Cup soccer.
Most of the spares have arrived and slowly we have begun to fix the few issues we had.
We were fortunate to meet up with a friend from St Maarten, Mike Voges of Lady C bar, who is originally from Curacao and he very kindly lent us a car for a few days, which enabled us to go sightseeing around the island. The first day we thought to travel the northern part of the island and we started off at the Hato Caves. These caves cover an area of 4900 square meters of limestone formations, a waterfall, water pools and the famous Madonna statue. Also present inside the caves is a colony of seldom seen long nose bats which are protected within the caves. We also walked the Indian Trail and saw rock carvings done by the Caiquetio Indians 1500 years ago. These carvings have been found only in this area of the Caribbean and in certain areas along the South American Orinoco river where this tribe originally came from. In the park around the caves saw many iguanas which were brought to the island as food by the Indians. They are strictly vegetarian and can grow up to 120cm, weigh up to 3 kilos and live up to 30 years. The bright green colored babies live in trees until they are about 18 months old.
We continued north passing through the villages and stopping whenever there was something of interest to see. There are many historical Country Estates dating to the 17th & 18th century dotted around the island some of which house restaurants or guest houses. Saw the traditional windmills pumping water at remote sites and stopped to see the impressive Wind turbines located on the San Pedro plain. A row of tall, white towers gleaming in the sun on the rough north coast, using the average wind speed of 19.7 mph with little daily variation, to generate electricity.
Next stop was the Bocas on the north east point. Here we visited the various inlets , the most impressive being Boca Pistole. As the waves rush into a narrowed area of rock they make the sound of a pistol shot going off and send water flying up into the air. Vossie also left his signature in one of the small gullies, he couldn't resist. This whole coastal area was desert like, the little shrubs that managed to survive growing horizontal to the ground from the constant buffeting by the wind.
In total contrast to the rocky and beachless north side of the island we arrived at Westpunt to a vista of a calm bay with fishing boats at anchor and beautiful clear blue water. All the beaches are on this side of the island and are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. We stopped at most of them trying to make the difficult decision as to which one to come back to at a later time.
We stopped at the Flamingo Sanctuary on the way back. What a beautiful sight! Unfortunately they were not very close to land so my photos cannot do justice to the spectacle.
Our first day sightseeing was very successful and rewarding and we arrived home tired but happy and ready for the next day.
Another early start to the day to visit the Ostrich Farm. Also an interesting tour in an open truck and we got to feed the ostriches as well. Saw emus and pot bellied pigs and crocodiles. Just like home! This farm is managed by a couple from South Africa so had a nice chat to them as well, much to Vossie's delight. Then off north again to find the right beach to relax on, snorkel and have our picnic lunch. Eventually decided on one that wasn't busy and had a very pleasant time swimming and exploring the rocky outcrops. It felt like swimming in an aquarium as Debbie pointed out.
Arriving back in Willemstad we stopped at the Nassau Fort built on a hilltop overlooking Willemstad. Built in 1797 to defend the St Anna Bay and the city and now has a restaurant and bar. From here we had a perfect view over the city and were able to watch the pontoon foot bridge open to allow a big tanker into the harbour guided by tugs.
On the way home took advantage of the car and did some grocery shopping, especially cases of beer, which are a little difficult with the bus. We have found and explored most of the big supermarkets and hardware stores which would have not been possible without the generous offer of the car.
On one of the days into Willemstad by public bus we visited some of the forts in town and Bob also wanted to see the Telecommunication museum but unfortunately this was closed until further notice. We did however visit a few of the Forts, one of which, Fort Amsterdam, houses the Governor and government offices and still has a cannonball embedded in one of the walls which was fired by Capt. Bligh's troops. The Rif Fort and Renaissance Mall built in 1828 at the entrance to the harbor is converted into a shopping mall.
Another interesting outing was a visit to the Chobolobo Country House where you see how the Curacao liqueur " Blue Curacao" has been distilled in the traditional way for 100 years. Naturally we took full advantage of the free tasting on offer.
