April 2008

Abandoned tankWe welcomed April in Culebra, Puerto Rico where we were enjoying the second week of a visit with Ann’s parents, Bobby and Betty.  Strong winds and heavy seas kept us anchored off the small town of Dewey for a week.  Our daily dinghy rides to shore were always wet, requiring us to wear our foul weather jackets followed up by a shower and a clothes rinse to wash off the salt water when we returned to the boat.

A one day car rental gave us an opportunity to drive on all the island roads and visit all the island beaches accessible by car.  Bobby drove a motorized gun during the Korean War and he enjoyed seeing the old tanks that were abandoned on the island.  It is a shame that they haven’t been used as an offshore artificial reef.

Abandoned tank in Culebra

El Morro FortThe weather finally calmed enough for us to travel back to Puerto Rico enjoying a wonderful afternoon at the islands of Paliminos and Paliminitos.  We had time for a tour of old San Juan before Bobby and Betty returned home.  The old buildings, cathedrals, and forts are beautiful in this traditional Spanish city.  The massive El Morro fort has guarded the entrance to San Juan harbor for over 450 years.  The Spanish began construction in 1539 and the United States used the fort as recently as World War II.  Today the fort is a well preserved National Historic Site giving visitors an opportunity to better understand the lives of the many soldiers that occupied this facility over the centuries.

El Morro fort

After a hectic day of buying U.S. provisions, we left Puerto Rico and started to travel south again.  We made a quick pass through the Virgin Islands and then to St. Martin where we connected for the first time in 5 months with our friends Hale and Susan on Cayuga.  St. Martin is a good place for repairs and while we were there John replaced our water heater which had started to leak.  Before we left the island, we attended St. Martin’s version of the Full Moon party complete with a beach bonfire at midnight.

Barbuda beachAntigua was hosting the Classic Yacht Regatta and the Antigua Sailing Week races in April.  We traveled to Antigua where we cleared into the country and then sailed the 30 miles to the island of Barbuda.  We anchored in turquoise water off a beautiful white sand beach that stretches for 12 miles before it turns a corner and continues for another 10 miles. The beach is a thin strip of land that separates the Caribbean Sea from the large island lagoon.  Steve and Linda our friends on Seaman’s Elixir had arranged a local tour with lifetime resident George Jefferies.   George picked us up on the lagoon side of the beach and shared many of the secrets of the island with us.  The lagoon acts as a marine nursery where lobsters, fish and frigate birds are born.  Lobsters tagged in the lagoon have been located up to 60 miles away in Nevis and St. Kitts.

Barbuda Beach:  Lagoon on left, Caribbean Sea on right

George JefferiesThe frigate bird rookery, the largest in the Caribbean, is nestled in a protected mangrove area of the lagoon.  A large frigate bird colony resides in the mangroves where birds are reproduced each year.  Males migrate to the area during mating season where they puff out their red pouch and try to attract females.  The birds are remarkably tolerant and allowed our guided boat to paddle within a few feet of their nests.  The frigate birds primarily eat flying fish, but the birds cannot swim.  If a bird falls in the water during their hunt, they will drown.  Their curved beaks are about 12 inches long and give them a tool to catch their dinner.  The birds quickly eat their catch, before another bird tries to steal it away.  Another interesting observation is that Booby birds peacefully reside in the same mangrove area as the frigate birds.

Tour guide George Jefferies

Frigate birds


No trip to Antigua is complete without a visit to the Sunday Barbeque at Shirley Heights.  We traveled back to Antigua and attended a great Race Week party at Shirley Heights.  We had great views of the races on a couple of days and enjoyed all the activity on the island associated with Race Week.  Unfortunately, our camera stopped working, so we cannot share the pictures we captured of the races.

 As the end of April neared, we had a wonderful sail south to Guadeloupe spending only one night before we headed for the tropical paradise of Dominica.



Frigatebird male, juvenile and female