Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Adios Luperon, Hola Puerto Rico!

December, 2011

So...how do you begin a new blog chapter when you haven't written a thing for nearly three months?? As we warned earlier this summer, as much as we loved spending hurricane season in Luperon, it wasn't exactly exciting blog fodder. Oh, don't get us wrong - "As Luperon Turns" was an ongoing source of entertainment for those of us living there. We just can't share the details...protecting the not-so-innocent and all that! Suffice it to say, our six months in the DR became mostly routine: yoga three times a week (which fell by the wayside after Stacy's July visit to Seattle), Spanish class twice a week (which went to once a week with a third of the original attendees mid-way through the summer), movies at Wendy's Bar on Monday and Tuesday nights, the veggie market on Tuesday mornings, trivia night at JR's every other Wednesday, a weekly lunch/pool/internet day at Capt. Steve's Place, Troy and friends performing at JR's on Saturdays, monthly full moon parties at Marina Tropical, an occasional motorcycle ride to the beach or Puerto Plata, a cold cerveza at Rafi's, a cold cerveza at Steve's Place, a cold cerveza at Jerry's...you get the drift. Not that everything was routine... A few highlights:

-- We welcomed a new family member in October: Maggie May, a 3-month old calico. At first, Tux wasn't too sure about being a big brother again. Wouldn't you know, Maggie won him over in less than a week!
--Texas Larry threw himself a huge birthday shindig, complete with TWO roast pigs and all the trimmings, at Rafi's bar. The entire harbor was invited, and we had a fantastic time. The general consensus? Best pork EVER!
--We hiked up to the top of a mountain, only to jump (30' at times) or slide down the 27 waterfalls of the Dominican Republic's famous Damajaqua Cascades. What a rush!
--Fred threw Margie a big 6-0 party at their home on the hill, and we were thrilled to be able to share it with them. JR's supplied the yummy buffet, and of course there were plenty of beverages to go around. (But why were we the only ones who got into the pool??)
--We sipped umbrella drinks while lounging in curtained beachside beds at Lifestyle's all-inclusive resort on two separate visits in three months (at $11 per-person-per-day, how can you say no? We've already booked for 2012.). What a perfect way to take a break from boat life!
--We rode the motorcycles up to Lisa and Cade's (Sand Dollar) mountain property to enjoy their company, soak up the views, and bring home fresh-off-the tree oranges, chayote, and avocados.
--Just before we left, Jerry organized a baseball outing to Santiago to watch the home team beat rival Santo Domingo. The noise-makers were cranking, the crowd was on its feet the entire time, and the last few minutes were as nail-biting as any major league game.

As much as we loved Luperon (we're already planning to spend next summer there and look forward to seeing our old friends), we were more than ready to drop the mooring lines and cover some new ground. We began looking for weather windows to cross the "dreaded Mona Passage" (queue scary music: duh-duh-DUH) to Puerto Rico in mid-November. Stacy had the 15th imprinted on her brain, but weather-guru Chris Parker nixed that one with reports of high winds and seas. (As we keep saying, we may not always like what Chris says, but we certainly abide by it. That guy is GOOD.) We finally got another window the day before Thanksgiving, and eight boats left Luperon bound for Puerto Rico. The only downside? Storyville wasn't one of the boats since Deana and Troy decided to leave the boat in Luperon while they had a family visit in Houston. (D&T, get here already!) We expected to make the 250-mile trip in about 48 hours, but our engine had other ideas. Five hours out of Luperon, our engine began losing power. Rene spoke to Patrick on our buddy boat, Island Dream, and they agreed that it sounded like a clogged fuel filter. Rene tried to rev through it, but no luck. Our planned 5-1/2 knots of speed became 4 to 4-1/2, and we began wondering if we'd even make it across the Mona. Rene changed the primary filter somewhere along the DR coastline, but the secondary (read "much harder to get to") filter clogged up as we entered the Mona Passage. By the way, just how do you know when the secondary filter is clogged? Your engine dies. Completely. In the dreaded Mona Passage. 70 miles from your destination. $%&#! Fortunately the winds were in our favor, and we were able to raise a sail while Rene fought with the engine. After an hour and a few choice words, Rene had the new filter in place. The engine came back to life, and we bumped up the RPMs. 6.8 knots, baby! We managed to make up some lost time, and were just outside of the reefs near our anchorage in Boqueron when...NOOOOOOOOOO! The engine died. Again. Yet another fuel filter was clogged, this time the primary one (which Rene had just replaced 24 hours before). Rene grabbed the filter from the generator as a temporary replacement (thank god both engines use the same ones), and cursed the guy in Luperon who sold us dirty fuel. We managed to coax the boat through the deep water between two reefs - did we mention this was in the dark? - praying the engine wouldn't die at a very inopportune moment. Our friends on Island Dream had arrived earlier in the day and had radioed us their entry waypoints, and they met us on deck with a spotlight to signal us into the anchorage. Never had an anchorage looked soooo good!

