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Thursday, August 30, 2012

TOMMY'S TRAVELS .........




DAY 2 : SAIL TO ST. THOMAS on " ARITA" ....... Well, that was the plan anyway ..... But as soon as we had travelled half a dozen miles towards St. Thomas in the early hours of the morning, we threw the helm over and headed back ....... The strong winds from the SE have left a terrible sea and knocking the boat around is not our idea of fun ...... We made a detour the CULEBRITA instead and anchored in the lee of the island ..... We have been here before but it is all new to Tommy ....... Finding an anchoring spot proved challenging with sandy bottom at 45 feet and coral reef pieces at 10 feet ..... In the end we picked up a mooring ball to be safe ......



We took Tommy up the path to the light-house ...... Showed him the various cacti on the way up ..... The going was tough in extreme heat snd humidity ........ But from the top on the windward side it was clear that having made a turnaround with "ARITA" was a good call .......



We saw the original dome of the light-house tower lying among the thorn trees way below us .....A reminder that this is hurricane season, and really not a time to be out playing ..... So we looked around to see some more of the grey skies, climbed down and decided to play some more ......... We're really kids at heart aren't we .......



Although this was the second time in as many weeks to visit this relic of the past, you see new things each time ....... Laurie and Tom looking through the window saw the basalt pieces used as filler in the walls ...... Amazing donkey-assisted architecture ...... And the holes in the upper wall are all that remains of the wooden ceiling joists that have been removed or rotted out ........ Good hardwood like that was precious ...... Particularly on islands where things are hard to come by ....... Growth on these rocky islands is stunted at best .....



The spiral cast-iron stairway would probably also be gone but it is set in stone ...... The seas in the bay of CULIBRITA looked calmer and so we dropped the mooring and motored around the island to pick up another mooring ball ...... Again being reminded that the seas out there were still huge .....



Not that you can tell the roughness of the sea from the sheltered lee side .......



The bleakness and the greyness continue as you feel the oppressive humidity and you kind of sense that something is coming ..... Just a question of time ......



Mind you, at this time of the season gray skies and high humidity are expected ..... We are watching as a massive front is creeping across the Atlantic towards us ..... It doesn't have a name yet ....... We've called it " Just Nasty " ...... We are blessed with having the ability to download some amazing weather programs that give both radar and up-to-date weather data which gives sea-state, wind speed and direction and precipitation projections for five days at three hour intervals .... 'Cool stuff' during this 'hot' season ....



Standing well above the high tide mark this palm tree is evidence of the storm force erosion that takes the beach away ....... Amazing to see the extent and the strength of the fibrous root system ...... And more amazingly still the fine-line cut-off point between root and stem ...... Now that too, is art .....



Like weathered volcanoes sticking out of an ocean .....



When we were on top of the light-house the bay was completely empty of boats, but by the time we motored around the island that was no longer the case .... Then again it was Saturday ..... Puerto Rican party time ....



There are all sorts of cacti on CULEBRITA but none as eye-catching at the Turk's head cactus ...... And if you stare at the top of one long enough you are bound to see the swirls of a hurricane right in there .... But its delicate pink flowers are so very, very small ....



There's this place where the Atlantic Ocean waves crash over the rocks to fill a large pool .... The place is known as the 'Jacuzzi' ......But for Tom the most fascinating part was the convoluted boulders and rocks in this hardened lava formation .... Tom is from Florida .... Born and raised in dead flat rock-less Florida ... He told us afterwards that he could have spent a whole day among those rocks ..... Tommy suffers from 'rock-envy' ..... Needless to say he took some home with him ....







Apart from the light-house there are no structures on the island ....... A desolate rocky outcrop inhabited by thorns, cacti and wild goats.......... But the vistas are majestic as are the cactus flowers ...........

DAY 3: 0700 AM TRY AGAIN FOR THE RUN TO ST. THOMAS ..... 20 MILES ...

Mindless motoring into a moderate swell and we finally anchor in a very empty harbour in Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas some three hours later ..... No cruise ships, no people to be seen anywhere and we take a long walk to Customs and Immigration that is now located downtown instead of near the anchorage ..... The walk almost kills Tommy who is not used to so much walking ..... He is still in recovery from our hike to the light-house ..... Suffer baby suffer .....



It is Sunday and everything is shut .... Massive Hurricane style doors with hurricane type padlocks ..... We are walking through a ghost-town ...... At least until we find a liquor store and then we load up bigtime ..... Mostly 'Virgin Island Mango Rum' .... That nectar of the Gods .... The only photo record we have is the rainbow and a St. Thomas dairy crate made into a dinghy seat .... That kind of tells you what kind of visit we had ...... Tom had specific instruction not to bring home any T-shirts ..... Hard to find a gift for his "Queen" when everything is shut ....

DAY 4: SAIL BACK TO CULEBRA ...... 20 MILES ......
We leave at 0700 Sun-up but there's no sun ..... And no wind either for that matter or wind at the same speed as motoring which makes sailing somewhat useless ..... The calm before the storm ..... So we once again motor all the way back ..... And drive straight into the mangroves .....That tropical front is moving fast and will hit us within 24 hours ...... A possible 60+ knots of wind are predicted ...... All the other yachts that were in the anchorage in CULEBRA have disappeared into the mangroves .....



We had discovered, quite by accident, that the head of the bay in which we were anchored had six feet of water, instead of one and two feet as marked on our chartplotter ..... It will in future be known as 'Tommy's Hole', because Tom put a paddle over the side of the dinghy and couldn't touch bottom ......... Who knew? ..... Thus our new "HURRY CAN PLAN" was formed before we left on our St. Thomas venture .....



Safely tucked in with lines attached to both sides ..... The lines across the estuary from "SOUTHERN COMFORT" will only be pulled tight when the storm hits, just in case there's a late arrival in the newly discovered "Tommy's Hole" ......... Both yachts are aground in the soft mud and as close in to the mangroves as we can get ......



As mentioned before, 'Mangroves' are the only answer if you want to survive a hurricane in one piece ...... Just look at the way the roots are anchored and you cannot get any lower than at water level ..... There is little tidal surge to worry about in 'Ensenada Honda' in CULEBRA .....



The 'run & hide' technique into the mangroves for the other yachts began two days before we sailed back to CULEBRA ...... Best tickets gets the best seats ....... There's carnival atmosphere about the whole thing, with all the cruisers helping each other tie up the lines ..... And a huge sigh of relief when "ISAAC" goes past ......

DAY 5: TAKE TOM BACK TO SAN JUAN ......
We've put Tommy on a small plane instead, that flies direct from CULEBRA to SAN JUAN ...... Taking him on the ferry and driving him to SAN JUAN would have risked us being stranded on the mainland ...... The ocean swell normally precedes the storm and the ferries will stop running ..... So ... Sir Thomas White, the sailmaker arrived five days ago for some Caribbean memory-making, but he leaves us as Sir Thomas Tanned ...... Great to have had him with us ...... Tom is the sort of guy anyone could model themselves on, including his sensitive side ....... He told us that 'Larry the Lobster' was looking at him from the bucket and that kind of put him off eating Larry .... You see what I mean ...... Thanks Tommy, you're welcome to join us anytime ....



Meantime, we'll sit tight ..... It's all part of cruising ...... The ups and the downs .....

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