Back to the Good Ole USA

Date:  20 June 2018

Location: Anchored Isla de Culebra, Puerto Rico   LAT 18° 18.219  LON 065° 17.515

Weather: Overcast, Mid 80’s, Drizzle, Wind SE 20 – 25 Knots

Up at 0530, PAWS secured, anchor up leaving the Dominican Republic in our wake and Puerto Rico just over the horizon, 100 miles across open water. Early morning found the winds light and The Captain and Admiral alternated 1 hour short naps throughout the day. PB&J sandwiches gave them energy. Late afternoon brought some rain clouds and changing Winds which simply could not decide on which way to blow. Crew finally rolled in the Yankee and fired up the engine. Darkness rolls in and The Admiral takes first watch. Captain awakened when Auto Pilot decides it needs a break and AIS identifies boat on an intercept course! Around 2230, moon rises and sky is light. We approach Puerto Rico near Mayaguez, the main shipping port on the West side of the Island. To avoid any issue with commercial vessels, they take up a southerly course and sail further down the coast to Puerto Real. Heading into Marina Pescadena at night was a little bit of a challenge. Water is shallow, but luckily the channel markers were lighted buoys helped guide us into the Bay without too much difficulty. At 0130 the anchor is down and holding, time for the crew to catch some well deserved bunk time after our 20 hour sail. Sunday 3 June they awoke to bright sunlight and marina in view. Captain Brian calls US Customs to notify our arrival. Crew advised that Official Paperwork could be completed on Monday. Launched Sea Tigger to Marina to find  laundry facilities and local eatery. On tap was clothes washing and a local restaurant next to Marina. Their servings were larger than the Crews empty stomachs, but To Go boxes were appreciated. Collected washed clothes, no dryer available, reserved rental car for Monday and back to PAWS. Makeshift clothes line, free sun and air, laundry drying.

Next morning Jose, marina owner, set them up with rental car and off to Mayaguez to Customs. The roads along the coast were free of pot holes but some hurricane damage after 200 mph winds. West end of island is up and running.  Customs most helpful with getting PAWS cleared in. Only 1 hour to figure out government paper work, but got it done.

Back in US territory, they left me swinging on the hook and took advantage to hunt down Home Depot, Sam’s,  Wal-Mart and grocery store. Able to restock necessary items at reasonable prices. Full day of shopping made the Crew hungry. I hear they found a great Cuban sandwich eatery recommended by the Customs Agent.

Back to Marina for the Monday night social with local cruisers and transient sailors docked at marina. Networking with cruisers is the best way to gather local knowledge about what to do and where to do it. Back to PAWS late and unloading groceries and supplies in the dark (seems my crew is always looking for a challenge).

Tuesday, The Captain visits the local Post Office in town and ships off the WINCHRITE for repairs. The Admiral really likes this tool for furling in the Head Sails and winching up the dinghy. Captain finds a local eatery and returns with fresh bread and Empedas for breakfast. Some troubleshooting on the generator and found Temp sensor not sensing the temp (darn those things). Thanks for the Honda portable generator for charging batteries and making water.

Shopped at the Fish Market located at marina for dinner. Ordered (2) Grouper, gutted and cleaned for $12. The Admiral managed to cook the whole fish with eyes staring up at her.  Despite feeling just little sad for the fish they enjoyed it with minimal remorse. No wind in the evening, so very thankful for our DC fans.

The following day we motor sailed 5 miles to Cabo Roja.  The Lighthouse helps vessels navigate safely through the Mona Passage from Caribbean into the Atlantic Ocean. With my Mainsail reefed out to stabilize the roll we had a short trip. The sea was clean and we were able to make water at the anchorage while enjoying a breezy day swinging in the calm water. Generator gets a new paint job and parts ordered.

After winds calmed, the crew launchs Sea Tigger and heads to shore. They meet a young couple from Puerto Rico on a nearby sailing vessel that survived the hurricane. Their boat raced in a Bermuda sailing event in the past and they enjoyed visiting and hearing some stories. Very unique and interesting design with no standing rigging and two huge heavy masts (no headsails). The anchorage is a small beach town complete with local bars and live music. The Crew opted for Pelican’s eatery with inside tables and A/C. The Rum drinks were super refreshing. Ordered pizza, salad, and of course Captain topped it off with a chocolate cake and ice cream. After a brief walk through town, Sea Tigger carries them back to PAWS.

