Log of the sailboat "Magnolia".

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My tentative
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  10/2/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Climbed the mainmast at 6:45. Easily replaced bulb in anchor light, then struggled to remove the wind-indicator sensor from the top of the mast. It hasn't worked for years, so I want to bring it down to test it. But the screws holding it in are long and come out slowly, and picking apart the gummy tape on the electrical connection took forever. Ran out of energy and gave up halfway through.

Back down in the boat, hot and sweaty and bruised and tired. Tested the anchor light bulb I took out, and it's fine. So the photosensor-circuit in the fixture has blown out again; about the 4th time it's done that; these Davis Mega-Light's are crap. Finally wised up: next time I'm going to remove the fixture from the top of the mast, and put it or a replacement on the top of the pilothouse instead. I may even do that with the wind-sensor too, although it would get cleaner air at the top of the mast.

That's what makes climbing the mast the worst chore on the boat. It's not the effort or the danger, it's that I'm hardly ever able to get the job done. Either bolts are stuck up there, or I don't have the right tools, or something else.

Wind blowing hard by 9:30 or so.

Started to dinghy ashore in the afternoon, but stopped by "Richard Cory" to chat with Don and Olga, and ended up chatting for more than 2 hours, and heading back to my boat when the afternoon thuderstorm moved in. Nice conversation; lots of boating-stories. Don (Casey) is a semi-famous boating author; he's written several books and tons of articles.

Salad and peanut-butter crackers for dinner.
  10/3/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Should have climbed the mast again, but too lazy.

Tried to start the engine around 7, but the batteries are too low. This is a bit alarming; it's a safety issue. I guess between the refrigerator running in this hot weather, and the grey skies in the late afternoon here, the batteries get run down overnight. Someday I probably should rip out the air-conditioners (which I never use, and are half-broken) and add a couple more batteries in their place in the engine compartment.

Wind blowing hard by 9:30. "Exuma Grouper" is back. I'm feeling a bit headachey.

Chatted with "Exuma Grouper" on the radio, and my package of guidebooks has arrived !

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Got 10 gallons of water. To library, but the guy who knows the WiFi password was out, so did internet on their computers. Everyone from both "Exuma Grouper" and "Richard Cory" was there, most of us using the computers.

Library closed at 2, because someone's on vacation, so I headed over to the book-exchange area. Exchanged books, and did some more internet. Met the guy who owns the shopping center. He says they can't figure out where the WiFi signal I'm using is coming from, but he doesn't seem to mind us using it. And he says WiFi in the restaurant stopped working because the owner just never paid the bills; they told her months ago that she had to pay, but she let it lapse. So I doubt service there will be restored.

Got groceries and back to the boat. Headachey again.

Salad and chicken-noodle-mushroomsoup for dinner.

Ran engine for 15 minutes to exercise it.
  10/4/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

A bit headachey again this morning. Maybe it's a bit of a cold; the nighttime weather here has cooled off slightly, to the point where I have to pull a sheet over myself in bed around 4 AM to keep warm.

Climbed the mainmast at 7, hoping the coming clouds wouldn't approach too soon. More wakes or swells this morning; had to stop working several times and just hold on while the boat rocked. Unpeeled enough of the tape on the wind-sensor wire to find where to cut it; it was soldered together, so I guess this thing has been up here since the boat was built ? Or maybe someone climbed up with a soldering iron later. Got the bolts out, although one looks like it sheared off. Hard to stow the sensor in my bosun's chair; it hampered my movements and made getting down more awkward than usual.

Couldn't open the connector on the anchor light wire, so had to cut that wire too. Unbolted the fixture and got it off without much problem; just a lot of nuts and U-bolts to remove, since I'm the one who put it up here a year or two ago. Back then, I had to bolt it on top of the old anchor-light fixture, because all the bolts for THAT are frozen.

Back to bed; headachey.

Dark clouds and rain passing south of us at 9, grey over us by 10, and raining by 10:30.

