Gooooooood Morning!

On Monday, we did the tourist thing.  Mark had a dive trip planned with a local operator, so we hitched a ride in to Christiansted with him.  We had a very tasty breakfast at “The Avocado Pit”, while we waited for Sweeny, who runs a local tour bus business.  Our tour took us to St. George Botanical Gardens, a must-see, after which we traveled to Fredericksted.  There, we toured the old Danish fort, and took lunch at “The Turtle Deli.” The sandwiches were HUGE.  Suzanne and I shared one while gazing out over the water from our picnic table in the shade of Sea Grape trees.  Sweeny rallied the troops, and it was off to the Cruzan Rum distillery, where we went on a guided tour, ending at their asmuchasyouwant tasting room.  Compared to our Bacardi visit, we agreed that this tour was by far the better.

As Mark and Judy were leaving Tuesday morning, they asked us if we wanted to ride along.  “Heck Yeah!”  We spent the day driving around, exploring.  After touring the restored Danish fort in Christiansted, we drove east to Udall Point, the scenic overlook on the easternmost end (and of the USA) of the island. On the way there, we visited the radiotelescope which is the east end of the V.L.B.A. (Very Long Baseline Array), a string of ten identical dishes extending from here to Mauna Kea in Hawaii.  We had lunch on the north coast at “Off the Wall,” on the beach at Cane Bay.  Mark loves getting off the beaten path, so we drove some pretty sketchy roads through the rain forest and along the coast, stopping for Sundowners at “Rainbow Beach Bar” outside Fredericksted.

Wednesday was a hangaroundthemarina day.  We arranged for a car rental (no mean feat-most were taken), and contacted “St. Croix Dive Experience” to secure two spots on their Friday morning dive boat.  Since we hadn’t been diving since the Bahamas a year ago, and we both had new regulators, we thought it’d be best to do a warm-up dive with a professional operator, for safety’s sake.

On Thursday morning, our rentacar was delivered at 09h00, and we were off.  Our first destination was Salt River, where the National Park Service has a visitor’s center overlooking the water. Salt River was the site of Columbus’ 1493 return to NA with 17 ships. This time the natives were not as friendly. The view was tremendous, and the talk by the volunteer ranger was very informative.  We also had a chance to check out Gold Coast Yachts, the boatbuilder where Larry (from Michigan) works.  Heading to the west, we visited Estate Whim, an old sugar plantation which had been restored by the local Historical Society.  Definitely worth the visit.  The awesome sandwiches at the Turtle Deli in Fredericksted were calling, so we had lunch on the beach there.  After our drivearound exploring the backroads of the island, we hit the Cruzan Rum distillery to replenish the ship’s stores.  Mexican Train dominoes provided the evening entertainment.

We were on our way to Christiansted before 08h00, and were at the dock loading our dive gear on the boat by 08h15.  We were fortunate to have the owner of the company, Michelle, as one of the crew.  She’s logged over 10,000 dives around St. Croix, and is a local legend.  Although the water was a bit stirred up from strong winds the previous couple of days, the visibility was still 100’ or so.  Our new SCUBA gear worked well.  Our old dive computers-not so much.  Although we had fired them up the day before, neither wanted to turn on.  Mine is 31 years old, and doesn’t owe me a nickel.  Suzanne’s is only 5 years old, so we were a bit disappointed.  No worries, the crew had a couple for us to use, and all was well.  Although the reef wasn’t very healthy, we saw a fair bit of marine life, highlighted by several Green turtles, Reef sharks, a Spotted Eagle Ray, and a big Stingray.  Of course, all of the smaller usual suspects were present as well.  After a quick shower, and lunch at the “The New Deep End Bar and Grill”, it was time to reprovision.  CostUless is the St. Croix version of Sam’s Club, and we found most of what we needed there.  Their produce looked like it had just come off the boat, so we were happy campers.  On the way home, we stopped at Seaside grocery for the couple of items that we were missing. 

Our friends on dirt often ask us “What do you do all day?” Imagining, I’m sure, that we sit around drinking cute little umbrella drinks while lounging in our hammocks.  Well, yesterday I screwed all day.  I literally crawled from one end of the boat to the other, armed with nutdrivers and screwdrivers, tightening every fastener that I could find.  Loose hose clamps may mean water on the wrong side of the hull, and loose electrical connections make for heat, corrosion, and possibly fire, none of which would be a good thing.  By the time I crawled out of the engine room at 17h30, I looked like I had just gotten out of the shower, and had lost 3 pounds.  Screwing all day takes a lot out of you.  Suz spent the day doing “Admiral stuff”, paying bills, working on our taxes, and etc.  In the evening, Chris (Captain from the Ocean Alexander) and Christina, his wife, picked us up and we all cruised into Christiansted for dinner at “Rumrunners Bar and Grill.” The seafood pasta special was delicious. St Croix is a beautiful, quiet island steeped in history and friendly people. Definitely worth a visit.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday.  Today, we’ll get the Girl ready to leave tomorrow morning.  The plan is to head out to Buck Island, a National Park marine preserve about 3 miles offshore.  You must get a permit from the Park Service (which we did upon our arrival here in St. Croix) to anchor there.  We’ll drop the hook on the lee side of the island there for a few nights and do some snorkeling/diving before heading to St. Bart’s (or St. Martin).  Probably won’t have interweb for awhile, so…..



Culebrita was a relaxing stop.  We were over from Culebra in around an hour, so arrived around 09h00.  There was only one mooring ball left there, and it looked to be in pretty bad shape, so we took some time to find a spot to anchor.  The bottom rises pretty dramatically from deep water to the shore, and many coral heads were visible in the shallow water.  After poking around a bit, we finally found a sandy patch in 15’ of water.  After letting out 75’ of chain, our stern was now in 30’, and blue water wasn’t far behind.  I was really being a weenie.  Even after swimming the anchor and finding it to be well-set, I was worried that if the Girl dragged, the anchor would be in deep water without a chance to reset itself.  It took about a half hour for me to be okay with leaving her for the day while we hiked onshore.  We dropped the dinghy, and anchored her, tying her stern to shore.  Our first goal was the Culebrita lighthouse, high atop the island.  A half hour walk got us there.  The original lighthouse is in a shambles, but we were able to explore both around and through the structure.  It was pretty typical of the other Spanish colonial buildings that we had seen throughout Puerto Rico, built out of coral blocks, trimmed in brick, with a stucco coating.  The aid to navigation is now provided by a light fixed upon a steel tower, fed by solar panels.  The concrete pad that the tower sat on provided a superb vantage point from which to look out over the ocean, and, behind us, back over the island.  We hiked the interior of the island, through dry forest, to a bay on the north side, to check out the anchorage there.  Since the swell had been running out of the North due to several Cold Front passages coming off the U.S., we had expected the anchorage to be untenable.  Before we were out of the woods, we could hear the surf beating on the shore ahead of us.  The beach was beautiful, but the few boats moored there were all rolling significantly.  We had a walk from end to end, and enjoyed our lunch in the shade of a palm tree just above the high water line.  After lunch, we hiked back to the other side of the island, hauled anchor, and motored back over to Culebra, where we anchored behind the reef in Bahia Almovodar(las Pelas to locals).  On the chart, this bay looks wide open to the sea, but in fact it is well-protected by a reef under one foot of water.  It’s rather stunning to see the sea, which was running around three feet, stop suddenly as the waves hit the shallow water, becoming transformed to three inch ripples.  We ended up staying for two nights, exploring the mangroves surrounding the bay by dinghy, and just enjoying the solitude (until just before dark on the second day, there was only one other boat in the bay, anchored ½ mile away).  The Girl also got prettied up below the waterline when I donned the SCUBA gear and armed myself with various scrapers to relieve her of the slimies and crusties that she had accumulated.

We were outta there on Saturday morning.  As predicted, the seas were running around 2-4’, winds 14kn.  As soon as we hit deep water a couple hours out, the lines were in.  After fishing for 5 hours, we had to ready the fenders and lines for our stay on St. Croix.  All we had to show for our pescadarian efforts were a couple of short strikes resulting in ruined baits.  No fish tonight.  The entry in to Green Cay Marina is pretty narrow, and very shoal on one side, but we entered without incident.  After beating into the wind for 7 hours, the Girl was pretty salt-encrusted, but an hour or so of attention from the crew brought her back to her spiffy self.  The marina here is attached to a hotel/resort property, and staying at the marina allowed us use of the entire grounds, including the pool, tennis courts, spa, paddle boards, and etc.  The next morning, we stopped by Rubicon, the Ocean Alexander that we had met in Ponce, Puerto Rico, to pay our respects to Chris (the guy who prevented our boat from smashing the dock there).  He wasn’t on the boat, but the owner was, and we had a nice conversation with her. Our exploratory walk didn’t last long before we were seated at an outdoor table overlooking the ocean enjoying omelets.  We spent the rest of day just hangin’ around the property.  Suz got some computer work done, while I did some troubleshooting on, and repairing a hinky battery charger.  Back over to the resort, under the shade of a palapa, I examined the inside of my eyelids while the tour director laid plans for our siege of the island in the coming week.  We had sips that evening with Larry, Mark, and Judy aboard “Alizann”.  Larry is a friend of a friend from Harbor Springs, MI, who lives on his boat here with his wife, Amy.  He is a boatbuilder by trade.  They sailed their home-built trimaran (a rocketship named “Morello”) down here three years ago.  He is a foreman for a custom boat builder here, while she is a nurse in the hospital.  Mark and Judy are our neighbors here on the dock, retired and hailing from Minnesota.

