Thursday, February 23, 2023

Puerto Rico Problems

 Hello Dear Readers,

We are in Puerto del Ray Marina (also now called Safe Harbour) tied up to an amazing dock with wonderful staff, great shower facilities, a super admin team, laundry, restaurants, stores... in other words, heaven! Apparently there are 2000 other boats in here with us!

Lotsa boats on Dock 8

Had terrible internet in Culebra so just catching up.

After the BVI we sailed 32 nm to Culebra and camped out for 5 nights to find PR accommodation. 

Sopers Hole, BVI visitor

Hibiscus on the way to CBP in Culebra

Our Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) folks in Culebra were unexpectedly friendly and helpful clearing us in and even knew the difference between a "Decal" (for Americans) and a Cruising Permit (for all nations with a bilateral agreement like Canada.) So that was nice.

Transient moorage is really challenging. Most marinas don't even answer their phones. Others have outdated info so no way to contact them. San Juan Marina is rennovating so they can't accommodate. Puerto del Ray advised us that accommodation was limited and didn't give us much hope. So we were prettly glum as we considered out limited options.

So, as much fun as it is to be in Culebra, we were in a bit of a funk.  Seemingly no hope of finding a place to leave Blue Pearl in Puerto Rico while we made a short trip back home to hug grandchildren. Took the same photos as the rest of the world of the stars but this one is better than any of ours.

Moon and planets

Thank goodness the Dinghy Dock opened after a seemingly endess weekend. Pam accuses me of always having menu-order envy. Never happy with my meal when it arrives. But after Mike ordered the ribs 3 years ago on our golf-team voyage through here, I was on a mission.

Mike's Ribs 2019

Glen's Ribs 2023

I was so full I had trouble sleeping that night. Pam had the much more modest, but still huge tuna on spinach.

Mmmmm healthy!

Sopers Sunrise

We were relieved that PdR found a spot for us so we set out this morning to cover the 20 plus nm, arriving around 2. Along the way we spotted whales furiously slapping their tails and fins. Might have been humpbacks but who are we to know one whale species from another?

Arrived to the most helpful dock guys we've had and I masterfully guided Blue Pearl into her berth. I'm pretty sure Pam was impressed!

This is the video of us coming in to dock at Saint Hoggs - aka Puerto del Ray!

Our north-most cruising limit from our insurance company is Puerto Rico so I asked about a rider to complete our trip to Florida. They said, "NO." Flat out. So if we leave here to the north we are uninsured.

So that's what we are working on now. Insurance. Or Not? So many challenges, not so many solutions.

Who knew this was going to be such a PITA?

Wishing you all well from the balmy breezes and gentle waves of the Caribbean!

1000 nm at 6 knots!

Friday, February 17, 2023

Sopers Hole

Hello Family and Friends!

Experimenting with ideas, we decided to try a different overnighter from SXM to the BVI. I like sailing in the day more than at night so we waited until 2AM before we left. Sun comes up just after 6 so only a few hours in the dark. We didn't go as fast this time so we didn't arrive until 5PM. Just in time to clear in, have a shower, make some dinner and go to bed. The alternative was to leave at dusk and get in at noon - and we saw folks leave the anchorage at 6ish so assuming that was their plan. But that means you spend many more hours in the dark. In the end you get to the same place. Will have to think on that strategy.

On the way we spent the better part of an hour watching our friendly dolphin pod put on a display! There were 10 to 20 of them - all small - and they kept cycling around for more antics!

We ended up on a mooring ball in Sopers Hole and had a lovely rest.

Sopers Hole

Our chariot - Murphy - awaits

The main sail is attached to the mast at 10 or 12 points. During the day we saw that several of those points had come loose. When we got in and dropped the sail, several more of the points came away from the mast. It turns out that our sail track is compromised and needs attention.

Broken track

So we've had lots of interaction with experts and have arranged to have some repair work done in Puerto Rico. Luckily, our path to PR is downwind so our massive jib will get the job done adequately.

When we arrived here 10 years ago, our kids had arranged for a 60th birthday surprise at the Pussers Store.... a case of Pussers Rum. Well a couple of hurricanes and a lot of inflation later we went to replenish our stock. The price has doubled... and they don't have any. So we hunted around to a small store up the creek - and found a few bottles so we are good there.

We are checking out tomorrow (Saturday) for a Sunday departure. We'll run over to Norman Island (aka Treasure Island) to meet Blair and Sharon and their friends on their charter. Leave the next morning for Culebra and a plate of ribs at the Dinghy Dock!

We'll leave the boat in PR for a couple of weeks to spend some time at home with family. During that time our repairs will be done so that when I return in a couple of weeks with friends we can sail the boat back to Florida.

So that's that for now!


Saturday, February 11, 2023

Staging for the BVI

Hello Dear Family and Friends,

We've been boat-bound for most of the week. The wind is high and it makes for a challenging launch of Murphy the Dinghy. Also dragging your butt out of the dinghy onto the shore dock in a surge isn't fun. So we've been reading, cleaning, fixing, doing solitaire and sudoku. Also sipping on the odd beer and glass of wine. According to Canada's new liquor consumption guidelines we are raging alcoholics so... can you crack me another one? 


Speaking of alcohol, on Wednesday we got dangerously low on wine so when the wind settled for a brief period we raced ashore, caught a bus and headed for the Super-U. We wandered around the store amazed at the selection and prices. Love our Super-U. Picked up several boxes of wine of dubious quality. But we are at safe limits for now. 

