Hurricane Irma….We’re All Clear!

Many people have reached out to us over the last week, inquiring whether we’re safe, and out of Irma’s path. As usual over the last several months, I am woefully behind on our blog. For continuity, and mostly to avoid my own confusion, I will continue to post in chronological order.

I have mentioned in several previous posts that we’d planned to head for the Eastern Caribbean, and make our way to Grenada for hurricane season. We arrived in Puerto Rico in late April, made our way south from St. Thomas in June and arrived in Grenada in early July. Sea Life is currently tied to a mooring ball in Prickly Bay, on the island’s south coast (just below the airplane at photo below).

Thankfully, we were well south of Irma’s path, and only had to deal with several days of large swell in the bay.

It seems there has been confusion as to whether or not we were in Puerto Rico, due to my latest post. Others just seemed to be asking in general, not knowing exactly where we are.

If you’ve met my husband, you’d know that there is no….way, in this lifetime or any other, that he’d have us in the upper Eastern Caribbean during this time of year. Not only would he be unable to sleep at night, I don’t think he’d be able to breath.

Scott has the utmost respect for weather. He cut his teeth on the waves, tides, currents, storms and surge, living on Shallow Creek, just off the Chesapeake Bay. Many weather classes were followed by a graduate degree in Western Caribbean cruising, earned over the last two years (holy cow…two years!).  The take-away??…Mother Nature rules, and we don’t mess with that.

We’re not sure why cruisers choose to be in these places at this risky time of year. I guess they get complacent, after years with no major storm hit. As we prepared to leave St. Thomas and head farther south, Scott met a couple who stay at anchor off of the island year round, claiming it has several good hurricane holes. Scott’s take? A hurricane hole is a hurricane hole….until is isn’t; Irma, case in point. Here’s a link that lists the extent of destruction to the islands affected by this massive storm.

There were days of warnings for this huge, catastrophic storm, with little to no doubt of it’s path and impact on the upper islands. Several boats arrived here in Grenada over the last week from places north,  and we were shocked not to see many, many more.

Aside from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada is at the bottom of the Eastern Caribbean chain, and relatively safe from a major storm hit…relatively.

Our insurance covers us here, but I can tell you that if something even close to Irma’s strength heads our way, Scott will run us south, to escape the possibility of endangering Sea Life and her crew.

We are definitely missing Panama, where we spent last hurricane season. Being much farther south, and out of hurricane paths, we hardly checked weather. This year, although we are pretty well south, there is still a very real concern for storms, and we’ve had to keep on our toes.

Ok…all that said, here’s how to ALWAYS know where our CURRENT location is. I’ve mentioned this many times before, usually as we’re heading off on a passage, but it holds true all the time, whether we’re underway or at anchor:

First, go to the Where Are We Now Page of the blog. Click on “Where Are We Now,” at the bottom of the text, and you are taken to the site for our Delorme In Reach Satellite Tracker (now a part of Garmin).

I apologize for the spider web of lines and dots. Scott is a little Delorme-happy, taking the tracker along on hikes, bus rides and tours, as well as various water excursions. You can zoom out, giving yourself a broader view of Grenada. Once you’re far enough out to locate the words “Lanse aux Epines”, at the bottom of the island, begin to zoom in. The blue dot above the pi, in Epines is where Sea Life is moored. Continue to zoom in, and you’ll see our location in Prickly Bay.

Clicking on each dot opens a small window. Click on “more” in that window, and you’ll get info. like date, speed, elevation, etc.  Continue to zoom way out, and you’ll see our path over the last two years (again..two years!).

I hope this helps you keep track of our every move, so to speak. We are thankful for all of your messages and emails, and are grateful to have so many out there concerned for our safety; Sea Life is secure!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Short Stay In Puerto Rico

Once officially cleared back into the U.S., we enjoyed a bit of down time. The last of our San Blas lobsters had escaped the eye of the customs officer (safely hidden in the back of the freezer), so I thawed them out for a celebratory lobster curry dinner. With no idea of when we’d find good lobster fishing or availability in the eastern Caribbean, we savored our yummy dinner.

From our slip, we had views of many birds and pelicans roosting in a huge mangrove nearby, keeping Howard amused for hours.

Paseo Tablado La Guancha, was across the bay from the marina, a boardwalk with many food stalls and local music. We wandered over one afternoon, to scope out options for a return evening visit.

In the evening, the boardwalk was full of yummy smells and lively music. We met our slip neighbors, Rick and Lori (s/v Papa Whiskey), for some food and drink.

Our decision to head for Puerto Rico from Colombia was made to get us farther east, rather than landing in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. Our decision to land at Ponce was made for provisioning reasons. With a Super Walmart, Home Depot, PetSmart, several large grocery stores, and even an Ikea, Ponce provided great options for stocking the boat. We rented a car and headed off for a day of shopping. First stop, Playa Marine, a small store so out of the way, I’m surprised anyone finds it.

 

Scott didn’t find the anodes he was looking for, but we did get a can of varnish that was on clearance…hoping it was still good.

We headed back to town, amazed by the number of windmills in the area; they were everywhere.

 

And in case you forgot, there were constant reminders that you were in Ponce:

We made stops at the local grocery store, Walmart, PetSmart and Home Depot, filling the car. There was also the usual fast-food lunch, as well as a stop at the McDonald’s ice cream counter.

