Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Living Aboard In Foreign Cities - Puerto Rico Summer Part II

Moments before we said "I DO" 2004
During our time in Salinas we celebrated three anniversaries.  Bruce and I were married on July 18, 2004.  We celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary quietly with another couple who were also celebrating... with dinner out... on a Thursday.  Our anniversary was the following Monday but since no restaurants are open here in our little town on Mondays... we moved it.

In October we celebrated our birthdays. Plural. Remember Bruce and I are two Libras... both being born on the 17th of October and thus the name of our boat... Dos Libras.  Our plans to have dinner out were foiled once again by it being a Monday...  So we thought maybe we would take a break from boat projects and dinghy out to Cayo Matias and do some snorkeling... But our outboard was out of commission... so we were homebound.  We spent the day doing what we do every day with the exception of having a most delicious carrot cake to mark the celebration.

Between those two... our Cruising Clock clicked over into our fourth year.  We started cruising on September 30, 2013.  Three full years and with the end of each of them I have done blog posts about our expenses.  I believe that sharing this information is important so that others can have a realistic idea of how much cruising costs.  I break down the expenses into categories so that others can carve out things that won't pertain to them and add it all up.  My blog is packed full of detailed descriptions of what we do and how we live... And if someone wants to live and cruise like we do... THIS is how much it may cost.

These posts are always met with great interest.  As I write this post there have been 2,363 hits on this year's cruising costs.  People wanna KNOW!!!  Most of the feedback I get is respectful but there was this one person, another cruiser... who has cruised for 15 years aboard a 50 ft boat for about $1000 per month.  They did say that they cruised Central America, which makes a HUGE difference... but they accused me of discouraging others who would be cruisers... AND the kicker... they compared their "living the cruising life" as opposed to our "live aboard a boat in a foreign city".

I fumed for days.  There is no way anyone can accuse me of discouraging others from going cruising... but to encourage them by dangling unrealistic ideas of how much this life will cost is, in my opinion... criminal.  That is why there are SO many "derelict" boats clogging up our waterways.  People thought they could live on a boat for cheap... and now those boats are falling apart along with their owner's dreams...

YES you can cruise for less than we do... but you won't live the life we do on much less.  Anyone can flip back through our long and informative blog posts to compare how we live with how they wish to live, and then decide.

Yes we DO Live-aboard-a-boat-in-foreign-cities during the summer months... but we actively cruise to new places the rest of the year.  And you know what?  That's OK. Remove the cost of marinas from our total and it is STILL more than $1,000 per month.

I make no apologies for the way we cruise, nor do I pretend to know the best way to do any of it.  To each his own...  You must know yourself.  But I will tell you that we spend a LOT more than we thought we would.  There are ways we could cut back, but it would decrease our comfort and enjoyment of this life.  And who wants to do this if they aren't going to be comfortable and enjoy it???

So far our time has been spent in the US, Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean.  And while we have seen some boats that are smaller than ours, the majority of the boats we see out here cruising are our size or larger.  Boats cost money to maintain.  The blogs and Facebook pages are FULL of ongoing boat projects in exotic places... and that costs big bucks.  Smaller boats cost less to maintain.  But if your personal comfort requires some time in a marina now and then and having nice dinners both aboard and ashore... then you're going to pay for it.  There are no medals being given for martyrdom out here.

This is our life.  Call it "cruising"... or call it Living aboard... but please don't call me out for our lifestyle.  E is probably very nice... and some day we may very well meet them somewhere... Perhaps on that day they will share their detailed expenses with us for comparison... I couldn't find it on their blog.

OK. Rant over.  Sorry you had to witness that but Sheesh!  Will we EVER be GOOD ENOUGH???  Evidently not.

So, on with our summer.  By this time we began to realized that all of the boat projects we had hoped to complete were still on the list.  The combination of unlimited free wi-fi and air conditioning... and the fact that the weather was either windy, hot or rainy... well, that was all the excuse we needed for procrastination of massive proportions.

We cut the glass away from the frame...
That's not to say that we frittered away all of our summer.  We took advantage of a sunny day and got to work on the leaky hatch above our saloon.

We've been carrying around the sealant we planned to use for this project since LAST summer...

painstakingly removed all of the old sealant and cleaned the surfaces...

We dug out all of the old sealant and cleaned the surfaces well.  We watched a youtube video and decided to use butyl tape to seat the glass...

Then we taped both sides and applied the sealant into the crevices between the glass and the frame.

