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Babystepping on Banjo
What's For Dinner
Douglas Paddock
02/11/2013, Ensenada Honda--Vieques

Once we staked out our claim on an anchor spot at Salinas Del Sur...I went ahead and took possession of the whole anchorage. We had seen no other boats anywhere east of Sunbay. I thought we had this all to ourself. Woo-hoo!

BUT sometime after noon, another boat pulled in. Stuffing my annoyance at the invasion into "my" territory, I watched to see if they would need "yelling at" if they anchored too close. Humans are strange creatures with their herding instinct. A pet peeve of mine is being in a spot with miles and miles of open anchorage spots and having a strange boat motor right up on us and drop their hook. But this couple anchored well off and I conceded to their presence.

Later that afternoon, Meyka and I swung by on the dinghy and introduced ourselves. They ended up being a great couple from Fairbanks, AK (their boat's home port is Valdez) on an awesome custom built aluminum 48 footer. The next day when we moved down to Ensenada Honda we invited them along.

Night before last they came over for Indian food and we made arrangements to kayak the mangroves together yesterday. Mid-afternoon as we paddled together, they stopped to take a picture of the bright orange and yellow starfish in the shallows. We heard a shout as they reached in and pulled out a huge conch. "Supper on our boat tonight!", they exclaimed. Now the hunt for more conch was in earnest. We scoured the waters and came up with three more. When our paddle was completed, we made arrangements to bring a salad and bread for dinner on their boat.

Meyka and I had only had conch a couple of times before. Once raw with lime and peppers-scorched conch. Once we fried it. Neither time had we been impressed. Conch are hard (and gross) to clean. I have a hard time eating stuff I have gutted--blah.

When we arrived at their boat,Azaya, with salad and bread in hand, Axel and Mary were muttering, "What were we thinking?" after having two of the four conch fighting for their lives by refusing to leave their shells. But once they got them out, cleaned, skinned, and pounded Mary fried up the conch and it was delicious.

So-o-o...I like conch (at other people's house).

Today we explore the reef after Meyka defrosts the fridge and I de-rust the stainless. Pleasure and pain...pain and pleasure.

Kayaking
Douglas Paddock
02/11/2013, Ensenada Honda--Vieques

We bought an inflatable kayak in Annapolis October of 2011. We actually got to use it yesterday. Now that is delayed gratification!

Blogs played a big role in helping us develop a realistic view of cruising. They were a tutorial as well of what to do and not do. Lydia and Carol, who founded the blog "Interview with a Cruiser" were role models for us. They started cruising in the Pacific northwest, worked their way down the west coast of the US to Mexico, and then crossed the Pacific. That's where they are now. Their blog posts and photos frequently included their kayak. I emailed her and asked for tips on carrying a kayak aboard. She related that they had a West Marine inflatable and were happy with it.

When Meyka and I went to the Sailboat Show at Annapolis in 2011, we went by West Marine to check out the kayak in person. Lucky day for us! They were half price due to a color change coming the next year. The Advanced Frame kayak is a 1 or 2 person kayak and stows in a compact duffel. Once back in Wilmington, it went in our storeroom until we started cruising full time in September of 2012. We stowed it on deck and it has stayed there (unpacked) for the past four months.

I don't know why we haven't used it before yesterday. Probably because we've been on the move so much, generally had our plates full with everything else we faced in the early days of cruising, and due to being in places not all that compelling to kayak.

But our current anchorage at Ensenada Honda, Vieques mandated that the kayak come out of the box. It was easy to inflate and get in the water. We took it on a short tandem test run yesterday afternoon. I took it out for a couple of hours last evening. So cool! I slipped up serene mangrove canals with crystal clear water and glowing orange starfish in the shallows. The birds let me get in feet of them if I stopped paddling and drifted by. Fun.

So...on today's agenda is a more extensive tandem tour. The wind is blowing 20-25 knots today outside...a few knots less at our anchorage...and hardly at all in the mangrove creeks. Two hours of boat chores and then we are paddling. Woo-hoo.

Yup...Moved Again
Douglas Paddock
02/11/2013, Ensenada Honda--Vieques

I didn't score any points this a.m. when I mentioned to Meyka moving to a different anchorage. Our friend Sherman mocks me when I talk about getting some place and staying there, "You're always the first to want to go." Well...maybe so.