Boat work, Vossie has moved the SSB tuner from it's old position to one of the "built" boxes so that the aerial connection to the tuner box can be shorter. This allows for better transmitting/receiving. So now that, that is done he hopes to fit the "aqua gen", a generator that is water driven and hangs off the back of the boat whilst sailing. It apparently produces a lot of power.
Lastly, we all enjoyed the World Cup final sitting in the bar, surrounded by Dutch supporters in Dutch territory, and adding support to the Spanish. For all of you that know Vossie this does not need any further explanation. Needless to say , when Spain won there were a few very angry Dutch supporters who told us exactly where we should not be. However it was an exciting game and a happy day.
As you can see we have been quite active, work and play has been mixed thoroughly and we have enjoyed sharing our adventures with our friends, Bob and Debbie. So let me get this one off and hope to do the next one soon.
06/15/2010, Spanish Waters
Curacao 1st Week
7th June Monday
Curacao is located in the southwestern Caribbean 70 km north of South America. 61km long 5-14 km wide. Official language is Dutch but English, Spanish and Papiamentu also spoken. Currency is the Netherland Antilles Guilder but US$ notes accepted ( not silver)
First things first, we have to go to Willemstad, the capital, to check in. So medicated Vossie with pain killers and off to catch the bus. This in my short experience takes the best part of the day...... first customs, then immigration and then license to anchor. And a lot of walking............
A really colourful city. It was decreed in the past that no building was allowed to be painted pure white and thus the appealing colour contrasts as one walks down the streets. After checking in we wandered downtown first and stopped into in few bars and did some window shopping. There is much in the way of historical culture and old forts which we look forward to exploring.
On the way back to catch the bus we passed the open air market where the boats from Venezuela come to sell their fresh fruit and veg every day. We just missed the bus so had to kill time ( over an hour ) until the next one.. Vossie was very relieved to get back to the boat.
The local supermarket sends a complimentary bus every morning for anyone wishing to go and do some shopping . They give you one hour which is very good of them before returning. We have taken advantage of this a few times and Vossie and Bob normally take the opportunity to visit Budget Marine and Napa around the corner from the supermarket, while Debbie and I wander the shop.
A lot of time has been spent on the boat as Vossie has to take it easy and try to mend....not an easy task.
There was no way he was going to miss the opening game of the World Cup soccer so medicated and strapped up we went to the Fishermans Bar at the dock to enjoy the game at 10.30 in the morning. We watched in the pouring rain under an awning, TV covered with a plastic table cloth to keep it dry, all of us soaked to the skin but hey!.....a good time was had by all.
Debbie and Bob kindly offered to take us to lunch for my birthday and we walked to the nearby beach and had a really good meal at one of the local bars. A popular bar on the weekend where there was also a TV, putting a great smile on Vossie's face. Walked back to the dingy via the Fishermans Bar to enjoy a few more Polars with new friends and finally made it home way after supper. Thank you guys for a wonderful birthday.
Took the supermarket bus mainly for the outing and to pick up some of the spares that had arrived at Napa. Its only about 2 hours all in all but breaks the day.
Tonight we will go to the Happy hour at 5.00pm to the Asiento bar and find out more about where to find what and hopefully meet up with Vossie's Budget associate in Curacao and perhaps organize a car for a day or two so we can begin to explore some of this interesting island. The walking and bus rides are not comfortable for Vossie's broken ribs and he tires very quickly.
06/15/2010, Spanish Waters
SALINAS TO CURACAO
3rd June 2010 Thursday
We left Salinas 12.30pm for Curacao, also Netherland Antilles island, on a journey of 394 nautical miles, crossing the Caribbean Sea. It was slow going for the afternoon and Passat pulled away from us, as usual, making us play the catch up game again.
