Puerto Rico

Suzie Too - Western Caribbean
David & Suzanne Chappell
Fri 24 Feb 2012 21:02
We left the Dominican Republic heading towards the Spanish Virgin Islands, all upwind and against the Atlantic current, so even in 15-20kts of wind we had 25-30kts over the deck and moderate seas, which after a while get tedious. Because it’s up wind sailing we are heeled and sleeping and moving around the boat is not easy, although we did heave to for breakfast and a shower.
The second night there was a lot of banging and winch grinding and eventually I was called onto deck to find the dinghy had dropped at an alarming angle on the davits. So in the pitch dark Suzanne and I went aft to find the problem, which was caused by the bolt in the dinghy lift point shearing through. Fortunately the safety lines under the dinghy were supporting it, but it would need more secure lashing to survive upwind sailing in 30kts.
We came up with a plan which entailed Suzanne climbing out on the davit arm, although we had hove to it was dark and with quite a big sea running – not  pleasant (ask to see her bruises), to put a line through the eye to sling underneath and it more firmly. After about half an hour we had done as much as we could and sailed away more heavily reefed and motored for most of the rest of the night to protect the davits.
In the morning after our second night all was still OK, but as I went around the boat I noticed the leech tape stitching had come undone and the leech line was free on the yankee, so now we had lost a sail and could not keep the boat speed up. SO we had to decide what to do, the BVIs are still 200M, Antigua is 300M but Puerto del Rey on Puerto Rico is only 80M and eventually we chose that option.
Suzanne called Customs and Border Protection and explained we were coming into Puerto Rico for repairs but that Nicky and David were on an ESTA. We were told they were not allowed to leave the marina, but with our B2 visas we were free to go as we please. The guys from CBP turned up over lunch the next day and fortunately all was well as their ESTAs had been validated through Miami, so they were allowed on US Territory for 90 days – otherwise it would have been a $5,000 fine each. – Crap !!
SO that is an important one to remember - You can arrive on a private yacht into US Territory, but ONLY IF you have been validated (with finger prints and camera shots) through a commercial channel – i.e arriving by plane or Ocean Liner at a US Port of Entry, so be careful if you sail out to Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands – it might cost you more than you think. In the end it cost us nothing as we were still in the US and had a valid Cruising Permit otherwise it would have cost $19 for new Licence.
I managed to call on the cell phone to a sail loft and Chuck met me at 0800 the next morning and the sail was back and repaired after lunch for $300 and we got a new bolt and replaced the dingy lift point. Interestingly Chuck told me his son, Kyle Lyman, was on Rambler 100 when she lost her keel at the Fastnet Rock in last year’s race – small world.
We met up with a super couple on another Beneteau 57, “Manana” – Bill and Laurie, they were right next to us with a very pretty spray hood made but Chris Ford in Annapolis who changed the windows in ours – small world. So we picked their brains and they ours, we had seen them in the Bahamas and I’m sure we will see them again in the Eastern Caribbean. We invited them for afternoon tea and were called away by some of their friends to see a Manatee that was in the marina, we let it drink some sweet water from the tap which they love, and then it was back to “Suzie Too” for drinks and then on to dinner.