Saturday, April 30, 2011


Sunday 24 April – Friday 29 April

Last stop in Puerto Rico !
After topping off with fuel we are underway by by 9:30 on Easter Sunday. We have a wonderful slow sail over to the Island of Vieques, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. We have beautiful blue skies with light winds so we are only sailing between 4.5 and 5.5 knots, not in a hurry and not far to go so the quiet gentle ride is perfect. As we are rounding the western tip of the Island Steve's family calls from his mom's house so we get to say Hi & Happy Easter to most of them. Once on the southern side of the Island we try tacking back and forth but a few rain clouds are causing the wind to shift, so we motor sail getting caught in a little shower as we approach Sun Bay. We anchor by 3:30 under cloudy skies, the next shower holding off by 30 minutes just long enough for us to have opened all the hatches and now have to hurry and close them back up. Monday when we look out we see 2 new boats have come in and picked up moorings. They were not there the night before, because we had thought about picking up one of them since they were all full when we arrived but decided the anchor was set good. Then we think that the 2 new boats look familiar, so Steve gets the binoculars out and we do know them Bright Hope & Gypsy Wind who we had met back in Boqueron & Salinas. We go by in the dinghy to say HI but no one is up and about, finally Art on Bright Hope came on deck and said they had just arrived at 6:30 that morning after an overnight from Salinas and were catching up on sleep. We tell them we will talk to them later and take the dinghy into the beach and walk along the beautiful beach ending up in town but without our shoes since we left them in the dinghy. At least now we know the way into town.  Back to the boat and Steve swims over to talk to the other 2 boats who say they plan to go into town for dinner so we plan to join them later and catch up. We go back in a little earlier so I can look for a post card to send to my nephew. That is my big shopping trip when we get some place new finding the right post card to send to my nephew. Not just any post card but one that shows where we are anchored, which sometimes can be a little harder to find. Sometimes like this time I can not find one :(. This also gives us time to check out the menus at the different restaurants. We meet the other cruisers at one place for drinks, then head up to Trade Winds Restaurant for dinner. Tuesday is a lazy day just reading and swimming off the boat. Wednesday we were going to head to another anchorage but the morning rain and winds made us decide to stay put. Vieques is a pretty big island 21 miles long and 4 wide with 2 towns. The southern town by us Esperanza and the northern side town of Isabel. The eastern tip is all part of the national wildlife refuge with no roads but some good bays to anchor in. To really see the island you have to rent a car, but we decided not to do that here and just relax and hang on the hook in this beautiful bay. Thursday even though the forecast is for 15-20 knot winds on the nose we head out just after sunrise to head back to St. Thomas. We just motored straight into the east wind making 4-5 knots until we cleared the eastern point of Vieques, then turned NE to St. Thomas and were able to put up a reefed main and motor-sail at 6 knots. The apparent wind held steady at 27 knots the whole trip. We had a very rolly & bumpy ride with seas building to 8 – 10 feet, so a lot of water crashing over the bow and the starboard side into the cockpit !! Steve's forward hatch leaking fix worked pretty good but still a little water in so will continue to find a solution to that problem. We are anchored in St. Thomas Harbor by 1, clean up the water in bathroom and have lunch before going into town to meet up with Tammey & Joe from Tammera Sue. They have left their boat on the hard in Virgin Gorda and will be flying back home to the US for 6 months on Friday. We have a good time visiting and catching up over drinks and a farewell dinner. We had originally planned on just anchoring, but with the amount of salt above and below decks decide to go into Yacht Haven Grande the next morning to clean the boat, do some laundry and re-provision. That night we went to one of the marina restaurants and ran into Chris and Robin from Toucan Dream again.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

