Culebra December 2014
After lunch and emptying the engine bilge yet again we head for shore. The main issue is to see if we can get propane. You can’t call it gas out here – that’s what they call petrol! In Bonaire we took a cylinder to be filled just before we left, and they had run out, so we only got 3lbs instead of 8lb and we had to change it at Puerto Patillas. If we do not get propane here we will only be able to stay a day or two and then have to head for St Thomas because we know we can get it there. The 8lbs normally lasts about a month so we should have over a weeks’ worth, but we do not want to be without.
|Dinghy dock bar|
We tied up at the Dinghy Dock Bar, colourfully painted, nice and low and in company with several other dinghies. Paw Paw is here too, but not on board as we pass. We walk round town over the no longer lifting bridge over a canal cut by the US Navy to link Ensenada Honda with the west coast.
|Street scene Culebra Town|
Town is very colourful if a bit ramshackle. Students are painting murals all over own, some buildings are in use but on several the art works cleverly disguises what would be ugly derelicts.
|Painting the Murals|
Christmas decorations are also being put up all over.
Some are really 'Mickey mouse'!
|Decorating the town|
We eventually end up at the ferry dock, on the west coast, with no sign of propane anywhere. Tourist Information is here so we go in and ask and are given a phone number, which does not work. We go into Culebra Divers for a look around, meet Julie, the owner and mention propane. She sends us back over the bridge, down along the canal to Milka, a supermarket. She says they do it. It is quite a small building but a remarkable stock, floor to ceiling, probably anything you need, including fresh veg and a butcher where later we buy the best steak we have ever had.
At the till we ask the proprietor and he says they don’t do it but Pipi does and he phones him for us! But, Pipi has a new number which he has not got. So, he sends us back all the way to the ferry dock to the gas (petrol) station, where Pipi’s wife works! She is not on duty, but the other lady phones her and gets Pipis number for us! This is just how kind and friendly we found everyone here.
By now it is after 5pm so we decide to phone Pipi tomorrow and head to the Dinghy Dock for a Happy Hour beer. Paw Paw are there so we join them and end up having a very nice dinner there. In the water are 4ft Tarpon that are fed on all the leftover fish and bones from the diners, so occasional feeding frenzies take place all evening! If this is not interesting enough, a bit later bats fly up and down, occasionally dipping into the sea to catch small fish with their feet!
The next morning Richard phones Pipi and they arrange to meet at the dock in 10 minutes. I stay on board and eventually decide that Richard must have had to go with Pipi to fill the cylinder. Nearly an hour later Richard returns, Pipi did not show, and he did not have the phone. Richard phones again and a conversation of “where are you” in broken Spanish and English ensues, Pipi agrees to be at the Dinghy Dock in 15 minutes.
This time we both go, as I can go shopping while Richard waits for Pipi. We wait outside the Dinghy Dock Bar for about half an hour, still no show. So I head off for the vegetable market I saw yesterday and Richard waits. The market is closed, so I go to Culebra Divers to buy a pink octopus for Elise. Julie tells me the market is only Tuesday and Friday.
Richard appears a bit later. Pipi came, took the cylinder and brought it back, “10 minutes” he said, about ½ an hour later we have a full cylinder for $15. Result! This just shows that in the islands nothing is straightforward, but patience and perseverance are usually rewarded.
Now we have propane so we don’t have to rush to leave, which we are rather pleased by because Culebra is charming and we want to see more. We have just heard that the Gas station is now out of gas (petrol).
On Sunday we have arranged to go diving with Paw Paw in the marine park on the west coast.
|The no longer lifting bridge|
After exiting the cut on the west side it is about a 15min ride to the dive site. The National park authority have laid moorings as it is a no anchor zone, we tie up and try to find the site. Fortunately a local boat ties up to the next mooring so we swim across and ask them. The dive is the reef we have just passed. We are advised to keep close to the shore to avoid the current.
It is a shallow dive less than 10m, there were lots of corals, sponges and invertebrates, we saw two turtles a southern stingray and jellyfish as well as the usual reef species. The visibility was not as good as we were expecting and was nothing like as spectacular as Bonaire, but still a very pretty tropical dive.
Tuesday is Rowena’s birthday so we arrange to have a ‘hire car’ for the day. This is not actually a car but a golf cart! Lots of these are seen around the island used by the locals and visitors alike. It doesn’t take long to travel the length and breadth of the island.
|Looking East from Dakity|
By lunchtime we have pretty much travelled all of it and decide to spend the afternoon on Flamenco beach, (formally a bombing range for the US Navy).
|Reminders of the military are everywhere|
It is now a beautiful horseshoe beach used as a nesting site for Leatherback turtles, a laid back camp site in the dunes and pretty much party time for all at the weekends!
|Life's a Beach!|
We will not leave until Saturday as we want to visit the museum; it is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The small museum is worth a visit and charts the inhabitants from the early Taino Indians to the Spanish settlers and the arrival of the US military in the early 1900’s. The locals really did have a hard time they were almost under military occupation. Finally a concerted campaign in the 1970’s including a mass picnic on the bombing ranges drove the military out (so they went to Vieques instead!).
|The Museum - an old munitions store!|
|Looking across the anchorage|
Yes! We can actually sail to St Thomas, we will have to put a tack in but we manage to sail from Culebra to Brewers bay St Thomas USVI, wow! It is our first proper sail in about 3 weeks.
Brewers bay is fairly deserted of boats, we are pleasantly surprised, two other cruising boats and a few locals on moorings, plenty of room to anchor and have a swim, pity about the airport being so close but it is not too intrusive and closes down at night. We will go round to Charlotte Amalie on Monday as we need to get; you’ve guessed it, Propane! Our 3lb fill in Bonaire lasted exactly 7 days, the filling plant here have always given us a good fill so we are not worried about not getting any propane here. We will also do mundane tasks like shopping and laundry.