Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Now What???

I guess it's natural to feel a little deflated after visitors depart.  The boat feels a little empty and quiet.  The weather wasn't helping our mood as the skies were cloudy and grey with rain.  Instead of heading right out on our next adventure, we took a lay day and postponed our departure until morning...

Although the weather was still a little unsettled the next day, we left The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar as soon as we could get checked out.  We motored out through the breakwater and pointed our bow toward Vieques.

We really didn't know where we would be at the end of the day...  That's a strange feeling for me.  In my former life I was a planner.  Out here, the weather in our planner and we were not able to get Chris Parker on the SSB... We just took off with the previous day's report and figured we would see how the boat was sailing and go where the winds directed us.

We kept vacillating between finding an anchorage on Vieques... and setting out for St. Croix...  What we really needed was just to get away from the Marina and get our heads straight again, shake off land life and get back into Cruiser Mode.

We considered the Green Beach but wanted something with a bit more protection from the forecast of possible squally weather. Seas were manageable but the winds seemed to be uncooperative.  We watched as the island of Vieques loomed larger and larger...

And our track fell off more and more...  The winds were just too light.  The engine came on and we fished for a while... Even almost caught something... but once again it got off at the last moment... It was OK though... just another Stupid Barracuda...

Puerto Ferro Anchorage
In the end although we wanted to head for St. Croix, USVI... we would settle for a cozy anchorage on Vieques.  Why make this difficult for ourselves.  Yes, we could just point our bow toward St. Croix and motor all night... or we could rest and re-evaluate the unsettled weather in the morning and then decide.

I had to quell my inner demons that push me onward and force myself to be reasonable... and patient. We had over a month to play with.  While other Cruisers were sailing fast to islands down Grenada way... or leaving the Bahamas to return north... Here we are wandering around in the middle waiting for friends from home to come for a charter around Memorial Day.

Finally the entrance became visible
As we motorsailed along the south coast of Vieques, I consulted the charts and reviewed all of our options.  We chose Puerto Ferro as home for tonight and began searching the shoreline for the entrance.

There was a skinny spot and a few tense moments as we made our way into the anchorage but we were rewarded by a gloriously flat expanse with plenty of space for us and many more.

Jezabelle is always happy to hear the anchor deploy
There were three other boats anchored to starboard so we turned to port and found a sandy patch to drop the anchor where we thought we would be most protected from waves.  There's a shoal or reef jutting out into the entrance and we tucked in just behind it where the wind could still (hopefully) blow the no-see-ums away.  We set the anchor and relaxed.

He can't sit still.  Really.  He CAN'T!
The day was warm and the clouds had given way to a bit of sunshine... The water looked inviting and it had been a while since our waterline had any attention...

I floated around on my new float-seat for a while, watching Bruce wipe green stuff from the waterline...

It looked like fun... and Bruce wasn't doing it to my satisfaction anyway... so I took over.  Bruce did one side and I did the other, then went over a few spots on his side...

It's a really nice setup with the suction handle and a scrubby... my floaty seat keeps me at just the right level in the water.

Jezabelle came out looking for us at about her dinnertime... I wonder what's going through her little cat-brain seeing us out in the water...

I floated a while without my float-seat... A phenomenon that irritates me greatly as fat is more buoyant than muscle... thus I can float without aid!  I'm trying to convince myself that it is just the extra salty water that is making this possible...

We like it here.


Maybe we'll stay a few days.  There are some squally days in the forecast and we need a place to hide out.  We could get some boat chores done...

But after a good night's sleep, we tuned in to Chris Parker on the SSB and I was able to talk to him.  I asked for the best day to sail from Vieques to St. Croix and after a bit of hmmm-ing and haa-ing... he said "If it were me... I would go today!".  Suddenly we sprung into action and got things ready!

The weather should be better today than it will be for a week or more, so if we want to go... we go NOW!

Within the hour we were motoring back out of the entrance to our calm harbor and into rather bouncy seas.

Hmmm...  It wasn't what we expected at all.  The boat climbed over boxy waves with lots of splash and a washing-machine effect...  Jezebelle was UNhappy... but we persevered.  One day of unpleasantness promised a new place to explore.

Vieques to St. Croix
Conditions moderated a bit once we got going.  It was pretty much an upwind slog as we tacked back and forth from our lay line.

The winds clocked a bit as we neared the island and once in the lee, the waves settled considerably.

Birds... A sign that land is near
What we thought would take us 48 miles and about 9 hours, ended up taking us about 60 miles and over 11 hours!  What a long day!

