Sunday, February 23, 2020

Staycation in Croabas Part II

We're on a boat!
Just when you think life can't get any better... It does!  Some weeks ago, our friend Graham mentioned that the BRISA Sailing Club would be holding a benefit rally out of Fajardo.  At the time, I didn't really think it would be feasible for us to go, but when the plan for our stay in Las Croabas began to come together, I realized that if we stayed three nights, instead of two... we could pack in a whole other adventure!  A SAILING adventure!

Graham and Carlos at the helm
If you've followed us for long, you may know that while we've been practicing the slow, more conservative, cruising lifestyle for many years... Bruce and I actually met while sailing with the Racer Crowd in Corpus Christi Bay oh so many years ago.  We've given up the need for speed, and have enjoyed stopping to smell the seaweed!  But today, that long dormant racing blood was whipped up again.  Well... sort of. 

We rose early in the morning to get down to Puerto Del Rey marina to help get the boat ready for the race.  Our Hosts, Carlos and his lovely wife, pretty much had everything done.  We were on our way out of the marina in no time, headed for the brilliant blue waters of Vieques Sound.  Bruce and I have sailed these waters on numerous occasions on our own boat, but it has been quite some time. In those days, conditions were different.  We were always beating to weather on our way to Culebra with the wind and current set against us.  Today, with a light wind out of the south, the Sound was altogether more friendly!  Seas were almost flat, and the wind was set up for a perfect, if somewhat leisurely sail.  Add to that, the total lack of heeling that being on a catamaran affords us, it was just sublime! 

A friendly wave to fellow racers!
Swabbie Bruce hard at work trimming the sails!
Just imagine the emotions unleashed in our minds considering that we have only a short time ago finalized the sale of our beloved Dos Libras,  seemingly closing that door in our minds, and leaving our sailing life behind us.  Suddenly here we are, once again skimming across the stunning Caribbean with the mountainous backdrop of El Yunque rising protectively over us all.  The smiles on our faces and the gratitude we felt at the invitation to come out and crew today left us wondering what we could have possibly done to deserve this!!!

A familiar scene in our memories of Corpus Christi Bay, but with much nicer water!  And Mountains!
Another familiar activity.  Rail meat!  Not so necessary on a catamaran, but still fun for old racers!

Watching for traffic just before the start as we try to get into position.
Graham at the helm! 
A beautiful sight!

I dated a guy once who totally didn't get sailboat racing.  To him, it all looked the same.  His downfall was to mention to me that here we were again, different day, same conversation after a race.  He didn't last long with me.  And it might be like that to you as you watch these videos... but to me they are precious memories that depict exciting moments that I want to remember in my old age.  Furthermore, there is something pleasing about a bevy of sails all lined up on the water... so humor me please. 

Mark number two!
Being the last boat in the fleet allows for a grand view of the rest of the racers.  It's a complete contradiction, that feeling of tension as the blood sings through your veins, as you slowly bounce around the mark.  So slowly, in fact... that the bevy of brown boobies sitting on said mark never even flutter... how rude!  Surely we are more of a threat than that!?

We seem to be gaining on the pack!
Yes!  We actually catch up to one of the other racers!  

During the second segment of the race, things became a little more interesting.  Boats began tacking in an effort to take advantage of different conditions, hoping to gain favor against the fleet.  We actually began to creep up on the pack and managed to overtake a boat!  Woo hoo!!!

Eat our wake ye scurvy dawgs!
Another boat has tacked and ended up crossing our wake!

What a day!  At some point, the racing thrill drained out of our blood to be replaced by sheer enjoyment of the fact that we were out sailing on the Caribbean once again.  Who cares if there are other boats and that we're in a competition. Let's face it folks... we aren't going to win.  But wait... Technically, since we are the only catamaran in our fleet... we win our class by default! 

It seems that some other boats were overcome by a similar ennui, causing them to break off from the pack and head for other happy pursuits on the island of Culebra!  Yes, they simply abandoned the race in favor of taking full advantage of these rare south winds that make the trip to Culebra much easier than normal.  Sometimes, you just have to weight the benefits and make your choice!
Eat your heart out Corpus Christi Bay racers!  That's El Yunque!
After the third mark, some boats popped a spinnaker for the next leg of the race.  We were using an asymmetrical spinnaker, so we couldn't go directly downwind.  There was a bit of excitement as we took it down and it went into the water briefly.  Bruce and I sprang into action and helped haul it safely back onto the deck.  When we needed it again, it was ready!

Back on Corpus Christi Bay, one of my jobs had been to trim the spinnaker.  I got to do a little of that today and it brought back all of the excitement once again.  I'm also usually the downwind helmsman on our boat, and when Carlos asked me if I wanted to take the wheel... the answer was of course, YES!

