Redwings Round the World

Puerto Rico

21 March - 1 April 2001


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21 March - Salinas, Puerto Rico

Aaron - Rainy morning.  The fridge, which showed signs of weakening yesterday, is sick - the compressor is running but it's not getting cold - must be a gas leak.  So... no reason to hang around Vieques.  We hauled anchor and got going at around 0800 with a view to getting into Salinas on the main island of Puerto Rico early enough to move on finding a fridge man.

At 0815 on the Safety and Security Net on 8104 there was finally a real security issue reported: a Swedish couple off the coast of Venezuela were boarded, robbed, and the husband shot by a couple of pirates.  He is apparently ok now and in the hospital in Trinidad.  Scary.

Good sail under cloudy skies and 12-18 knots from the SE.  We got really motivated today - not only put up the main for the first time in a week, but shook out the reef we put in two months ago!  First time under full main and genoa since arriving back in the Caribbean after our crossing.  Most of our forward of the beam sailing in the Windwards and Leewards, was in heavy winds (20-30 knots), while since we turned the corner at St. Martin, we have been going downwind for the most part and have just been using the jenny as most of our hops have been fairly short and we did not need full speed.

We romped along at 7-8 knots for several hours, passing the SE corner of Puerto Rico when all of a sudden the wind died, veered, and came on the nose at 2-5 knots.  Weird weather.  Motor-sailing into it, I stupidly tried to re-run the lead for our outhaul with the main still full (but under almost no load I thought), and asked Colleen to release the outhaul.  She did, the outhaul car slid off the track, the sail lifted up at the clew, and Rippppped a huge section of the foot just above the luff cars.  SHIT.  Yesterday we pulled into Vieques with no boat problems and in good position to push on steadily, and now the fridge is dead, the main ripped, and the SSB radio is starting to go intermittent!  Can't complain too much I guess.  We have had a pretty problem free last couple of months.  When we started our "cruise" in Asia over three years ago, this would have just been another day. 

We threaded our way into the well-protected mangrove ringed harbor of Salinas at around 1500 and dropped the hook.  A quick trip in with the dingy confirmed that the sail loft could take our main first thing tomorrow morning, but that there are no fridge people in the area.  May have to move up the coast to the next major town (PR's second largest) Ponce to get the fridge and SSB worked on.

22 March - Salinas, Puerto Rico  

tarpit harbor......


we'll I'd have been long gone

if I hadn't been waiting on

boat parts from overseas

now my tools are all rusted

autopilot's busted

and the freezer refuses to freeze

but I would have remedied all of these problems

if I wasn't so busy shooting the breeze 

Salinas could well be the "Tarpit Harbor" of Eileen Quinn's song by the same name ( music for sailors and normal people).  This is a "Twilight Zone" anchorage for sure.

We dingied into the with the ripped mainsail at 0900, dropped it off at the sail maker's,  and stopped off at a small country store / bakery for breakfast:  American coffee in Styrofoam cups, Formica booths, noisy slot machines, lotto tickets, plastic wrapped beef jerky displayed like postcards on spinning racks, Pepsi coolers - rural America.

We took a booth and dug into our excellent US$1.95 omelets - best value for money food yet in the Caribbean.  In the booth next to us, three 50-60 something guys were talking engine parts and problems with one guy giving a blow by blow life history of his transmission.  All were huddled over "Pocketmail" devices and swapping numbers of cheap places in the US to order parts for this and that.  We asked them if they knew of any fridge guys in the area and it turns out one of them was waiting for a guy from Ponce today.  He's been "stuck" here for over two years and has been trying to get his fridge fixed for 18 months! (Ok he has a pretty good excuse that he had to go home for surgery once last year).

One of the other guys has been here "three years" (correction, says his bud, almost four years) with "engine trouble".  They said they'd see us at the marina snack bar with US T.V. later today and reminded us not to miss the marina BBQ tomorrow evening.  Walking around the marina, every other boat has heaps of stuff on deck and welcome mats on the poopdeck.  For no explainable reason, an oddly large number of people here seem to walk with limps (no kidding!).  Most are getting ready to "go" somewhere supposedly, but seem happier hanging out here - its cheap, well protected, and a pretty well established community.  Lots of mini-politics too: we hear from boat A that boat B is not welcome here anymore and from boat C that the sail makers are rip off artists and from the sail makers that boat C is a trouble maker etc.

Another funny angle to this place is that there is a hotel over the marina office which is filled with young American welders who are on contract building power line towers on the islands.  Young, mostly ex-military, from the South or Mid-West, they could not work today because of the rain and just hung around the marina drinking beer all day and jabbering.  We passed the time with a bunch of them during our 5 hour laundry attack (its done - buck a load though the dryers are slow).

