Posted by: catamarantwooceans | July 13, 2008

February 2008- BVI,USVI,Puerto Rico.

Feb 18th – Back in the water, but as always not without problems… I arranged that Polo, the local electrician, willl come and check my navigation lights, the anchor and steaming white light did not work and the red and green on the pulpit needed a nudge every time you wanted them to work. As it was the last time I required his services, Polo sends his assistant, Albert. He is a nice, smiling fellow but he works at th pace of a snail. At 0830 he says he is going to the shop to bring some tools. He reappears at 0945. He does not have the right Allen key and no spare bulbs. Luckily I have two, but he breaks a working one so we are still missing one bulb. The launching is set for 1300 and Albert finishes at 1230. The pulpit lights are working but the threads that take the screw holding the lamp cover in place are ruined. I’ll have to buy new ones. The launching is delayed to 1400  so I use the time to go to customs& immigration to check out of the country, thinking on my way that I should maybe wait until the boat is in the water and all is well. I dismiss the thought and check out. Polo comes to collect his dues trying to bill me for fours hours of work. When I protest he easily reduces it to two. We put the boat in the water, I start the starboard engine, turn the key of the port one and… The lights dim, as if the battery is dead and it does not start! The bypass using the house batteries does not help either. Being sure that it is the battery I rush to the chandlery and buy a new one. Connect it and… No joy! I check the old battery for voltage and it has 12.65! So it’s something else. I put the old battery back in place and return the new one back to the shop. One of the mechanics working for Chris, the local Yanmar agent starts the engine using the bypass and I go out to anchor. I dinghy back to the marina to take Chris to the boat. He is a professional and quickly finds that a fuse in the engine electrical system has blown. It is a 200 amps fuse and I have one that is 250 in the electrical equipment box. In less than ten minutes the engine is started and all is well. Tomorrow I go to St. Thomas where my friend Danilo, with wife and two kids will join. Let’s see how that works out!

Feb 19th – Windy night gave way to a windy morning. As I was going to have the wind from astern i allowed myself first reef and sailed in relatively flat water at around 7.5 knots true. After a while some big clouds brought more wind so I reefed the main some more and started sailing wing and wing on course to the north of St. John, my intended port of entry. At 1200 I stood before the Homeland Security people who quickly and pleasantly concluded the formalities. I then motored across to Red Hook bay in St. Thomas and anchored to await the joining crew. Strangely enough there were three wrecks right by the spot I anchored. Maybe hurricane victims.

 

Unlucky

Unlucky

At 1830, after their flight was delayed a bit, the Derman family, Danilo, Dorit, their 18 yaer old daughter Tom (innocence in Hebrew) and their 11 year old son Yoav arrived at American Yacht Harbour in Red Hook. We put their (considerable) luggage on board, had dinner and an early night.

Feb 20th – In the morning we left Danilo on board to sort the incredible array of pharmaceutical products he brought for “just in case” and went shopping.

Pharmacy

Pharmacy

That done we went out of the anchorage for a short sail. Going south in the channel between St.Thomas and St.John we encountered steep seas, not recommended as first try to novice sailors. So we turned north and sailed in the lee of the island in flat water, did a few tacks and went into Hawksnest bay to moor for the night. The Derman family are all enthusiastic divers and soon went snorkeling. I did too and saw two big turtles grazing on a grassy bottom with Remora fish riding piggyback.

                                                           

Tom cooking

Tom cooking

                                                            

Yoav hides in bed

Yoav hides in bed

                                                 

Romantic

Romantic

Feb 21st – The plan today is to sail to Isla Culebra and hopefully catch some fish on the way. The wind was not as strong as yesterday but the waves were still quite big. This wasn’t too bad the moment we turned west and the seas were from behind. Danilo lowers a trolling line and sits at the back holding the rod as if the fish is coming within seconds. This, of course does not happen and he relaxes and goes into the cockpit. About an hour later we get a strike. Danilo reels the line in carefully, perhaps too much so, because the fish does a disappearing trick. Danilo, in his frustration, says:” Miki, you try!”. Well, why not… My line goes into the water and we wait. Yoav is anxious to see a fish caught and keeps asking for it. We are going to pass very close to a secluded rock, Sail Rock, between St. Thomas and Culebra, so I do my old trick and tell him:” You see this rock ahead? We’ll get a fish when we get near it”. It is unbelievable how this trick works! As we alter course so as not to sail too close to the rock, the reel sings! By the pressure on the rod it is a good size fish and I work hard to bring it in. So hard that the reel handle breaks in my hand! I have to turn the lever with the palm of my hand which slows the operation down. Slowly the fish gets closer and when it is near the stern we can see that it is a tuna. Danilo grabs the gaff and hauls the fish into the dinghy. A splash of Rum into the mouth and gills and it quiets down. I estimate it was about 4-5 kilograms. We’ll have fish tonight! While all this takes place, “Two Oceans” is rushing towards Culebra with it’s dangerous reefs and shoals. We go into the channel with full sail and drop anchor near the town of Dewey. After some shopping we decide to go to another part of the bay and now, in a quiet spot protected by mangroves, the sea is calm and all is well. Calling Gili I found out that she had a car accident, she is well but shaken and angry at the negligent and arrogant driver who hit her. The guy threw a business card at her saying:” I have to rush to see a soccer game on TV” and drove away!

