Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Falling For Puerto Rico

Boqueron, Puerto Rico
18 01.3N 67 10.6W

It’s amazing how your state of mind or experiences can colour your opinion of a place. The only place we didn’t have 100% great memories of from our trip was Puerto Rico, on our first visit a year ago, despite great company and visitors, we experienced two robberies, traveled against the wind and had very ordinary weather. Well, this time around, we sailed downwind, had no robberies and perfect weather. We loved it!

From Culebrita we had three great day sails to Ponce, we even used our spinnaker for the first time in 17 months. It has been sitting in the locker under threat of sale as it takes up way too much space and is too hard to use in anything other than perfect conditions.
Having perfect conditions we put it up and sailed along under it, overtaking a fellow cruiser who was motoring because there was too little wind and complaining to his buddy boat about how miserable everything was. By the time we got to the anchorage we had decided to keep it after all, "it’s such a great and useful sail".
15 minutes later when we finally got it down, my (Tim) hands were burnt and blistered, the radar reflector bracket was bent and I had run out of swear words. It immediately went back on the must sell list – permanently! Luckily we got some great photos while it was up!

In Ponce we took advantage of the US style shopping to re-provision at the largest and cheapest supermarkets you can imagine - jumbo boxes of chocolate chip cookies for the night watches ahead, steaks for the first time in a year and all the essentials at rock bottom prices. The only down side was the beer, Puerto Rican men despite the macho car driving, swaggering, posturing and phallic speed boat owning only like 2 beers, Coors Lite or the local version Medalla Light and if that’s not bad enough they can’t drink a whole one so sell it in 290ml cans, which are frustratingly 1-2 mouthfuls short of a proper beer (that said Gareth, maybe this is the answer to your prayers!).

From Ponce we had a great sail to Boqueron averaging 8.6 knots going dead downwind on a sunny day – heaven. Boqueron is the jumping off point for boats heading back NW and the arrival point for those coming the other way down the “Thorny Path”. Our good friends Roy & Doon on Bold Endeavour who are heading south had arrived the day before so we had a great week catching up with them, while waiting on a weather window to head off.

We hired a car for a few days for a trip to San Juan, touring the heritage listed old city, looking at the forts and generally just marvelling at the architecture. The whole area has been lovingly preserved and renovated and is well worth a visit.

The next day Roy & Doon needed to do their food shopping, so we drove to Ponce with them and Linda and I did something we had long forgotten - “fun” shopping! We bought ourselves a few items of clothing to replace the rags we’ve been proudly wearing for 2 years, and not all of them from Wal Mart either.

I (Linda) realised how detached I have become from the consumer lifestyle we used to leadwhen, while choosing a few (very trendy) tops from the $5 rack (or 3 for $10) I came across a REALLY nice one. Tried it, loved it, it was simply perfect. Then I looked at the price tag and saw it must have been misplaced because it was priced at $14. Oh no, what a shame, it’s soooo nice I thought and was about to put it back when it suddenly hit me! $14 would have been the deal of the century only a few years back and now I’m thinking twice about getting it. I felt good I must say. (PS; In the photo I’m wearing one of the 3 for $10 tops, it will take a very special occasion for me to wear the other one!)

Then on 29 April it was time to wave good bye, Roy & Doon heading for the Caribbean and all the excitement that holds and us contemplating the 1,800 mile trip back to Chesapeake Bay to slip Matsu for our trip to the UK. It was sad to wave them off but such is the cruising life. We’re getting use to it slowly but always painfully.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day Out In Puerto Rico

Culebrita, Spanish Virgin Islands
18 19.2N 65 13.7W

The nice shiny new computer that we use for navigation died on us for the second time in 12 months and while Captain Cook traveled the world without one, we’re not quite there yet and are feeling very exposed to navigation hazards without it.

Fortunately it’s still under warranty, unfortunately the warranty is only valid in US territory (!?) so we headed to Puerto Rico to send it off to be fixed.

From the BVIs, we had a great sail stopping for a night in the US Virgin Islands before arriving in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, where for the first time since September 2008, we stayed in a marina. A day of luxury one could think but not for us!

At 7 AM Linda was enjoying (!) the launderette facilities, Tim was running around hiring a car and getting the propane tanks refilled. By 9.30 AM we were delivering the computer and hitting the shops. By 2 PM we were back at the marina offloading all the goodies found in the land of plenty, by 3 PM it was all stowed away, the water tanks were refilled and we were very, very happy to untie Matsu from the dock and leave for the Spanish Virgin Islands.

We rendezvoused with our friends Dave and Donna of Magic in Culebra and spent a few wonderful lazy days with them. Once again, we are parting from dear cruising friends but, as seems to be the rule, we will meet up again very soon, this time in Annapolis, their adopted home town and where we’re planning to leave Matsu during our “working holiday” in England.

After Magic set off for the USA, we passed some very relaxing days in Culebrita, a simply perfect little island rating high on our top ten beach destinations. A picture perfect island complete with palm trees, rock pools, white sand and crystal clear water. Not a bad place to wait for the computer to be repaired!

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Holidays In The BVIs

Guana Island, BVIs
18 27.9N 64 34.3W

One casualty of our change of plans, was the chance to catch up with Duncan, Pippa and the kids in Antigua over Easter, but as a compromise Duncan managed to fly out to join us in the BVIs on his way to Antigua.

We had a great week sailing round the BVIs, the weather was kind with blue skies and gentle winds, and the islands as gorgeous as ever - short sails in sheltered waters from great anchorage to great anchorage, the only possible complaint being the number of charter boats sharing the water with us, but even then there are still plenty of relatively quiet anchorages.

The days passed with rum cocktails, snorkeling and beach life, and the evenings with the devious dice game Perudo. Linda proved to be the champion, psychologically destroying Duncan and I over the week with her bluffing and strategy.

From here we are off to Puerto Rico to drop off the computer for repair and then on to the Bahamas and the USA for the end of June.
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