Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Problem Solving Under Way 101

Happy Christmas everyone. Here's a little essay I wrote along the way on our recent mini-trip to Vieques and Palominos. Besides fixing major things on occasion the cruising life is full of little problems and little solutions. Sometimes those are the most satisfying. We may be in Culebra through new years as there is no drop in the trades in sight. Every day is 20-25 knots with 9 foot seas. We could sneak to St. Thomas by leaving around 0300 and motor in the light night winds but we may have more fun here in Culebra with our friends. Besides, we haven't really finished exploring this island. Today we will walk to a beach where there is greaet snorkling. Stay tuned.

Problem: Our snubber line runs through the hawse hole and suffers from chafe. (Who doesn't?)

Solution: Typically people run the line through a hunk of hose to take away the chafe. I've tried this but the hose always gets sucked through the hole and slides down the line to the chain. I've tried different things to get this to not happen without much luck. Then, while messing with my Ashley Book of Knots I had the idea. I just need a big old knot forward of the hose to not let the hose move down the line. It's actually knot number 2203 (out of about 3900 knots!) and is a variation on the 'monkey fist'. Anyway it works and now one less thing to worry about.

Problem: When we drop the mainsail there is going to be some slack in the part of the halyard from the sail to the top of the mast. I can't put a lot of tension on this line now or I just raise the sail again. So what? Our boat has mast steps and external halyards. Who thought that was a good idea? If conditions are rolly or we get motoring with the wind behind us the halyard can wrap around a mast step. When it does we are totally screwed. We have to take the halyard off the mainsail (by climbing up 2 mast steps) and then walk the line around the lazy jacks to have a chance to whip it around the step. No big deal in a slip but on the rolling sea this can be quite an adventure.

Solution: One solution is to quickly zip up the bag to capture the sail but this takes some time and it can already be too late. So, I attached a bungy cord from the top of the sail to the first sail slug under it and closed the hooks on the bungy. Now when I drop the sail I can grab this bungy and loop it under the rams horn. Mainsail is now down and captured and I can tension the halyard and keep it from the steps. Nice.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Circumnavigating the Spanish Virgin Islands

OK, look out faithful reader. . . it’s another long one as Scott and Sue are back from their circumnavigation of the Spanish Virgin Islands. Enjoy.

December 17 Monday - Culebra (Dakity) (18 17.5 65 16.8) to Ensanada Honda on the southern coast of Vieques (18 06.8 65 20.5)

The general plan is to totally explore these Spanish Virgin Islands AND in so doing enjoy some non-beating-our-brains-out to-windward sailing. The wind is supposed to be 15 -20 knots east all week and I don’t think the trades get down much below that often. Sure you’d like 10-15 knots and two foot seas but we’re not in Kansas anymore. Wait there’s no water there...uh... We’re not in Chicago any more! We’ve been in Culebra over a week which is over my limit! So on Sunday night we moved the boat about a mile to a bay called Dakity. There are mooring balls in here (free!) and you can see the state of the seas from the anchorage. It’s well placed behind some reefs so the waves are non-existent. We could see that the seas were not all that friendly as the sun went down but maybe better tomorrow. We only have to sail about 15 miles south (BEAM REACH!) to get to the eastern tip of Vieques. We are up at 0600 and checking the seas as the sun comes up. Not too bad. Let’s GO! And we do. As we get under way I check the ‘dripless’ gland for the prop shaft. This allows water to make its own seal around the prop shaft. Very clever. Clever but right now I have about 6” of water over the top of my diesel tank! The dripless seems to be dripping. Why isn’t the bilge pump coming on? Well, that’s another question. Right now I hit the over-ride switch and make the bilge pump come on. It is winning the battle so I guess water isn’t coming in too fast if at all now. For all I know this water came in during the night. . . or yesterday! So, go on or go back?

I love Sue. I asked here her opinion and she said, “Well, when we get to an anchorage at Vieques or back at Culebra the boat will still be in the water so what’s the difference”? Onward! We think it is dripping when we are underway and spinning the prop shaft and today should be a lot of sailing and not much engine.

We sailed beautifully. Now that the wind was abeam and even a little aft of beam Enee is not so slow. We made 6+ knots and sometimes 7. This with a nasty bottom!

