Puerto Rico & USVI
18 to 21 February 2008 PUERTO RICO & USVI
Monday PUERTO RICO
This morning we got up really early and took Bluewater Kitten – Bluewater Cat’s dinghy, to the island marina and the free ferry from there to the mainland. We had to arrive before the inter-island ferry disgorged its visitors as they would be queueing for hire cars too. We were second in line and had a reservation, so we took off soon after 8am. We met Paul and Sima from Leander and we followed them to a couple of chandleries that we would not otherwise have found. Then it was off to sightsee, like real tourists. Jimmy drove, I navigated and no blood was spilt, maybe a few bruises. Jimmy wanted to know left, right or straight ahead, I wanted him to go right, but all the roads coming from the right were exits. Jimmy could not understand my problem, I could not understand all this driving on the wrong side of the road.
We went to West Marine, a big US chandlery and bought lots more stuff for the boats. They had some fishing lures reduced to $1 and $2 and so we bought some of those, I cannot afford big prices for lures if I am going to keep losing them, so I can practice with the cheap ones. Then we went to Wal Mart, my first time, but I did not buy anything there. It was 11.30 and time to sightsee. Most people here can speak English, but they speak Spanish unless you speak to them in English. It seems a friendly enough island.
We went to the beach where they were supposed to have 6’ iguanas if you believe the pilot book, I don’t know why we did because it had not been right about anything else so far. We found some that were 1’ long. After lunch we had more luck with the iguanas, one 2’ and one 4’, but they were roadkill; they should have stayed at the beach and then they could have lived to be 6’.
We drove to Old San Juan, 3 cruise ships arrived that afternoon while we were there and suddenly everywhere was solid cruise line tourists. We walked most of the old town and eventually managed to hop on a trolley bus and go round the outskirts to the old fort. We had to get off and walk to the car park on the way back because we did not have time to sit in the traffic. We go the hire car back before the 8pm lock out and took our shopping, quite a lot of it, to the ferry.
Today was an out and about day in the dinghy for Jimmy and Donna are going to be here for about 10 days as they have a visitor arriving, although I was trying to persuade them to go to Salinas on the South coast. Fajardo is full of marinas and boats, but mostly local and not geared up for cruisers, apart from the chandleries.
We found the laundry in the base of the apartment block, could not contact the person advertising wifi, were not able to ascertain whether they could provide water and they had no diesel. A couple of marinas further up we got two jerry cans of diesel for me and found an internet computer, just the one in a pizza bar. On the way back to the boats we went to the trash to retrieve my fuel filter funnel and paper towels, Jimmy just thought they were more rubbish when he dumped theirs.
That afternoon I was leaving, yes, finally severing the ties with Bluewater Cat; we have hardly been apart since the end of January when they arrived in St Maarten. There were dolphins in the bay, probably the same ones that we saw in Vieques, they can go where they like without customs or a cruising permit.
4pm I left Puerto Rico, for the 65 miles to St Croix, hoping to be in for first light tomorrow. I had to get South through the buoyed channel and then fight East into wind and current. Then I should be ok, the forecast was E, ENE, 18-23 knots, 8 ‘ waves. There were some isolated rocks on the way and I had to avoid those. Then I sailed as close as I could to the wind, but had to tack to try to get round the east end of Vieques, and tack and tack.
Wednesday St Croix 17:45.105N 64:41.837W
I did not get past the corner of Vieques until past 4 am, over 12 hours to do what should have been 20 miles. Unfortunately the forecast was wrong, the wind went up to 27 knots and the waves grew with it, the direction went ESE, exactly where I was trying to go. Perhaps I should have gone off the wind a bit more, but I had to be in before dark and so kept going. The waves were slamming and I fell off one really big wave that gave me quite a fright. At 3.30am I noticed that the frame to the windvane sail had snapped on one side, I do not know if it snapped when I fell off the wave or whether I whacked it with the duogen pole when trying to get it out of the waves. I had to take the vane off and motor-sailed as hard into wind as I could get. When the wind was strong and on the nose I virtually stopped dead in the water. It says in the pilot book that not many sailors make the effort to come to St Croix, now I know why.
Just before I got into Christiansted, St Croix I saw a whale, it was hard to be sure at first as the waves were big and white topped, but the next time I was sure. I am told they are migrating at the moment and there are some orcas out there as well as the humpbacks. They were quite a way off and kept pace with the boat and all I saw were water spouts and as they turned and sent a big flipper up into the air. It would have been good to see more of the whales, but they are not quite the same as dolphins, they are a bit big to play in the bow wave at the front of the boat. I got in and anchored just after 4pm - 24 hours and the whale was the only pleasant moment, the rest was tough. I usually find the first night difficult to get through, but this was so rough I didn’t have time to notice that I was up all night. So was I glad I made the effort and came because I saw a whale; obviously I should be, but it was a very hard trip.
I had a good sleep and in the morning went in to customs to check out. I went and looked around the town. The original Danish buildings with their pastel coloured paint look good from a distance, but the upkeep does not do them justice, but at least any new buildings are similar and only 2 storey high. I saw 3 or 4 tarpin fish in the water, they were 3 to 4 feet long and did not look friendly. They were in the water right by the restaurant, so they must know that they taste horrible. All the smaller fish were keeping out of their way.
I bought another jerry can of diesel and have put all 60 litres in the 2nd tank. It is better than having it heavy on the side deck, it is ready to be used if I need it and I can always siphon it out again. There was someone taking a horse for a swim in the anchorage. I know it is supposed to be good for them, probably exercises muscles that they didn’t know they had, I am not sure the horse knew it was good for it. I cooked roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and Bisto gravy and made some bran muffins for the trip. I ran the watermaker so that I do not have to do that for a few days and made a temporary repair to the wind vane sail frame until I can get it welded properly. I have tied the dinghy down for a long trip and am ready.
I now have to run straight back down 500 miles to leave the boat out of the hurricane zone before I go back to work. I bought a guide to Venezuela because I intend to go there when I get back from the UK and I might end up there if that is where the wind and current pushes me, I am not going to fight my way back to Trinidad. I never want to go upwind again, I never did want to and I have tried it many times and every time I still don’t like it.