When it was all done and the tape removed... we thought it looked pretty good.  We weren't sure if the black sealant was applied correctly and suspected that there may be air pockets that would provide water with a way to get in...

But it had been so difficult to  squeeze the stuff out we did the best we could.  We used a finger to press it down into the crevice and in some places added additional sealant.

There really wasn't any information on the sealant tube that told us how long we should wait for curing.  We reinstalled the frame on the cabin top thinking it would dry nicely in the sunshine... Unfortunately it began to cloud up and rain so we had to hurriedly cover it with a trash bag... which the wind whipped around causing the black sticky stuff to get all over the place.

To say that we were disappointed with the look of it would be an understatement.  We checked it periodically over several days and finally found it dry enough to remove the plastic... and the next time it rained... it leaked.  Crap.  So I guess we will get to redo this project at some later date.

Another of my day projects that may not have turned out so well was mixing together the many ingredients I've been collecting for making my own sunscreen.

We snorkel in and around reefs throughout the islands and the condition of the coral is dismal in more places than not.  We want to do our part in reducing the damage by NOT using commercial sunscreens that can damage the coral.

But we have to have something to keep our legs from burning... I'm still testing but preliminary use has found little difference between areas where this sunscreen has been a applied and areas with no sunscreen at all... except for the grease...   I will do a post on this if I find out differently after further testing...

Even though our time was dwindling down... and our to-do list was not...we still made time to have some fun.  We got our outboard going again with the help of Steve, a local guy here in Salinas.

He took our carburetor apart and found that the last time we had it "repaired" by Salty Sam's back in Fort Myers Beach... in March of 2014... This part was left out.  He couldn't believe that it had run at all but it explained why the gas kept being forced up into our engine by the sun heating the gas tank... causing the carburetor to be flooded every time we stopped unless we disconnected the fuel line.  Every time.  For MONTHS!

Anyway, we got it all fixed and took advantage of our smooth running dinghy to go out to Cayo Matias to test our new Tribord Masks.

Plantains growing along Hwy 1
Also still on our to-do list are many places here in Puerto Rico that we wish to visit.  We rented a car and took a road trip to the Dry Forrest west of Ponce.

Staying off of the main highways has become a goal for me so much that I have honed my skill almost to an art form...  If there is any way we can reach our destination and stay off of the traffic ridden toll roads, we're taking it.

Bags over the bunches to keep critters away
Seeing the agricultural fields all along Highway 1 between Salinas and Ponce is a delight... and on this day we actually had time to pull over and take some pictures!

Workers in the Yucca fields

They grow yucca and make the roots into many different foods

Papaya also growing in a field alongside the road. 
Lots of Papaya...
Sugarcane growing among the Wind Turbines
Once past Ponce, one of the major cities in Puerto Rico, we drove out in the direction of the coast  We were looking for the now defunct Guanica Lighthouse.  It was on the Google map but as we wound our way back toward the coast we wondered if we would ever find it... we couldn't see it!  Suddenly there it was!

It stood back from the coastline further than we expected but I guess it was high up on the hill enough to allow ships to see it as they entered Guanica Bay.  Once again, we were amazed at being allowed to just wander around through this historic site... no roped off parts, no admission fees.  The quiet was so peaceful that we whispered to keep from disturbing it as we explored the ruins of what once must have been a beautiful home.

Trees and shrubs have taken over inside the main room

Looking up from the bottom of the turret.  The stairs are long gone.

Huge windows would have provided a stunning view for the keeper and his family.

Hardly any structure left of the ceiling and roof

Some local artists have been hard at work here...

After the lighthouse we continued on along the coast road looking for the beach.

We found nice public infrastructure with nobody around to enjoy it.

Still looking for the Dry Forrest... whatever that is... (it's the opposite of a rainforest) backtracked and found the entrance to the front of the State Park.

This park is a huge area of low trees and thick shrubs.  There are numerous hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty throughout the park.

Trails are all out in the brush
But in mid summer... it was HOT.  There was no way I was going to get Bruce to participate in any sort of hiking though dry sunny brush.  So we took a look around the park entrance and left it for another day.

There it is!
Did I mention that when we reserved this rental car there was no mention of any threat of hurricane in the forecast... but as our rental day approached there was a low developing off the coast of Africa?  Didn't mention it?  Didn't think so...