As we approach and round the eastern tip I hail the Vieques Range Officer to see if they are playing war games today in Salina Del Sur. I tried three times as we approached to hail them but no response. Good. I guess they are not playing soldier today. We have no trouble navigating between the rocks and turn east to get in the lee of the hills. We had a couple of dolphins lead our way in! Time to turn on the engine and pull in the front sail. go. Can't start the engine because the push button doesn't do anything. Tack back out into the deep-wide water. Snappy has to go down into the engine room and jump start with a channel-locks. Ok, now we can tack back in and make our way to the anchorage.

As we continue toward our anchorage we get hailed. Yeah. We are gently asked to leave as they are going to play today. Rats! We just beat a squall in and now we have to go back out and sail about 3 miles to the next anchorage.

We begin to raise the main again while in these calmer waters but...... now what?!? The halyard is trapped around a mast step. Not just any mast step. The second step from the top. No jiggling it off from there. Have to unhook the halyard from the sail - which means climbing 2 steps up the mast. Then walking the halyard back through the lazy jacks and finally swinging the thing free of the step. Sheesh what a pain. Step back up and reattach the halyard without letting it get around a step again. Have to keep pressure on both ends and hang on. Quite a trick. We finally get the main up - reefed of course - and head back out to sea.

A little rough now with the squally weather cranking up the wind. Worst of all we have me at the helm with the wind behind us. The main has been reefed all day and now we roll in some of the jib before the squall we can see behind us comes to eat. Not too bad but I’m glad we got some of that huge jib in in time. To turn to make our approach to Ensenada Honda we need the wind on the other side of the boat so we do a “Mr. Teyema”. My brother-in-law’s father used to take me sailing when I was a kid on his little Sunfish. When we were running before the wind and then had to get the wind on the other side of the boat we’d turn all the way to the wind and through it (tacking) instead of jibing. I think on the old wooden sailboats they called this ‘Wear Ship” (There, there ship!). A neat maneuver but you have to make sure you wait until the jib blows across before letting go the sheet or you’ll have the jib out in front of the boat. Not that WE’VE ever done that!

We don’t have detailed charts for this bay. We only have the chart for the whole of Vieques Island and Bruce Van Sant’s chartlet from his book. But we follow his directions and we read the water pretty well (Light blue shallow but maybe ok. Brown BAD) and make our way north and then back east to get tucked into the mangroves and out of the wind and waves. Water got pretty thin at one point - 0.9 meters under the keel (~3 feet) but then it went up shortly thereafter. We can see a boat anchored on the right hand shore but we go past it to get our nose stuck farther up the bay toward where a river empties into the sea. Anchor down and nobody died and only the switch on the bilge pump broke.

Ah, back on anchor and we look around. Nice. We’re the only boat back in here. What’s that? The water is teaming with jelly fish! Who knew? Well, no swimming today and if Mismo falls off the boat here, she’s on her own!

Speaking of Mismo, she had a rough sail during the first part anyway. It took her awhile to accept the fact that we can’t pay total attention to her while reefing the jib and navigating these waters. For awhile we put her sleeping box in the cockpit and she did hunker down in it. Then she had to take care of some bowel business and after that quickly jumped out of her box. Down below you go. Cleaned up her sleeping box but she kept climbing the steps into the cockpit. Things were getting a little dicey out so we put the board in and closed the hatch so she had to stay below. She found her way into our bed (the v-berth with the steps of cushions to climb in) and tried to sleep. One other place she found to hunker down down below was just under the bottom step where her water and food dishes are on top of a non-skid rubber pad. She liked the non-skid.

After a light lunch I re-wire the float switch and it is back in operation. No water is coming in right now so I’ll mess with that ‘dripless’ gland another day.

December 18 Tuesday Ensanada Honda to Sun Esperanza 18 05 . 5 N 65 28 . 5W

Scott is up by 0500. It’s still very dark out. We’re not leaving until the sun is up. But he wants to put way points into the GPS and find other things to fool around with. So he’s up. Not me. I can still see Orion through the hatch so it’s still night time as far as I’m concerned so I roll over and sleep for another hour or so. However once one person is up according to Mismo everyone should be up. She can’t stand it any longer and begins to jump on my face enough times that I too get up.

We listen to the off shore report. Sounds about the same. 15 - 20 knots from the ENE. Seas 5-9 feet. We had a wonderful flat night at anchor last night and this morning this bay is very calm as the sun comes up. Hard to believe it’s blowing and rolling that much out there. We raise the main at anchor then raise anchor and off we go.

