Thursday, December 26, 2013

Puerto Rico

Even though Puerto Rico was supposed to be a one or two night stay here we are night 7.  We go into town every day to see new things and meet new people.  We still had to check in with customs after being registered with the Policia the night we pulled in.  We slept until noon the next day then had one cell phone turned back on so we could call customs.  I was told we needed to get to Mayaguez, which was quite a distance away, as soon as possible.  Preston and I jumped into the dinghy and booked it to town to find a ride to Mayaguez.  We bumped the dinghy on a post with some mussels on it and put a small hole in the side.  After talking to a local restaurant owner we got the number for Elvin.  He picked us up 10 minutes later and knew exactly where to take us.  Not only did he drive us straight to the building we needed but he also walked us up to the guard shack and talked to the guard to get us in the exact right spot.  We enjoyed his company and learned a lot about Puerto Rico during the ride.  Elvin is another great friend we will never forget.   He had cancer and it just went into remission, but the chemo left his kidneys in bad condition and he is on dialysis because of it.  This didn’t stop him from picking us up a few days later to go to the Laundromat.  He had told us he was busy earlier in the day and would get us later.  Little did we know he was at the hospital continuing his dialysis.  After the Laundromat we swung by his house so he could get us a bottle of homemade coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog made with coconut milk) his wife had made the day before.  This is when we realized it was 2 days before Christmas and he was taking time out of his busy Christmas schedule to drive us around.  To say we appreciated Elvin is an understatement.  Puerto Ricans have followed in Elvin’s hospitality ever since.  If we look lost someone stops and wants to help, if we need something they will find someone to get it for us or make sure we know where to get it.

Working on the Boat is Hard Work!

I wonder why this tree got fried?

We had the homemade coquito with breakfast on Christmas Eve and it was absolutely delicious.  We had to go to a Laundromat because after the crossing from Turks & Caicos I had 2 bins full of wet towels, sheets, rags, clothes, you name it and it was wet.  This was a little too much laundry to do by hand.   We walked the streets of Cabo Rojo, where the Laundromat was.  It reminded me a lot of walking the streets in New York.  We even found a pizzeria where we ordered a grande pizza for $12.  It was perfect and we couldn’t help but think that our friends on Stray Cat would have liked a slice with us.  This pizzeria made the biggest calzone we have ever seen.  It was as long as the tables and a foot thick. 

On Christmas morning I made breakfast burritos and we went to the beach to throw the ball for Lucy, called our families, and walked around town.  It was 85 degrees with not a cloud in the sky.  Preston and I splurged and had Miguel, a local artist, paint us some t-shirts for Christmas.  We also got ourselves an awesome hammock to nap in.  We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing Christmas season.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Unplanned Stop in Puerto Rico

We left at 6:45am Tuedsay, December 17, 2013 from South Caicos, Turks & Caicos.  The wind was coming from the exact direction we needed to go, so we had to tack all day.  We started with large 10 mile tacks and changed to 1.5 mile tacks to keep us more or less on a straight line through some banks.

Tuesday the sun was out and hot.  Preston took Dramamine and it made him very tired and he spent most the day inside trying to sleep.  We tangled the fishing lines on one of the tacks and didn’t put another line in the water the rest of the day.  We decided the night shifts would be:
Dan 9:00-12:00
Tara 12:00-3:00
Preston 3:00-6:00
Dan 6:00-8:00ish (depending on how tired Preston and I were still)
If you were the one on watch we still had to tack every 1.5 miles off course and had to wake another person up every hour and a half to tack and then that person would go back to bed.  This made for even less sleep for all of us.  During the day we would all take a nap at some point.  I spent most of the 2nd and 3rd days reading Lone Survivor out loud to entertain everyone.  On days 1,2, & 3 I was able to cook all the meals still and we were cruising along.  On the night of day 3 the wind started picking up and the seas started building.  By the time my watch started we had the motors running to keep us moving through the big swells.  By 3:00am we were heading straight into the 8 foots waves and hating every second.  When the sun came up we decided to change course and head the 75 miles to Puerto Rico instead of 175 miles left to get to the Virgin Islands.  This also put the wind and waves on the beam of our boat which was scarier for me, but a little more comfortable.   There is nothing scarier than watching 10-12 foot waves built up off the side of your boat and then crashing over the side spraying hundreds of gallons of water over the boat while it tilts the boat sideways to roll beneath it.  This left us tilted the other direction headed for the trough of the waves.  We were to say the least being thrashed about from every direction, rocking, rolling, pounding into wave after wave.  I was so nervous I could not take a shift to drive the boat, because the anticipation of each wave building gave me a panic attack.  Every window was leaking despite the fact that Preston fixed all the seals before we left.  There were towels and rags on all the floors, bungees holding most things down, and I was constantly hearing something new hit the floor.  The picture below best described how we all felt after our day Friday.