Fairly calm sea, full main and genoa out. Did a little motor sailing in the afternoon and during the early hours of the morning of the 4th the wind picked up and we were doing up to 7.5 knots and caught up with Passat a little. Nice sailing at this point. Our first 24 hours we did slightly less than 100 miles which was disappointing. The rest of the day was spent just keeping watch and Vossie trying to catch up on a little sleep. Managed to make supper before dark and with the swell beginning to increase settled in for another night trip. The moon rise was around midnight so up to then we sail in darkness which takes a little getting used to for me. However the phosphorescence as we cut through the water is amazing. Like someone throwing handfuls of stars around the boat. I spent my watch hours at night sitting on the back of Talacam mesmerized by this sight. Clear night with stars above as well as below. For the most part we have averaged 6 knots and have been fairly comfortable in the boat, even though the gunnel is almost in the water.
Morning of the 5th the swell has picked up considerably and sailing along at 6 knots. At about 11.00am we had a school of about 50 dolphins playing around the boat, surfing on our bow wake and chattering in their enjoyment. I tried very hard to take some photos but with great difficulty holding on with one arm and balancing as we rolled over the swells. They stayed with us for about an hour racing around the back of the boat, and back to play in the bow wave. It was such a simple pleasure to enjoy watching these graceful , trusting creatures.
As the wind had died a little we put up the staysail as well hoping to pick up speed and to make landfall in the day time on Sunday. Wind started to pick up a little again as we settled in for the 3rd night with swell maintaining 6 ft-7 ft.
Went down to rest for a few hours and lying in the saloon could feel Talacam shuddering as the wind picked up even more. Our speed increasing to a manageable 7-8 knots. Wonderful we will make landfall in the daylight! Everyone happy, exhilarating sail!! Well, that was all ok until Talacam got it into her head that the old bones having been thoroughly shook up and the 11 year old cobwebs swept away in the wind, would show Daddy, who had been exhorting her to greater heights, that she would show just what she could do and increased her speed to 10knot plus. VERY SCARY business. Two big bundles of nerves screaming through the darkness in a boat which would not be stopped. We waited very impatiently for daybreak and with Bob's advice on how to get a reef back into the main the easiest way, managed to bring her down to a more sedate 6-7 knots, but still wanting to hit 8.
We have made good time and landfall will be mid afternoon and we look forward to not having to go through another night ride. True to form though, on our last 6 miles to approach Spanish Waters a few more incidents to rattle the already stretched nerves. A line of 5 squalls , one particularly menacing one. So bobbed around uncomfortably waiting for it to pass by and decided the others were mainly rain so started up again very slowly waiting for the visibility to clear so we could get into anchorage. Just about ready to do all this when the autopilot decided its job was done and he gave up. So around in circles we went trying to find the very narrow entrance and get the right bearings to enter. Nervous breakdown was now eminent and with me on the tiller we came in with Vossie checking the GPS to keep me on course.
Finally............. anchor down at 2.30pm, engine off and cold beer out. What an experience! But we are safely in Spanish Waters anchorage in Curacao, which promises to be very interesting.
After relaxing for a while and early supper we get ourselves ready for much needed sleep. I put my head down at 5.30 and asleep by 5.31pm. Vossie then does the unthinkable after 3 1/2 days rolling around at sea and safely in harbor, he tries to close the hatch while climbing down the companionway, falls down onto his back with his whole weight onto the corner of the galley top and has most definitely cracked at least one rib. Since he won't go for an x-ray we cannot be sure. Of all of this I am unaware until 3 in the morning when I wake up to find him in the saloon in pain with bruises on both sides of his face and a cut on the forehead. Was surely a hard fall! He is not going to enjoy recovering from this one!
28th to 30th May Friday to Sunday
Salinas is renowned as being a home for the manatee. Debbie and Bob went off to hunt them down with some success. They caught sight of a good few although they were just under the water so no clear photos could be taken. Debbie is very happy! We have seen some surfacing briefly not too far from the boat. Manatee have an attraction for dingeys in the water ( thinking perhaps they are new manatees to the area ) and so one watches for them around the dingy when it is in the water...alas I don't think the orange dingy attracts them as much.
