Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back in Isla Mujeres

We made it! It took nearly as long as our Atlantic crossing from Cape Verde to Barbados, but we finally arrived at El Milagro Marina on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, yesterday morning. Whew! We made another fuel stop at Grand Cayman, just to be sure we could make it across the channel to Isla Mujeres. It's a good thing we did because we had to run the engine the whole time. It was that or go so slowly that we would lose another day. It was our most expensive fuel stop ever at $7.19 USD/US gallon. The wind that Herb told us would develop closer to Mexico never really did, and then we lost Herb to poor propagation.

We're staying here until Friday, fixing things and resting, before continuing on to Galveston. I'm researching as much as I can about our stop in Texas since it's pretty much another foreign land to us. We've also had a lot of advice from fellow SSCA Commodore Gus Wilson, who we met in Horta in 2008. He's got us all hooked up with other cruisers in the Kemah area. And thanks to Cindy Metler, we even have paper charts again. Woohoo!

Here's a link to our blog post from our previous visit here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Adventures in re-fueling

Our chart said this place (Port Morant/Bowden Harbour) had fuel. Of course, it also said that there was a resort/marina here. Our free cruising guide said that the coast guard had taken over the facilities of the now-defunct marina, but that we could tie to the dock for free. It didn't say anything about fuel, but it only mentioned fuel once in the whole document anyway.

So we came into the Coast Guard Station at Port Morant/Bowden very early yesterday morning. To us it was 6:40. In Jamaica time it was actually 5:40. The cruising guide said this is a port of entry, but that the officials have to be called. That is true. The Coast Guard also let us stay here for free, but they don't recommend it. The station is at the end of a dirt road at least a half hour by car from the town of Morant Bay, which is where the gas stations are. It does have good wireless Internet at a very inexpensive rate if you can get to town to get the pre-paid card. (One of the two places listed as a source for the cards has had a fire and is no longer open.)

The Coast Guard guys have been awesome in helping us. They called Immigration, Customs, and Quarantine for us and organized our re-fueling via pick-up truck taxi with a 200-liter barrel borrowed from the Coast Guard plus a couple of our jerry cans. And four or five guys to help. Before dark we had re-fueled and could enjoy our Internet.

Re-fueling crew. This station had a fuel hose filter clog while they were serving us, so our crew had to find other station to finish filling our containers.

Then this morning we discovered that the Quarantine officer had apparently walked off with our entry and exit document from Customs. We need that exit document to get into any other country except the U.S. So after a couple of phone calls, we're now waiting for the Quarantine guy to come back with our exit document. In his defense, I suspect we're the only sailboat he's ever had to deal with here, and the form probably wasn't familiar to him. He also kept our official boat document, but I noticed that one before he left the premises and traded him for a copy. I wish I'd noticed that we were also missing the exit document. Oh, well, it's all part of the adventure, and we still don't have much wind, so we aren't going anywhere quickly anyway.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sailing to a schedule

We avoided it as long as we could, but that's what we're doing now. More accurately, we're motoring to try to keep our schedule. Since we broke the jib halyard and tore the jib, we've been behind. One or two weeks in Antigua would have been plenty, but with waiting for repairs, it was closer to three. We skipped the islands in between in order to say good-bye to Liat and Assaf at Sint Maarten and then hurried on to St. John to see the Parkers and the Peoples. The need for electrical repairs then sent us hurrying off to Puerto Rico.

PR was fun, but it was mostly getting stuff fixed. We had our high-output alternator rebuilt in San Juan, so that meant two trips from Fajardo to San Juan, which turned into three when it wasn't ready when it was supposed to be. We also got a new regulator for our generator there. Then John installed everything, changed the oil, and we made time for a couple of other side trips in addition to provisioning. We made a special trip to go to Old San Juan and another to follow Anthony Bourdain's path into the mountains for whole spitted pig at Lechonera Los Pinos. The trip to the mountains also let us see some of the south coast of the island since we missed the unmarked turn-off for the scenic route through the mountains and ended up going around. It was all scenic, and PR is on our list of places to revisit. In fact, I don't know why more people don't make it a destination in itself.

We left PR a day earlier than planned because there was no good wind in the forecast, which means that we have to motor and go slow. We do have a need to be in Texas to get the boat on a truck to the West Coast, hopefully by June 15th, and that's what's driving the schedule. It's a surprisingly long way from Fajardo, PR, to Isla Mujeres, Mexico (1,270 nm), and we can't motor the whole way without stopping for fuel. So we'll stop briefly in Jamaica just to refuel. So far we've been out almost four whole days, and we've only been able to turn the motor off for 8 hours. We were very pleased to get those 8 hours of sailing because they weren't forecast either. We're talking with Herb of South Bound II again daily and getting other weather sources over the SSB radio. Maybe later in the week we'll get some favorable winds and be able to sail again.

Right now we're south of Haiti about 30 hours out from our refueling stop at Bowden Harbour on the east end of Jamaica. All is well aboard Solstice.


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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Visiting friends on St. John

When we first set out on our voyage, we promised our friends Blake and Terri Parker that we would visit them at their new home on St. John when we were in the Caribbean. We made it just in time this week since they're planning a move back to Iowa. They have a new granddaughter there, and Terri has a new job, so we were lucky to catch them. We got to see their house, which they're keeping, and they gave us a tour of the island.

Other friends were also visiting St. John when we were there. We met Dave and Helen on Jammin (from Oregon) on the way to the 2007 Baja Ha-Ha. They've been in Mexico and the western Caribbean while we were in Europe, and now they're headed to Trinidad for the hurricane season. They waited for us at St. John (our only “for sure” stop), and we anchored next to them in Round Bay. It's a really nice anchorage, and we had it all to ourselves.

This morning we said good-bye to everyone as Jammin headed for Virgin Gorda and the Parkers continued with their regular lives. We only went a few miles today, to Water Island near St. Thomas, but tomorrow we'll get up early and go to Puerto Rico.