Took anchor light fixture apart. I can bypass the problems on the circuit-board by doing one little soldering job. Will have to see if my inverter has enough capacity to run my soldering iron. Probably doesn't; will have to get the genset running.

Dinghied ashore around 2:30. To book-exchange and did internet. Then to library to see if could get WiFi working there, but they have a 12-char password and my software doesn't like that; no luck.

Picked up package of guidebooks from "Exuma Grouper".

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  10/5/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Headache pounding this morning.

Grey morning and batteries flat.

Bad sinus headache all day. Spent much of the day in bed. At least it was sunny after 11 or so; batteries got charged. Wind howling, often up into 30+ knot range.

Opened package of guidebooks, and glad to see that they're all the latest editions; on Amazon, often you can't tell what vintage they're selling.

Salad and peanut-butter crackers for dinner.
  10/6/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Still have headache this morning.

Wind absolutely howling around 10:30.

Headache started easing around noon.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon and went to the book-exchange area to do internet and get groceries.

Headachey again by evening. Took more pills.

Salad and peanut-butter sandwich for dinner.
  10/7/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Head feels mostly-okay this morning. Have to let all the medicine work it's way out of my system now.

Wind howling by 9.

Loafed all day.

Salad and chili for dinner.
  10/8/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Wind blowing hard by 9. Blew hard all day.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Dead calm and buggy in the middle of the night, even pretty far from shore as I am.
  10/9/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Wind blowing hard by 9:30.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, stopping by to chat with Doug a little. He loves to talk; hard to get away.

Sat in laundromat area of shopping center and did internet all afternoon. So hot that I was almost dripping sweat a few times, but still did a very long session. Exchanged books, got 10 gallons of water, and got back to the boat just before dark.

Salad and peanut-butter crackers for dinner.
  10/10/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Lots of thick clouds in all directions, but clear and sunny above us. Serious thunder off to the south.

Added water to the batteries (they needed a lot). Stowed anchor rode and cleaned rust off the foredeck. Jumpered genset battery to house batteries. Did a bucket of laundry.

Soldered connection on anchor-light circuit-board.

Wind blowing hard by 11 or so.

Dinghied ashore, stopping at "Exuma Grouper" to chat a bit. Got 10 gallons of water. Went to laundromat and did internet. Got groceries.

Very grey all afternoon; batteries getting low.

Chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Lots of wind and rain from 8 to 9 or so.

Lots of wind at 4:30.
  10/11/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Sunshine early, then rain at 10.

Dinghied ashore, went to laundromat and did internet. Got groceries.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Wind from north and lots of lightning starting at 9, including one HUGE strike to ground about a mile east of here. Rain from 10 to 12 or so.
  10/12/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Listened to Chris Parker's weather, and some kind of low if forming in an odd position, west of St Martin or something. Not clear what it will do, but there's a good chance it will come hover over us, which is alarming.

Raised much of one anchor rode and scrubbed it. Planning to move over to some moorings tomorrow evening. Raised that anchor entirely when the wind shifted to SW and took strain off the rode.

Lots of boats out today; found out later it's a holiday, Columbus Day.

Dinghied ashore, went to laundromat and did internet. Only vague and confusing info about that low in the eastern Caribbean. Got groceries.

Lots of boats on the moorings I planned to go to tomorrow; I may not go. Police boat has been roaring around making a big wake; guess they're all excited because it's a holiday.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  10/13/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Listened to Chris Parker's weather, and that low seems to be weak and heading north. But it's still weird. And it's giving us weird wind here; it's been light from the NNE or SSW, unlike the strong ESE we usually have.

[Changed log file to HTML format; hope you like it. It lets me add links such as: Magnolia's current position and my smiling face. Someday I might even get a camera and start taking pictures !]