We managed to get temporary clearance from Customs the next day (Friday), and spent the weekend enjoying the sights and sounds of Boqueron, Puerto Rico. Boqueron has been described as a funky, Bohemian sort of place, and it was the perfect spot to unwind after a two-day crossing. We wandered among the Thanksgiving-weekend crowds, enjoying the sights and sounds of Boqueron. Because there were so many boats arriving at the same time, Customs and Border Patrol wouldn't green-light us with a simple phone call (as they had done with friends who'd passed through earlier). We were extremely greatful, however, that they agreed to send a couple of agents to clear us in instead of making us take a costly and time-consuming taxi ride north to the "official" entry city of Mayaguez. Thank you, CBP! From there, we were free to continue along the PR coast en route to the British Virgin Islands. We made what turned out to be a two-week-long stop in Ponce with Island Dream, where we rented a car and went crazy at Sam's Club, Walmart, Home Depot, and all of the other stores we hadn't seen in a year. Cha-ching! Talk about wallet fatigue... Ponce even had a mall and a Macaroni Grill. Heaven! We also celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary (a bit late) at an amazing churrascuria. Rene's steak was so massive that it had to be served on its side in a spiral!

We left Ponce on Dec. 17th with the intention of getting to the BVIs in time for Christmas. Our friends from Houston, Donna and Steve, were chartering a boat with some other couples for the holidays, and we were excited to meet up with them. We'd also arranged to spend New Year's at Foxy's Taboo on Jost Van Dyke with our Luperon friends aboard Island Dream, Ghost, Ulysses Blue, and Ventana. We certainly couldn't be late for that! Our grand plan had us working our way along Puerto Rico's southern coast, staying in a marina in Palmas Del Mar to check in with Pa'la O'la and do some much-needed boat cleaning, and then crossing to the BVIs after an overnight stop in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Well...those of you who've been following us for awhile know what happens when we're on a schedule. We managed to get to the southeast corner of Puerto Rico before learning that the weather was about to turn ugly. As Chris Parker said on Monday morning, "wherever you plan to spend Christmas, get there TODAY." Hmmm...get to Palmas Del Mar and spend a week or more paying for a marina, or backtrack 20 miles to Salinas and spend Christmas with our friends? So...back to Salinas we went! We met up with Island Dream and three other boats from Luperon. Patrick and Darnell from Island Dream and Carl and Riva from Three Belles joined us aboard Pipe for a Christmas Eve potluck, and we all spent Christmas Day enjoying a buffet dinner served by a local restaurant. Best of all, Chris Parker gave us a little Christmas present: a weather window to the BVIs! We and Island Dream hauled up our anchors and made our way to a staging spot five miles east of Salinas after Christmas dinner. The alarm clock went off at 5am, and we headed out of the cut along the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Squalls followed us for much of the morning, and yet another fuel filter began to clog as we left the protection of Puerto Rico. We decided to forego a nonstop trip to Tortola and instead anchored in Sun Bay, Vieques, for dinner and a brief night's sleep. We got up at 3am and were again on our way to the BVIs. We passed St. Thomas Tuesday morning and arrived in Soper's Hole, Tortola, by 2pm. We plan on staying in the BVIs for the next month, and should have plenty of stories to share in a future blog about this beautiful part of the Caribbean.

We hope you all had very happy holidays, and we were with our family and friends in spirit, if not in person. We miss everyone and look forward to the visits that are planned for next year. As always, there's plenty of room on the boat and we love to have visitors!

Help yourselves to more pictures: Larry's birthday; Lifestyles Resort; 27 Waterfalls; Maggie May; Boqueron & Ponce

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