Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome back to the Bahamas!

Wow, its good to be back. On Saturday Jan 17th we made it to Abraham’s Bay in Mayaguana. The shallow five-mile long bay requires good lighting to navigate through it and with a rainstorm approaching, we dropped anchor for the night just inside the entrance of the bay. The next morning we motored in to check-in with Custom’s and Immigration. To our surprise, there was another sailing yacht in the anchorage. We made sure not to anchor on top of them. By the time we had set anchor and reopened all the hatches, a dinghy was approaching from the other boat. It was Tom inviting us for cocktails with his wife Doris that evening aboard Footloose. They had not seen another boat for over two weeks. For us, an invitation like that had not happened in a very long time. Cruisers in the Bahamas definitely have a different mindset than down in the Caribbean.

The town’s people are also super friendly. They stop to offer you rides if you are walking down the street. The administrator, Mr. Roberts, is very welcoming to his island. Our check-in process went smoothly with warm smiles from the locals. We even got invited to watch the Obama swearing in ceremony on TV several days later. Like the Bahamians say: ”It’s better in the Bahamas.”

After two days in our anchorage, three more boats entered the bay. One of them was a German boat from Arnis, a small fishing town along the German coast of the North Sea. I dinghied over to say “Guten Tag!” Peter and Petra invited me aboard their pristine steel hulled ketch. They had planned to head to the Turks and Caicos the next day, but changed their minds and decided to go diving with us instead. After a very successful day of spearing lobster, we were invited over for dinner aboard Meridian’s aft deck. Phil had speared a monster lobster in only six feet of water, the biggest of the trip. Check out these pics of Meridian's and Adamo's joint catch.

Peter and Phil worked on figuring out how to cook the thing because it wouldn’t fit into any pots. It was simply too large. They finally lopped all the legs and antennae off and managed to cram it into a pot while they pushed the lid down on it.

That one lobster feed the five of us. Phillip, for the first time ever, simply could not eat another bite. It’s too bad they could not stay longer; we really had a great time with Peter and Petra. A day later all the boats but Footloose had left the bay heading for the Turks and Caicos.

Tom and Doris invited us to have a guided tour of the island with them for Phil’s birthday. Our driver “Skully” showed us the island’s three settlements and one small tourist hotel. We also toured a cold war era US air force missile tracking station that had been abandoned since the 1980’s.

On the north end of the island the beginnings of a timeshare development has virtually been put on hold. One worker was finishing the concrete for the swimming pool on the only completed building. The remaining construction sites consisted of half erected walls and freestanding pillars with rusty rebar detruding from the tops of them.

For the past several days the crews from Footloose and the Adamo have been taking turns preparing gourmet meals from our bountiful lobstering and chonching expeditions.

After an early dinner we return to our respective boats and watch DVD movies that we have exchanged with each other. What a treat to see new movies!

We have no definitive plans for leaving Mayaguana at this point. The plan for now is to hang out and enjoy the fishing and the people. We'll also be completing Phillip’s home school for the month.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Passing through the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos

When we left Puerto Rico we thought we would sail through to Great Inagua in the Bahamas. But, because of the lack of wind, we had to have the motor running the entire time. Poor Bessie had been running for 36 hours without a break! We decided to pull in at Ocean World Marina, which we had heard is very nice, to dock up for the night to get some sleep. We also now needed to top up on fuel since we still had a long way to go to the Bahamas. I didn’t want to find us in a situation down the road where we were low on fuel later and not be able to run the generator to charge the batteries and keep the fridge cold. Finding fuel in the Bahamas can be a challenge. Furthermore, it was time for a fuel filter change for Bessie after her marathon run from Puerto Rico.

The marina was very well organized; even the Dominican Republic customs, immigration, drug enforcement, agricultural and navy officials were very efficient and had us cleared into the country quickly. This time there were no “gifts” solicited by the officials, as was the case in Luperon. I spoke with the dock master, James, about this and he said it took some doing, but they had finally gotten a system down to make the process efficient. Despite the D.R.’s burdensome regulations, it was the smoothest checking we have experienced in any country in the Caribbean. We didn’t have to fill in any forms. The officials did it all. My job as captain was to simply sign the documents. Awesome. This was a far cry from our experience in Luperon.

