So a geophysicist walks into a bar and asks for two paddle boards, three large magnets, and a hovercraft. No…really. We met this guy on a beach in Culebra. He and his marine biologist girlfriend were with their parents enjoying some quiet family time. Conversation was made and it turns out he’s a bomb sniffer, of sorts.
Vieques and Culebra make up the bulk of the Spanish Virgin Islands. For those who are not familiar, these are islands just off the east coast of Puerto Rico. They, like mainland Puerto Rico, are US territory, and they’ve been host to the US Navy for decades. Uninhabited eastern Vieques and northern Culebra served as training grounds for gunners in the Navy. Over years they shot hundreds if not thousands of live ordinances onto or near the islands for target practice but many of the shells did not explode. This has left the islands with numerous live ordinances on land, beaches, and in the waters, so visitors and locals alike, both land and marine life, must tread lightly. Sailing through the waters knowing that recent storms could have stirred up some of these things makes for an interesting stress level while in paradise, but the gamble to this point has paid off!
Today we sit in a stunning bay on the north side of Culebrita. Our entry yesterday should have been uneventful as the waters were calm and the winds fair, but the drama still found us. As we pulled in we were immediately buzzed by a dinghy with Jen and Mark of s/v Luna Sea aboard. We had not seen these folks, our very first friends from the Bahamas, since they left George Town about six weeks ago.
As we were catching up with them we heard a call for help from the two nearby snorkelers. Luna Sea effected a rapid dinghy rescue and they slowly brought the injured back to our boat. One of many skills I never thought I would use aboard my sailboat was joint relocation. In the past two months I’ve had to use it twice, once on myself (please refer to prior post Why Pole Dancing Doesn’t Pay for more info) and now once on a fellow boater. Only after all pieces were back with their appropriate parts were introductions made.
In making these new acquaintances we were reminded of how very small this world can be. As it turns out the patient and her partner are friends of our new friends on s/v Britican, a discovery that allowed for many smiles and knowing nods as we recounted fond memories of Britican’s crew. My family and I float everyday on this vast ocean, and some days it feels like we’re the only ones out here. Other days, we are reminded of how many of us have decided to step back from land and move with the waves and the wind, and of the connection we all have if we simply take the time to find it.
Which brings me back to our other newly-minted friends, Chris and Kaia and their parents. First, let me say that these folks are unique. To back this up, I hsould finish the story I started at the beginning of this blog. In recent years, Chris has done contracting work for the Navy to help locate the bombs around Vieques and Culebra. While most of the area could be explored by regular boat, the shallow reefs and the beaches required more creativity. In order to complete the job, Chris and his coworkers created a hovercraft metal detector, allowing them to float over these difficult areas and still point out where the large chunks of metal lay. Yes, they did use two paddle boards, three large magnets, and a hovercraft. Ingenious!
But all of these folks, Kaia, Chris, and each of their parents, were so friendly to us both times we ran into them (on beaches in Culebra and now again in Culebrita). They took the time to really talk with us, to share with us, and to actually hear us in return. Our time together was brief but they will forever be in my memory and in those of my daughters. How often do you meet a stranger on the beach who happily takes the time to teach your children about bioluminescence? Or her boyfriend who explains to you why the goats roaming the beautiful islands around you are taking their lives in their own hooves with each step? Culebra and Culebrita, thank you for making your mark. And thank you for not blowing us out of the water.