Just read a bunch of web pages about migraine headaches, including atypical migraines, and I don't think that's what I get. I never have many of the migraine symptoms: aura, nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to noise/smells, behavioral changes. I do get a few migraine symptoms, a bit: a slight sensitivity to light, sometimes pain more on one side than on the other, and some gastrointestinal clogging (probably more than you wanted to know). I get more symptoms that are non-migraine: lots of sinus pain (but not watery eyes or sneezing), lots of tension all over head and neck, later some fever. My diet varies so little that I don't think any of the migraine food-triggers apply to me. Lack of exercise and bad posture / sitting in one position for long periods do apply to me, definitely. Blood pressure and heart are okay. Some family history of strokes, in old age. So, who knows ?

I think I'm not going to move to the moorings this weekend. It's a holiday weekend, so may be busy. And the wind is fluky, so boats might be pointing in different directions at times.

Wind blowing hard from SW by noon.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, stopping to chat at "Exuma Grouper". I invited them to go snorkeling tomorrow at 9, but they may have moved; this SW wind is putting an uncomfortable chop on them So we'll play it by ear. On into town, and did internet at the laundromat.

Salad and PBJ sandwiches for dinner. Saw "Exuma Grouper" heading east to the mooring field there.
  10/14/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Looked over toward the mooring field a mile or two to the east, and it's fairly empty, so I think I'll go there.

Listened to Chris Parker's weather, and that low is NW of us and moving SW, and the upper-level trough is right over the Mona Passage, next to us. Clouds in every direction and some rain way off to the S of us, but it'll be a nice day. We're supposed to have light and variable winds.

Started raising anchor around 7, but batteries were too low to start engine, so waited until 7:30. Got engine started and anchor up and cleaned by 7:40. A short trip east to the mooring field inside Cayos Caracoles, where "Exuma Grouper" is the only boat on the moorings ! Picked up a mooring perfectly, first shot. Done by 8, at Magnolia on mooring. Very pleased: I got a mooring out in a corner, away from most of the others, and away from the buggy mangroves. So no one whoudl swing near me.

Doug on "Exuma Grouper" called around 8:30, and they're eager to snorkel. So I launched the dinghy and went to their boat. The water around their mooring is about 3 feet deep; mine has 13-foot water. We just snorkel straight in from their boat, and it's interesting. We can swim right up to the bases of the mangroves, where fish are hiding, and up channels through the mangroves. Big schools of tiny fish, and a few fish up to 6 inches long, plus plenty of young barracuda. Very shallow at points, but very nice snorkeling, unlike anything I've done before.

Back to their boat, and we have coffee and chat for a while. Around 10:30 the wind blows hard from the SW for a few minutes. We're exposed from that direction, and they're not happy, but I'll be fine with it on my boat. But the wind eases a bit. We watch motorboats starting to arrive for the day, and watching them anchoring or mooring is entertaining. Some of the oddest anchoring I've seen, such as bow and stern anchor close in to the mangroves and holding them sideways to the wind. A cabin-cruiser came in, guy jumped off the stern near the mooring ball, woman on the bow holding a line, boat circling around, finally they backed up to the mooring and put it on the stern. A real motley assortment of boats, doing a lot of different things. Back to my boat around 11:30, and the moorings are about half-full.

A few women in bikinis here and there, but not any very pretty ones. Lots of people wading around the mangroves; glad I snorkeled earlier, because they're probably stirring up clouds of silt and destroying the visibility. A lot of people just sitting in the shallow water and talking and drinking; saw the same thing at Gilligan's Island.

Sprinkle of rain at 4:15, then started serious rain at 5:30 or so. Rained off and on all evening.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice-mushroomsoup and rum-and-coke for dinner.

7 or 8 other boats staying the night here.

The big blue excursion boat came by every half hour or so, making a big wake that rolled me.

Big powerboat next to me ran generator (quiet) and tons of lights all night. Lights in the flying bridge, lights in the stern, lights underwater. They're running satellite TV, too.
  10/15/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Totally grey in all directions, and low dark clouds overhead. Started raining hard at about 6:30, and rained off and on all morning. A little sunshine starting at 8:45, during the rain.

Mostly grey much of the day, but that didn't stop everyone from playing in the water. Rained hard a few times. Big powerboat next to me left at 12:30, heading out to sea and burning a lot of fuel to make a big hole in the water as they went. A helicopter came swooping and hovering around for a little while.

