Friday, May 20, 2016

(Wrote this in mid March... and later. Finishing it on Cape Cod!): adventures in St Croix, mulling over Culebra

Here we are anchored in Christiansted, wind roaring in from the north(!!!) instead of the normal south-easterly wind. This wind change was nice in that it allowed us to sail here from Culebra in a single day on a single tack rather than taking a couple days, but it pushes waves right into this normally protected harbor and the boats near us are rolling wildly from the off-center waves. We are using the new anchor on the bow and the old one on the stern to hold the boat head-on to the waves so it rocks fore and aft, but hardly rolls at all. Very nice... but I worry about dragging the anchor and ending up on shore.
We are the right-most boat, pointing a bit left..

The new batten car/holder I made performs beautifully! I finally feel as though my sail has some life in it rather than needing to perform repairs every few hours of sailing. I'll install another tonight.

Cynthia and I killed lionfish every day after she arrived until the day we left Culebra. We got two on Saba Island off St Thomas on our way to Culebra, then twenty-eight in Culebra. The weird and strong winds have made everything rather murky and turbulent: even on our last day of hunting in Culebra, we only killed two of the four we found. I bet that in normal conditions we found have found and removed six to eight... and we have decided that they are very tasty filleted and fried up in butter.

Cynthia caught her first lobster, but found that it had eggs under its tail,
so returned it to its lair. Later she caught another and we enjoyed it for dinner. Tasty, but not as good as those on Cape Cod.

The reefs in Culebra vary from dead and fishless to some of the best we have seen. We especially liked the reefs on both sides of Punta Tamarindo Chico: nice and shallow on the easterly side and 30' deep and complex on the other. The reef extending NW from Punta Tamarindo Grande is mostly dead, but has some really nice and interesting coral species still alive on it, ones I have not seen often elsewhere. Other reefs were almost entirely dead and some, like Bahia Flamenco, have no fish at all and no live coral... but wonderful smooth beaches. Some of the reef at Saba Island (off St Thomas) grew small, but healthy, staghorn and elkhorn corals, something that is rather rare elsewhere. Frankly, I'm getting a higher and higher respect for our favorite reefs on St John, even though most of it is pretty sad.

Well, we plan to enjoy exploring St Croix for the next day or four, then sail across the deeps to St John and our favorite lion spots. We miss hunting the little buggers and have not been in the water for two days! Withdrawal!

Written sitting a stopover in JFK:

We enjoyed St Croix, even renting a car for two days and driving from the dry, rugged, and reef-fringed easternmost bit of land possessed by the USA to the agricultural, wet, sandy-shored western end. In between, we dove in a shallow bay (no lions, darn it!), schemed on ways to sail inside the northern fringing reefs without wrecking (and looked at a boat that had failed earlier that day... although it had probably just dragged anchor), stocked up on groceries at CostULess,
checked on hauling and repairing the boat in the fall, and toured the Cruzan Rum distillery.

Well! We counted that distillery tour as a high-point (no pun intended!) of the visit. We learned about the history of the rum, from locally produced and bottled stuff based on slave labor to the modern globalized stuff. It begins with tankers of molasses from Guatamala
(I had thought Brazil, but no) getting fermented in immense tanks so large that the tiny bubbles created by the yeast make the surface roil like a low boil
and the excess heat must be removed through chilled water run through tubing
less it kill the yeast! Then the wonderful-smelling stuff gets distilled (we got to see the tower, but only from outside) into 189-proof clear stuff. Most of this gets shipped right to Kentucky (or was it Florida?), where the folks who purchased Cruzan most recently make it into various flavored rums. A lot also stays on-island to be aged in used oak barrels for various periods depending on the final product....
then blended into the final product and shipped to the mainland in these nice shipping containers to be bottled and labelled.
Most stays in the USA, with only a bit returned to the islands as a local product.

Included with the $8 price of the tour are two rum drinks and four tastes of whatever rums you want. This actually turned out to be very interesting and tasty. If you get a chance, go.

Of course, this nut for growing things couldn't stay away from the mango tree and spent some time admiring the embryonic crop:

By the end of Friday, the wind seemed to have shifted enough east to let us sail effectively north to to John, so we prepared to depart Saturday morning. Various things delayed us (not JUST beautiful flowers!)
and we didn't weigh anchor until 10:30. Once we sailed from the harbor the full wind and waves struck us and, for the next several hours we sailed over huge waves, but could often let the boat steer itself. We tried to stay as close to the wind as possible, trying to reach the east end of St John, but found ourselves drifting farther and farther west as the day progressed. Tiring, but we grew accustomed to the waves and enjoyed surfing up and down. I also saw a porpoise surf down a large wave-front, then disappear. And, as we came close to the protection of land, the waves diminished to only a few feet tall.

We tacked up the shore, finding all legal moorings taken by boats fleeing the abnormal winds and waves that must have made the north side of the island miserable. At sunset, we reached Rams Head, the south-east point of the island, and snagged a day-use-only mooring and dropped sail. What a relief!
Dinner, a drink, and sleep have seldom seemed so welcome!