The next morning they were up early again to take advantage of good winds and we work our way to La Paraguera.  Anchored behind reef with minimal swell. Snorkeling area with kite surfing nearby. The winds build to 20 knots until night fall so Sea Tigger stays on deck.

Continued on the next morning arriving at “Gilligan’s Island”.  Our “3 Hour Tour” ended much different with calm winds and a secure spot to anchor in a protective cove, blocked by mangroves and reefs. This allowed Sea Tigger to take the crew out for exploration. Stopped by to meet and chat with some cruisers on “S/V Progress”. Their boat barely survived Hurricane Maria in Tortola, broken mast and water damage. Their boat name was appropriate as, in fact, they had made a lot of Progress get her back together. All window seals broken due to wind pressure.

A ferry boat loaded to capacity and all manner of private vessels brings visitors over to island for the day. Coolers, chairs, water floats, tents all to enjoy a day at the beach. Brick grills are located on the island for one’s use. Water is clear, swimming and floating in the currents in refreshing temperatures.

Enjoyed lunch at San Jacinto (Guanica) Restaurant. Traditional Puerto Rican meal: A plate full of meat, vegetables, rice/peas for $5. Affordable for the cruising budget.  After lunch, back to PAWS for a few boat chores. Later in the afternoon, Mike and Erica from S/V Progress came over for evening snacks and beverages. Discussed their trials and tribulations trying to get boat parts for repair. A wait and see when parts will arrive.

On Sat the winds were up, but finally calmed after midnight. Up at 0445 to take advantage of easing winds and waves, The Captain decided to sail past Ponce, avoiding the shallow depths and headed for “Coffin Island”. Isla Caja de Muertos is only accessed  by ferryboat from Ponce or by private boat. Coffin Island is a National Park and access to shore requires swimming from boat or a ride on a paddle boat. Ferry Dock was damaged by hurricane and not repaired. Original ferry boat destroyed during Hurricane Maria. High winds picked back up in the afternoon which kept Sea Tigger on the davits as the crew made plans to explore when winds were calmer on Sunday morning. Dropped anchor, decided against mooring balls due to reliability.

Launched Sea Tigger after morning rain shower. Tied up to damaged dock. The platform was about 4’ above the dinghy and The Admiral gave quite the show with an impressive “Launch and Belly Roll” dismount to get up and out of the dinghy onto the wooden dock. Only then did she discover the Sea Gull remains laying in her path.  After a Blood Curling Scream that would raise past Sailors up from Davy’s Jones Locker, were they able to secure Sea Tigger and head off to explore. The island has picnic areas, bathrooms, and a Ranger Station. The Ferry brings picnic supplies for its guest, $70/ person for trip and lunch.

They set out to explore the roped off area past another one of those pesky “No Trespassing” signs, up to the Lighthouse. Cactus towering over 8 feet tall much of it damaged by the Hurricane. A path had been cut to clear debris blocking path. After a 45 minute winding hike, made it up the mountain (OK – Big Hill) and to lighthouse. The place has rusted iron bars that they squeezed by. There is a stone/brick building that once was home to Caretakers of the lighthouse. On the way down, they met the local snake on the Island as well as Iguanas and butterflies that were plentiful.  Enjoyed a fun evening with Eric and Barbara on “S/V Sudamon”. They purchased their boat in Ponce that withstood the winds of Maria, luckily boat was on the hard in a boatyard during the storm. After plenty of exercise it was back to PAWS and off to sleep just to be rudely awakened at 0400 to rain drops. Hatches closed and fans on for air.

Getting ready to depart, The Admiral went forward to raise the anchor but Windlass switch not engaging. However, The Captain shows The Admiral how to use pliers to short the terminals to make the circuit connection. Considerably easier than manually pulling up 100 feet of chain and anchor. The Admiral was a little leery at first but once The Captain showed her that she wouldn’t get shocked she was able to perform her duties. Another “Project” added on the “Boat To Do” list.

