Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday 23rd February

Laverick Bay, Virgin Gorda
British Virgin Islands


18 29.943 N
64 23.246 W

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALAN, WE LOVE YOU – SOME TIMES! HOPE YOU HAVE A GOOD ONE.



We began the day by paying the mooring fee for last night, having done that it was time to leave so Gerry dropped the mooring line whilst I steered us. We cleared the harbour and hoisted the jib then proceeded to motor sail to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. We had to clear out of the British Virgin Islands as our trip is now going to take us further south. We arrived at the harbour in Spanish Town and picked up a mooring then everyone climbed into the dink with passports and boat documents in hand to head into the customs and immigration office. We had to haul the dink up onto the beach as there was a very high dock which we wouldn’t have been able to climb out onto. Then we trekked into the office where we then had to wait in line to check out. It took at least half an hour before anyone appeared at the window to deal with the ever growing queue but once they did appear we were check out, with the appropriate documents stamped and fees paid, then it was back to the dink and out to the boat. On the way back to the boat we saw a couple of turtles sunning themselves but they dove under water as soon as we approached. Once back on board we quickly hoisted the dink back onto the davits and dropped the mooring lines then we were back out of the harbour with the jib up again heading towards Laverick Bay. We arrived at Laverick Bay at lunchtime, tied up to the fuel dock and filled both our fuel and water tanks. We were tied up behind a very large luxury motor yacht and the poor people that were onboard it were gracious enough to speak to us – I think it was just to make sure that we didn’t hit their boat! Having completed the re fueling we motored off the fuel dock and picked up a mooring in the harbour. After eating a gourmet lunch onboard Rose and I stripped the sheets off the beds, collected all the dirty laundry and sorted it into 4 piles – it’s amazing how much washing we’d managed to generate. Gerry, Rose and Mark then dinked into the Bay so that they could go to the grocery store and Gerry was to return and collect the laundry and me. As it happened Lorie also had laundry to do so she picked me up and together we headed into the dock where Gerry carried our laundry bags to the laundry. Between us we used every washing machine and drier in the place for the next 2 hours or so. Whilst we were waiting for the machines to complete their cycles we visited the Pussers rum shop and made a couple of purchases and then we hit the bar where we had to try the painkillers to make sure they were up to standard. Once the washing was finished it was time to return to the boat, stash it all away, make the beds, stow the dink ready for the morning and cook dinner. We plan an early start tomorrow so now it’s time to go to bed – if only the music coming from the shore would just quiet down a fraction!

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Thursday 22nd February

Trellis bay, Tortola Island
British Virgin Islands


18 26.860 N
64 31.897 W

A slow start to the day, we hung around doing very little until mid morning when it was time to help Dale keep his boat in place whilst he took his dink out to retrieve his stern anchor. Whilst we watched he wobbled and we thought there was a chance he might just fall in we got the camera ready and that ended any chance of him actually falling in. Once his anchor was back on board he and Lorie hauled their bow anchor and began to motor slowly out of the harbour whilst we retrieved our stern line from the dock and then hauled up our bow anchor. With Rose nervously at the wheel we began to follow Dale and Lorie out of the harbour. Once we got to the entrance Gerry decided to hoist the main sail closely followed by the jib, I took over the steering and turned the engine off – peace! The wind was 8 – 12 knots and on the quarter so we were able to sail along quite nicely, heeled over enough to give our guests a real taste of sailing rather than motoring. We made the trip in 3 tacks and were just outside the Trellis bay harbour when Dale and Lorie caught up with us – they’d taken the scenic route according to them! We took a mooring ball and in no time we were getting the dink back down off the davits and going ashore to visit the local art and craft stores. Lorie and I were a bit disappointed with the craft stuff as last time we were here it was full moon and there were loads of visiting artists and craft people selling stuff at the full moon party. Still we wandered along the shops, the men stopped for a beer whilst the girls found somewhere that sold ice cream and had one of those fabulous treats – a chocolate coated ice cream. As the men were still nowhere in sight we wandered back to the bar where they were on their second beer so we ordered drinks and joined them. The owners of the bar seemed a bit distracted and we eventually learnt that the kitchen of the place burnt down 2 days ago and they were having repairs done as we sat drinking, I think I might have been distracted under the circumstances too. Dale had never heard of the widgets in Boddingtons beer so Gerry did the boy thing and using Dale’s Swiss army knife, cut open the empty can to retrieve the widget. We all discussed recycling ideas for the used widgets so watch out for those homemade Christmas ornaments and earrings! With one more stop at the grocery store for a few essentials (rum) we returned to our boat in time for a quick shower and then we dinked into The Last Resort restaurant where we were told that the WIFI was free if you were there for dinner. Both Lorie and I had computers with us so we could up load our blog sites, Lorie managed to get on to the internet on hers but I just couldn’t connect, Gerry tried to get me a connection but even he couldn’t manage so in the end I gave up as the computer battery was running down. We then had dinner which was good and a few more drinks, actually we had a few more than we ordered as the waitress messed up the order the first time around and then bought us complimentary drinks – who are we to refuse? We had told Mark that there was a donkey at the restaurant the last time we were here but it turned out that it has died since then. We were a bit suspicious about it as there had been curry on the menu up until last night and they had just run out - I wonder if Donkey makes a decent curry?! Just as we were about to pay and leave the band arrived for the evening and began their set, they were funny and very entertaining, getting the audience involved by giving away shots of tequila for things like “guess that tune”, the best whistler, guest singing with the band. If you called out an answer without buzzing in first you were made to drink 5 shots as punishment (there were no buzzers you had to make the buzzer sound yourself) Dale had to drink 3 shots in a row as he broke the rules, the rest of us stayed very quiet. As most of the audience was around our age (young and silly) we all knew the music, words and actions to the songs so we all joined in, even to the point of everyone dancing when the band demanded it. By about 22.30hrs we were ready to hit the night clubs but we couldn’t find one so we went back to the boat instead and hit the sack. Rose and Mark think that this life is very hard.

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Wednesday 21st February

Little Harbour, Peter Island
British Virgin Islands


18 21.278 N
64 35.959 W

Gerry and I took charge of hauling the anchor up and steering the boat out of the harbour whilst Rose and Mark worked on their sun tans. We did a quick sweep past the silent Willy T so that Mark could snap off a couple of pictures of the place, it looks so much better during the daylight hours without the drunks falling all over the place. Then it was time to hoist the jib and motor sail the short distance to Little Harbour, Peter Island. The bay, as the name suggests is little and as we arrived there were about 10 boats all anchored and with stern lines tied to the trees or rocks on the shoreline, the reason for this being that the water is pretty deep for just anchoring – about 50 foot which would require us to put out 250 foot of chain – we don’t have that much chain and I doubt that many cruising boats do. Dale and Lorie anchored first and just as they got their stern anchor set a boat next to them left (must have been something they said!) – leaving a tie up point on the old dinghy dock vacant. We snuck in there and grabbed that spot, dropping our bow anchor and then running a stern line across to the dock to keep us in position. Once we were set it was time to get the snorkeling gear on and do a tour around the place. Lorie had lent Mark a “Noodle” to try and help him float whilst learning the fine arts of snorkeling, happily it seemed to make it easier for him and he was able to go with us out to the edges of the harbour and see the pretty tropical fish that were swimming around. I spotted a ray trying to dig itself into the sand and called everyone over to see it, Lorie pointed out a very large shoal of fish that were loitering in the shadow of their boat, we didn’t know what sort of fish they were but there were lots of them. After we had exhausted ourselves snorkeling it was time to have a quick shower on the transom and enjoy watching the pelicans dive bombing into the water to catch their food, they hit the water with such force that you would imagine it would hurt them but they keep doing it so I guess it doesn’t. Mark had volunteered to cook dinner for us in the evening so we really put him on the spot and invited Dale and Lorie to join us for cocktails and dinner. Just after 18.00hrs our visitors appeared and we began the evening session, sending Mark down to the galley after only one drink so that he could cook dinner before the rum set in! I have to say he did a great job of making chicken biryani for us. I made dessert and by the time we had finished eating there was only a few morsels left to feed to the fish. As I threw the last of a crepe into the water a huge fish leapt up for it – we were all surprised and tried to have a repeat performance when I tossed out the vegetable waste, I tell you these fish are picky eaters they didn’t go for the vegetable stuff at all! Before it got too dark to see (or may be it was before they got too drunk to find their boat) Dale and Lorie put putted back to their palace fro the night then it was time to turn in ready for another sun filled day tomorrow