St. Thomas / St. John

Saturday 16 April – Saturday 23 April

We are underway by 8:30 Saturday morning motor sailing under clear blue skies with light to moderate winds, and 3-4 ft. swells. Less then 5 hours later we are approaching the island of St. Thomas, a first time for all 3 of us. We had decided to anchor off Water Island as the guide book said the main harbor was full of moorings and could get really crowded with the cruise ships and ferries coming and going. Well it turns out the “anchorage” by Water Island is now full of moorings, and all moorings in St. Thomas are private. The water is also very deep at this spot 30- 40 feet so you have to let out a lot of scope on the anchor rode so you need a lot of swing room. The mooring field is not set up in any kind of grid, people just put their mooring wherever they wanted it so you have to try to anchor between them, and with quite a few boats already anchored it took us a few circles to find a place to anchor. In looking for a spot we dropped the hook and had to bring it back up, the new windlass worked great except it had some grease from the factory still on it causing it to slip when it was time to bring the last bit of chain & anchor on deck. Once anchored Steve cleaned the excess grease off the windlass while I made lunch. Afterward we all piled into the dinghy and went in to the dinghy dock by Crown Bay Marina. From here it is just a 30 minute walk into the main town of Charlotte Amalie. First thing we notice is they drive on the LEFT ?? Left over from British occupation in the 1800's !? As we walk towards town and St Thomas Harbor we notice that they have a lot more room to anchor over here and very few mooring balls the opposite of what our guide book said. As we get to town we watch as the last cruise ship leaves the harbor. I think, great less crowds, what I did not think was that all the shops would be closed ! Here it is on a Saturday at 5 pm and 99 % of the stores are closed. Sean called it nightmare on main street ! A lot of the restaurants were closed also, just goes to show that this is definitely a cruise ship town. Find a place for a drink and snack before catching a taxi / bus back to the marina, have dinner there at Tickles Dockside Pub next to the dinghy dock before heading back to the boat. A beautiful sight with the homes along the hill sides lit up and the almost full moon shining down on the bay. Sunday we went back into town, checking out several more areas of town, up and down some steep streets until finally my knee said enough walking and we caught a taxi back towards the dinghy dock. We had learned the trick with the taxi / buses, if you flag one down and ask to go to a certain location it cost 4-5 $ BUT if you wait at one of the regular stops and get on with other people it only cost a $1. Monday morning we went on a 2 tank dive, both good dives but the second was really neat. It was where the Navy blew up and sunk their old housing barges, so you get to swim up and down the corridors looking at all the fish that now use it as a home. Getting some good tips from the captain of good anchorages and snorkeling sights down island. That afternoon we head out for one of them, Christmas Bay off Great St. James on the east end of St. Thomas. Afternoon swim, before a relaxing evening where Steve prepares a wonderful dinner and Sean & I get to play a few more games in our backgammon tournament. Tuesday morning we go snorkeling around St. James before the big 3 mile trip over to St. John in time for lunch. St. John is the smallest of the 3 USVI, and least populated and unspoiled as 2/3 of it is National Park. Sean steers the boat as we picked up one of the parks mooring balls in Caneel Bay. Stopped by the floating pay station to drop off our payment and I guess some people don't understand how drop boxes work. There were several envelopes with money in them in the empty envelope bag, but we did the right thing and put them down the payment drop box where they go. Into the Caneel Bay Resort to check out their restaurants and grounds. What a beautiful serene place, a place where rich folk go to get away as the rooms start at a $1000 a night. Get some hiking trail info, then back to the boat where Steve & Sean clean the bottom of the boat while I read in the cockpit. Steve makes another wonderful dinner as Sean & I continue our backgammon games. After dinner we play a few hands of cards. Wednesday we hike into the town of Cruz Bay, I get to try out my new trekking poles that I had ordered and Sean brought down with him. A walk around the town, checking out the shops, finding a place for lunch, then a few more shops. Steve & Sean take the Caneel Hill trail back, climbing to 700 feet, while I linger in town before going back on the Lind Point trail we came over on that only rises 160 feet meeting them back at the dinghy. Sean & I continue our nightly backgammon ritual while Steve makes another great dinner, after dinner Steve & Sean play several games of backgammon. Thursday is a long days motor sail back to Puerto Del Rey Marina in PR under clear skies with flat calm seas. We arrive at 4:30 just before the office closes. I call customs to report that we just returned form the USVI, even though both are US territories, you are supposed to check back in. When I finally get someone on the line she tells me we have to come in and pay another $27.50 even though we paid at Mayaguez, and that CBP guy told us we could just use the release # on our receipt. Now we are getting another story, that we have to go to the customs office again and repay for reentering. Really makes you want to lie and not tell them you left, which would have been very easy to do just saying we went to one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. We have a nice farewell dinner at the marina restaurant with Sean and will deal with customs on Friday. Being Good Friday almost everything is closed, grocery stores and all, so traffic is light going into the airport. Dropping Sean off a little early for his flight home after a great but too short of a visit. Then we head for the customs office in Fajardo who had already called us to make sure we were coming. Traffic out from the airport is much heavier, with everyone heading to the beaches and the ferries right next to the customs office. I was worried we would get there at noon just as they closed for lunch, but we made it by 11:40. Both the supervisor Mr Martinez and the other guy working were very nice and helpful, even if I had to explain that I was born in a city called New York City in the state of New York. We did have to pay another $27.50 BUT this time we were able to get our LBO (local boater option) that no one before was able to do and we also got the decal to be sent to our PO Box, that we can have scanned to get the # so we will not run into this problem again going between USVI & BVI. Keep the rental car for one more day so we can go to the store and re-provision on Saturday before leaving main land PR on Sunday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Monday 11 April – Friday 15 April

We were stuck in the marina over the weekend since the shop where we got the windlass only worked a ½ day on Saturday, they needed to finish up on Monday. Even though Steve did most of the work, they helped with the fiberglass work. The marina had a “boat show” that weekend that we got in free to by each showing a bottle of Coppertone sunscreen, we have plenty of that. Glad we did not pay as it was a pretty small show but it helped pass the time. Monday the work was completed on the windlass so we were finally ready to get out of the marina come Tuesday after 2 weeks.

