Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Return To Culebra

The wait is over!  We're boarding!
The tiny island of Culebra lies off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico.  Bruce and I have fond memories of our time there and hope to return sometime on our boat, but for now, with a little help from our friends... we'll just settle for the Ferry!  Thanks to Janis for doing all of the homework and figuring out our agenda for a fun day touristing!  It is a very different thing, going to Culebra like regular people.  Schedules need to be reviewed and transportation must be arranged.  While I was dragging my feet about it, Janis stepped it up and had everything worked out for her visiting family ~ and graciously invited us and another couple, Ruth and Glenn, along with them for the day.  

The car ferry carries the heavy loads!
There is a new Ferry terminal on the East coast of Puerto Rico in the tiny town of Ceiba.  The old Fajardo departure point is no more.  Now everything happens in the old Roosevelt Roads, the former Navy base that was closed in 2004.  There are plans in the works for redevelopment of the area, and the opening of the new Ferry Base is the most recently executed.  The new facilities are nice with plenty of parking and they've even created a long awaited online ticketing process!
Looks like the Roosevelt Roads facility is being used for other things!

We enjoyed the fast cat service today!
Today we did not take advantage of the online ticket purchasing option, but Don and Janis took an early drive to the ticket window and bought all of the tickets for our group.  Notes:  The online ticketing sales account for up to 20% of the allowed seating for each scheduled passage.  There is a $3 surcharge per ticket and for people over age 74, whose ticket should be free, there is currently no option for ticketing due to the proof-of-age requirement.  I will say though, that those with online tickets are seated in the reserved waiting area directly behind Culebra/Fajardo residents, who are always allowed preferred seating on the ferries. Seniors, those aged 60 and over, are also allowed to join the residents and online ticket holders.   General tickets are basically third in line.  You can also reserve tickets for your "stuff" online. 

Really nice comfortable chairs.  It's like a roller-coaster ride!
Our little group of 9 hustled on up to the outdoor seating area for the best view.  Helpful hint:  If you sit on the starboard side going, and the port side returning, you get some relief from the intense sunshine.  Otherwise, bring a hat and sun protection!  

Our travel buddies for the day, Glenn and Ruth!
Large items must be ticketed individually, but things like small ice chests are free.  The must, however, be surrendered for stowage and are not allowed into the general seating areas.  Beach bags are allowed as long as they fit beneath the seats.

Passengers are allowed to have water to drink (also for sale on the ferry), but nothing else, and eating is not allowed.  Just sit back and relax while you are whisked away to the island paradise of Culebra!

And away we go!
The NEW Hector Protector!
The ride to Culebra took about an hour.  We were all chattering excitedly about our day and the time seemed to fly!  The beautiful blue of the Caribbean stirred my memories of our life at sea in a most uncomfortable way...  

By the time we reached Culebra, the stunning colors made it all come flooding back to me and I was more than a little sad that we are no longer a part of the lucky few who live life differently.  The freedom of pulling into a new anchorage and dropping the hook is a privileged life that we can no longer claim.  Maybe we're being a little too hasty in thinking our cruising life is over...

The Carribbean... she calls to me!
Our former brethren lying peacefully in paradise...
The ferry terminal in Culebra
We gathered our things and followed the small crowd back downstairs and off of the ferry.  As we stepped ashore, it was like the two and a half years since we were last here had never happened.  Even with the destruction caused by hurricane Maria, this little community has repaired and rebuilt and are still humming with the same old vibe!

Baby chicks peep for their mamma in the terminal area!
This is our life now.  We wait for the gold carts to come...
Bartolo is still here!
Janis had reserved two golf carts for us, so Don and Glenn took off with Carlos' Jeep Rentals to get them checked out.  We decided that instead of waiting for them, we would walk the short distance to the Dinghy Dock restaurant and get started on our day!
It almost looks like it's had a new coat of paint!
Special touches that we love!
The whole town looks freshly painted!

The tarpon are still here of course!
I led the way through the little town and right to the Dinghy Dock.  My internal struggle was real as my mind took me back to the wonderful times we spent here in Culebra.  When we were last here, it was right before we left to continue our exploration of the Caribbean island chain.  It's as if I'm conflicted by the two vastly differing, yet equally wonderful lives that we've lived, and ARE living!  How can one person deserve such an awesome conflict???

We enjoyed a delicious meal overlooking the anchorage where we once lived.
Somewhere, there is an older photo just like this.  I might have even been wearing this same outfit!
With full tummies and happy anticipation, we boarded our chariots and took off to explore the island. 

Don and Janis had their family to entertain.  The little girls were ready for that beach!  But this was Ruth's first visit to Culebra so we wanted to take a spin around to show her the island. 

