Vieques

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Wed 24 Feb 2010 22:23
 Vieques
 
 
 
 
Finally we leave the marina - Puerto del Rey
 
 
 
 
 
After the battery - Alberto fiasco (own blog), we both felt the need to get going, in fairness, we chose the wrong day with the wind against us. It was nice though to bid farewell to Puerto Rico.
 
 
 
 
 
I had asked Bear, by way of a change to plot the onward course. When I checked he had us going slightly left of a red buoy. My first act of mutiny was to disobey as we would have had to go OVER the hard stuff.
 
  
 
 
 
 
Needless to say the Captain has been sacked as Navigator but found it all hugely amusing. Onward into the full force of the wind, at times our speed was 0.7 knots until we went round the bend.
 
 
 
 
A view of a buoy ........
 
 
 
 
.........and in real terms.
 
 
 
You can see the shallow water as a beautiful pale blue
 
 
 
So rough, I had to tether the cooker as it clanged so much swinging. What is a girl to do with her sweet and sour beef, but to tie it down with cling film.
 
 
   
 
 
Approaching the island we saw very different rock formation. The bay next to Bio Bay was deserted so we went back to Esperanza, so rough we got the anchor down on the fourth attempt. An American boat in front of us stayed up all night watching his mooring buoy and single through and through rope. The nose was rising at least eight feet out of the water. At anchor it was about six for us. 
 
 
   
 
 
Needless to say skipper snored happily all night. Next morning all was calm. I took a picture of Beez and noticed an upturned boat - Beez far right
 
 
 
Ashore later to book our trip to the Bio Bay
 
   
 
    
 
 
 
 
 
  We stood and watched the saga. First one - I wouldn't mind needing help from, then two, then three. All together, then give up.
 
 
 
 

Vieques is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands. Although Puerto Rico is a US Commonwealth, Vieques, like the rest of Puerto Rico, retains strong Spanish influences from four hundred years of Spanish ownership.

Vieques lies about eight miles to the east of the Puerto Rican mainland, and measures approximately twenty-one miles long by four miles wide. The two main towns of Vieques are Isabel Segunda written as Isabel II, the administrative centre located on the northern side of the island, and Esperanza, located on the southern side. At peak, the population is around ten thousand.

The island's name is a Spanish spelling of a Native American word said to mean "small island". It also has the nickname "Isla Nena", usually translated from the Spanish as "Little Girl Island", as a reference to its being perceived as Puerto Rico's little sister island. During the colonial period the British name was Crab Island.

Vieques is best known internationally as the site of a series of protests against the US Navy's use of the island as a bombing range and testing ground, which eventually led to the Navy's departure in 2003. Today the former Navy land is a national wildlife refuge, with numerous beaches that still retain the names given by the Navy, including Red Beach, Blue Beach, Green Beach and others. The beaches are commonly listed among the top beaches in the Caribbean for their azure-coloured waters and white sands. 

Colonial period

In 1832, under an agreement with the Spanish Puerto Rican administration, Frenchman Teofilo Jose Jaime Maria Le Guillou - big business card-  became Governor of Vieques, and undertook to impose order on the anarchic province. He was instrumental in the establishment of large plantations, marking a period of social and economic change for the island. Le Guillou is now remembered as the "founder" of Vieques (though this title is also sometimes conferred on Francisco Sainz, governor from 1843 to 1852, who founded Isabel Segunda, the "town of Vieques", named after Queen Isabel II of Spain). Vieques was formally annexed to Puerto Rico in 1854.

In 1816, Vieques was briefly visited by Simon Bolivar while fleeing defeat in Venezuela.

During the second part of the 19th century, thousands of black immigrants came to Vieques to work on the sugar cane plantations. They arrived from the nearby islands of St Thomas, Nevis, St Kitts, St Croix and many other Caribbean nations. By the time of settlement of Vieques the Eastern Caribbean was post-Emancipation but some arrived as contract labour.

 

 

United States acquisition

In 1898, after Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War, Vieques, along with mainland Puerto Rico, was ceded to the US.

In the 1920's and 1930's, the sugar industry, on which Vieques was totally dependent, went into decline due to falling sugar prices and industrial unrest. Many locals were forced to move to mainland Puerto Rico or St Croix to look for work.

During World War II, the US military purchased about two thirds of Vieques as an extension to the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station nearby on the Puerto Rican mainland. The original purpose of the base (never implemented) was to provide a safe haven for the British fleet should Britain fall to Nazi Germany. Much of the land was bought from the owners of large farms and sugar cane plantations, and the purchase triggered the final demise of the sugar industry. Many agricultural workers, who had no title to the land they occupied, were evicted.