Getting kinda wordy, so we’ll start exploring St. Croix


Buenos Dias

Isla Chivas.  What can I say?  We threaded our way in through the reef at midmorning.  Warning buoys surrounded the Isla alerting to “unexploded ordinance”.  Having read previous posts, we knew that the warnings pertained to expeditions to shore, not for anchoring.  We coasted in to 12’ of water, and searched for a sandy patch to drop our hook.  Suz expertly put the Girl’s bow over a white area, and I dropped the anchor dead center.  Backing down, the anchor bit on the first try.  We didn’t bother to launch “White Star”, instead got the kayaks wet.  Our azure blue anchorage was ringed by white sand beaches-a postcard perfect setting.  Kayaked around the bay, then walked the beaches, searching for “treasures” most of the day.  We scored lots of beach glass, and some small urchins for our collection.  Suz found a nice Helmet shell, but it was inhabited, so we threw him back, not wanting to ruin his day.  Numerous signs on shore admonished us to follow the 3 R’s-Recognize, Retreat, and Report, concerning unexploded ordinance on shore.  We didn’t see nuthin’.  Returning to Alizann, we polished some of her stainless, giving her some much-needed love.  Late afternoon brought in two ultra-lights with floats landing in the bay, providing a show for us.  Dinner, Tuscan chicken in the Admiral’s new electric InstaPot, was taken over another sublime sunset.

We were off the hook by 07h00.  The Admiral was crackin’ the whip for some fresh fish.  I rigged up some Ballyhoo baits, and we headed for deep water on the way to Culebra, our next Spanish Virgin Island destination.  All we got to show for our efforts was one Toothacuda, and 2 spoiled baits.  Our Christmas present from our son, a baby monitor, however, performed admirably.  When the fishing reel in the cockpit started spooling out, we heard it loud and clear, even over the music crankin’  in the pilothouse.  We love technology!  By 13h45 we had the hook set in the bay out of Dewey, (named for the Admiral) Culebra.  We planned to stay here for a couple of days while we explored the island.  After getting the boat squared away, we headed to shore in the dinghy on a quick reconnaissance mission.  It only took an hour to walk all of the streets of Dewey.  The little village was quite colorful, with gaily painted buildings, and many murals.  We found that the “Dinghy Dock” restaurant/bar had a happy hour(s) with Medalla beers for two-fifty, but more importantly, the fastest internet connection that we had seen in a long time.  Instead of taking 2-3 minutes (or more) to upload a picture, we could get one up in around 30 seconds.  Bonus!  Let’s have another beer.  We were feeling the need for some exercise, so the following morning, we loaded the backpacks with our beach togs, and headed to Flamenco Beach, (another) one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  It was a good three-mile haul, and we were rewarded with a truly beautiful beach, where we spent the day snoozin’, swimmin’, and strollin’.  At one end of the mile-long beach was an old U.S. Army tank, slowly being reclaimed by the sea.

That kinda brings us to the U.S. military presence on Vieques/Culebra.  During the 1940’s, the U.S. Navy purchased around 22,000 acres (or, about 2/3 of the island of Vieques) for military purposes.  The Eastern end of the island was used for live-fire exercises, including ship to shore, and air to ground bombing.  The Western end of the island was used as an ammunition depot.  In around 2003, the Navy ceased operations, and returned the island to the Puerto Rican government.  Since that time, the U.S. government has spent around $220 M to clean up contaminated lands on Vieques.  Given the terrain (jungle and heavy overgrowth), the cleanup is far from complete.  Thus, the numerous warning signs around certain areas of the island.  No political commentary-Just sayin’.

Today, the 25th, we rented a jeep and did the beach tour of Culebra.  We visited every beach on the map, sometimes traversing rocky two-tracks to get there.  Didn’t do much sunbathing, but we saw and walked them all.  The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were good, but didn’t stick to the ribs, so when we returned to town we headed to the “Dinghy Dock”.  The Grouper sandwich and the Ahi/Romaine salad hit the spot, washed down with some cold Cokes.  Before we headed back to the Girl, we strolled over to “Mamacita’s” for a couple of Bushwackers (as recommended by friends at Palmas).  Tomorrow, we’ll head over to Culebrita with the Girl, to do some SCUBA diving, after which we plan to anchor in Almodovar Bay, back on Culebra, for a couple of days before we head to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I’m guessin’ no interweb for awhile, so…..


Hola Amigos,

Yeah, Baby!  Off the dock by 10h00 on Friday, the 20th day of the New Year.  The seas were dead calm for our three hour trip to Vieques.  We ran out to the deep water and wet a couple of lines, but no joy.  Besides the gorgeous beaches, one of the prime “must do’s” on Vieques is visiting the “Bio Bay”.  It’s a bay on the south coast of the island that is filled with bioluminescent organisms, visible only at night.  No motorized vessels are permitted in the bay, so the alternatives are to anchor a couple of miles away, then dinghy over in the dark, or take one of the guided tours by rented kayak.  The weather was so settled, with the swell out of the North that the Admiral said “why don’t we just go over and anchor behind the reef at the opening of the bay?”  I wasn’t so sure, as the few reviews that we had read on “Active Captain” (our crowd-sourced Bible), recounted stories of miserable, rolly nights in this spot.  It was early in the afternoon, so “What the heck, let’s check it out.”  Working our way behind the reef wasn’t as daunting as the charts suggested.  We found a patch of sand in 15’ of water, and fired the anchor down dead center.  As I was swimming the anchor to make sure that it had set well, a sailboat coasted in next to us and dropped their hook nearly on top of ours.  Hmmm……. I didn’t say anything, but wasn’t real pleased.  As I’m getting back on the boat, the Captain of the other boat asks me if I’m okay with where he’s anchored.  I reply that he looks like he knows what he’s doing, so if he’s okay, I’m okay.  Fifteen minutes later, he has his crew scrambling to fend off, as he’s 4’ from our starboard rail.  Now attuned to the error in his ways, he gets his anchor up and moves.  Muchas Gracias.  Guess I should say Danke Schoen-German flag.  We dropped the kayaks, had dinner, and paddled in just after dark.  The show was incredible.  Every dip of our paddles left a trail of white light in the water, and luminescent wakes followed our boats as we glided along in the moonless night.  Blowing on a cupped hand full of water elicited a shower of blue-white sparkles.  We could only imagine what the bay must look like in a rain shower, each drop firing up a burst of light.  What a trip!

So let’s talk some biology.  Dinoflagellates?  They’re single celled organisms (actually plankton).  These little critters are able to transform chemical energy into light, utilizing an enzyme called Luciferase and oxygen.  There are several theories as to why these little guys produce light, but, whatever.  When the pressure of their surroundings changes, they let out a burst of light which lasts about a tenth of a second.  One shot, then they’re done until they are able to synthesize some more Luceriferon the next day through photosynthesis.  Dinoflagellates are present in the ocean, but not in the concentration that is found in this “Biobay”.  (In a saltwater flush toilet on a boat, you often get a light show when you take a pee in the dark.  But then, I digress).  So, why are there so many of these flashy little critters in bays like this?  First, there’s the narrow entrance.  Then, there’s the wide, shallow bay behind that entrance which allows for warming, and increased evaporation which results in high salinity.  The very salty water gets heavy, and sinks to the bottom of the bay.  As new ocean water enters the bay, moved by the prevailing winds on the ocean, the heavy, salty water on the bottom is forced out.  Since the dinoflagellates live on the surface, their concentration increases.  Add into the mix the Black and Red Mangroves that line the edge of the bay.  Their leaves fall into the water, and as they decompose, provide vitamin B-12, and other essential nutrients for our little lightmeisters.  Voila!  A natural tourist attraction.

We backtracked a couple of miles back to the bay outside Esperanza to take in Vieques’ second-largest town the next day.  May or may not have been worth a stop, but we can say that we did it.  We went to shore, and strolled along the malecon (shore, pier, boardwalk), passing by a couple of beachbar-type restaurants.  Then, we dinghied along several miles of shoreline outside of town to the west, then around the point to the east, anchoring in Sun Bay, where we walked the beach for a mile or so.  Around sunset, the live music started (it was Saturday night).  We were forewarned, but it was loud.  Not just loud, but LOUD!  I like my music, but I can tell you that at 02h27 when it stopped, I was extremely relieved.  Sunday morning was a sleep-in day (imagine that), so we didn’t get off the hook until around 09h00, headed east, with Isla de Chivas as our destination.

-Hasta Luego

Feliz ano Nuevo,

The trip back to the States was outta sight.  We stayed at Suzanne’s sister and brother-in-law’s home atop a mountain outside of Asheville, North Carolina.  Their home is large enough to accommodate the whole fam damily, and it’s always a nonstop party from the minute we arrive.  After a couple of days of one on one time with Mike and Sheila, the rest of the gang started rolling in.  Both of our kids and their spouses made it for a few days each, and we were able to see most of our nieces and nephews as well as all of Suz’s sibs and Mom.