BUT the live ordinance warnings, shells (not sea shells but navy weapon shells) in the reef and on the beach, etc. made me feel a little weird. THAT is why I proposed we move five miles west to Ensenada Honda. The guide book says it is a "wonderfully tranquil and secluded mangrove anchorage." Secluded it is. We are way up in the mangrove lined bay with no one in sight.

We've decided that this is FINALLY the best place to unpack and try out our inflatable kayak. It is supposed to really blow for the next couple of days with large seas. Back here in this azure water with apparently infinite mangrove lined creeks, we should be able to paddle our little hearts out. I'll post a report on how it goes.

I know that the flu and various respiratory plaques have been terrorizing friends and family back home. One of the advantages of our isolated travels in the Bahamas was that we were never around anyone to catch anything from. Back in the good ole USA (kind of) with sniffly coughing folk spreading their joy, a virus hit our friends, then Meyka, and finally yesterday got me. It is a short lived one and doesn't quite kill you, but isolation has its benefits. Wally never transmits anything catching other than bad breath!

Chillin' in the Spanish Virgins
Douglas Paddock
02/10/2013, Bahia Salinas Del Sur--Vieques

It was supposed to be tough to beat to windward in getting from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico. We got a break on that run. But I drastically underestimated the brutal slog along Puerto Rico's south coast east to the Virgin Islands. That's not a criticism of our time in Puerto Rico. We loved the ports of call. It was the difficulty in getting from point A to B that got me. The wind would generally die down at night. Anywhere from 8:00- 10:00 a.m it would go from virtually nothing to 20 knots plus...right on the nose. The ocean swells were about 4-6' from the ENE and then the wind added another 2-4'. Yuck! You would get busted by three steep waves dead-on in a boat's length. Speed would drop to less than 2 knots. Lovely. So, the only way we made it east was to leave before the wind started and be at the next stop before 9:00 a.m.--babystepping our way across the coast.

On this last leg we left Ponce on Thursday and spent the night at Caja De Muertos (Coffin Island). It is a state park only an hour and a half from Ponce. Beautiful clear water allowed us to see our anchor hit bottom again. We ended up being the only boat there. In fact, the only people there. We walked to top to the lighthouse built in 1897. After that a snorkel was planned but got scuttled by rough conditions on the windward side and our outboard was acting sketchy. Meyka took an underwater tour of the boat but found nothing too interesting. I fixed the outboard (a cooling duct had gotten crudded up) and then scrubbed Banjo's bottom for a couple of hours. No hard growth on her, just slime. But she is big and I only got half done.

Since bad weather was predicted for the first of the week, we left the next morning for Puerto Patilla. Having not learned our lesson we got a late (7:00 a.m.) start. A butt kicking resulted in us ducking into Salinas and anchoring Boca de Infierno. My mastermind cooked up a plan to leave at midnight when the winds died down and sneak the 45 miles east to Vieques before they picked up. After supper, we laid down and dozed a little until we heard the wind die. It was pitch black as I blindly steered Banjo through the reef using only the chartplotter. Whew! Glad to be in deep water, we turned east. The wind was less than ten knots and the swells were 4-6 feet. "We can do it", we thought. All night long the winds grew stronger and waves more intense. Ten hours later when we pulled into Sunbay, Vieques. We were whipped. The squalls topped 30 knots and the waves scared me to look at. It's the first time we've ever taken water over the bow. I've never been rocked, rolled, and beat up so much. Not life threatening, just miserable.

We reached Vieques and dropped the hook at 9:00 a.m., I made coffee, Wally ate, and Meyka passed out. We put the boat back together yesterday afternoon and went for a relaxing snorkel and beach walk. Vieques is beautiful. The view from the beach could have been an advertisement for visiting the Virgin Islands. After supper we crashed and slept for 10 hours.

This morning we motored two hours east to Bahia Salinas Del Sur...the furthest anchorage on the south shore of Vieques. Our intention is to stay here until the weather settles down the middle to end of next week. This calm, beach lined anchorage has been called the most spectacular of all Vieques. We followed the cruising guide and "tucked up into the northeast corner behind the reef and selected a patch of bare sand in 10 feet of water in which to anchor."

On our way here we passed four top ranked anchorages where we plan to stop on our way back. Except for one, there were no boats in any of them.