Tuesday after checking out there were some threatening thunder clouds so we waited around for a little while. The trip over to Culebra is only 15 miles so we had plenty of time to get there. We finally made a break for it after one storm passed and it felt SO good to be on the move again, we ran into another small 30 min shower on the way over but it cleared up quickly and we were able to sail, tacking our way over for most of the way. As we are turning into Ensenada Honda (deep cove / bay) it was strange seeing St. Thomas on the horizon 20 miles away. Tuesday night we pick up a mooring at Dakity Bay right off the entrance channel to Ensenada Honda. Known for it's clear waters, it is behind a sand bar so you get to listen to the waves crashing on shore (love that sound). Wednesday we move further into Ensenada Honda anchoring closer to town. Go in by dinghy and walk around town, which does not take long as it's pretty small and most of the places are restaurants or bars which are not open yet. A little out of town by the airport as we walk by a jeep & golf cart rental place we decide to rent a golf cart to tour the Island, even though it is only 7 miles long & 4 wide it's very steep hills and baby mountains makes walking or biking a little challenging. 1st stop is to drive to northwest end of Island to Flamenco Beach, known to be one of the prettiest in the Caribbean. And it is very beautiful with the added attraction of some old navy tanks on the beach, not your typical beach sight. They make good use of their beaches here in PR, having nearby picnic & camping grounds right next to the beach in the shade of the trees. Back to the Dinghy Dock restaurant, where we left our dinghy, have lunch then to the boat to get our snorkel gear to head to Tamarindo Beach to go snorkeling. The snorkeling was great in water with just a few inches to clear the reef to 10-15 feet. A good variety of fish amongst the coral ridges, a ray and a LOT of sea urchins. They should call this place sea urchin beach ! NOT one of the favorite things to see while snorkeling. Since the Navy used this Island as a gunnery range and practice bomb site, they have signs up warning you to beware of unexploded ammunition, good way to insure you don't touch things while you are snorkeling. Dry off and away in the golf cart to see the northeast side of the island. We were trying to get to Zion Beach but they were doing some construction on the road and it was getting late. We did get a great scenic view overlooking Culebrita Island and watched two cruise ships sailing west. Driving around you can see the growth of beautiful vacation and retirement homes on the island even though much of the island is part of the National Wildlife Refuge . On the way back to town stopped by Sharks Bar & Grill that is on the grounds of the Costa Bonita Villas we could see from our 1st anchorage and in the harbor. They have a lot of signs up but since they are a good distance from town they are not open on a regular basis, coming out of bankruptcy trying to get things rolling again. Hope they do as it is a great place with a great view. Back to town to the dinghy and to the boat by sunset. Thursday we go to anchor off Luis Pena Cay one of 23 off shore cay's that are part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Nice small anchorage where we were able to get one of the 3 mooring balls. Spent the afternoon snorkeling, another beautiful sunset and a nice breeze to sleep by. Friday we make the short hop back to Puerto Del Rey Marina, get a car rental go to the store to provision, stopping by a blockbuster store closing to get some DVD's since we do not have TV when we are anchored out. Get things put away and the boat ready for Sean's visit. He has a late flight in, but we are grateful he is able to make it. He had called 2 days before saying his back went out and he could hardly move. A few visits to the Chiropractor for re-alignment, a visit to his regular doctor for pain meds, muscle relaxers and a back brace and he is feeling much better and able to make the trip. Stop to get him something to eat, back to the boat and settled in. Saturday we head over to the US Virgin Islands for a week of fun !

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Puerto Rico from Puerto Del Rey Marina