This was the last day of clear skies for the foreseeable future and we didn't know how long it would last.  Throughout the day we kept a close eye on the radar and by mid afternoon it looked like we had just enough time to get back to the boat before the "weather" started.  The clouds were gathering as we sped along the coast toward the marina...  We made it back just in the nick of time as the rain began within an hour of getting settled in.

By now it was the end of September and we had hoped our hurricane season was over.  It had been going so well...  But we had been warned that late season storms could pop up when you least expect it.  What worried us was that we had purchased plane tickets for Bruce's trip to Kansas to see his family for October 4th.  It was now September 28th and THIS!

All indications showed the storm passing far enough to our south that we would get rain and maybe some wind in the 30-50 knot range... but that's all.

It was moving slowly and building strength and the entire Northern Caribbean, Bahamas and US East and Gulf coasts watched as this monster continued to build.

We waited and watched as one band after another poured rain on our deck and tossed us about in our slip.

Matthew. September 30, 2016.

We struggled with our relief that it had passed us by, knowing that our friends in Ile A Vache would not be so lucky.

The storm was to take a turn northward and barrel through the passage between Haiti and Cuba... possibly hitting one or the other directly.

It would then plow up through the Bahamas where so many of our cruising friends were scrambling to make their boats ready.

Then the entire East Florida Coast could expect to get their fair share of this amazing storm.

I could think of nothing else as we remained glued to the computer screen.  I couldn't believe the anguish I felt at the damage this storm would do to those poor people we met in Haiti.  It looked more and more like they would be getting it all... Floods, landslides, destruction, homelessness... These people had so little to begin with...  How can they recover from this?

While all of this was playing out... Bruce packed up to leave.  I would be holding down the fort now that we knew Puerto Rico was in the clear.

Matthew and his girlfriend Nicole...
I drove Bruce to the airport in our rental car and tried to think about what I would do while he was away... besides worry...

On the way home I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fresh foods to eat.  Bruce isn't all that into fruits so I ate it for days!

So what did I do while Bruce was gone for a WEEK???

I watched movies and I worked on my collection of Courtesy Flags!

Hurricane Matthew did less damage than was expected in the Bahamas as it stayed offshore until it got near the northern Bahamas.  Then the East coast of the US was skimmed with the storm staying just offshore as well.

It looped up and over to take another pass at the Bahamas but by this time conditions for strengthening had dissipated and it slowly just disappeared.  Good riddance!

Surely that will be the end of storms for us...  Never say never.

Bruce returned home bearing gifts.  Well, being a wonderful gift giver has never been one of his strong suits... but he knows what I like!  He lugged a tired old burger from Whataburger in the Houston airport all the way home to me.  So while he ate the savory and delicious homecoming dinner I had prepared for him... I ate my cold but still-reminiscent-of-its-former-glory... Cheeseburger!

Laundry done by someone else!
We fell right back into the swing of things.  Our original departure date of October 14th now pushed back to November 14th to accommodate a visit by my #1 Daughter and her husband... we turned our attention to wrapping up loose ends.

Finally finished all of my Courtesy Flags!

A couple of days after Bruce's return, another storm surprised us.  We were getting used to days and days of rainy weather.  This kept us from getting outside to do the boat chores and we had just finished the final touches on the flags...

At just about cocktail hour we suddenly felt the boat blow sideways.  WTF???

Bruce popped his head out to look around while I got the radar on the iPad going.  It didn't look like much but when we turned on the instruments, we saw winds gusting to 50 knots with sustained 30-40s.

It grew dark and we sat down below just hoping that our feelings of security in being tied to a dock weren't unfounded...  The wind was blowing from almost directly to starboard.  The cleats on these tired old docks were not great, but our worst one was to port which wasn't bearing any weight.  However... there was a much larger and heavier boat that would squish us if their cleats didn't hold...finally the wind subsided and we went to bed.

The next morning we went outside to see if there were any boats that dragged in the anchorage... and found this!

Not only had our board holding the cleat come off the dock... so had our neighbor's.  The big boat?  Yes.  And I don't know how the thin line that held their dinghy had kept their huge boat off of us, but it had!

Perhaps our poor dinghy that was tied between us got nudged a little as well... but there was no damage, other than being halfway submerged from holding all of that rainwater!

The neighbors from the big boat came home after all was calm and found both boards still tied to out boats...floating in the water.  They rescued the boards and tied the lines to the dock.  Thanks Cindy and Lee!
Pumping out the rainwater and putting the bench seat back in its brackets.  
Just wow!  The whole marina was talking about this freak storm!

