Sunday, November 18, 2007

Around the Corner in Puerto Rico

November 16 2007 Friday - Boqueron to Cabo Rojo (~6 miles)

I know we’ve been cruising for 2+ years but today it felt like we were starting all over again. We love making short passages and today we only planned to go about 6 miles and anchor by the Cabo Rojo lighthouse. This is the far southwest corner of Puerto Rico.

We hauled up the anchor around 0630 and immediately set sail. Engine off and full sail. We are back on it. Only making 2-3 knots but who cares. We’re only going 6 miles today! Hot coffee and we are making our way very comfortably and quietly. As we sailed west and then south west and then south the east wind became more and more beamy. Nice. The wind also picked up. . . but not our speed. In the wind we were feeling (yeah our wind-o-meter is on the list of things that don’t work and we don’t care) should be making us go 6+ knots but we were barely making 5! I know, no hurry but that just tells me that I better look and probably try to clean the bottom when we get on anchor.

As we slowly motored into the big bay here it got shallow faster than we expected. This is something we are VERY cautions about. We circled around, probed here and probed there but it seemed like before we were anywhere near shore for some protection we were down to a meter of water under the keel. Maybe that’s ok and it stays like that for awhile. Maybe not. So we anchored out farther than we really intend to just to make breakfast and launch the dingy.

After scrambled eggs and potatoes we got in the dingy with our trusty lead line (a one kg mass from Maine East physics dept. Come and get it!) on a line with knots every 3 feet. We motored toward a prominent point on shore making sure to stay between it and the mother ship and sounding as we went. Yeah! We can go another 500 yards in maybe more and not hit bottom. We like getting this information via dingy! This is another great thing about early starts and short sails. You have time to be careful. You’re not tired and/or crabby after a long slog because that’s when mistakes are made.

Back to Enee we took her over the trail we had just blazed and set the hook with about a meter of water under the keel. The wind was from the south east but we had rollers coming in from sea from the south west so we rigged an anchor bridle as we did back at Rum Cay to point us into to the rollers. Helped a little.

Now for the bottom. Yeah it is covered in like a thin crusty layer of something. No barnacles (thankfully) but certainly a complete covering and that would definitely slow us down. Luckily it comes off easily with a brush. I spent an hour or so in the water doing what I could. Once you start you cloud up the water so much it is hard to tell what you are doing. I’m sure I’ve made an improvement and at the next anchorage I’ll try to do some more.

I love that we’re the only boat here. It is a wide open anchorage and, yeah, it’s too rolly for a long stay but it will be fine for one night. Tomorrow we go about 15 miles to La Parguera. We’ll be off at first light or even a little before. I wonder what that will be like.

Sailor Sue Says:
Enee pretty much sailed herself today. At least for the first part of our 6 mile trip. Very smooth sailing. As we got closer to the most southwestern tip of the island the winds did pick up quite a bit and we were heeled over some but still a nice sail. Only a few things found their way to the deck below because they weren’t stowed properly.

I took many many pictures. How many pictures can you have of sky and water, Scott asks. Never too many, I reply. We tacked our way into our anchorage and were good sailors all day, as Scott describes above.

Tonight just before dark we put the dingy motor and dingy up for the night and for the sail early tomorrow. It had been raining off and on most of the evening with very dark clouds to the north. Seems the north coast is getting lots of storms lately. The rain has ceased for now and it’s a very pleasant evening. We sit in the cockpit watching the revolving light from the lighthouse sweep over our boat on it’s 360 degree counterclockwise rotation.

I wonder if all lighthouse lights go in a counterclockwise direction. Maybe they do unless their in the southern hemisphere.

We are the only boat here. The moon peeks in and out of the haphazard clouds and gives us some moonshine on the water every once in a while. You can hear the waves wash against the shore in the distance. It’s quiet, creepy, and lovely at the same time. It’s nice to have the lighthouse nearby. Kind of like a night light to keep you company.

The sun has been down for a few hours and it’s got to be close to boaters’ midnight (9 p.m.) so that’s all for now from the sailing vessel Enee Marie.

November 17 - Saturday - Cabo Rojo to Parguera (~14 miles)

So last night Scott asked me if we had any kind of alarm clock on board. Our trusty travel alarm clock that worked like a charm for the past 10 years finally gave out. Hmmmm. What about that cell phone we bought last year back in Chicago? Sure enough it has an alarm and even though the service ran out long ago, the clock works. So Scott set the alarm. We wanted to get an early start, leaving just before dawn to be sure to arrive at our next anchorage well before any trade winds set in. No Problemo!