What was eerie though was the lack of other boaters. The place was deserted but for a few local boats on the far end of the marina. There were three transient yachts including us. We walked around the place thinking: “is anyone home?”

In the last blog entry, Phillip wrote about swimming with the dolphins. What a great experience! While we were in the marine park, a uniformed gentleman approached us and said there is a “20 minute” promotion going on at the hotel next door and he would like to invite us for the best Pina Colada we will ever have in our life. He pleaded with us to do it so he could get $10 and he could feed his family. We didn’t have anything else planned and accepted the invitation. A golf cart ride through the large and beautiful complex of immaculately landscaped yards and stunning villas led us to one of the many swimming pools in the compound. The oversized pool was impressive with its curved form and a sunbathing island in the middle. It was surrounded not by lounge chairs, rather solid, dark, wooden king-sized beds with bleached-white outdoor mattresses and pillows.

We were ushered up to the office to be introduced to our salesman. The salesman toured us around and showered us with small gifts, drinks and sushi. Everything in the place was first class. The 6 bedroom villas were exquisite. A gloved butler gave out cold hand-towels as we entered the expansive foyer.

This was a vacation club that was over the top. A fleet of helicopters picks guests up at the airport and delivers them to their villas when they arrive. No Charge. Weekly inclusive poolside buffets and dancing parties keep the guests entertained. Golf, tennis, water sports, king-sized beds on the beach, it was all there, and you can rent the villas for less than $900 per week. Some villas are oceanfront and rent for the same price and all come with a personal chef a golf cart and free limo transportation. There’s no limit to how many weeks you can book, not only for yourself, but for you friends as well. You can book multiple villas at the same time in different locations. We were told that several people have started businesses renting out the villas for $3000 per week and earning the profit on the difference. All you have to do in join.

Well, Sue and I were dying to know HOW MUCH? Our salesman would not disclose that. It had to come from his boss. We got the usual closing questions from our salesman: is there anything that would stop you from joining other than the money today? Bla Bla Bla. Then came the boss. $65,000 to join for 43 years. 50% down. Bank loans can be arranged on the down payment. The remainder can be financed with the company or by credit cards. He even showed us how you could use one credit card to pay off another so that you never have to pay interest. Red Flag #1.

My mind was racing while running the numbers in my head. How can they afford all of this with the low rental cost of under $900 per week? We asked for a copy of the sales contract to have our attorney take a look at it. “Sorry,” came the reply “we can’t do that. He will have to come here to see it.” Red Flag #2. Then more talking. “This is not a timeshare it’s a vacation club. You don’t have maintenance costs and yearly fees etc…You can’t do this in the USA because they require a deed.” It’s illegal in the US. Red Flag #3. More pressure: “You can look at the contract but we need to do business today.” Red Flag #4 and we were out of there.

Our conclusion: When you have a program that gives inordinately large benefits to the members that cannot be supported by the ongoing revenue stream i.e. $900 per week for a villa, and requires recruitment of new members’ to keep it solvent, its called a pyramid scheme (A la Bernie Madoff . . . no matter how impressive it looks). If the thing goes belly up your $65k is gone.

We enjoyed the drinks and the sushi, and it was a great experience for Phillip to learn that: if it sounds too good to be true . . . it is. We marveled at the people who would cough up $65k after a two hour wining and dining tour without doing proper due diligence. Maybe there are enough people out there to keep the thing running, but I wouldn’t count on it, especially in this economic environment.

Back aboard the Adamo we planned our next leg. We were going to leave at 9:00 a.m. for the fuel dock to take on diesel and clear out of the country, then sail directly to Great Inagua. The next morning it was pouring cats and dogs. So we had to wait on refueling because the fuel cap is located on the deck. If you were to open it up in the rain, all the water on deck would drain into the diesel tank. So we waited. The clouds cleared a little and we began the process of moving the boat from the slip to the fuel dock. Just as we cast off the lines it began to rain as hard as I have ever witnessed. Sue was on the foredeck in a windbreaker. I was comfortably sitting at the helm under the bimini top. She was wet. I was dry. She was pissed. I was OK. She had dried her hair with the hair dryer that morning. My hair was still dry. She smiled at me through the rain. I smiled back. She smiled some more. I knew I would never live it down. She looked like a wet cat. I REALLY wasn’t going to live it down.

