Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice And Christmas... Winds

22° Halo with Parhelia 
Today is the Winter Solstice and although that means that today is the shortest day of the year, it is reason to celebrate...  It means that the days will begin to get longer after today...  Yeah but who cares?

Cruisers care!!!  Those of us living on sailboats are far more in tune with the natural world... Because we live in a tiny self sufficient home, we have to make our own power in one way or another.

Traces of a rare 46° Halo
Aboard Dos Libras, the most economical way is the SUN!  Our solar panels soak it up all day and store it in our batteries... Short days mean that we will probably need to run our generator... on gasoline... every morning and sometimes in the evening too!

It also means that if we aren't going to bed at 6:30 when it gets dark... we use more of that precious stored energy for lighting our interior for cooking and reading.

Don't feel too badly for me... I'm entertaining myself with this!
So yeah... We're excited about the Solstice!  But there's another reason this so exciting... The Christmas Winds are here.  After the initial flurry of activity the few days after our arrival, we've had crazy winds in the 25-30 knot neighborhood... with peak gusts into the occasional low 40 knot range. We've been living the Caribbean Cruiser's equivalent of "The Snow Day"...

I know... bring on the violins!  But really, we're going stir crazy here!  So after long hours and days onboard... almost ANYTHING is exciting to us!

There's only so much Internet surfing and piddling boat projects and reading, and cooking, and eating... a person can do without losing one's marbles!

Raining Morning Light
We've had some days of passing squalls... that kept us aboard.  Why not just enjoy the inactivity?  I can say that while I'm much better at squelching the overwhelming compulsion to be doing something constructive every day...  I don't have it down yet... Somehow the rain seems to be kind of a "get-out-of-jail-free" card as boat projects go.  For some reason I'm more accepting of the inactivity if it's raining...

You could say that looks corroded!
But there are SOME piddling boat projects that we can do rain or shine wind! For months our tachometer (the thing that tells us how many RPMs our engine is running) has been dying a slow death.  The fact that it began as an intermittent wavering which increased until its total demise has us thinking that it was corrosion doing it in.

Cleaner connector (just up from center)
Kudos to Bruce for getting out the shop manuals and figuring out where our problem was... even if I was dragged into fixing it with my more nimble and dainty fingers...  He pointed me in the right direction and handed me tools while I removed the wires, cleaned the connections and replaced it all...  And I held my breath while he started up the engine to test our work.  Lo and behold... it worked like new!  Score one for the Cruiser!
I forget how many days it's been but we MUST GET OFF OF THIS BOAT!!!  So we took advantage of a brief decrease in wind velocity and un-squally stretch to make a mad dash to shore for some exercise and whatever other excuse we could find...

Picking out Brussel sprouts
There's a fresh market here on Culebra every Tuesday and Friday morning.  One of those mornings we talked Bonnie and Craig (Odin) into joining us for some veggie hunting and breakfast at the Pannaderia for the Puerto Rican equivalent of a taquito... the breakfast wrap.

Huevos Revueltos, Jamón y queso...mmmm


Eventually, wind or no wind, it became necessary for us to make another laundry run.  It wasn't so much the size of our laundry pile that moved this chore up in importance... but with the boat closed up and dampness permeating everything we own... the boat was beginning to smell like a high school gym locker room... no lie.  Gotta go!

I had made this run previously with Bonnie but this time Bruce got to go!  He put me ashore with the bag and I watched as he secured the dinghy...

We aren't even sure that this is the correct "dock" but if it isn't... nobody could possibly care.  It's that ratty!

We found the laundry room behind La Surana Apartments deserted and spread our laundry into three machines!  There we spent a couple of guilt free hours-doing-nothing while we waited for our stuff to wash and dry... Oh and we met a nice Cruiser-looking lady who wasn't.  Be careful not to assume a Cruiser by her appearance... but Jacqueline didn't seem to mind and we had a nice conversation.

Bruce toting the clean bag of laundry away...

Yes, we have to wade out to our "car".  

It looked like rain on our way back to the boat but it held off until we got aboard... then it opened up!  Luck!
A couple of boats we know were taking advantage of a brief respite from the Christmas winds to jump to St. Thomas the following day so we got together with Will and Wendy from Kailani for dinner (again) at Zaco's Tacos...

I have to stand by my premise that you're not dining right unless you're dining with animals...  Chickens on the tables are no exception.

For those of you who do not know... there is a strictly enforced "No-feeding-the-chickens-from-your-plate" rule here.  Just don't do it!

