St Thomas to Culebra / Puerto Rico

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After being a couple of days in Charlotte Amalie we moved Troskala to a lovely anchorage on Water Island called Honeymoon Bay.  This bay was such a contrast from where we were based but it was lovely to get a break from the noise and smell of pollution.  The next day we had to take Trosksla back to the town, which was only 2 miles away so that we could stock up on food and clear customs as the next day we would be heading to the small island of Culebra, which is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands.

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After sorting all the paperwork and shopping we moved back to Honeymoon Bay for the evening as we could then make a clear break to Culebra, which is 20 miles away.

We departed fairly early the next morning with lovely sunshine but a brisk 25 knots from behind.  We hoisted the pole and set Hydrovane up and enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the sail.  We approached the reef-strewn entrance to Culebra around 14:00; we had had a fast sail, averaging around 6.5 knots.  We had to take down the main sail before we approached the first bouy, the wind had picked up and the seas were now 2.5 meters.  We managed to bring it down and motored through the channel to our new anchorage in Dewey, Culebra.

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I have not managed to take many photos of Culebra yet, but watch this space.  This is a great place.  If you want the Caribbean but with seclusion and no cruise ships this is the place.  We have had numerous beaches to ourselves whilst being here.  The people are friendly and Spanish, which is a bonus with Carlotta being here. I have to say that is we could we would stay here much longer just for the quiet and the community feel.  Last night our dinghy managed to get trapped under the dock as the tide had risen slightly.  In no time at all half the neighbourhood were there trying the free Daisy from underneath the dock.  We are surprised how friendly, polite and liad-back the people are.

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If you have never been to Culebra and want to see what the Caribbean was like 30 years ago then get here, you will not be disappointed.  On the downside though, there was a massive thunderstorm the other night that managed to knock out all phone and internet on the island for two days, so this kind of seclusion does have it’s draw backs.  Photos will be posted before we leave this paradise.

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We had spoken to a few people in regards to heading to Puerto Rico.  The Island is only 20 miles away and we would be quite happy to sail there, but due to un-favourable currents and wind it would take us 24 hours to complete the 20 miles to St Thomas so instead we decided to take the ferry and spent a day or two in Puerto Rico.

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Guess what. You can take a ferry fro Culebra to Puerto Rico, which is 20 miles away, all for $4.50, so around £3.20.  The journey takes 1 hour 30 minutes and the scenery is great.  I used to spend £350 a month to travel from St Albans to London with no seat and horrible scenery; something is not right with the UK rail service and what they charge.

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So, we took a lovely ferry ride over from Culebra to Fajardo (Puerto Rico), we slept most of the way as we had woken up at 05:00 and caught the ferry at 06:30.    We arrived in Fajardo at 08:30.  Fajrdo is a busy little place but not to spend a day there.  We wanted to get to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.  We were going to take a taxi but this cost $60 one way, which is crazy especially when you can rent a car for the day at $70 including insurance.  There is no direct bus service either, so you are quite stuck.

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We went to the rent-a-car agent and managed to get a lovely Nissan Sentra, which has to be the worst car I have ever driven.  The air-conditioning did not work, the steering was interesting in a way that if you exceeded 65mph and tried to steer to the right it would take a few seconds to steer that way; the vibration at over 70mph made your teeth actually hurt not to mention the other starting issues we had.  We complained at the end and will hopefully get some money knocked off.

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Besides all the car issues we had a lovely day driving to San Juan.  They drive well over here and the roads and pretty looked after, especially the Auto Express.  It took us around an hour to get into San Juan and we were smitten by it. San Juan not only had a splendid European feel, it was clean and the people were lovely.   You had history at every turning point and great views.  A free bus runs around the old town so you can hop on or off at any time with no charge.

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We spent the morning wondering around and drinking coffee; it could have been any European City but so far away from Europe.  We took photos and decided to press on to an Outlet village as I needed to stock up on some new clothes and Puerto Rico is meant to be cheaper than most of the islands.  We completed our shopping and my first time in a Walmart and then headed back to Fajardo.

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On the way we took a road up to the Rain Forest, which was spectacular.  You could compare Puerto Rico with St Lucia for its green slopes and amazing trees, but it is more developed in a good way and not spoilt as much as certain Caribbean islands have been with mass tourism.  We lost the road in the end and had some tricky manoeuvring to get it back down the hill in reverse, but all was well.  The photo below shows Carlotta with a look of panic in her face.  The was some huge dog running down the hill so we only had a few moments before we had to get back in a drive like the wind.

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Puerto Rico was amazing and we need to spend more days there, as it is such a large island.  We hope to spend another day there is possible but we will return soon and spend much more time on this fantastic island.

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Time with Friends and Future Plans

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I suppose the first news we should talk about is our interview. You may remember from the last post that we were attending a second interview with the Moorings Yacht Charters who are part of TUI Travel and one of the largest Yacht Charters in the world.  I am more than happy to tell you that the interview was a success and we have now been offered a job as Charter Captain and Hostess/Chef on-board one of their 46 foot catamarans – we start in October.

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These are exciting times and Carlotta and I could not be happier with our new career but before we start there are numerous hurdles.  Firstly I need to complete my Yachtmaster Practical now that I have more than enough sea miles.  I will also need to get my commercial endorsement from the RYA, an ENG 1 medical exam and pass the PPR Exam before our work permits can be granted.  Another good thing with the job is that we have the opportunity of taking up residency in the BVI’s and are offered private healthcare.