Sue’s a good sport. A little eating of crow and three 3 days later she was fine. (Just kidding)

At 1:00 p.m. we were topped up with fuel and ready to go. The problem was, now we would not be able to make it to Great Inagua before sunset the following day. Our new plan was to sail west along the coast 25 miles to an anchorage at Punta Isabella. We had anchored there last year and knew it had good holding and was calm. Leaving the marina was very rough directly into the 25knot wind and huge waves that crashed over the bow. The Adamo labored out of the harbor at 4.5 mph and was pounding into the very tight 6-foot waves. Once out of the channel, we turned west and were riding with the waves. Things settled down immediately and we had a good sail to Punta Isabella.

We anchored up and fixed dinner. Just after dinner, a rowboat with three men aboard approached. They were the local commandantes. Pistols tucked in their pants’ waistbands, they asked for our “despachio” in Spanish. Only one of them could speak a little English. Then they informed us that we could not stay there. We explained that we were heading to the Bahamas but that it is a 24hour crossing. Arriving at night is not an option because of the coral reefs. We would leave in the morning.

“You must leave now,” came the reply. Sue was in the cabin and not having fully recovered from her fueling experience, began speaking loudly to them through the galley window. “You will be putting us in danger” she kept repeating. “Do you want to sink our boat? Do you want us to die?” It was a back and forth “you must leave now.” “No, we’ll leave in the morning.” After 20 minutes of discussion, we got permission to leave at 5:00 a.m.

After the local “NOT welcome committee” left, we checked the weather for our crossing. Just the day before the forecast was light variable winds. Now the forecast had changed to 22 to 28 knots of wind, 7-foot seas with a period of 6 seconds and 90% cloud cover. We had one really bad crossing in these waters last year from the Turks and Caicos and we weren’t about to repeat that one again. Our options were continue to head West down the coast to Monte Christo, another place where cruisers are not welcome, or beat east 12 miles to Luperon, the cesspool. Sue didn’t want another run-in with the commandantes and was pushing for Luperon. The thought of heading back to the stagnant bay full of fecal runoff put me into a mild state of depression. I could envision the small stray barnacles on Adamo’s hull and propeller multiplying like gremlins and feasting on the poopy water growing to the abnormal size of a fist. Our fresh water supply would dwindle down because you certainly cannot wash your dishes or shower with salt water there. I would rather take my chances with the commandantes in Monte Christo.

We went to bed to sleep on it. I checked the weather in the morning and the bad weather had been pushed back 12 hours. Sue said let’s go for it. I agreed. After a quick breakfast, we pulled anchor in the dark. Phil was at the helm, Sue and I on the foredeck. We were in 19 feet of water and bump. We ran onto something solid, either an uncharted rock or a wreck. Fortunately Phil was going very slowly and managed to immediately stop the boat and back off the structure. Susan had more pleasant things to say about the commandantes for making us leave in the dark. Now she was even more determined to leave this country and its ass-backwards cruising regulations!

We finally departed at first light. The wind and current were in our favor as we motor sailed at just under 10 mph in 4 to 5 foot seas all day. We altered our destination and headed for the Turks and Caicos so that we would arrive in daylight and avoid another nighttime crossing and the potentially bad weather forecast for that night. After a fine crossing we anchored up behind Big Sand Cay in time to watch the sun set. It was a good day.

Sand Cay was a rolly anchorage, but it beat being out at sea in stormy weather. No one complained. We sailed across the Turks Island Passage onto the vast Caicos Bank. With lightly overcast skies, navigating the bank was difficult. The depth on the bank is 14 to 18 feet with coral heads randomly sprinkled throughout. The navigation charts tell you “passage must be carried out by thorough eyeball navigation”.