The plan was to make our way along the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and then spend time in the Spanish Virgins, before moving on to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, I received word from home that my mother had fallen, breaking two bones in her leg. Wanting to be there to help, I planned to fly home for a month. I could have flown right from Puerto Rico, but traveling from St. Thomas would be just as easy, and it put us that much farther east.

Weather didn’t allow for a smooth passage right to St. Thomas, so we planned to make a stop at Culebra, in the Spanish Virgins. We left Ponce, and followed the mountainous, windmill-lined coast to our overnight anchorage.

We anchored for the night off of southern coast, approximately five miles from the town of Salinas, surrounded by mountains and mangroves.

 

Howard relaxed and enjoyed the smells of the open boat at anchor, after a week of being stuck inside at the slip in Ponce.

It had been a cloudy, rainy day, but the late afternoon brought sunshine and blue skies. We had the area all to ourselves, and enjoyed the quiet, scenic spot. A beautiful send off, on our way east. Here are a few more photos.

 “Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Puerto Rico: Sea Life Returns To U.S. Waters

After a good night’s sleep, tied to the fuel dock at the Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club, we spent the next morning filling Sea Life’s fuel tanks, taking on 670 gallons of diesel. We then moved over to our assigned slip, and settled in.

With our week-long, “nautical” passage from Cartagena behind us, it was time to clear into Puerto Rico…a U.S. territory. Easy-peasy, right? Well, not so much. We hadn’t bothered to call in when we arrived, as it was 7pm on a Saturday. Once we had refueled and tied into our slip, Scott rang the Ponce Coast Guard office. They were not happy with us, upon finding out that we’d waited 16 hours before contacting them. Scott explained our late arrival the day before, and was informed that he was expected to call upon arrival, no matter the time, leaving a message if there was no answer.  Hmm, not something we’d ever think of doing, or be expected to do….being U.S. citizens.

Scott was told that officers were on their way to the boat, to clear us in. After waiting, and waiting some more, and calling to check on their progress, three officers finally arrived at our slip. Only one came aboard; a friendly woman, who briefly checked the refrigerator and freezer stores, and asked about fresh stuff. I explained that we had no fresh things left, after our long passage from Cartagena. She asked if we had any trash from Cartagena, and I replied no; the only trash on board was from our passage. However, as far as customs was concerned, our passage trash was Colombia trash, and needed to be incinerated.

Sadly for us, there was no incinerator in Ponce….so she “quarantined” our garbage.  The bag was sealed  with yellow tape, marked “Quarantine.” The  officer went on to explain that it could not be kept in the cockpit, and had to be stored inside….HUH?!? The woman was very apologetic, and explained that once we arrived in St. Thomas, we could inform officials there that we had trash to dispose of, and that they most likely had an incinerator. So we were to keep the stinky trash bag inside?….until we get to St. Thomas?…which will be weeks away?? HUH?!?!?

While I was dealing with the trash police, Scott was being berated by one of the officers who remained out on the pier. Here’s how the conversation roughly went:

Officer Unfriendly:  How much does a boat like this go for??

Scott: We have her insured for $250,000.00

Officer Unfriendly: Really..what do you do for a living?

Scott: I’m a mechanical contractor.

Officer Unfriendly: So you have a job like that, and you can afford a boat like this?

Scott: I spent 4,000 hours, working on her myself.

Officer Unfriendly: So you know how to do all of that?

Scott: Would you like to come aboard? I’d be happy to show you?

Officer Unfriendly: I don’t want to come on your boat.

Scott was seething under the surface, getting the distinct impression the officer was insinuating that illegal money was involved in our refit/cruising budget. To be fair, we had just come from Cartagena, and Puerto Rico is not a routine destination for a boat coming from Colombia to the Eastern Caribbean. Still, Scott wanted to scream at the guy… Either get on my boat and inspect it, and do your job….or back off!

After managing to get through the Officer Unfriendly conversation without erupting, Scott came aboard to find out about our trash situation….not good. He told the woman we’d be happy to store the bag up on the flybridge, in the Aluminum Princess, but she refused. Since the boat wasn’t enclosed, it was not an option, and therefore the trash had to stay inside the boat.

Scott remained calm, long enough for us to get cleared back into our own country (welcome back to the U.S., and to ridiculous rules that make no sense). He then got straight to work, figuring a way around the trash issue. We were not going to lug this smelly bag around with us for weeks, so after some thought, Captain MacGyver hatched a plan.

The bag couldn’t be opened from the top, as that would break the quarantine tape. Instead, Scott decided to go at it from the bottom. He sliced the bag at the seal, and emptied the smelly contents into a new bag that we promptly dumped into the nearest trash can on the pier.  The quarantine bag was then filled with “clean” trash that we collected over the next several days….paper, plastic, empty cans that were rinsed out, etc. When it was acceptably full with said clean trash, Scott sealed the bottom of the bag closed with super glue along the seam, and voila!…a full bag of quarantined trash.

Thankfully, we wouldn’t have to deal with customs when leaving Puerto Rico, as our next stop would be the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. boats aren’t required to clear in and out when moving between U.S. territories. Good thing, as we’d had enough “Welcome to the U.S.” to last us a while!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”