Monday, May 15, 2006

Guests on RAFT --May 2006

Picture--Bev, Kathryn and Ron enjoying Flaminco Beach

This is the first time we will be having guests on RAFT in a long time. Bev’s sister and brother in law, Kathryn and Ron are flying into San Juan to stay with us for a couple of weeks. They are not sailors, but do enjoy Caribbean holidays, especially swimming, snorkeling, and beaching. And they are good travelers and campers, they have their own RV and have taken it across Canada a couple of times, have walked up several mountains and we have enjoyed canoe camping with them in the past. So we think they should adapt to our cruising lifestyle easily.
We returned to Culebra, enjoying a great downwind sail from St. Thomas and attached RAFT to a mooring ball at Dakity Beach behind the reef. Then we arranged with another boater to take us to town the following morning to take the ferry to Fajardo, where we had arranged to rent a car. We quickly walked to World Car Rentals, wanting to beat the rush off the ferry and were first in line to pick up our car, a very basic one, 4 doors, no power locks or windows but for $33.00 a day we weren’t complaining. Then we headed north to San Juan. Once we found where the airport was, we went right by it, and determined that their plane was on time, we took the afternoon to explore Old San Juan. This city was fantastic. We thought that having been to Santo Domingo, we could skip another historic city, but we are glad we didn’t miss this one. All of the buildings have been restored, it was clean, colourful and very interesting. We toured El Moro and Fort San Cristobel, and enjoyed watching the local Puerto Ricans enjoy a beautiful Sat. afternoon in the park, playing ball and flying kites.
Kathryn and Ron’s plane arrived on time. We found them and loaded all of their packs (they brought too much stuff) into the car we were off, heading west out of San Juan. Our plan was to find a small hotel along the north coast and tour the island from there. We stopped at a local BBQ and with our limited Spanish made inquiries. The man there was trying to direct us to the Hyatt. Nothing against the Hyatt, but we were looking for a more affordable solution. When asked where would he stay, the reply, go to Playa Baja Vega and get a beach apartment. Off we went, and there we stopped at a parking lot. The attendant directed us to the pina colada van across the road. "They have an apartment" we were told. Yvetta showed us the 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, spotless secure unit, the main floor of their home. "Quanto Cuesta?" $75 per night…great deal!! We went back to the busy beach front corner and ate at the open restaurant across the road, having been told by Poyo and Yvetta that they have good fish. Ron and Kathryn went around the back and picked the fish they wanted, it was cleaned and cooked on the spot. Excellent!!
The next day we headed off inland to the Arecibo Telescope, the largest radio telescope in the world, something Ross wanted to see. The trip into the mountains was scenic, beautiful flowers and huge trees, small villages, the true Puerto Rico. After that it back north to the beach, and spent the afternoon walking along the sand as the surf pounded in. The locals were surfing and having Sunday picnics.
Monday, we were up bright and early to miss the rush hour traffic around San Juan. We detoured into el Yunque Rain Forest. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do any of the trails, but we did see enough to wet our appetite, and plan a future stop . After a quick provisioning at Amigo, in Fajardo, we returned the rental car and made the 3 pm ferry back to Culebra. It was a rough ferry trip, waves crashing as high as the second deck of the ferry, so we were glad we hadn’t brought RAFT over. That would not have been a good first sail for non sailors.
Transportation back to RAFT was the next challenge , all the local water taxis expect ou to have a phone to contact them. Being roaming cruisers it was something we had given up long ago. None seemed readily available, so Ross and Ron walked to Mamcita’s to see if anyone was there. There they met Mike, a Zee Zee Top lookalike who picked us up at the Government dock in his workboat, bottle of beer in his hand et al. But we got everyone and everything back to RAFT mostly dry. That night Kathryn and Ron got to have their first Caribbean sunset, rum and Tampico in hand, on the foredeck of a sailboat. As expected, it was a quiet night on the mooring ball in Dakity.
The winds and waves were still up the next day, so we walked out to Flaminco Beach and had a wonderful day swimming, snorkeling, beaching and playing on the tanks. This used to be a old military firing range. We took the bus back to Dewey, and found that our friends Joe and Rick from Luperon were arriving on a boat delivery. The boat was supposed to be going to St. Thomas, but mechanical problems had forced it to be sailed into the west anchorage at Dewey. We all got together for drinks in the Dinghy Bay as it poured rain.

We were off to Culebrita the next day, and that island did not disappoint K&R. They snorkeled, played in the Jacuzzis, and climbed to the lighthouse. On the second night, they got their photo postcard moment, RAFT was the only boat in the anchorage.
We motor sailed to Charlotte Amalie, where K&R explored the Danish town, while we got caught up on some laundry and boat chores. After some light provisioning at the Kmart and Pueblo we headed off to Christmas Cove. Here K&R experienced their first bumpy anchorage, but they didn’t complain. They we so excited about the variety of fish they continued to see every time they snorkeled a new reef.
The next few days, we explored all the different anchorages, hikes and reefs on the north side of St. John. We all got a real "kick" out of the accommodations and programs offered at Maho Campgrounds.
K&R’s return flight was booked out of San Juan, and so we had to get them back there. While we were in Charlotte Amalie, they had booked the seaplane to take them to San Juan. They took the first ferry out of Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie, caught the seaplane, which deposited them in San Juan Harbour. They had arranged a B&B in Olde San Juan, so that they would have one day to see the historic sites before they returned to Canada. All worked well for them and we know that they had a great holiday.
Now it was our time to reoganize our life and RAFT, and get back into our routine. After we put K&R on the ferry, we sought out the Laundromat in Cruz Bay and we were off to the BVI’s.