Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fly in the ointment

Sunrise in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Caja de Muerto Island in the distance.
Our invitation to sail the Virgin Islands was answered by our friend Francisco. He flew in to San Juan on a Thursday, and I drove over to get him. I had asked him to bring a Costco card, if possible. We did a little shopping before returning home. Nothing can spoil a good sail like bad food, but "I got this"!
We have been tucked into Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club for 4 months, all of hurricane season, I can't wait to get back out there. I feel like a caterpillar, but I want to be a butterfly.
An early morning Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club.

Dusk at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club.

A tranquil dawn in Ponce.

The crew of the Mirador.

A quick look at the weather report, and it looked like Monday was our day. It would be a nice "close reach" towards the Virgin Islands to the east. I calculated anywhere from 15 to 20 hours to Culebra, a cake-walk.
It was regatta weekend at the yacht club. We had hardly met a soul in 4 months, and all of a sudden we're all making friends. Dinner invitations had us booked all weekend long, which leads me to believe that I must be personable!
The darnedest thing happened to the weather, they kept moving the forecasts forward, and our sailing window went along with it. First it was Tuesday, then Wednesday, and on, and on! Francisco only had a week to spare. In the end it looked like Friday would be our day.
Finally on our way!

Marie taking the helm for a few hours.

Caja de Muertos in the distance.

Eva and Hadrian entertaining themselves on the passage.

Some people need more attention than others.

We used the extra time to tune the boat up. We cleaned the bottom. I was shocked by the amount of growth on the hull in less than 3 weeks. We secured things on deck, and fueled up. Every night was a dinner party. Ah, life in the tropics!
We squared up with the marina, painful, and pulled out at about 9 am on Friday morning. We had to have Francisco back to San Juan by the following Tuesday, so we canceled a stopover at Coffin Island, and went straight for the Virgins. At first progress was great. We were clipping along at 4 knots, and I thought, "Yeah man, it's going to be an easy one". We worked out 4 hour shifts between Marie, Francisco, and myself. That would give us each 8 hours off between shifts, a big difference to only Marie and me. Alas, the weather demons showed their face, and the wind picked up...on the nose. Between the wind, current, and waves, we managed about 1 mile per hour. There were some windmills on land that we seemed to never pass, grim ,and constant reminder of our speed. The hours passed, and I began to smell sweet anti-freeze. I inspected the engine room to find that our water pump was slowly dripping.
A long 30 hours had gone by, and we were less than half way to Culebra. With the new coolant leak in mind, we decided to pull into the closest marina for repairs.
Luckily, we had rounded the southeast corner of Puerto Rico, and now had the wind on our beam, and making good progress. The closest marina was Palmas del Mar. We looked their phone number up in a cruising guide, and gave them a call. We still had phone reception. I asked them for a slip for a couple of days, and they said they had the room. I felt better with the arrangements made. It would be easier to take care of things in Puerto Rico than anywhere else.
Palmas del Mar Marina is a very nice place. The docks are new, and everything is tidy. They have a clubhouse, a pool, a store, and a restaurant. All the boats are truly yachts. The service is excellent, there were 4 guys on the dock to help us pull-in. They won't even let me carry my own ice! I think they would cut my steak for me if would let them. I'm not so used to a lot of service, not like some of the customers around here, and our boat isn't teaming with deck hands cleaning it everyday. I can't help, but to feel a little out of place, like a fly in the ointment.
A few beers in paradise.

Mirador at the docks in Palmas del Mar.

Palmas del Mar Marina.

Roast pig at Guavate.

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