We have discovered a serious problem with our diesel fuel hoses which are disintegrating. On googling the problem we found out that there is an incompatibility when using bio-diesel with normal diesel hose. One has to have proper hose when using bio diesel of which we were not made aware. Obviously the chemicals added when making the bio diesel damage the normal diesel fuel pipes which have become like gelatine.
Not being able to work on the problem until we have the new hose, we spent Friday afternoon and the weekend exploring the village, finding cheap beers, sampling local snacks and also arranged to hire a car for Monday and Tuesday to find all that is needed to replace all the diesel fuel lines and at the same time to see a little of the surrounding area. Friday night had a thunder storm with plenty of rain and got back to boats in the nick of time after having a cheeseburger & chips at the Marina ( $ 4.95 ) and happy hour beers ( 5-11pm on Friday nights ). Wind came up during the early hours of the morning after which Passat found themselves aground after dragging, just short of the mangroves. After the night at the Marina we couldn't raise them on the radio but as Vossie was getting the dingy ready to go across, Bob popped his head out and went about re-anchoring.
Sunday was spent catching up on domestic chores and catching up on the blog. Vossie went to shore to fill our jerry jugs with normal diesel to fill up with when fuel lines have been replaced. Unfortunately we still have about 80 liters of bio diesel which we won't be using as we don't want to chance even mixing it with diesel. Hard lesson learnt!
31st May Monday
Picked up the rental car at 9.00 and started the search for the malls and shopping centers. Stopped in at Walmart and anyone would think we had never seen a shopping mall before. Like letting kids loose in a candy store. No success with spares or filters but Bob found a fishing net so he has no excuse with the next fish. Vossie bought a new reel and Debbie and I found new costumes. I also bought a new Acer laptop for $ 366.00 incl tax as I think we might need one dedicated to navigation in the future. This was cheaper than St Maarten.
The Autozone store was the place where the new fuel hose was found and a few other needed spares.
We travelled via Santa Isabel onto Ponce taking the scenic route. Many, many mango trees heavy with fruit wherever you look and breadfruit trees which were also laden but not ready for picking yet. More mall shopping ......mostly with the eyes, but great fun anyway.
1st June , 2010
We spent the day exploring a small part of central PR inland up in the mountains through many of the smaller villages up to Barranquitas and through Comerio to Caguas more to the east and made our way back down through the Guavate forest to Guayama towards the south and Salinas. Virtually the whole drive was through canopied forested roads with lush plant growth and huge bamboo. Memories of Kloof Gorge only much more.... There are still many old buildings dating back and some really welcoming town squares, which every town has.
There were , of course, many refreshment stops along the way. One was at a Lechonera, of which there are many all over Puerto Rico. These are bars that always have a roast pig on a spit with BBQ chicken. Slices of roasted pork are served with traditional rice and beans and plantain. We were very tempted...... but the beer special got the upper hand.
We arrived back in Salinas Marina at 6.00pm after a long day which was enjoyed by all. Our land fix over and time to ready ourselves for the sea again.
The day is being spent replacing the melting fuel hoses....a very dirty job with much huffing and cursing from the engine room and much black oily, gooey matter all over the cockpit and mostly everywhere else........ no other way to explain the condition of the hoses.
A hot bath for Vossie and plenty of degreaser for the boat ( and Vossie ) will be in order after this to get some measure of normality back.
Weather permitting we intend to leave for Curacao tomorrow, Thursday, which will take about 4 days and hopefully an uneventful and safe journey.
06/02/2010, Sun Bay
VIEQUES (Isla Nena )
Located 7 miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico
The day basically spent trying to find out what caused the problem with the gearbox and making a temporary fix. After much looking it was discovered that the metal pipe had parted under the nut and with the help of parts from Bob a new connection was made and hopefully it will hold until we are able to buy the correct parts in Puerto Rico.