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Tuesday 20th February

Norman Island
British Virgin Islands


18 18.981 N
64 37.035 W

We woke to the rain clouds and wind. Our plan for the day was to go to Normans Bay and introduce Rose and Mark to the famous Willy T’s (William Thornton), a boat which was turned into a floating bar many years ago and became famous when guests began leaping naked from the top deck into the water below for the reward of a tee shirt with “ I jumped naked from the Willy T” printed on it. We dropped our mooring and motored out of Lameshure Bay, Rose and Mark were both quite surprised by the very cloudy sky – that’s just not meant to happen in the Islands! Once clear of the bay we put the jib out and managed to motor sail for a while until it began to rain then we had to furl it away and motored for the rest of the trip, arriving at Norman Island around lunchtime. The bay was only half full and there were plenty of moorings available so we picked one and tied up then got ready to go ashore for a late lunch. I expect by now you will be wondering why we seem to be going backwards and forwards between the US and the British Virgin Islands, the simple answer is that the spots we want to visit mean that you have to go backwards and forwards all the time to make logical progress. It also means that we are supposed to check in and out of each as you go, in reality most boats go between the 2 lots of islands checking in once and out once and changing the flags each time they arrive at one or the other. We took the dink ashore and tied up at a dock we hadn’t used before, the Pirates Bight bar and grill was right next to the dock so we went there and ordered lunch and the obligatory drinks, this time Rose, Lorie and I tried Bushwhackers a cocktail which has rum, Baileys and Kahlua as its base, they were delicious! Once we’d finished with lunch it was time for a sleep before we made our way over to the Willy T’s for dinner. Having been there before we knew that the place was just a drinking hole for the drunks on boats but Rose and Mark seemed to fit in as well as we did. We found to our surprise that they have stopped people from jumping off the top deck by fencing off the area where the jumps took place, I have to say I think it’s a wise decision – it always seemed a dangerous thing to me, especially as the jumpers were always a bit worse for drink and there is a very large barracuda that lives just under the boat! I guess those that jumped deserved the tee shirt! The food we had there was pretty good, even if a lot of it was fried. After we had finished our drinks we found our way in the dark back to our boat and once onboard we cracked open a bottle of wine, had some cheese and crackers whilst watching Gattaca on DVD – a good movie for a very windy night on board.

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Monday 19th February

Lameshure Bay, St John Island
US Virgin Islands


18 18.858 N
64 43.357 W

We thought we’d start out fairly early today and make our way over to a snorkeling spot known as The Indians, so just before 08.00hrs we hauled up the anchor – no easy task as it was set quite firmly and we were surrounded by charter boats which had anchored over top of our anchor. We thought we were going to have to wake some people up to get them to move away from our anchor but in the end we managed to avoid them and get our anchor on board. With Mark at the helm we motored out of the harbour following Dale and Lorie towards the snorkeling spot which was about an hour away. The water was like glass and there wasn’t a breath of wind anywhere so our motoring speed was pretty fast. At one point we had to radio Dale to ask where he was going as he seemed to be heading somewhere that we weren’t going to – he said that he was just doing the scenic route – yeah right Dale! Dale and Lorie arrived at The Indians a few minutes before us and were lucky enough to grab a mooring that someone was just vacating. The mooring balls around The Indians are limited, I think there are about10 of them and at any given time there must be 20 boats wanting a mooring, you aren’t supposed to anchor around places that have moorings so we had to put the motor to idle and spent the next hour waiting for a mooring to become available. With all the other boats waiting it gets to be a bit of a race to get to a mooring that is being vacated and there is no honour amongst charter boaters – they don’t wait for their turn, it’s a case of whoever gets to the mooring first wins! Once we finally got tied onto a mooring it was time to put the snorkeling gear on and hit the water. We had borrowed a spare mask strap from Dale to replace the one on Gerry’s mask that had perished so Mark had no excuse to stay out of the water this time. Mark claims he’s a crap swimmer – his words not mine! I’ve seen a lot worse and I think he underestimates his ability, he stays afloat and moves forward – that’s a good start. As it was his first try at snorkeling Mark found it a bit confining to wear a mask and had difficulty getting use to the breathing through the snorkel but he did very well for his first attempt, we just hope he will try it again as it does get better with perseverance. Rose and I took off and went all the way around The Indians, looking at the beautiful reef fish which are every colour of the rainbow. Gerry and Mark headed back to the boat and when we had finished snorkeling Rose and I joined them, showered off on the transom (back step of the boat!) and then we quickly dropped our mooring line as there were other boats waiting. The weather was supposed to be closing in and we were meant to be getting some rain so we decided to make our next stop at Lameshure Bay - back on St John Island in the US Virgin Islands. The Bay was protected from the weather which was coming from the North. As we motored around to the bay the clouds began gathering and the wind picked up, we snuck into the bay just ahead of the first few splashes of rain and tied up to a mooring ball. Gerry Rose and Mark took the dink into the ranger’s hut and paid our mooring fee whilst I fiddled about chopping up vegetables and fruit for dinner. On their return Gerry had a sleep for a couple of hours and then it was cocktail time, we were going to Dale and Lories’ boat for the event so I mixed up a batch of strawberry daquiries, made a crab dip and then it was time to go. Another couple that Dale and Lorie knew from their travels joined us for cocktails and we spent a couple of hours drinking and exchanging stories before heading back to our boat. We just beat the rain which began in earnest shortly after our return, Our Bar b que dinner almost turned out to be a steamboat but it was quite delicious anyway. We weren’t quite ready for bed so we dug out the videos and watched Johnny English for the millionth time before retiring.

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Sunday 18th February











Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke
British Virgin Islands


18 26.10 N
64 45.00 W

The group decision was to go to Jost Van Dyke, one of the British Virgin Islands today. Mark had heard about the famous Foxy’s bar and wanted to visit it for himself. Dale, Lorie, Gerry and myself had been there before and we certainly weren’t against a repeat visit – maybe this time we would even remember it! However before we set forth for our international voyage of discovery we had to take Rose and Mark ashore to see the view from the ruins of the Annaberg sugar mill and pay our mooring fee for last night. Dale and Lorie went snorkeling whilst the four of us dinked ashore and then set off along the coast pathway to the mill ruins. The path was fairly flat and easy to walk along in single file, but it was a fair distance. There were signs posted that it was a turtle breeding beach, but we guess it’s not breeding season as there were no turtles to be seen. We knew from our previous visit that there were wild donkeys on the island which bray at night to keep you awake and we had mentioned this to Mark. We didn’t see a single donkey but Mark managed to photograph the evidence that they had been along this same path and fairly recently by the looks of the scat! Once we reached the end of the coast path we were onto the bitumen and we made the decision to walk up the hill rather than take the steps which meander through the vegetation, it was a good decision – we had walked the steps last time and the hill was much easier and quicker. The walk is definitely worth it if only for the view of the islands out across the bay. The sugar mill ruins date back to the late 1800s, early 1900s and there are information boards around the site detailing how the mill ran. It must have taken quite a few slaves to tend the cane which grew on the very steep slopes around the mill. After taking a few pictures we headed back down the hill along the coast and once in the dink, back out to our boat. Then it was all hands on deck to drop the mooring line and head off towards Jost Van Dyke. The wind was just on the beam and we put up both the jib and the main, with the first reefing point in. We flew along doing an average speed of 5 knots until we arrived at the entrance to the harbour at which time we furled away the sails, motored in and found a spot to drop our anchor. In no time at all we had the dink in the water and were on our way into the dock so that we could check into the British Virgin Islands. We had all our documentation with us and set off for the customs and immigration office, only to find that it was closed until 14.00hrs – well what can one do? We headed straight to Foxy’s bar a large open air wooden shack place which is open to the beach and ordered a round of painkillers, the local “must have” rum drink, well they didn’t take very long to finish so we had to have another. At this point Dale spotted Foxy himself just around the corner of the bar and went to ask him if he would mind coming over and having a photo opportunity with us, he graciously obliged and then made us all laugh with a few of his famous rhymes, although he is getting on in years his mind is as sharp as a tack and he is quite up on current happenings in the world. It was a real coup for Rose and Mark to have met the man on their first visit to Foxy’s establishment. When we finished the second drink Gerry and Dale (being the self anointed captains) had to go along to the customs and immigration office to clear us all in whilst us girls and Mark ordered another round of painkillers and some lunch. Mark got carried away with the painkillers – I think he really liked them! Our lunches arrived and we had finished them before Dale and Gerry returned, so their meals were a bit on the cool side plus they were a drink behind the rest of us. Once they had caught up we had a hard decision to make – either to stay and keep drinking until dinner or to return to our boats, have a short sleep and then return to continue with our drink session into the evening. A quick vote had us all heading back to the boats and sleeping for a couple of hours. The couple of hours vanished very quickly and it seemed like no time at all until we were back in the dink and tying up again at the dock next to Foxy’s. We passed a very pleasant evening drinking even more painkillers and having dinner whilst listening to live music dating back to our era. Once were had had our fill it was time to negotiate the dock, where Gerry managed to drop the boat keys into the water luckily they are on a floating key ring so were easily retrieved, climb in the dink and find our boat amongst the flotilla in the harbour, we were all ready for a good night sleep.