Tuesday 29 March – Saturday 9 April

We leave Palmas Del Mar on Tuesday as the sun is rising and before the winds and waves pick up. Motor sailing, tacking east towards Vieques Island to avoid a rainstorm and get a better angle on the wind for the short hop up to Puerto Del Rey marina. We are docked by 11:30, check in and start making phone calls to the rigger to come check on why the main sail keeps jamming on the way out and to the welder about having an arch built. The rigger comes out to see what needs to be done, but tells us he is leaving to go sail in a race down island so we make an appointment for him to come do the work the following Tuesday when he returns. Meet with the welder and discuss options for our boat, showing him pictures we have taken along the way and looking at some other arches on boats here in the marina. Wednesday Tammera Sue gets to the marina after a couple of rolling nights at anchor off Vieques Island and we make plans to rent a car to do some Island touring. Thursday (April 1st- already) morning Tammey & I head out with the car to shop on our own without Steve & Joe getting impatient waiting on us and making us feel guilty about taking our time looking at things. A little thing that we seldom get a chance to do. Back to the boat to unload our “goods” from Wall Mart, and pick up the guys for lunch in near by Fajardo and then a West Marine visit. Steve's hard drive was starting to go so we went in search of a replacement and the equipment to do the transfer. The local Office Max did not have what we needed so we wound up sightseeing all the way to Canovanas to a Best Buy, where he was able to get what he needed, stopping at auto parts stores along the way for Joe to look for a fuel filter. A busy day of hunting and gathering of goods. Friday we are on our way to spend the day hiking a few trails in El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest within the US National Forest System. 28,000 acres of forest that get more then 100 billion gallons of rain a year. The variety of trees, vines, and plants, all so lush is such a beautiful sight, hard to describe with words or even pictures. The drive up and hiking listening to all the different birds and frogs adding to this wonderful experience. A magical day in a magical place. Not wanting to stop during the hikes or drive thru the forest we have a very late lunch / early dinner at the Luquillo beach kiosks. Here 50+ vendors have set up various establishments offering a variety of food and drinks. Back to the boats to pack for our weekend trip to Old San Juan. Saturday we leave by 8 and are parked downtown Old San Juan by 9:30 ready for a day of sightseeing, stopping by the visitors center to get maps & info. Thinking we might be able to find a room at one of the FEW hotels right in town we check them out first but of course they are all booked, except a few very expensive rooms. Not a problem as there are many choices right outside Old San Juan in Condado where we book a room. That taken care of we start walking the streets toward San Cristobal Castle (AKA Fort). This is the largest fort ever built by the Spanish in the New World and is very impressive with magnificent views of the bay and town. This and San Felipe Del Morro Castle, which we visit later in the day, are remarkably well maintained and informative so you really get a sense of the history that took place here. Walking along the city wall next to the waterfront or the cobblestone streets with old homes and buildings we have a wonderful day. You could easily spend several days here just checking out all the different restaurants, having a drink and appetizer at each along the way. Off to the hotel, drop off our bags, share a bottle of wine with Tammey & Joe before heading out to Ashford street a block away to find a restaurant for dinner. This street is lined with all different kinds of restaurants so we walk up and down before choosing one serving Puerto Rican fare, eating alfresco watching people walk by. Sunday we go over to the outdoor mercado urbano (city market) sampling and buying a few things before checking out of the hotel. There is another West Marine in town so of course we have to stop by and it just so happens to be down the street from Plaza Las Americas, the largest mall in the Caribbean. Even with the guys we stop by for a quick hour run through and manage to pick up a few things. Off for a late lunch before heading back to the marina. Monday Tammey & I take the car to go shopping again (just because we can) while the guys work on a few boat projects. Monday night we dine on Tammera Sue as Tammey fixes a great salad that she has been trying to make since last Thursday, but with our late lunches we did not need dinner. Tuesday the rigger comes to work on the main sail, we take the boat out of the slip just off the end of the pier to anchor so we can let the sail in & out. As we are anchoring, the down part of the windlass is not working and making a loud grinding sound. Something to deal with later ! While Quino is up the mast working on fixing the problem he gives us a rig inspection and notices a cotter pin connecting the forestay to the mast is about to fail so he replaces that. Get the furling mechanism greased up and sail back in and it seems to go in and out much smoother now. YEAH !! Get the anchor up and back to the dock. I find a hair salon and manage to explain what color & cut I want to a lady who speaks very little English, and she does a good job for only $65. Wednesday Steve is trying to fix the windlass all morning, to no avail. Quino the rigger is down on another boat a few slips away and he recommends someone to come out and help. He makes it out mid afternoon and he & Steve still have a time trying to open the one side of the windlass where they think the problem is. They decide the whole unit will have to come off to go to the shop, Steve tackles that problem on his own, then Ken stops back by to bring it to his shop. Thursday morning, no good news on the windlass !!! More boat repairs here in paradise. The one we had the company is no longer in business, so we have to find a replacement that will be able to fit in the same spot and handle our anchor chain & rode. We get one ordered and sent overnight and it arrives late Friday afternoon. Saturday is installation day, drilling new holes and filling the old ones, rewiring etc. etc. boat projects are never easy ! There is also a boat show here at the marina this weekend, for power boats, but we will go by the vendor booths to see what gadgets they have to sell, you never know what you might find at a boat show ! HOPEFULLY we will be able to leave on Sunday and go over to the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques for a few days before returning here on Friday to pick up Steve's son Sean. With Sean visiting for a week we will head over to explore the US Virgin Islands !!!

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link to pictures from Old San Juan;