After the war, the US Navy continued to use the island for military exercises, as a firing range and testing ground for bombs, missiles and other weapons in a manner not unlike Kaho'olawe in Hawaii.

 

 

Protests and departure of the United States Navy

The continuing post-war presence in Vieques of the United States Navy drew protests from the local community, angry at the expropriation of their land and the environmental impact of weapons testing. The locals' discontent was exacerbated by the island's parlous economic condition.

These protests came to a head in 1999 when Vieques native David Sanes, a civilian employee of the US Navy, working as a security guard at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques, was killed by a bomb dropped during target practice. A campaign of civil disobedience began. The locals took to the ocean in their small fishing boats and successfully stopped the US Navy's military exercises. The Vieques issue became something of a cause celebre, and local protesters were joined by sympathetic groups and prominent individuals from the mainland US and abroad.

As a result of this pressure, in May 2003 the Navy withdrew from Vieques, and much of the island was designated a National Wildlife Refuge under the control of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Closure of Roosevelt Roads Naval Station followed in 2004.

 

 

Climate

Vieques has a warm, relatively dry, tropical to sub-tropical climate. Temperatures vary little throughout the year, with average daily maxima ranging from 28 °C in January to 31 °C in July. Rainfall averages around 45 to 55 inches per year, with the months of May and September–November being the wettest. The west of the island receives significantly more rainfall than the east. Prevailing winds are easterly.

Vieques is prone to tropical storms and at risk from hurricanes from June to November. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo caused considerable damage to the island.

 

 

Economy

The sugar industry, once the mainstay of the island's economy, declined during the early decades of the twentieth century, and finally collapsed in the 1940's when the US Navy took over much of the land. After an initial naval construction phase, opportunities for making a living on the island were largely limited to fishing or subsistence farming on reduced area. Crops grown on the island include avocados, bananas, coconuts, grains, papayas and sweet potatoes. A small number of permanent local jobs were provided by the US Navy. Since the 1970's General Electric has employed a few hundred workers at a manufacturing plant. Unemployment was widespread, with consequent social problems. The 2000 US census reported a median household income in 1999 dollars of $9,331 (compared to $41,994 for the USA as a whole), and 35.8% of the population of 16 years and over in the labour force (compared to 63.9% for the USA as a whole). Like the rest of Puerto Rico, the island's currency is the US dollar.

Following the 2003 departure of the US Navy, efforts have been made to redevelop the island's agricultural economy, to clean up contaminated areas of the former bombing ranges, and to develop Vieques as a tourist destination.

 

 

Public health

There have been claims linking Vieques' higher cancer  rate to the long history of US weapons testing on the island, especially after the US Navy admitted using depleted uranium at least on one occasion in 1999. Dr. Nayda Figueroa, an epidemiologist for Puerto Rico's Cancer Registry, claimed that research showed Vieques' cancer rate (latest available is for 1995 to 1999) was thirty one percent higher than for the main island. Dr. Michael Thun, head of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, cautioned that the variations in the rates could be attributed to chance, given the small population on Vieques. A 2000 NRC report concluded that "the public had not been exposed to depleted uranium contamination or other radiation above normal background (naturally occurring) levels".

In response to concerns about potential contamination from toxic metals and other chemicals, the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a number of surveys in 1999–2002 to test Vieques' soil, water supply, air, fish and shellfish for harmful substances. The general conclusion of the ATSDR survey was that no public health hazard existed as a result of the Navy's activities. However, scientists have pointed out that fish samples were drawn from local markets, which often import fish from outside. Also sample sizes from each location were too small to provide compelling evidence for the lack of a public health danger (Wargo, Green Intelligence).

Casa Pueblo, a Puerto Rican environmental group, reports a study of the flora and fauna of Vieques that "clearly demonstrates sequestration of high levels of toxic elements in plant and animal tissue samples", and that "Consecuently [sic], the ecological food web of the Vieques Island has been adversely impacted.

 

 

 

 

Tourism

For sixty years the majority of Vieques was closed off by the US Navy, and the island remained almost entirely undeveloped for tourism. This lack of development is now marketed as a key attraction. Vieques is promoted under an ecotourism banner as a sleepy, unspoiled island of rural "old world" charm and pristine deserted beaches, and is rapidly becoming a popular destination.

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch in Belly Button's and the tradition of the photograph, I will send for them to put on their rogues gallery. Then a bimble round.

 

 

ALL IN ALL A BIT OF A BACKWATER

                     LITTLE CHARM COMPARED TO CULEBRA A BIT DISAPPOINTING