Sailing Puerto Rico’s south coast

Saturday evening we went out for something to eat in the marina bar / restaurant.   It was pretty busy with loads of large family groups – so we sat at the bar and had a snack and a bottle of wine. It was clear that some members of one of the family groups were already under the influence – they were very loud and it was apparent that not all was well with some relationships…   Then the heavens opened!   Luckily we were under cover but no-one else was – so they all had to run inside.   The bar staff – who had been getting a bit of a raw deal from these particular rowdy customers – found this all quite funny and so did we!!!   After a nice evening we managed to find a gap in the rain to head back to Morphie and so to bed.

Sunday morning we were up early – settled our bill – and moved out of our slip. We were not looking forward to getting out of the narrow marina entrance straight into the wind and waves – but we managed to punch our way out…and Morphie handled it brilliantly.   We did wonder whether this was why the marina was so empty though as we headed out??? Sadly no dolphin visited today!

Heading out the marina entrance Goodbye to Palmas del Mar

As we turned the corner onto the south coast of Puerto Rico the wind and waves were now behind us.   The seas were not particularly large or lumpy and the wind was blowing steadily. This was the best sail we have had in a very very long time…..   Absolutely fantastic!   And we were visited by a huge leatherback turtle – the size of a small car – coming up for a few breaths…. Radical dude…. Sadly we weren’t able to get a photo of him / her.

Sailing to Salinas We made good time, averaging 6 knots over the 25 mile sail, and turned around the cayo towards the anchorage that nestles between the mangroves.   And, of course, the minute we drop the sails and head into the wind and waves trying to navigate through skinny water the wind picked up and the rain came down…..   If you are wondering why our speed is Zero – that’s because a little crustacean has taken hold of the impeller and we have not had nice water to dive under and dislodge it!    We managed to make our way in safely and dropped our hook in 9 feet of water and got an instant set into the mud. And, of course, the weather cleared the minute we were in.

Wind picked up

Salinas is a lovely anchorage.   Absolutely flat calm and felt like we were tied up to land.   We deliberately decided to stay at the back of the field to give us more privacy – especially as we knew that this anchorage was very crowded with private mooring balls and liveaboards closer in to shore.   We enjoyed the sights and sounds of the pelicans fishing and the views of the mountains behind the boats… and the police boat that used us as cover to caution people for going too fast through the mangroves, which is a manatee area. We decided not to go ashore and just enjoyed being at anchor again and watching the sun going down, having dinner in the cockpit.

Between the cayos

Salinas sunset

Monday morning and we cleaned Morphie up.   I went around the outside rail in the dinghy as, when we had removed the blue tape after varnishing, the anchorage in St Thomas was very rolly and dangerous so it was not as perfect a job as it could have been.   So I cleaned up some bits and bobs that had escaped us the first time round. Richard did some engine maintenance tasks and, late morning, we went ashore to explore.  On the way we dinked slowly around the anchorage looking for manatees but to no avail – Richard even offered them salad if they showed up, but they weren’t playing LOL.

Inside the mangroves

Manatee warning Morphie at anchor Manatee hunting

Salinas is a sleepy place – and has a gastronomic route to follow which is quite famous apparently.   So we wandered around – saying Buenos Dias to anyone who smiled – but it was largely empty, shops shut, restaurants shut and apart from admiring the huge propeller someone had installed in their front garden, there wasn’t much to see.

Salinas anchorage Salinas marina Salinas 3 Salinas 2 Salinas 1

We wandered back – a bit disappointed – but found a sea facing bar open and went in and tried some local appetisers.   Cheese balls sound horrendous, but actually were very tasty, especially with the guava dip.   Richard had huge shrimps and enjoyed them too…   Whilst sitting there we watched pelicans resting up on the broken down pilings in the sea.

Pelican taking a rest

Having had an enjoyable hour or so we wandered back to the marina – enjoying views of the ocean when we could catch it between buildings – and ended up in the marina bar where we quickly caught up on emails and then returned to Morphie in time to watch a stunning sunset.

Salinas sunset 2

Tuesday morning and we were on the move again – this time our destination was Ponce – and we enjoyed looking at the windmills along the coast. Again, it was another 25 mile downwind sail which was both brisk and breezy.   Loving this.

Wind power Following sea Following sea 2

We reached the main channel into Ponce when we heard Triton on the radio letting people know that he was leaving Ponce port and was towing a large barge so was restricted in his ability to manoeuvre.   We hailed him to find out his requirements and we decided to leave him the whole width of the channel as, at the point we would pass, we had enough depth to go outside of the channel itself. He was very grateful and thanked us for our consideration especially as the wind was howling and he wanted to go down the ‘wrong’ side of the channel to avoid getting swept down onto the green channel markers.

Triton the tug

Once we had passed port to port we returned to the main channel to avoid shoals that were now ahead of us….   We were getting beaten up with the waves hitting us on our side and our first sight of the anchorage was not an inviting one.

Industrial anchorage

The main yacht club was full of power boats, the inner harbour was full of private mooring balls, and that only left anchoring room outside and opposite the main industrial port. It was 30 feet deep so we made sure we had a lot of swinging room and dropped 150 feet of chain into the mud. We got a good set straight away and sat back and watched for a while.

Later on we dinked across to the yacht club main building – which was absolutely deserted and obviously not in use – and found the main office in the car park. We enquired about a slip but decided to decline at $2 per foot per day.   We also enquired about leaving dink there during the day – and decided not to bother at that either at $10 per person per day.   Not sure what the cost was for – there wasn’t an actual dinghy dock and there was no security either – no problem we’ll find somewhere else.   We did, however, manage to get a useful map of Ponce town, which is about a 10 minute drive away from the anchorage.

Ponce Yacht Club

Later on we dinked around and found a little dock near the boardwalk which was marked ‘dinghies only’. Hurrah!   We went to the boardwalk and wandered up and down – surprised that it was all little kiosks rather than nice bars / restaurants – but we had a couple of cold ones and some more local snacks. Unfortunately it would appear that most Puerto Rican appetisers are deep fried so we’ll have to avoid these in future.  On the way back to dink we spotted a huge Zumba class going on – they seemed pretty keen!   Back on board and we enjoyed the sunset before turning in for the night.

