Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Gangs of Ponce Marina



It's not always obvious as you walk through the marina grounds, but you get the distinct feeling that you're being watched. Out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse, a shadow. There, behind that tree. You turn, and it's gone.

It's the gangs of Ponce Marina. They're here. The young, underfed, long legged members slinking about. Looking for trouble? No, I don't think so. Their territories are well defined, although sometimes the braver ones cross the borders.

The orange hood is by the laundromat. They hang out here under the trucks, sometimes venturing into the staff lunchroom looking for scraps. Nobody shoos them away.

The black hood is around the pool. Crouching amid the bushes, watching you walk by. You can sometimes see their yellow eyes nearly hidden amongst the leaves.

Then there's the calico hood. This includes all the grounds surrounding the pavilion. The snack bar and associated garbage cans are a popular hangout. I've seen them there. Someone left a lid open and look...the remains of a sandwich!



I must admit that we felt sorry for them. That's why on our next trip we packed a Ziplock full of the good stuff. Friskies! Once under the tree at the pavilion I brought the bag out and shook it. No response. Hmmm. I tossed a couple on the ground, trying to gain their trust. One, no two calico's. I tossed a few more. All of a sudden from up in the tree came three more. Then a black one from over by the pool, and an orange one. They were very jumpy and wouldn't let me very close. They were suspicious, but oh that smell of something good in my tote bag!

The docks are off limits. Nobody ventures onto the docks.

Ah ha, this is why!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Here we are!

We spent a few days in Jost Van Dyke at White Bay. Although it was a little bit rolly, it was pleasant. Instead of roosters to wake us, we had goats. It took me a bit, but I finally caught sight of this little guy running up and down the rocks. They have very good mountaineering skills.

We took the dinghy into Foxy's just because how can you not go there. It was pretty quiet but Foxy was there to greet us. He told us a little story and then as we had lunch we chatted about where we were going to head next.

In the BVI's there are boats. Lots of them, everywhere. While it is a really beautiful place I really think I prefer St John in the US Virgins and the Spanish Virgins. There's a little more peace and a lot more room.
So it came to us separately and then agreed together that we wanted to head in the other direction. I'm not going to say that it's turning around because that isn't the case. We missed so much on our race down here that we could still see. With a buddy boat waiting in St Thomas to travel with we chose to check out of the BVI's. It's always nice to have friends along to enjoy the ride.
We stayed a couple of nights in a wonderful anchorage in Culebra. When we arrived, we were the only boats there. The first time we had passed by Bahia De Almodovar there wasn't an empty spot. Today we watched the kite surfers racing around in the breeze. It almost made me want to try it myself. Ah, in another life maybe.

Sailing downwind is amazing. After all our bashing into the wind we have now had days of just sailing. No engine, just the whoosh of the waves rushing by.
The next day we found another equally peaceful place to drop the hook. Cayo Santiago, also known as Monkey Island. On the island is a monkey research centre. Although you are not allowed in the island I could watch the monkeys with my binoculars. Early the next morning I could hear them chattering away. It felt like waking up in the jungle.
Then after another wonderful (no engine) downwind sail we came to Cayo Puerca. Although the wind had been blowing steadily all day, once nestled between the mangroves we had very calm place to spend the night.
Nice view!
With the forecast of some weather moving in with strong winds and squalls we chose to move to a marina for a couple of days. This would also give us a chance to get some supplies, do some laundry, a couple of minor fixes, wash the boat and also catch up on our communications. So here we sit at The Ponce Yacht Club.
The fish seem to be winning this round. Brian did hook something substantial the other day. As he reeled it in the rod looked like it was about to snap. Brian wrestled with it for over half an hour before he asked me to get him some gloves just in case. I put the left one on him and in the fraction of an instant the line went slack while he put the right one was gone. He saw a flash of white and it disappeared along with half the steel leader and the last silver spoon.
There are some things things you just can't capture on a digital camera.
When the birds fly low over the water it turns their bellies blue green.
Failed attempt. I got the pelican just as he crash landed.
I can't seem to catch a shot of the flying fish either. When they take off, there will be hundreds of them no more than 6 inches long. The distance they can cover is amazing. It's probably the big fish we missed chasing them into their flight.
Fact of the day: Blue Moose in Spanish is Alce Azul