We sailed across the lower bank and then back into deep water. At the edge of the bank the sea floor drops off from 18 feet to over 2000 feet. There is a distinct line in the water where the color goes from a light aqua blue on the bank to a deep dark blue you usually only see in open ocean sailing. A strange characteristic of the bank is that the aqua blue that goes on for as far as the eye can see reflects off of the bottom of the clouds. Instead of the usual grayness under a cloud, it turns to a light baby blue hue. Susan commented that if you were to paint it as you saw it, the picture would look fake.

During all this time Susan read three novels and was becoming restless. We have not been anchored next to any cruisers since Puerto Rico. It’s a little strange being the only ones out here, though we did see two boats heading to Provo so we do know there is other intelligent life out there. On Jan 17th we sailed 60 miles to Mayaguana, Bahamas (still no other boats). Our crossing started as forecast with 15 to 18 knots of wind. Then we crossed a squall line and the wind increased to 25knots and never let up. With the wind out of the northeast we were beating into it again. An eight-hour spirited sail and we were there. Phil read a book the first half of the trip then slept the remainder of the way. He didn’t even wakeup when I yelled “Fish On”. A four-foot Wahoo had hit the line he set at the beginning of the trip. Unfortunately, it jumped and flipped in the air shaking the hook free. And yes, you read correctly, Phil is reading a book for pleasure. Not just a kid’s book either, but a 500-page mystery novel Susan turned him on to. He’ll sit and read for hours. Sue and I just look at each other in amazement. He also learned how to write cohesive essays during our year and a half at sea. I am so proud of him and thumb my nose at the doctor who four years earlier said he would never be able to read and write properly because of his Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome disability.

During the Mayaguana crossing Susan spent her time lying in the aft cabin holding on as we heeled and hobby horsed over the tight waves. She’s getting tired of the overnighters and all day crossings. Since Christmas we have logged over 800 miles. Only 650 more miles until we hit US territorial waters. Now that we have reached the Bahamas though, we’ll slow the pace down and enjoy the islands’ pristine waters and anchorages on our way home. It’s funny, on the way down to the Caribbean; you blow past some of the best and easiest cruising areas in expectation of great things ahead. It’s not until after you have done the Caribbean that you realize that some of the finest cruising grounds are right in your backyard. Granted you don’t have the history and culture that you find in the Windward and Leeward Islands, but you do have easy day sailing, often on the lee side of an island in crystal clear water with protected anchorages and great fishing and diving. It’s two totally different kinds of cruising.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dolphins - by Phil

Before we left Puerto Rico I spent a lot of time rigging my fishing rods, prepping for marlin. We caught a Spanish mackerel within twenty minutes of letting the lines out. We crossed the Mono Passage with out another a bite. Dad and I were talking about how we had no luck in the passage and zing – Fish On. I jumped up and grabbed the rod. I looked out and saw the monster I had been planning for, a blue marlin. He hit the big bait on the big rod, but he jumped and spit the hook, bummer. I was not upset that he got off because at least I hooked one and I got the satisfaction of knowing I planned on fishing for marlin. It is a long way home and I will catch one within that time hopefully.

Today we were in Ocean World Marina, a classy nice marina located near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The marina has a casino, restaurants, and a marine park. I wanted to go the park to ride the dolphins and as an early birthday present, we got to go. If you are staying in the marina you get 40 percent off all the activities. We signed up for the sea loin encounter and swimming with the dolphins. Mom didn’t want to get wet so she said she would take pictures. At the sea lion encounter we got to pet and play ball with a 268-pound male sea lion.

That was very cool. At 2 o’clock we went to the dolphin area. When we got there and they gave us life jackets to wear. Mine was way two small but I wasn’t going to complain. We listened to the lecture on not touching the dolphin in certain spots because it may anger or arouse them depending on what spot to touch. After the safety lecture, we got in the water and two dolphins came to the floating dock we were holding on to. Their trainers were on the dock giving them commands. They did many amazing tricks as well as high jumps. We got hug and feed them. They pulled us around the pool by their dorsal fins and later pushed us from behind on our feet and lifted us out of the water.

