Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Culebra - by Andrew

After a close family gathering in the car, we arrived very stiff-legged at the Adamo. She looked as beautiful as ever; I was home at last! We spent the better part of the night unloading the car and putting away groceries. The marina has a golf cart service to bring you to the boat. In our case we were at the end of dock # 12, over a quarter mile from the parking lot. We filled two trailers behind the cart with provisions and travel bags. The boat was packed to the hilt with food and luggage by the time we were finished. I guess it didn’t seem so bad after the cramped car ride home… But, on the bright side, Santa came a few days early! We decided that since we never knew what day it was anyways, why not go ahead and give out the presents early and save ourselves the hassle of unpacking them later? Let’s see… for dad, a beer hammer and magnetic mechanic's tray; for mom, a set of stem-less wine glasses; for Doug, a car radio and a hand-made pen; for Phil, fishing stuff; and a plane ticket and pair of hand-made, wooden nunchaks for me. Merry Christmas to all!

The next morning the Adamo set out with a full crew for Culebra, an island to the east of Puerto Rico. The trip was typical. We hoped for good weather but instead got confused seas and rain. Welcome home, boys! The sea is a cruel mistress… That did not, however, prevent me from enjoying being back on the boat.

We bounced around several bays before finally settling on a bay called Ensenada Dakity. We pulled up to the mooring buoy and in one smooth motion hooked up to the ball with no further attempts or yelling necessary. It looked so professional. That night I awoke, bleary eyed, to bright lights, and the loud captain's bell ringing incessantly, and dad screaming, “GET UP!!! WE ARE ON THE ROCKS!!! UP, UP, UP!!!” Rocks? Huh? OH… CRAP! All hands ran up on deck. Phil, who initially thought we were under attack by pirates, emerged from his cabin armed and ready for a tussle, large knife in one hand and crowd control pepper spray in the other. When, he realized what was actually happening, he instantly jumped in the dinghy and began pushing the Adamo off of the sandbar (no rocks thank goodness). Dad was driving blindly through the bay while the GPS loaded up. It was pitch black, with only the circle illuminated by the spotlight visible in the darkness.

So how did we go from secure on the mooring ball with Phil screaming “GOODNIGHT!” to being on the rocks? It turns out that the knot that mom put the rope through was actually just a complicated slipknot. Pull on the ends and it all falls apart. Oops. We spent the following day relaxing, mostly basking in the sun and catching up on current events in our lives while the boys went fishing. The next morning, we moved to a new anchorage (hopefully one with better moorings). Mom stayed aboard while we went diving with the floating air compressor. This has to be the coolest invention ever created by mankind. No SCUBA certification needed!

We dove for lobster and fish, but I spent most of the time floating just above the coral enjoying the view. I never saw any lobster, but I did see a myriad of other animals though. We followed that with a bath in the ocean and a walk on the beach. The terrain on the island was rough, but nevertheless, the beaches were beautiful and laden with ripe, tasty sea grapes and coconuts.

We picked up anchor that night and moved to yet another anchorage. Our plan is to stay until Saturday and see a band in town. Reefs shelter the anchorage we moved to, so the waves are small, despite the strength of the howling winds. This made the conditions perfect for sailing the O-pen Bic: our little on board sailboat. Doug had been all about that damned Bic for days. Bic this, Bic that, Bic, Bic, Bic, Bic, Bic. Finally, he got to sail the Bic! Dad said, “The wind is picking up.” Doug’s reply? “You know what that means?! (he sang the theme from most baseball games using his own words) Bic, bic, bic . . .” And boy oh boy did he sail that Bic. He all but lifted off the water and flew away; he was moving pretty good.

Doug also was all about watching The Dark Night, and was pushing for batman all day. He was so happy when we watched it. His vacation was almost made. He had two other goals: catch a tarpon and paddle the dugout canoe. Phil, on the other hand, was not satisfied yet. The bay has an abundance of Tarpon, which Phil also wanted to catch. Phil fished all day and for hours at night. It finally paid off when he landed the big one. We were inside when we heard him cry out, “FISH ON!” We looked out of the salon windows at the illuminated water surrounding the Adamo. A large tarpon was jumping like a kangaroo trying to escape the line. Then I heard the crazed fish jump and a loud flop on the deck followed by the characteristic slapping of a fish tail. It had jumped and landed on deck; right next to the large open window! No sooner had dad shut the side-window than the tarpon slammed up against it slapping its tail every which-way. We can only begin to surmise the havoc that this 3 or 4 foot long mass of flopping muscle would have caused INSIDE the boat… tarpon have a horrible fishy odor which they leave behind with an inordinately large amount of slime covering their bodies. Thankfully, the fish managed to flop back in the water. Phil proceeded to then hook another one, which he gave over to Doug to fight. They each ended up with a scale as a trophy of their catches.