After returning to Puerto Rico, and settling back into the marina, where Alizann had spent a couple of windy but uneventful weeks, we were ready for some exploration by land.  On the first day of the new year, our trusty little rentacar took us to El Yunque National Forest.  EYNF is the only U.S. national forest which is a tropical rainforest.  After hitting the visitors center for a quick orientation video, we hiked a couple of short loops, one of which took over a steamy trail running next to a river which culminated in a pretty waterfall.  Water dripped from the lush green foliage, and bromeliads sprouted from every fork in the trees branches.  Huge termite nests occupied many of the deciduous trees appearing like bulbous brown tumors.  Given the paucity of hikers along the trail, I was surprised at the number of folks swimming at the base of the waterfall, destroying the illusion of being in the wilderness.  The trip to the park was definitely worth it, and we agreed to a return engagement later in the week.

The next day took us to the giant radiotelescope at Arriceibo.  First conceived in 1960, and completed in 1963, the radiotelescope was, and is, the largest radiotelescope on the planet, with its’ 1,000-foot diameter spanning a large natural sinkhole in the Puerto Rican karst mountains.  Over the last 50-odd years, an incredible amount of ground breaking research has been done there, including one project which resulted in a Nobel prize.  The facility is not only capable of receiving radio signals and photons from deep space.  It also broadcast our first intergalactic “postcard” sometime in the 1970’s.  Studies ranging from identifying gravitational waves (creating proof of some of Einstein’s theories), following Near Earth Objects potentially capable of colliding with our planet, and, closer to home, studying our stratosphere, name just a few.  The facility is funded by NSF, the National Science Foundation, and researchers compete for time on the dish by submitting proposals, only the best of which are accepted.  We spent around 2 hours there, observing the dish from the visitor’s center, located high on the slope over it, and viewing an informative video.  That afternoon was not so high-brow.  We toured the Bacardi distillery, which was good fun, but maybe could have been better-I’d give 3 out of 5 stars.

Next day, it was back to El Yunque for the hike to the summit.  We started out surrounded by mostly deciduous trees, which transitioned to a Sierra Palm forest that gave way to scrubby bush as we ascended, and the soil got thinner.  Emerging at the top, we were treated to a spectacular 360-degree view.  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich never tasted so good.  The drive home took us by the huge (1000 slip)marina at Fajardo, rumored to be the largest in the entire Caribbean.  While having a snack at the restaurant there, we patted ourselves on the back for choosing to stay at Palmas.

Ya can’t come to Puerto Rico without experiencing Old San Juan.  Suzanne arranged for a private walking tour to start out our day, using an outfit called “Tours by Locals”.  Our guide Jorge, met us promptly at 09h00, and spent 4 hours with us, showing us the high points of the Old city.  He was extremely knowledgeable and personable, and the hours just flew by.  It was the first time that we hadn’t used our travel agent back home for a local guide in a new city, and we did so with some trepidation, but the experience was good, and the cost was a fraction of what we have spent in the past (whenever we explore a city that’s new to us, we always hire a guide so that we don’t miss the good stuff, and, from time to time get in the back door where tourists don’t tread)  By the time 13h00 rolled around, we had already exchanged reading lists with our guide who, by the way had a Masters in Microbiology and had been involved in some marine research (See Suzanne Tuck, Marine Biology and Freshwater Ecology).  We also questioned him about the company, Tours by Locals, and he told us that he was pretty happy with the way that they treated him, and was planning to keep them as his booking agents.  So……we’ll use them again in other cities.  We explored on our own for the rest of the afternoon, and returned the following day, primarily to tour the two Spanish forts, El Morro, and El Castillo, which guard this strategic entry into the Caribbean.

You can’t rent a car without having a “provisioning day”, so Sam’s, Walmart, and Ralph’s Wholesale Foods occupied most of the next day

Over the next few weeks, the wind continued to blow like stink, (we even heard that the cruise ships were staying in port up in San Juan) and since our reservation was for a months’ stay, we just enjoyed Palmas.  We walked most mornings, exploring many of the 2,700 acres in the facility.  Middays found us doing boatchores, including some varnishing around our windows inside the Girl, repairing some hairline gelcoat cracks, and re-sewing some of our Velcro closures on the canvas.  Afternoons at the pool overlooking the ocean were spent reading and sharing stories with our many new friends here at the marina.  Suz, our entertainment director, organized potluck dinners at the Tiki Bar (which just services the marina clients) on the night of the NCAA national championship, and due to the overwhelming positive response, the following week for the NFL playoff games.  While still here in the U.S.A., I was also able to take care of a little medical issue which was discovered over Christmas back in the States.  You know that we don’t eat out a whole lot, but we did a couple of times and have this to report:  The Punta Vista restaurant on the roof of the Hotel Milano in Old San Juan had an outdoor section, and served pretty decent Mofongo.  The Restaurant on the Plaza, here at Palmas, serves up very fresh Italian cuisine (we ate there twice).  The Mexican restaurant at Palmanova, here at Palmas also, was a “don’t bother”.  Our Tiki Bar served an awesome, half-pound (no exaggeration) bacon cheeseburger- the ultimate cure for the toomuchfunthenightbefore blues.  Outside Palmas, and up the Panorama Highway southwest of the gate was El Nuevo Horizonte perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the ocean.  The food there was pretty solid.  We just had lunch, but the guy at the table next to us was eating a whole flash-fried fish that looked super.  A couple miles outside the gate was the Delicia Café and Bakery, with delicious panini sandwiches, made on a half-loaf of Cuban bread, feeding 2 for $6.  (Stopped there 3 times).  In Ariceibo, the Salitre de Meson, had a beautiful outdoor dining area right on the beach.  With the waves crashing in, the food probably tasted better than it actually was.

Okay, so it’s the 19th.  We’re 2 days past our intended stay of a month.  The wind dropped this morning like somebody flipped a switch, and the seas have been subsiding all day.  We have been expecting this break for almost a week, so will be heading to Vieques for a few days starting tomorrow.  Always bittersweet to leave newfound friends, but we’ll see some of them along the way, and there are new pals right around the corner.

So, as we start the New Year, our tally is: 4,197 nautical miles this year, 14,602 nautical miles since leaving Michigan.

-Hasta Luego

Hola Muchachos,

So here we are at the Marina at Palmas del Mar.  Palmas is a planned community that was started around 1975.  Currently, there are 3,500 housing units here, ranging from single family, detached homes to multi-unit condos, spread over 2,700 acres.  Approximately half are occupied year-round, half are second homes.  This gated community has 25 smaller gated enclaves within its’ boundaries.  There are 20 tennis courts (clay, grass, and composition), an equestrian center, a Catholic church, grocery store, (two) eighteen-hole golf courses, a spa facility, some 16 restaurants, a K-12 elementary school, a Wyndham Hotel, casino and on and on.  The marina will accommodate yachts up to 175’, although the largest here at present is merely 115’.  We’re here because we thought that it’d be a safe place to leave The Girl when we flew home for Christmas.

Our first afternoon was spent cleaning the salt off “Alizann”, picking up our mail, and meeting the neighbors.  Over the next few days, we spent a lot of time walking and exploring a small part of the grounds.  Saturday night, the week before Christmas, featured a (Christmas) lighted golf cart parade, which culminated in the central plaza where the party was just beginning.  A live band kicked ‘em out until the small hours, interrupted occasionally by a few torrential rain showers that blew through.  Although the language presented a bit of a barrier, Suz and I understood the smiling and dancing without any problem.  The girls were loving the line dancing, doing the “electric slide” to the Puerto Rican beat.  At one point, I looked around, and to my surprise, noticed that all of the guys were on the sidelines with just the ladies (and I) dancing-oops.  Next song was a slow one, so the disturbance in the Force was quelled as the men returned to the floor.

There are only 5 of us out on the end of “B dock”, and 2 of the boats are unoccupied.  That leaves Dave, a guy from the U.S. mainland who spends his winters here on his boat, Susan & Peter, Canadian sail boaters who have wintered here in the Caribbean for the past few years, and us.  Of course, we share some sips and stories.  Suzanne enlisted Dave to take care of her garden (Basil, tomatoes, and various herbs) while we are gone over Christmas.  He was looking forward to having his daughter from the West Coast come for a visit over the Holiday.  Peter and Susan were also expecting company, as their daughter was flying in from Toronto, expecting a two-week sail to the Spanish Virgins.  Getting the Girl ready for our absence required doubling all lines and placing chafe protection all around, while leaving extra lines in the cockpit just in case they were needed.  Our spot on “B Dock” was right on the traffic pattern to the fuel dock for the marina staff (not a coincidence), so we figured that if there were any issues, the guys would notice.  Finally, we left Roberto his Christmas gift of a couple pounds of Mahi filets, and after digging out our cold-weather clothes, we’re ready to roll.