Pam found me Marmalade at the Super-U

Premium Box Wine

Grande Case is all the rage for fun French eateries. We had lunch at one of the many cafes on Monday. I had the creole conch with macaroni and plantains and Pam had King Fish with fries. Wonderful.
Friday we went back. This time I was all in with a huge lobster, rice and plantain. Saved half for a lobster salad lunch later. Pam had a skewer of shrimp with fries. I'm doing the ribs before we leave. So good and the whole town smells delicious with the smoke from the BBQs. 

Mmmmmm lobster

Mmmmm... tiny lobsters!

Market Garden is the only place I know in SXM that has Plantation Rum. And their prices are excellent. So we took 3 buses to get there today and I stocked up on the regular and bought a Barbados and a Belize to entice prospective crew members. But better to get here before I drink it all. Plantation rum is purchased from different rum zones and then aged in France in nuclear barrels - or something like that. It's really good and you can get it at home but not for these prices.

Belize, Barbados and Original

The wind is looking good for an overnight Tuesday/Wednesday to the BVI. It will be almost dead downwind but it clocks a bit to the north a little later. We'll head out later in the evening and in the wee hours we should have full sails - or sail. Probably will just use the jib to avoid accidental jibes in the dark.

Looking at a late February marina visit in PR to send Pam home to kiss the grandkids. I'm tempted to come too but there's all the issues with leaving the boat. Maybe? Maybe no. We'll soon see. Stay tuned.

Beam Reach - wind on the bum

Blue Pearl

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Grande Case

Clearing in appeared to be challenging which surprised us, considering that clearance in the French islands has always been a cake-walk. However, even though the guide books and the interwebs didn't help much, as soon as we walked into the local Island Waterworld we were fine. There was a little, lonely computer off to the side, enter your info, pay them 2 euro and you're done.

Clearing in

Then the fun began. The Super-U grocery store! The selection is enormous, the prices are fantastic and you fondly remember your grade-nine French teacher. Never would have thought!

I love anchovies. Once, a long time ago in a market in Bath we happened upon a deli and the guy was promoting anchovies. He offered me one and said, "I like to chase them down with a shot of ice cold vodka." Well I don't know about the vodka but ever since that time I've been searching for anchovies in oil and vinegar. We've never seen them at home but we can usually find them in the French islands. And did we ever at the Super-U (pronouced Supare Ooh.) A skinny little packet for 6.99 euro but this mega pack for only 14.99 euro. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with anchovies, lunch was an anchovie snack before lunch in town and dinner was anchovie pizza. 


Lunch choices

Anchovie Pizza ingredients


Knot meter wasn't working so I had to pull it out to check the paddlewheel that spins in the water. When the boat is on the hard it's no big deal but in the water it's terrifying. Water pours in like a fire hose while you fiddle with this plug. It shouldn't be a big deal but I have visions of dropping the plug and then having to abandon ship while it sinks because of my incompetence. Anyway, it went smoothly, I didn't sink the boat and even though the paddle wheel is spinning free, it still doesn't work. Grrrr.

Knot meter plug

So we'll hang around here shopping and eating for a few more days and wait for good weather to head west to the BVI. Sharon and Blair are chartering there later this month and we hope to cross paths with them. 

Then we will saunter over to Puerto Rico where Pam will head home to catch up with the kids. I hope to carry on to the Bahamas and then north to Florida in April where we will store the boat over the summer.

Want to join me?

And so it goes.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Busy Busy

We've packed a lot of activity into a couple of days. 

Had dinner with Jen and family on Monday night and then she drove us to the airport. Red-eye to Toronto and then a short wait for our flight down to Antigua. All uneventful. 
Pam checking my life insurance policy - just checking.

Arrived at the boat and carted our junk up the ladder to Blue Pearl. Met with Jay (mechanic and all-round great guy) who was still in the middle of a fuel line job. Also met with Ode to confirm that we were launching in the morning. Checked that Leon was done with a minor fiberglass job.

Said our goodbyes to all the great people at North Sound. Raquel, Leon, Ode, Jay, Johann, Jawson, Pele and the rest of the crew that make NS a special place. Good memories of good people who took good care of us for the last 8 seasons.
Launched from North Sound - Great place!

We spent a blissful night on the boat on the hard with the no-see-ums and mosquitos and in the morning the launching guys arrived to splash us. Jay wasn't finished so we launched without our main engine and sat in the well until he finished up the job. 

Went around to Jolly Harbour, arriving just after noon, in time to get into the Epicurean and load up groceries (mostly rum) for an extended cruise north. 

Met with the Immigration Authority to clear out, filled up with fuel and more groceries. Spent the mid-morning repairing our navigation lights so people can see us in the night and avoid crashing into us. A good thing to avoid.

And at 4PM we didn't have anything else pressing on our "to-do" list so we left.

Heading out

Please don't go!

We reefed the main and let out full jib. Winds were light... until dusk. And then it was a sleigh ride. Ninety two nautical miles from Jolly Harbour, Antigua to Grand Casse, Saint Martin. Arrived before 6AM and dawdled until light to find our anchorage. Ninety minute shifts worked out quite well. Not too long sitting at the helm and enough time to have disturbing dreams about falling - as the boat lurched through the swells.

Bye bye Jolly

We've napped all morning and puttered into the afternoon. Time now to enjoy something fran├žaise.

7 euro each but now we've got wifi

Sleigh Ride - 7 nm average

Off to Virgin Islands soon.

Blue Pearl