Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Cruising Blogger's New Year's Resolutions

No matter where you live it is easy to get stuck in a rut.  You would think that living out here would be different... So why does it always surprise me how good it feels to do something different???

How many times have I envisioned how a place will be and discounted the awesomeness of it only to be astounded at how wrong I was???  So my New Year's Resolution will be to STOP THAT!!!

Waking up in this place just five miles from where we've been for a month... I scrambled out of bed before dawn to sit and watch the world wake up.  The Culebrita Light was hard at work keeping mariners safe from doom...  Even though I have been up there and have personally seen how unromantic the actual mechanism is... there is still something magical about sleeping beneath the protective "sweep" of the light.

Many times we've looked back on our day and marveled at how differently it turned out from what we had anticipated or expected.  Every one of those days began with a decision... Do it or don't do it.  We could easily have just sat around, done boat projects, been lazy and not splashed the dinghy or simply lounged in bed and missed that stunning sunrise...  This brings me to my next resolution.  DO IT!

See what I would have missed if I hadn't got out of bed early today???
Get out of bed, splash that dinghy, dig out your snorkel gear and don't miss a thing!

So we took our own advice and got off the boat today!  So why did all of this hype fall so flat???  The reef in front of us still hides its secrets as we only got as far as the shallow sandy side closest to our boat.  The visibility wasn't great and it was just... well...SAND!

Upside-down Jellyfish
But all was not lost.  Later this week we hope to make a jump to St. Thomas.  Our boat bottom is a wonderland of sea critters right now... so instead of snorkeling around we opted to perform the more responsible duties... and cleaned our bottom!

Bruce went down with our home-made breathing contraption while I floated topside and cleaned the waterline.

I wanted exercise... I got exercise!

The dirty side
He finished about half the job in the much cooler water and came up to warm his shivering body in the sun...  The water was much warmer near the surface so I was able to finish one side of the boat before I decided that my arms were going to quit working...

A rare Bruce-Selfie
As I was climbing out of the water Bruce started scrambling to move his generator and compressor  into the cockpit as a lone raincloud began to dump!  I hung our rash-guards on the lifelines for a freshwater rinse... then I just stayed for a rinse myself!

The joy of standing on a deck letting the rain rinse the saltwater from your body can't be described.

My last resolution ... involves YOU!  I'm going to try to limit the length of my blog posts to make them more easily digestible...  Still LOTS of photos but (hopefully) I will (try to) post more often in smaller bits.

Our day was done.  Both of us were exhausted and thankful of a leftover dinner...  We ate in the cockpit as our limbs began to refuse all further activity.  Hopefully we will still be able to move tomorrow...

Monday, January 2, 2017

We Aren't The Greatest Boat Buddies...

We had grown quite a lot of goomba on our anchor chain and snubber...
It wasn't just the Christmas Winds keeping us pinned down in Ensenada Honda for a MONTH!!!  We were also kinda-sorta waiting for another boat to get their chance to catch up with us before we moved on.  Well they finally made it to Culebra and after a couple of days hanging out with them, showing them our favorite haunts and such... we left them.  Some great Boat Buddies WE are, right?

Crew to Battle Stations...
OK we're terrible Boat Buddies... but we're a work in progress!  And we had to get out of there!  Yes, we've loved every minute of our time in Culebra but we get these itchy feet, you see...  Suddenly we are ready to go!  Sometimes it doesn't even matter what the weather forecast says... And today was questionable.

We had mentioned to Adventure Us 2 that we would go if the winds weren't honking in the morning... and they were kind of honking.  Add to that a procession of fast-moving squalls and we could easily have decided to just stay put... But Itchy Feet, remember?

Burton is teaching Vicki well...
So about mid morning, before we even had breakfast, we shooed Jezabelle out of our bedroom and started hauling up the anchor.  Our friends aboard Corta' Ito were doing the same, only they got gone before we did...  You see, their anchor hadn't been in one place for as long as ours had.  We found an astonishing amount of plant-life growing on our anchor chain and snubber gear.

While Bruce was working on cleaning off the ground tackle, I noticed that our alternator gauge was kind of having little fits instead of giving me a strong reading... and our tachometer was quivering.  Not good.  I mentioned this to Bruce and he quickly disappeared down below to take a look.  It was a quick fix however, just tighten the alternator belt and we were good to go again... Then the cloud appeared.  We consulted radar and decided to just be reasonable for a minute and cool our heels while the rain passed.  Besides, it gave us a chance to have breakfast!

We passed this unlucky New Year's Reveler... Notice anything unusual about the way this boat is sitting?
Soon we had the anchor up, the alternator was charging along and our tummies were full as we motored at a slow pace out of the anchorage that had been our home for a month.  Have I mentioned that we've been here for a MONTH???