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Saturday 17th February

Leinster Bay, St John,
US Virgin Islands


18 21.909 N
64 43.429 W

Saturday dawned with sunshine and light winds. A quick check outside revealed the arrival of a cruise ship about the size of Wolverhampton. We encountered a slight problem with the aft head in the early part of the morning – it wouldn’t pump out so Gerry ended up taking the pipe work apart and removing all the gunk from the pipe. During the removal of “stuff” – use your imagination here after all it is a toilet, he discovered a cap from the top of a bottle blocking the pipe – the culprit of the pumping problem! Once the pipe was cleared Gerry changed out the joker valve for good measure and then cleaned up the mess resulting from the investigation. Gerry cooked up a quick breakfast…gluten free for those afflicted and it was into the dink for a shopping trip at the Straw Market in St Thomas so named because they used to sell items such as hats made from straw. These days there is nothing made of straw but everything else you can think of. The ladies set off in search of bargains while the guys went on a shopping trip of their own. Gerry had to collect a Valentine piece of jewellery but we found time for a large espresso before returning to the store to collect the item. Then it was back to the dock to find the sea had picked up and Gerry had the fun of ensuring the ladies sitting in the front of the dink caught plenty of spray. Back on board it was time to haul the dink up and head off under power out of St Thomas harbour with a hapless Mark at the wheel and nodding sagely at the detailed instructions. The destination was Leinster Bay – about 14 miles as the crow flies from St Thomas. Unfavourable winds meant we were under power for much of the bay but the sails did get an airing. On arrival we anchored temporarily until a mooring became free. It was then time to try snorkeling for Rose and Mark – complete novices. Rose took to it well and saw all manner of fishy stuff off the reef including three barracudas – not the most friendly types in the world. Mark – not the keenest of swimmers – was given a reprieve from drowning as the mask he was going to use broke. Rose even survived an attack of cramp to get on board in time to see the sun go down and for rum punch to appear. Then it was dinner and more rum punch in the picturesque anchorage.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friday 16th February



St Thomas,
US Virgin Islands


18 20.252 N
64 55.728 W

CONGRATULATIONS TO JULIA AND BRENDON ON YOUR MARRIAGE, WE WISH YOU EVERY HAPPINESS FOR YOUR FUTURE TOGETHER.

Today began with a general clean up of the boat and then we had to reassemble the bed in the V berth as Rose and Mark were due to arrive. Putting the covers back on the cushions turned into a job and a half – who’s idea was it to wash them anyway? Eventually we got it done and found places to store the things that normally live on top of the bunk – like the bike, the laundry basket, the cans of drink and some other odds and ends, we just have to remember where it all is now! Then we cleaned out the forward head, found a new place to keep the ice machine whilst we have our friends staying. At last we decided that we were as ready for visitors as we will ever be, we are really looking forward to having them stay and just hope that they can deal with life onboard a boat – it is very different to being in a house that doesn’t move around and the space is a lot more limiting. We have plans on where we want to take them and what we want to do whilst they are with us, I’m sure they will enjoy some of it (if we can keep them sober enough!). By the time lunchtime came around we were ready to go ashore so we radioed Dale and Lorie and arranged to meet them at the town dock. Once we had all met up we decided to try the paninis at the internet café, we must have been late for lunch as they had a very limited selection left but what we had were good. We sat chatting for the next hour and then it was time for Gerry and I to get a taxi to the airport – we didn’t want to be late to pick up Rose and Mark. The trip out to the airport always takes a bit longer than you imagine as there is traffic going all over the place, mostly on the road but you can never be sure. We waited for about 15 minutes and the plane landed, of course Rose and Mark were at the back of the plane so they were amongst the last to deplane. Just inside the terminal the Cruzan rum company had a stall set up and they were giving away free rum punch to arriving passengers, we couldn’t hold them back, they headed straight to the stand and helped themselves to a drink. Mark said it was the first but I’m doubtful! (Lucy, Katie and Matthew – don’t worry it won’t be us leading them astray!) Anyway after the drink we collected the luggage – they did really well, only 2 small soft bags, which was just as well as any more would have gone over the side of the boat and then we headed to the taxis and caught a 15 seater back to the dock. Dale had offered us the use of their larger dink to transport everyone plus luggage back to our boat so we loaded it down and then took off, geeze Dale did you tell Gerry to treat it like a hire car? He drove it so fast we were airborne and it skids into boats really well, as for fuel sorry there’s none left but we had to do a tour of the entire Caribbean before we got to our boat, I just know that you would have treated our dink with a lot more respect and decorum. We gave Rose and Mark a cooks tour of our boat and introduced them to the joys of using a toilet and shower onboard, I even wrote up an instruction sheet for them to refer to as the last thing we need is the toilet flooding and the boat sinking because of it. We gave them just enough time to unpack and then we forced them back into the dink and headed into town for drinks and dinner. We tried 2 places before eventually settling on a third and then we enjoyed a very nice meal and just a couple of drinks, OK so what if they were very large ones. We staggered back to the dink (we had our own one back now so it was a tighter fit going back) and roared back out to the boat where after showers and cups of tea we settled in for the night.

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Thursday 15th February


St Thomas,
US Virgin Islands


18 20.252 N
64 55.728 W

After a short sleep in and breakfast we loaded up the dink and set off for the town dock. I wanted to do some window shopping, preferably without Gerry hurrying me along, but he wanted to come along. We met up with Dale and Lorie and split up into the boys and the girls and then set about doing separate jobs. The boys needed to go to the internet café as Dale had a problem with logging off his internet connection, meanwhile Lorie and I began browsing the art store and then the first gift shop we came across. It seemed no time at all and the guys were back with us asking where we needed to go next – they just don’t understand that window shopping isn’t an exact science – Lorie and I were just going where ever our fancy took us! Gerry wanted to go to a nearby marina to see if there was a chandlers there as we want to replace the jib furling line, the marina was a bit of a distance away and we were best off getting back in the dink and going around the harbour to another docking place. The other dock was a very rickety old floating pontoon which had half a dozen dinks already tied up to it when we got there but we managed to muscle our way into a space and secured our dink. We then set off walking to the new marina, which we discovered is still being completed, the docks are in place but the shops and facilities are not all complete and the chandlers we had hoped to find doesn’t exist yet. Having bombed out on that Lorie suggested that we make our way to the supermarket which was a short distance further on and she pointed out the laundry on the way. We had to buy a couple of grocery items which then meant a long walk back to the dink and then a trip out to the boat to drop them off. Having rid ourselves of groceries we returned to the town dock and stopped for coffee and then an early lunch. Lorie and I insisted that we wanted to continue our window shopping and told the guys that they could go back to the boats if they wanted – we didn’t need them to keep tabs on our spending but they said they wanted to come with us (I think they were just afraid to let us loose with all the duty free jewelry shops that exist here to satisfy the cruise ship patrons). Anyway we made them weary by going up and down each alley way of shops, with us looking at “stuff” whilst they tried to find the “bored husband seats” that seem to be strategically placed throughout the town. Lorie and I went into one jewelry shop where Lorie enquired if they had any conch pearls – she wanted to see what they looked like as I had told her about one we had seen in the Bahamas which was beautiful and cost about $5000. Anyway we were handed over to the owner of the store who produced 2 of the rare pearls from her select boxes beneath the counter and she proceeded to tell us all about how rare they were and the attributes of one of the particular pearls she was showing us, I didn’t think it was anywhere near as pretty as the one in the Bahamas but it was larger. The owner also drew a couple of settings which she though would show the pearl off to its best advantage, showing us chains that would complement the designs. Eventually Lorie asked the million dollar question – the pearl cost $7000 without any chain or setting, at this point Gerry appeared in the shop to see what was keeping us for so long. I jokingly asked him if I could have the pearl, his face was a picture and he just replied that he’d see us outside. I think at this point the shop owner realized that she wasn’t going to make a sale and packed away her pearls and other bits that she had got out to entice us without uttering another word. Lorie and I politely thanked her and left the store but I think she was a bit miffed at us for not being rich cruise liner patrons instead of grotty yachties! Lorie and I were unperturbed and continued our browsing with the guys following along, eventually they got bored and started to buy themselves drinks as we went, oh and some Belgian chocolates too! When Lorie and I stopped for a cold drink the guys finally agreed to take one dink back to the boats and leave us the other dink so we could finish our browsing and return to the boats when we were ready. By now there was only about another hour until the shops closed anyway so we made the most of the hour browsing finally making our way towards the open air market where I purchased a couple of sarongs then we headed back to the dink and Lorie dropped me off at our boat. Gerry had cooked up a batch of spaghetti sauce, Lorie made salad and we shared dinner before retiring for the night.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wednesday 14th February


