I have to admit to a bit of a phobia – call it nowindpassagaphobia-with a side helping of North Swell.
Thats pretty much whats keeping us pinned here in Boqueron. That and waiting for a parcel to arrive which will contain three things.
1. A new tiller-pilot autopilot self steering unit
2. A block to replace the one that got destroyed in a gybe while crossing from Culebra to Vieques
3. An AIS receiver
The first item is a bit ironic, as it seems I may have unexpectedly fixed the derelict Autohelm 3000 wheel based pilot I found on the boat, in a back locker. The previous owners told me that the motor was good, but that the electronics were fried. I believed him, as I figured he would have probably fried them himself trying to fix them earlier. Also the belt from the drive was missing. Today in a fit of boredom I took the electronics module apart, cleaned the internal contacts a bit, and put it back together. Now the motor responds as it should and the blinky lights all blink. Not bad for an old analog unit from the 1980s. I also found the belt drive for it under the floor with a bunch of old hoses and fan belts. We may have a working autopilot – at least for flat seas and light conditions.
The second item became neccesary when our downwind steering antics provided a bit of an excuse for the boom to swing amidships and then bash back outwards – blowing uyp the sheet block it was secured with. After that, i attached the boom brake that had been hiding under the captains berth in a box. Handy preventative device that, even if it does squawk like an injured goose as it “eases” the boom across in a gybe. We seem to be gybing a lot in this downwind sailing business. The sea munchkin seems to dislike running outright, unless you pole out the jib. And that pole is a big heavy pain in the keester to muck with.
Luckily – most of our sailing has been possible by “beam to broad reaching” with the wind across the beam or the buttcheeks. With a real breeze, the boat actually likes this kind of sailing. Unfortunately, we have a penchant for arriving at our destinations when the sun is overhead, enabling us to see rocks, wrecks, submerged cannons, and other debris without hitting it – and that neccesitates leaving in the early mornings, when the wind is nil on the South coast of Puerto Rico. perfect conditions for going against the trades, but not so great for bearing West.
We have been sailing by day, and anchoring at a series of interesting anchorages as we head West.
Gilligans Island was a series of bays and mangrove swamps overrun with vacationing Puerto ricans wading amongst the shallows with beers and portable brbeques. Their favourite pastime is seeing just how shallow one can run a jet-ski, before one has to turn it over and scoop out the various sea life that gets sucked into the jet. I, on the other hand prefer to wade slowly through the shallows pullng the dinghy by hand, so as to give the various sea creatures a sporting chance to bite my feet.
Prior to Gilligans Island we anchored for the night at Isla Cayo de Muertos. As the story goes, a pirate put his dead beau in a glass coffin on the island, and then managed to freak out nearly every pirate in the area who, naturally – assumed this was just a trasure burying ruse rather than a sick and morbid bit of amateur carpentry. At least thats how the story goes. The island was also once the refuge of a famous rum distillery, and is now a kind of park. We tried picking up a mooring, but the amount of water under our keel on the moorings there was a little scant. Any waves and we would have been testing the keel for stress factors, not to mention grinding sand into smaller sand. We instead opted for anchoring further in deep water in the bay of the island. That turned out to be a bit of a treat, for right under our keel, once the anchor was set was an old cannon – doubtless left by pirates. I was tempted to haul it aboard, but the size and barnacle-encrusted nature of the thing led me to conclude that it wasnt a good idea. Probably against the law too. Natch.
Prior to Muertos, we anchored for a considerable period at the Salinas anchorage. Salinas is suppsed to be infested with sea cows, but the sheer number of boats and silly humans probably scared them sensibly away. The day we arrived in Salinas, the area was mad with boaters out for a weekend of mayhem and fishing. Within the harbour, boats moved at a stately 5 knots so as to avoid chopping up the sea cows into sea steaks. The boats outside the anchorage buzzed around at warp speed trying to run down the few fish that hadn’t fled to another island. The only thing they did manage to run down was some poor snorkeler, who got to find out first hand what its like to be a sea cow meeting a propeller. Im sure they patched him up in the end – I think every ambulance in the county showed up to see the commotion.
From Salinas we took a cheap rental car across the island and toured the Mandatory caves, SETI antenna at Arecibo, and San Juan West Marine. The drive across the Karst landscape on curvy roads was like something out of a car commercial. Or a car tyre commercial. Or perhaps a brake-pad commercial. My passengers had a beautiful view.