Ponce waterfront The BoardwalkZumba classes Ponce sunset

Wednesday morning we tried to hail a taxi – but failed miserably.  So we walked to the security gate of the marina and the guy there was kind enough to call one for us.   He arrived – I attempted some Spanish – at which point he replied in English!  Oh well – I did try…..   He dropped us at the Fire Station in the centre of Ponce and what a treat….   Fantastic place….with an antique pump and a weird display of carnival costumes.

Ponce fire station Fire pump Ponce carnival costume

Around the corner we visited the Cathedral which was absolutely stunning….and pictures really do not do it justice.

Ponce 2 Ponce 3 Ponce 4 Ponce 5 Ponce 6

Outside the cathedral in the main square we found hand-painted lions by local artists. Not sure what the lions signify but they were all individual and an interesting sight, especially when we realised that there was a parade of them on every corner to this park.

Ponce 7 Ponce 8 Ponce 10

It was, at this point, we were approached by a couple of beggars which is the first time since we arrived in Puerto Rico.   Ponce is very Spanish, has lots of history with fantastic architecture, and we enjoyed the sights and sounds a lot.   We even went shopping in the very reasonably priced local outlets – so cheap that I got two pairs of shoes for $35.  Bargain!!!!   They are made in China and will probably last less than one season but hey, a girl can never have too many pairs of shoes, even on a sailboat LOL, although Richard did make me throw away some old ones later!

Ponce 1 Ponce 9 Ponce 11 Ponce 12 Ponce 13 Ponce 14 Ponce 15

We made our way back to the boardwalk via another taxi – this time the driver did understand the Spanish yay! – and had a few beers.   We bumped into this tour group from the US whom were keen to chat when they realised we were English – so we had a good time with them before they returned to their hotel.

New friends

Back on board we enjoyed the Ponce sunset, had dinner, and a nice evening in the cockpit before retiring.

Ponce sunset 2

Thursday morning and we were up early – we motored out through the channel, cleared all hazards, got the sails up and ran downwind towards La Paguera.   The sail was brisk – with a very big sea running behind us – and it slapped us quite a few times with waves breaking under us, over us and surfing us along in the wrong direction a few times!   But we still had a great time and enjoyed the coastline – and wondered what this huge industrial area was all about? That’s when we could see it behind the waves of course….

Huge oil facility behind the waves

La Paguera is well hidden behind cayos and through reefs – so very careful navigation was needed here. We kept an eye on the charts, on our depth, on our plotter and felt our way through.   The main anchorage opposite the town was empty – and we weren’t sure whether we wanted to be the only boat there for security reasons – so we crept through towards the marina tucked away around the corner of a little island.   We realised that our chart plotter was completely inaccurate in this area as we actually appeared to be sailing on land at some point…..  Oh well, gave us good practice at eyeball navigation and reading the colour of the water to determine depth…..   Thankfully we managed to get anchored in 10 feet of water behind a cayo and we realised that all the boats ahead of us had actually been left here unattended. So we are on our own anyway – and then a French boat turns up and anchors alongside – clearly they were looking for safety in numbers too.   The sail had been very tiring – we had hand steered most of the way as the waves kept knocking Colin our auto pilot off course and we didn’t want him to work that hard – so we decided to rest up for the rest of the day and had another quiet night on board.

La Paguera anchorage La Paguera sunset

This morning – Friday – and we were out and about pretty early.   We dinked through the cayos admiring all the little houses scattered along the shoreline, although most of them seemed to be deserted.   We dinked along the coast to find a place to put dink and failed miserably…. although did find the only hotel!   So we returned to the marina to be told that it is private and members only – no transient visitors allowed.  Not very welcoming eh???

Anchored behind a cayo in La Paguera Anchorage waterfront Hotel Waterside homes 1 Private marina

But we did found out where to take dink in town so turned around and went back again – finding a small floating dock in about 18 inches of water behind Johnny’s boat rental. Phew…..     The town is tiny and under construction – so nothing much to offer really. We are now holed up in the only local restaurant that has internet coverage and will return to Morphie once this is finished.   Oh yes, and we have found that the huge blimp up in the sky is actually a spy checking out for drugs!!!!

Downtown Downtown under construction The spying blimp

Another quiet night on board beckons.  Tomorrow – Saturday – we are planning to sail to the end of Puerto Rico’s south coast and anchor on the West Coast…. Another different customs zone so will we need to check in again once we arrive.  We are hoping for a bit more life ashore on the West Coast – fingers crossed!

Bye for now.


Exploring new horizons – Puerto Rico

Monday afternoon we dodged the rain a few times but still got soaked……   We picked up internet ashore then went back to Morphie and watched the rain fall again. Not nice.   So another early night followed.

Raining again.... Soaked at the supermarket Vieques sunset

Tuesday morning and the sun came out! Hurrah!   What a difference a day makes. We did some washing and cleaning up then went ashore in the afternoon. Obviously the weather makes the eagle rays happy too as there were about six of them swimming around under the dinghy dock.   Managed to get one of them in a picture….

Eagle ray under the dock Boardwalk in the sun! Vieques anchorage

Ashore we were just checking for weather to make sure the passage to Puerto Rico in the morning was viable – yes it was – so we spoke to the marina at Palmas del Mar and they confirmed a slip for us.   We were then asked to join two couples who were sitting adjacent to us – turns out the American couple owned the other Island Packet in the bay and the English couple had the large schooner.   They had both just sailed down from Florida through the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico – so we gathered lots of relevant and useful information.   And as they were heading down island we shared some information on our favourite islands too….   Was a very productive few hours!   Back on board we got Morphie ready to go to sea and had another early night.

Wednesday morning and we picked up our anchor and left Vieques. It was a nice start to the day … the sun was out, the sky was blue, and we were sailing downwind under genoa alone. Of course, it didn’t stay that way, and we were increasingly chased down by clouds and rain. And of course the sea responded by getting lumpy too…. Never mind – we were both excited by the prospect of exploring a new island.

Downwind sail Being chased down by the rain

After 20 miles we approached the entrance to the marina – this is not huge and is on a lee shore and there was some swell running….. So we hung about outside in safe water to call to find out what side to put fenders on – and no reply to the radio.   Damn….   Always happens!   So we got the boat ready for either side with ropes stern and aft and fenders out….   While we were doing this – head to wind and into the waves – we spotted dolphins playing in the breaking waves. Then we realised that it was two adults and a baby. Wow!!!!   Exciting…. So we watched them play for a little while and then got ourselves back to the task in hand….