That pretty much brings up to the 20th of December.  Luigi picked us up promptly at 06h00, and we were off on our adventure to the San Juan airport.  The traffic thickened as we neared San Juan, and the rain and poor road surface didn’t help matters, but we arrived at the airport 2 hours ahead of our flight.  It was a good thing, too.  By the time we got through the lines at agriculture inspection and baggage check, we really appreciated our “Global Traveler” status at TSA.   

Ha sido un tiempo……

Sooo…. It was brought to my attention that I didn’t close the chapter on the stuck transmission lever.  One of the hazards of A.D.D., I guess-“oughta sight, oughta mind”.  After bleeding the lines, we’ve had no more trouble, but you can bet that we test it before coming into any tight spots now.  I guess that goof-ups are how you add to your list of “Standard Operating Procedures”.  Our list is getting pretty long by now.

On the subject of A.D.D., every time that I sit down to write, I come up with another little project to do instead.  Pretty soon a day becomes a week, a week a fortnight, and before long, a month has gone by.  Let’s catch up:

The 15th of December dawned warm and sunny-81 degrees with a 10kn breeze.  Off the dock at 08h00, we were anchored in the bight at Isla Caja de Muertos by 09h45, in the company of 2 sailboats.  There are several versions as to how “Coffin Island” got its’ name.  My favorite is the story of a Portuguese pirate, Jose Almeida, who fell in love with, and married a Puerto Rican woman, taking her pirating with him.  The story goes that after she was killed by a stray bullet, he had her embalmed and entombed in a glass coffin, which he then proceeded to hide in a cave on the aforementioned island.  In the ensuing years, until he was captured and executed at El Morro fort in San Juan in 1832, he visited her tomb often, leaving half of his treasure there.  Many years later, a Spanish engineer located the coffin and gave the island its’ name.  No mention was made of the treasure.  The official story is that the island got its name, because the outline on the horizon looks like a human figure in repose-BORING!  The island is uninhabited now, save for a few Ponce Park rangers who maintain a small museum, picnic/swimming area, and automated weather station on the west end of the island.  Apparently, a ferry boat from Ponce lands at the decrepit dock near the anchorage on weekends, bringing daytrippers from the “mainland”.

We dropped “White Star” and headed north along the coast, looking for a sandy beach on the sharp limestone shore ringing the island.  There was a small patch of sand at the foot of a trail that we presumed led up to the lighthouse perched some 500 feet above the water, but the waves rolling in, and the rocky bottom precluded leaving the dinghy there.  Plan B.  We dropped Suz, the backpack and my clothes on the sand when the waves subsided for a minute or so, then moored the dinghy in deeper water.  It was a refreshing swim to shore.  The hike up to the lighthouse started in dense, scrubby vegetation, giving way to a cactus forest, finally ending in an arid zone at the top of the ridge where the lighthouse stood.  Built a couple of decades before the Americans received Puerto Rico in the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War, its’ architecture is typical of the colonial style that is found around PR.  The lighthouse is totally abandoned, save for the automated light atop the tower there.  The view was nothing short of spectacular.After our morning hike, we went ashore at the other end of the island where the ranger station is located, and checked out the “museum”, which was actually an exhibit of posters describing the flora and fauna of the island and surrounding sea.  Besides the rangers and a couple of kids off of one of the anchored sailboats, we had the island to ourselves.

The anchor was up, and we were underway by 06h25 the next morning, with winds around 10kn.  When we reached the southeast corner of Puerto Rico, the night lee had dissipated, and we experienced a little bit of a rocky ride, with 20+kn winds blowing the tops off 2’-4’ seas on our nose.  After surfing the rock-lined channel into the marina at Palmas del Mar, we contacted Roberto, the dockmaster, who asked us to tie up at the fuel dock.  “Don’t need fuel, just direct us to our slip”.  Well…..we pulled in to the fuel dock, where Roberto and one of his guys got us secured.  When he asked us to get off the boat, I have to admit that I was a bit confused.  Turns out that he put us in his golf cart and drove us around the nearly-empty marina so that we could pick our slip.  Unheard of!  After he explained the pros and cons of the different docks (close to the office, a little more surge, a little less wind, and etc.), we settled on one far from the office/main gate, but with less surge.  The guys got us properly secured, and gave us some tips on line placement, delivered in a very nice tone, then drove us to the office, where we met Juanjo, the Marina’s general manager.  By the time that he finished his welcome orientation, we felt like we were checking into the Ritz, not a marina.  After he had arranged for a driver to take us to San Juan airport four days hence, and sensing some unease, he gave us his cell number, telling us that if there was any problem, that he’d take us himself.  More on Palmas


Buenos tardes,

So, Enterprise picked us up yesterday morning, and we were off on our adventure to the coffee plantation in the mountains.  The highway headed north out of town was four lanes, but full of potholes and patches, making speeds over 50mph feel too fast.  As we headed up the mountain, the small stream of cars thinned to nothing.  Google announced our turn, and it was a good thing, as there were NO street signs.  Kurt, the owner of Hacienda Pomarossa, told Suzanne that his farm would be found at kilometer 12.8 of this road.  I use the term “road” loosely.  Yes, it was paved, but barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass.  The edge of the pavement dropped off 8” to the (not) shoulder, and in many places, was fractured off completely, a foot or so into the lane.  In a few spots, the downhill lane was gone altogether, having washed downhill in some previous mudslide.  That didn’t keep the oncoming drivers from racing down like maniacs, often coming around blind corners in the middle of the road, only to slam on the brakes and swerve over to their own side before they hit us.  We mighta’ bought the farm, had the semi truck coming the other way around a blind switchback not had a very loud horn.  We heard him coming before entering the turn, and it’s a good thing, too.  He took up the whole road, the tractor and end of the trailer on the right edge, with the middle of the trailer extending over the inside of the curve on the left edge.  I think that a very short, but explicit descriptive may have slipped from my lips, because Suzanne was laughing hysterically as we sat stopped on the road, the semi’s tires inches from my head.

We made it.  Hacienda Pomarossa was perched on the side of the mountain, amidst a rain forest of vegetation.  Kurt and his wife, Eva had an idyllic property-eight acres of coffee trees sprinkled among banana, mango, plantain, mandarin, orange and grapefruit trees.  Kurt is German, but has lived in PR for 41 years, and has been married to Eva, a Puerto Rican, for 40.  She is a self-professed city girl, and lives in Old San Juan, at their home there most of the time.  Kurt loves the farm, but visits the city now and then.  Works for them.  Kurt toured us around the farm, and demonstrated his processing equipment.  Unlike many small farms, Kurt does all of his own processing, from picking to destemming, peeling, drying, roasting, and packaging the beans.  Definitely a labor of love, the end result being around approximately 6,000 pounds of gourmet coffee per year.  After our tour and a talk about the history of coffee, we discussed our respective reading lists over a couple of cups.  He is obviously well-read, and I got a couple of suggestions for future reads, as well as giving a few titles to him.  We sat and talked about a mutual favorite, “1421, The Year that China Discovered America”, as well as a couple of others.  After 4 hours at the farm, it was time to head out, as we wanted to drive over to Salinas and check out the harbor there.  Google Maps showed us the route, and we were off.  If the road in was small, this one was miniscule.  No wider than a typical driveway, I couldn’t help but wonder what we’d do if we encountered a car coming the other way.  We twisted, turned, and wound our way down the mountain, several times finding that we were on a drive heading up to someone’s shack, having gone straight when the road took a sharp turn.  Finally, the “road” ENDED.  Google showed a road ahead. But the trees and bushes belied this fact.  Whatthe?  By now, after 45 minutes of twisting and turning, we tried to backtrack after making an 18-point turn to reverse direction.  “Do you remember seeing that shack?”  “Did we see that rusted out truck before?”  “I don’t remember this intersection, do you?”  Google had completely redrawn itself, but by now, we didn’t trust her anyway.  It’s pouring rain now, and getting darker.  We came over a rise, and entered a section of road which was totally unfamiliar, running along the edge of a dropoff.  There was a young man on a backhoe fixing the side of the road, talking to a kid on a bike.  No habla Ingles.  We managed to get through the language barrier, he barked some orders to the kid, who tore off on his bike into the pouring rain.  Motioning for us to follow, we wondered where he was taking us.  Ten minutes later, there we were, at the driveway to Hacienda Pomarossa.  We took the original road home.  It now looked like a turnpike.  Kinda outta time, we stopped to eat at “Casa del Chef,” a restaurant that Jose had recommended.  There, we both availed ourselves to the ubiquitous Puerto Rican delight, Mofongo.  We’re talking mashed, then fried plantain formed into a ball, surrounding (fill in the blank) Camarones (shrimp), Pescado (fish), Carne (meat), Pulpo (octopus), Concha (conch), Pollo (chicken), or whatever.  The whole deal is then drenched in an intense Ajo (garlic) salsa.  Whew!  After we waddled back to the car, we headed to the supermercado for fresh fruta y vegetales.  We got back to the Girl just before nightfall.