We follow our tracks from the day before. Scott discovered that our GPS has this feature where you just move the cursor to where you want to make a way point and it automatically puts one in. You just have to name it. Pretty slick. He highlighted some points along the path we took in and they were a good guide to follow. Much easier than trying to stay on the jagged path line.

As we make our way out into the sea the waves are rather large and rolly. We let the jib out only to the spreaders and find that we can comfortably sail with the wind and waves at our quarter with no problem. Of course we’ll have to tack (do a Mr. Teyema - see yesterday) a few times to make our mark to Sun Bay but we are sailing! Nice.

It was less than 10 miles to our next anchorage. We left at 0700 and had anchor down and breakfast cooking at 1000. What a great way to spend a morning.

We pull into Sun Bay and see that there are mooring balls. A sailboat is just leaving so we take his mooring. Must be a good one if they stayed on it all night.

How beautiful. This bay has a mile long beach that curves around the opening of the bay. It’s lined with palm trees and clean light sand. We decide to rig the dingy, go ashore, Scott will run/walk to the other end of the curve, I’ll join him there - just walking and taking pictures, and we’ll check out the bay of Esperanza next door. The bay next door is not as rolly as Sun Bay and is closer to town so we decide to walk back to dingy, get back aboard and motor on over to the other mooring balls in Esperanza bay.

As we get to the dingy we suddenly hear a noise and realize that it’s a horse announcing his arrival. Just one young horse running through the woods coming out by our dingy just 10 feet away then running down the beach. What’s that about? By the time I get my camera out of the waterproof bag - he’s gone.

Time to tackle the outboard again. We barely got ashore coming in because the motor was acting up again. Scott thought that the hose end that attaches to the gas tank didn’t get attached properly and that’s why the motor stopped suddenly and the bulb on the hose deflated. Before we head back to Enee he makes sure the hose is attached properly and sure enough the motor starts right up. Half way back it dies again. Well that wasn’t the fix either. We row the rest of the way. We did order a new carburetor - finally- for the thing and it should be in Culebra when we return. Hopefully that will really fix this monster. In the mean time we plan to anchor as close to shore as possible. The mooring balls we’re heading for are fairly close to shore.

We raise the dingy on the davits with the motor on it since we’re just going around the corner. We follow the 10 meter depth line and easily make our way into the next anchorage. There is a shoal marked on the charts that stretches far into the anchorage from a small island. We note the lat/long of that shoal and stay well north of it. But wait....why is the depth dropping???? According to the chart it should be 3 meters deep here but I read less than a meter (Add 1 meter to 1.5 meters of our keel and you still don’t get 3 meters)! Dropping fast to .5 .4 .3 .2 Back Up! Quick!! It got to .1 meters under the keel when I backed up and returned to deeper water. When backing up much of the bottom (which was very close to the prop) was stirred up and a sting ray jumped out of the water about 5 feet. Sorry guy. Didn’t mean to disturb you.

Okay. Forget the mooring balls. We anchored in 3 meters of water (really) out by the little island. This will be close enough to shore.

Scott jumped in the water with fins and snorkel to check the anchor. We read that it can be slippery here with the grass but our anchor dug in after only one bounce. He says it looks good and sure enough our lat/long isn’t changing except for our swing. Another anchorage, another view, and also quite beautiful in its own way. There are many boats here, mostly fishing boats so the bay looks busy. And indeed there is more life on shore - we can see a beer banner. We see the dingy dock and decide to visit later in the afternoon, once we’re sure the anchor is really really holding and that means there’s time for a nap too.

About 4 p.m. we dingied ashore with no motor problems, said hello = hola to the family jumping and swimming off the dock, and walked down the road along the shore. First we saw signs advertising burgers, snacks, cold drinks this way with an arrow toward a fast food trailer on the beach. The guy yells, ‘Cheeseburgers here. Cold Cerveza!’ Sounds tempting but we walk on. There are several bars/restaurants along the street right next to each other as if they’re connected.
We walk into Bananas where the bar has two open places. We sit down and immediately the bartender greets us and asks when we arrived and where we’re from. We ordered Medalla’s and chatted with Kevin - the bartender. He was busy making tropical drinks in the blenders that were right in front of us. Each time he had a little extra and poured a short glass for us. Yum. We’re going back tomorrow for sure. Banana’s is a great place to sit and watch the sun go down with your own boat in the picture!

