Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
We like the BVI. It has a lot to offer. There are a dozen or so islands and cays surrounding the Sir Francis Drake Channel, anchored by Tortola and Virgin Gorda. This layout provides for fairly sheltered sailing, line-of-site navigation and plenty of destination anchorages to keep you interested for a while. Add in the great diving, snorkeling, and rich history typical of the Caribbean islands, it's a fun place to be.
But that's the catch. It's too convenient! The sailboat charter industry has blossomed here like no place in the Caribbean. Folks looking for an ideal sailing vacation can fly in for a week and spend a few hours a day sailing from anchorage to anchorage - each with entertainment ashore and beautiful surroundings. The locals have embraced this bounty and make the most of it. Just about all anchorages have a bar/restaurant close at hand, along with the ubiquitous gift shop. In all but the largest anchorages, the good and even fair anchoring ground has been peppered with mooring balls, leaving only marginally viable anchoring ground if you aren't willing to pay the $25 TO $30 per night to use the moorings (or trust your anchor better than their moorings).
To be fair, the moorings have their place. Given the huge number of charter boats in service here, the moorings allow an anchorage to accommodate many more boats than if everyone were anchored. Also, anchoring safely while avoiding damage to coral or grass beds is an acquired skill which most chatterers have not had the opportunity to develop. In the party party party atmosphere of many of the chartering groups, it's all they can do to safely tie up to the mooring ball and get ashore without a mishap. After all, they aren't aboard their floating home containing all their worldly possessions. They're on a rental boat for a fun vacation. So they party and we try to stay out of their way, lend a hand where needed, retrieve the odd escaped dinghy, and enjoy the show.
Sunday afternoon is always fun in an anchorage with a sundowner in hand watching the newly arrived charterers pick up a mooring ball for the first time of the vacation. We make a point of being on board around that time.
So, the BVI has its place as a sailing destination. For the charterer, it's a great destination for the newbie or the moderately experienced. For a cruiser, it's a good place to rest a bit after the thorny path or a long offshore passage from the US. But for this cruiser, it's a little surreal... like a Disney Land for sailors. Time to head down island!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
One evening we ate a local family-run restaurant and had a great meal. I ordered Mofongo, mostly because it was fun to say "Mofongo, por favor" after I'd had a few Medallas. Mofongo is a dense pile of mashed plantains and garlic, stuffed with your choice of seafood, chicken, pork or "meat"(beef). It is usually served smothered in a delicious sauce with rice and beans on the side. I had a shrimp mofongo that night and it was delicious. It turns out that Mofongo is a dish found on most menus in Puerto Rico, and each one is a little different. I had fun sampling Mofongo as we worked our way along the Puerto Rican coastline. It was never a disappointment.
We discovered there would be a big fish festival in town in a few days, which sounded too good to miss, but we didn't want to stay in the marina a full week. We arranged dockage at the marina for the festival and then moved south along the coast to Boquerone. Boqerone is a town that caters to the weekend party crowd, and was pretty quiet the two weekday nights we anchored there. The anchorage is quite large and about a third of the boats seemed to be anchored there on a permanent basis. A few, I'm certain, had marine growth securing them them firmly to the ground, making their anchor superfluous.
After two nights in Boquerone we returned to Puerto Real for the fish festival. It was a lot of fun. Street vendors, music, dancers, etc. I bought Quinn a couple of boxes of party snaps - the little harmless fire crackers that make a snap when you throw them on the ground - which he loved. He was delighted when he could share them with a little girl he met at the marina.
Kathy and John on Oceana caught up with us while we were in Puerto Real for the Fish Festival. Their short visit to the Dominican Republic was a great success, and they convinced us to visit the DR on our way back north in 2012.
The next day we left Puerto Real at dawn and returned to Boqueron, this time accompanied by Oceana. We spent a night in Boquerone, and then moved a little south to El Combate. The weather was blustery and rainy so we decided to relax on board Mirasol for the remainder of the day instead of heading ashore.
Again at dawn we departed El Combate and headed south to the south western cape of Puerto Rico, Cabo Rojo. There we found a large inviting anchorage... littered with fish trap floats. We spent about a half hour picking around the small bay and neither we nor Oceana were able to find somewhere to drop anchor without being surrounded by the fish traps. Our plans being to leave before dawn, we didn't want to be picking our way through fish traps in the dark. Instead, we elected to return to El Combate for the night.