Dolphins 2 Dolphins!

Responding to a telephone call – not the VHF radio – the marina told us to go alongside the fuel dock in the first instance and gave us directions. So we then lined ourselves up to get through the narrow entrance and I then spotted we had lost a fender!!!! Richard!!!!!   So we did our man overboard practice to retrieve it… And of course we are now being pushed in the wrong direction for the entrance so we turned into the waves to get away from the hazards and line ourselves up again…..   And of course this is when a monster wave – and I mean monster – broke over our bow with green water coming across the coachroof, into the cockpit, and some even went down below.   OMG – that was a scary moment.   Thankfully we punched through, turned, and made our entrance in a sedate way afterwards.   Phew!

Google earth image of the marina

Shortly after tying up to the fuel dock we moved to a proper slip and I went to the office to check in.   That was quickly sorted – very impressive and friendly service – organised laundry and a hire car before wandering back to Morphie.   After sorting ourselves out we headed out for a walk having a look at the pool on the way. The marina bar is not open on a Wednesday so we wandered up to the local plaza and had a couple of cold ones sitting out on the pavement…..watching the world go by.   Felt very Mediterranean….   We were tired so headed back for another early night.

Morphie in her slip Marina Pool Marina entrance is in the corner

Thursday morning – up early – and picked up the hire car at 9.00 am.   We were heading off to Old San Juan today – we got instructions and, it was only at this point, that we realised that the whole of Palmas del Mar is a private gated community with security gates, golf courses etc and all beautifully landscaped.    Very nice!!!

Landscaped surroundings

We found our way to the motorway – express way tolls and all – and were a bit taken aback by the lanes of traffic and the US way of doing exits…. All felt very busy and a bit disconcerting that people are allowed to overtake on both sides of you.

Proper highways

We reached the historic city of Old San Juan in about an hour – and found a multi-storey car park – in the smartest looking building you could image…..   Old San Juan is beautiful – fantastic historic buildings with some in need of repair, but many stunningly renovated.   Add to that the modern statues; the myriad of museums; the churches; the art galleries; the piazzas; the horse-drawn sight-seeing carriages; the San Juan wall and castillo and you could easily imagine that you were in a renovated Havana..….   Then you spot the cruise ship terminal and the gift / souvenir shops / restaurants clearly with US clientele in mind and you capture the essence of this place. What we weren’t  expecting to see was the sobering tribute to the 6 million holocaust victims and the other tributes along the mall to diverse groups such as police, teachers and women….. I found all this quite thought provoking.   The city was spotlessly clean and very well patrolled by police who either looked by Canadian mounties in their hats or something out of “Chips” on their Harley Davidson bikes….. We even spotted some Segway riding ones LOL.   So here are some of our favourite pictures from the day….

Old San Juan 1 Old San Juan 2 Old San Juan 3 Old San Juan 4

Old San Juan 5 Old San Juan 6 Old San Juan 7 Old San Juan 8 Old San Juan 9

Old San Juan 10 Old San Juan 11 Panorama from the old town looking out to sea Old San Juan 12 Old San Juan 13 Old San Juan 14 Old San Juan 15 Old San Juan 16 Old San Juan 17 Old San Juan 18 Police bikes Old San Juan 19 Old San Juan 20

We had an amazing day out and got back to the marina late in the afternoon and decided we deserved a cold beer. But there was a wedding going on… The marina bar served us anyway and we kept out of the way on the deck and were joined by two other couples who fancied a drink! Then suddenly the wedding party had left and we were alone….   Had a chat to the bar staff and called it a night…. Another exploring day beckoned.

Wedding going on Marina bar

Friday morning up early and we went out planning to explore into the mountains. But we wanted to sort a few jobs out – and the first was to find the propane gas filling station as one of our bottles was now empty.   Job done – bottle stashed – and then onto the minor roads which will take us along the South coast.

Time for a gas fill

Well – the road went up, down, around, corkscrewed, through mountains, through forests, breath taking scenery and amazing little cafes stuck out on the top with viewing platforms.   We had a great time taking it all in and ended up in Salinas – one of our future proposed anchorages – and had lunch in the marina restaurant, which is elevated so that you get views….   We also had local food – well, Richard did by trying the mofungo (mashed plaintain) and the fish covered in a local tomato sauce. I ordered pork with a baked potato but had local veg – and was completely shocked to get two huge chops – one ended up coming home with us by way of a doggy bag LOL.  Had another wonderful day out – and here are some of our favourite pictures….

Exploring day 2 -1 Exploring day 2 - 2 Exploring day 2 - 3 Exploring day 2 - 4 Exploring day 2 - 5 Exploring day 2 -6 Exploring day 2 - 7 Exploring day 2 Exploring day 2 - 8 Exploring day 2 - 9

In the evening we didn’t have dinner just an early night.

This morning – Saturday – and we were up with the lark as we need to return the car today.   So we ended up in Walmart by 8 am making the most of our wheels to pick up more wine, soft drinks and get some fresh produce and bread.   Job done – back to the marina – and we were given a lift back to our slip by the staff in a golf buggy. Nice place this!!!!   Richard has, ever since, been down the hole in the starboard lazarette attaching our new Merlin controller to the fridge while I’ve been blogging….. Oh yes and it’s raining again. And the laundry came back….

Tomorrow – Sunday – and we are back out to sea.   We have three possible places to stay overnight – depending upon conditions and our speed – so we just need to do a proper passage plan as the south coast is strewn with reefs and shoals plus some small outlying islands.   Really looking forward to it – we have loved our time here so far and can’t wait to see more of the island.

Bye for now


The Spanish Virgin Islands – Culebra to Vieques

Thursday afternoon we headed into town – worked out where to get a golf buggy from; we went to get a loaf of bread from the bakery to find it was actually a café; the supermarket was closed; but at least we got rid of our rubbish!!!!   We wandered down to the ferry dock and spotted this statue throwing rocks – we think he is a monkey?!? Not sure of its significance but quite liked it anyway… The ferry had just come in so there was a traffic jam down the main high road – which is a very small street really with the odd gift shop along it.   And that’s about it for the main town!