What time did you set it for anyway? He just smiled. Five? Four? Three? Hmmm 4:30. That should be early enough. We didn’t sleep much anyway because the anchorage at Cabo Rojo was a bit rolly - the kind of rolly where just when you thought it was calming down another major roller rolled the boat enough to roll you over in bed - well almost.

It was a clear starry night as we weighed anchor at 0530 and raised sail (main reefed) and headed to our first waypoint. Though there wasn’t much of it the wind was right in our face so we motor-sailed the 14 miles to Parguera. Since we had the motor on we couldn’t really judge if Scott’s scraping the bottom made any difference in our speed.

As the sun rose we left the lighthouse to stern although we never lost sight of it until turning up into the anchorage at Parguera (~17 58.0 67 03.0).

Also on shore near Parguera is a huge blimp like balloon that is visible from Boqueron but apparently moored here. The word on this balloon is that there are several cameras on board that collect weather data but also take photos of boats leaving the D.R. Big Brother indeed! It’s just like the one we would see near Ramrod Key, Florida.

(Scott says. . .)

So for those interested in navigation and such this day’s sail has good examples of what our sailing day can be like. The night before we leave we go over charts and identify some waypoints. Those are marked on the chart shown as PAR 1, 2 and 3. We enter these into the GPS that is at the helm (the lat long also show up on the SSB radio down below at the nav. station). Then it can be as simple as pushing GOTO on the GPS and selecting the next waypoint. The GPS then tells you the bearing to the next mark (which way the mark is from the boat) as well as COG (course over ground) which is which way you are going. Ideally you’d want the bearing and your COG to be the same number. If we had a high tech boat, our autohelm would use this data to steer the boat. We’re not a high tech boat. If this were a trawler that would be the end of the story but this is a sailboat! So what you say? Well in our example from this little sail we were motor sailing in a wind that was a little north of east. Our run from PAR1 to PAR2 was fine with some pressure on the mainsail. But when we turned to go to PAR3 we were dead into the wind. Main sail flopping about and speed knocked down by a good half a knot. So instead of being married to the waypoint we found a comfortable course lying about 30 degrees east of the line to PAR3. We sailed that way until we were about a quarter mile off the line. The GPS tells you this data as well! Then we put the helm over and sailed on the other tack on a course that was comfortable and faster than banging dead into the wind again until we were a quarter mile on the other side of the line. We continued this way but each tack reduced the distance off the line by 0.05 miles as we try to focus in on making PAR3. The person down below looking at the lat long and the charts can tell the helmsman if they should tack early or keep on as the charts show the shoals, wrecks, etc. This is way more comfortable and probably faster than trying to go straight upwind bare poles. From PAR3 we could spot the marked channel into Parguera. Now it’s forget the GPS and read the markers and the water to slowly come up in to the anchorage. To me this is the most fun. I know that with a chartplotter and autohelm I could sit back and sip my cappuccino and let my electronics do all the work but why? We get to be much better sailors this way and learn much more about our boat and her tendancies by keeping to the basics. Besides, how many cappuccino sipper skippers end up on a reef?!

As we reach our final waypoint we see the shoals and reefs that are scattered about this anchorage area but the buoys mark a clear entrance for us and we easily anchor near town and by a couple other anchored boats. It was 0930!

Yes, another successful sail and another new harbor town. As we settled in with our celebratory finger of rum we heard Lou from Indigo hailing Merengue on vhf channel 16. Apparently we still aren’t that far from Boqueron yet. Lou didn’t get a response so Scott hailed him to find out what was going on. Six or so boats were just arriving in Mayaguez from Luperon. The boats he knew of in the fleet were Merengue, Bellagio, Whisper, Song Bird, 2forSea, and maybe another one or two. It sounded like they had a good crossing. Good news. We look forward to seeing them as they continue on.

After a short nap we headed into town for lunch and to check out the scene. As Lou mentioned there’s a laundry, grocery store, post office, and of course several restaurants and bars. Also a marine store that we didn’t find yet but plan to tomorrow.

(At left - view of town from our anchorage)

The sun just passed behind some clouds as it set and evening is upon us. The waters are very calm except for the occasional passing small power boat. Should be good sleeping tonight. We’ll stay here another day and let the predicted higher winds pass by.

Scott Says: This is ideal traveling. Spend the morning sailing. Drop anchor before noon. Time to explore where you are, nap, have breakfast. Whatever. We’ll spend two days here as the trades are supposed to be up some on Sunday.


Rich P said...

Sports new you might care about. Illinois beat NY and finishes tied for 2nd in Big 10. Indiana beats Purdue and is bowl eligible, but not likely they'll get a bid cuz too many other Big 10 teams are ahead of them.

Do you guys get NFL games down there? Bears go against Seattle this afternoon and will probably lose.

Rich P said...

Make that Illinois beats NU, not NY! Should have previewed!