December 19, Wednesday - Layover day in Esperanza

The morning started with me taking the dingy ashore for a little run/walk. I’m trying hard to do this when the situation allows and this one does. The motor almost runs all the way there. Nice. I’ll worry about that after the run. I just follow the road parallel to the sea. After about 3 blocks I’m basically out of town. The road is hilly but not all up so that’s good. After about a mile I turn around and jog back. Sue and I will explore more of this little town later in the day.

After several pulls I get the motor started and cast off. And then it dies. Then it won’t start. I drift and wish the damn thing would just fall off the transom and leave me alone. After ignoring it for a few minutes I try again and it starts and runs roughly back to Enee. Later that morning Sue and I go out and see about snorking along the shallow spit that runs to the north of the little island off the coast here. It’s real close to us. Dingy takes us there but we have to row part way back. I’m ready to explode.

Dingy on shoal near our anchorage. Notice how the waves come from both directions making for a very shifting shaol.

After pouting on board for awhile I get back in the dingy and mess with the motor. There is not much to adjust and I’ve had the damn carburetor apart 1000 times. I squirt some CRC 656 into the air intake and run it wide open. I do this a few times. Hmmmm, maybe that helped. Well, winds are light and we can row if we have to. In to town we go (motoring all the way!). We walk to the little store called the Green Store. Pretty well stocked store. We pick up some kitty food, 2 potatoes and 4 apples. We take another route through the neighborhoods back to the water and stop at Bananas for a beer.

While there our friends on Whisper came in. We saw them arrive earlier and warned them of the shallows. Their boat is smaller though and they made it through. We talk with them for a bit about which boats are still in Salinas and who is going where when. We know almost every boat that is talking on the VHF now between Salinas and Culebra and we know all of them from Luperon. The fleet is now coming more together and I think when we get back to Culebra we’ll be in the company of over a dozen boats we know.

Back on board for sunset and a perfect one it is. I may have even seen the ‘green flash’. Is he a big Norwegian looking guy? Somebody help me here. I make potatoes, cream of mushroom soup, onions, and ham in the pressure cooker (10 minutes is too long!). Yum. I call it scalped potatoes and I guess it’s close. We sit on the foredeck with a glass of wine after dinner. The little town has strung christmas lights along their main street for about 3 blocks. Looks like a little pretend city. Another great day!

December 20, Thursday - Back to Green Beach 18 06 . 6 N 65 34 . 6 W

That was a nice lay over day but it’s time to get moving again! Just 9 miles to the west end of the island - Green Beach. This is where we stopped on our way to Culebra from Salinas a couple of weeks ago. Again we sail there on a nice downwind run. The mooring balls are still there and we get one nice and close to the beach this time. We’re close enough to snork from the big boat toward shore and forget the dingy. Really! I don’t need that outboard ruining my day. Nice snorking here. Reading and laying about filled in the rest of the day. The moon is getting nearly full and it’s a wonderful view from this beach looking back toward Puerto Rico.

December 21, Friday - North to Palimonoes 18 21 . 0 N 65 34 . 7 W

Off we go! I am digging keeping on the move this way. For the first time in . . . I can’t remember, there is not enough wind to sail. Shocking! We have to use some engine assist. After a couple of hours though some wind came up and we were off the engine and sailing on a beam reach north to a little island off the north east corner of Puerto Rico called Isla Palaminoes.

Captain talking to Leah off the east coast of Puerto Rico. And yes that is a cigar!

Very pretty location. The parks dept. has put mooring balls on the western shore here and we take one. Now you can see nearly the entire expanse of Puerto Rico’s eastern seaboard. Nice. There is probably good snorking around here but we have zero confidence in our dingy motor and don’t want to get stuck stranded out here or find our selves drifting out to sea. Having a dependable dingy would make for a much more interesting trip! Our boat is surrounded by millions of little fish. Every once in a while they get themselves all worked up and come boiling out of the water. Crazy.

Peter and Crystal are here aboard Sundowner. Crystal is about 5 months pregnant and has just recently returned to the boat from New England to continue the cruise. Very exciting times for these two young cruisers!