It was a once in a lifetime experience and one of the best presents I’ve ever received.

The Mona Passage

Anyone who has sailed down the island chain from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico has had to cross the dreaded Mona Passage. On our way heading South, we had a beautiful, smooth crossing. Perhaps too smooth, because we though “what’s the big deal?”

As we prepped to cross the passage on our way heading North, we were a little nonchalant about it all. We had a good weather window with the waves forecast to be 3 to 4 feet with 10 to 12 knots of wind. The day started out beautifully. The water was calm as we departed Boqueron. We fully expected another easy passage. Because the wind was non-existent at 6:00 a.m. we motored North up the coast of Western Puerto Rico and headed for Isla Desecheo, a small island about 10 miles off the coast. About 5 miles out the waves started coming from all directions with no warning. We were motoring at an angle to the waves that had the Adamo rolling from gunwale to gunwale. It was most uncomfortable. We tried changing headings, putting up the headsail and dropping the swing keel to no avail. About and hour later things settle down. Then without warning again, it stirred up. This process of letting up and then getting rolly again kept up for 28 hours as we motored the entire way due to insufficient wind. Things finally settled down once we rounded the Northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. Our 277 mile passage left us exhausted.
When you are in the middle of it, you think this is horrible. Particularly, since you just don’t know how long it is going to last. Things in the cabin start falling even though you thought you packed them away safely. Sleeping is nearly out of the question because your body keeps trying to hold even if you’re in the middle of your reverie. Sue woke up with a sore back from being tense all night long, fighting the rolling (not that she actually got any real sleep). I can’t even begin to imagine how ugly that passage can get when the wind is really blowing.
Here are some shots we got when things were calm. There were many ships in the passage as well as a pod of whales.
The crew enjoying a calm moment at sunset.
The north coast of the DR can be tough cruising but is beautiful with its sea side plateaus.

We had planned to motor or sail directly to the Bahamas, but because of the conditions during our crossing, we burned more fuel than expected. So now the plan is to motor sail along the coast of the Dominican Republic and pull in to an anchorage in the evening. We’ll work our way West until the wind picks up then we’ll sail to the Bahamas. At that point is should be a simple overnighter.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Puerto Rico With The Boys

On the 7th day of Andrew and Doug’s visit, we sailed down wind to the western side of Culebra. Someone in town had told us about the bongo band that plays every Saturday at the waterfront bar beginning at 9:00pm. We tied up to one of the mooring balls and waited for nighttime. One really nice thing about Culebra is that most anchorages have moorings, a welcome relief to us because the windlass is on the fritz. One of the gears is stripped, so someone has to pull up the chain by hand every time we leave an anchorage. This gear is not something you’ll find lying around on the back shelf of a chandlery. I had custom ordered it and replaced it three years ago, so I knew what the problem was when the windlass quit working. I guess a year and a half of cruising did it in.

I searched the onboard files for the receipt and actually found it. I called up the company in Daytona Beach, Miller Bearings, to order a new gear. The gentleman who answered the phone searched for the specifications by the order number I had on my receipt. Then he asked for my name. When I told him, he asked if my wife’s name is Susan. “Yes, it is” I replied wondering how in the world he could know that. “I’m Gerad” he said, “I rent your house from you.”

A new family moved in to the beach house in the end of November. Andrew had made all the arrangements with them, so I had never even spoken with them on the phone. What are the odds that he was the one who took my call about the gear???? Gerad was terrific. He found a supplier that can make a new gear within a week or so. In the interim, we’ll be searching for mooring balls or be pulling the chain by hand.

The bongo band had the bar jam packed and hopping. We listened until about 11:00pm then headed back to the Adamo to get a good night’s sleep before our sail back to Puerto Rico Sunday morning. The forecast was for the wind to die down early in the week. It had been blowing 30 knots for days. We wanted to time our crossing so that we would have some wind, but not too much. This time everything worked out and we sailed west in 20 knots of following winds and 4 to 5 foot seas.