Monday, April 8, 2013


Who would have believed that The BVI’s were so close.  4 miles, that’s all.  We pulled into Soper’s Hole in Tortola and grabbed a mooring ball, conveniently right beside the customs and immigration office.  Brian went ashore with all our paperwork to get us cleared in.
When he returned I asked if everything was good.  “I’ll tell you about in just a sec”.  This was not the answer I was hoping for.  Yes, we were cleared in but our furry child was not.  It seems that there was a certain department of Agriculture stamp missing from Cricket’s paperwork.  Funny, I thought that was all taken care of in Miami.  A vet would have to be called in (on a Sunday) to verify everything.  Uh oh!  I can hear those dollars signs.  Could we please keep our radio turned on and they would let us know when the vet arrived.
Meanwhile we, (not Cricket) were free to go ashore and do whatever we wanted.  We don’t very often indulge in souvenirs, but in this case I a trip to Pusser’s (the rum company) was warranted.  A painkiller in a Pusser’s cup was my treat.  How can you go to the Virgin Islands and not try a painkiller?
bvi first day 061
a painkiller

You have your choice of 2, 3 or 4 ounces of Pusser’s rum, mixed with 4oz pineapple juice, 1oz cream of coconut, 1oz orange juice, over ice with fresh grated nutmeg on top.  A little indulgence. Yum!
So, remember that things move sloooowly in the islands.   We were just about back on the boat when we received a call from immigration that the vet had arrived and would we please bring the feline to shore for an inspection.  Into the carry bag she went and into the dinghy.  This is not her activity of choice.  She meowed in her quiet voice (as opposed to her “I WANT BREAKFAST” voice) and let the vet take a look.  Oh, she’s a big one isn’t she?  Yes, she looks very healthy.  Does that mean fat?  Ha ha.
He agreed that she could be quarantined on the boat.  If she were a dog however, she would need a blood test to confirm that she had received all her shots.  This blood test would need to be flown to Kansas to the Center for Disease Control at a cost of $250.  Oh my!  This little 5 minute visit was worth $60.  No receipt.  Thank you very much.
OK Cricket, you can’t leave the boat.  So just where exactly was she going to go?  She’s quite happy to laze on the floor and let the breeze ruffle her fur.  When the sun goes down she had been known to explore a little.  Many nights I have found her sitting on the bow just looking around.  Just like a toddler, we have to keep the baby gate in and keep her confined.  Some days she does get really hot and Brian thought she might enjoy having a shorter haircut.  I don’t think so!
Early this morning a boat came alongside us and asked that we turn on our VHF radio because customs was trying to call us.  They said that we needed to come back into the office to pick up our paperwork.  Once there, they told us that they had not cleared us in yesterday.  If we had decided to leave, boy would we have had a fine and it would have been their fault.  Excuse me? 
We asked if we could extend the length of our visit.  Well, if you could bring cookies we could do that.  No, just kidding, that would be bribery the agent laughed.  End of story…we have until May 7th in the BVI’s.
customs cleared
Communications are a little challenging.  Our AT&T cell phone still works right here but probably won’t when we move.  Wifi is available, but not free.  This is the BVI’s.  Nothing is free and everything has a price tag attached.  The marina offers internet for $20 a day.  Are you kidding?  The other option was a coffee house with free wifi which we took advantage of this morning.  The only issue was wifi and no cell service, or cell phone and no wifi.  20 feet makes all the difference.  There was a little glitch with our banking which caused a little stress but hopefully that will be cleared up in a day or two. 
At the end of the day we just have to look around and see where we are and where we have come from.  It’s a little mind boggling.  Relax and enjoy the view.
our sunset view
Katie - this one's for you
sitting just outside the harbour
Tomorrow we have lots of options.  We’ll check the weather and go with the flow.

St John

Coast Guard security
Charlotte Amalie is great if what you’re looking for is shopping, but there is a lot of boat traffic and the constant diesel smell reminding us of the presence of cruise ships.T
The swell in the last few days got to be too much too.  A cup of coffee cannot be left unattended as we found many times.  If you let go you might end up wearing it.  We did find a nifty piece of gear that I wasn’t sure we would ever have use for.  It’s kind of like a skirt for your glass with a grippy bottom.  Even on the non-skid surface it stopped our glasses from sliding away and tipping over.  Thanks Kathie!
St John is a whole different experience.  There are sailboats zipping along in every direction.  With the almost constant winds here it’s just the perfect place to sail.
We found ourselves a great little spot in Maho Bay.  There are plenty of mooring balls at $25 a night and a beautiful beach so this is where we stayed for 3 days.  We don’t really go to a beach that often which probably sounds strange being where we are but this was a nice one so that’s what we did.  We took a cooler and our towels and parked ourselves under a tree to watch the world go by. 
bvi first day 046Brian started to chat with a couple beside us on the beach.  He told them what we were doing and how we had got here, which led to a tour of the boat.  This led to them inviting us for dinner in Cruz Bay which we gladly accepted.
bvi first day 045

Although the turtles were numerous they always seemed to escape my camera.  One of us would yell “turtle” and before we could grab the camera they had taken their second breathe and returned to the bottom.

a ray and it's tag along
How nice to just do, well nothing. Want to go for a snorkel? It’s as simple as just jumping off the boat.  The creatures we saw didn’t seem to mind our company because they just kept doing what they were doing and let us watch.
a starfish
a box fish
and another starfish


As the sun went down…listen.  All I hear are tree frogs.  Nice!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Once upon a time

Once upon a time....