This morning, we awoke to a champagne breakfast: French toast and mimosas for all! As of right now, Phil and Doug are out fishing, Mom and Dad are drinking wine, and I am about to go on deck to enjoy a beer and the tropical sun. Cheers and Merry Christmas!

The Airport Trip

It was the day of Andrew and Doug's arrival in Puerto Rico and we were all excited to finally get so see them again. We had rented a minivan for the day to provision the Adamo at Sam's Wholesale Club and pick up the boys at the airport. When we walked into the car rental agency, the lady at the counter informed us that the minivan was not available, despite the fact that we had reserved it over a week ago. The previous renter simply had not returned the van. Our option was to get a Toyota Camry, which we exercised.

The shopping trip to Sam's filled the trunk . . . entirely. Keeping enough food on board with three teenage boys is always a problem. As we drove to the airport, we were hoping that Andrew and Doug had packed light. Wishful thinking. Doug had brought down everything we had requested from the States in a huge duffel bag. Andrew also brought his monster duffel bag stuffed to the hilt. Two crammed backpacks rounded out the travel accouterments. Naturally, the boys have grown quite a bit themselves. The five of us stood around the Camry in the airport parking lot, giggling and scratching our heads. How was this going to work?

We did manage to cram it all in. And, I must say, as the driver I had plenty of room during our one-hour drive back to the boat. The same could not be said for the passengers.

.........Are we there yet???

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas my truelove gave to me:

Twelve Bud Light Bottles
Eleven Divers Diving
Ten Conch Horns Sounding
Nine Topless Tanners
Eight Margaritas
Seven Swimmers Swimming
Six Spiny Lobsters
Four Flopping Fish
Three French Wines
Two Sunny Days
And a Floater in a Rum Punch


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Culebra - Spanish Virgin Islands

...........Culebra Sunrise

..........Moon Setting

....Bahia de Almodovar looking out over the Caribbean Sea

.......Solitude, not a boat in sight all week

.........This guy means business!

.........Check out this Redheaded beauty

...........King Mackerel - Dinner by Phillip!

...........Waterfront Bar

...........Downtown Culebra

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

St. John, USVI by Sue

.........Frigate flying overhead in the VI's

We sailed to Coral Bay in St. John with the anticipation of surprising our buddy Chris on S/V Christa. We anchored in haste and got out the binoculars to scan the anchorage for Christa. We didn't see her so Phil took out the dinghy and searched further. No Christa to be found. I knew from his blog that he was supposed to be in Coral Bay so we were disappointed. We thought we had missed him. We were determined to get in touch so we called his answer. Then I thought.."let's check the internet one more time." He had posted again and there was a video clip that showed him on a "day sail". We laughed...."a day sail"??? We have been day and night sailing our tails off, to just sail in a circle did not compute! However, he revealed his anchorage in the clip which was just around the corner at Johnson's Bay. Off we went to say hello. We were knocking on the haul and finally he appeared. He looked at us in denial. "Adamo?" He couldn't believe his eyes. He had been on our blog where we had just posted the Dominica pictures so he figured that we were there. He was totally surprised! Mission accomplished! He was dumbfounded and even said that he saw us come in, but knew it just couldn't be us! We then went to Skinny Legs, a bar and grill, in Coral Bay. It was great to catch up on each others adventures which always includes much laughter. We ate burgers that were unbelievably yummy, Welcome to the US and A!

The wind was blowing to the tune of 30 knots or more. We were glad to be in an anchorage and not sailing in it. As we looked out the window we could see Chris jumping around in his cockpit. We called him on the radio. "It's a gale!", he yelled. He had his engine on and was in full battle mode. Again we laughed as Chris is obsessed with the weather having spent the hurricane season in Salinas, Puerto Rico where several hurricanes brushed by. He checks the weather several times a day. We, on the otherhand, are more relaxed about the squalls having experienced them frequently while sailing and feel secure in anchorage especially after Mike has dove the anchor.