St Thomas,
U.S. Virgin Islands


18 20.252 N
64 55.728 W

Gerry had told me that we would be setting off at 09.00hrs, however at 08.00hrs he was up and ready to leave, as were Dale and Lorie, I had to quickly drag myself to consciousness and make my way out on deck where Gerry was ready to leave, having dropped the mooring ball and the motor was running. It took me a while to stop yawning and appreciate the new day. The forecast was 100 % wrong and the wind was on the nose so we couldn’t sail to St Thomas, to make it worse the swell was knocking us about a bit at the beginning of the trip, happily it dropped pretty quickly and the rest of the trip was relatively comfortable. We arrived at Charlotte Amalie harbour and dropped our anchor, the harbour was fairly full of boats of every description, including 3 enormous cruise liners which dwarf all of us. We took the dink off the deck and once it had the outboard attached we took off into the town dock, securing the dink with a padlock to the rings on the dock. From there it was a short walk to a local roti shop where we enjoyed a spicy lunch. As it was Valentine’s Day Dale had decided to buy Lorie a piece of jewelry so we headed off towards the duty free downtown shops. Dale has a favourite shop and we ended up there, Lorie picked out her gift whilst Gerry and I walked along looking at a few other shops. We bought a waterproof case for our camera, similar to the one Lorie has but it doesn't allow us to take the camera to the same depth as hers; then we found the internet café and had a coffee whilst we checked our email, Dale and Lorie caught up with us there and from there we walked down to the street market and browsed amongst the stalls which sell mainly souvenirs, I think I may have to return there by myself to make a couple of purchases. Finally we reclaimed our dinghy and put-putted back out to our boat. We had eaten so much at lunchtime that we didn’t bother with dinner and eventually went to bed.

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Tuesday 13th February

Culebrita Island
Puerto Rico


18 20.0 N
65 14.0 W

It was very pleasant to wake up to a quiet anchorage – only 7 sail boats in sight and then we spotted the first turtle poke its head up out of the water and then duck down again. The waters around Culebrita are apparently well known for the hawksbill turtles, they breed in the area and if you are there at the right time of year you can see the babies making their way down to the water for the first time, unfortunately we weren’t there during breeding season but we did get to see quite a few of the large graceful creatures swimming around the boats moored in the harbour. The turtles didn’t come close enough for us to take any photos but at least we got to see them. One of the other boats in the harbour told us that there were also pilot whales just outside the area but we didn’t see them. We decided to don our snorkeling gear and investigate the reef that marks the entrance to the harbour. It was a short swim out to the reef then we snorkeled all around it. It was disappointing to find that most of the reef looked to be quite dead, there were a few pretty fish around but in very limited numbers. Swimming to the outer side of the reef we found that there was a bit more life on that side, hopefully the reef on that side is re growing. Lorie had a new toy – an underwater camera case for her digital camera and was keen to try it out so she snapped away at anything and everything, unfortunately the water was a bit murky and not many of her pictures turned out well but at least she got to practice with it. We swam back to the boat for lunch and a short rest – that swimming in the current was very tiring, then it was back into the dink and off to a place that Dale and Lorie wanted to show us. We had to clamber over the boulders on the beach which were sometimes slippery and wobbly and we made our way around a couple of points until we arrived at “the baths” a couple of natural large rock pools which are fed by the sea. One of them was about 10 feet deep, big enough to swim in and had a ledge around it which you could sit on. There were hundreds of very tiny sergeant major fish in these pools – it was obviously their breeding nursery. As the tide was coming in we decided not to linger there too long as we didn’t want to get caught in the waves, so we scrambled back over the rocks and made our way back to the boat. Cocktail hour turned out to be a gathering on a 44ft Manta catamaran, there were 8 of us there and Gerry and I were the odd ones out – everyone else was retired US military personnel. It made a very interesting evening chatting with these people who had been cruising for quite a few years, we have taken some of their comments to heart and will make use of the knowledge and experiences that they shared with us. As we intended to depart in the morning we made it a relatively early night

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Monday 12th February

Culebrita Island
Puerto Rico


18 20.0 N
65 14.0 W

We had a restless night, both too wound up about the trip to sleep well. Gerry was up and pacing waiting to leave far too early. We first had to check out of the marina and pay the bill, as the office didn’t open until 08.00hrs he had to cool his heels for a while. I emptied the rubbish bin and locked down all those things that tend to move whilst we are in transit. Once Gerry returned from the office it was a matter of minutes until we were casting off lines and leaving the slip. As we cleared the marina entrance I stowed the lines and fenders whilst Gerry tried to stop the boat form lurching up and down too much. Once everything was stowed away it was time to shake out the main sail and see if the wind would do as it was supposed to and let us sail to Culebrita Island. We put the first reef in the main and then pulled out all of the jib, turned off the motor and at long last we were able to sail this leg of our trip. The wind was blowing 10 -15 knots out of the East, we managed between 4 and 6 knots of speed over the course of the next 6hrs. Dale radioed us just after we had the sails up to say that they were just leaving the Base and would be about an hour behind us. As we cleared the first point we thought we could see them on the horizon behind us but we couldn’t be sure as there were a few boats out sailing. It took us 3 tacks to get to within 6 miles of the island and then the wind changed direction slightly forcing us to put first the jib and then the main sail away and motor for the last hour of the trip. We made our way into the protection of the harbour and picked up one of the free mooring buoys there. It was almost 2 hours later that Dale and Lorie followed us in and picked up the mooring buoy next to us. We showered and changed and then headed over to share cocktail hour with them on their boat. Everyone was tired from the sun and sailing so it turned out to be an early night for us all. When Gerry and I returned to our boat we were rolling a little to violently so Gerry put out the bridle and we had a good night sleep.

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Sunday 11th February

Puerto del Rey
Puerto Rico


18 17.4 N
65 37.7 W

Today was a day of doing stuff to ready the boat for the up coming trip. Lorie picked me up mid morning and we went over to the base to do laundry – not terribly exciting stuff but the need for clean clothes, bedding and towels becomes a must. We were doing the laundry at the base as the facilities there are free and we all want to save those few dollars whenever we can. The down side was that only one washing machine was working and the driers were mega slow – but we were definitely not complaining! Both Dale and Gerry had saved a few “little” jobs to do so they kept well out of our way. Gerry replaced an earth leakage breaker, replaced the plug mechanism for the forward head, screwed the hook back into place on the cockpit table, filled the water tanks. Meanwhile Lorie and I had finished the laundry and took ourselves off to the supermarket to do the last minute grocery shopping without the men hurrying us along. I returned to our boat and unloaded the groceries. Gerry and I then walked to the marina office where Dale had arranged to meet us. Then it was back to their boat at the base for an extended cocktail hour with some of the friends that Dale and Lorie had made whilst they had been waiting for us to arrive. We had a very pleasant evening with some good appetizers, drinks and conversation. Finally it was time for Lorie to drive us back to the marina where she checked her email before leaving us to return to her boat.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Saturday 10th February

Puerto del Rey
Puerto Rico

18 17.4 N
65 37.7 W

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GERRI. WE, ALONG WITH THE BOYDS TOURED THE RUM FACTORY IN YOUR HONOUR TODAY.