This is a pretty busy place. There is ferry service from mainland Puerto Rico about every 30 minutes. This causes some wake when they come and go but not too bad. We can see lots of power boats with there sterns to the beach as well. This island is only about 5 miles from the biggest marina in the entire Caribbean - Marina Del Rey. I think this island makes for a nice day trip for those boat owners. But, everyone goes home before sundown leaving just 3 cruising sailboats on their moorings.

December 22, Saturday - Return to Culebra 18 18 . 5 N 65 17 . 9 W

Well our stint of downwind sailing is over! We originally thought that if we were getting headed too much to go to Culebra that we would fall off and just head for Isabella Secunda on the north shore of Vieques. Turns out the wind put both of those in our initial no go zone. So we did our motor, full main and reefed genny routine and started clawing our way toward Culebra. At about the halfway point we could have used this wind to sail south to Isabella Secunda but that’s a big town and to get ashore we’d have to wrestle with the outboard again and I’m so done with that. We think we have a new carburetor waiting for us back in Culebra so we decide to just keep tacking and use the day to get back to our anchorage there. We arrive around 3 PM and anchor right back where we were next to our good friends on Bellagio - who treated us to a wonderful 'boat' cooked chicken dinner. What a great welcome home.

Mismo Update:
So her favorite hiding place is in a canvas sack filled with plastic grocery bags. It's a perfect fit for her and she likes to climb in when we're under sail. It's her cruising hammock.

Whew! A whirlwind tour of the Spanish Virgin Islands. This is a great cruising and sailing region. The seas of Vieques Sound are fairly well protected and there is a lot to explore. We don’t think anyone really goes here they mostly just pass through on there way to BVI and beyond. Good. Keep going. Makes for nice cruising for the few who take the time to knock around these parts.

Now what? Got to get the outboard in shape. I hope the new carburetor is the answer. We didn’t get back to Culebra in time to see if it was waiting for me at the post office so now we’ll have to wait for Monday. So, Chirstmas in Culebra. Once the outboard is fixed we are thinking about sailing 40 miles south to St. Croix. From what we read this place is also largely ignored by the cruising communitiy as it is not right on the trail through the virgin islands. But, we think we can make a big ‘V’ and sail south-south east to St. Croix and then north-north east to the British Virgin Islands and make this hunk of easting two long beam reaches. Looking forward to that!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Calming down in Culebra?----not yet!

New Album 12/16/07 9:26 AM
Although the wind has been howling here for a week Kathy, Kerry, Scott and I did manage to take a walk to the other side of the island. Flamenco Bay is on the north side of Culebra and the waves breaking on shore were quite impressive. It was about a 45 minute, hilly walk but well worth it. The beach has a nice campground under the pine trees where it’s cool and quiet.

We met up with cruiser friends Taimi and High States on the beach. They rented a car for the day and were planning to visit several different beaches around the island. Yvon decided to test the waters here at Flamenco. Brave man.

The walk back didn’t seem quite as long but we sure were mighty thirsty. We stopped in at El Batey Restaurant for delicious cheeseburgers and nice cold Medalla. Yum.

Yesterday we received a Christmas card from Leah and Jason. It was delivered General Delivery at the Culebra post office. What a treat to get mail! And a great card at that.

Also yesterday Mismo turned another week older. Here are two pictures of her. Do you think she’s grown in a week’s time?

Finally the weather is going to give us a break starting Monday. The storms, squalls and high winds are leaving and the usual trades will return. We plan to sail down to Viequez (vee-AYE-case) up to Isla Palominos and back to Culebra. We are looking forward to this mini-cruise. We came to the Spanish Virgin Islands to explore them and now we’ll get a chance to.

Hopefully we’ll have wonderful stories to tell when we return from this trip.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Olga - Here and Gone Already

When we listened to Chris Parker (the weathermangod) this morning we learned that a semi-tropical storm named Olga passed just north of us last night and early this morning. It was very windy (maybe gusts of 30+) and stormy all night and most of today. Just now (about 1400 hours) the wind is settling down a bit and there is more blue sky than rain clouds.

All the boats anchored in this inner harbor here in Culebra seemed to fair well. Nobody's anchor drug and no mooring lines broke. So all is well. We're glad we moved our anchor when we did as we got a little more protection from the 'white horses' (choppy waves) as the winds picked up. And the 7/8 power windless motor worked like a charm. The storm is passing over the Mona Passage today and will landfall on the Dominican Republic tomorrow. Strong winds are predicted to continue here until Sunday. Maybe then we'll get a little weather window to take a cruise around these Spanish Virgin Islands. We'll see.