Throwing stones at the Ferry Traffic jam in the high street

Back towards the Dinghy Dock where we had left dink chained up – and went into Mamacitas for a quick drink and snack. This used to be a very lively place when we visited five years ago, but now appears to have changed hands and the only other people were staff and a very drunk loud local lady.

Mamacitas Mamacitas 2

We enjoyed the view down the canal that goes completely through the island from one side to the other and then wandered back to the Dinghy Dock.

View out to the anchorage from the dinghy dock Canal running between two coasts

Not really feeling in the mood we had one beer – whilst enjoying the huge tarpon circulating along the dock – and then returned to Morphie with a quick detour to check Cutter Loose was safe and sound as Pat and Eric had gone to Puerto Rico overnight.

Huge tarpon patrol

Dinghy dock bar and restaurant

It started raining again so we ended up with a moody sunset before having an early dinner and to bed.

Moody sunset

Friday morning and we were up early. It was still grey and miserable but at least the rain was holding off and we optimistically put swimmers and towels in a beach bag to take with us. So we did the hot and steamy walk back to the airport enjoying the sights of the main road on the way…. The Government Building was new and impressive but oh so boring!   The local food was a revelation – a whole suckling pig in the back of a caravan…..   Was a bit early for us but I could have fancied trying that out for sure!

Main road out of town Pig roast

Government building

We picked up our buggy and headed off towards Punto Soldado.   The roads are narrow and winding up and down hills….. and then we came to a road block. Bit of work going on as they were moving a very large palm tree that had come down.

Different sort of road works

Moving on and we come to the end of the tarmac.   Another buggy was following us and had two local women in it – who said that there was a lovely beach down there….   So we followed them off road – went about half way down and decided that our buggy definitely did not have enough power to get back up the hill if we went any further so we abandoned that and turned around.   Culebra is very green and lush….and we were enjoying being out and about.   And, of course, it then started to drizzle….   Never mind…. The views were stunning and I can imagine they would be beautiful given better weather!

Green and lush Historical vehicle Garage come general store Richard on our buggy Raining! The airport Views out to sea Dead centre of town

We left that end of the island – went back through Dewey again – and followed the main road out towards the other point which is the opposite end of the entrance to Ensenada Honda.   Driving along and the rain stopped. Hurrah!   We found the museum in a cute building from 1905 which had been used as a storage facility for armaments.   The museum was slightly disappointing in that there really wasn’t much there apart from the odd piece of pottery and hand tools they had found on various digs. Although cute not sure I approve of what they did to this puffer fish either!

Museum building Museum exhibit Looking out into Ensenada Honda

In the buggy

Culebra was not colonised like so many of the other Caribbean islands – and there were less than 500 people who lived there until the islands were taken over by the US in 1905 who saw it as strategically valuable due to its close proximity to Puerto Rico.   The highlight of the museum visit was undoubtedly the film by Culebra OAPs who shared the stories of their lives – on island, off island and back again.   They were very poor with no running water, no electricity, no toys and few home comforts, with farming being the main way of making a living.   These OAPs seemed to come from all different ethnic backgrounds which was interesting, with many of them looking like they had Carib Indian ancestry.   The stories were amusing, sad, uplifting and quite shocking in places. But despite the hardships they all looked back and said they were happy….with many of them having returned to Culebra to retire having lived a lot of their adult lives in the US. The US Navy used the island for shelling practice and, at one point, they had 7,500 troops stationed here.   This was a great time for the locals to make some money by turning their porches into bars selling home-made liquor and crafts…. The women had to be careful though as the sailors were often randy as well as rowdy!!!!   Sadly the shelling practice often meant that people got displaced, animals were killed and some children were seriously injured by unexploded ordnance when they played with their shiny new toys.   This continued on and off – with breaks for the world wars – until 1975 when the shelling was stopped.   But, of course, this means that the island had not been developed throughout this period so is now struggling to catch up.   There is a lot that needs doing in terms of infrastructure and encouraging investment here.

While watching the film the heavens had opened again… but we braved the elements and continued on our tour.   Amazing how quickly the roads dry….  We headed off towards Mosquito Bay and came across the Costa Bonita Beach Resort.   We went through security and down to the main buildings. The restaurant was shut, the bar was shut, the place was deserted, and apart from the pool and reception being operational it appeared that this resort of condos had failed to attract many purchasers yet.   It was soulless and not inspiring whatsoever….

Main road continues Sad hotel & apartment complex

So we quickly moved on again.   Back through Dewey – over the bridge – and we are heading to Flamenco Beach now – which is supposed to be stunning. Well – it is – but, of course, the weather wasn’t quite right. Thankfully the rain stopped so we were able to wander the beach and was amazed at the surf raging…. Still strong north swells in the region right now.   The pelicans were out in force fishing too.

The bridge

Big surf conditions Nice beach Not a bobbing day Pelicans looking for fish

We carried on around the headland and came across an abandoned US tank on the beach.   Walking back through the scrubland we came across another painted tank…..   On the path behind the beach there is a campground and there are loads of tents and paraphernalia around. Looks like some of the people are actually living here – some of the areas looked like permanent encampments. Wouldn’t fancy living there – scrubby sand, sand fleas, mosquitos from the nearby lagoon….   But at least there is fresh running water, showers and toilet blocks so I guess on a bright and sunny day I might have had a different opinion LOL.

Abandoned tank 2 Abandoned tank

Back to the car park and we were hungry – had been hoping to find a beach-fronted restaurant where we could chill over food and watch the waves. Sadly all there was were fast food concessions and so we ended up with burger and chips sitting on a stool trying to keep out of the rain….   Oh well!!!

Food concessions

By this time we had had enough really so decided to return the buggy.    Not like us to take a vehicle back two hours early but we were soaked through – and we’d rattled our fillings a number of times when hitting potholes covered over by standing water LOL.   The rental place gave us a lift back and so we went to the Dinghy Dock and had a beer….   The skies were getting darker again and we thought we’d make a run for it – well, glad we did!   We just got on board when the heavens opened…… and it was torrential for a long time…… I was getting worried about dink getting swamped as we hadn’t had time to lift him up before the rains came.

Panorama of Ensenada Honda Dink filling up Raining hard Whiteout in the anchorage

We ended up with a quiet night on board and an early night……having watched a pretty stormy sunset.