Weather should be moderating tomorrow, so we’ll get off the dock and head out to Caja de Muertos.  Our plan is to anchor there, and climb to the top of the island, then spend the night on the hook.  There’s really no harbor there, just a little Bight on the southwest side.  If the anchorage is too rolly, we’ll head 15 miles east to the bay in Salinas.  Until then,


Buenos tardes,

Well, didn’t get a whole of sleep on Saturday, the night of our arrival.  Between the surge, causing us to saw back and forth, the creaking (not a strong enough word-maybe shrieking) of the lines as they alternately tightened around the PVC-sheathed steel pilings, and the at least 80 decibel music emanating from the numerous kiosks across the harbor until 02h00, sleep was an unrealized luxury.  We took a walk around the property, and met a couple standing by a pile of luggage in the parking lot.  They had come in the afternoon before, and were waiting for a cab to take them to the airport so that they could fly home.  Their Captain had just landed, and would take their boat to St. Croix, their home port, when the weather cooperated.  Perfecto!  We talked to the cab driver, Wilson, who agreed in much-less-than-perfect English, to take us in to Ponce when he returned with the Captain.  Well…..we weren’t too sure about the communication thing, but since he left an upright fan which he had taken out of the trunk with us as a hostage, and he had to bring the Captain back, we figured the odds of us getting to town were about 80-20, with the odds of us getting to Mass on time were around 40-60.  Thirty minutes later, with our pack loaded, and the Girl retied, we were starting to get a little worried.  That was just the start.  The cab rolled up.  The lady driving hopped out, and headed for the restroom.  Out popped Chris, the Captain, who couldn’t get away quick enough.  While Wilson bent his ear, he kept backing up.  Finally, he said “I gotta go”.  We asked him to keep an eye on our boat, the lady driver returned, and we were off.  Turns out that Wilson was drunk as a skunk.  As we roared down the highway, he regaled us with stories.  First, about how he knew everybody around here, his other car, a Cadillac SUV, then about how he was going to take us on a tour, give us a free gift and onandon.  All of this in sortaEnglish that we could barely piece together.  Interspersed, were asides to the driver in Spanish, spiced liberally with “F bombs”.  Finally, he got the point that we didn’t want a tour, we were just going to church (a concept that seemed very foreign to him).  Winding through the backstreets now, he turns around and says to us “Nothing is going to happen to you, I take care of you”.  We pop out of the barrio into the daylight, only to find that the street is barricaded.  Fortunately, there are 3 cops at the roadblock, and beyond, there is some kind of festival going on (sigh of relief).  Wilson gets out and tries to talk the cops into letting us through.  Nope, not happenin’.  Back up, turn down another sidestreet, wrong way on a one-way street, and we’re in front of the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.  Ten bucks, “See ya, Wilson”, twenty steps and we’re in the safety of the Iglesia.  I had already done plenty of praying, but figured a little more couldn’t hurt.

Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours wandering around the city square, where the Christmas festival was winding down after a weeks’ run.  The downtown area in this, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, was evidently in a state of decline.  There were many empty storefronts, and it was very apparent that the infrastructure was crumbling through lack of maintenance.  Having had enough, we hailed a (different) cab and headed back to the Girl.  As we walked down the dock, we saw Chris working frantically with the lines on our boat.  Several had loosened, and in spite of the many fenders that we had hung, our Girl was slamming the concrete dock.  It was all he could do to hold the boat off in the 20+ kn wind and vicious surge.  Man, we arrived just in time.  There was no one else around to help him, and I dunno how long he could have held out.  We all got “Alizann” retied, but for the rest of the day, and the next, Suz and I were afraid to leave her.  Plus, the extra day gave me time to do some fiberglass repairs-all pretty minor, considering.  (Thank you, Chris).  Lines stretched, loosened, and had to be redone often.  All the while, the boat lurched forward, sprang back, and rotated, causing her to bounce between pilings.  No proper bow lines could be tied, as the slip was too short.  In a word, Miserable!  On the third day, a boat moved off a face dock.  After a half hour (or so) of conversation, the lady at the office consented to us moving to the face, where we could get some proper lines tied.  But…….we could only stay there 2 days, as another boat was coming in.  Sold!  We moved 15 minutes later.  Getting out of the slip was a challenge, but that’s another story.  We resurrected our cancelled rent-a-car reservation, and got a good nights’ sleep in readiness for our road trip to the coffee plantation.

So, let’s back up just a tad.  The night of the dock incident, we had Chris over for some enchiladas.  Nothing like an Irish gal cooking Mexican food in Puerto Rico.  His story goes like this:  Born in the States, his folks moved to St. Croix when he was eight.  He grew up there, and has worked on boats his whole life.  He is currently a harbor pilot in St. Croix, and moonlights as the Captain of the 62’ Ocean Alexander that his bosses left at the dock here in Ponce.  He’s worked for these folks for the past several years, and will be the Captain of their new 78’ Fleming that is nearing completion, and will be delivered soon.  It seems that the owners came in to PR from Dominican Republic without clearing Customs (it was the weekend).  They then left the boat and flew out, leaving Chris to deal with the paperwork on Monday.  Fortunately, the Customs folks saw things for what they were, knowing that Chris had nothing to do with this mess.  They didn’t confiscate the boat, and let the owners off with an $8,600 dollar fine.  (probably not even a hiccup for folks that own a Cessna Citation, and have a $7M boat coming soon).  Names have been omitted to protect the (not so) innocent.  Just another story from the backwaters of the Caribbean.

Well, there was a whole lot more to these stories, but as usual, this is getting waaaayyyy too long-winded, so…….


Buenos Dias,

Up at 06h30, off the hook by 07h00.  We threaded our way back out through the reef, using our previous days’ track on the chartplotter, as the angle of the sun at this time of day didn’t lend itself to reading water depths.  Cayos de Cana Gorda, or Guilligan’s Island, was only two hours away, but with the wind, seas, and small craft warnings, we wanted to take advantage of the light early morning winds for a pleasant ride.

Okay, so what’s with this “Night Lee” that I’ve been talking about?  Land masses take on, and conversely release heat more quickly than water.  During the day, the land heats up quickly.  The hot air over the land rises, causing the wind to be deflected from sea to land (an onshore breeze).  At night, as the air over land cools, it becomes heavier and falls to earth and flows out to sea (an offshore breeze).  This effect affects the gradient wind (prevailing wind), deflecting it.  In effect, the nighttime offshore breeze created by this effect creates sort of a “bubble” around an island, raising (in altitude), or deflecting the prevailing winds.  In our case, the easterly Tradewinds.  This bubble, or Night Lee, can extend tens of miles out from an island, and last from around midnight until 9 or 10 in the morning.  The distance from land and the duration of Night Lees are affected by the strength of the gradient winds, the elevation of the land mass, and daytime temperatures.  Bottom line-generally cruising in the lee afforded by a land mass at night provides a more pleasurable experience.  Okay, I probably really muddied things up.  Google it.

Well, it was still kinda bumpy, but I was able to rustle up some scrambled eggs, served over red beans and rice, topped with Mexican cheese.  A bit of “Scotty O’Hotty” habanero salsa provided a little kick.  Arriving at our destination, we worked our way through the reef, and the seas quickly died.  Suz tucked us in behind a little Cayo, and the hook was down by 09h30.

What a pretty spot.  The little Cays next to us were in a Puerto Rican park, so were uninhabited, and had roped off swimming areas and picnic tables ashore.  During the day, the little ferry boat from the Jacinto restaurant on the mainland brought visitors out to the park, but in the morning and early evening, we had the place to ourselves.  There were no other cruisers in the anchorage, either.  We spent two days there, just soaking up the ambiance.  Had lunch at Jacinto, food was nothing to write home about but got a little taste of the local color.

This morning, we were up and out by 06h30, headed to an anchorage at Caja de Muertos Island.  The Night lee dissipated 2 hours into the 3-hour trip, and the seas were predicted to be running 5’-7’, then 7’-9’ over the next few days, so we reevaluated our plan to anchor in the open anchorage there, figuring that we’d rather be stuck someplace with more to do.  Ponce, the second largest city in P.R. was on the schedule for a road trip later in the month, so we decided to call the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club to see if they could get us in.  No problem.  We were tucked in to a 19’ wide slip with plenty of surge and wind (in our 17.5’ wide boat) by 10h00.  By 11h00, we had a car rented for Monday, had the Mass schedule for the Cathedral, coffee plantation tour reserved and were registered for the week.  This afternoon, we strolled the malecon(La Guancha) and had lunch and a few cervezas at one of the kiosks there.  Looking forward to touring this historic city and its environs in the early part of this week.  We’ll report in……..



Captain's Log

All Rightey Then.

We ran to Martinique through acres and acres of Sargasso weed.  Didn’t get hung up once.  Seamantha followed us 10 hours later with no problems either.  In Martinique, we rented a car, got provisioned up, and looked forward to staying a week or so.  There were a few attractions that we had missed on our last visits, so we planned a trip to St. Pierre and Mt. Pelee, and one to hike the Jesuit Trail.  The hike was also on John and Paulette’s radar, so we took two cars up the mountain, and spotted one at each end of the hike, as we weren’t sure that we were up for a round-tripper.  Rated at a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10, with an elevation change of a little over 2,000 feet through steaming rain forest seemed rather daunting.  The hike was a bit challenging, but very doable.  It didn’t hurt that the day was cloudy and a little less hot that usual.  At the lowest point, we crossed the Lorraine River on a rope suspension bridge and stopped for a snack before climbing out through the dripping trees in the tropical rain forest.