We hope to take Mismo to the vet tomorrow. The vet comes to this island every 2nd Wednesday and we'll try to get in line early. First come first served we hear. Mismo has ear mites and we want the vet to do a thorough job cleaning her ears (we've been washing her ears with a soapy paper towel but can't get too deep where the buggers are) and hopefully get some medicine for her too.

Ear mites or no ear mites Mismo is always on the move. Here she is getting a little piece of cheese from Kathy. Hmmmm .... a cat that likes cheese. Sound familiar?

In the meantime she continues to be rediculously entertaining. She climbed the companionway ladder yesterday so no more leaving the doorway open. Of course we continue to take too many pictures of her.

I typically download pictures onto the computer every day. Each time I finish adjusting the photos I hit 'Done' and that's when the photo library takes me back to the first photo of the entire library. And what is that you ask?

It's a picture of Gracie of course. So even though Mismo has taken over as cutest kitty on board, we always remember Gracie. Awwwww. . . .

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Small Solace in Being Right

What a day. It began with working on various small mysteries with the oil pressure, oil buzzer and charging system. All seems well with minor mysteries remaining. Then I worked at constructing a better snubber line by splicing a clip onto a sturdy hunk of 5/8 inch dock line. My marlinspike seamanship skills are woefully lacking but after some swearing and sweating I got it on. To replace the existing snubber I need to haul it up and in this wind that means engine on and a little forward gear to be able to haul up some chain. No problem here and the new one was clipped on but on trying to lower it there was a problem. The windlass wouldn't turn. It would try and then get stuck. Then no going up nor down. Well the rest of the chain was lowered by hand and now I have a new project in front of me.

Last time I had trouble with the windlass I assumed (ok I HOPED) that it was mechanical and took it all apart only to find I really have to take the V-berth apart because the problem is electrical and that is where the relay is. I'm going to be smart this time. I'll take the V-berth apart first (do we all see where this is going?). Yep all is well there so I guess something is physically blocking the motion of the windlass.

Back topsides I remove the many screws to open up the gear train. I'm now hoping for something obvious logdged in the gear train (like a sandal) that I can remove and all will be well. But no. I remove the first gear so now the motor shaft is free from the gear train. I try the switch. No. Oh damn. . . it is the motor itself that is jammed. What the . . . . ?

Well, it's already broken so no danger in dissesembling the motor itself. As I'm doing this I'm noticing how well it is all sealed up. What the hell could be jammed? the brushes? Or what if a magnet had shattered. I mean let's face it, there is nothing in a motor but coils of wire and magnets! I finally get the armature removed and peer inside. What do I see by 7 nice magnets. . . and one shattered one! I'm sad that the motor is busted but elated that I thought of what might be wrong. Feynman called this fixing stuff by thinking about it!

Now then. . . will this motor work with 7 of its 8 magnets? I clean out all the shards and dust and reassemble the whole thing. IT WORKS! Probably at 7/8 it's old power but it works. I'll be calling the company tomorrow to see if I can get a replacement motor but they'll probably want to sell me the entire windlass which I don't want. With a new motor I can keep this 7/8 motor as back up! We'll see.

Blown Away in Culebra

Well, not really but man is it windy! As predicted we are perhaps into a 'Christmas Wind' cycle here where the trades pipe up to 25+ knots which in itself isn't that unusual but then they stay there, day and NIGHT, for maybe a week or two. Our anchor is holding well but I worry about the snubbing line that I have attached. This is about 15 feet of line from the chain to a cleat to take the main tension from the chain otherwise you'd have huge shock loads on the chain itself which has no stretch to it. My snubbing line runs through the hauwse hole (hole in the side of the boat to allow the passage of a dock line) but rubs on the edges with a lot of tension. Today I'll haul that up and either replace it with thicker line or fashion some chafe protection for it. I've tried that using a variety of hoses in the past but they all wear through fairly quickly.

The new 'Smart Regulator' has been installed and seems to be working fine. I had questions yesterday about my batteries though and so removed my 2 6 volt golf cart batteries and went back to two matching deep cycles batteries. Now that I don't have refrigeration my battery needs are much less than before.