The island is seriously DRY!
Glenn was our driver, so the rest of us just buckled in and relaxed for a jolting, hilarious drive up and down the hills.  There isn't really a lot of island to see... so a golf cart is the perfect way to go.  The only limitation is that we can't take the cart to Zoni Beach.  The hill is simply too steep for the cart to handle, so it is forbidden by the rental companies.  
The lure of the blue waters is strong.  I had to turn my face away to stop the pull on my heart...

How appropriate to my mood today... the dualism of Yin and Yang!
We drove to Soldier Point and poked through the rocks and coral pieces on the shores.  We collected some of the coral "bones" to recreate a wind chime I once had back in Texas.  Now that I have a home again, I can have these things!  

I remember when we visited here last and collected a small handful of "bones"  Wonder what I did with those! 

It occurred to me that we can come here again and just spend the day...

Island cemeteries are my favorite!
This iguana was not afraid as he chomped weeds by the roadside...
Bougainvillea love this dry weather!
Hey... That's DON at the wheel of that JEEP!
Earlier, Don had said that his golf cart wasn't driving right.  Suddenly they appeared behind us on the road to Zoni Beach!  While we could only go to the top of the hill, the rest of our group could now go all the way down in the new Jeep the fine folks at Carlos' Rentals gave them in exchange for their faulty cart!  Lucky them!  

We made tracks back to the rendezvous point while they lapped us in their new, faster vehicle!
I love the island vibe in the parking lot!
Our little red "car"!  Zoom-Zoom!
Ahhh, Flamenco Beach!  Here we come!

When we arrived, our friends had already set up camp.  Ruth and Glen set their chairs out while I took a look at the situation.  There always seem to be big waves here and for this reason, we've never been in the water.  Don was already out there, beckoning us to come out past the wave break where it was peaceful and we could ride the swells... 

Looks like fun!  OK, maybe I'll try it this time.  I watched Bruce and Ruth go out.  Here comes a wave...

Nothing to it!
But wait... here comes another one!

Still manageable!
This one built up and got me before I could make it to safety. 
OK, I can do this.  I followed them out and after one big wave smacking me down... What's a little water up my nose... I made it out there! It was great fun when the huge swells came, lifting us up and over gently!  

Bruce swimming through the big swell.
Just a gentle lift and drop.  No problem!

And then THAT happened!  It's all fun and games until somebody loses... their sunglasses!

Ruth and I were just enjoying life, lifting with the gentle swells and riding the waves!  We made it through a big one and were just recovering when I turned around to see the monster that was about to break on my head!  There was nothing I could do but try to leap high enough to make it over.  

Suddenly I was underwater and time slowed down.  I remember thinking " I must not be breathing because while I can feel the water washing around in my sinus cavity, I can't feel it in my lungs... I'll just continue not breathing and hope it ends before I have to take a breath!  Ok, I can feel the sandy bottom... so I know which way is up.  I'll just wait here until it's over."  Then I popped up into the air and could breathe again!

I spit the sandy water out and blew it out of my nose... then we were laughing!  I didn't realize the video was still going for a while.  I had Ruth's hat and she had mine.  We traded and made a B-line for the shore!  We were done! Don was still out there and beckoned us back.  Bruce was looking for my sunglasses but never found them.  Ruth and I both raised our one finger and wagged it back and forth... noooo, we're not going back out there!

Well, those sunglasses were on their way out anyway.  I had already superglued them together, so it was no great loss, but only a minor inconvenience.  We're still smiling and it was a lot of fun, as "defying death" often is!

But... it was time to crack open that gallon of Rum Punch that we were hiding!  Everyone had a little bit and we snacked until time for us to leave.

There is a nice shower/restroom facility here at Flamenco Beach.  The shower is outdoors, so getting ALL of the sand those waves deposited in our swimsuits was not possible, but we were able to wash the majority of it out of our hair and ears...

We got dropped off at the Ferry Terminal and sat inside while Glenn and Don returned the golf carts.  It had been a full day of fun in the sun, but we were all tired and ready to return home.  The ferry ride back in the setting sun was delightful and a good bit shorter, with the wind and current now in our favour.  It takes about an hour and a half to drive from the Ferry terminal to our house, so the day has to begin early... but this is definitely doable for future guests!

So even though we aren't still a part of the lucky percentage of those living in the wild, we are still lucky enough to be living life here in Puerto Rico where there is so much to do and see.  We now realize that we can do this any time we want!  Maybe next time we'll take our snorkel gear to Vieques!  But for sure, this will not be our last... return to Culebra!

Approaching Roosevelt Roads
Hey... Isn't that the tower we hiked to in the rainforest on top of that mountain???
Inside the ferry, where the air conditioning is!

Somebody brought their doggies!

The waiting area.  This wasn't the last trip of the day!

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