We had arranged to meet Dale and Lorie at 08.00hrs, a cruel joke really as neither Lorie nor I like to get out of bed early. Well we were on time and 15 minutes later our friends turned up. Our plans for the day were to visit El Morro, one of the forts in Old San Juan and then to go to the Bacardi factory to do the tour there. We arrived in Old San Juan, crawling along with the tourist traffic and found a parking space in a place which I’m certain we weren’t meant to park but which was a short walk to the fort entrance. Prior to entering the fort Lorie and I decided that we would need to go to the toilet so we headed off down the hill to the restrooms which were located inside the gift shop. When we arrived there the ladies toilet was being serviced so the male attendant of the shop told us that there was no one in the men’s toilet and we could use that. Girls – there was plenty of toilet paper! The reason I’m telling this is that both Lorie and I were greatly amused by the location of the hot air hand driers, one was at normal height and the second one was at the level of your crotch. As women we can only speculate on what you men use this “BLOW DRIER” for! And neither Gerry nor Dale would give us an answer we could live with. Having finished with the toilet saga, we paid our entry fee for the fort and proceeded to tour El Morro – a large Spanish fort dating back to the 1500’s. The remains of the fort are quite remarkable and you can imagine how huge it was when it existed in its entirety. We hit the high spots and the made our way down to the second to bottom level – it seemed like a million steps, we decided against going right to the bottom as the climb back up would have been too painful in the heat of the midday sun. After cooling off with some iced water we headed back to the car and the blissful air conditioning. The next hour was spent weaving our way out of the Old San Juan streets which were packed with tourists, cars and boy scouts by the million – apparently there was a Scout Jamboree of some sort there. Once clear of the narrow cobbled streets we took the freeway to the Bacardi rum factory. Dale and Lorie are regulars there and directed us to the ticket booth, pointed out the bar and then accompanied us on the tour of the facility. The tour was interesting but I was surprised that it didn’t include the actual processing plant, when we have toured winerys the processing plant has always been part of the tour. We learnt that every Bacardi bottle has the company logo on it – have a look at your next bottle, it’s a bat. Apparently the logo is meant to symbolize family unity, good luck and prosperity. Once we had completed the tour it was time for the free samples, each person gets 2 and you can pick what you want of the range of products. Lorie and I scored an extra ticket each – some one had dropped theirs and we were the lucky finders! Dale limited his drink as he was the driver (well some one has to be and we were very grateful it was Dale!)
Back in the car and we were on a mission first to get some food and then to find a new vacuum bagger as ours gave up the ghost when we tried to use it on the inverter. We went to a huge shopping center and had subway sandwiches in the food hall then went to Sears where we found just the thing we needed. Purchases done we began our trip home, with a stop at a computer store where Dale treated himself to some new surround sound speakers for the TV. One other stop at a gift shop for a memento and then we had the hard decision – where to go for dinner. Lolita’s, the Mexican restaurant we ate at a few nights ago was close to hand so we all agreed that it would be a good place to stop and have an early dinner. Full to bursting we then hit the road one last time and Dale dropped Gerry and I off at the marina with plans to call on the VHF in the morning.

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Friday 9th February


Puerto del Rey
Puerto Rico


18 17.4 N
65 37.7 W

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DIANE AND MARTIN, YOU KNOW WE WILL BE DRINKING TO YOUR HEALTH TONIGHT!

I forgot to mention in my narrative yesterday that this is the marina in the sailor’s instructional movie, Captain Ron, where he pulls into the dock and just misses everything. Thought you’d like to know that Captain Ron students!
Today began with a couple of boat jobs, Gerry removed the dink from the foredeck in preparation for taking the boat to the service slip – more of that in a minute. Then he scrubbed the deck with concrete cleaner to remove some of the stubborn marks. Dale and Lorie arrived with our new anchor which they had collected from West marine for us so the next job was attaching the new anchor to the swivel and chain. The new Delta anchor is a fraction larger than the one we lost, this one weighs 55lbs against the 44lbs of the old one, so it should hold us firmly in place when we deploy it! Once we had fixed the anchor in place it was time to move the boat round to the service slip, this was an easy task with 4 of us to handle the lines and steering. Once in the service slip the travel lift was maneuvered into position and the boat slings passed under the keel. Then it was time for the 4 of us to get off the boat so that it could be hauled out of the water. As all you boat owners know watching your boat being lifted out of the water is a gut wrenching moment, our boat weighs about 18 tons and this is suspended mid air between 2 slings, as the slings are shortened up the boat is lifted clear of the water. The travel lift then moves backwards until the boat is suspended over dry land where the keel of the boat can be worked on. There were 5 haul out staff to help us get the boat out of the water, they did a careful job – well a lot is at stake especially if it goes wrong. The purpose of taking our boat out of the water was to replace the cutlass bearing on the prop shaft, the guys doing the work had the old bearing, what was left of it, off and the new bearing in place within an hour. Whilst the bearing was being replaced Gerry and Dale scrapped the barnacles off the hull that had survived Gerry’s cleaning at Caja de Muertos. Once the work was finished it was time to return the boat to the water and test the propeller to make sure there was not going to be any issues with the new bearing. All the haul out staff had vanished by this time and it was left to the 4 of us, plus one woman who operated the travel lift, to put the boat back in the water, obviously they weren’t so concerned about the boat going back into the water. The prop shaft turned OK so we threw the lines on board and then jumped on board ourselves, motoring back to our slip with a short stop to fill up with fuel on the way. Going back into our slip with Gerry at the helm we almost sank our dinghy, which was tied up in the slip, by running over it – good job the captain was at the helm at the time! Luckily with a lot of shouting and a quick reverse the dinghy popped up from around the bow and floated off to the side. We tied back up to the slip and then it was time to have a drink and some snacks in the cockpit. We whiled the afternoon away by doing email, checking Google earth and then Lorie and I vacuum bagged toilet rolls, coffee and meat that we had bought yesterday whilst the men did who knows what. In the evening we went to the marina restaurant for a very nice meal. Eventually it was time for Dale and Lorie to head back to the base and their own boat for the night.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thursday 8th February






Puerto del Rey
Puerto Rico


18 17.4 N
65 37.7 W

We slept in until 08.00hrs then leapt out of bed to get a couple of things done before Dale and Lorie turned up. Gerry filled the water tank and fitted the anchor swivel that he bought yesterday whilst I cooked us breakfast. Dale called us up on the VHF to see if we needed anything picking up on their way to fetch us, we didn’t so it was arranged that we would meet up in the next half hour. I took the camera and walked up the dock to the cages where the Macaws are kept where I took a few photos of them. Gerry finished fiddling about on the boat and then met up with me just as Dale and Lorie arrived. They spent a little time checking email and then we set off to do MAJOR shopping. Firstly though we stopped at a ceramics place that Lorie knew off and wanted to see, the men were worried – they even came in with us to make sure we weren’t buying the place up! As it happens they needn’t have worried, the place was disappointing and neither of us bought a thing. Our next stop was early lunch at Fudruckers – a burger place for those of you that haven’t heard of it, the burgers were excellent. Then it was on to Sam’s club where Lorie and I managed to fill a cart each with the essentials of life (including 90 candy bars!) There were still things that we couldn’t find there so we had to make a stop at a grocery store on the way back home. By now the back half of the car was weighted down so much that we simply had to head back to our respective boats. Dale dropped us off and we all agreed that we should call it a day – this shopping stuff is just too tiring. Back on our boat we stowed the purchases away – no easy task, just removing the packaging from the purchases created 2 bags of trash and of course we had to re arrange several lockers to fit everything in. In the process of storing stuff we discovered that a can of tomato puree had exploded in one locker causing a mouldy mess and a can of corned beef had popped in another locker – luckily not so messy, I guess we were lucky it wasn’t more considering the pounding that the boat has taken in getting to here. Once everything was packed away it was time to relax, have a drink and then go to bed.