Next anchorage is Punta Pozuelo, near a power plant. I was rolling with beam on 24 knot winds and moderate seas. Captain deployed my Mainsail to stabilize the roll and motored into the waves. Our sailing friends on S/V Sudamon allowed PAWS to lead the way with our working depth finder as we anchored behind the reefs for protection. Currently PAWS is using RayMarine, Garmin, INAV-x and visual observation for navigation. Soon the anchor went down and time for a short nap. Cleaned terminals on anchor windless and she came back to life. Salt water and over use play a number on boat parts! Barb and Eric came over for dinner and our travel plans for our next passage discussed.

Up early the following morning ready and waiting for light. Charts working and visual assessment of reef to motor into open water. Maneuvering through the waters and reefs takes a little skill. Winds at 20 knots at our nose of course, engine purring and mainsail out for stabilization on the way to Puerto Patillas. Entrance into anchorage behind reef and sand bar. Anchored in 10 feet, less than ½ mile from shore. Town is still recovering. Observed helicopter with crane lifting High Tension metal power poles into position.

Dinghy to shore with Barb and Eric for dinner. However, no restaurants open on a Tuesday evening. Found a local to take us to next town over for dinner. Eating establishments were limited: Chinese, Burger King and KFC. Chinese was restaurant of choice with plenty of food to consume. Leftovers are always great for another meal on PAWS. Back to Puerto Patillas and a stroll through town. Homeowners were polite and conversed. After sand fleas attacked, backed to S/V Sudamon for dessert. Spent time with our new friends before heading back to PAWS. Rain at 2330, hatches closed and fans on once again.

Following days brought Boat chores, laundry and making water. Battery on main generator “DEAD”. Another opportunity to fix something – isn’t life grand. Appears there is a short in the Alternator which is draining the battery when it off. Solution is to disconnect the battery when not in use until Alternator can be replaced.

Enjoyed dinner on shore at Poblados. Our local friend drove The Captain to a gas station for Sea Tigger fuel, much better than walking the 2 miles!  Enjoyed chicken and fish for dinner. Back to PAWS, dinghy hoisted to deck, items secured below for early departure for a 26 mile sail the next day.

Admiral up at 0415, coffee brewing, as we wait for the first light to hoist anchor. At 0515, anchor up, engine purring and depth finder working to lead us to open water. Had to maneuver through shallow water out to open water. Since Paws draws 8.5 feet, I have to be extra careful. Motor sailed 5 hours to Vieques Island. This area was once used by Navy for missile and live bomb training.  Hurricane left her mark on Palm trees, electrical lines and dock. After brunch and a nap, launched Sea Tigger to explore. Rocky reefs are near shore with plenty of Sea Urchins but no coral or fish visible. Motored along coastline to check out the area. Met a Moorings charter boat with a group of 8 from Georgia. Graduates from Georgia, Ga Tech, Auburn. PAWS was displaying her Clemson flag with honor. One couple shared that our current quarterback at Clemson, Trevor Lawrence, went to school with their children. Enjoyed sharing stories with our new acquaintances. Last evening with Barb and Eric as they were departing the next morning. Great couple, hope to catch up with them further down the Islands

Awoke to calm morning, with a few clouds and crystal clear waters. PAWS resting today.

Saturday found the crew up with Sun for a motor sail to Marina Del Ray. Upon arrival to marina, I was instructed to squeeze my 19 ½ foot beam into a 20 foot wide slip with wind pushing against piling. Admiral wisely vetoed that order and requested a T-Head spot. Even that took 2 attempts but we were finally able to tie up on outside dock, only drawback was we were now minimum a 1/2 mile away from marina office. Lucky for The Captain, a golf cart chauffeured him to sign in. The Laundry facilities were greatly appreciated as we were able to wash several heavy loads at one time. Replaced battery for generator. Our spare battery we brought from US was already used. To replace battery in the Bahamas would have cost $900 and some change! PAWS finally got a bath and cleaned up. The Admiral/Cook was a little tired so the Captain made a Command Decision and treated her to dinner at La Cueva Del Mar. Popular restaurant at the 1,000 Boat slip Marina. After dinner, ½ mile walk back to PAWS. Enjoyed shore power at the dock.

Received news that Grandbaby #2 born to Dustin and Elyse – Brighton Rhys Clark – the newest Deck Swab.

