Follow along with Bob and Elaine Ebaugh aboard their 1985 DeFever 44 Mar Azul,as they spend two years cruising the waters off of South America from April 2011 through June 2013. To learn more about Bob and Elaine as well as their home afloat click here, or visit their blog, here.
June 16, 2011:
We arrived in Ponce (“PONE-say”) yesterday. Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico, located on the southern coast of the island.
After a HOT, HOT, HOT week in Puerto Rico with no rain, we are getting deluged with a free boat wash. We are docked at the Ponce Yacht Club, a facility that offers inexpensive transient slips to non-yacht club members. They seem friendly and informal, although the paperwork we received on check-in mentions some foo foo rules that one might expect in a yacht club: guests can’t use the pool and tennis courts, no dogs allowed off the boats, paid crew must use a back counter when ordering food. We doubt they really enforce all this stuff, but are keeping a low profile when we walk the dogs.
Since the last post, we explored La Parguera, a unique settlement with waterfront dwellings called casetas built on the mangroves.
We left La Parguera two days ago and stopped at the mangrove island of Cayo Aurora, also known as “Gilligan’s Island”, and enjoyed the scenic, well-protected anchorage.We have been traveling this coast in the early morning hours with short hops, as recommended by Bruce Van Sant, to take advantage of the night lee and have a smoother passage. We try to depart shortly after sunrise, and schedule arrivals at the next port before 9 am. That strategy has worked out well.
The winds are forecast to get above 15 – 20 mph over the next week, so we will stay put here rather than face an upwind battle. Ponce is recommended as a good spot for shopping and provisioning, and we will use this opportunity to refresh our supplies. Bob has a rental car ready to roll! We also have a couple of boat projects that will be easier to handle in a marina. I am sewing dinghy chaps, a second-skin-like cover to protect the dinghy, and fittings will be easier when we aren’t using the dinghy for shore transportation. Bob is re-mounting several pieces of equipment that were temporarily installed before departure and need permanent homes. He is also repairing the air conditioning system in the aft cabin, which got plugged up and leaked water on my clothes that share that compartment. Grrrr!!! When it stops raining, I have a mess to dry out.
June 24, 2011:
We arrived in Salinas this morning after spending a week in Ponce. Other than a quick dog walk, we have not yet explored the area.
Ponce was a beautiful town, and we enjoyed our stay at the Yacht Club. It turned out to be an informal place, and we met some very nice people representing many nationalities who welcomed us into their facility, even though we were only staying a week. They all really loved and recommended Ponce as a great place to live. There is a lively boardwalk park area across from the marina with eateries and live music most nights. As we found in a couple of the other waterfront towns, they like the music REALLY LOUD, and even on the boat all the way across the harbor, it was pretty loud but provided a lively atmosphere. The only problem was when two different bands played at the same time it didn’t sound so good. We visited the boardwalk before the musicians started playing.
We used the time at a marina to get caught up on chores that are more easily done at a dock. I finished the dinghy chaps project, which requires fashioning Sunbrella fabric around curved dinghy tubes, and was glad to get that sewing project behind me. As expected, I now have some good ideas to improve upon the next set of chaps, which I hope are not needed any time soon.
It was also time to defrost the freezer, another fun chore. We ideally would have a frost-free marine grade freezer, but with so many boat projects competing for funds we opted to keep an inexpensive small household unit on deck, knowing that it would be more frequently replaced. The defrosting went pretty well until it was time to turn the freezer back on, and we found it had stopped working. Fortunately Bob is pretty handy, and figured out and repaired the problem. Which was a good thing, because my brief research found that getting a small freezer that fit our specifications same day in Ponce was going to be a problem.
After that it was on to provisioning. I find shopping in new places fun, and enjoy trying locally produced items. Storing it in small and weird compartments on the boat and keeping up with my inventory system is the not-so-fun part. We found the local Santiago’s Cash and Carry (with “C’s” not “K’s” and they didn’t require cash) that specialized in bulk goods at great prices, so loaded up. Then went to the Pueblo supermarket to pick up the remaining odds and ends and fresh produce. Even with Bob’s help, shopping and storing everything took almost the entire day. It was a luxury to have a rental car and the boat at a dock to facilitate transporting all the stuff.
After leaving Ponce, we spent a day at Isla Caja de Muertos, Spanish for “Coffin Island”. The Spanish name sounds better to me. It is a beautiful park island, and was deserted except for a few park rangers until a small ferry arrived with a group of kids for a day visit. This location was not as protected from the seas and the roll in the anchorage got worse as the day progressed. We both ended up not feeling so good. We didn’t try to launch the dinghy for a shore visit since we had a previous bad experience under similar conditions (resulting in a ding in the hull), and didn’t feel up to testing our new and improved dinghy launching techniques.
It was a rough 3 ½ hour trip in to Salinas this morning despite our early travel schedule, so we are recuperating a bit.
June 27, 2011:
We are within 21 miles of our target destination for this first major leg of our voyage, a day trip away! We are ready to move on as soon as thunderstorms from a tropical wave pass through.
Salinas was pleasant and we wish we had more time there. We are feeling more urgency to get to Fajardo and nail down our hurricane plans. Phone conversations and e-mails with the marina there have been non-committal and a personal visit seems the best way to communicate.
While in Salinas, we spent a day exploring the Mangrove Rivers. Securing the boat in a mangrove is our hurricane “Plan B” and we wanted to be more familiar with the huge mangrove area there. Secured in the right location the mangroves can provide shelter from the winds, and a natural cushion of sorts. Many experienced sailors recommend mangroves as the preferred hurricane option. We took the boat up some of the rivers and explored other by dinghy, sounding out the depths and making notes on our charts.
The next day’s passage was a 5 ½ hour trip around the southeastern tip of Puerto Rico to Palmas del Mar. Taking advantage of the night lee was the strategy once more, and we hoped for better conditions than the trip into Salinas. We got up at 3 am and were under way by 3:30. Getting up so early is not my idea of fun, but given the probability of smoother seas, it was the lesser of the two evils.
We exited the anchorage in the dark through Boca del Infierno. The Spanish can be very descriptive in naming nautical locations, and I like to check the translations for hints as to what one might expect. Boca del Infierno, a narrow inlet between two reefs, didn’t sound pleasant, literally translating as “the mouth of hell”. At that hour in the morning, the pass was tame. We quickly got out into deeper seas, and then set up camp at the lower helm for a more comfortable trip.
Palmas del Mar is a large residential and resort community with a huge marina. There used to be an anchorage here, but it is now filled with marina slips, so the decision to stay in a marina was easy. There are pretty grounds, a nearby beach, restaurants, and a small, expensive grocery market. In contrast to the mangrove areas, this location has been bug-free which Bob particularly enjoys. The marina is protected from the sea by a huge boulder breakwater, and seems reasonably well designed with high, concrete pilings and extra space between piers. They have good slip availability, and this could be hurricane “Plan C”.