By this time, Salinas had become home to us.  We looked to the protective mountains with fondness and familiarity.  Their ever-changing beauty was ours.  We were no longer on a trip... this was no longer a destination and we really had no place in mind that we were hot to go.  The time had come for us to begin doing normal "life" things here, or wherever we happened to be.

All summer long we had been perplexed by our inability to make a decision about where we would go next.  Suddenly Panama popped up on our radar.  So we began doing some research about it and you know what?  It seems as good a destination as any.  Something must provide us with a direction in which to point our bow... so this is it, for now...

Bikerack cats!  If this cat was a female I would have taken her home!
With the newfound normalcy came the next unexpected event... Bruce had a toothache.  We asked around and found a good dentist right next to our grocery store!  After several attempts to get there on a day that the Dentist was in the office... we finally made it.  We were very happy with our visit and the cost!

Quaker Parrots fly free here in Puerto Rico
We had one more little weather event... just like the last one, we were not prepared in advance for this.  At least it was daylight so we could see all that was happening.  Just like last time, the wind hit suddenly, knocking us aside...  I grabbed the camera and ran out on deck while Bruce turned on the wind instrument.

This time no boards came loose... I guess they were newly nailed in and held better.  The wind was as high or higher than last time and the rain came in sheets!  But we have to congratulate ourselves again for our choice of places to spend hurricane season.  Even with 50 knot winds the seas were flat here in Bahia de Salinas.

Well with all of this rain we had to take advantage of it when the sun did shine!  A woman we only know though Facebook contacted us and invited us out for a day of sightseeing!  Always ready to meet new friends, especially LOCALS... we agreed.  Victoria and Burton arrived and we showed them around the boat then we all set out for a day of touristing.  And do you know where we took them?  Our favorite spot here on the island, La Soplaera Falls!

The first falls was barely dribbling this time...

I looked down and saw GOLD!  It turned out to be foil wrappings from a candy bar...  Disappointed...

Victoria and Burton  Vicki is from Argentina and Burton is from Puerto Rico

We led them through the treacherous part...

You have to cling to the wall by hanging onto roots

No FEAR!!! Go Vicki!

Can you imagine anyplace more perfect?

We stopped at a waterside restaurant for some strong Puerto Rican coffee and a view on the way home
Thank you so much Vicki and Burton for reaching out to us.  I'm going to improve my Spanish by keeping in touch with both of these kids on Facebook!

We got lucky to have La Soplaera falls all to ourselves on a Saturday... Normally the locals are everywhere on weekends so we hide on our boat!  But earlier in the week we had lucked into a bargain and we wanted to use our new toy!

One of the other Cruisers here in Salinas, Smidgen, was selling their blow-up kayak.  It came with a storage bag, seats and paddles... We couldn't wait to get out on the water with it.

After so many weeks with either windy or rainy weather, we couldn't afford to pass up this windless flat-water day... even if it WAS Sunday!

We paddled happily all the way around the mangroves that line the channel into the basin.

We tied the kayak off off to a tiny mangrove and snorkeled around...still loving our masks!

But time was running out.  Our kids would be here soon...and then we would leave the marina.  Where had the summer gone?  Why had we procrastinated???  The flags were done but renovation of the dinghy chaps wasn't...

I started with a cover for the seat... I sewed the flotation padding scavenged from a discarded storage bag we replaced...inside the seat for added comfort!

The strips of padding were perfect and the seat cover looks Great!

Unfortunately I didn't have enough new green material to do all of the rest of the alterations...

I worked for three days, fitting, cutting, scratching my head and biting my lips...

I needed to cut three inches from the length... and patch all of the handle holes...then cut new ones and hopefully use the material from the old facings on the new holes.

I got about halfway done when time ran out.

Miles of seam ripping...

Patience is not one of Jezabelle's virtues...

The kids were on our island and they would need a place to sleep very soon... So we packed all away and got the guest room ready for our visitors.

This is a special sunrise.  It is the sunrise on November 9th, 2016... A day that will be spoken of down through history forever.

Not because it is the day the name of the First Woman POTUS was announced... But because....well, you know.  But the sun DID rise and we must carry on.  Hope for good things in the future is priority two...

For now we are full into entertainment mode!  Late the next day, after we somehow transformed our onboard storage room into a guest room... My daughter and her husband arrived!

So what did we do for four days?  Continue on and see!

First we drove around in the rainforest...

We visited Arecibo Observatory... a treat that we had been saving for when the kids were here...

