Thursday, January 12, 2012

On to Vieques

Al constantly checked the weather forecast in three different sites, and decried that the winds were going to abate somewhat on Sunday, December 25, which would give us a break to reach the west shore of Vieques, SVI. Al spent the whole evening plotting our numerous way points on his two GPS devices while sweating and swearing, and I wrote the route in my notebook, trying to calm him down. Deniz checked the general plan, and gave his consent.

Early in the morning of the 25th, Deniz and Al released the lines, and we went underway towards Punta Arenas, the north-west tip of the island. The trip was about two hours, but the winds were nowhere near calm as promised. We got hit all the way down from our port side, until we came to the lee of the big island, and anchored a little south of the point. It is interesting that while traveling, it never fails to rain, but as soon as we reach a shore, the sun shows itself. We spent the day swimming in the pristine and calm waters, and went to bed early. First time in nearly two weeks, we came to a place that was closed to the constant easterly blowing wind. What a change it makes to have real shelter.

Next day, to Esperanza, situated at the south of Vieques. It was not a long trip, but we faced the easterly winds, since we had to keep our distance from the shore, full of dangerous reefs and jutting points. Esperanza is a very small town, marked in the chart as having an anchorage. So we decided to go in to check it out. When we cautiously entered through a narrow channel between two small islands, one of them connected to the land; we saw many boats anchored at the outer edge of a reef, not accessible from where we were, which was about only 6 feet deep. Al turned around, and hightailed to the anchorage at the bay to the right of the town. The bay was spacious, pristine and offering free buoys for the taking. It was a piece of cake to catch one!

Deniz and Al took the dinghy to explore the way to town. It seemed from our vantage point that one could pass through a narrow opening at the end of the beach and get to the town; however they saw that it was impassable. While they were contemplating about leaving the dinghy at the shore and walking to town, Al saw a bum like man fishing in front of his make shift tent in the bush. As his custom, Al stroked a conversation with the man. He later told me that the first thing the man asked was the value of our dinghy. That discouraged Al about leaving the dinghy unattended, and they came back to the boat. Later, Zeynep and I swam to the shore and walked along the beach; she collected some shells and brought them to the boat in her bathing suit while swimming back. The whole expedition took us two hours, and we got exhausted.

The days are generally so short that all of us were ready for bed around 9:00 pm every night, although we were having afternoon naps all around. This is to say that we did not do much during their visit, but I hope they had a relaxing time. Since most of the time Christmas winds created havoc in the sea, we could not do any sailing. Vieques Island created shelter but could not provide fresh water for us, so staying longer than a week was not possible. We rationed our water supply and supplemented our dishwashing with sea water etc., but would not be able to survive long.

We wished to do some provisioning in Esperanza, so released the cat from the mooring at the bay, and set anchor among the other many sail boats at the reef area which was closer to the town. First we thought we could start the journey back to Punta Arenas that day, in order to stage for the return to the marina in Fajardo, but decided to stay the second night in Esperanza instead, and dine at a restaurant (Trade Winds) mentioned in the guide books. I think Deniz was tired of my cooking which lacked most of the fresh ingredients I usually require to make it good. Ah well, I improvise with primitive conditions, and try to add some variety, but I am no magician. The only thing I can boast is that, what I cook is always wholesome and light. My friends always make fun of my insistence on using calorie wise ingredients with no fat and very little olive oil, so taste can be problematic. But hey, everybody who eats with me gets used to it. Even Deniz stopped complaining about my pastries being dry!

We decided to return to Fajardo the next morning, but not to Sunbay Marina, which was close to the northern tip of the east coast of Puerto Rico. Instead we stopped at Marina Del Ray situated at Ceiba, a few miles south of Fajardo; and not a moment too soon. All the way to the marina, we got hammered by easterly winds at our starboard. Even setting the sails did not stabilize the boat, which rocked violently. Deniz was not impressed with sailing the cat, although he admits that living conditions are superior to the mono hulls. That time was our only attempt in sailing, which proved to be too hard with high seas and unpredictable rain conditions.

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