Day 179, Year 6 Imagine . . .
Date: Thursday, April 21, 2011
Weather: Sunny with Not Enough Wind to Sail–Again
Latitude: 18 20.175 N
Longitude: 065 37.370 W
Total Trip Miles: 25.5
Location: Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Imagine . . . being stranded on a beautiful tropical island with no place to go. Sound nice? Well, whether it sounds inviting or not, I think that is what our next week in Vieques is going to be like. We have rented a wonderful beach house with our own little beach and natural saltwater “swimming pool” formed by a barrier reef. But we have no way to get from our little piece of paradise to town because there is nothing with wheels to rent on Vieques. Easter is a very special time for the local people and they are flooding from Puerto Rico to Vieques in hordes. They have rented anything with wheels, have bought up all the fuel on the island, as well as the food.

We came to Fajardo today to buy food, gasoline (for the dinghy and for a car if one should become available), to get a cell phone, and to figure out how to get internet access on Vieques. Getting the gasoline was easy. Getting the cell phone and internet was not, but we did get it. We used the new cell phone to make lots of calls to the car rental places on Vieques. We either got no answer or an answer that was no-nothing available. Our beach house is about three miles from the town of Isabel Segunda, but the house manager told us today that there is no public transportation. So we will either walk or just stay put and imagine that we are on a deserted island. We have one last possibility and that would be to anchor Windbird in the town three miles from the beach house, Isabel Segunda, and take the dinghy back and forth. The anchorage in Isabel is not recommended as it can be very rolly, but we would try it if we could find someone to watch the boat for us. But if we can’t get the dinghy through the barrier reef at the beach house, this approach doesn’t work. We’ll continue trying to figure out transportation tomorrow.

Now for today’s story. Once again we had to motor as they trade winds have disappeared completely. Early morning we dropped the mooring in Esperanza and headed the twenty-five miles to Fajardo on the main island of Puerto Rico, arriving at 10:30 am. We thought we had plenty of time to do the things on our list, but everything turned out to be MUCH more difficult than expected. We anchored behind the small island of Cayo Obispo about a mile from Fajardo’s ferry dock. The waters from Cayo Obispo to Fajardo are called Bahia de Fajardo and anchoring close to the main island in these waters is not recommended, thus we anchored across the channel off Cayo Obispo Marina. Our first adventure was trying to find a place to buy gasoline. We went into the Cayo Obispo Marina and they told us we must cross the channel and buy fuel at a marina on the main island. We did as instructed and were pleasantly surprised that both diesel and gasoline are cheaper here than anywhere we have been in the past two years. The cost for either was $4.10 a gallon. We filled four 5-gallon jerry cans and took those back to Windbird. Then we went back across the channel to check-in and shop. We found “the” dinghy dock near the Custom’s House. The structure for the pier was there, but the boards on top were mostly missing. Someone has laid a few pieces of plywood here and there, but in order to get to shore, you have to walk the plank. I was not about to do this, so Mark dropped me off on a nearly concrete pier and he went back to secure the dinghy and walk the plank to shore. It was like walking a tight rope, but he made it. Check-in was a mostly good experience but then trying to catch a local bus called a publico was not easy. We waited for almost 40 minutes before one came by. We were hoping to go to “downtown” Fajardo to get a SIM card for our phone, but the driver didn’t know what a SIM card was and didn’t know where to take us. We just kept saying downtown Fajardo, but where he took us was a strip mall area along a very busy highway. We had no map and had no idea where we were, but we saw a Sprint store and told the driver to drop us there. The young man in the Sprint store said he couldn’t help us, but he directed us to a Radio Shack about a mile up the road. So we walked along the busy highway and eventually found the mall with a Walgreens, a WalMart, a Radio Shack, and many other stores. We stopped to have lunch along the way and found an auto parts shop in which to buy a spare alternator belt. It was about 2 pm by the time we arrived and the next four hours were a bit of a nightmare. Honestly, they were more than a nightmare-BUT with a happy ending due to the kindness of a young Puerto Rican couple. I won’t go into all the details of searching and waiting and waiting and searching to find a way to have cell service here and to get internet service. In other countries, all we have had to do was take our cell phone in and get a SIM card and take our cell modem (internet connection) and get a new SIM card for that. But NOT in US territory. The T-Mobile cell phone we have had for years and have used when we return to the US to visit is no longer working. So we need to buy a new plan once we get back to the US. If we buy a plan here, we would have a Puerto Rico number and that would be long-distance for calls once we are back in the US. The cell phone we bought in Indonesia and have been able to buy a SIM card for in all countries since, but we cannot just buy a SIM card for it here. SO we had to buy a new phone that will work here and supposedly once we are back in the US. The cell modem to allow us to receive internet was even more frustrating. There was no way to buy a SIM card for our ATT modem, so we had to buy a new modem that will work here and supposedly back in the US. That cost about 130 including the service plan. The good news is that we are back on the boat and it seems to be working. So while we are isolated in our little beach house next week, we should be able to communicate with the outside world via cell phone and internet.

By the time we had cell service and had made phone calls to Vieques to try and find a vehicle which doesn’t exist, it was almost 5:30 pm. I panicked when I realized the time. We still hadn’t decided on a cell modem for internet and we had not done the food shopping. In addition, we had no idea of how to get back to the dinghy. Mark headed to Radio Shack to buy the Sprint cell modem and I went to WalMart to buy food as fast as humanly possible. This WalMart had no fresh food and no meat, just packaged goods, but I got what I could quickly and just as I was in cue to check-out, Mark arrived said he had found a ride back to the dinghy. He had asked the guy in the Radio Shack how we could get back and another man in line behind Mark yelled to another guy in the store and like magic, we had a ride. Mark practically ran to find me in WalMart to give me the good news. Sundown was approaching and we really had no idea how to get back to the dinghy. I certainly didn’t want Mark “walking the plank” in the dark. But with the help of the young couple who brought us back–Gabriele and Dolly–we actually made it back before sundown. Gabriele is a rigger and Dolly also works on boats. Someday they hope to sail around the world and we wish them the best. We have had some very frustrating experiences since arriving in Vieques yesterday, but meeting people like Gabriele and Dolly reassure us that all is well in the world. It is truly hard to express how thankful we are that no matter where we have landed in the world, we have always found people like Gabriele and Dolly. But late this afternoon when they seemed to magically appear, we were more grateful than we have ever been. Gabriele and Dolly, thank you, thank you, thank you.

110421 Day 179 Cayo Obispo, Puerto Rico–Trip to Fajardo