Moody sunset 2

Saturday morning and it was still raining….. So we had a lazy day and didn’t get much achieved at all.   Later on in the afternoon it cleared up a bit so we made a dash for the Dinghy Dock.   Sitting in the bar and Eric and Pat came in with their guests from home. We enjoyed a drink with them before they headed back to their boat.   We were going to have a Valentine’s dinner out – but didn’t feel hungry – so decided to go back to Morphie for another early night after another stormy sunset.

Moody sunset

Sunday morning and I awoke early to some great colours in the sky – so I went up top and watched the most stunning sunrise….   Wow!

Sunrise in the anchorage

We got Morphie ready to go to sea, picked up our anchor, and said our farewells to Culebra.    We had enjoyed ourselves here but time to move on.   We had planned to go straight to Puerto Rico but decided to let this weather move through first – so it is to Vieques instead.   Only a 25 mile sail away and, of course, as we navigated through the reef the heavens opened again….   Little bit of wind – again weirdly from the West rather than the East – but we managed to motor sail under genoa and lift our speed by a knot as a result.   And that was the scene set for the day – raining, swelly, some wind, got wet and had to dodge lobster pots along the shore line for quite a way.

Goodbye Culebra Motor sailing along..... Poor visibility as heavens opened

We arrived into Vieques around 12.30 and were dismayed to find that a lot of the anchorage had been covered in mooring balls.   But we found a spot behind Cayo Real – a long way from shore but this anchorage has a reputation for being a bit lawless and we wanted to be beyond swimming distance!   Just as I was dropping the anchor this dinghy turned up and this English guy shouts “That is the worst place to anchor – you’ll never get a set – it is all grass – you’ll definitely drag.   The balls are good – only $25 a night…”  We explained to him that we had been here five years ago and didn’t have a problem so we’ll try anchoring first – but thanks for the advice. Anyway we got a good set straight away with loads of scope out in 12 feet of water with plenty of swinging room and then this guy Chase turns up. Tells us loads of stories about how he is now the guy who looks after the bay – and that Vieques is now safe as the local drug lord had dealt with – very harshly – anybody who had stolen dinghies in the past.   Since then no dinghies have gone missing….   This is now considered a safe place for cruisers.   Glad to hear it.

Of course it rained on and off so we decided to go ashore later – in the meantime Cutter Loose sailed in behind us and anchored closer in.   So we waved hello and hoped to see them again later.

Cutter Loose arriving

About 4.30 ish we went into town – enjoyed a walk along the boardwalk and the views out to the anchorage – and settled into Lazy Jacks the cruisers bar because it has free wifi  We were joined later on for a quick one by the Cutter Loose crew before they went off to do the bio pool experience.

Vieques anchorage Vieques boardwalk Cruisers bar

On the way back to the boat we came across a bar offering to look after husbands which Richard thought was a great idea LOL.  We were surprised by the number of bars and restaurants that had opened since our last visit – but I guess the recession had hit them pretty hard by then.   Back on board Morphie we had cheese and biscuits for dinner and another early night.

Husband day care centre! Vieques sunset

Monday morning and we could hear the rain pelting down on the coach roof above us – so we had a lazy start. We waved goodbye to Cutter Loose as they passed by on their way to Puerto Rico – don’t envy them the miserable sailing day today that’s for sure!

Final wave.... Cutter Loose coming by to say goodbye

Richard did some boat jobs while I was blogging and we waited for a lull in the rain to go ashore.   We made it ashore but got soaked on the short walk to the supermarket!  With the weather being so inclement – and with strong swells forecast again for tonight through to Wednesday morning – we are thinking of staying here for a little while just to sit it out as our next stop is into a marina in Puerto Rico so that we can hire a car and explore the island. Really would like some sun for that!!!!

Bye for now


The final rub down in St Thomas….

Friday morning having returned the car we went into Mollys for breakfast. When I logged on to check Thursday’s purchases had gone through OK we realised that our credit cards had been suspended…. Oh no….   Talking to them via Skype they said they had been suspicious of all the activity and wanted to go through each transaction individually to ensure they were genuine.   Relieved there were no dodgy dealings we got our cards quickly restored to their proper status. Phew.   We also promised not to spend more than £200 in the next few days – I think we can manage that. After breakfast we headed over to the bank for a final ATM withdrawal and that card got refused too!!!!   Frustrated we head back to Mollys for another sparkling water – feeling quite hydrated at this point LOL – and Skyped the bank.   Cleared through all the security questions and got this quickly resolved too… Double phew….

Back on board we got Morphie ready to go sailing and left the slip in Red Hook for the final time….   And, of course, there was no wind.   We motored through the Current Hole Passage – with no ferries this time thankfully – and then turned west towards Charlotte Amalie.   The seas were pretty flat and we made good time – pulling into the main anchorage area at 3pm. The anchorage was busy so we ended up quite a long way out and directly opposite the cruise ships – two in today.

Heading towards the cut Two cruise ship day

We then prepped the boat for varnishing by removing the stainless steel rubbing rails, getting the ropes out of the way, and snubbing our anchor across the front of the bow rollers to keep the rails clear. Job done we got ourselves cleaned up, dropped dink, and then headed into the marina where we had a few drinks in the Fat Turtle before coming back to Morphie for dinner and an early night.

Morphie in Charlotte Amalie

Going ashore on two cruise ship day

Saturday morning we were up really early – in fact so early we watched the cruise ships come into harbour and the sun rise – and then we started working.

Sunrise over Charlotte Amalie Arriving at Sunrise Queuing up to get in

By 4pm we had sanded down, cleaned up and varnished – we just need the weather to hold for the night.   Fingers crossed this time!    Here’s a sanded down picture….

Rubbed down

During the day we had been distracted a couple of times by some type of ride on the cruise ship opposite – is that the equivalent of the naughty step for those that don’t go ashore????

Naughty step

At 5.30 pm we went on board Cutter Loose for a reunion with Eric and Pat and another island packet couple Pam and AD who are down here on their boat called Pappy’s Packet. Had a lovely evening and I really enjoyed Eric’s rum punch – which is great praise indeed as I don’t tend to drink rum!

