4.29.2011

video
Just a quick video, to see if it would work.  I took it a couple of days ago and it's of the motor/sail from Vieques to St Thomas in the USVI's.  The sound is hard to hear because the engine was running, but I am narrating.  The weather has been quite nice, not too hot and humid, but it's coming.
So, anyway, let me know if the video plays and how long it takes to load.

4.26.2011

Old San Juan





Old San Juan is home to not one but two massive old Spanish forts. The first, San Filipe del Morro,  was begun in 1539, on the point to protect the harbor from sea attack.  It was named after King Phillip II of Spain.  It stands 144 feet tall and the walls are 18 feet thick.The second one, the Castillo de San Cristobal, was started in 1634 and was built around the city to protect San Juan from land attacks.  Both forts have an extensive tunnel system, through the walls and underground.


 On the grounds between the forts is San Juan Cemetery, very crowded, very beautiful.  The granite carvings were so detailed, the statue here looked almost lifelike.





The streets of Old San Juan were narrow, with blue cobblestones and very ornate details on the buildings.

El Yunque

Steve, Anne and Chris on the trail.

Steve, upper left, looking over the forest.

One of the really cool things we did in Puerto Rico was hike in El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest system.  It's in the mountains outside of Humacao, on the eastern side of the island.  We rented a car for 2 days, which was an experience in itself (lots of roads that either aren't on the map or aren't where they're supposed to be and not many road signs), and drove to where we thought the Visitor's Center should be.  We drove up and up and up, through the bamboo and finally came to a stop when we got to a padlocked arm across the road.  A man was there waiting and after a few minutes, a work crew showed up. At this point, it was discovered that the map of the park had a little N in the upper corner with a DOWN  arrow next to it. It was south up and we were at the opposite end of the road we wanted.  Not a problem, you'd think, just drive through the park and start at the other end, what's a couple miles? Ha! It seems that the bridge in the middle of the park, on the only road,  fell down some years ago and has never been replaced.  So it would be a trip around outside the park on the sign less roads, maybe 40 miles, maybe 60, there was some discussion, to get to the Visitor's Center.  We decided to stay where we were and hike on the less traveled end of the trails.  It was beautiful and quiet and cool and very wet.
El Yunque is a finalist in the New Seven Wonders of Nature competition and you can vote or just check out the other finalists here.

4.14.2011

We left Ponce, but not until almost 0800, as we were just going 7 miles offshore to an island called Caja de Muertos, literally Box of the Dead or Coffin Island.  Supposedly, the island looks like a man laid out ready for burial, hands clasped on his chest.  I didn't see it, I guess maybe if you squinted. Anyway, the island is a park, run by the DNR and they have these great boats that say "Vigilantes" down the side.  I know that in the US the term vigilante has a bad connotation but here is just means watchman or caretaker.  We went on blistering hot hike up the hill to the old lighthouse, the views of the island and of Puerto Rico in the distance were spectacular. 
 This is the sign at the beginning of the trail.  I think we figured out all the hieroglyphics except for the one in the second row, second from left.  It looks like a man in a maze, or a guy with a reallllllly long, square arm but apparently he is allowed on the island.  Any one have any ideas?

There's something called a Tropical Wave moving through the eastern Caribbean this week, and the thunderstorms over PR have been very impressive.  The trade winds pretty much keep the storms off the southern coast, but we have great views of them building inland. In this photo, you can see the lighthouse on top of the hill, on the right.  This cloud formation was gigantic. The trade winds make the contrast in climate between here and the mainland was very apparent. This island is mostly scrub and the center was covered with Organ cacti, some up to 20 feet tall.  Walking down the trail was almost like going through a cactus tunnel. It was a great hike, in spite of the heat.

4.11.2011

Fish On

Yesterday we left Gilligan's Island at our usual 0500, steaming coffee mugs in hand.  It was a beautiful morning, calm and not too much wind.  We putted our way along the coast, enjoying the sunrise.  At 0630 Steve looked behind and said, "We have a fish on."  Very exciting as we normally get skunked in the fishing dept.  It was a yellowfin tuna (maybe 8-10 lbs?) and it's delicious.  We had some on the grill last night and are contemplating how to cook tonight's fillets.  Such are the hard decisions we have to make every day.

Today we spent the morning at the Hermanos Santiago Cash and Carry, a case lot warehouse.  We took our two wheel cart and stocked up on spaghetti sauce, beer and snickers, all the important things in life.  A man stood and watched us, outside the warehouse, packing our backpacks and cart, deciding what we could hand carry, then he motioned us over and around the side of the store.  He had an ancient van into which he loaded us and all our purchases.  He didn't seem to speak any English and we weren't sure exactly where we were headed, but we must have looked like boat people and he dropped us off at the marina.  I spent the ride thinking of all the things I'd have bought if I'd known we were going to get a lift back.  That's how shopping is now: how much does it weigh and how far do we have to walk.

4.09.2011

Mr Mac enjoying the shade.
We sailed into a really nice anchorage at Gilligan's Island today, doing our daily 12 miles along the coast.  The island is a state park and because it's Saturday and there's a ferry from shore, the place was packed.  We walked around a little and headed back out to the dinghy to get away from the maddening crowds.  Chris and Anne, on Mr Mac, had their dinghy and motor stolen while in the Dominican Republic (and are still looking for an engine for their new dinghy ) meanwhile they use their kayak.  We found a mangrove tunnel of sorts, on the side of one of the islands, it was  a cool respite from the sun.


Tonight's spectacular sunset over the hills.

We're working our way slowly along the south coast of Puerto Rico.  It's slow going east because of the trade winds that pick up every morning and blow steadily west the rest of the day.  This is a really easy way to cruise, a kind of forced rest period for a big part of each day. We get up really early, go about 20 miles, drop the anchor, have breakfast, check out the town, go for a walk, nap, read, watch the sunset.  At least that's my day.  Those of you who know Steve, know he has his project list(s) and he manages to check off something every day, while still doing all of the above. 
Tomorrow we're on to Ponce, the second largest city, and maybe a little provisioning and inland touring.

4.08.2011

Next Chart Please

     Kind of a special day of sorts as we dug out the next small scale chart for the Caribbean Sea—Eastern Part. We’d moved completely through the Key West to San Juan chart since January and risked falling off the edge of the earth, or the saloon table in this case, if we didn’t do something. As you can see, it is as big as the saloon table if we chose not to fold, staple, or otherwise mutilate in order to see and use just what is necessary and still get around the boat. Key west to San Juan doesn’t look nearly this “clean”, lots of marks, plots, and yes folds…gasp. We also are out of the neat little chart-books so popular in the US and have had to resort to our well used…not so much by us yet…Imray-Iolair black and white reprint charts. Thank you Fred!
    Last night a great evening with Chris and Anne (Mr Mac) having pasta with tomato and meat sauce under the stars, followed by a slow row around Bahia Fosforrencente before retiring. Tomorrow it’s up anchor early to get our 12 miles of easting to the next little island set before the trade winds pick up…usually around 0900.