Land Ho!
We were desperate to make those last few miles as quickly as we could.  We didn't want to enter this tricky anchorage in the dark... and time was running out.

Thankfully the seas settled down and with the wind becoming more fluky, we dropped sails and motored directly toward the entrance to the Christiansted Harbor.

There is a split channel that leads around Protestant Cay... our intended anchorage was to port.  Bruce tidied up the sails while I guided the boat in and took a left.

We rounded the last channel marker and took a sharp left then circled around checking depths and distances from the many other boats anchored there.

We dropped the anchor, set it, and had ourselves a well deserved beverage.  We could have wished for better sailing conditions today... But it wasn't scary or dangerous... just kind of rowdy.  We were tired, but we were very glad to be here.


We expect a few days of very rainy weather followed by some days of exploring this seldom-visited island. We're in a beautiful place with an entire month stretching out before us in which we have nowhere to go and all month to get there!  Life is GOOD!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Someone Else's Vacation Pics

Well I know it's not always entertaining when someone tries to force you to sit through piles of vacation photos like it's just as much fun for you as it is for them... But if you're reading this blog... you must be a glutton for that kind of punishment.  That being said and since my Mom doesn't blog and didn't take ONE SINGLE PHOTO of her trip to visit us in Puerto Rico... Lets Hit the ROAD!!

We settled into the slip at The Yacht Club At Palmas del Mar just in time to fetch Mom from the San Juan Airport late evening on Monday.

After unpacking the baggage and seeing the goodies Mom brought us and getting her all dosed up with a Scopolamine Patch (yes, I know we're in a marina... but there WAS a bit of surge...), I think we all got a good night's sleep.  So what is the first thing any Cruiser shows their guests who arrive with a rental car?  The local Marine Chandleries of course!
Right across the street!!!
We hit two and then found the West Marine, where we ordered a new anchor.  It seems that we've discovered our 44 lb. Delta must have been damaged in El Derecho... a fact we didn't notice until walking in front of the boat with it in a marina... (don't judge)  So with pressing business out of the way... let's just throw the rest out there.

We kind of ate our way across Puerto Rico.  We took off on a driving tour, leaving the main highways (which made our blood pressure skyrocket) we very much enjoyed the twisting, climbing narrow mountain roads.

As we sped by this place with rumbling tummies, we noticed a large concentration of vehicles parked everywhere they could fit.  We decided that this must be a good way to find the Best-Kept-Secret type food establishment.  And we were RIGHT!

The workers labored over open fires beneath huge pots of boiling oil
We waited patiently in the long line that only got much longer after our timely arrival.... as we got closer to the menu board, we realized that the only word we recognized was taco.

We began to worry.  What will we order?  We have NO IDEA!!!  We started craning our necks to see what other people ordered and a kindly gentleman behind us began telling us what was what.  By the time we reached the counter (no english spoken) we were prepared!

One woman was in charge of stoking the fire
The long wait only improved our appetites after watching in fascination as the ladies made dish after dish of authentic traditional Puerto Rican foods... All from scratch and cooked over hot fires of burning... wood pallets.  Yes... Wood pallets!

A site NEVER before seen... MY MOTHER standing at a bar window ordering DRINKS!!!

Fresh Coconut for the ladies 

It's an acquired taste... I'm trying to acquire it!
This is a taco...
We ordered a pile of stuff and all shared it.  Everything was delicious and nothing other than the coconut was in the least good for us.  Good thing we don't have access to this place all the time!

After we gorged ourselves, we waddled across the street (no need to waste a good parking spot) to take a look at the beach.

The waves were crashing in with a brisk wind and it was pretty cloudy, but the beach was still wildly beautiful.

Moving on... The road took us up into the lush green mountains.  Continuing on with today's theme... Mom and I both insisted that Bruce stop the car when we passed a remote and obscure bakery.

The tiny towns scattered throughout the mountains almost all seemed to have one.  We are learning that they are full of delicate and delicious treasures...  We left there with almost one of everything and most were gone before we got back to the boat in the late afternoon.

As readers of my blog know, I love a stroll through a cemetery now and then.  I am in search of old gravesite and lovely monuments.  I don't know why...
Convenient graveside seating...

A man's grave is his castle?

Simple folk

Not sure what this is about...

Scary bird

But I can hardly pass one by.  This one didn't have many very old gravesite, but it did have at least one rather famous inhabitant.

Filiberto Ojeda Rios - reportedly a player in Puerto Rico's quest for independence.  It surprises me that this grave is left alone and that it's out here in some random out of the way little spot.  Rest In Peace Filiberto...

