Monday, February 21, 2011

Culebrita


From Puerto Del Rey we struck east to the island of Culebra where we enjoyed microbrew beer for the first time months, discovered that we'd lost our tolerance for alcohol, and then headed on to Culebrita, our jumping point to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We were fishing all the way and caught two little Bluefin Tuna in close succession, our first of the trip.  Mark pan seared the steaks to have with rice.  We saved the smaller scraps until we could buy veggies and wasabi and make sushi bowls.  High living.



Culebrita is Culebra's smaller eastern sister and was hands down our favorite, pristine, uninhabited, part of Puerto Rico's national park lands.  The complimentary moorings were convenient, if a bit exposed to the swells.  The sea turtles swimming lazily around us as we tied up were fantastic, but what really sold us on the place were the "jacuzzis".


As one of the eastern most islands in Puerto Rico, the coastal cliffs of Culebrita bear the full brunt of the Trade wind whipped ocean swells.  Interspersed among the the rocky points are narrow gaps leading to large, protected tidal pools.  The waves, chased by the winds, crash through these natural funnels, erupting into the tidal pools in a roar of white, frothy water.


We spent the whole afternoon playing, climbing, cliff jumping.  The best sport to be had turned out to be throwing ourselves into the middle of the funnels and seeing how long we could tread water, holding place in the foam covered ocean surges before being dashed up on the rocks.  A few scraped toes and bloody knees resulted but no real injuries to speak of.  Mark lost a contact lens and spent the rest of the day rock scrambling with no depth perception.  Becca chose not to partake.



The next morning broke gray and stormy.  Even in the protection of our rolling little harbor, the wind whined through the rigging.  I was tired and sore and there was much still left to explore but, we had a date to make on St. Thomas.  Our mutual friend from the Summer, Jenny Durham, was flying in to join us for a week.  With a sigh and a slow start, we creaked out of our bunks and began the process of weighing anchor.  It was a bit of a slog, slow and rough, bashing our way head first into the same waves we'd had so much fun playing in the day before.  I felt a little queasy. 


By late morning, with Mark in the cabin reading and Nate, Becca and I braving the driven spray swept deck, I spotted a plume of white steam rising away on our port bow.

"Thar she blows!" I shrieked, racing forward to the shrouds for a better view.  We crowded the port rail, staring hard across the white capped waves.  Then, I saw another plume, and another.  We all saw them, the black, glossy backs of three whales slipping in and out of the steely gray waters.  They expelled two more huge breaths each and, with a final flip of their tails, dove back beneath the waves.  Our first whale sighting of the trip, we were still excited hours later.

The clouds burned off by lunch time and the sun resumed its blazing fury.  Mark stayed on deck with us to take in some rays.  We were all very excited about Jenny's impending visit.  Mark especially.  He'd determined that the best way to welcome her to the crew was to present a well bronzed behind.  He's been working on erasing his tan lines since Salinas and results are finally appearing.


I'll admit, I've joined him in sporadic sympathy sessions, primarily when I'm snorkeling.  The other boaters at the reefs seem to appreciate my efforts.  Naturally, with both of us racing to put color on our cheeks, a healthy competition has arisen.  Without question, my butt is the bronzest.  Nate is our judge and color critic.  Becca has taken to studying clouds.

 

In Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas, we left the boat at anchor and headed ashore to look around.  Nothing but jewelry, watch, and liquor stores.  Yes, all one store.  No, we didn't make any purchases.  No one needed a $4,000 watch, and we had stocked up on liquor and beer in Puerto Rico.  We stepped in only to enjoy the air conditioning.

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