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So, what are we going to do next?  Carlotta and I were planning to sail back to Antigua to do the course and take Troskala South but really we do not need to do this and will instead leave Troskala on the hard being the Mooring’s office in Tortola where she will be prepared for the hurricane season.  I think this is the only downside to the future in the fact that we will now only have one more month of sailing Troskala before she is hauled out and we both head back to the UK and Spain for a couple of months from July.  The good thing is that we have a month ahead of us and in that time we plan to sail to the US Virgin Islands, Spanish Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before bringing Troskala back to Road Town (Tortola) where she will sit for the 10 months before we then set sail for South America and back up to Florida before heading back to work; that is the plan anyway.

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All of the above sorted it is time to go back to the blog and our current adventures.  Last week we were joined by our friends from Yacht Limbo; Tim and Natalie.  There were shipping their yacht back to the UK so it was agreed that the best thing would be for them to spend their remaining 4 days in the BVI’s sailing with us.  We had a great time.  We headed first to Peter Island (my favourite) and anchored off Deadmans Cay.  I only learnt this morning that the Peter Island Resort was frequented by the late Princess Diana on numerous occasions; I can understand why.  We all took a work around the sunset loop but had to turn back before it got dark so we unfortunately could to complete the loop.

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The next day we sailed to Virgin Gorda to experience the ‘Baths’.  This really is an astonishing place.  Huge boulders sit on the beach with crevices and walks underneath them.  Apart from being crowded by American tourists it was an amazing place and the snorkelling fantastic.  We could not take our cameras but next time we will get some photos to give you a better idea of what they are like.  We headed to Trellis Bay in the evening on Beef Island but it was not as busy as we had expected as the last time we were there it was the Full Moon Party and crowded with people.

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We spent the evening sipping Pina Colada’s and Rum & Cokes before going back to a lovely meal.  The next day we sailed to Little Jost Van Dyke and visited the Bubbly Pool, which is still a great place for removing dead skin from the bottom of your feet as you are bounced around the small stones in the pool.

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We then sailed down to Great Harbour in Jost Van Dyke as we heard there are amazing parties at a bar called Foxy’s.  We found a great place to anchor and later on we visited the bar but we are bit let down with the music and the atmosphere.  We spend most the night watching a local gentleman dancing with a pole, chair and invisible women.

We sailed back to West End in Soupers Hole to drop Tim and Nathalie off and stock up on fuel and water before we headed back to Road Harbour.  We had a great few days and some fantastic sailing with Tim and Nathalie and thank you both for spending these few days with us.

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In the evening we attended the Village Cay Charter Yacht show, invited by the skipper and first mate on-board Elvis Magic, Tim and Sophie.  We met many more friends that night ended up being entertained aboard a beautiful Catamaran called Moonstone, which is run by a lovely couple called Jaco and Jenny.

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We spent the next few days in Road Town doing interviews and stocking Troskala for the next sail.  On one of our days doing internet  we had a call from Tim from Elvis Magic informing me that another boat was trying the make love with Troskala.  I jumped on the dinghy and found that a 45 foot Hunter was brushing our side.  Another great friend, Neil, from Miss Kirsty brought his dinghy over and drove it in between Troskala and the offending yacht to protect her from yet more damage.  We could not track down the owner and the marina would not answer our calls on the VHF so before the yacht could do anymore damage Neil suggested that we board her, lift and anchor and take her further out.  This sounded like a great plan but once on board the neglected yacht passed more problems with a faulty windlass making it impossible for us to lift anchor with it so all had to be done by hand.  Neil managed to start their engine and we were off.  We managed to drop anchor and she held but the issue was trying to turn the engine off.  We could not see any means of turning the engine off so in the end we had to leave her running until the owners finally arrived.  When they did we could see the look of confusion so I went over and explained what had happened and they were very thankful, they even brought a chilled bottle of white wine over for Neil and me.

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In the evening we went out for dinner with the crew from Elvis Magic and Miss Kirsty and had a great night drinking Pina Colada’s and eating pizzas.   During the night the wind picked up and when I woke up I realised we had dragged anchor and over my breakfast a powerful gust of wind managed to dislodge the anchor completely.   We were quick to get the engine going as we were only 3 feet away from another vessel.  We tried to re-anchor but the holding in this part of the harbour was so poor I gave up and found another anchorage, which although roly we held and finished our victualing before heading to Little Harbour on Peter Island.

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We sailed into what is a great anchorage.  The wind was still blowing 20-25 knots outside but in this small oasis surrounded by lush greenery and clear waters there was barely a knot of wind.  We were joined by our friends on Moonstone and had a few drinks onboard Troskala in the evening.  The next day, Jaco took us all out in his extremely powerful dinghy to another harbour where we hiked for two hours before heading back.

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In the evening we were invited to Moonstone for a Bar B Q.  We had the most amazing food and company.  Their boat is true luxury and the food presented was nothing less than 5 Star.  We sat drinking wine and enjoying the culinary delights before Jaco and I decided to go for a midnight swim off the back of the catamaran jumping from the top deck down into the floodlit waters of the bay.  It was a great evening and our thanks go to both Jenny and Jaco for entertaining us.  I hope Jenny does not mind if I share a great serving suggestion for garlic.  If you get one bulb of garlic, cut the top off and poor olive oil into it and then Bar B Q for 10 minutes the results are unbelievable.  Once I get a Bar B Q it will be the first thing I cook.

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We are currently sat in Cane Garden Bay attending the Cane Garden Bay music festival.  We could smell the party before we got to it as the waft of marijuana came to meet Troskala as we entered the harbour; it should be a good night.

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Anyway, we will have dates for our UK visit within the next week and we hope to meet up with as many of our friends and family as we can during our time there not to mention drinking a good Bitter Beer, having Fish and Chips by the sea and not being constantly eaten by mosquitoes and the myriad of other beats that like eating us out here.

See you all soon.

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Oliver & Carlotta