The boys had a week left before they had to fly back home for school. We didn’t have a solid plan yet, but we knew that we could rent a car from most anywhere in Puerto Rico to get them to the airport on January 3rd. Our first stop was Puerto de Naguabo at Hucares, a small town on the Southeast side of the island. Along the waterfront a strip of 20 or so rustic bars were brimming over with people trying to squeeze in every last bit of the weekend before returning back to work on Monday morning. Street-front vendors were cooking chicken kabobs on barbeque grills while blaring Latin music set a festive tone.

After a very rolley night at anchor, Phil and I went exploring while the rest of the crew slept in. There are several rivers that empty into the bay. We found one that was navigable and followed it inland for about 3 miles where the river opened up into a large brackish lake surrounded by mangroves for as far as the eye could see. Iguanas had begun their morning sunning ritual dotting the mangrove branches with their spiky green and orange bodies. Fish were splashing everywhere and Phil tried his hardest to get one in the dinghy to no avail.

As we headed back out of the river into the bay we spotted Cayo Santiago, a small island inhabited by thousands of monkeys. On the way down-island last year, we had anchored there for a night. It is prohibited to go onto the island, but our dinghy got us within 20 feet to watch all the monkey business on the rocky shore.

When we returned to the Adamo, the rest of the crew was up and ready to go. Sue had cooked pancakes and was ready to get out of the rolly anchorage. The bridle we had set the night before to minimize the rolling was no longer working because the wind had stopped and the Adamo was sitting beam-to the large swells entering the anchorage. After a very quick breakfast, the boys pulled up the anchor chain and we were on our way. We motored for the first few hours, waiting for the tradewinds to pick up. By noon the wind had increased and we were sailing in 2-foot seas on the lee side of the island heading for Salinas. Beautiful!

Salinas has a very protected bay, a welcome relief for the crew after the rolliness from the night before. Many cruisers hunker down for hurricane season in Salinas, as our friend Chris on Christa did. The entrance of the bay is completely surrounded by mangroves. Once inside, marinas, homes and restaurants line the shore. With the end of hurricane season, the bay empties out notwithstanding local boats and a few cruisers who have given up the sailing part of cruising and have resigned themselves to simply living on a boat moored in one spot.

We motored around the bay for a while and found a good anchoring place right in the middle. The boys dropped the hook and our sailing day was over. The next morning, while the wind was calm, I wanted to put up the headsail we had repaired in Marina del Rey. At 8:30 a.m. we began the process of changing out the sail. It was another trip up the mast for me to align the track on the roller furling. What a pain that thing has become. When we return stateside it will be coming down to be re-machined and aligned. In the meantime, changing out the headsail will have to be a slow, arduous process.

By 11:00 a.m. the old sail was down, and the repaired sail was lying on deck ready to be hoisted. We tried raising it, but the wind had picked up and the slides kept getting jammed. So the plan was, wait until the next morning and hope for calm winds again.

The boys decided they would take out the dug-out canoe. As you can see from the pictures, things did not go as hoped.

Doug did finally get the hang of it when he got the chance to go on it alone. By the end of the trip he was looking like a native!

That evening we went to dinner to get a break from cooking and doing dishes aboard. We wondered around town looking for the ideal place. We found a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that served tacos and other local fair, and sat down at one of the small tables outside. The waitress took our drink order and gave us the menus. The prices were surprisingly really high. Then came the mosquitoes. “Abort, abort! Let’s go somewhere else.” The waitress only spoke Spanish. Poor Andrew had to explain to her that we were going to be eating somewhere else. He was not a happy camper.

After a hasty but not so smooth exit, we went back to the dinghy to try one of the restaurants on the other side of the bay. Phil, Doug and Sue ordered steaks cooked rare. When the steaks came out they were charged and dry. Andrew and I got a very fishy tasting, deep-fried seafood turnover. It was official; we had just had the worst meal of the trip. We should have braved the mosquitoes at the hole-in-the-wall place.

The next morning, in calm winds, we gave the head sail another try. It went up without a hitch and we were out of there. Salinas was not our favorite destination. We were off to Ponce.