Another day found Suzanne and I driving up to the North, for a visit to Mt. Pelee, and the town of St. Pierre.  Mt. Pelee is a quiescent volcano which last erupted in 1902.  In May of that year, it was responsible for the instant incineration of around 30,000 people and the total destruction of the village of St. Pierre.  The pyroclastic flow, reaching temperatures in excess of 1,900 degrees F, and charging along at a speed of over of 400 MPH left absolutely no chance for survival, the exceptions being 2 individuals.  One, Louis-Auguste Cyparis, was a prisoner, housed in a tiny stone hut with a door measuring about a foot or two on a side that was situated in the lee of a stone wall.  The other being Leone Campere -Leandre who lived on the outskirts of town.  The Volcano Museum in St. Pierre was worth the visit, with video and static displays. 

More hikes were on the itinerary, but Ahhhh ”The plans of mice and men.” We got a call from back in the States.  Marty’s Dad was very sick, and we felt that we needed to get there as soon as possible.  We called Port Louis Marina in Grenada.  “Yes.  They could squeeze us in earlier.” Changed our flight to Michigan.  Did a “touch and go” in St. Lucia for duty-free fuel, and were tied up in Grenada 2 days later.  Four days to get the Girl “Hurricane ready” and we were off to Michigan.

We got back home to the boat on September 20th.  We didn’t have our bags on board yet, when an old friend reminded us that it was “Chicken Dinner Night” at Whisper Cove.  “Are you guys in?”  Hey, why not?  Quick shower, into our boating uniforms (for me-Carhartt shorts and a Tee shirt), and we were off.

The next week was a blur.  Reacquainting with old pals, going out to dinner, provisioning our larders, routine maintenance and repairs filled our days and evenings.  Unfortunately, one of our fridges had quit while we were gone.  Usually, that’s not a problem, as we empty them before we leave.  However….you may remember that we visited Martinique before flying back to the States.  Needless to say, all of the French goodies that we left had coalesced to form a rather odiferous goo in the bottom of the unit.  Oh, how I love FedEx.  3 days later, I had a new compressor control module in my hand.  That, coupled with a new cooling fan (which I already had on board), made cold work of the old fridge.  It was only…Mmmmh.. a “four expletive” job.  While we were at it, we pulled the other, functional unit and gave it the good vacuuming that it deserved.  So…let’s talk about the defunct WIFI antenna up on the mast.  That was about a “fifty-two expletive” job.  It only took two days and multiple trips up the mast (you know me and heights) to finally give up on the cable that was there, and replace it with a new one which we had brought back from the States.  The router is in the safety of the pilothouse, so the mast, ceiling panels, wire chases all had to be opened up to route the cable from the top of the mast down.  Good times.  It did, however allow us to clean the route along the way.  The Admiral standing by and giving directions while sipping on a pastel, umbrella decorated drink?  Surely you jest.  She was on a “seventy-seven expletive” course of her own, updating charts on 3 computers, then reconfiguring cables so that they would talk to “Otto,”our autopilot.  That stuff is waaaay beyond my pay grade, but I still don’t understand why you can’t just install the upgrades and carry on.  Job security for the Geek Squad, I presume.  Anyhoo…  The impellers and fuel filters are changed (oil and filters changed before we left the Girl).  The watermaker has been re-commissioned.  Everything SEEMED to be working 4x4.

The plan was to head over to Bonaire and do some diving and touring as soon as possible.  Our hurricane insurance be damned.  They want us to stay below twelve-and-a-half degrees North Latitude until November, but Bonaire hasn’t had a hurricane since the early 1800’s.  As beautiful as Grenada is, and as comfortable as we are in the marina with all our Pals, we were feeling the urge to move.  A weather window appeared to be opening starting in the evening of the 2nd, closing on Friday the 5th.  That forecast didn’t change for a week, and several models agreed, so we’re comfortable with its’ accuracy.  Right now, we’re 45 hours out of Grenada, having maintained a course of 271 degrees, True for 44.5 hrs.  Lines are out.  We hooked what looked to be a 50+” Wahoo yesterday, but after taking nearly all of my line, he swam back up under the boat, tangling the line so hopelessly that I had to cut it.  We’ve caught and released a couple of Skipjacks, and a VERY small Tuna.  We had our hearts set on some fish for the freezer, but now we’re not so sure.  Just heard a puff and went out to the bow.  A pod of around twelve dolphins treated us to a good show getting pushed along by our bow wave, all under sunny skies and an 84 degree temperature.  How’d we get so lucky?



Really??  5 months without even a “Hello”?  Okay.  It’s been a busy 5 months.  It’s painful for me to sit and write.  Four of the months were spent back on dirt, and I don’t want to bother you with that mundane stuff.   And……. sometimes I wonder if anyone reads it (even though Google says that we’ve had 700K hits.)

I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.  But I’ll try to recap our last few months.

When we left you last, it was upon our arrival in Barbados.  When I dove the boat, there were no remnants of whatever we had been dragging through the night.  Our new bottom paint was a bit the worse for wear, but everything looked good.  Guess that we’ll never know what our uninvited passenger was.  Topsides, we got the Girl scrubbed up after her salty trip.  Retrieval of our cleaning supplies from the lazarette (the storage space under the back deck) revealed that we had taken on a bit of water during our trip over.  Although the laz was dry (it has its’ own bilge pump), there was a salt ring about 8-10” off the sole, and everything stored had a fine salt water mist on it.  Needless to say, everything out, everything rinsed, then everything restowed in the now dry, immaculate lazarette.  All I can say is that there must have been a heckuva lot of water in the cockpit for there to be that much down below.  That is…………if it hadn’t backed up the drains around the hatch…Hmmmmh.  By the way, we discovered that our WIFI amplifier had taken a hike as well.  It was still up on the mast (on its’ apocalypse-proof) mount, just no longer on speaking terms with his router friend down in the pilothouse.   Grrrrr.  Checked the simple stuff.  Up and down the mast a few times and etc.  “This project will wait until we’re back in Grenada for the Summer.”  The dockmaster was nice enough to let me hardwire our spare wireless router into his cable, so we were all set in that regard.

Now the fun stuff.  Port St. Charles marina is very small by anybody’s standards.  It’s set up for mega yachts, with around ten looong docks.  Alizann and Seamantha looked lost side-tied to 100 foot fixed concrete piers.  Barbados is a beautiful island, but doesn’t receive many cruisers, as it’s so hard to get to, being upwind from the Antilles chain.  The marina sits inside a gated community, much like the one that we stayed in at Las Palmas, in Puerto Rico, albeit on a much smaller scale.  Swimming pools and snorkeling in the ocean just a short swim from the boat made it a great base for exploration.

Now, for the adventures, in no particular order.

Suz and I rented a car, as the public transportation is spotty at best, and totally indecipherable to an outsider at worst.  Barbados, although independent, was a British colony, and the only (I believe) Caribbean island that has flown only one flag, as no other European nation was able to wrest it from the Brits.  It also happens to be the only foreign nation that George Washington ever visited, living here for several years in his late teens

We made several excursions to Bridgetown, Barbados’ capital.  There, we toured the garrison and explored some underground tunnels there.  Next, a guided walking tour of the town was in order before visiting Washington House for another guided tour.  Another day was spent watching the thoroughbred races for the first Jewel of the Barbados Triple Crown-run on a grass track.

Being formed by subduction of two tectonic plates, Barbados was pushed up from the ocean floor, creating a limestone, not volcanic, island.  There are many caves.  After taking a trolley tour through Harrison cave, Suz and I decided to return for a personal walking, crawling, swimming scrambling experience with a guide.  Before heading into the depths, we were outfitted with knee and elbow pads as well as hardhats, then asked to army-crawl a few hundred feet to make sure that we were fit enough for the experience.  The tour was incredible, and I would strongly recommend it if you come for a visit.

Another day was devoted to visiting beaches (of which there are many), shoreside caves, and not a few rhum shops and restaurants.  Driving overland between the shores, we took a walking tour of the Portvale Sugar Refinery, the only one on the island.

Nicholas Abbey, a restored sugar plantation is a must-see, with the manor house, cane grinding building, and numerous out buildings available for exploration.  On the way home, we visited Lewis sugar mill, a restored, wind-powered mill.

Suz and I took a tour of Banks Brewery to see the local beer being created.  As it turned out, we were the only two people on the tour, so we got the up close and personal version-very cool.

Remember the Concorde?  Well…during its’ short lifespan, these supersonic passenger jets had scheduled flights to only four airports: Heathrow, Paris, JFK and?  Barbados!  Of course, we had to visit the one on static display at the airport.  With a hangar built around this sleek airship, you are able to walk in, around and under her, while there are numerous interactive displays around the periphery of the building.