Keen concentration is needed to keep the spinnaker flying.

At some point in the day, we decided to hell with it.  Is it really necessary to make that final mark that we're struggling so much to hit?  Naaaaa...  So, we just pointed that boat toward home and let her take the lead!  Off like a rocket we went! 

Swabbie Bruce putting the mainsail away.
The last part of our day on the water was just sheer enjoyment. Who cares if we didn't win the race when today, we won LIFE!  All too soon it was time to douse the sails and begin the process of putting the boat to bed as we motored toward the marina. 

Day is done as we enter the calm waters of the marina.
Just wow!  What an awesome day it had been.  We spent the afterglow hours chit-chatting with our host and our friend Graham... and maybe tipping back a few celebratory beverages.  There was a party at the marina after the race, but Bruce and I begged off and drove back to our rental in the last light of what had been a (another) spectacular day.

We have joined the BRISA group and hope to have many more crewing opportunities to come here on our new island home.  You know what they say... the Best kind of boats are OPB! 

Quiet streets in the morning
Sweet dreams of times on the water past, present and future crowded our night, but we were up early once again the next morning.  I can't help but try to pack the most fun possible into any day, so our drive home was to be spent further exploring our island.  But first, we had a lovely walk to meet up with friends at Las Vistas Cafe, which coincidentally is about a block up the hill from our rental!

The restaurant is a hidden gem, tucked secretly away as it is here in Las Croabas. Step off of the common streets, into uncommon style for a delightfully upscale meal with the view of Las Cabezas Reserve spread below you. The owner greets you graciously and escorts you to your reserved table... Yes. Reservations necessary.  It is not likely that you could simply wander up and expect to be seated, no matter the time of day. All of this was taken care of by the friends we came here to meet.

We relaxed in pampered luxury as someone else cooked a great meal while we caught up with Dean, Robert and his sister. This place is a little more fancy than we're used to, so we took our cues from our friends, and we were not disappointed. 

After saying our goodbyes, we loaded up our car and took off down the east coast of Puerto Rico.  There are several little beaches we wanted to find, and today was a day for just taking off down a road not travelled.  We found several spots that we will come back to for kayaking! 

Somewhere along the way, we saw a house perched high atop a hill... and when we came upon what seemed to be the road to it... without even thinking about it, I swerved left.  Suddenly trundling along a dirt road that wound up the side of the hill, we had no idea where we were going.  Imagine our surprise when the dirt road turned out onto a vast parking lot in the middle of what looked like a small ranch.  We parked and wandered around trying not to look as if we had been beamed up from a space ship... What a delightful surprise!  It's a restaurant/bar/ranch/playground with an all around awesome view!

Never squander an opportunity to SWING!

Sangrias!  Hey, it's noon!

Yes, I know we ate a huge breakfast at 10am... and yes, I know it's not even 1pm... but we're living life on the fly right now.  There's a cool breeze as we sit here in the shade.  The hecho en casa Sangrias are delicious! And the menu looked exceptionally good!  We just couldn’t leave without trying one of their unique burger combinations, so we comprised and split one.  Good thing we did!  We both ate some and still took leftovers home!

We relaxed in decadent luxury with tummies full and the rest of the day stretching before us with new places yet to be explored.  Although at this point, I could have used a NAP!

Adding La Finca to our list of favorites to take guests, we left and continued our coastal drive. 

We can't get used to seeing Monkey Island so bare.  The trees were destroyed by Maria and have not grown back.
We turned down almost every road that even LOOKED like it could take us to the water.  We drove through little towns, and found several secret beaches.  So. Many. Places.  So little time!  The whole way we were looking for Kayak opportunities.  We need calm waters and a place to park, with easy access to the water.  Somewhere along the way, we almost breezed by this little nook... The Reserva Natural de Humacao.  This place is VERY close to our home! 

There are kayak and paddleboat rentals, marked canals to paddle and more canals to venture further if you bring your own kayak.  There's a ruin at the end of a short hike... How is it that we've never found this place before now???

We wandered around and checked things out.  A very nice young man told us all about the place and answered my many questions. Sometimes there are even food venders here!  Rental prices are super low, and we can't wait to return here!  But sadly, today our time is limited.  We continued our drive home with no more stops.  I think the last four days of non-stop activity were catching up to us, and the hamburger didn't help matters...  But wow.  Just WOW!  We will never stop exploring and enjoying our island home.  Every time we venture out, we find more reasons to love Puerto Rico and her people.  We are beyond fortunate that we can take endless staycations all within the 100 x 35 miles that are ours to explore!

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