We continued on across mountain streams

We could see several huge waterfalls in the distance!

The sea in the distance
We were headed rather aimlessly for the back entrance to El Yunque National Rainforest.  I must tell you that as far as Puerto Rico goes... Google Maps kind of suck.  I can't tell you how many times this week we were led to a dead end, the back of a shopping mall, a blocked off or unfinished road... or just somewhere totally OTHER than what we requested...  But... at least it gave me a bird's-eye-view of wherever we happened to be and we were able to just wing it on that.  It was kind of an adventure and became laughable after many aborted attempts to find a short cut to someplace...

Towering tree ferns
Eventually we did find the rainforest park... but this entrance was closed for the season.  We had to park the car and hike a short distance in.  We were looking for Mina Falls and had no idea if we had found it or not... turns out not.  But we found a beautiful and secluded place where we were surrounded by towering tree ferns and stands of wild-growing bamboo.  We walked along moist shaded paths and the road took us to a cute little babbling brook where we stopped for a picnic lunch.
Mountain creek pool

Huge fallen leaves littered the forrest

Moss-covered everything!

Mountain paths into the forrest

Lush growth everywhere

Beautiful tropical plants

Doesn't this look like they're standing under a giant mossy chicken?

Flowers growing wild

And the tree ferns...

I told you it was a big leaf... didn't I?

Mother found these snails on the flowers

Something about escargot...


The closed off road was accessible only on foot

I saved this moth from a moth-eating-lizzard
We had a really peaceful lunch and of course that little babbling brook just begged to be explored.  I climbed up it's tiny falls and panned for gold in the little pools... Of course I found nothing but I KNOW with time, I could be rich!

Check "drinking-from-mountain-stream" off the bucket list!

Sifting rocks looking for gold

The end of the road for me... Not dressed for climbing
A fallen and battered wild orchid... still beautiful
It was turning out to be one of those days when you just wander around wherever chance takes you... enjoying the beauty around you and appreciating the company.  It was very nice having Mother come all this way all by herself to hang out with us.  She's our most devoted visitor!

I was fascinated by the fact that we found orchids growing wild.  I have tried growing them and failed miserably... This amazes me...

Frog EGGS!  We went in search of a rather vocal frog and found them!

Moving on... we left the rainforest park and began our descent back to sea level...

Mother wanted to see a beach.  We had our swimsuits on... so we went in search.  Sometimes you ask and you shall receive... we found this beach suddenly at our feet.

As we walked along we came to a part of the beach that was awash... I didn't know it at the time as we tried to step across what surely must be quicksand... but this is the mouth of the river we've been crossing and re-crossing all day up in the mountains!

We're big fans of Pinchos!

Orchids and razor wire...

Our days after that became a blur.  Mother tried getting off the boat onto the dock without assistance and ended up falling and injuring herself.  She skinned up her face, hands and legs, and unknown at the time, chipped a bone in her leg.

This was causing her a considerable amount of pain.  She tried to be a sport but after attempting to walk  the streets of Old San Juan... she decided to give it a rest and just take the trolley around the town.

We got off at the old fort and walked a bit but it wasn't going to work.  Bruce and I have been here before so we just got back on the trolley and rode the rest of the loop.

I think Mother got a pretty good look at the town.  Truth be told, there were so many people milling about, I was kind of glad to have an excuse to get out of the city!

While searching for a place to have lunch, we passed a man who was selling photos with his colorful birds.  My Mother LOVES birds.

Guy in black is hustling over to stop this bird touching!
She was drawn to them and began talking to them... one stepped up onto her hand just as the guy came hustling over to put a stop to this unauthorized (unpaid) bird-handling...

He gave us his sales pitch and Mother was hooked.  Bruce and I could tell she really wanted to have her pictures with the birds but didn't really want to pay what he asked.  We looked at each other and decided that since we had missed her 70th birthday... we would pay for her bird experience as our gift.

Must have Street Treats!
We walked a little bit around the waterfront area before retracing our steps to a restaurant near the parking garage...had a nice lunch and went back to the boat to relax and rest for another try tomorrow.

Tricked out school bus

The old wall down by the waterfront

Marina staff gave us a ride to the car in the golf cart!
Mother noticed cashews growing on the road side...
The next day Mother's leg was no better.  Her face was red and a little puffy and her leg was slightly swelled and painful.  Must have done too much walking in OSJ.  Still trying not to be a baby about it... we set out to do some more sight seeing...

