Day 177, Year 6 Headed to Puerto Rico

Day 177, Year 6 Headed to Puerto Rico
Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Weather: Sunny with NO WIND (2-3 knots)
Latitude: 18 05.671 N
Longitude: 063 56.426 W
Miles to Go: 88
Location: Overnight Passage from St. Martin to Vieques, Puerto Rico

Windbird is gliding along on a silky sea with a clear blue sky above. It is another gorgeous day, but unfortunately, we are motoring, not sailing. It is calm and beautiful and because of that we have gotten a lot of work done today. Mark spent his morning child-proofing Windbird. He put up the netting between the top life line and the toe rail to prevent little ones from accidentally falling overboard. We are not planning to spend much time on the boat next week, but we would like to bring Ziggy, Jonah, and Sam out to see Windbird and maybe go for a short sail. Then when the week is over, Heather, Jed, Sam, and Jonah will move onboard for a couple of days. Our week in the beach house ends on Sunday morning and Justin, Jo, and Ziggy will be head back to San Juan to fly out on Monday. Heather and gang have a couple of days before their flight home so we will sail to mainland Puerto Rico with them and will need that netting up then for sure. Mark got the netting up back as far as the gates on each side, but then had to stop as the stainless from there back had not been cleaned. So I spent a couple of hours cleaning the stainless. Mark then applied a coat of Penetrol, an Australian product, which helps to delay the return of the rust. Tomorrow morning he will put up the remainder of the netting.

Tonight we leave the remaining islands of the Lesser Antilles behind us and sail into the Greater Antilles which includes the islands of Cuba, Jamaica,, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Puerto Rico, including the Spanish Virgins. Puerto Rico is the smallest and the most easterly of the Greater Antilles. We have been in the Lesser Antilles since our arrival in Grenada. The Windwards (Grenada to Martinique) and the Leewards (Dominica to the Virgin Islands) make up the Lesser Antilles. I read in our cruising guide that the term Antilles comes from Antilia. Antilia was an island that Old World Europeans believed existed in the mid-Atlantic. This island was never found but the term was applied to the islands of the Caribbean.

Just a few minutes ago I got my first glimpse of the Virgins. I’m probably looking at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgins or maybe it is St. John in the US Virgins. Whichever, it is far in the distance but high enough to be seen. Behind us I can no longer see St. Martin, but Saba is high enough to still be seen. Around noon tomorrow we should arrive in the Spanish Virgins. Culebra and Vieques are the Spanish Virgin Islands, but they are also a part of Puerto Rico. The US Virgins (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) lie between the British Virgins and the Spanish Virgins and we will pass under all of the British and US Virgins tonight except St. Croix which is further south.

In between our spurts of work today, we are both reading as much as we can about Vieques. The day before yesterday we downloaded the Vieques and Culebra chapter from the Puerto Rico Lonely Planet, so we are reading that along with the cruising guide to Puerto Rico that we brought in Grenada. We are so anxious to see our children, but we are also getting very excited about exploring Vieques. It sounds wonderful.

Day 176, Year 6 Only 6,960 Minutes . . .

Day 176, Year 6 Only 6,960 Minutes . . .
Date: Monday, April 18, 2011
Weather: Yet Another Gorgeous Day
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin

In only five days minus four hours or 6,960 minutes we will get to see our children and grandchildren after a very long year and a half of absence. Mark and I are both so excited. Justin, Jo, and Ziggy actually arrive in San Juan tomorrow and will spend a few days together as a family before we all converge. Heather, Jed, Sam, and Jonah arrive in Puerto Rico on Friday night and then we will all meet in Vieques late Saturday afternoon. Mark and I leave here early in the morning and will arrive in Vieques on Wednesday. That will give us time to figure out transportation on the island and to do the fresh food shopping for next week. We did all of the other shopping here today. When I wrote to the kids earlier today I told them that Windbird is going to sit higher in the water after we offload all of the food for next week. It is difficult for us to shop here as everything is written in French and neither of us speaks or understands the language. But we have picked up enough to be able to read through the ingredients on a package and kind of figure out what is inside. Jo can’t have anything with wheat or cow’s milk in it, and we were so excited to find goat cheeses and soy milk. We were looking for rice milk, but that doesn’t seem to exist here. Maybe in Vieques.