Friday morning we set sail for St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. A new island! The Virgin Islands have always been on my to do list and we were looking forward to it. An easy few hours was all it took. We called into customs to see if we needed to clear in. The response I got was "No sweety, you're leaving domestic and arriving in domestic. Happy Easter!" So we took the scenic route into harbour amid some threatening clouds. The water was littered with all kinds of debris. Water bottles and garbage bags floating everywhere. I don't know if it was washed in by the rain or if it always looks like this. We slowly wound our way through the channel and into Charlotte Amalie.

Take off! Right beside us


We found a good empty spot not too far from shore and dropped our anchor. Once we were sure it was set we lowered the dinghy and outboard for a trip to town. We walked all up and down through the streets full of duty free stores. Loads of nice stuff and good prices too all located along narrow cobblestones alleyways.

After our window shopping we casually walked back along the waterfront. As is usual we looked for the Moose out at anchor. Hmmm? Where was she? It was then we realized that there were 2 dinghies tied up to her and she was much farther from shore than when we left. Panic!

Brian and I both set off at a run, flew into the dinghy (literally) and raced to the boat. The 2 helpful cruisers had fended her off the other boats she passed on her way across the harbour. They had tried to reset her anchor without success and even tried to attach her to a mooring ball. Once back on board we turned the key to start the engine.....nothing. When things happen, they happen big. With a whack on the starter from a winch handle we had the engine running and quickly set about getting the anchor up only to find a huge length of rotting line tangled in it.

As Brian was clearing the line from the anchor I kept the boat in a circle until he was ready to reset it. Wouldn't you know that this would be when the cruise ship decided to leave. It was backing away from the pier not exactly right at us, but close enough to be intimidating.

We are not new at this. We have set our anchor hundreds of times. The only thing we can think is that the line we had snagged had fouled our anchor and caused us to drag. The only damage was a bent stanchion on another boat. The owner told us he had researched the cost of a new one at $50 and was willing to replace it himself. He also told us that they called called for help repeatedly on channel 16 and nobody answered.

All the next day we stayed on the boat. We were a little nervouse that the Moose would decide to gallop again. No fear. The winds gusted over 30 knots and she didn't budge.

This is one of those things that you hear about but hope never happens to you. Considering the crowded anchorage and how many boats were in our path things could have been much worse. Our thanks to those good Samaritans out there.

Back to the fun stuff. We waited out the rain (so far more than we've had in months) then headed to town again. The vendors were trying to protect their wares from the on again, off again showers while chickens clucked between the stalls. On to the rum shop. Cruzan rum, made in St Croix was selling at 3 bottles for $27. It just happens to be Brian's favourite. What a deal!

On a stroll through a jewelry store the clerk noticed that I was basically jewel free. He thought that a large diamond stud would be just the thing. Try it on, he told me. You'll love it! Buy it for yourself. I did see some really nice wine glasses that I just might have taken home but a sailboat and glass don't get along well together so I left them for someone else.

Next stop, groceries. You can drink for pennies here but eating is another story. In Pueblo's, the grocery store the rum was a little as $2.99 a bottle, but a box of Cheerios, and not a big box was $9.99. We got a few basics like bread, milk and eggs and called it a day.

Just before bed last night a giant mega yacht pulled up behind us and anchored. I think they might have been too late to get into the marina and had to wait until morning. Still there this morning I did a little spying with the binoculars. I have no idea how many kazillions of dollars something like this is worth but as they reversed into the marina this afternoon I counted a crew of 18 standing by for docking. It was half as big as the cruise ship.



We did get a little bit of a sunset just before it poured...again.



About Us

Brian, Sally and Cricket the cat sailing on our 41 foot Morgan Classic sailboat. In October 2011 we sold our house, quit our jobs and set out for Florida in search of a sailboat. We found her in Madeira Beach Florida. A 1987 41 foot Morgan Classic. Our plan is to sail for a couple of years. First to the Bahamas, after that...who knows.