We went for a farewell dinner at Skinny Legs. Once again it was a night full of laughter and fun. After dinner he introduced us to the local wildlife.

Speaking of wildlife. Check this lady out. What do you think is going through her head??? There's a saying in the Virgin Islands: "if your here, you're not all there."

Montserrat Photo Journal

............Active volcano in Montserrat

...Destroyed City of Plymouth (major eruption occurred in 1997)

............We're sailing through that?

..Volcanic rock that landed on the Adamo, well . . . pebble really

..........Phil's treasure chest

Friday, December 12, 2008

Iles de Saints

While in Dominica, Sue booked flights for Andrew and Doug to Puerto Rico for their Christmas break. Now we are sailing on a schedule to make it there by Dec 20th. With that in mind, we said our goodbyes to Ian and Tracy and departed from our all time favorite tropical destination. Our next stop, Iles de Saints, a small cluster of island 10 miles south of Guadeloupe. In the mean time, the Loon crew was heading south for the season. The wind forecast for the day was 15 to 20 knots. What we actually got was 25 to 30. It was a spirited sail for us, but a short one since Iles de Saints is only 20 miles from Dominica and has somewhat protected seas. Loon on the other hand had a much longer crossing to Martinique with open ocean waves. Here is the excerpt of their crossing from an email we received from them.

Mike should read this aloud in the style of the Norwegian Chef from the Muppets!!

Fewrst wee puut the sail uoop... then wee took the sail dooown. The seeee wus like a rowler cooste... fewrst wee went ooop tyhen wee went dune...ooop and dune, ooop and dune, bouncy bouncy bouncy like the chicken in the busket. A man stood on the dack throoowing wurter at us awl day. we wur wet wet wet wet wet und cold ..... Brrrrrrrr.

Funny, funny, funny. We will miss them.

We reached the Saints before lunch, but chose to stay aboard to recuperated from the super active schedule we had with Loon during the past week. The following morning we ventured into town to clear customs and shop for French baguettes and Brie. Yummy Yummy. It was a drizzly day, so we spent much of it aboard the Adamo. The following day, we rented scooters and explored the island. Phil road on the back with me while Sue rode her own. I did let Phil take it for a short spin on his own. He loved it. It reminded me of myself when my parents let us ride mopeds in Bermuda at that age.

We took the scooters up the hill to Fort Napoleon. The fort is in excellent condition and is built like a medieval castle, including a mote and a drawbridge. It was very impressive and was in the best condition of any of the forts we have seen in the Caribbean. Inside was a museum displaying 18th century dress and weapons, model square-rigged war ships, local fish and traditional tackle, and a section on the Carib Indians.

A French tour guide was explaining a naval battle which was won by the British. I got a chuckle out of hearing her tell the tourists that “the wind was in favor of the British and unfortunately we lost the battle.” The French tourists let out a little “auuh”. It was painful for them to hear the story. I guess centuries of fighting over territory with the Brits is difficult to overcome.

We left the fort and toured the rest of the island, driving down every road we could find.

By 11:30 we had seen all there was to see. We stopped at a quaint water front restaurant for appetizers and a glass of wine, then proceeded in search of a grocery store to stock up on dish detergent and more baguettes.

Phillip has spent the last few evenings rebuilding a Penn Senator Real he obtained from a salvage job by Ian. After having disassembled and reassembled it 3 or 4 times, he came to the conclusion that several parts were seized up and needed replacing. Once something is in that boy’s head, you can’t get it out. So he researched the part numbers on the web, called Penn, ordered the parts for delivery to Gandmom’s and Grandpa’s house so Doug can bring them down for Christmas.