The wind was almost non-existent as we motored west along the coast. We knew we needed to refuel in Ponce and refill our water tanks as well. It occurred to me that it was New Year’s Eve and that the marina might close early. We called ahead, and sure enough they were closing at 12:00pm for two days. Our ETA was 1:00pm. Here’s the surprising part. They kept the fuel dock open just for us until 1:30. We were thankful and very appreciative. We have found that the people in Puerto Rico are extremely helpful, friendly and welcoming. They take pride in their island and culture, and wish to share it with visitors. It reminded us of Grenada, Dominica and Anguilla.
While in port we checked emails and the weather forecast before setting out for Gilligan’s Island. We arrived just after sunset and gingerly entered among the coral reefs in poor lighting. We were all beat so after couple of games of Scattegories we wished each other a Happy New Year and went to bed early.

As the morning sun illuminated the bay, the beauty of the surrounding mangrove islands came to light. Phil and I motored around the bay between mangroves on the dinghy. You can see a pattern developing. The big boys slept-in again while we checked out the anchorage. Gilligan’s Island looks very much like one of the Florida Keys, where clear ocean water flows through shallow creeks between the mangrove roots.

There was no rest for the weary though. We had one more sail to go to reach Boqueron. On our way down last year, we rounded the south tip of Puerto Rico in the dark at 3:00am and had bypassed the Western end of the island altogether. We had heard from other cruisers that Boqueron is a great place and wanted to see it together with the kids.

We motored on a calm glassy ocean for hours before a puff of wind finally began to blow. Arriving in Boqueron by 3:00pm we were happy to be able to drop the hook for an extended period of time, or so we thought. Everyone but Doug wanted to go to shore to checkout the town. We took the dinghy in to find a small water-front area of town that had been cordoned off and was full of people celebrating New Years Day. Street vendors were selling shucked oysters and fresh clams. The smell of chicken on the grill filled the air. Souvenir shops and bars were spilling people into the street and the ubiquitous beat of Latin music pulsed in the background.

........................Boqueron at Dawn
Meanwhile, Doug was aboard playing his PS2. He heard someone shouting: “is anyone in there?” He popped out of his cabin to see two boats going by. He then went on deck to see what all the commotion was about. It was then that he realized that it wasn’t the boats going by him; it was him going by the boats. The anchor had begun to drag and the Adamo was heading for a collision with a third boat. The two guys, Mike and Charlie, who had alerted him hopped on board and headed for the windlass to raise the anchor. Doug started up the engine. Then came the question: ”How to do get the windlass to work?”

“Uhm, it doesn’t” came the reply. So Mike and Charlie weighed the anchor by hand . . . three times before she held. None of the guidebooks had mentioned the poor holding. When we returned from town the decks were covered in a soft, gray, gooey clay. It didn’t take us long to figure out what had happened. Doug was pretty good about it and took it all in stride. It’s a good thing the boys know how to handle the boat. We thanked Mike and Charlie and invited them for a drink in town later that evening.

As it turns out, even the local boats that have been anchored up for quit some time break free from the muck from time to time. A trimaran began dragging the very next day and was rescued by the same duo.

In Boqueron, we were blown away by the friendliness of the locals. During our first evening in town, we met Jorge and Kirby. They had a friend flying in from the States on Saturday, the same day the boys were going to be flying home. They offered to take Doug and Andrew to the airport since they were heading there anyway. The next day a waitress gave us admission tickets to a space observatory that her brother works at. The following day, the owner of the restaurant presented us with a gift-wrapped bottle of Puerto Rican Don Q rum, because we had never heard of it or tried it yet. Later that evening, the rum distributor was in town and invited us for a Mojito, a delicious rum drink garnished with fresh mint leaves. They were fascinated to hear about our sailing stories and quizzed us about the experience and shared their own boating stories as well. Overall, Puerto Rico ranks high in our growing list of favorites.
We are off to the Dominican Republic, or the Ragged Islands Bahamas if the weather is agreeable. We may be at sea for a few days. If we make all the way to the Raggeds then updating the blog will be difficult, but keep checking.
Adamo Out!