We really enjoyed our day of shopping. Both of us love exploring in the dinghy, so it was fun to take off early this morning and head into Simpson Bay. We did our grocery shopping at the supermarche just inside the canal and then went all the way to Island Water World and Budget Marine on the far side of Simpson Bay. Mark was careful not to bang into waves at a fast speed in order to keep my back happy. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and we just enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately, neither chandlery had good charts of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins. We have one cruising guide and it does have charts with soundings done by the author and we have our electronic charts for Vieques but they are really not very detailed. But we’ll just have to go with what we have. After we returned to Windbird, we put the food we bought away, had lunch, and then took the dinghy into the marina and walked to the supermarche on the outskirts of Marigot. Match, the supermarche, is in a strip mall and we found a toy store where we were able to buy some small items to put in plastic eggs for our Easter Sunday beach egg hunt. We then went to the supermarche where we hoped to find some of the items that we didn’t find in our earlier shopping spree. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. So we will continue our search in Vieques. On the way back to the marina, we stopped at a couple of pharmacies to try and buy more of the antibiotic that Mark is taking for his prostate infection. Every place we stopped said they couldn’t sell us the antibiotic without a prescription. But on Saturday when we were in town with Steve and Jeanie, Mark had stopped in a pharmacy that would gladly sell him the Cipro at quite an inflated price. We wound our way through town and back to this pharmacy, and sure enough, they would sell us the drug with no prescription. We could only afford enough for the next couple of weeks, but the plan is to go to see a doctor in Vieques to get a professional opinion and prescriptions for whatever drug is needed. And by the way, my back is doing great. Whatever Dr. Joseph did has worked. I have to be careful, but so far, so good. What a blessing.

Yesterday when we were in the internet café we downloaded the Lonely Planet for Vieques and Culebra. We have started reading that tonight and together with the 2010 cruising guide we bought, we are beginning to get a picture of what it will be like. It looks like we will have to take a mooring on the south side of the island and leave Windbird there while we stay on the north side of the island. The distance between the two is only six miles, so we will either rent a car or rent bicycles and travel back and forth to check on Windbird.

Hope you are enjoying the full moon tonight as much as we are. It is beautiful.

Day 175, Year 6 Not a Day of Rest

Day 175, Year 6 Not a Day of Rest
Date: Sunday, April 17, 2011
Weather: Another Gorgeous Day
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin

Today was not a day of rest, but we accomplished so much. Mark changed the oil, changed the oil and fuel filters, checked on all the fluid levels, and tightened up the alternator belts. While he did that, I continued working on the mammoth laundry that is now all washed, dried, and folded. I’ve wrung out so many sheets and towels in the past two days that I have a blister on the inside of my right-hand thumb, but it is a good feeling to have all of it done. After completing the engine work, Mark and I worked together to get the refrigerator and freezer defrosted and cleaned. Then Mark went into the marina to do some business on the computer while I continued to do laundry. Mark filed for a tax extension a week or so ago, but there was a problem and he had to re-file today. Mid-afternoon, he came back to the boat and we both went in to take the garbage and to try and upload the photos from the days Jeanie was with us. Mark could not get the marina internet connection to work as he had earlier, so we took the dinghy around to the city waterfront and went ashore from there to find a place with internet. On our third try, we found a café that was open AND had wi-fi, so we had a couple of beers and ended up ordering a seafood pizza for dinner. We did get the photos uploaded, so now Jeanie can get online and see the pics from her visit. Steve, I’ll work on the photos from Tobago Cays to Sint Maarten on the overnight to Puerto Rico and will hopefully have those posted by week’s end. We were so busy having fun that I just didn’t have time to get the pics edited and labeled.

We made the decision to stay here tomorrow to do grocery shopping, take the dinghy into Simpson Bay to Budget Marine to buy some charts, and maybe do a little cleaning on the bottom and waterline of the boat. We will leave early on Tuesday morning and head straight for a bay on the south side of Vieques. We will arrive there on Wednesday afternoon (~135 miles) and start getting acquainted. We cannot check-in on Vieques, so we will have to take a ferry to Culebra (another island near-by) or to the main island to Fajarto on Thursday. Late on Saturday afternoon, Heather, Jed, Sam, Jonah, Justin, Jo, and Ziggy arrive and we will all move into the beach cottage on the north shore of Vieques for a week of fun in the sun. Sunday is Easter and I think everyone is looking forward to a beach Easter egg hunt. We’re just looking forward to hugging those little ones and getting reacquainted with them. We are also looking forward to spending time with Heather and Jed and Justin and Jo. If they arrive on Vieques at 5 pm on Saturday, we have 140 hours to go. That’s 8,400 minutes until we are together again for the first time since late August 2009. Can you tell I’m just a little anxious?