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Wednesday 6th February



Puerto del Rey
Puerto Rico

18 17.4 N
65 37.7 W

CONGRATULATIONS ABIGAIL ON GETTING YOUR B.BUSINESS, WE ARE VERY PROUD OF YOU.
I thought I’d tell you a bit about the marina we are staying in as it is the largest marina in the Caribbean. If you Google earth the marina – at the above long and lat. we are on the 3rd pier in from the harbour entrance and we are the 9th boat along ( the only sail boat amongst a load of motor boats). The marina is enclosed within a protective rock sea wall, there are hundreds of slips, all deep water and facilities for yachts up to 300ft. The docks are all fixed cement docks, no floating ones, they all have power, water, cable TV, free WIFI and dock boxes. A lot of the slips are occupied by large motor boats but there are a fair amount of sail boats as well. All transient boats like us are put on the outer slips but because of the size of the facility there are golf carts which will pick you up and drop you off at your slip – very useful when you have a huge amount of shopping, the guys who drive them do not require payment but it is expected that you will tip them (they are worth it!). There is a toilet and shower block at the mid point of the marina and another block at the main entrance, there wouldn’t be enough toilets and showers if every boat was to use them but as the water is free a lot of people shower and use the toilet facilities on their own boat. There are huge trash bins at the end of each dock which makes it easy to dispose of rubbish. The marina office is set near the road access and the car park is large enough to provide parking for hundreds of cars. Between the office block and the dock there are a couple of restaurants, a couple of marine stores, a bar and a security check point to stop just anyone accessing the dock. Along the edge of the dock facility there are 5 cages which house 11 Macaws, they are the most wonderful looking birds and must get quite a few people taking photos as they seem to almost pose for you when you get the camera out. The cost of staying here? It’s $1 per foot per night, the power is metered and costs 15 cents per kilowatt hour, water, WIFI and cable TV are free – it’s a good deal! There are also excellent boat yard facilities here with several travel lifts and different work operations depending on what you need doing, the last thing to mention is that there is a dry storage facility here. Enough about the marina.
Our day began with the arrival of Dale And Lorie, the plan being that Gerry and Dale were going to dive and inspect our cutlass bearing – I mentioned this as a problem when we were at Caja de Muertos and Gerry needed to know if he could fix it or if it would require a haul out in the boat yard. Whilst the men did the inspection Lorie did her internet stuff using our free WIFI and I chatted to her. The men were only in the water for a few minutes, not good as this indicated that we were going to have to haul the boat to have it fixed. Their report was that the bearing need to be replaced, with that in mind Gerry contacted the appropriate people and arranged for a new bearing to be acquired, this included contacting Sally at Whitney’s Marine to find out the correct size for our model of boat – thanks for the info Geoff and Sally. He then made plans to haul the boat when the bearing arrived, hopefully by Thursday morning meaning that we could have the work done on Friday. Once we had sorted all that stuff out we were off to some of our favourite places – West Marine, Pep boys, Home depot, Wal mart and a couple of extra marine stores that Dale knew off, we bought a few things that we just couldn’t live without and then headed to Ponderosa for a salad lunch. The afternoon passed quickly with more shopping and driving around the area. We returned to the boat and off loaded our purchases then went to The Metropole for dinner, it was a very nice restaurant and had good steak and fish dishes and great mojitas. Our waiter told us that Mariah Carey ate there last week - guess we were meant to be impressed!
We discussed a few plans for the next couple of days and eventually Dale and Lorie dropped us off at the marina and headed back to their boat at the Base marina whilst we made our way down our dock and finally to bed.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tuesday 6th February

Puerto del Rey
Puerto Rico


18 17.4 N
65 37.7 W

At midnight the alarm woke us, I swear that I’d only just closed my eyes. Struggling out of bed and dressing was a major achievement but we did it. Shortly afterwards we hoisted the anchor and began to motor away from the other boats, out through a cut in the reef and then turned towards our destination. The night lee wasn’t quite so pronounced but at least the seas were reasonable. The wind was supposed to be 12 – 16 knots from East, South East but in reality it was between 6 and 18 knots from the East through to the North East, it meant that we would have difficulty sailing – the whole trip was likely to be a motor trip. There was one point where we managed to have the jib flying for a brief period but as the wind clocked around again we had to furl it away. We were just glad that it was reasonably calm, we’ve done our share of bashing through the waves. As the sun rose we were off the Roosevelt Roads ex naval base so Gerry radioed our friends Dale and Lorie who have been waiting for us there – no reply! We tried again three times before we eventually got hold of them and told them we were heading in. They advised us to go straight into the marina at Puerto del Rey as we wouldn’t be allowed into the marina at the ex base. This meant a further hour or so motoring for us but as it was still calm it proved to be no problem and we pulled into the marina at 10.00hrs. We were allocated a slip and as we made our way towards it I commented about the usual absence of dock staff to assist with tying up then we saw some one running towards our slip to help – Dale and Lorie arrived just in time to catch our lines and help us to tie up. It was so good to see them and after a round of overdue greetings we arranged to meet up later in the afternoon when Gerry and I had caught up with some sleep. After registering at the marina office we showered and slept for a while then it was time to meet up with Dale and Lorie, share some stories and eat. Dale drove us around the ex naval base pointing out all the buildings and facilities, it was mind blowing to think that this base is now closed as they maintain all the grounds and facilities keeping lights and air conditioning running to make sure that the place doesn’t fall into disrepair. We can only wonder what will become of it in the future.
A great Mexican dinner followed with more stories and catching up with gossip, Gerry and I were still a bit tired so being the good friends that they are Dale and Lorie dropped us back at the marina arranging to see us in the morning. An early night followed.

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Monday 5th Februaury


Boca de Infierno
Puerto Rico


17 56.4 N
66 12.9 W

The black arm bands are out – the Colts won the Super bowl as we found out today.
As planned, depending on the weather forecast, this was the day that we were going to leave Salinas. Our plan was to first stage out to Boca de Infierno a trip of about 6 miles, early in the evening and then at around midnight set out to Puerto del Rey, about a further 40 miles away. This assumed that we would make use of the night lee winds. Our back up plan was to only do the staging and then wait for a better weather window. We began our day by doing a check that we had everything that we needed to make the trip. We then took the dink into the marina and walked to the internet café and read emails, uploaded the blog and rechecked the weather – yes we are becoming quite paranoid about it! The good news was that we thought we would be able to do the whole trip without having to stop some place else. After finishing at the internet cafe we went into the marina and exchanged a whole load of books then we went to the bar and had lunch before heading back out to our boat. We hauled the outboard on to it’s storage block and tied the dink down on the foredeck all ready for the trip and then we killed time defrosting our fridge and freezer – horrid job, reading and tidying things away until our departure time of 17.00hrs. We had planned to leave at 1700hrs so that we would be at anchor behind the reef at Boca De Infierno before the sun set. We started our engine, turned on the instruments and donned our head sets; Gerry headed to the anchor locker whilst I remained at the wheel, 3 or 4 swear words later (from Gerry not me) he returned to the cockpit, we had a problem – the windlass wouldn’t work. This is the motor that winds the anchor chain in and out and we really didn’t want to be pulling up the chain by hand each time we anchored. We switched everything back off and then set about trying to sort out the problem, it meant having to get to the underside of the anchor looker, through the V berth. Once again all the stuff we had stored on top of the V berth had to be relocated - the salon looked like a bomb had hit it again. Then Gerry began searching for the problem whilst I played hand maiden and handed bits of equipment to him and switched things on and off as asked. The problem was that the motor winding over temperature protection had failed preventing power reaching the controls, the fix was to bypass the over temperature protection. It took us an hour to get back to the point of leaving the harbour but this time we did it without any problem. After motoring for just on an hour we arrived at Boca de Infierno and dropped our anchor midway between 2 boats that were already at anchor there. I quickly threw together a meal and then we showered and hit the bed to grab a few hours sleep before taking off for the rest of the trip.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday 4th February