Another squall slipped past us bringing gusty winds and a few sprinkles but by the time we reached the gap in the protective reef it had passed...

The winds were anywhere from 12 knots to 24 with a few higher gusts in the squalls.  After each squall passed the winds would be very light for a bit, then it would start again.

Even with the forecast calling for winds 17-20 knots and seas to 8 feet, we were banking on the wind direction being in our favor.  Coming from the NE the wind driven waves would have to leap over a small island and a lot of reef to get us.  There was only a short distance that we might get bigger waves and we were OK with that.  Jezebel did not get a vote.

We could see several sport-fishers anchored in Almodovar
Our gamble paid off with only about ten minutes of waves about 2-4 ft. then they calmed down to a choppy 1-2 ft for the rest of our very short route.

The 5.5 mile distance that should have taken us about an hour took almost two due to some adverse current, and wind and wave being on the nose.  But we powered happily on with stunning views all around us.
Turning in just past this shallow spot.... See how flat the water is?  
Today is the first time we've visited this anchorage and there's always some level of anxiety with every new place.  Maybe that's what makes it fun... the thrill of possible doom.  We had no real idea how conditions would be, only our best guess which... today... paid off!

The channel leading into Manglar Bay was easily visible and all we had to do was avoid the light colored water and stay on the flat ribbon of deep blue that led us into even more sheltered waters.

Group one on our port side...
We made the sharp turn to port with Bruce on the bow but it turned out that his vigilance was unneeded... It was a piece of cake with depths greater than charted and again, obvious shallow water easily avoided.  We picked out a mooring ball about mid-way between two groups of power boats and did our thing.

We've become quite proficient at catching a mooring ball with little verbal communication needed.  Even with the high gusty winds we had the boat secured in no time leaving us free to gawk at the incredible beauty surrounding us.

As soon as we got settled the aforementioned squalls resumed their march.  We were all thankful of the cozy reef just in front of us.  Ensenada Honda provides adequate protection but the wind can kick up some decent wave action where we were anchored.  THIS is heaven in comparison.

A sunny interlude with the next squall almost obscuring St. Thomas
We spent the afternoon filling our water tanks, almost empty in anticipation of our planned move to cleaner waters...  I tried to read but kept being distracted by the ever-changing scene before my eyes...

Did I mention that Jezabelle wholeheartedly approves of our move... now that it's done?  She made several turns around the deck with lots of lap sits and chin scratches in between...  You can definitely tell when your feline crew is happy!

Oh yeah what about our Buddy Boat?  They decided to remain back in Ensenada Honda for a couple of days to see more of Culebra.  This is their first time here and we are happy to wait over on this side for them to meet up with us...

 Like I said, we're new at Buddy Boating and the first rule for me is that we aren't joined at the hip.  We are both free to make our own choices and do our own thing when the mood stirs us... We will see them again soon and continue on happily. I think we're going to like having another couple to share adventures with for a while.... soon.



The Year We Made It

When I think about our life as Cruisers I always smile to myself when I remember that some of our best friends never thought we would "make it".  Come on, you know who you are... admit it!  To tell you the truth, there were many years leading up to it all when Bruce and I didn't really think so either.  

Getting out was hard.  Even after we technically tossed the docklines, leaving the US was hard.  Transitioning in our minds from the internal attachment to all things American was something we didn't even know was a THING!

But here we are...  It's been more than a year since we have "lived" on US soil.  Although I will admit that being in Puerto Rico is kind of like cheating a little... It's one foot in and one foot out.  But still.  Looking back on this past year when we overcame our fears of longish passages and made it from the Bahamas to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  Then we crossed the fearsome Mona Passage...

We've been out of our comfort zone and yet we have developed a new comfort zone...  We have developed a new sense of our abilities and confidence in our boat.  And although we no longer feel so strongly compelled to go "somewhere"... We are truly comfortable in our life living "somewhere else".

Thinking forward to possibly not coming "back" to the US in the foreseeable future doesn't seem so daunting to us any longer.  We are excited to be finally visiting new places and really taking our time to see them thoroughly...  This is what our 2017 is.  The year we finally made it out.

Still...  Moving on provides it's own set of challenges...  We have to get past the Christmas Winds if we ever want to move on from Culebra!  We've been here for almost a month!  Today the urge to move this boat has grown to overwhelming proportions and we are getting ready to pull up the anchor...  We won't get far until later this week when the winds are forecast to lay down a bit... But we are going SOMEWHERE.  Today!

Look back with me over our last days in Culebra... in pictures.

Sleepy little Culebra seems to be waking up.  Christmas is reportedly one of their biggest tourist events and there is an air of building excitement that can be felt everywhere.

We finally found this little kiosk OPEN!