While waiting for the laundry, I spent US$15 on local calls on the pay phone trying to track down a fridge man.   No significant luck, though I did have a good discussion with one guy at the Eastern end of the island who, while not willing to come to Salinas, told me about a fridge services business in Ponce.  Of course the fridge guy from Ponce who was supposed to come to help "Fright Train" (going nowhere real fast) never showed.  Guess we will have to move over to Ponce to have a good chance of getting it fixed.

23 March - Salinas, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - Rented a car today (Colleen got them down to US$25 per day after they insisted that US$45 was the bottom price) and first headed to Ponce, which is PR's second largest city and lies about 20 miles West of Salinas, to try to track down fridge services.  We had a pretty bad map, and had to ask directions a lot, but eventually found "Refricentro".  They had everything fridge-related one could ever hope for and put us in touch with the guy (Joseph) I had tried unsuccessfully to contact yesterday.  He agreed to meet us in Ponce on Monday so at least we have a plan to get help and a good place to come to get parts.  I think I will buy the gauges and some spare gas so I can better trouble shoot fridge problems myself in the future.

We then headed to San Juan and had a fantastic afternoon in the old city.  Really beautifully re-developed.  Amazing fort.  Walking through one of the neighborhoods, we came across about 20 cats in the street and started petting them.  A guy came out and said he ran a cat rescue center there.  We asked if he had any kittens looking for homes, but he did not at the moment.

San Juan is very much Spanish style city culturally and architecturally, but has the added comfort of being readily accessible from the US with most of the population bi-lingual.  We could spend some time here.

24 March - Salinas, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - A productive work day.  Found a spot to upload these pages and our e-mail, bought our Bahamas charts at the chandlery, bottled a batch of ginger beer, did some interior varnish and painting touch ups, and got the main back on, up, and reefing lines run.

Salinas is prettier under sunny skies.  Mountains in the background, mangroves all around, but a few openings out to the ocean as well to reduce any feelings of claustrophobia.  Lots of wild life.  Naked Germans on their boats, teen-aged Puerto Ricans zooming around on Jet Skis, dolphins and manatees circling the lagoon, pelicans crash diving all around, other birds perching in the rigging (and pooping on the deck!), lizards galore ashore.  While we did not try them out as we need to eat the remaining food in our "fridge", there are lots of cheap and cheerful looking 3-5 table restaurants in the area.  This has been a productive and pleasant stop.  Lets hope we can get the fridge sorted in Ponce.

25 March - Ponce, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - In the morning, we took the dingy and cruised around the mangroves looking for "wild life".  Lots of birds and bugs, but no manatees or dolphins today.  Still, really pretty around here and lots to explore.

We got going en-direction Ponce at around 1100.  Nice downwind sail under genoa alone in 15-20 knots of breeze.  We completed the 25 mile hop in about four hours, pulled into the yacht harbor in Ponce at around 1500 and anchored right in front of a Peterson 44 called "Oddly Enough".

We quickly dingined in to the "Yacht Club" to try to call Joe the Fridge Guy, but were unable to get through so headed back to the boat to complete a few jobs.  On the way, we stopped by to visit Gabra, a Canadian boat which reported an attempted dingy theft here last night this morning on the net, and ended up spending an hour clinging to their hull from our dingy picking their brains on the Dominican Republic where they have spent the last 18 months.

Back on Redwings, we were just about to hit the job list when Ann and Thomas from Oddly Enough came over and we spent hours talking about Petersons, sailing, and the trip North.  

26 March - Ponce, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - We were able to get in touch with Fridge Man this morning, and of course he is not in Ponce today and seemed surprised that we were, but promised to come by "manana".  At least we have a plan.

We hit the jobs hard today.  The main project was stripping down the main companionway hatch of varnish and sanding down the top layer of wood.  The hatch sticks terribly and is hard to close - especially from the inside - as there is a bit of wood that sags under the cover and chafes on it when you try to close it.  There is no way to get at the sagging wood so we have opted instead to shave down the hatch a bit.  Needless to say, it is a messy job.  With a powerful stripper, it took over an hour to get all of the varnish off.  Then the sanding started.  Even with an orbital sander, the work was slow.  Dust everywhere.  By 1800, I had almost got the stickiness out of the hatch, but it still was not perfect.  Time to clean up though as it will soon be dark.   Sawdust everywhere, Colleen was not happy.  Still have to work on this more tomorrow.