Recent development with the oil pressure guage: It will sometimes jump around instead of settling in at about 40 psi like it is supposed to. I'd like to think the problem is in the wiring and not in the actual oil pressure as a simple drop in oil pressure would be bad but this quick jumping around looks electrical to me. The sender itself is brand new so it is probably not that. Connection looks clean as well so maybe the problem is the guage itself in the cockpit. I'll have a look at that later today.

Mismo continues to be a endless source of entertainment. We don't have to do anything but just watch her and she is such an idiot it is just hilarious. Still can't jump too well but she's trying. Today she made it up 4 of the 6 stairs of the companionway and then paniced and just hung there and meowed (squeaked) until I rescued her. Actually things get a lot more exciting when she is able to climb to the cockpit by herself. We typically leave the companionway totally open at night for breeze. Now what?

Mismo is helping Kerry read directions for the new smart regulator. Smart!

You'll notice some minor changes in the look of things over on the left side. I'm back to recommending books since I have a couple to recommend. Usually I'm paging through one thriller after another but now have the two that you see there to recommend. Just pass the cursor over the books to see a little more about them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

We're in Culebra

Salinas to Viequez to Culebra

Our last morning in Salinas we all gathered at Cruisers Galley for breakfast and internet. Cruisers love finding FREE internet!

We left at day break on Wednesday. We planned to go 40 miles to Viequez - one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. It was a long haul considering the 15 to 20 miles we’ve come accustom to. It would also be Mismo’s first sail. Oh Boy!

Well it started out fine. Seas were calm early in the morning as expected. As we headed more east toward the eastern part of Puerto Rico the seas and wind and storm showers picked up. We had a rolly ride for most of the 10 hour sail that day. Mismo did her best and came up on deck to play a bit between her poops and throw up. It was a rough ride for the first time. Even with that she did come to find the time to take care of the important things.

Once we were anchored at Green Beach, Viequez Mismo was feisty again and ready to rumble - which means she wants to bite your toes. So she did. What's with that tail?

This anchorage was spectacular. We were traveling with 3 other boats (Tiama, Bellagio, and High States) and we and one other boat were the only ones there. We all took a mooring ball since they were available and helped us from anchoring on coral and sea grass.

After a bumpy ride this calm anchorage was very welcome and we enjoyed every minute of it. Scott immediately dove in with his fins and snorkel to check out the prop. It seemed like we should have gone faster than the 4.5 knots we were averaging. The water was crystal clear and to our surprise the prop was also very clean. We just had the prop and bottom cleaned by Moondancer a few days before we left Salinas and he did a good job because it still held. Not sure why we were sailing so slow. Except that we don’t point to windward for schiezta. We decided not to worry about that too much. Instead we swam around the boat in our dog paddle side stroke fashion and marveled at how clean the water was. So nice to be in caribbean water where you can see the bottom 15 feet down.

After our swim we opened a bottle of white wine and toasted our sail and arrival in the Spanish Virgin Islands. ‘Look where we are now.’ Scott was going to make tuna casserole in the pressure cooker (a wonderful cooking invention that we are just now discovering how to use - thanks Kay and Gary for the insightful gift). Instead we held off on a full meal and just snacked with our wine on cheese and crackers and watched the sun set. Lovely. Later once the mosquitos disappeared (they seem to be busy at sunrise and sunset then go away) we stood at the bow looking at the stars. Spectacular since at this island there were no bright lights to block out any celestial light. I looked down at the water and noticed that stars were reflected below as well. But wait. What was that? Oh my, it’s lightning bugs in the water! Yep - those bioluminescent jobbers were a glowing down below. Just like lightening bugs. What fun.

Scott set the alarm clock for 3 am since we planned to set sail at 0400. We could see Orion through our hatch opening. All was well until about midnight when we heard a power boat enter our anchorage. I got up to see him shine a bright light on each of our boats. There were no lights on the power boat but it had the distinct shape of a police boat. They tend to have a tall bar above the helm. Hmmm....... What’s this about? After several minutes the police boat’s motor turned off and he just sat there. Hmmmm.... I went back to bed waiting and expecting a knock on the hull and officers announcing they were boarding our boat. But nothing. About 3 am when we were getting up, their motor started up again and they were gone. Homeland Security at work - I’m guessing.