Almost forgot this one.  I have Suz, John and Paulette in our rental car on our way to Bridgetown one morning.  Forgot to get gas the night before, so we wheel in to a busy gas station/convenience store joint, wait in line, then fillerup.  I’m walking out of the store after paying, and I’m watching this guy in an old pickup truck backing out of the parking space directly in front of our car.  Surely, he’s going to turn the wheel and head out the driveway.  Nope, he keeps backing up until the truck is stopped by our car as I watch the scenario develop in slow motion.  Are you kidding?  Our rental only has 3,000 miles on it.  Long story short.  In Barbados you gotta wait for the police to arrive before moving the involved vehicles.  Soooo….we’re blocking 2 pumps at this very busy station.  The cop finally arrives and takes both of our statements.  Good to go, right?  Nope.  Can’t leave until both vehicle’s insurance guy comes and takes 18 glossy, full color photos, measures the scene, takes statements, and etc.  Our insurance’s guy was at the other end of the island, so needless to say, we had a wonderful time people watching.

This short synopsis doesn’t do justice to our visit to this beautiful Caribbean nation.  We hiked and drove much of the island, ate local food, and experienced the warm graciousness of her people.  If hurricane season had not been just around the corner, we would have passed our “weather window” and spent much more time here.

But……the wine cellar is empty, and it’s a quick 14-hour cruise to Martinique, where we’ll remedy that problem before heading down island to Alizann’s Summer home in Grenada.

Hopefully, we’ll get back on track with the blogs not too much



Morning, Morning,

We were back in the water on Monday, as promised.  Our pal at Crew’s Inn, Meleena, found room at the Inn for us, and we were in our berth by late afternoon.  The relaunch was not without a little drama, however.  The boys that we had hired to remove/replace the stabilizer wings and bow thruster props didn’t show until 14h00, when we were scheduled to splash at 15h00.  They showed up without the proper tools, but the good news was that we had ‘em.  15h05, and the Travelift was ready.  They picked us up at 15h15, and we were splashed shortly thereafter.  Really?

After we went back in the water, we were basically looking for a weather window for our passage up to Barbados.  We took a tour to Pitch Lake with one of Jesse’s guys.  Pitch Lake is the largest of three asphalt lakes on the planet, the others being in Venezuela and California.  The lake is 75 meters deep and is said to contain over 100 million tons of asphalt.  Asphalt has been mined here for a few hundred years and was used in paving roads in much of the northeast of the United States.  Asphalt is still strip-mined here today and exported overseas.  The machinery doing the mining must be kept in constant motion, or it will sink and be trapped.  Sections of the lake are mined in succession, to approximately two meters of depth.  It takes less than 2 weeks for the asphalt to rise back up.  Meanwhile, other sections of the lake are mined.  We hired a guide to walk us out onto the lake.  It felt spongy underfoot, and if you stood in one place too long, you could feel yourself sinking slightly.  There are spots on the lake that are more liquid, and our guide was careful to route us around these, lest we be trapped in the tar.  The houses in the village surrounding the lake are in constant motion, moving inexorably toward the lake, gardens and paths circumvent pools of pitch which has bubbled to the surface.  On the way home, we visited two Hindu shrines: The Temple in the Sea, and the Dattatreya yoga center.  The Temple in the Sea was built by an indentured immigrant from India.  As the British colonials would not permit the building of temples on land, he spent many years hand-carrying bricks and cement out onto the mudflats of the Gulf of Paria to create an island for the Temple.  Restored in 1994, the temple is the anchor for a park on shore.  When we were visiting, a cremation was taking place at the park.  The Hindus here still do it the old-fashioned way:  The body is placed on a pyre, the fire is lit, and the ashes are raked up afterward.  We saw a couple of these ceremonies in locations that we passed on our road trip that day.  The Dattatreya Yoga center boasts the tallest statue of Hanuman (the Hindu monkey god) outside India, standing at 85 feet.

The rest of out days were spent wheeling and waxing the Girl, as well as other minor boat chores.  Afternoons found us gathering at the swimming pool with other cruisers.  Of course, Saturday mornings were Market Days in Port of Spain, and Saturday nights were “Bake and Shark” nights, when we joined with other cruisers at the local watering hole.  We usually had a table of 10-15.  Conversation was lively and the beer was ice cold.  Bake and Shark?  It isn’t actually baked at all.  We’re talkin’ a fried dough bread pocket filled with fried shark and other ingredients-maybe coleslaw, tomatoes, peppers, topped with garlic sauce, Chadon Beni (kinda like cilantro) sauce, and a little Peppah sauce.  Deeeelicious Trini street food.  Thursday evenings, Crew’s Inn supplied the charcoal, grill, tables and chairs for the cruiser’s potluck.  Everyone brought a dish to pass, and a meat, or fish, or ?? to grill. 

Our projected couple day stay morphed into nearly 13 as we waited for the wind to quit howling.  Finally, the 22nd of April looked less bad, so, itching to leave, we settled for a forecast of 5’-8’ seas on a 10 second interval with 15-20 knot winds, which would be on our nose for half the trip, and our beam for the other half of our 190 mile passage, which we thought should take us around 24 hours.  We figured that we could take advantage of the North Equatorial Current, which had hampered our progress on the way to Tobago earlier in the Spring.  We were off the dock at 06h05 on the 22nd.  Our course was laid in to keep us around 10-12 miles off the coast of Tobago, to keep us out of the opposing current which always runs along its shore.  Just north of the eastern tip of Tobago, we would veer north to take advantage of the Equatorial Current.  The first leg of the trip was beautiful, as we cruised into 3’-5’ seas, under sunny skies.  The lines were wet, but no bites.  As we passed out of the lee of Tobago around 19h00, the seas increased to 4’-6’, darkness had fallen, we turned north with the seas now on our beam.  The Girl was rolling, but comfortably, thanks to her stabilizers.  Overhead, the wind had increased to 17kn with gusts to 23.  Suz had settled into bed around 20h00, and I was on the first watch.  All of a sudden, I felt a shudder, and an odd vibration.  The engine work load meter jumped to 65% from its normal 42%.  The engine temperature rose 10 degrees, and the fuel consumption went up 1.5 gallons per hour.  This all happened within about a minute or so.  The Admiral bounced out of bed and I cut the throttle.  “Sh#@! t, we must have picked up a net or something” Okay, we knew this drill.  Throw the prop into reverse, back up and whatever you have picked up will dislodge and you’re on your way.  Well, when you slow down, the stabilizers don’t work, and now the seas were running 5’-7’.  Stopping the Girl and wallowing in the troughs between waves in reverse was a cupboard-rearranging affair.  We rolled from beam to beam, and the cockpit was awash.  “Okay, that should do it.”  On our way again, I went below to check on the bilges.  Lifting the hatches, I could hear an ominous “Bang, bang, bang” against the hull.  Okay, repeat the backing up maneuver, this time at a higher speed, and for longer.  The wallowing between waves was magnified.  It was necessary to hold on with both hands to stay upright.  On our way again, the banging had stopped, and all seemed well.  Wrong!  Throughout the night at various intervals ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours, we kept experiencing the same scenario, minus the banging.  The engine temperature would slowly rise, along with our fuel consumption and engine work load until we did the back-up maneuver again.  At every juncture, we acted more aggressively in the hopes of shaking our passenger.  We could see large patches of Sargasso weed with our spotlight, and we figured that we were dragging a net.  When it accumulated enough weed, the symptoms would become critical.  Going overboard with dive gear was out of the question, as Alizann was rolling from rail to rail.  We thought about heading due west to Grenada or the Grenadines, putting the wind and seas on our stern, but in the end, decided to push on to Barbados as we were really in no danger.  Worst case, if we lost propulsion, the wind and seas would carry us west to the Windwards somewhere.  We were 70 miles from any land. Needless to say, it was a long night.  At 08h00 on the 23rd, we ducked out of the current, changing our course to the northwest for Barbados.  It was now daylight, but we still couldn’t see what we were dragging.  At 11h00, we reversed for what would be the last time.  The surface of the sea was now covered with Sargasso weed in ¼ mile long patches.  We passed through effortlessly.  Whatever we had picked up was gone!!  I was almost disappointed, as I wanted to see what it was.  In the lee of the island, I was even able to wash some of the salt from our trusty little ship sailing into 1’-3’ seas.  We arrived at Port St. Charles, Barbados at 16h35, 34 hours after departing Trinidad.  John and Paulette, who had been there for two weeks aboard Seamantha were standing on the seawall waving when we arrived.  Paulette, true to form, had remembered that it was my birthday and had us over for her (in)famous rhum punch and munchies.  We went home early, fell into bed and slept like the dead.

Barbados travelogue to follow:


Morning, Morning,

Let’s just call this the “All work, and no play” log.  After an uneventful flight back home, and a very speedy visit with Customs and Immigration, Chad was waiting at the airport for us.  It was, of course, a real shocker to get off the plane dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.  Not exactly apropos for eighty-five degrees and seventy eight percent humidity.

