September 6, 2011: N 18° 23.0′ W 62° 42.3′, Soper's Hole, BVI
We are getting ready to check out of the BVI and will be making our way back to Puerto Rico via St. Thomas. We need some time to take care of chores in port. Plus another tropical threat (95L) is heading our way this weekend. It’s plenty hot here, and having air conditioning ALL night is sounding very appealing at the moment.
It’s a little sad to leave the BVI, and we are doubtful we will find better cruising grounds. If we were less adventurous, we might stay here much longer.
September 14, 2011: N 18° 04.67′ W 65° 47.8′, Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico
Tropical Storm Maria passed well to the north of Puerto Rico. Maria has been another somewhat puzzling storm for the weather forecasters and we felt some effects here, but not exactly as forecast. Saturday we had strong winds and surge in the marina. Sunday it was amazingly calm all day with no wind, no rain and totally flat seas. On Monday we had torrential rain most of the day and night as the bands on the south side of the storm passed.
There were problems with electric service being interrupted shortly after we arrived at the marina, and they got worse as the storm passed. Most of Monday and Tuesday we had no shore power and had to run the generator to charge the batteries and cook. It was stuffy and miserable since at dock we are more sheltered from the cooling breezes.
Lady got really upset during an electrical storm Monday evening. Most of the tropical weather we have encountered thus far has been wind and rain and the dogs hadn’t experienced a severe thunderstorm in a long time. We ended up giving her a tranquilizer for the first time. But not before a couple of accidents occurred on the carpets that are going to require some major cleaning. Ideally we would remove most of the carpet from the boat, since there are pretty wood floors underneath, but found that without it the dogs have trouble navigating and scratch the wood. I got a washable indoor-outdoor area rug for the main salon, which has proven to be a practical solution. We need to remove the wall to wall carpet in the master suite in favor of something similar.
Keeping our small quarters tidy and odor-free is a never-ending challenge.
September 30, 2011: N 18° 04.67′ W 65° 47.8′, Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico
We left Palmas on Monday for a five-day outing to Vieques, the closest of the Spanish Virgins Islands. Ophelia was still hanging around to the northeast but not threatening our weather.
After two weeks in port Bob was getting what he calls “marina-itis.” I think the recent marina time was not much fun for him since he had so many chores. The last project he tackled before we left was stowing the tools and supplies that had overflowed into the guest cabin during our move aboard.
Bob has another set of projects for the time at anchor. He wanted to test the newly installed anti-roll system and scrape the hull again. So we headed over to nearby Vieques and spent time at the beautiful Punta Arenas and Sun Bay anchorages.
We have electronic stabilizers to use while under way. They have a fin-like attachment below the waterline on both sides of the boat that move in response to the sea conditions and temper side to side motion. With my tendency to get seasick, the stabilizers offer a much more comfortable ride. If they don’t work, I don’t cruise.
The electronic stabilizers aren’t useful when we are not under way and many anchorages are impacted by swell. Waves aimed at the front or back of the boat aren’t so bad, but when they are aimed at the sides they cause a rolling motion. Rolling can be annoying, sometimes uncomfortable to the point of seasickness and can present safety issues.
The dinghy is stored on top of the boat and is launched with a small crane. If the boat rolls while the dinghy is being raised or lowered the dinghy can swing out of control and crash into the side of the boat. We have done that and when the outboard motor hits the hull it is not a pleasant experience for any of us. Especially for we crew members who are held accountable for keeping the 350 lb. dinghy under control.
A metal fan is lowered from the pole into the water and it opens and closes to dampen the boat’s movement. As you can see, the roll stopper is not the greatest looking addition. The poles sticking out to the side make us look like a shrimp boat. But we trawler boaters value comfort and function over aesthetics. We decided to install one on the starboard side of the boat and if it showed any promise then decide if was worth investing in a second device for the port side.
Unlike our last visit to Vieques, the anchorages were smoother this time, with winds coming from the north. We had a mild roll at Punta Arenas, just a couple of degrees. While the roll stopper did seem to make an impact we need to test it under harsher conditions. Where’s a rolly anchorage when you want one? I will probably regret thinking that.
Underwater growth on the hull was interfering with the watermaker intake, and Bob spent the better part of two days scraping and cleaning to remove the barnacles and get the watermaker back on-line. He is hopeful that this will be the last scraping needed until the boat is hauled and painted later this fall.
The history of Vieques is intriguing. The island has a much higher cancer rate than the mainland, likely because of environmental contamination from past chemical weapons testing. Many parts of the island are still off-limits due to the potential presence of unexploded devices. It is unclear why the government doesn’t clean it up.
This paper published by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) provides some fascinating insight on the situation: http://www.coha.org/clearing-out-without-cleaning-up-the-u-s-and-vieques-island/. After reading it, I think we should dump the batch of water we made while on Vieques.
We are back at Palmas, and planning to wrap up our time on the Puerto Rico mainland within the next two weeks. Generator #1 has failed again, so Bob has one more project for the list. Just like a house, there is always something to fix on a boat.