We had a very well-informed tour guide
You can read about it at the link above if you wish, but the short version is that this is a site that was built in the 60s to listen for signs of life from outer space.

The Observatory was the scene of a James Bond Movie, Goldeneye was filmed here.  Our tour guide even told us a story about how Pierce Brosnan had started out along the catwalk and was paralyzed by fear, not having realized that the floor grate was see-through.  He had to be assisted off the walkway and a stunt double finished those scenes in his place.

I can totally imagine being paralyzed by fear of heights and don't blame him one bit.
His is a close up of the metal mesh that makes up the dish.  It doesn't need to be clean in order to work.

This is a special shoe that must be worn whenever walking down into the dish is needed for maintenance. 

This is a sample of the hollow air-cooled wire used for managing the Gregorian Dome.  

One of the three concrete legs that hold the cables suspending the dome

The "extra credit" crowd

Looks kind of dirty and even has plants growing up through the bottom.  This does not affect reception. 

My daughter and her husband!

The cables are used to move the dome so that it can be aimed to a particular part of the sky.  The dome can send or receive radio waves that measure many things, including the path and expected interception of approaching asteroids.

There are scientists listening around the clock in this, the largest of its kind... in the world.

There are rumors that the Observatory is doomed for defunding in the near future, which would be such a shame.  I wish there was something we could do to keep it going... If aliens are headed our way... I wanna KNOW!

Next up on our educational tour... we backtracked to Cueva Ventana where we donned hardhats and followed a small crowd down into the earth.

Please enjoy this story in the pictures below.

There were quite a few steep stairways and trails involved.

Inside the first large chamber which is open on one side

Rockin' the hardhat look... It's harder than you would think!

The first of several Taino Indian Petroglyphs in the cave

One last look back at the entrance before we go into the dark hole!

The other end of the cave

Small plants trying to live in the weak available sunlight

More Petroglyphs

Seems the Tainos had a sense of humor...

Columns still in progress

Next cave is even deeper, with a very steep climb to get down inside

Can I have this rock?  No.

No more stalling... get down into the hole!  We made let the young ones go first!

Last chance to turn back... there are BATS and SPIDERS and SNAKES down here!

No shining light at the ceiling, it upsets the bats!  We could hear them and see them in the indirect light... CREEPY!

Finally the light at the end of the tunnel we had been waiting for...

The famous Ventana Window

Looking back inside the cave

The window onto the world below.

Happy Cavers!

Looks like the Tainos had big ears!

Bat Guano.  A BIG pile of it!

The bridge far below that I wanted to cross..,  The river is running high from recent rains

Last ones in and the first ones out!

Also first to wash the bat guano off of our shoes!
I can never pass up a cave and my Son-in-law shares this passion... even if our spouses do not.  I just wish we had time to drive down into the valley below and cross the bridge...  Next time.

We had barely made it in time to join the 1:00 group so we were starving by the time the tour ended.  We were grateful for the roadside Pincho stand just outside the cave entrance...

Bruce and I are well used to eating street food... but the kids are having a little more difficulty in adjusting to the lack of regulation here in the islands.  But they were starving so they made an exception.

They were much more accepting of the daily visits to the local bakery... where we dined on delicious and beautiful sandwiches and pastries.

Our time with our kids and our time in Salinas was down to mere hours... Tomorrow the kids would leave and we would abandon the slip that had been our home for four months.

We had time for one more outing to show the kids the falls that had become one of our favorite places.. La Soplaera.

This time there was a little more water coming down.  The spot where the stream rushes between the wall and the rocks was a little more treacherous and we decided not to risk injury...

We settled for wading in the lower pool... which was still quite nice.

Later in the afternoon we packed the kids off back to San Juan where they would continue their visit and catch a very early flight the next morning.

We had planned on leaving the slip but the marina was nice enough to allow us one more night with air conditioning without paying extra...

The next morning we got up early and moved out of our slip and back into Cruiser Mode.

Manatee surfacing in the bay
That's it!  Our summer of Living aboard in Foreign Cities was over and our lives as "Real Cruisers" resumed.  We loved living in Puerto Rico for the Summer of 2016.  If we don't make it down to Panama for some reason, we may very well return here... maybe for GOOD!

Gotta love Salinas!

Supermoon rising over Playita


  1. WOW what more can I say....Wonderful report and so much info...Thanks a million.

    1. As always Richard, thanks and I hope this gives you more for your notes This is the best place to be for Hurricane season in the Caribbean.