Evening onboard Cutter Loose

Sunday morning and we awoke to a grey sky. Thankfully there was no rain during the night – so we admired the newly varnished wood.   Looks good and we think we’ll leave it at that now. Hurrah!!!!

New varnish 1 New varnish 2

We waved off Pat and Eric as they left for Culebra – and we decided to be tourists for the day. So we wandered the shops and went up the Skyride to see the view down over the anchorage and the marina….. Wow Morphie looks tiny!   Stunning…..

Marina boardwalk

Going up the skyride Panorama view of Charlotte Amalie Tourist selfie Sky ride Marina view There's Morphie!

On the way back we settled into the coffee shop to pick up wifi – the only place around here with a constant signal – and caught up on a few things like paying bills!  Oh yes, and check out this photo Eric sent us with Morphie being dwarfed by Quantum of the Seas pulling into the dock…. Great shot!

Morphie and the cruise ship

Later on we headed back to the Fat Turtle for happy hour and then returned to Morphie for the evening.

The Fat Turtle

Monday morning and it’s another busy day…. We cleaned off all the blue tape and its sticky residue; cleaned up the stainless steel; and restored all the ropes and lines to their proper place…. Phew – hot work!   It took us all day and we were shattered so didn’t even bother to go ashore.   Just a quiet night on board and a very early night!

Tuesday morning and things to do – we have to meet the guys from Reefco to pick up our delivery of gauges, gas containers and a Merlin controller – all to help us manage Morphie’s refrigeration systems ourselves going forward.   We also have to go to Pueblo to pick up some fresh produce….. to be followed by a visit to Customs to clear out of the USVIs for Wednesday’s departure.   Sitting in the cockpit having a cup of tea – not having slept very well at all because of a large swell in the anchorage – we were listening to the music from the Disney cruise ship when we spotted dolphins in the anchorage.   Fantastic – and of course it is really difficult to get a photo – but I managed one just to prove it!!!   Love these creatures….

In comes Disney Dolphins in the anchorage

Out to town – jobs accomplished – and we went back to Morphie to drop off our purchases.

Spare parts for fridge and freezer

Then we went ashore again to the Fat Turtle for a snack and a couple of beers.   After about two hours we left and struggled to get into dink because of the motion on the dock.  Back on board – having to time the leap from dink onto Morphie to coincide with the height of the wave – and we lifted dink quickly onto his davits to get him safe. We then settled down for an early night but of course sleep was pretty elusive in those conditions!

Wednesday morning and the forecast changed overnight for largish seas and high winds with a small craft advisory in place. But we are committed to leaving as we have already checked out. So after the cruise ships had come in we motored out through the channel and then, having realised that it was pretty breezy, we raised the genoa and the main with reefs in both.   It actually was around 23-25 knots with lumpy seas – but the annoying thing was that the wind direction was SW not NE – so, guess what, we are close hauled beating into it…. Should have been a lovely downwind sail!  Oh well….never mind….we had fun anyway.   Goodbye St Thomas.

Goodbye St Thomas Rough seas 1 Sailing nicely

As we approached Sail Rock a cruise ship – Freedom of the Seas – was on a collision course with us and then we realised that he had changed course to give us safe passage. What a nice man!   So I radioed him to thank him – and he was very pleasant and moved a few more degrees to port to accommodate us…   That was a bit of excitement!

Courteous cruise ship Sail Rock

We had to drop our sails as we approached the reef strewn entrance to Dewey, Culebra, as we couldn’t hold the angle any more.   We motored through the markers and came into Ensenada Honda – a bit of a hurricane hole. It was lovely and flat inside – you could never guess the conditions outside. Made a lovely change after the washing machine action in Charlotte Amalie and the 25 mile bumpy and wet sail here….

Reefs at entrance to Dewey Reefs at entrance to Dewey 2

As required, we telephoned the customs guys and after a number of calls we were told to report to the airport with our papers.   We went ashore to the Dinghy Dock bar and restaurant – locked up dink – and wandered up to the main road.   A golf buggy – driven by two women from New York – came by and offered us a lift, so we gratefully accepted.

Our ride

Entering the airport building we found the Homeland Security Office and entered….   The two guys working here were very funny – a real double act – and the whole process, although drawn out and bureaucratic, was very efficient. Culebra is part of Puerto Rico which, in turn, is a US territory – so they granted us a 12 month cruising permit which enables us to enter Florida at no cost later in our trip. It only cost $37 – a real result!   We also found out about the rules as we move around Puerto Rico in future weeks – telephoning as we move ‘zones’ and checking out at our last port of call.   Was the best experience we have ever had with US customs and immigration officials!   Helped I think by their love of Top Gear and the naughtiness of Jeremy Clarkson LOL…

We walked back from the airport – about 20 minutes – to the Dinghy Dock restaurant. We had just opened our first beer and Eric and Pat turned up!   So we spent some time with them before returning to Morphie for a quiet night on board and our first Culebra sunset.

Dewey anchorage Culebra sunset

This morning – Thursday – we are feeling much more refreshed having had a reasonable night’s sleep and a bit of a lazy morning. Later on we are going on a fact finding mission hoping to hire a golf buggy tomorrow so that we can explore this island.

Bye for now


Goodbye BVIs – back to St Thomas

Sunday afternoon we went ashore to go bobbing on Pirates beach.  We were having a great time – using one of Orion’s blow-up paddle boards as a table – when we spotted this Moorings catamaran trying to anchor near Morphie 10 times…..   Drop it, pick it up, drop it in the same place, run back, too close to Morphie, and repeat…. Oh yes, and he managed to pick up our stern anchor as well during a couple of these attempts….. Not impressed we went out in dink to ask him to move. We were absolutely gobsmacked to find that this was a skippered Moorings boat – and the crew shouted at us because, allegedly, it is illegal to use a stern anchor and threatened us with the coast guard.   Yeah – right!!!!!   And why did you have to have that particular spot anyway – there was room for at least two more boats in there without coming that close to us????  Anyway, to attempt to maintain world peace with the South African skipper – and the set had been compromised anyway – we picked up our stern anchor.   Of course, immediately, Morphie starts swinging widely around so we ask him to let out more chain as he was even closer now.   And, in fact, why don’t you just move????  Clearly this is not sustainable overnight.   He refuses and says he will stand watch instead….   Irritated and frustrated we left them to it and returned to the beach whilst deciding what to do next.   Really didn’t want to move Morphie as we were there first and had been in the same spot for two days already.   Anyway – within 10 minutes of our return to the beach they picked up their anchor and moved away to a safe distance…. Now why cause all that fuss and upset???!!!??? Moral of this story – if you come across B’Shert II – avoid!   They clearly do not know how to anchor and I bet their guests were not too pleased with losing two hours of their vacation time while their paid crew messed around being belligerent…….