Vieques and Culebra, the Spanish Virgins, were owned by the US and used for target practice and other military exercises. The last bombing run on Culebra was in 2003. Now mostly under the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Administration, they are considered the "undiscovered jewels" of the Virgin Islands. We look forward to spending 2-3 weeks here and in Culebra with a side excursion to Fajardo to visit the rain forest and take a day trip to Old San Juan.

We still have to pinch ourselves to prove that we are really here. Ow!

02/10/2013 | Miss Priss
If you guys make it over to Antigua/ St. John's make sure you go to Turner's Beach. I am sure you have seen plenty of beautiful beaches, so this may not phase you. But I would at least be able to say I have been to one place you guys are at! :) Color me a little bit green as I am working 60 hours a week ;)
We're Here
02/02/2013, Ponce, Puerto Rico

I was supposed to post daily on our four and a half day voyage here.

Oops!

We arrived last Saturday at Boqueron, Puerto Rico.

The passage was OK. Terror and boredom. Boredom and terror.

Puerto Rico is a nice change after the Bahamas. Happy people, loud music, dancing, beer, food, great shopping and prices.

Meyka is loading up for our time "down island." We've learned when you have the selection and prices like this to load up.

Our original intention for our first year of cruising was to winter in the Bahamas and summer in the northeast. But once we got south it was easy to convince us to just stay.

We will be in PR for 3-6 weeks. Vieques and Culebra (the Spanish Virgins) are prime cruising grounds. Then we will work our way through the Caribbean chain.

The Garmin charts could be downloaded for here. What we lack for helping us plan are cruising guides. We may take a day trip to San Juan to visit West Marine and get some.

Where you plan to be during hurricane season is a big issue. Our thought right now is to spend a couple of months in Grenada and three in Bonaire from June-October.

Right now we are enjoying a week at the prestigious Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club. $200 for the week. Pool, tennis, sauna, etc. More beautiful boats than you could count.

Meyka is wearing the numbers off the credit card at Wal-mart and Sams Club. I'm taking care of a few boat chores.

The unlimited water (free) here is a real treat. We've been getting by on four gallons a day for the last two months. Letting the tap run seems frivilous. I washed Banjo today. She was so dirty. Maybe Wally will even get a bath.

The picture in this post shows Banjo at sea on our way here. Our friends Judy and Sherman captured her under sail.

Miss all of you and think of you often!

02/02/2013 | John & Cheryl
Hi:
We know Banjo from the previous owner. We used to be in NW Creek.
Is Fairwinds, the boat you are traveling with, the boat owned by Bud & Bev from NW Creek? Bud retired a couple of years ago as the manager of the marina. Just interested if he finally made it out cruising.
We loved the Bahamas. Looking forward to going back cruising.
02/03/2013 | Douglas Paddock
We bought Banjo from Tom and Donna. She has a great legacy. Meyka keeps saying, "Banjo knows where to go...we are the newbies!"

Fairwinds is owned by an Australian couple who we met in the Exumas. We've been buddy boating since then.

Thanks for reading the blog and commenting.
Day Two Down...Two more to go
Douglas Paddock
01/24/2013, At Sea

We are underway from Mayaguana, Bahamas to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

This is our longest offshore passage. So far it has been our easiest.

It is amazing that we have been underway for about 52 hours and have only seen two boats. None in the past 30 hours or so.

We must be definitely "out there."

Yesterday was like being in a rocking chair. Light winds and gentle seas. Ah-h-h-h.

Now last night was a different story. Nothing life threatening. Just moments of peaceful lulling lapping waves and moonlit skies interspersed with chaos, rain, and slapping sails. It seems that we sailed through the effects that our weather guy called a "trough." I did go from extremely mild to wild at times.

We are traveling with a "buddy boat", Fairwinds. At one point when I was on watch and they were in front of us, I saw there starboard, port, and stern running lights in rapid succession. I soon heard a call on the radio that the squalls rapid wind shift had created a bit of drama for them. I immediately reduced sail and hung on.

Primarily most of this stuff is momentarily uncomfortable. Being pitch black in the squall is extremely disorienting, too.

Today we are on a course heading of 150 degrees and in the morning we'll make the turn to 180 degrees on the rhumb line to Mayaguez.

Fun...Fun!

01/25/2013 | Mom`
Soounds like things are going well. It all sounds so beautiful. I have written emails but donn't know what happened to them. I am better, still a long way to go but very comfortable and happy so have fun. Love you, Mom

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