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STAGING FOR THE BIG ONE February 27, 2016

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Uncategorized.
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Time to face the Mona Passage for the last time. I have always said that if I went west through the Mona Passage, I was not coming back. We are staged.

We left Salinas and sailed to Ponce and fueled up for our big move. The day had been very pleasant with no wind and swells on the quarter. So we rolled through the first part of the day.

After fueling we headed to Gilligan’s Island. I found out this time it has absolutely nothing to do with the TV show. I had been led to believe that some footage was shot there. Not so. It acquired its nickname from an individual who looked like Gilligan. The nickname stuck. No other claim to fame.

On the mainland there is a nice resort which has a bar with WiFi that we used. It also served a nice, but some what expensive lunch. We were going to use the WiFi and go back for dinner. We looked at the dinner menu, and just did not see something we just had to try. After the lunch prices, we could not afford the dinner anyway. We got our emails done and that will be the last WiFi for a while. We will not stay in the Turks and Caicos, just get fuel and move on to the Bahamas.

As we headed from Ponce to Gilligan’s Island, we had a frontal passage pass over us. The heaviest rain I can ever remember being out in. The wind hit 30 kts. and lightening. One of the strikes was close enough to knock out the auto pilot, radar depth sounder and chart plotter. I got the plotter going after rebooting. The radar and auto pilot came back in the morning. Either they got to wet or the lightening overloaded the boat electronics. That means big Gremlins to me. The loss of the auto pilot and radar would have caused us to return to Ponce and seek professional help with the electronics. Happily those major items came back to life. I have lost the depth sounder. That we will have to get replaced but to day it started to show some life. Not working, but things appeared on the screen. Not all make since, but stuff. It may have gotten to much moisture and maybe drying out for a couple day will bring it back to life. I believe that is what has happened to the other items.

After Gilligan’s Island we moved west and up the west coast of Puerto Rico to Puerto Real. A small town, with a protected harbor and a marina with WiFi. That was good because besides the weather man on the SSB, all my other weather come on the computer. The weather for crossing the Mona is on the edge for the mate. We will have a swell from the north and wind waves from the NE. Those waves could be 7 foot. But it will be with 11 second periods. That should make them livable. Today we moved to Mayaguez. It is an open roadstead at I believe the 3rd largest city on the island. It is very industrial and has no facilities for cruisers. It is the jumping off place to head west. We will leave before light and work our say out past the reefs and then be in the Mona.

Tonight we have some rap around waves coming in to rock us to sleep, or not. The mate is having second thoughts about leaving. That could leave us stuck here for a while. Hope for calming seas for the Nightwatch and crew.



Posted by sailingnightwatch in Caribbean, Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing, Sailing the ICW.
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Last weeks weather window slammed itself shut. Out of the 3 days minimum we needed there was 1 good day. We could have done the Mona Passage, but then be stuck in the DR. Rather be stuck here. Then there was problem two.

The outboard motor for the dinghy took ill. The newer motors no longer have shear pins to protect the prop and all. They now have a splined hub in the prop to protect it. Between the spline gear and the prop itself is a strong peace of rubber that is made to give up at a certain torque. Like when you hit something. So now instead of a $.25 shear pin, you get to buy a new $80 prop. Such a deal.

The motor still operates…, kind of. You can go almost at starting speed. More then likely at shifting speed. I am happy. That is a hair faster then rowing. We are about ¼ a mile from the dinghy dock. That would be a long row. We have a RIB inflatable dinghy. They are designed to be driven by a motor. They are very efficient when driven by a motor. They were not meant to be rowed. The oars are telescopic so they fit IN the dinghy. Very efficient. When in use they will collapse, as in break, if you put any degree of effort into rowing. That is assuming the oar locks do not rip off the dinghy. A common problem.

Prop education. If you are a distributer of this motor, you have access to the standard prop that is provided with the motor. If not a distributer you get option 2. The good news is that all motors are standardized on the shaft size. They also provide a variety of prop sizes that will give you a trade off between speed and power. None of which is quite like the original. I went for speed. We will see if that works.

Now we are in Puerto Rico. As the islands go, a pretty sophisticated place. We called the supplier and they have a prop in stock. Shock! We ordered the new one on Wednesday. It comes from San Juan. That is about a 2 hour drive. Should be here maybe Friday. But we are on an island Mon. Well at least by Saturday. Nah. Monday? It’s Presidents Day. Tuesday. That is tomorrow. I sure hope so.

As for the weather. Our weather man suggests we find someplace closer to go. That means the DR. Been there, done that. We stayed in 2 very nice expensive resort marinas. In the DR you stay someplace. And you pay fees. If you go from point “A” to point “B”, you pay fees again. You get the idea.

One consolation about being here is it is full of Manatees. The bay has a 5 mph speed limit. No problem. I wish I could go 5 mph. Where we are anchored is a favorite feeding area for a pod of these creatures. They feed about breakfast time. We finish eating and have our coffee in the cockpit and watch them surface to breath. They disappear around noon and come back about 3 in the afternoon. I have no idea what they do or go when not feeding by us. The locals know about this area and when out in there boats come over to see if any manatees are around. The mate has come to the conclusion that manatee watching becomes boring pretty quick.