Feb 22nd – The wind is still blowing, and since we are keen on doing some more fishing we go out of Culebra with second reef heading south to the eastern tip of Vieques Island. Right out of the entrance we can see bird activity ahead. Just as we pass them a small snapper is caught. Even with the sails reefed we are doing 7 knots SOG with waves coming from abeam, some breaking over the bows sending spray high over the deck. “Has everybody closed their hatches?” I ask, being sure that I closed mine. After about an hour I go into my room and see that I left the hatch ajar and that the beddings are wet! I’ll dry them when we get to destination.
Closing on Vieques a fish takes the lure. Danilo battles it to the boat, it is a Spanish Mackerel of nice size and as I try to bring it aboard with the gaff, it parts company with the hook and disappears in the deep.                                           

Danilo fishing

Danilo fishing

We try to get into Mosquito bay that is supposed to be O.K for boats with draft less than 5 feet. When the bottom is at 2 meters I slow down, the depth shows 1.8, 1.4 and when it is 1.0 I back away and turn instead to Sun Bay where we take a mooring. Danilo and company go for snorkeling and I take the mattresses and sheets out to dry. They get carried away and find themselves on the beach, far away from the boat. Down goes the dinghy and Miki comes to the rescue, bringing the Dermans back. After lunch we motor west to the anchorage near the town of Esperanza. Ashore we are reminded that it is a Friday, and a lot of people congregate in the bars and restaurant on the beach. We have a drink in one of the bars where Latin dance music is played. Danilo and daughter, true to their South American heritage (he was born Uruguay) excel on the dance floor. Later we have dinner at the Quenepo restaurant, very good cooking but a L O N G wait for the food combined with a bad attitude of a waitress made it a less than nice experience.

Feb 23rd – In the morning the wind is still on the strong side and so is the fishing urge. Today we are going straight down wind to Palmas Del Mar and the decision is taken to sail with jib only. We have a little over 17 miles to go, so speed of 5-6 knots is good for both purposes – covering the distance and fishing. When I see the depth reaching 41 meters I tell Danilo:”Get ready, the fish is coming”, not more than 10 seconds later we get a strike and it is a big one! Unfortunately, after a short fight, the fish escapes and no others show up. In one of the occasions I went into the saloon I noticed the light for the starboard bilge pump is on. Went to investigate and found out the shower bilge full of water. Further checks determined that the shower pump does not work neither in automatic nor in manual mode. My abilities as an electrician are very poor, so this will have to wait until Monday and Salinas. In the meantime a manual pump will do the job.
The narrow entrance to Palmas Del Mar is open to the wind and when it is strong big swell develops. I don’t mind swell but the breaking waves to our left were frightening! Last year when Gili and I came here we saw works in the basin where we anchored. Now the unfinished pontoons of a marina in the build filled it and big signs forbade it’s use. We came alongside to what we thought was the fuel dock and got permission to spend the night there for 53.5 dollars.

                                                   

Future Palmas marina

Future Palmas marina

Feb 24th – A 14 miles trip west to Puerto Pastillas, reefed to facilitate fishing. This fishing village hides behind a big reef which we passed at a distance and anchored in 2.4 meters. This being a Sunday, the local populace was out on the beach, some of them roaring by on their jet-skies and making a lot of noise. In the afternoon it was music, drinking and dancing on the beach – a lot of fun.