27 March - Ponce, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - Joseph the Fridge Man turned up at 0930 - only a half hour late which is very much on time in a Latino culture.  He quickly confirmed what I had already guessed: little gas, slow leak.  We were unable to find the leak even with his special gas sensor, so we decided to just gas it and get me trained to gas it myself in the future.  A quick stop at Refricentro and I had the full kit: two small bottles of gas, gauges, and various required fittings.  Back at the boat Joseph quickly showed me how to gas the compressor and measure the pressure.  Colleen took notes.  The fridge got cold.  He asked for only 20 bucks as "he did not have to do anything" but take me to the store, even though the whole operation took almost two hours.  Great bargain.  Nice guy.  The whole recent fridge problem is probably a blessing in disguise as we now know how to keep it running.  One by one, we are still learning all of the boat's systems over three years after we originally left on our "cruise".

Wow, now what to do?  Too late to take off and we really did not in our wildest dreams expect to get this sorted so fast.  First I finished sanding down the hatch and then we decided to head to the fuel dock to top up on diesel, gasoline, and water as well as take the opportunity to clean the outside of the boat - there is still a lot of dust around from all my sanding.  A successful operation, but man what a HOT day.  Back at anchor, all I could do was hunker down below and drink water.

In the evening, we headed in to the large Cash and Carry store near the harbor to fill our vacant fridge, but it closed at 1800 and we arrived at 1810.  Bummer.  So back to the "boardwalk" (re-developed walk for tourists along the water - can feed fish, and birds in the harbor buying little bags of fish from vendors, and then one's self at the many stalls) where we grabbed a couple of awesome US$4 chicken quesodillas and watched the sunset listening to Billy Joel blaring away.

28 March - Boqueron, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - Up and outta Ponce at 0800 headed for Boqueron, which lies on the West coast of PR and will be our last stop before venturing on to the Dominican Republic.  Sunny light wind morning.  We motored the whole 40 miles and worked the fishing lines hard keeping the gear clean and trying to stay just on the 20 fathom edge - really wanted to catch a Dorado.  No Dorado, but we did catch a Barracuda (which we threw back) and a small Wahoo (or Spanish mackerel - which we kept - probably about four pounds).

On arrival in the huge bay of Boqueron, we angled in towards the midst of the mass of boats in the anchorage towards a large "hole" that looked like a good place to drop the hook.  Coasting along and ..... LURCHHHHH we hit bottom and Colleen almost got thrown off the foredeck - guess that's why nobody's anchored here!  No more heroics - we looked around quickly to see if anyone saw us "rapidly decelerate" and nonchalantly headed for the perimeter of the anchorage and dropped in a comfortable 5 meters.

We dingied in to shore to suss out the services and call the electronics folks who hopefully will help us sort our intermittent SSB (HF radio) reception problem.  They will get back to us via VHF tomorrow and hopefully can come to the boat the day after.  Not much in the stores, internet cafe closed  - but open tomorrow.  Got our bearings.

Yummy fish dinner - if a bit bony.  Sorry Colleen I'll fillet it next time even if it's a minnow.

29 March - Boqueron, Puerto Rico  

Aaron - Boqueron is a small seaside tourist village which is dead during the week and apparently attracts hoards during the weekends and holidays.  Nice long palm-fringed beach, loads of bars and pool halls, souvenir shops, etc.  Good anchorage though.  Fairly shallow and quiet out where the boats are and the holding is good.

First order of business this morning was to rent a car.  Best deal was for three days so we went for it.  This will really be our last stop in significant civilization for six weeks or so we really want to do a lot of provisioning and take a break from boat life tooling around.

Dropped the SSB off at Schafer and Brown, a recommended marine electronics specialists.  In addition to being one of the owners of the business, Bobby Brown is a major local animal rescue leaguer and is going to help us find a couple of kittens in need of a home.

The afternoon was a blur of super markets for me.  Colleen wants to go into every one to "see what they have" and compare prices.  We stuffed the trunk with dry goods from Sam's Club.  Hit the movies for the first time since St. Lucia - nice change.

30 March - Boqueron, Puerto Rico

Aaron - There is a good internet cafe here near the beach.  Able to get online cheap and easy every day for the first time in awhile.

Today was basically spent indulging in "American Culture".  Egg McMuffins for breakfast, cruising around in the car, "The Mall" for hair cuts and yet more shopping, USA Today, pretzels for lunch, more supermarkets, and another movie.....  Ok now its out of our system.