Thursday - Green Beach, Viequez to Culebra (click to see map)

We decided to go to Culebra instead of Isla Palominoes this day. The trade winds are supposed to crank up to 25+ knots tonight and then stay there for several days. Culebra looks like the better anchorage for that with more to do and see if we are pinned down for awhile. So, up at 0300 and off the mooring ball at 0400. I don’t want any more mid day trade wind sails! Of course Culebra was bearing dead up wind. What else is new! We motor and main again along the coast of Viequez and did ok. When we started to lose the protection we were getting from that island we tack to the north and headed for Culebra. About 10 miles out I could see three other islands way off in the distance to the east. Checking the charts those can only be St. Thomas, St. John and Tortola! Everything is really close now. What fun.

There is a big bay running east west in Culebra with many anchorable smaller bays off of it. We sailed to the far west end to be near town and the wifi signal by which we are posting this. Nice to have wifi on the boat again for awhile. We’ll be here perhaps a week and then we’d like to go back (yes!) and explore Viequez some more and then back up to Isla Palominoes. We’d really like to explore this little island group rather than just pass through. That little trip should actually offer something other than beating to windward too!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On the Road Again . . .

Tomorrow we plan to ship out of Salinas. It has been a fun stay and as we know, 1 week is about my limit and that’s been 3 days ago! I show a chart of the Spanish Virgin Islands. This group of two major Islands, Vieques to the south and Culebra to the north is just off the east coast of Puerto Rico. I’ve circled our planned stops. Right now we are about 40 miles west of Vieques (off the chart) and we’ll take a couple of days, weather permitting, to get snuggled in to that anchorage off the western tip of Vieques. There are several NO ANCHOR regions around Vieques as the US Navy had used this area for target practice for years but no longer. That means there might be some unexploded ordinance on the bottom that you wouldn’t want to find with your anchor! Then we plan to sail north to the little island of Palominos hoping to get the wind a little more abeam. There are a number of anchorages and marinas along the east coast of Puerto Rico if we don’t want to go all the way to Palominos at once but, hey, it’s only about 20 miles! From there we can short tack just south of the shoals that stretch from just north of Palominos nearly all the way to Culebra. A close up of Culebra (not shown) indicates many interesting looking bays for anchoring. This is probably where we are for Christmas. Everything is line of sight sailing and naked eye-ball navigation now. In fact from Culebra it is only 20 miles to St. Thomas. What great sailing/cruising grounds these are!

Mismo is a GREAT addition to the boat. Hours of fun just watching her discover the boat which has to seem really huge to her. She’s only been in the main salon and in the cockpit so far. She has yet to learn how to jump but she’s probably only days away from that. She likes to sleep with us for awhile and then she likes to get down. And then back up. Repeat. Since she can’t jump up or down we’ve had to raise and lower her by hand. Last night we built her a temporary ramp instead. Worked great and she took right to it.

Finally, I'm reading a really good book. Mostly we get books from the book exchanges in various marinas etc and that means you exchange one mystery for another. That's ok but sometimes you want something different. I found this book, Between Silk and Cyanide by accident and it is wonderful. I wanted to read it just to find out what the hell the title was about. You find out about 200 pages in! It is by Leo Marks who was a master cryptographer at the age of 22 for the Brits in World War II. You'll like this book if you like hisory, cryptography, humor, or for anyone who has to work in a huge beaurocracy that is reluctant to change. Leo is also the son of the 'famous' Marks & Co used and rare booksellers in England (Oxford?) and he offers a few stories about his father and working in that shop.

We’ll update the chart and our progress when we can. We never know exactly when that will be so thanks for checking in once in a while and, as usual, all comments are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Still in Salinas

Life is still good in Salinas. We are enjoying just watching Mismo be ridiculus and watching manatees! This harbor seems to be a friendly home to manatee. We've seen several already and then today while I was reading in the cockpit I saw something out of the corner of my eye. In the water, upside down, under our dingy was a huge manatee. He or she had a flipper up on the dingy tube to 'hold on' while I guess nibbling on what ever the hell is growing on the bottom of my dingy. Amazing animals.

Yesterday we had the bottom cleaned again by a diver on another boat and he told me that I basically have no bottom paint any longer. Hmmm...I don't plan to paint until St. Maartin in February so I guess in the meantime we should stay in clear water and KEEP MOVING!

Bellagio and High States arrived this morning! Two boats (and their crew!) we are very familiar with from way back in Luperon. It is fun to re-unite with old friends and compare stories about sailing the same grounds but not together.

We are currently planning to leave here on Wednesday and continue east to make a jump to Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Thanks to all who comment.