Day 178, Year 6 Arrival in Vieques
Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Weather: Sunny with Not Enough Wind to Sail
Latitude: 18 05.660 N
Longitude: 065 28.431 W
Total Trip Miles: 138
Location: Esperanza, Vieques, Puerto Rico

What an “interesting” arrival we had in Vieques this morning. We have traveled around the world and been to many interesting places, but our arrival here was the strangest we have encountered. I’ll say one thing-this place has character (and characters). We arrived at 10:40 am. We had tried to call the Vieques Yacht Club that we had read about in our newly published and VERY expensive Puerto Rico cruising guide that says that the yacht club has 15 moorings in Esperanza, but no one answered our call. Finally, another sailboat responded saying the yacht club is just a work in progress, that we would probably get no answer, and that the moorings are not yet a reality. We followed the directions of the boat that called us and tried to anchor just west of the little village of Esperanza. But the anchor did not hold. The bottom here is sand covered in sea grass and sea grass is notoriously difficult to anchor in. The first try didn’t work so we just floated around while Mark reattached our alternator which had broken loose during the long motor trip from St. Martin. We then looked around for a possible mooring. We saw what looked like a mooring ball we had lunch and we headed out to the island to see what he could find. A dinghy beat us there and the driver started yelling something in Spanish. Another sailboat glided past us and took that mooring, but the guy in the dinghy kept yelling at us in Spanish-laced English. What we understood was that all moorings are private and that we must anchor. We later found out that the young man in the dinghy was Hector. More about Hector later. We tried again to anchor and still no luck. So I stayed on the boat and Mark went to shore to see what he could find out. He met Michael and Eva at the Bili Restaurant whose fame is their wonderful vegetarian dishes.. They explained that the young man who was yelling at us was Hector, the very unofficial master of the harbor. They gave Mark a couple of alternatives for different anchorages and a possible mooring. They also told Mark that he would have to go to Fajardo to get a SIM card for his cell phone. Bummer.

When Mark returned with this news we discussed our options-not many and none acceptable. So Mark went out in the dinghy to talk to the other four boats here on moorings. Only one was “home” and this was David, our second “interesting” local encounter. David explained that he is an ex-marine, has lived on the island for 33 years, and is known as the The Dolphin because he can swim better than anyone else on the island. He is definitely a local character. He told us that Hector is known as The Shark and that together they unofficially patrol the harbor. Unfortunately theft here is rampant.

We did move Windbird to the only available mooring that David says is open for the next three weeks. It is very shallow and right off the town beach, but for tonight we are attached and fine. David explained that if we leave the boat here while staying in the beach house, he will sleep in the cockpit a few nights letting thieves know that they need to stay away. But he warned that anything not screwed down might be stolen. At this point I was starting to think that this place is like what we expected but did not find in Madagascar.

Later in the afternoon, the owner of the Caribbean Lady stopped by. His name is Tom and he immediately called Customs when he learned we hadn’t checked in. When he got them on the phone he handed it to Mark saying “Customs wants to talk to you.” The Custom’s officer took all sorts of information, but in the end he said we needed to go to Fajarto on the main island or to the airport here to finalize check-in. Evidently we need some sort of sticker, a US requirement. It was so nice of Tom to let us use his phone and to then offer further advice. He explained that the descendants of Taino Indians from the main island of Puerto Rico are here in Vieques to celebrate the Easter Week. The culmination will happen here on the beach in Esperanza on Friday night and then the party begins. This is all fine except that the visitors have rented all available vehicles and have used up all of the island’s fuel reserve. Even if there were cars available to rent, right now there is no fuel. So Tom suggested we motor over to Fajarto tomorrow to check in, buy fuel (we’ll fill extra jerry jugs to use as possible trading items (fuel in exchange for a taxi ride), get water, and return here either tomorrow night or Friday morning.

So off we go in again in the morning. It is about 25 miles from here to Fajarto and with the check-in and shopping time built into the middle, we’re not sure we’ll make it all the way back here by tomorrow evening. But we can probably make the west end of the island and then return here on Friday morning.

110420 Day 178 Vieques, Puerto Rico–Arrival