Beware this boat!

Having calmed down and relaxed back into it – we had a lovely bobbing session and said our final farewells and went our separate ways….   All good things have to come to an end, sadly!  We have had so much fun catching up with Julia and Lyle and all their guests over the last few weeks…..

Bobbing table!

Monday morning and the wind had picked up considerably – we retrieved our anchor – and made our way out of the busy anchorage.

Leaving the Bight

The waves were building and we spotted one power cat struggling to make their way into it. We, however, had a brisk and exhilarating downwind sail in 25 knots of breeze before pulling into West End.

Little roughGreat downwind sail

No available mooring balls again – so we ended up anchoring out.

Morphie anchored off West End

We dinked in and went to customs / immigration to check out.   The same dodgy customs guy was there – but in a better mood – although nearly gave me a turn when he said it would cost 100 to leave….   What???!!!???   Then he said 100 cents – $1 – ha ha ha!   Very amusing NOT….   Formalities completed we went across the bay to Sopers Hole to do some last minute shopping.    Always think the water front here is so pretty.

Pretty shops in Sopers Hole Pretty shops in Sopers Hole 2

We quickly managed to purchase the marina market’s entire supplies of English sausages as this is our last chance to get them….   We returned to the busy dinghy dock, back to Morphie, anchor up and set sail towards St John…. So this is it – we really have left the BVIs now…. Bye – it’s been so much fun….

Busy on the dinghy dock Leaving Sopers and the BVIs behind

We had another great downwind sail surfing along with the waves until we picked up a mooring ball off Honeymoon Beach, St John.  Rough seas today.

Rough seas today Rough seas today 2

We then dinked into Cruz Bay to clear customs and immigration. This was a bit of a slow and grumpy service today – but hey, who cares.  We then went into Connections to check our post – fingers crossed – and a big HURRAH, our chart plotter chip has finally arrived so we are good to move on….. The first chip was lost in the post it would seem – so we have given instructions for them to return it to sender if it turns up – but not hopeful.   Thankfully the US supplier were good enough to send us a replacement without too much argument. After having lunch ashore while we caught up on the internet we returned to Morphie for a quiet afternoon / evening on board.   Well wasn’t that quiet as it was pretty rolly but you know what I mean.  We particularly enjoyed the sunset over St Thomas before we retired to bed.

View from lunch in Cruz Bay

Goodnight from St John

Tuesday morning and we had a leisurely time getting ready to go across to Red Hook on St Thomas whilst admiring the view of the coastline of St John for the last time.

Beautiful coastline of St John

We can’t officially check into the marina until 2pm – so we motor across the Pillsbury Sound slowly and pull into the fuel dock around 1ish.   While Richard is filling up, I run to the office to find out our slip assignment and, luckily, it is free so we are cleared to come right on in.   Great – and so to work!

Immediately we were on the dock I left Richard in charge sorting Morphie out while I took the first loads to the laundry…..   Managed to snaffle the two biggest commercial washers so four loads turned into two and I settled down with my Kindle trying not to expire from the heat!     All done – and back to Morphie – to find that Kevin had been on board but when he had unpacked the spare parts, they had delivered the wrong ones! He was embarrassed as they had been sitting in his shop for three weeks awaiting our return and he hadn’t checked. Oh well…. Never mind…. He managed to make a few phone calls and secured alternative supplies for the following day. He also took off the badly scratched cover from the cockpit instruments which we had been struggling to see through for years as he knew of somewhere they could fabricate a replacement for us.   Great news as we had really baulked at paying $100 plus shipping / taxes to Island Packet for a new one!!

The view before

After he had left, Richard and I went across the road to the pharmacy for more bug bands; the bank to replenish our drinking voucher supply; and finally to the new supermarket for our fresh meat.  Back on board we spent quite a while unpacking and repackaging the huge supply of meat and stocking the freezer – wanting to make the most of the shore power connection to get this lot frozen before we head off on our travels.   We have been warned that getting supplies through some of the islands as we head up towards Florida is very difficult so we have decided to heavily provision the boat up with meat and dried foods prior to leaving here.

Phew… busy hot day….   Dave and Susan came by for a chat after work so we had a couple of beers with them in the cockpit before we both headed up to the busy bar that overlooks the marina for a bite to eat.   Beautiful moon tonight…..

The marina lit by the moon

Wednesday morning up bright and early – and we spoke to Kevin. Not sure when he will get to us today as he is waiting on the instrument cover to be ready.   So we decide to stay put for the day and get on with more jobs….   So I went back to the laundry again with another couple of loads and Richard proceeded to wash Morphie down.   By the time I returned she was looking really pretty on the dock.

Morphie looking clean again

I went off again to get some more bits and bobs while Richard waited on Kevin – he turned up, fitted the new parts, all is working YAY, and then tried to fit the new instrument cover. Well, of course, they hadn’t got it completely right so he had to go off and do some small modifications before returning to try again. This time it fitted perfectly and we are very pleased with this improvement!   Look at the difference…

After picture

After he had gone we got the anchor chain out of the locker – marked up the lengths again and gave it a fresh water wash down – then stowed it back.   We also filled up our water tanks and then settled down in the cockpit to clean all our saloon cushions.   It took us a while to get them clean and dry before putting them all back down…. They sure felt nicer as a result.   By the time we had got ourselves cleaned up Dave and Susan came by to take us to Mollys. We had snacks and beers there – and were joined by Paul – and had a fun few hours… Dave, Susan and Paul

Thursday morning and we picked up our hire car.   Quite a nice car actually compared to the wrecks we have been renting before LOL.