Bruce quickly offered to let me pick out my Christmas present...
Enjoying Monkey Balls at Sweet & Naughty
We sort of went wild with eating out while we were in Culebra...  With so many days restricted from shore by the Christmas winds... when we DID go ashore, we almost always enjoyed at least one meal out...  It's going to be difficult to give that up and go back to our normally frugal habits.

Eating has been a bit of an issue lately...  I hate to make New Year's Resolutions about dieting... but really....  With long days stuck onboard, I've been cooking lots of tasty but not so healthy meals and baked things... Then we lie around on our backsides with full tummies and I must say that my waistline has suffered the consequences.  

So we have consciously looked for excuses to get off the boat and just walk around a bit.  We found this easy beach just outside the canal through town to be the perfect get-away!

I was struggling with being a little melancholy on Christmas Day... I know it's just another day... but it is full of so many memories of mornings with my kids.  I know these are days I will never get back... days that wouldn't be the same even if we weren't cruising far away from all that was our "normal" lives... But still...

Finding a quiet beach and getting a little sunshine was just what I needed to cheer up my mood!

While family and friends were huddled inside with cold and snow...

Having no Christmas decorations....

I made a temporary Mermaid's Wreath

We had such a nice time at the beach we decided to share it with our friends...

Bruce cleaning the dinghy bottom!  

Guys and girls naturally separate for chit-chat.

Ginny and Chuck playing with Christmas toys!

Are there any sea monsters out here?

Bonnie and Wendy enjoying the cool water...

A temporary squall chased us all back to our respective boats!

I appreciated the fresh water rinse!
I appreciate a fine looking rooster...
Some days we went ashore just to take a walk around Culebra and see what we had missed...

I love the "Pop-Up-Art" found everywhere in this place.  To me it shows such pride.  Spaces that would otherwise be plain or even eyesores... have been transformed into pure pleasure.

Shortly after our arrival here one of our propane bottles ran dry.  We thought maybe we would get it filled in St. Thomas but as the days turned into weeks I began to get nervous about our second bottle going dry... especially with all the baking I've been doing!

So one day we decided to get a fill...  It's amazing how complicated that turned out to be.  First we called to make sure they were open.  Yes, the guy will be there at noon.

The Shadow Waits
So we took our bottle to shore and walked out behind the airport to find the plant and nobody around.  We asked all over town and even found the guy's truck... but nobody around.  So, hot and sweaty but having had a bit of exercise... we returned empty handed to try another day.

Two days later we called again and arranged to meet up at the Dinghy Dock.  That hour promised for the return of our newly filled bottle turned into four hours of waiting around... I won't go into the details but if you need a propane fill... do it somewhere else!

The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve was the busiest we've ever seen the streets of Culebra.  We had heard that there would be a big NYE party and boats began to fill the Bay and the public dock several days in advance.
Our dinghy dock was taken over by Holiday revelers
Sunken bicycle resurrected

We visited the fresh market weekly

Gonna have to figure out how to eat like locals eventually... not today!

This will make a nice stew...

US Post Office

Looks like this place is expecting some heat!

Filling up...

Police were blocking the downtown area two days before the party
We did all of our celebrating one night early.  I personally have a borderline crowd phobia so the thought of being shoulder to shoulder with thousands in this small space was particularly unpleasant... Standing in line for dinner out is also not one of our favorite things to do.  We were surprised by the arrival of a couple Bruce knew back in his lake-sailing days in Kansas!

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Dinghy Dock with Ron and Kathy and also our New-Old-Friends from San Juan, Vicki and Burton.  It was the perfect time and we didn't feel like we missed any celebrating... especially the next morning when I woke up from having one-too-many rum punches... New rule:  Two is my limit!

Last Sunrise of 2016

Sun setting on 2016

Our big New Year's Eve activity...Leftovers in the cockpit and Netflix

Good morning 2017!!  Happy New Year!
Odin and Adventure Us 2
Thanks to Bonnie on Odin... we started our New Year out with a healthy hike with friends!

The long-awaited arrival of Texas friends on Adventure Us 2 has released us from all non-weather related restrictions... You'll see more of these two in the days to come as we plan to continue on with them for a while...

These blooms weren't there the last time we walked past this cactus...

I love the porches... no two are alike!

Boats anchored near the music stage from last night

Tire Art

Our little band of vagabonds

Chicken sneaking up on an unsuspecting Bonnie

You gonna eat that coconut, lady?

Craig procured sustenance for his Lady


We had to find alternate dinghy dockage...

More boats in the Bay than we've ever seen!

Our alternate dinghy dockage...
This concludes our time in Ensenada Honda.  We had Adventure Us 2 over for dinner and a review of the charts last night and made plans to move on.  We won't get far before the end of this week but we will go.

We are excited about how this year will unfold... what new adventures will it bring?  Join us and find out!  Happy New Year!