Salinas,
Puerto Rico


17 57.6 N
66 17.6 W

This was a “doing stuff” day. We gathered up all the laundry we could find on the boat and took it in to the marina laundry, hoping that it would be empty. Unfortunately a couple of other people had the same idea and there was a half hour wait for a washing machine good job I had a book with me! Gerry took the dink back out to the boat and he tells me that he spent the next couple of hours productively – changing the gen set oil, emptying the jerry cans into the main fuel tank, taking the bimini cover off and checking the bolts that hold the engine down making sure they were secure. I did the laundry, not terribly exciting but it’s really nice to have some clothes to wear and clean sheets and towels. Gerry came to pick me back up at lunchtime and we had lunch on board, unpacked and stowed the laundry and then it was on to the next job of the day – fixing the bimini. Gerry had removed the bimini and as we began the fixing of it we noticed that the winds had picked up and we were getting gusts of 26 knots plus within the protection of the harbour , this continued for a couple of hours and then began to die back down. The bimini is part of the canvas cover over the cockpit and some of the stitching near one of the zips had rotted away and needed to be re stitched, also where the boom tightens down it had rubbed across the bimini’s supporting arch making a small series of tears which need to be repaired and reinforced. Gerry had set up the sewing machine ready to do the repairs and we had purchased some reinforcing material for the area that covers the support. A very frustrating couple of hours followed with anything that could, did, go wrong – broken thread, empty bobbin, pins stuck in the way, thread tension changed, caught the zip in the stitching, etc. etc. We persevered and eventually had the job finished; we then replaced the canvas and the isinglass windows with a sense of achievement. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the computer as we had managed to pick up a WIFI connection and reading. With diner time approaching we headed into the pizza place as they were one of only 2 places we knew off that was going to be showing the super bowl game on their TV. We were somewhat surprised at the marina not showing it – they could have put on a bar b que, shown the game and made a killing as most of the boats in the harbour are American or Canadian and would want to watch the game ( even if it is only for the adverts and the half time show!) We had diner there and watched the first quarter of the game – that was enough for us, as of this moment we don’t know the outcome of the game but we are hoping the Chicago Bears maintained the lead that they had at the end of the first quarter and went on to win the match. GO BEARS! We left the real football enthusiasts yelling at the TV and headed back to the boat for the night.

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Saturday 3rd February

Salinas,
Puerto Rico


17 57.6 N
66 17.6 W

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUE WALKER -39 TODAY, GEEZE YOU'RE GETTING UP THERE!


As we had the car until 15.00hrs today we decided that we were going to go towards the east and have a look around Guayama. Before leaving the boat we tried to listen to the weather forecast to see when the winds and seas were going to be dropping so we could try to plan our departure from here but we were unable to pick up the forecast on radio so Gerry downloaded a weather fax which took a while. It would seem that we were going to be able to leave here on Tuesday morning. Having done this we took our computer with us and headed in to the cruiser’s gallery – a café just a few yards walk from the marina where we could access the internet by WIFI. The café is set up so that you can either use their computers or take along your own, we had decided to take our own as we weren’t certain of being able to use one of theirs – the café is very popular and the computers are often in constant use, they allow you free use if you have bought some food there or you pay $1 for 15 minutes. We had decided to have a late breakfast there but were disappointed to find they had no cook on duty so we made do with toast and coffee. We logged on and checked our email, loaded the last few blogs and checked a different weather site before packing away our computer and returning to the marina for the hire car. We took the coast road out of Salinas and headed towards Guayama, it was a pretty unremarkable drive, the mountains to our left side were very dry and brown looking – just ripe for the bush fires that we had noticed burning on them the day before. On the way we passed banana plantations and a couple of drug company manufacturing factories but very little else of interest. Arriving in Guayama we headed towards where we could see a lot of buildings that looked like a shopping center and were pleased to find a Pep boys store (car parts specialists), we had promised another cruiser that we would try to find the store and purchase some special oil that he needed. Well we tried but Pep boys didn’t have it, we had one other place to try – K mart if we could find the mall. Gerry asked for directions to the mall and still managed to miss it driving down some roads which had gutters that you could loose a car in. The roads have had layer after layer of surface applied without taking off any previous layer causing the road to be very much higher than the gutters, at one point we had to cross a gutter and the thud the car made was quite sickening, I was glad it wasn’t our car! Eventually we stumbled across the mall and joined the queues of shoppers doing their Saturday mall crawl. We found the K mart store but again it didn’t have the oil that our cruising acquaintance wanted. By the time we had done this Gerry was getting antsy about being in a shopping mall and decide that we needed to go and have some lunch so we took off to the nearest Burger King which was just outside the mall, we climbed out of the car only to find that the tire on the passenger side at the front was going flat. Looking at changing the tire we discovered that the spare was one of those thin “get you home” tires and it looked fairly bald so Gerry decided to put some air in the flat tire and see if it was a puncture or a slow leak. It turned out to be a leaky valve which probably leaked after the thump of going over the gutter. The newly inflated tire lasted until long after we had eaten lunch and then returned the car, thank goodness. By the time we got back to the marina it was just about time for dinner so we walked along the marina road until we came across a couple of restaurants and chose one at random, they don’t display menus outside so it was a bit of pot luck. The restaurant we chose had an open verandah which overlooked the sea, as it turned out the meal was OK but we thought there wasn’t a lot of food for the cost still we enjoyed the meal and then made our way back to our boat for the night.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Friday 2nd January


Salinas,
Puerto Rico


17 57.6 N
66 17.6 W

Early in the morning we took the dink ashore and then took the hire car on a voyage of discovery. Dale and Lorie had told us to visit the Arecibo Observatory if we had the chance and this was going to be the day to do it. We had also had advice from Jim to travel along the mountain ridge for the views. We took off in the direction of the mountain ridge, heading towards the west. Jim was right, the views were spectacular, the road was very windy, lots of very sharp blind bends and the state of road repair left a lot to be desired. We had a white knuckle trip – this had a lot to do with the state of the hire car which we feel sure should have been re named “hire a wreck”, it had dents and scratches on every single panel, one of the tires was a bit low on tread and all of the tires needed more air putting in them, then the brakes appeared to be a bit soft – it made for a nervous drive on a road which was only just wide enough for 2 cars with very steep drop offs on either side. As I said the views were fantastic, from the ridge we could see both the north and the south side of the island as far as the sea in places. At one point there was a scenic lookout point where you could park and take pictures but it was all closed off and locked up so you couldn’t stop, a great shame as it was definitely the best view. At no place along the ridge could you pull off the road – it was just too narrow and the risk of being hit by another car was too great. We were amazed by the difference in vegetation on either side of the divide, the north side was quite green and lush whilst the south side was dry and brown with bush fires raging in places. As we traveled along the ridge the vegetation reminded us of traveling through the Atherton table lands and also through parts of Tasmania. The plants were the same – ferns, bananas, hibiscus, impatiens, and then the rain forest type trees, the difference was the addition of coffee plantations on the sides of some of the mountains. The road had a few detours which we followed but I have to say that the road was badly sign posted and the signs didn’t correspond with the map we had been given. Eventually we came off of the mountain ridge road and onto the highway 10 heading north, this was very good for a while and then suddenly the road just ran out and we were back on a narrow road with hairpin bends every few yards. This went on for a few miles and then suddenly the highway reappeared – the story is that the road was started from either side of the island and hasn’t quite got to the joining up point yet – it’s a work in progress! The whole trip we kept second guessing ourselves and wondering if we were on the right track, eventually we found sign posts for the Aricebo Observatory and followed them – it was still a long way off and the road was back to a mountain goat track! At long last the Observatory entrance came into sight and we found our way into the car park. The attendant directed us towards the steps and told us to go right to the top, we began climbing and climbed and climbed and climbed – 500 steps and a couple of steep slopes to the entry point. Out of breath, light headed and with aching legs we bought entry tickets and went on to view the observatory. First stop was the information areas with exhibits, hands on models and activities. then there was a short presentation showing a day in the life of the observatory and then we were ushered out to the viewing platform where we could stare in awe at the immense radio telescope – it is truly an awesome sight. Apparently it is the largest radio telescope in the world, built in the early ‘60s at a cost of $9.3 million with a couple of up grades since totaling $34 million, the big dish is 1,000 feet across with a surface area of 18 acres. Suspended above the dish is the secondary and tertiary reflectors, within a moveable receiver – supported by 3 extremely large towers and some very heavy duty concrete blocks. The entire apparatus is situated over a limestone sinkhole, the site chosen because the Sun, moon and planets pass almost directly overhead of it. The telescope is used to examine phenomena occurring in the Earth’s atmosphere and as far away as 10 billion light years (at the very edge of the discernible universe). The whole visit was incredible and one I’m glad we took time for. The trip back was a little less traumatic than the one going, after getting past the highway 10 “almost finished road”, we drove towards Ponce and then took the highway 52 to Salinas. It was much quicker going back but maybe not so picturesque. After a recovery period on the boat we again headed into the marina bar where we joined some new friends for drinks and the bar b que meal, it as made even better by the chocolate birthday cake one of the men produced for his wife’s birthday – we sang to her and helped her to demolish the cake then it was time to head back to the boat for the night.