110417 Day 175 St. Martin–Marigot Bay Anchorage

Day 174, Year 6 Back to Just the Two of Us

Day 174, Year 6 Back to Just the Two of Us
Date: Saturday, April 16, 2011
Weather: Gorgeous Day
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin

By 8 am, Steve, Jeanie, Mark, and I headed to shore to have breakfast at Sarafina’s. This is an open air French café that has fabulous pastries, flans, crepes, quiches, and on and on. They display much of the food in a glass-fronted case and you just can’t decide which wonderful thing you want to eat. I had mushroom quiche, Mark had eggs in a crepe with jambon fromage (swiss cheese), sausage, and a small salad with balsamic vinegar, and Steve and Jeanie had eggs, sausage, fries, swiss cheese, and sliced pieces of baguette. I then had a chocolate croissant, but I did share it with everyone. What a delicious way to start the day. The food here is not cheap but very inviting and really yummy. The local market area was full of vendors this morning and we walked through looking at all their wares. We also visited the West Indies Mall which looks so very fancy but has almost nothing inside. Steve and Jeanie’s flight home to Florida was at 2:50 pm, but they felt like they should be at the airport at least two hours early. Mark took them in the dinghy and then returned to Windbird. We had a wonderful time with both Steve and Jeanie and are so glad they could join us. We look forward to seeing them in a few weeks when we reach Florida. I see that Steve left the rum he bought on Windbird, so I guess we are now going to be rum runners from here to Florida.

We spent the early afternoon doing laundry, laundry, laundry. We got a text message from Steve saying their flight had been delayed until 4 pm, but we haven’t heard from him since. We are hoping to get a text message soon saying they have arrived safely. In order to keep the laundry going, Mark had to go to the marina and get our water jerry jugs filled. He also bought a day’s worth of wi-fi, but it really doesn’t work very well out here in the anchorage. Sometime tomorrow morning he will go in to the marina and use it there. But that will be after doing boat maintenance-changing the oil, changing the fuel filter, checking all of the other fluids-and defrosting and cleaning out the freezer and refrigerator. While he goes in to the marina, I’ll stay here and keep plugging away at the laundry. What a chore! We had hoped to use the facilities at the marina, but there is only one washer and it seems to be busy constantly. By day’s end we will make the decision as to whether we will leave here early Monday morning for Puerto Rico and do our food shopping and get fuel there or whether we will stay here and do food shopping and get fuel here on Monday and leave for Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning. Many boats left today headed that way to take advantage of the wind. By waiting it looks like we will be motoring, but we just couldn’t get ourselves together enough to leave today.

By this time next Saturday, we will be in Vieques and reunited with Heather, Justin, and their families. I really can’t believe it is less than a week away. I got an email from Heather last night reassuring me that if all I can do when we get there is sit on the beach and let the little ones cover me with sand that all will be well. I truly appreciated her message, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to do more than that. My back is surely not where I’d like it to be. The pain has moved from the lower back to mid-back, but I can walk upright with no pain. That’s surely an improvement but I’m hoping that in the next couple of days things will get better and better.

As we were reading about Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands (Culebra and Vieques) this afternoon, our cruising guide said that Vieques “feels barefoot and mana?a” and that we won’t find McDonalds, Wal Mart, KFC, traffic lights, or any of the other trappings of mainland Puerto Rico. Sounds like my kind of place and I can’t wait to get there.

110416 Day 174 St. Martin–Jeanie and Steve's Last Day

Day 173, Year 6 Saba to St. Martin

Day 173, Year 6 Saba to St. Martin
Date: Friday, April 15, 2011
Weather: Partly Sunny Morning; Stormy Afternoon
Latitude: 18 04.149 N
Longitude: 063 05.527 W
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin

We left Saba very early this morning and had a nice gentle sail for the first couple of hours, but then turned on the engine and motor sailed the rest of way. We arrived here by noon and Mark, Steve, and Jeanie headed to shore. Mark was going to try and find a chiropractor I could see in the afternoon and Steve and Jeanie went along to see the town. Unfortunately, we forgot that Marigot is very French and everything closes at noon until at least 2:30 pm. So they found a little café and had cold drinks to pass the time. This was the Banana Café and they found it a great place for people watching.