OK, you want pictures, check the Facebook page. Now do not get to excided. This is raw nature at its best. You not looking at something at the aquarium. These creatures can and do go wherever and whenever they want. Therefore you will see some noses, some backs and some tails. Sometimes they will lay just under the surface and keep there nose up to breath. They then look like a brown sandbar in the water. They are gray in color, but our water is cloudy and they are difficult to see. The closest one has got to the boat is about 40 feet. That is ok. I do not think I want one of these several ton animals bumping into my rudder.

I try to please. You get pictures of something in the water that is not a big yacht.

By the look of the long range forecast, we will probably be here.

SALINAS February 11, 2016

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Uncategorized.

About a third of the way west from the SE end of Puerto Rico is the town of Salinas. It appears to be a very protected anchorage. For most weather it is. If it blows hard from the SW, S or SE it could be bad. Off from the mainland are many island of mangroves. They grow on the thin beach or shallow water and put shoots into the bottom of the water right off from there branches. They collect sand in their roots and shazaam, an island. Large seas pass over and through the new island until they get established. These are not to established. Some cruising friends of ours that frequent this area often say it can get pretty rough in here. We have been here almost a week and it has been beautiful.

We have two cruising buddies who have been here getting ready to head to Guatemala and points south to Panama. Neither are planning to go through the canal. Too expensive. One of the couples is looking at joining the x-patriots group in Guatemala. Time will tell. The other couple have been cruising for years and have been to the area and are going back to visit. The mate and I talked about going, but there are long sails with strong winds and large seas. They are part of the Columbian Low. It is almost always there and always rough. The mate is not wanting to do days of rough weather when you go into the stuff on purpose. Some of the places they are going are supposed to be really beautiful. That’s nice, but not worth the beating to get there and back.

The end of this week we will move to the west end of Puerto Rico and stage for the trip across the Mona Passage and points west. We will start by going early to Ponce for fuel then on to Gillian’s Island for the night. Another small Mangrove island. The nest day on west to Perto Real and be ready for a weather window that is to come a week from Friday. We will be ready, hope the weather is. Depending on the weather and our guts, we may try a multi-day passage.


Posted by sailingnightwatch in Caribbean, Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing, Sailing the ICW.
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This is the second island in a row we can say we done it. Did some hiking. 1.5 mile one way. That is the longest I have done in a year. Trying to do more Yoga along with walking more and as we are moving more often, that is exercise of its own. One does not lay around much on a sail boat.

While there, the wind and sea were back in the 20 knot range with 9 foot seas. The bay is very protected. That means no rolling. Good sleeping. It is also cold at night, good sleeping. 76 degrees.

Culebra is quite hilly and a very pretty island. The people are very friendly. Food was good. There are several beautiful beaches plus the diving and snorkeling is among the best. Because of the seas being so heavy we only waded in 2 of them. One was Flamingo Beach, beside Flamingo Lagoon. The beach is one of the top 10 in the world. It is. A little whiter sand and it could be as good as Pensacola Beach.

About the flamingos. The US Government bought this island during WWI. It was used for target practice. The thousands of Flamingos left and have not come back. They gave the people 24 hour to leave. Some did not. The island only had a few hundred people on it to begin with. This went on through WWII when there were around 17,000 troops stationed there. This lasted until Pres. Nixon gave the island back to Puerto Rico. It has grown and there are a few resorts on the island. I think one could have a great vacation week here.

The second beach was Turtle Beach. We talked to some people who had been there before and said you can be surrounded by 2 dozen turtles at a time. The day we were there we did not get into the water, not to rough, just very murky. Talked to one of the pros that run a diving concision and he said it was not a good day to see turtles.

We had rented a gas powered golf cart to tour the island. Perfect vehicle for the island. It was a challenge to get up the hills, but if you know golf cart brakes, it was thrilling on the way down.  We also stopped at a roadside museum. Not normally one of my things. This was a small house but with only one room. It had three DVD viewing area, One was archeological, one pre-European and one its modern history. That DVD on modern history ran for an hour and was the best on something like this I had seen. Someone had the forethought to go and interview and video the people that lived through the military operations. Very interesting stories from both the men and women who lived through those times.

We did the island. One end to the other and one side to the other. Great fun.

Saturday we left for the Isla De Vieques. This is another much larger island that the military tried to blow away. It has a bad crime reputation, so we only anchored for the night in a pretty open bay. Sure enough, back to rolling. Been in worse, but not the good night sleep we had had for a week.

Now we are on the south shore of Puerto Rico visiting some cruising friends who have bought a home and I believe they will be here forever. They like cruising the US and British Virgin Islands. Those islands are all within a days sail, and as nice as the advertising says. A little expensive, but very nice. In 4 trips through them, we have been there, done them.

Tomorrow we start heading west again. Maybe we will find WIFI.