Our hire car

Huge shopping list in hand and off we go.   First to Cost-U-Less – think CostCo – and stocked up on loads of dried foods / soft drinks / beer / wine etc.   Then to Home Depot and got some more bits and bobs…. On to K-Mart where we picked up new rugs for Morphie’s saloon along with some pillows and a new chip for our US phone so that we now have a working local phone again…..   Then to Pueblo for some things we couldn’t get in Cost-U-Less – then onto Foodland for the remaining things on our list.   And finally to Budget Marine for some other stuff….

Credit cards wobbling with extensive use, we had filled up the car boot so also had purchases strewn on the back seat.  Time to return to Red Hook.  And, of course, we took a wrong turning but hey the scenery was nice there for a little while.

Driving along the coast by mistake

Back to the marina – got a car parking permit organised – and then loaded up a marina cart. Back to the boat – unloaded the cart – and Richard returned for the next load, while I started unpacking.   Well – it took hours – moving things around to make room and then trying to remember where everything is.   Oh yes, and we went to the bank again for another drinking voucher expedition…   ATMs are plentiful here – unlike other islands – so we are making the most of it!   Check out the new rugs… Nice eh???

New saloon rugs

Later on we met Dave for a quick supper – with us actually sharing a meal between us as we struggle to cope with US sized portions – and then said our goodbyes. Have had some much fun catching up with him again….   We were in bed, exhausted, by about 9 pm.

This morning – Friday – and we have just spotted Cutter Loose in the marina.   So went over to say hi to Eric before returning the car.    Now we are in Mollys having breakfast and doing internet stuff……  We have to leave the marina by 1pm latest today.   Our immediate destination is Charlotte Amalie where we are hoping to finish off the earlier aborted varnishing job. Will have to do another two coats we think…..

Bye for now


Friends reunited part 4 – Cooper Island and sad farewells

Thursday morning we met up in the coffee shop and caught up with the internet while Carolyn enjoyed some retail therapy….. We enjoyed watching the little hummingbird buzz between flowers and then, suddenly, the heavens opened!   White out in the anchorage with Tortola disappearing into the gloom…..

Hummingbird Down comes to the rain Down comes the rain 2

So we decanted to the bar…. And had a couple of drinks while waiting for the weather to clear.   Oh yes, and we got Ron to show off his stylish bug bands…. He gets badly bitten so we had got him every device known to mankind to help – and, although he still got bitten, they didn’t turn bad so it was a result!

Ron with his bug bands

After the rain had cleared we had a lazy day reading and bobbing on the beach. Was very chilled…. And we were also the source of some amusement to a group of Germans who wanted to take our pictures as we bobbed with wine LOL!

Chilling out

Later on we separated to get cleaned up and then joined up for our final Cooper Island dinner. Luckily there was a special on the menu that the gang fancied – sea bass cassoulet – and I managed to persuade the waiter to let me have a salad with the steak rather than the strange concoctions on the menu.   When I say strange I do mean strange….   For example the tempura shrimp comes with popcorn, radish and a sour passion fruit dip….   And here’s the evidence!

Tempura shrimp

We had a lovely meal before moving onto the Rum Bar for our final visit.  Richard and Ron tucked into the Dark and Stormys while Carolyn and I made time for wine….. This is a really chilled place but sadly the ambience was ruined somewhat by a crowd of very loud and rude people….. Sadly it wasn’t the perfect end to a perfect day…

Rum Bar Dark and Stormy

Last night together

Friday and it’s our last morning together.  We met up over coffee and then decanted to the bar for our last Caribs of the trip. We enjoyed the view and watching the day trippers come in for a frantic 45 minute lunch break…..

View from the bar Morphie looking pretty

Then it was noon – the little boat came in and all the provisions were offloaded – then Carolyn and Ron’s luggage was delivered from their room to the boat and now it really was time to say goodbye.   Hugs all round – final photos – and then we waved them off as they motored out across to Tortola for their flight to Antigua and their connection to London.   Was very sad and I shed a few tears….

Time to Go Bye.... Bye 2

We have had the most amazing two weeks..… Sigh….  Can’t believe it had gone so quickly!

Soon after their departure we said goodbye to Cooper ourselves and headed out for Norman Island.

Goodbye Cooper Island

There was no wind so we ended up motoring again…. Arrived into The Bight and found a good anchoring spot near the beach and then just chilled out for the afternoon leaving the radio on.  It always sends a shiver up my spine when I hear the US Coastguard calling for assistance to look for a swimmer missing off of Cooper Island.   We were too far away to assist by then – just left to hope that the outcome was a happy one.

After watching the sun go down – we got ourselves cleaned up and went into Pirates to see MJ Blues play. During the evening Lyle and Julia turned up with their latest guests along with Chrissy and Dirk who were anchored out and we also got surprised by Eric and Pat from Cutter Loose who had heard us on the radio!   We did try to catch up with everyone but the music was a bit loud for meaningful conversation….   Never mind, we had a great evening… especially enjoyed the music and the dancing too….

Sun going down at Norman MJ Blues

Saturday morning and it’s time to ease ourselves gently back into cruiser mode rather than holiday mode. So we started the generator, made water, did some hand washing, cleaned the waterline and cleaned Morphie down below. Then we finally cleaned ourselves up and headed over to Pirates to catch up with Eric and Pat.    Before we knew it there were 10 cruisers round the table exchanging information about going down / up the island chain. Was a fun few hours.  After they had all gone we stayed for a little while to catch up on the internet and then returned to Morphie – put on some lights – and then went straight over to the Willy T where we were meeting Julia and Lyle again.

The Willy T was busier than we had seen it for a while – and, for the first time ever, there were lots of young men topless (and some bottomless) rather than the girls!!!!   We had a great evening dancing before retiring back to Morphie….

Lyle and Julia Eye Candy Lyle and Julia's guests

This morning – Sunday – and we are in Pirates blogging having already made my  weekly Skype call to Mum. The Bight sure looks pretty this morning….

Morning at the Bight

Later on we are going to go bobbing with Lyle and Julia as this is our last chance to catch up with them before we return to the US Virgin Islands.  Interestingly whilst here we have met other cruisers who have also been threatened (and made to pay) the annual boat import duty – by the same stroppy customs guy in West End.  But others have been told it is only due if you stay for a consecutive 30 day period not on a rolling calendar year basis. That has always been our understanding of the rules but it is not wise to argue with customs officials even if you know they are wrong!!!!  So playing safe we’ll leave tomorrow as planned…

Bye for now