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Thursday 1st February




Salinas,
Puerto Rico


17 57.6 N
66 17.6 W

05.30hrs – the alarm screeches and I hit it with a force that could kill it. I mean who wants to be woken up at that time of day? Gerry has this brilliant idea of starting the day early so that we can make the most of the night lee effect from the land, he’s obviously taking Bruce Van Sant’s advice far too seriously! Anyway we fumble around in the half light, getting dressed and making everything ready for the day’s passage. The plan was to leave the anchorage at 06.00hrs – it’s getting earlier you’ll notice! Once on deck there was no stopping us, Gerry hauled the anchor in whilst I steered and we were actually underway at 2 minutes to 6, we were on our way to Salinas. I have to say that the night lee certainly helps, it was a calm and pleasant trip of 3 hours duration. The wind was blowing at 5 – 8 knots and the seas were 2 -3 feet, of course it was mostly on the nose so we had to motor most of the way but we did manage to fly the jib for a short while which helped. We arrived at Salinas at 09.00hrs and tried unsuccessfully to raise the marina on the radio, we had thought to go into a slip but as we got no response we anchored in the harbour instead. The harbour is obviously a popular place, it had loads of boats at anchor, on moorings and when we got close enough to tell – the marina seemed to be pretty full. I was actually glad we anchored as the slips in the marina looked a bit in need of maintenance. We anchored quite close to the marina as it made it a short distance to dink in and find out where things were. After we had anchored we had a late breakfast whilst watching the winds increase to 20 plus knots, glad that we were safely at anchor. A bit later we took the dink into the marina, found the laundry, the local café – with internet access, the bakery, a couple of bars and information on where to hire a car etc. After a coffee ashore we returned to the boat and I sorted out our laundry whilst Gerry went to organize a hire car, we wanted to be able to do some sightseeing and shopping whilst we are here. During this time 2 out of 3 of the other boats that had been anchored with us over night at Caja de Muertos came into the harbour and anchored – we are beginning to see the same boats and people everywhere we go. Gerry returned to the boat with the news that we would have a car delivered to the marina at 15.00hrs. We stat around reading and watching the other boats in the harbour until just before 15.00hrs then we collected up our backpack, bags money etc and took the dink back across to the marina where we met up with the representative from the hire car place who drove us back to the shop to sign off on the paperwork for the car. I wondered just where we were hiring the car from as the journey took half an hour. Any way we now had a car but it was 16.00hrs and the rush hour traffic was beginning to build up so we thought it prudent to just find our way back to the harbour before it got too late. We had asked the car hire people for a map of the area and were given a tourist booklet which had a general map of the whole island in the middle, it’s defiantly a bad thing when neither of you can read a thing on the map as the scale is too small to see and neither of us had thought to take reading glasses with us! It’s just as well that we have a fairly good sense of direction, we managed to find our way back without any problem, even managing to stop at a supermarket on the way to pick up a few essentials like bread, eggs and sodas. We unloaded our purchases on the boat and then dinked back to shore for happy hour where we chatted with a few people and eventually accompanied them to a nearby pizza place that had only recently opened. The pizza was a bit slow coming as they had an unexpected rush but it was worth the wait. Once we had eaten our fill we made our way back to the dinghy and then onward to our boat for the night.

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Wednesday 31st January


Caja de Muertos
Puerto Rico.

17 54.6 N
66 31.0 W

After listening to the weather forecast for the next few days we decided that it would be best if we cut short our stay in Ponce and headed towards Salinas before Friday. The winds were going to be increasing to 20 – 25 knots and the waves and swell were going to increase to 7 – 10 feet, as it was all expected to be from the East it would mean that we would be bashing into the weather. With a 2 day period of grace we opted for the go early option and checked out of the marina at about 09.30hrs, it must have surprised the marina as we had told them we were probably going to stay for 3 nights, still the weather dictates everything. Getting off the dock was just as much fun as tying on to it was the day before. We had to hook the aft line off of a pole whilst being blown away from it towards the finger pier, it had hooked on so tightly that I had to manually undo it whilst leaning over the safety line and trusting Gerry to keep the boat steady enough that I wouldn’t fall into the dock – it wasn’t a good feeling but we managed OK. Again there was no one in sight to assist, not even another boat owner who may have had some sympathy. All the times we reversed in to the marina slip at Whitney’s without assistance have paid off though, we can do almost any docking and departure without the help of anyone else. Once free of the dock we motored over to Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) to stage for the night, as suggested by Bruce Van Sant in his guide. We had a very quick trip across to the island as it is only 7 miles out from Ponce. There were supposed to be moorings to tie up to but when we got there we found 2 other boats there, one tied onto the only mooring we could see and the other boat was anchored. Following suit we dropped our anchor and made ourselves at home for the rest of the day. We put the dink into the water and motored into the shore for a look around, there is a quite large dock which evidently ferries tie up to, we couldn’t climb out of the dink onto the dock as it was above my head height so we found a small sandy bay where we could pull the dink up onto the beach. Then we came across another minor problem, we couldn’t get the outboard motor to lock into the tilt position so we gave it up as a bad job and headed back out to our boat. We began doing a job that we had been talking about doing – rearranging the stuff we store in the lazarettes to make it easier to access the stuff we frequently use. As soon as we had everything out of the 3 lazarettes and spread around the cockpit our neighbours from Boqueron, John and Ann who had arrived in their boat just after us dinked across to us and asked if we had explored yet. We told them about our problem with the outboard tilt lock and John told us that they had had the same problem a while back and he had gone to the outboard manufacturer for a solution. As it happened it was an easy fix and he shared this with us – all to do with the ring that holds the tilt mechanism in place – we’ll share it with you if you ever need to know! We finished re arranging the lazarettes and decided that we had done a good job, then Gerry decided that he was going to dive and examine the bottom of the boat as the water here was clear and the current wasn’t too strong. A quick look turned into an hour of scrubbing – although he had cleaned the prop shaft and some of the hull before we left Luperon there were still enough barnacles on the hull to open our own private reef. Scrubbing brush, scrapper and elbow grease managed to get a good deal of the living reef removed from our hull, the bad news was that Gerry found that the cutlass bearing on the prop shaft has crept out of the housing by about ¾ inch. It has possibly been caused by the pounding we have been doing through the waves, but we can’t be sure. Anyway it will have to be replaced before we go too much further as if it is left and continues to creep further out, the bush will eventually stop against the prop and may spin the bush causing the bearing to disintegrate and we wouldn’t be able to motor – not a good thing as we need the motor for all those times when we can’t sail.
Having finished cleaning the bottom of the boat Gerry showered and changed then we set off in the dink again, this time beaching successfully and making it ashore. A 19th century Spanish architecture lighthouse sits at the top of a hill to one end of the island and a cavernous rock which has what are noted as “spooky caves” to the other end, according to the guide you used to be able to go into the caves but they were barricaded off with big no entry signs posted so we couldn’t go into them. I did manage to take a couple of photos of the cave’s entrance – 2 statues are located there, one of St. Carmen – the patron saint of fishermen, and one of Christ. If you enlarge the photo and look carefully you will be able to see them, St. Carmen is the smaller statue on the right with her arms extended.
There was also a load of gazebos set out as a picnic area and there was supposed to be a museum of some sort there, we found the museum room but there was nothing in it. The views from the island across to Ponce and out over the Caribbean Sea were spectacular. Apparently there are some park rangers who live on the island and take care of the place, what a job! On the top of the outlook Gerry found an anchor, it was too big and too beat up for us to use as a replacement for the one we lost, so we left it where it was. We returned to our boat and replaced the dink on the foredeck, then it was time for cocktails and nibbles whilst watching the sun go down and the moon rise – my favourite time of the day. As it was a full moon it turned out to be quite a spectacular evening, of course I tried to get the green flash on film but there was no green flash – I’m beginning to doubt that it ever happens!

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