They feel waxy/oily and smell heavenly!
We drove along the coast road

Bananas growing
This time, we headed the opposite direction.  We had passed the Tuna Point Lighthouse by sea on our way here... I wanted to go back and visit by land.

Mother made it about 100 ft before she turned back.  Her leg wasn't having it... So we left her in the car while Bruce and I continued on to the lighthouse point.

It was a nice view but the lighthouse was not open for tours.  We basically walked around the outside and returned to the car.

This is mine.  It has my teeth marks from trying to eat the frozen thing!
Before we got to the car, Bruce and I... well... I decided that we needed to find out what they were selling from the doorway of a nearby home.  These people have taken advantage of the fact that hoards of tourists park on their doorstep to go see the lighthouse.  They sell Limbers... frozen juice popsicles in many flavors.  They were $1 each for a small frozen cup.  We thought we were bringing Mother a treat until we reached the car and found her trying to finish one before we returned...

We laughed and she ate the one we bought for her too!

We continued on along the coast road on our way toward Ponce.  This was one of the stops along the southern coast that we did not hit.  Seeing it by car would tell us if we should try to return by boat or give it a miss... And it seemed like as good a place to go as any...

The view was better than the food unfortunately...
Soon we passed another small off-the-beaten-path restaurant with lots of cars all around...  STOP!  Must be lunchtime!  I'm developing a love of Puerto Rican street food!

We gazed at the goodies under the heat lamp before taking a look at the menu.  Bruce ordered chicken but Mom and I picked out some fried goodies from the box out front.

We also ordered two small dishes of Mofongo.  What is this Mofongo that everyone keeps telling us about???

Very appetizing... NOT
We have seen it on the menu in almost every restaurant we've visited... Facebook friends keep telling us that we HAVE to try it!  So we did!

I'm not going to say that we didn't like this Puerto Rican staple.. but lets just say that after the Limbers and the other fried food we had just eaten... we weren't very hungry anymore... So the Mofongo was left behind...  Been-there-done-that...

We never did get as far as Ponce.  The road we took up into the mountains was long.  We went from roads with two digit names, to roads with three digit names... to roads with four digit names... The number of digits in the name is indicative of the size and condition of the road.  The more digits, the more dicey the road.

We passed a small mountain lake... did not know there were lakes up there!

We wound up and up and up...Bruce was having fun, hands gripping the wheel... provoking the occasional squeal from me as we whipped around a hairpin curve with oncoming traffic...

We blew through one tiny town after another... past a big tree...

What?  Wait!  WHAT???  Go back to that tree!  That is the most awesome tree I've ever seen!!!

But Bruce wouldn't stop... we continued on past this town built on the side of a river ravine.

I wonder about the lives of these people living in these little bitty places tucked into the mountainsides.  What must it be like to grow up here?  I will never know...

We crossed the river just past the houses and the road turned sharply upward.  We could hardly maneuver our weak-spirited little rental car around this curve, much less get it to go up that steep hill.  Further up we could see that this four digit road turned to dirt.

Bruce  balked.  He is usually a pretty good sport about most things.  Sure, he gets crabby sometimes.  Having his mother-in-law come stay with us on a small boat would be enough to make a saint crabby, but Bruce has done pretty well all things considered... but at THIS... he balks!  Nope, not going up there.

But Bruce, it's the road home.  It goes up over the mountaintop and down the other side.  We have to go.  Nope.  We're turning back...

Well GOOD!  Now we can stop and take a closer look at that TREE!!!

I learned afterward that it was a Kapok tree.  We parked on the narrow roadside so that Bruce and I... well... I could go and climb around on this marvelous tree.  I think that this tree should be on the Top-Ten-Things-To-Do-In-Puerto-Rico... if only I could tell you where it WAS!!!

How many tree pictures does one need?  The world may never know...

Back through the dozens of little towns
I'm sad to say I found NO Keebler Elves... but had a blast looking!  By this time it was late afternoon and we still had miles to go back to our home...  No Ponce for us!

Back at the boat awe all collapsed.  Touristing is hard work for people who aren't used to getting out and about much.

By this point Mom was getting pretty tired and sore.  Her leg was aching and her whole body was rejecting this mistreatment.

We decided to call an end to our ramblings and just hang out.  We did some provisioning and had happy hour at the poolside.  No pictures of that for whatever reason... Our time with Mother was coming to a close as was our marina stay.  We would take her back to the airport in the morning and leave for parts unknown in the afternoon.

It was a great visit even if we broke my Mother!!!  I'm looking forward to next time! Love you Mom! Thanks for coming to see us!