The Captain slept in on Sunday and caught up on some extra shuteye. Time to restock before heading to St. Thomas. No rental cars available, so Taxi called for ride to grocery store. Provisioning for sailboat takes a little thought and time. Taking the large cooler helps to keep the cold stuff from spoiling. Two grocery carts and a full cooler and they were ready to head back to PAWS. Our original taxi driver called his brother to transport us back to marina. Packing the groceries in a small conversion van was a little challenging. Needless to say, the Crew worked up an appetite after shopping. Enjoyed eating at Pollo, a local Cuban establishment. Treated their driver to lunch and enjoyed hearing about his life story. Back to marina, loaded groceries in golf cart and trailer and down the dock back to PAWS we go. Unloaded our mountain of groceries and the fun begins for finding storage. Lucky for The Admiral, the AC’s were working good and were cranked up during the lengthy process of finding storage and repacking meat for freezer. Finally got it done and took advantage to wash one more load of clothes prior to the planned departure in the morning. Enjoyed the cool air one last evening at the dock. Ashley and Carter called and shared their good news “ We’re expecting in February!”

Loosened the lines from the cleats and slid along the dock on the bumpers as the East wind pinned me against T- dock but no damage to port side. Able to spin around in the turning Basin to head to fuel dock. Lucky for us, enough open water area near fuel dock and enable to turn around and tie up on starboard side. Fuel tanks full and bound from Culebra. Motor sailed 4 hours to the entrance of the Bay marked by a sailboat on the reef – always a sad site. This is not an entrance to be entered at night or haphazardly! Narrow passage marked by small buoys. Headed to back of harbor closer to town and restaurants. After 2 attempts, anchor finally caught held! Finally we feel that we are in a “Cruiser Community”, with many sailboats close by. Watching a sailboat near us pull up anchor by hand makes one appreciate the motorized Windlass.

Enjoyed dinner at the Dinghy Dock Restaurant. Ribs, fish, rice and beans. Leftovers are shared with local tarpon near the dock. Watching the feeding frenzy is pretty neat. Met a group from Charleston celebrating a wedding that lives near the Crews rental house in SC. Met a couple from Maine, on S/V Moira. Their dinghy engine was having a little trouble but Sea Tigger’s engine was purring as we towed our new friends back to their sailboat. Cruisers are always help each other.

Tuesday was boat project day. Cleaned water tanks #1 and #3 looking for a leak. Drying out tank so the area could be patched. Rain and a little wind off and on but my anchor is holding tight! Around 1400, The Admiral spotted a Catamaran “S/V Black Pearl” dragging anchor in the harbor. Somehow it missed several boats as it drifted through the harbor. Summoned, The Captain and Sea Tigger launched to assist. The anchor caught and held before the boat drifted to shore. Crew from catamaran was at Dinghy Dock for lunch. Boat secured and back to PAWS in the rain. Boat and Crew enjoyed the fresh water bath. Enjoyed a quiet evening on the boat.

Wednesday brought some cooler air for sleeping. Continued on a few projects prior to heading to shore. Boat hatches and ports closed before venturing out to the island.  Secured Sea Tigger to a public dinghy dock, only required a 3′ launch and belly launch to get up on dock this time and the Admiral checked the deck before taking the leap. Sargassum weed was plentiful and piled high along the shore with a potent odor that lingers! Walked over the non-working canal bridge. Local grocery store had all of the basic needs for tourists and cruisers. The ferryboat travels from Fajardo to Culebra daily. Culebra has a lot to offer with diving, beaches, hiking and fishing. Also, commuter flights from San Juan come in daily.

Enjoyed pizza at Heather’s and started back. Afternoon showers halted the crews walk back to dock as they ducked into a covered porch when the thunder shower continued. Finally the rain eased off and they made the way back to Sea Tigger. Visited our friends on S/V Moira and the decision was made to take a short hike to Flamingo Beach. Learned that definition of short hike varies among Cruisers, only 3 miles there! Captain and friends enjoyed snorkeling and exploring the reef. Area was damaged by hurricane and still recovering. Another short 3 mile hike back to dock and back to PAWS to fix dinner for our friends. Spaghetti and salad is an easy fix for teenagers and tired parents from S/V Moira. The kids enjoyed laying on the hard top over cockpit enjoying the stars. Funny what can entertain siblings after being in close quarters on their 38 ft boat for 4. Galley cleaned and dishes stored. Set to leave for St. Thomas and the BVI’s early in the morning.

Joyce & Brian Clark

S/V Pawsitive Latitude



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