Beached the dingy, locked it onto a coconut palm and made our way on foot to the town of Esperanza. A promenade on the waterfront lined with many bars, restaurants and shops and a lot of tourists. Very neat and interesting. Horses being ridden bareback down the middle of the street amongst the cars. We heard there are a lot of wild horses on the island. Popped into the local yacht club complex , looked through the book swap and sat with a beer watching the sights.
After a swim we headed back to the boats for supper and decided thereafter that because the seas were relatively calm, we would motor with the dingy ( 18hp motor ) to the bioluminescent bay , Mosquito Bay, which was the next bay along.
Armed with coffee and mosquito spray we set off. Truly amazing and unfortunately one would need a really good camera to do it justice. It is advertised as swimming with the stars and every movement in the water glows like tiny fireflies. Fun was had by all splashing in the water to see the sparkles. The tour operators charge up to $ 100.00 per person for this experience. So one of the advantages to the cruising life. Arrived back at the boat about 1.00 in the morning after this little adventure and slept later the next morning.
24th and 25th May.
We moved on to Green Beach, Punta Arenas on the northwest point of Vieques in preparation for our trip across to Puerto Rico. No residents in this area but a long deserted beach with good swimming. A restful day and night spent waiting for some wind.
We left Vieques for Puerto Rico in the morning with sails up in dead calm sea. Fortunately there was a little wind, followed by a lot of wind generated by 2 small squalls. Talacam was going 6- 7 knots for a while and it was a fairly good trip up until we were about to make landfall. Ahead of us was another squall which hit us with unexpected 33 knot winds. Needless to say, a scramble to get sails down and turn out to sea until this went over. More to this than I let on! Because the weather had now changed and there was more wind and rain to come Bob led us to an anchorage behind a reef for the night, off the town of Patillas. We had to negotiate our way through endless fish pods put out by the local fishermen to reach this spot. One does not want one of these wound around a prop!
9.30am anchors up on the way to Salinas. We had to motor all the way as there was no wind. The sea was calm but a bit rolly and weather overcast...... We arrived in Salinas at 2.30pm after an uneventful trip. One bit of excitement though. Bob caught a really big fish ( maybe a King fish ) on the approach to Salinas and we were all gearing up for fish dinner. But after getting it on deck the fish slithered its way back into the sea...... no fish dinner! Next time Bob.
The channel into Salinas anchorage was really a new experience for us, VERY shallow with 1 ft and less under the keel in places. Much stressing and pressing of buttons on the GPS changing 1 degree this way and that way so as to not touch ground. We managed to do this without mishap by not following Passat when we saw that they had touched bottom briefly. We were greeted with the sight of a many boats tucked in the calm anchorage surrounded by mangroves. Not inviting water for swimming but for the quiet water I trade this gladly.
FLAMENCO BEACH CULEBRA
Our last day in Culebra decided to walk across to see Flamenco Bay. A pleasant walk but a long one for Vossie. Long white beach with surrounding reefs. Very popular beach even though it wasn't the weekend. Lots of kiosks with food and drink. Also the beach of choice where people get married. There was also a camping site for tents only, no vehicles allowed.
The boys went off to locate the old abandoned tanks left behind by the US army and Debbie and I sat on the beach resting the legs and enjoying our beers.
Ended up catching a bus back to the dinghy which was a 10 minute ride and were dropped off in front of bar of choice, Bateys, where we had another beer before heading back to our boats to ready ourselves for departure to Vieques the following day.
We left Ensenada Honda at 11.00 am and snagged a mooring buoy when picking up the anchor. Vossie injured his hand during this exercise, cutting his finger,....not a good start to the day. The first part of the trip we had a good sail and things looked good but then we lost the wind and had to motor sail. Then we lost revs and another problem revealed itself, as I said bad start to the day. The gearbox was losing oil, so Vossie had to keep on topping with oil to get us to our destination.
Eventually we arrived in Sunbay, Vieques at 5.45pm. I steered us onto the mooring buoy and Vossie picked up and we were safe for the night. I'm getting better at this mooring exercise.