We picked up the SSB radio in the afternoon.  Shafer and Brown could find nothing wrong with it.  The problem is hard to figure out as it is intermittent: sometimes the reception cuts out for a few seconds and I can get it back by whacking the radio.  It cuts out more on rainy days than sunny!  All external connections seem tight to me and as I could almost always solve the problem by tapping the unit, I assumed it was a lose connection somewhere inside.  Weird.  However, when I installed the unit back in the boat, I noticed that every time I bumped the microphone it transmitted for a second - even without pressing the transmit button.  I experimented some more and found that if I even clapped my hands loudly near the mic it transmitted briefly cutting reception.  Ahhhhh.... perhaps this is it!  Hopefully a new mic will solve the problem.  Unfortunately, Shafer and Brown will be closed till Monday and we may be gone by then (possible Sunday afternoon departure planned).  The unit works well enough to get by anyway, just a bit annoying.

Bobby Brown arranged with a local vet to get us two kittens.  They were supposed to be brought in today, but were not.  The people at the vets told us to come back tomorrow at 1000 to see them.

31 March - Boqueron, Puerto Rico

Colleen - Wheh, seems like its been a busy day.  We rushed out to get to the internet cafe in time to upload before going to the vets to meet the farmer that was supposed to bring in some kittens he found on his farm.  As the vet's secretary warned us, he was late.  The vet's office was packed with dogs and dog owners, and there was a line up of horses and ponies outside needing care too.  We went down the road to the fereteria (hardware store) for some things we "need" to kill time.  

When we returned the poor kitties were sitting in a cage in the back of a pickup truck in the sun.  They seemed really upset and disoriented.  I'm sure the long ride from the farm on the highway was very distressing.

The farmer didn't seem to know to much about them, or not much that we could figure out with our Spanish given his strong local accent.  The poor kittens wanted to be held, but they were desperately full of flees.  We chose the only male, and one female.  The vet's office gave us a box to put them in while we waited along with the other ten dogs and dog owners.  Aaron went off to check us out with customs before they closed for the weekend, and I waited with the dog crowd for our turn.  It was like being in Christopher Guest's "Best in Show" movie, but in Spanish.  All the owners were carrying on and on about dogs and goochi goochi gooing them.  

Unfortunately, they were all cutsy dogs with owners to match.  It was kind of fun for the first half hour, but started to get old by the time a miniture choowha wha (or whatever you call those things, I'm sure I spelt it wrong), emerged from the groomer with bow tie and ribboned pony tails to the waiting room crowd that went mad with affection and admiration.  I thought I was going to barf.  Maybe the fact that I had missed lunch by an hour waiting was draining my resistance.  

Finally 2 hours later it was our turn to go into an examination room (we still had to wait for the vet who was busy on horse detail out back).  Time to de-fle the kitties with a mousse-like foam.

They weren't too impressed. The worst day of their lives just got worse to them.  The fleas were bouncing all over the place spilling off these guys.  Here Aaron is trying to comb some of the dying and dead fleas out of their fur. 

We just hope we got them all, or Redwings will really be a fleabag joint.  There ain't enough room for us, two cats, the cockroaches (we think we have their number, but every once and awhile we find a little sick one) and fleas on the the boat... The vet finally came, they got their shots, and eventually we were on our way.  The male kitten seems pretty relaxed and brave, the female a nervous freak (sound familiar?)  The car ride back to Boqueron proved very upsetting.  Wait till they see the dingy!  By the time we were on the dingy I think the female kitty was just too shocked and overwhelmed to yelp anymore.  

Once on Redwings, they immediately curled up and just begged to go to sleep, overwhelmed and worn out from multiple trauma all day, not to mention the intense medications in their systems and on their fur. 

I gave them some left over fish after a while and that seemed to spark them up.  Both cats successfully used the new litter box after being encouraged to use it which is a major plus for wild cats.  However, the litter system has got to go soon, its a mess and unsuitable for a boat.  As soon as we get them confirmed used to it, we gotta move on to rocks like we had for Basil and Sybil.  After relieving themselves they both collapsed again in exhaustion.

1 April - Boqueron, Puerto Rico

Aaron - The kittens are doing pretty well.  Learned to use the litter box on the first try.  The female is pretty shy and still mews a lot looking for her mother, but the male has pretty much 100% made the adjustment and is already playing mousie and storming around.  They both have healthy appetites and all of the fleas seem to be gone, which is good news (mews).

More shopping this morning - our meat, dairy, and fresh veggie provisioning run - as we had to return the car at 1300 and will be leaving tomorrow for the Dominican Republic.  Plan is to make a 48 hour run all the way to Luperon.  It may be sometime before we get back on line. 

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan