Monday, March 9, 2015

Puerto Rico Has It's Clutches on Us

The last three days have been a bit of an adventure, some highs and lows but we are now back to our beloved Culebra.

Let's see how it went...

On Friday in Salinas we walked back up to the grocery store and with the much needed help of a taxi ride back to the boat we did a final provisioning trip, mostly on cannd and bottled goods. You'll think that all we've done on PR is provision, but with prices like we won't see again in the islands we hope now that we've got supplies laid in for quite a while.

Canned goods stored in the bilges.
Can you tell we like Puerto Rican sangria? I foretell of some good times ahead.
With all the predictions and weather gurus telling us that if we wanted to move up the coast to the east, this weekend was the time to do it, we moved ourselves five miles up to the end of the Bahia de Jobos to sit behind the reef ready for an easy exit on Friday night.

A final farewell to Salinas and the magnificent mountain views.
Up we got again at midnight, made our exit and found the winds and sea blowing hard but decided to press on close to shore, tucking behind reefs where we could for some relief. Unfortunately, and we certainly knew the risk was there, we ran across a fisherman's trap float line and managed to wrap it around the starboard propellor. Of course this happened at 3am and as we were passing inside a reef, but we managed to cut ourselves free (sorry to the fisherman but there was no saving the trap in the dark) and limped on to the next anchorage on one engine. Isn't it wonderful that we have two! Also wonderful was that on this bit of coastline there are very few stopping places and we happened to be just across the bay from the last one. We anchored in Puerto Patilla in the dark, went to bed and waited until daylight to deal with our snag.

Never a good sign when there's a gritty float and line attached to the back of the boat.
The anchorage was silty and rolly so getting the line cut away was no easy job. Henry spent at least 40 minutes in the water getting his head bumped and shoulder bruised, but he was successful in getting the line away and the prop spinning as it should.
This is one of those times we wished we were divers.
Getting the line cut off the propellor shaft in bits and pieces.
The final collection of line and float.
After testing that our prop was not free-spinning and talking to a couple of friends via phone, we made the decision to move on, knowing that where we were anchored would not be possible to get any service if needed. We had a choice of returning to Salinas, 15 miles behind us, or pressing on and try to make the marina at Puerto del Rey and service if required. The winds were down a bit so we decided to carry on and both engines behaved beautifully.

By mid afternoon we decided to divert to Vieques since there was no way we would make it up the coast to the marina before dark. Weren't we thrilled to arrive at the anchorage and find Laura and Jason on Blue Blaze there, welcoming us to drop anchor beside them. We spent the day in Ponce with these good folks and it was wonderful to meet up again.

Even more wonderful was Jason's offer to dive under the boat the next morning and replace our propellor with our spare. Sure enough, there was one small piece of rope left and a small dent in a flange on the propellor so we were very happy to get the new one installed. Friends like this are pretty amazing!

New propellor in place Sunday morning saw us setting off for Culebra. As we sailed around the reef at the tip of Vieques, we were once again in the beautiful clear blue waters of the Virgin Islands and all felt much better in the world. After two weeks of beating our way to windward up the coast of PR we now really appreciate just how special a place the Virgin Islands are with their protected anchorages, shorter distances and beautiful waters.

A much happier sailor!
Not to be outdone though, our starboard engine may have sustained further damage in our late night incident and about 10 miles from Culebra it went on strike. Once again we limped into the anchorage on one engine with winds blowing hard making it difficult to anchor. The relief was palpable once the anchor was down and we both decided we were in much need of pizza for dinner.

Heather's Pizza dished up a great dinner in a very busy little spot.
Tomorrow is another day and the saying goes that cruising is really just doing boat maintenance in exotic places. Seems like we have another day of boat work ahead of us.

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