While they were gone, the weather in the anchorage changed drastically. The winds switched to come from the North blowing directly into Marigot Bay and they built to 35 knots. Windbird was hobby horsing along with all of the other boats in the anchorage-except for the ones that broke anchor. I had to stay on watch in the cockpit and when Mark called on the VHF and I told him what was going on, he was really surprised. He said the weather in town was calm and they had not had the deluge of rain that I had out in the anchorage. At 2:30, Mark, Steve, and Jeanie were waiting for the Digicel store to open so Mark could top up his phone to make calls to doctors. Our son-in-law Jed had emailed him the names and numbers of three possibilities and also reminded me to take Ibuprophen. I did that as soon as we received his morning email, and that made a tremendous difference within an hour. Thanks, Jed! But back to the Digicel store–the young woman in the shop was so nice and she made the calls for him and found a Osteopathe on the waterfront in Marigot that could see me at 6:30 pm. She then walked them to the doctor’s location so they would know exactly how to find it. In the meantime, they called and I told them to not try and return to Windbird until things settled down. The waves in the anchorage were huge and I knew they would get absolutely soaked returning. They waited for a break in the weather and got back here around 4 pm, a little wet, but certainly not as soaked as they could have been. Because the weather was so unsettled, Steve and Jeanie hung out on Windbird while Mark took me to shore for my appointment.

The good news is that Dr. Gerald Joseph is quite competent in both osteopathic manipulation and acupuncture. I’m not as good as new, nor as good as I would be if I had been able to see the chiropractor back home, but I can now stand up straight and the pain is virtually gone. We will probably hang around here until Monday so I can see how I am doing. If things are improving with my back, we will leave. If they are not, I will call Dr. Joseph and go in for another treatment. I told him I was hoping for a miracle as we will be with our children and grandchildren in just seven days. Here’s hoping.

Day 172, Year 6 Snorkeling and Work Day in Saba

Day 172, Year 6 Snorkeling and Work Day in Saba
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011
Weather: Mostly Overcast
Location: Wells Bay, Saba

Today was all about doing a little work on Windbird and snorkeling. It was totally overcast this morning so we decided to do a little work before snorkeling in the hopes that the sun would shine later. Mark and Steve had already cleaned the stainless stanchions along the outside of the boat, but we never got them coated in the anti-rust “potion” so we had to clean again today. I went forward to wash down the stanchions with fresh water and I did the one thing I am never supposed to do. I leaned over at just the wrong angle, and out went my back. This has not happened to me while out here sailing so I am just not sure what I am going to do. When back in the US, I go to my miracle worker Chiropractor in Concord, NH, and he immediately makes things fine. I guess I am going to find out what it is like without the miracle worker, but what horrible timing. I have/had all of these great plans for when we meet with our children and grandchildren a week from this Saturday, but I might have to sit back and watch the action.

After the work session, the sun poked through the clouds just a little, so we seized the moment and headed out to go snorkeling. I decided to go along (bad idea in retrospect). I thought I could snorkel if there was not a strong current, but unfortunately there was and the whole process just really aggravated an already not good situation with my back. Jeanie did great today. She finally let go of the dinghy and snorkeled on her own, even with the current. But the snorkeling was definitely not as good as we had been led to believe. I’m sure diving here is incredible, but it is deep for snorkeling. Mark saw a turtle and we all saw more of the same kind of fish we have been seeing. There are also some nice sponges and corals. I went out for two forays, but because of the current I was having to work harder than my back wanted and returned to hang on to the dinghy. After snorkeling at Torres Point, we took the dinghy out to Diamond Rock and Steve dove in to check it out. It is very deep and definitely for diving even though the information we have read says there is good snorkeling. Steve did get to swim with a huge school of fish, probably Jacks of some sort, and that was definitely a thrill for him. Once we returned to Windbird, I spent the remainder of the day trying to figure out just what to do about my back. Mark and Steve went out for another snorkel in the afternoon and found the cave we had read about and enjoyed that experience, as well as seeing two more turtles. They returned and Mark did a laundry and the weather is not cooperating at all. As soon as he got it hung out, it started to rain, so he had to bring it all into the cockpit and hang it on hangers. He is now fixing dinner, so he is exhausted. I can barely stand up, so helping is not a possibility. I’m hoping that after a good night’s sleep, things might be better.

Early tomorrow morning we return to St. Martin, this time to the French side. We will anchor in Marigot Bay. Steve, Jeanie, and Mark will probably do a little exploring tomorrow afternoon after we arrive, and then on Saturday, Steve and Jeanie fly back to Florida. Mark and I will then do laundry and shopping, possibly returning to Philipsburg to get duty-free fuel, and on Monday or Tuesday we will head to Puerto Rico. We would love to go through the British Virgins and stop in Tortola, but we are not sure we will have the time. I’m thinking I will need to get on the internet in St. Martin and see if I can find an Activator-type Chiropractor in this part of the world. That would be a miracle, but one that would make me happy.

110414 Day 172 Saba–Underwater at Torrens Point