We pulled into Puerto Rican waters just after midnight and I was getting ready to take my shift now that we were tucked in on the West side of Puerto Rico when a boat came out of no where with no lights on and started circling our boat.  All we could see was a white wake and the dark boat going around us.  After a few minutes they turned on a spotlight and circled us again shining the light on us so we couldn’t see.  We had to stop the boat not able to see where we were going and that is when the decided to flip on their familiar blue flashing lights.  We were being pulled over at 12:30am 3 miles off Puerto Rico after a day from hell and all we wanted to do was drop anchor and go to bed.  Now we sat idley by for 20 minutes as they tried to tie up to us to ask us what we were doing.  Once they came aboard and made sure we didn’t have 100 Hatians onboard they were a pleasure to talk to.  I tried to explain that we weren’t planning on stopping here and that is why I hadn’t alerted customs we were coming.  He wanted me to call right then to get checked in and didn’t understand why I didn’t have a cell phone to call with.  He let me use his and we got the okay to anchor for the night.  While I was dealing with all the paperwork and official stuff Dan and Preston were talking with the other officers.  Turns out they had been watching us for quite a while at first thinking we were the coast guard and then deciding to try to scare us by pretending to be Somali pirates.  They got a real laugh when I told them they were making me nervous circling our boat in complete darkness.  We said goodbye and headed to the bay they were going to let us anchor in.  We pulled in around 3:00am, dropped the anchor, took showers, put new sheets on the bed, and slept for a full 9 hours in glassy water.  WE LOVE PUERTO RICO!!!!

Calm Waters of Bocoron,Puerto Rico

South Caicos

We had to go into town on South Caicos to ask for an extension on our 7 day cruising permit, because our sail had ripped and we needed to fix it.  We wanted a 2 day extension, but were only given 1 day.  Since we were already in town we decided to walk around.  As we were walking on the streets we were noticing horse dung on almost every block we went down.  We assumed that they must use a carriage of sorts for something still.  We later walked right into a pack of wild horses that live on the streets of South Caicos.  It was maybe 8 female horses, 3 colts, and 1 male.  It was a bizarre scene.  Two of the horses were laying on the road sprawled across the pavement.  We first thought they were dead, but it turned out they were just laying in the shade!  They were not spooked by us or Lucy and seemed not to care one way or another what we were doing.  Preston regrets not jumping on one and bringing it back to the boat to send UPS to my mom for Christmas.

After wondering a little further we came upon some salt ponds that were pink from the minerals, which matched the flamingos that were basking in the largest pond perfectly.  We had seen 3 flamingos flying past our boat as we were leaving the Bahamas and we thought that was really cool, but stumbling upon a massive flock in the wild was really cool.   As we were getting ready to leave to go fix the sail we ran into the local fisherman cutting up their catch of the day…….

Turtles!  That’s right giant sea turtles!  We went over to watch the show and meet some locals.  I was interested in how they go about catching a sea turtle and what do they cook with the meat.  I guess the only way to catch a sea turtle is to jump off your boat and onto their back and hold on until they get too tired to swim anymore.  Then they lift the 100 lb turtle into the boat.  I can imagine it is very hard to get close enough to catch one let alone jump on top of it with accuracy and then hold on long enough to wear it out.  It was also interesting to learn that they eat every part of the turtle except the intestines, which were filled with sea grass.  The even use the shell cut up into pieces to make turtle broth and then use that like we use chicken broth.  At first they didn’t want us to take any pictures of their catch, because they didn’t want us showing to people back home and have it turned into how brutal the fishermen in Turks & Caicos are for eating a turtle.  These small islands rely on tourism and they didn’t want any “bad press.”  We didn’t find the catch in humane at all, and would have bought some turtle meat to make dinner if we had any cash on us.  This community lives off the ocean.  They mostly east fish, lobster, clams, oysters, turtle, crab, anything from the sea.

We soon had a group of local kids following us around wanting to play with Lucy and take pictures of each other with our camera.  They were very interested in Lucy, even though almost all of them had dogs of their own.  One kid wanted to put his hand in Lucy’s mouth to see if she would bite him.  He kept asking me, soon begging me open her mouth so he could see her teeth.  Finally I gave in and let him put his hand in her mouth and he giggled so hard when she wanted to lick him to death afterward.  They loved making her sit, lay, and shake.  When I told her to “speak” and she barked it made them all jump and then giggle some more.   

After we went back to the boat and fixed the sail, we knew we had good weather for our passage the next 4-5 days and we wanted to leave the next morning so we had to get back to town to check out at customs.  We made it just before she left for the day and on our way back ran into some puppies trying to get out of this little girls yard.  She was trying her hardest to get the 2 puppies back into the boarded up yard, but couldn’t get them both at the same time.  We stopped to help and then started back on our way until we heard her yelling, “Wait up guys, wait up.”  We stopped and she joined us for our walk back to the dock, which was on her way to the store she was going to.  Her mom sent her with a list of items to get at the store and I guess she wanted some company for the walk.  She hasn’t learned to read yet, but she told us she just gives the list to the guy at the store and he gets her what she needs and that’s that.  We soon found out that her name was Adricia, she is 8 years old, has 1 brother and 1 sister, and her favorite thing is chicken.  She would eat chicken everyday if she could.  We couldn’t help but wonder if any of our friends back home would send their adorable 8 year old, grocery list in hand $10 bill in the other, to the store, a mile walk each way, and then watch as she took off down the street with 3 strangers and wave as she rounded the corner?  For some reason we couldn’t come up with one person back home that would allow that to happen?  It is amazing how different the people and this island operate compared to our neighborhoods back home.