Thursday, December 1, 2016

Puerto Rican Velcro

Sleepy little anchorage at Puerto Patillas
Back when we first began cruising we stopped at a little spot along the ICW in Florida called Vero Beach... aka Velcro Beach.  We ended up staying there way longer than we had intended and even spending our second Cruising Christmas with the other Cruisers there.

Fast forward two years and here we are moving along the southern coast of Puerto Rico headed for the USVI or maybe BVI where we think we might spend Christmas...  (insert sound of a screeching halt)... wait...what???

"Oh isn't that the place where Janis and Don live?" they said...  "Oh they're nice, go to the purple house!" they said...  Not wanting to impose, we were hesitant to just dinghy on up to someone's home and knock on the door...

But everyone said we should... so we did!

Don and Janis opened their home to us with such exuberance as we have never known.  They welcome practical strangers (although Janis and I were Facebook friends) and showed us kindness and generosity we have seldom experienced... beginning with one single happy hour!

Janis has collected a bit of sea glass...
At some point during that evening Janis asked us if we were staying for Thanksgiving... as of of COURSE we were staying for Thanksgiving...  My initial reaction was "Oh no, that's a long time away..."  But when she reminded me that it was later this week...  Wow, we really don't have any idea what day it is, do we???  

Well, when you put it that way.  YES!  We're staying for Thanksgiving!

This was the start of a two week period during which we shared laughs and dinners aboard our boat and ashore at the purple house.  We left our soggy, rain-soaked boats and took shelter in the warm dry comfort where we cooked and dined and tried to make ourselves useful.


The sun did shine eventually

Thanksgiving day arrived...
What did we do all week besides visit with the neighbors and eat?  We did some minor boat projects and Janis took us to town on shopping expeditions.  We had to stock up on ingredients for our individual offerings for the meal.

PLUS we got to shop at Costco and Sam's Club for provisioning items since we are soon headed for the more costly areas of the Caribbean.  Thanks JANIS!!!

Thanksgiving Day arrived in a flash!

Be thankful for what you have...

Because it could all be gone in an instant!

We had more than a dozen people in and out throughout the day.

We watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade... I can't tell you the last time we've had a chance to partake in this tradition...

Little birds come to the house for sugar...

This one went for the muffins!

Don't use the sugar by the coffee pot... it's for the BIRDS!
All day long the men worked on repairing the dock that had been damaged (seriously damaged) in a storm.

Don had all of the materials prepared and they hauled lumber, measured, drilled, leveled, pounded and screwed at a frenzied pace.

Just between you and me... I didn't think they would ever make those snaggeldy pipes into a dock...

But as the day progressed it began to take shape!

Friendly neighborhood iguana passing through...
Melted marshmallows... Cruiser problems!
It was hard work but the men all pulled together and got it done!  It was a small payback for all of the kindness Don and Janis extend to the Cruising community!  
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen... The ladies were putting the finishing touches on the meal.  Janis and Don provided the majority of the food, but everyone who attended threw in their traditional favorites. I brought Yams with marshmallow on top.  You people who are enjoying the snowy days and cold weather don't know just how lucky you are!  YOUR marshmallows are probably not melted together in an unappetizing lump!
But... when all is said and done, we surveyed our feast and thanked our host and hostess... and then we all dug in!

Missing the holidays with our families is one of the most difficult parts of Cruising.  It just isn't possible to be there with our loved ones who are scattered far and wide.

So in the absence of our first choice... the fact that we have the opportunity to celebrate the season of giving with people who are SO GOOD at giving...

made THIS Friendsgiving even better!

After the holiday things settled into a routine.  The men continued working on the dock or did individual boat projects during the day...

And we gathered together for dinners at the house.  We took turns cooking, which was nice.  It was almost like eating out, but in a more relaxed setting.  We got to know one another better every day.

I guess Janis got tired of listening to me complain about all this eating with so little exercise... because she offered to take me out for a walk to see the reef one day.  I jumped at the chance!

Where Palm Trees come from...

Together we went on an expedition through muddy mangrove trails in search of the beach.

It seemed as if we had gone a long way... but when we finally reached the beach and looked back toward the bay, we hadn't actually ventured very far at all...

Janis and I enjoyed some "girl time" as we combed the beach for shells and sea glass.

When we eventually returned home, hot and with aching feet... the guys were just about to send out a search party.  We had been gone over three hours!  But it was good to get out and just walk the beach with a friend.  I needed that!

Eventually the urge to move on struck us.  We consulted the weather and realized that conditions would be good for rounding the difficult point at the SE end of the island on Friday...

The awesome dock almost finished!

During our stay we had offered our defunct Fisher Panda to one of the other Cruisers... Mike.  We told him that if he could get it out of the boat... he could have it for free!  We just wanted it GONE!

Hearing that we had suddenly moved up our departure date... or at least actually SET one... threw him into action!  He came over in the afternoon to get things disconnected and ready for the extraction...

We were very impressed with Mike's work.  He was careful not to make a mess or damage anything on the boat.  He cleaned up as he went... but the most impressive thing he did was to keep up a running commentary of what he was doing and what he was going to do.

It made us feel secure that he knew what he was doing and it also advised us of exactly what was going on at every stage.

He got things disconnected and made sure to plug the fuel line and label everything so that there would be no questions about what was what should we wish to replace the generator at some point.

The next morning he and another Cruiser in the bay, Pat, came over early for the final move.

Once again, Mike talked through it all so that everyone knew what was going to happen, and slowly... the heavy piece of junk machinery was lifted up and out of our engine room and onto his boat waiting alongside.

When he was done, the cleanup was minimal and there was NO damage to our boat.  What a relief!

You might think that getting this dead weight out of our boat was enough!  But not so.  We had asked to borrow a wrench large enough to tighten our leaking rudder post packing...

Not only did Mike bring his tools over, but he took charge and after discovering that tightening wouldn't fix the leak... he replaced the packing with new... from his own stock... and got us all dry and tidy.

So as part of our payment for his generosity and skill... we all went out for dinner on our last night in Patillas.

Just down the street is a little spot that sells delicious chicken wings for $10 for 40 WINGS!!!  Yes!  And the beers were cheap too!  We enjoyed our last meal together until the rain began which caused us to make a hasty exit back to our respective boats.

Janis and Don got detained in town and weren't able to join us for our last hurrah...  So we missed the goodbye hugs.

We will really miss this place.  The protected anchorage, the unfailing welcome of our host and hostess... the new friends.  Hopefully we will see them all again, and soon, in another anchorage somewhere along the way.  And although the pull of this Puerto Rican Velcro is strong, we must go at sunrise.

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