We departed the Saints on Thursday Dec 4th and sailed to Montserrat. The capital city of Plymouth was destroyed in 1997 by a massive volcanic explosion. The volcano still spews ash and small rocks. As we approached we could see the mountain smoldering. We passed on the West side of the island through the ash cloud. When we hit the middle of it, small bits of Earth’s debris rained down on the Adamo. The boat looked like it had been sand blasted by ash on the windward side. Thankfully it all washed off with our pressurized saltwater hose, because the first mate wasn’t too keen on the captain’s decision to pass that close to the “Ash Hole”. But how often do you get the chance to see an active volcano and smell the sulfurous, molten rock scent emitted by the Earths core? Needless to say, the cleanup was up to the boys. While we were scrubbing the decks, Phil found a small volcanic Rock lying on the coach roof and added it to his “Box of Treasures” he keeps in his cabin.

Our intention was to anchor on the north side of the Montserrat, but the northeasterly wind had whipped the calm bay into a rolly respite. We continued on to Nevis which we knew would be better protected from the wind. In addition, Nevis has installed a huge mooring ball field, making it an easy spot to rest for the night.

The following morning, after updating the blog with photos from Dominica, we set sail for St.Croix. The crossing to St. Croix is a major one. We departed at 12:00pm. Phil had been rigging his rods all morning and was determined to hook a marlin. I had purchased a copy of “Marlin”, a fishing magazine, covering the latest techniques for landing the big one. Son of a gun, he hooked one. Unfortunately, it was on the smallest of the three rods he had set. We watched the marlin hit and re-hit the rig, his dorsal fin piercing the aqua-blue ocean surface. He batted at the bail over and over again until it hooked up. Then, zing as he pulled on the drag. The fish pulled all the line off the reel as well as the pin that the bitter end of the line is tied to. With a sharp snap, the excitement was over. Hats off to Phil for figuring out how to angle for the king of sport fish.

The Adamo sailed downwind for 18 hours to Christianstead, St. Croix. It was a new motion for us since we are so accustomed to beating into the wind or occasionally sailing beam reach. It almost was a new learning experience for us to get the boat going with the wind. We did make good time and actually arrived before sunrise, so we sailed around in front of the island to kill time until it got light out. We did not feel comfortable entering the harbor in the dark because it is a tricky entrance. Particularly in light of the fact that they had sustained hurricane damage from Omar and we did not know if the navigation markers were still intact.

On Dec 6th we arrived in Christianstead and it almost felt like home. As Phil and I walked through town, we greeted and spoke with people we had gotten to know during our last visit in June. It really did have a small town feel to it. We ran into Nancy, the regional HR director of the company I have been interviewing with, at one of the outdoor restaurants on the waterfront boardwalk. At first Phil though I was goofing around and had simply overheard her name from the waitress. As the conversation proceeded and she invited us to sit down with her, he realized who she was. Now, Phillip has good manners, but he cranked it up a notch, removing his sunglasses so he could look her in the eye as he shook her hand. Yes, I was proud. By the way, the status on the job is they liked me and are looking for a good fit for me in the company, either in the Caribbean or in the US. It will take time though, so we are not counting any chickens and are proceeding with our journey.

I would have liked to have spent more time in St. Croix. Sue noticed and commented that I look happy here, but the weather forecast was predicting a shift in the wind that would make the crossing to St. John more difficult, so on Sunday we set sail. We knew that our friend Chris on S/V Christa was moored up in Coral Bay on the east end. (Chris is the guy we served the grouper eyeballs to after his initiation into spear fishing in Rum Cay in the Bahamas last year). He has temporarily relocated there and is a captain on a tourist boat.

As I sit in the cockpit writing this blog, I would have to say the St. Croix to St. John crossing ranks among the top crossings since we left the States. 19 knots of wind, beam reach, perfect temperature (82 degrees), low humidity, calm seas and we’ll be arriving in the daylight for anchoring; though it is a little strange to hear “Silver Bells” and other Christmas carols playing on the radio in this tropical setting.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dominica - Photo Journal

.............Portsmouth Anchorage

.............North side of Island

............Fishing village

.............Front passing through

..........4:00 am at the Saturday market

..........more shopping

.........Talk about fresh meat

...6:30 am at the Saturday Market. Still shopping.

..........Lunch Break

.......Phil nicknamed him "Jack"

.......Phil and Jack or is it Juan Valdez?

A Walking Tree. The roots drop from the branches. Overtime the tree walks and spreads throughout the forest.

........Banana farm

..........Picking Fruits

........The mother of all Coco-nuts!

...........The Bounty

....Trees along the Indian River

........Simple living

.........Home in the hills