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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2022 Spanish Virgin Islands: Culebrita to Esperanza, Vieques

 We woke up early on thanksgiving sail determined to sail. The sail from Culebrita to Esperanza was mostly a beam reach followed by a run, and after having to motor the first half of our trip we were determined to make do without fossil fuels as much as possible this day. With an early breakfast, we swam around a bit to see if there was anything to the reef behind the boat, but all we saw was turtles, which were still great.

Once out of the point around Culebrita and headed east, we hoisted the sail, discovering that the sail ties instead of the zippers around the sail covers were a pain to untangle. With the motorized winch, however, getting the mainsail up was a snap, and soon we were reaching towards Vieques with a 10 knot wind, making 5 knots.

With a gradually strengthening wind, we soon made the 3 mile mark and could open the sewage tanks and dump the tanks. We were suspicious as the dumping of the tanks was quite obvious on one side but not the other. We would eventually figure out that this was because the leeward side pontoon's dump valves would be below water but the windward side wasn't, so you couldn't actually see it.

Sailing is a delight --- there's no engine noise, and on a beam reach you have plenty of speed. Nevertheless the crossing was rough enough that Arturo needed medication, which Mark fortunately had.
At Punta Este, we cleared the rocks and started heading West. This put the wind behind us, which calmed down the journey even further. The Yamuy didn't like sailing directly downwind, however, and all our efforts to sail wing-and-wing came to naught. The entire Eastern half of the south coast of Vieques is off limits, since it was once run by the navy and there could be unexploded ordnance to snag the anchor. We sailed pasts all the harbors until we reached Esperanza, where we spotted the Pier (said to be good snorkeling), and dropped anchor. We identified that we were short a few gallons of water, and there were more groceries we wanted to buy, so after lunch, hoping that a supermarket would be open, we dropped the dinghy off its davits and proceeded to the Esperanza dinghy dock.
The Esperanza Pier was obviously not a site to park the dinghy, but the "dinghy dock" so to speak was in bad shape. The pier itself looked like the frame had been taken apart for parts, and the dock wasn't low enough to step off the dinghy onto the pier. We'd have to have multiple people gripping the dinghy, while Dan the climber and Mark would knot tie it up. We would eventually figure out that the right way to do this was to get people off the dinghy before trying to tie it up. I was not looking forward to doing this in the dark for our bioluminescent tour!
Esperanza didn't look like a town with anything other than hotels and supermarkets. Despite being Thanksgiving day, there was a surprising number of boutique hotels and tourists in town! With our luck the way it was, we visited all 4 supermarkets and it was the last one that was opened. We bought ice cream, and more provisions and water, and somehow there was an avocado in the grocery bag at checkout so I paid for it. We couldn't figure out who had put it there, and eventually it was decided that some previous customer had decided against it at the last minute and I'd just unfortunately assumed that it was one of us.
Back at the Yamuy, Arturo had time to snorkel to the pier, but upon coming back he said, that you would only do it for exercise. I didn't feel the need to exercise, but a rainbow came up and it looked gorgeous. Of course, we were immediately showered by a raincloud as it swept over us.

Dinner was the traditional turkey - presented vegetable plate, and Arturo pulled out the stop to make a paella with what we had. The sunset was gorgeous, but I knew I had to dig out the flash light for that night time landing at the "dinghy dock." The cruising guide said that Esperanza was trying to be a yachting destination, but without improving the dinghy dock there was no way I'd go for a repeat visit!

Nevertheless, we all made it safely to shore in the dark, and did Abe's Bio Bay tour. Arturo had done previous bioluminescence tours and told us to set our expectations low ,but it was magical --- mosquito bay truly had the best bioluminescence anyone in the party had seen --- you'd dig your kayak paddle into the water and it would light up with a ghostly light. You could cup your hands into the water and blow it and it would sparkle. You could splash the water and it would light up when it fell back in. I was stunned and amazed and wished it lasted longer. Apparently thje bans on swimming and anchoring were fairly recent --- one of the hurricanes had caused mosquito bay to lose its bioluminescence for months, and not knowing how to bring it bad, they just banned everything until it came back. We have no footage or photos of this tour because none of the equipment we had could see the bioluminescence. You'll just have to see it yourself. And now we understood why there were so many tourists and boutique hotels in Esperanza --- there was no ferry that ran after the tours, so everyone who came to do a bio bay tour had to stay for the night!

We made it back to the boat by around 9:00pm, got everyone asleep. This was the last night Niniane and Dan would be on the boat, but we had no particular plans for the next few days so we knew we could take our time the next morning. It was too cloudy for star gazing anyway, so the kids got to go to sleep early.

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