Pastilas

Pastilas

Feb 25th – During the night the wind backed to the north and became light. The two yachts that were anchored near us disappeared some time in the early morning, probably influenced by the Van Sant book that advocates doing so when you go east. We went motoring out to sea, put the trolling line out and immediately caught a large Barracuda and let it go for fear of Ciguaterra. Left Guayama reef on our starboard. The wind got up to 8-9 knots and we sailed with full sails towards Boca Del Infierno (romantic names here!) to sail between the mangroves on shore and those on the reef islands of Barca and Pajaros, coming to the enchanted entrance of Playa De Salinas.

Salinas bay

Salinas bay

Going into the marina we went looking for a marine electrician and after a search in the deserted looking town we found the local marine shop where they told us to look for Steve. “He is normally around the marina and has a yellow Mercedes”. We found the man, he came to look at the proposed job and agreed to come tomorrow at ten.
Regarding the sleepy town, one of the marina’s guys gave us the reason:”We party all night Sunday, so Monday is a day of rest”.

Feb 26th – Steve, who is originally from England and now lives here, found out what was wrong with the shower discharge pump. In both showers the floats activating the pumps were defective and needed replacing. The starboard bypass switch was broken. I went to the Playa Marine store in town (an excellent shop), bought the necessary equipment and Steve put everything in place. Two hours on the job at 35 dollars an hour – very reasonable.

Steve

Steve

In the afternoon we tried to go to one of the small islands near the Salinas bay to snorkel and just relax but the wind piped up to 28 knots and made it unpleasant. Back in the bay and our anchorage we made plans for the next day: Rent a car and go see the Yunke national park, a big rain forest in the north east of the island.

Feb 27th – We took a Ford van and drove away. The car started beeping inexplicably but eventually took us where we wanted to go. The rain forest is, as always, beautiful. We hiked for 2.6 KM on a trail made of stone embedded in cement. Much tamer than the trails in St. Vincent or even Guadeloupe but still a very enjoyable walk. Driving back to Salinas we were very hungry and heeded the young ones request to eat at Pizza Hut.  A dismal ending for an otherwise lovely day…

Hike

Hike

Feb 28th – We had about 33 miles ahead of us today, so as we went out of Salinas we did not adjust speed for fishing but sailed with first reef at 7.5 knots SOG to gain miles towards Giligan Island, our destination of the day. This, of course, is not it’s real name. It was named after a popular TV program of the same name, supposedly because the island resembled the one in the program and one of the fishermen looked a lot like the lead actor. Another story connected to it is about a woman called Aurora, who escaped her miserable life in a near by farm to live on the island “Robinson Crusoe” style. Anyway, at 1030 it was clear that we will get there around 1500, we slowed down and put the trolling line out. While waiting for the fish to come a brown form materialised ahead. A big turtle! Dorit rushed to her new Nikon but as she raised it the turtle dived out of sight. A bit later a fish took the red and white lure that we put out. A nice 3 KG tuna. We tried some other lures later but with no success. The entrance to the anchorage lies between reefs and as I was concentrating on navigating inside, eyes darting from the GPS plotter to the waters ahead, Danilo shouts:”Dolphins!”. Four big dolphins joined us, leading Two Oceans into the bay.

Dolphin watch

Dolphin watch

The crew rushed forward with cries of delight and cameras, while yours truly stayed on the wheel. Anchored in 4 meters on sand/mud bottom, lowered the dinghy and went to see the mangrove island in front.

A really good sailing day!

Giligan island

Giligan island

Feb 29th – In the morning we visited the mangroves again and this time I snorkeled. The marine life hiding below these salt water trees is very interesting. Snappers, puffer fish, red mullets of exceptionally big size but surprisingly no crabs or clams. We then went out of the anchorage for the Dermans last sailing day. They are leaving tomorrow to see San Juan before flying back home. We had about 30 miles to go to Boqueron and again it was trying to combine getting there early and fishing. This was made difficult by the wind, which rose to 25 knots plus with waves to match. When a fish was caught it was very difficult slowing the boat, a task that was achieved by dropping the mainsail to below third reef. The fish put up a big fight but we succeeded in bringing it aboard. Another nice tuna!

Another tuna

Another tuna

Then it was Danilo’s turn, but when his fish was hooked the wind became even stronger, I could not slow the boat quickly enough and speed went up to 10.5 on the GPS. With so much pressure on the line the fish escaped. At this point we reached Cabo Rojo, the southwestern tip of the island, the bottom became shallower and we had to concentrate on navigating between the reefs, taking the mainsail down as we entered Canal Sur. Now, as I write this, the wind has died down to 5 knots. Peace and quiet reign in the anchorage.

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