Margarita Smiles...
A rainbow slid over the top of Odin
For DAYS we've been looking forward to a planned excursion with Bonnie and Craig.  Being as they are our neighbors, it just seems easier to hang out together than to go to the trouble of finding new friends further afield... so they invited us!

Our BIG day involved dinghying ashore in the dark hours before dawn.  Seeing the Town's Christmas light display was an unexpected treat!  We don't get out much at night... so we have to see it in the early morning!

We followed Bonnie through getting our tickets for the Ferryboat that runs several times daily between Culebra and Fajardo on the Puerto Rican Mainland...  She had to do this a few days ago alone for a cat emergency, so she knew the ropes.

Our early arrival got us primo spots in line as we watch the ferry arrive and huge trucks disembarked before it was our turn to board.

Like a movie theatre... without the movie.. or popcorn...
It took a while for the boat to fill up with sleepy travelers.  I guess this is not very exciting to the Locals, but it was quite the event for us!

Now in the morning light we see our ferry!

Old Customs House in Fajardo, PR

The Ferry area in Fajardo

Boarding to return to Culebra at 3:00 pm

 We split a rental car and ran some errands in Fajardo.  It seems strange to go from our lives on the boat anchored off of sleepy little towns such as the one on Culebra... then we blink our eyes and suddenly we are in the land of Walmart and Radio Shack!

It was a fun outing and the Ferry is inexpensive enough to do it frequently... and they don't mind you bringing back packages.  If we stay here long enough we may make another run!
Different boat, different seating

Long days stretched before us with nothing pressing to do... made me lazy.  Why bother getting up early and getting the day going when you've got little to do and all day to do it.  This makes me a a slacker when it comes to snapping those sunrise pics.  With Bonnie next door doing it for me I didn't even have to miss them... AND we got to be in the photo!  Ignore the copywrite symbol on this photo, Bonnie took it!

No photos of the boat at our side... we were too busy!
Aaaaaannnnd then there's the sort of excitement nobody wants... The excitement that really gets the blood pumping in the morning...  The excitement that comes when you are startled into full wakefulness by the sound of crunching fiberglass!

Did we drag, is that the keel scraping the bottom???  A quick look outside and we knew it wasn't us dragging, but our neighbor and fellow Texan.  We'd been meaning to get together but not like THIS!!!

Bruce and I scrambled up topside to assess the situation... I had the forethought to pull on some shorts, Bruce and the guy on the other boat?  Both in their skivvies and seeming not to care!

Finally the anchor was free and they motored far, far away!
The other boat slid slowly along our starboard side and it looked like his anchor chain might be hung up on our keel and possibly dragging our anchor chain with it.  But the iPad showed us holding position, even with these high winds as we worked together in figuring out what to do...

The big problem was that the guy was single handing.  There was nobody to man the helm while he worked at getting the anchor chain in.  Eventually the boats were separated enough to allow him to motor away from us and after several attempts to pull up the anchor, a local man joined him and they were able to get it pulled up. Luckily it didn't disrupt our anchor at all.  After it was all said and done, he posted a very short video on Facebook.  I was amused to know where priorities lie... but glad that there was a video!

Fast forward through a couple more days of doing absolutely nothing constructive on the boat while it rained and blew... another trip to the veggie market and the grocery to get ingredients to make the alcoholic drink shown at the top of this post... and we arrive here to where we began this little chat.  Winter Solstice.

The winds have actually let up briefly and we were encouraged to go ashore for some exercise.  All of this cooking and eating and drinking are doing me in!  I must have a walk!

The other grocery store... not open yet. 
We've been here five times before and have never walked the town...

 We stopped in at the bakery for breakfast but there was such a long line we decided to see what else we could find in town...

We found this.  Next time we will stand in the line at the bakery...
But sharing breakfast with a chicken was fun...

The kitchen/store

We found a small park with this monument and a view of our boat out in the bay

Public dock near the gym...

Treadmills in the FREE gym!

Contemplating working out in the FREE gym!

I love the use of bottle bottoms in the wall here...

Hardware store.  We found parts for a small project... must measure and return!

Up hill walk... 

We found another grocery store up that hill!


On second look this is art!

Planes fly overhead from the nearby airport

We thoroughly enjoyed our exploration on foot, which is nice... because it may be a while before we have any more excitement...

But I have to be thankful when I think about all of the people who are having REAL snow days... And temperatures plummeting into the single digits... while we enjoy lows in the high 70s and lower 80s... at the end of December...

Culebra has been the perfect choice for waiting out the Christmas Winds and hunkering down while the squalls roll over us...  Now if only I could muster a bit of Christmas spirit!!!

This could help!  CHEERS!