Besides being filthy, the Girl looked good sitting at her berth.  She had new neighbors, sailors from Germany.  During our absence, John had kept a close eye on her.  He told us that there had been an unusually high tide which required retying some of her lines-thank you, John.  We spent the first full day just cleaning the outside from top to bottom.  Saturday was Market day, so we rode in to Port of Spain with Stanley (another of Jesse’s guys) for fruit, produce and Trinidadian shrimp.  On the way home, a blast through Massey supermarket rounded out our supply of staples.  We pulled away from the dock at 07h30 on Monday, the 26th, and took a short short toodle out of the harbor to do a quick system check and empty the holding tank.  By 08h15, we were in the sling of Peake Yacht Services Travelift, getting our first haulout in 2½ years.  After 2 idle months sitting at a marina in very bioactive (polluted) water, there was plenty of growth for the guys to scrape/power wash off her bottom.  Very fragrant.  We left to go have breakfast at Zanzibar, where we could watch from a distance.  Alizann’s spot in the yard was less than fifty meters from the Travelift, and equidistant from Zanzibar.  Once we were blocked and the jack stands were in place, the troops were mobilized.  Richard came to the boat and installed an air conditioner in the overhead hatch of our stateroom (the boat’s A/C doesn’t function when she’s out of the water.)  We met with Greg and Lincoln, who would be managing our yard work and went over our list.  As we talked, the list grew, and it wasn’t too long before our one-week haulout looked like it would take two or so.  Git ‘R Done!  We got up with Mitch, our welder, to pick up our burglar bars and have him weld the “knees” that he had fabricated for our stanchions.  Oops.  “Thought that you were coming back after Easter.”  Okay, back on task.  Rishi, owner of Jonathon’s Outboard Service was lined up to do routine maintenance and chase down a cooling problem on the dinghy outboard.  Lastly, we visited Franz, owner of West End Power to remove and inspect our stabilizer fins and bow thruster props.

It's Friday of our second week on the hard, (FYI, Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays) and we’ve been pretty pleased with the progress.  The hull has been sanded and has two coats of new paint (waterline-four coats).  The boot stripe has been raised 2 more inches and reprimed and painted.  The hull above the water line has been wheeled out and polished.  The dinghy has had 2 coats of epoxy and 2 coats of bottom paint.  The outboard has been repaired and serviced.  The welding has been completed, and the bars are being polished as I write.  Suz and I have been busy too.  We replaced the support for the swim platform (which was damaged in Puerto Rico).  In doing so, we found that the core of the platform was wet, having been infiltrated around some improperly bedded fasteners.  We removed all hardware, reamed out all holes, let the core dry for a week, removed soft core material then refilled all holes with epoxy and rebedded hardware.  After discovering this problem, we removed some rails from our boat deck, and discovered that it too, wasn’t bedded properly.  Good news!  Some holes damp, but not soft.  Same fix.  The tender got its rails rebedded-Hey! As long as I was mixing epoxy (Actually, each hole took several “pours” in order to control heat).  One evening, we spooled out 300’ of anchor chain and reversed it, end-for-end (to keep wear even), cleaning the anchor locker as we went.  Retrieving 300’ of chain by hand is a real workout, being that we had no hydraulic power to raise it mechanically.  I replaced the stainless-steel tubing on our water maker another day (starting to spring some little leaks here and there from corrosion).  Of course, the unit couldn’t be worked on in place, so I had to disassemble it and take the membranes out on deck to replace 2 of the tubes.  Meanwhile, the Admiral got software updated on all of our devices in between “Hey Suz, can you come help me’s?”  Cocktail time doubled as “Marlinspike Hour,” splicing up new working lines for our Girl.  That’s the big stuff, I won’t bore you any more with all of the little tidbits that were dealt with.  Let’s just say that we’ve been busy.

The Admiral’s birthday came around, so we shed our work clothes and gussied up for a night out.  Chad drove us, joined by John and Paulette,  to Aioli, a fine dining restaurant in Port of Spain.  Of course “fine dining” means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Well….the place had a continental vibe from the moment that we climbed the stairs from its’ strip-mall entrance.  The food was truly incredible.  We could have been in Paris, New York City or Napa Valley.  The service matched the appearance.  We had a very uncruiser-like night out, and Suz was smilin’.

We had a farewell lunch with John and Paulette on the 30th, as they were off to Tobago to join Ken and Sylvianne.  It was kinda sad to see them go, but we’ll surely see them in the future (we think that they may join us for the Panama Canal transit in a year or so).

Anyhoo, that’s it for now.  They’re thinkin’ that we’ll be back in the water on Monday, the 9th.  We’ll sit at the dock until we get some semblance of a weather window (it’s been GORGEOUS this week) behind the weather that’s supposed to blow in next week.



So, I was posting up some pictures, and realized that there were a few adventures before the Grandbaby trip that I missed:

First of all, every Saturday, Jesse has a van to the city market down in Port of Spain.  We’re off at 06h30, but that’s still a couple of hours after the market opens.  Oh yeah!!  It’s your typical farmers market on steroids.  You wannit?  We gotit!  That’s where we be goin’ for fresh everytang.  Produce, seafood, meat, and then there’s the Indian spices and etc.  Oh yeah, there’s a “Doubles” guy there that has our favorites.  (Thanks, John and Paulette.)  I dunno how many acres the market covers, but it’s enough to spend a couple of hours there.  Jesse says “an hour-and-a-half,” so the foray reminds me of an old TV show where they give the contestants a shopping cart and a short amount of time to fill it.  The first pass is to scope out the various stalls and wares for prices and availability.  Stop at the end point for doubles, then sweep back through to make our purchases.  After the market, it’s a quick (half hour) stop at Massey (grocery store) for staples, canned goods, and etc.  Back at the boat by 10h00.  Fill sink with bleach water, soak all fresh produce, refrigerate, put away dry goods.  NAP!!!

One morning, Suzanne, Paulette, and I had one of Jesse’s guys, Chad drive us out to the “Bamboo Cathedral” for a hike.  The area is so-named, because the bamboo trees on both sides of the pedestrian path overhang it, creating a tunnel-like effect.  Troupes of howler monkeys live in the area, so if you get there either before or after the heat of the day, you may see them moving through.  We arrived just before light and lucked out.  We were the only people there.  We heard the monkeys before we saw them.  The howls/growls were loud and throaty.  Then, overhead, we spotted a group of three moving through the canopy.  The light was bad, so the pictures were very marginal.  After hiking through the bamboo, which was beautiful in and of itself, we followed the unimproved pedestrian road to the deserted U.S.A. radar station at the top of the mountain, a remnant of WW II.  As you might imagine, the view was tremendous.

So, we were ready for a little independent adventure one day, so decided to take public transportation into Port of Spain to walk around and have a fancy lunch.  Suzanne made reservations at “Veni Menage,” a highly rated Indian restaurant.  When we told Jesse of our plans, he said “Just make sure that you’re out of Port of Spain by 13h30, because there’s an afternoon Fete going on just north of the marina, and no taxis, buses, whatever will drive down there because of the traffic.”  We arrived in POS in the morning, and window (and otherwise) shopped until our 11h00 reservation.  We were careful to avoid parts of the city that had been forewarned by locals. Lunch was remarkable.  We left the resto at 13h15 and walked down to the highway to flag down a bus.  Every one that went by was filled to capacity (unlike Grenada, overfilled vans get big fines here).  We decided that this wasn’t gonna happen, so we started walking to the central maxi-taxi terminal, about a mile-and-a-half away.  Baloney!  I stuck out my thumb, and a private taxi picked us up.  He was headed south and would drop us off at the maxi-taxi terminal.  There, people were packed up, waiting for a maxi south.  A nice lady who happened to be passing by told us that no taxis were headed north, because they didn’t want to get stuck in traffic up there.  The maxis were not obliged to make their routes if they didn’t want to, but the public buses were.  She suggested that we walk to the bus terminal and take one of the hourly buses.  Dang!  It was 14h10, we’d have to wait nearly an hour for the next bus.  Oh well, we hot-footed it to the bus station, about a half mile away (Oh yeah, did I tell you that it was raining now?).  We bought tickets and got in line.  15h00.  No bus.  16h00.  No bus.  We’re starting to chat up the folks ahead of us in line.  They’re still waiting for the 14h00 bus.  Rumor has it that the bus is having “mechanical problems.”  Yeah, but how is it that we’re looking at a lot full of buses that aren’t in service?  Long, long, long story short, a bus rolls in at around 17h30.  After all of the pushing ‘n shoving, we, who were around tenth in line, make it onto the 50+ seat bus with about 10 seats to spare.  After some near-fisticuffs, the security guard closes the door, and 30 people are left standing on the platform, awaiting the next hourly(?) bus.  The next day, Jesse just laughed.  We were not amused.

So… we got back home from the adventure to POS.  The “Pool Gang” at the marina had a news flash for us.  A solo sailboater coming in had a little problem getting into the slip next to the Girl.  Somewhere in the 4 tries that he took getting into the slot next to us, He HIT our boat.  Dang!  We inspected our trusty little ship, and yeah, there was a whack out of our boat, and a bigger whack out of the concrete dock.   Whatever.  I got the buffer out, and soon the scar was gone.  Went over to talk to the skipper.  He was apologetic (in French), and said he’d buy me a case of beer.  (Well, three days later, and after his departure before daybreak, we didn’t see a drop of beer.)  Two strikes-a sailboater and a Frenchman-just sayin’.

Guess we’re almost caught up, so……