Weather kept shifting back and forth; sometimes a little sunny, often grey, sometimes very dark and rainy.

Around 4, tried to start the engine. Almost caught, but didn't. Then the batteries were too flat, and it's too grey to recharge them. So I'm going to have stay here another night. Not a problem.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Rained a bit around 5, as most of the boats were leaving. By 6, everyone gone, and the rain started coming down solidly, like being under a waterfall. Rained and rained. Totally grey. Rained most of the evening.

I have a headache; took pills.
  10/16/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

At 8:45, batteries still too flat to start the engine. But it's pretty clear and sunny today; batteries starting to get charged.

This engine-starting is finicky: try it too often, and you'll keep draining the batteries and never let them get charged enough to start the engine. But impatience takes over; it's hard to sit and wait. Then a cloud comes over, and solar charging is down to 2 amps or so. Then the fridge starts running, sucking another 5 amps out, and you're going backwards !

Finally got engine started at 10; it's putting 30 amps into the batteries. Let it run a bit, then slipped the mooring and motored west. Nice to be charging batteries, running refrig, charging laptop all at same time. Anchored by 10:25, at Magnolia's current position. Ran engine for another 20 minutes to charge batteries some more; lots of low dark clouds creeping by again today. Was still putting almost 20 amps into the batteries when I shut it off. Half an hour later, in a patch of bright sunshine, the solar panels were putting almost 15 amps into the batteries.

Brief hard rain at 11:30. The rest of the day, the weather kept cycling from sun to cloud to rain and back again.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Got 10 gallons of water. Used the book-exchange, did internet at the laundromat, got groceries. Timed it right; got back to the boat without being rained on.

Salad and chicken-rice-corn and rum-and-coke for dinner. Needed to use up an old, rusty can of corn. Some of my cans have been on board almost 2 years. I've heard of people who circumnavigated and arrived home with some canned goods untouched. The other day, I threw away an old can of tomato soup unopened; I really don't like tomato soup, couldn't think of anything to do with it, couldn't remember when or why I'd bought it.

Still, warm, buggy most of the night.
  10/17/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Grey, very light and fluky wind, humid, threatening rain any second. Still have an upper-level trough coming down the Mona Passage right next to us. Wish the weather would clear; I want to do laundry, and it would be nice to get some decent solar power.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Did internet at the laundromat. Doug and a Puerto Rican man showed up, so three of us were computing away, side by side. Doug was laundering some canvas from his bimini, but used about 10 times too much soap, so even on the rinse cycle we could see that the whole washing machine was solid suds. He said now people will be able to track his boat by following the suds it leaves behind it.

Into the supermarket. Still no bananas, but they still have a nice sale on bottles of Bacardi rum, so I got another one of those.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.
  10/18/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Gorgeous morning. Clouds on the horizon in all directions, but they look white instead of dark, and it's totally clear and sunny over us. Did a bucket of laundry. Wind still out of the north, and Chris Parker says the trough giving us this weird weather will persist through the weekend, so maybe we haven't seen the last of the rain.

This "Chris Parker" I keep mentioning is the Caribbean Weather Net. It comes on half a dozen times each morning, on various frequencies calculated to be able to reach different areas. I usually hear it on 8137 KHz at 0700 and 8104 KHz at 0830. But listening is a hit-or-miss kind of thing; often static or Morse code traffic or someone nearby doing email over SSB will wipe it out. And if my refrigerator runs, that wipes it out. So sometimes I turn off my fridge to listen, and sometimes I forget to turn it back on.

If I can't hear Chris Parker, I can listen to local USCG weather forecasts on the VHF radio. But they give only a two-day forecast, don't give the big picture or anything about tropical waves, and you have to listen for a long time to get past Spanish-language sections and inland-weather sections to the English-language marine-forecast you want.

The last alternative is to get on the internet, to somewhere such as wunderground or crownweather. They usually have more info than I can digest, but more is better.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Got 10 gallons of water. Did internet at the laundromat; took a fan with me today, so I didn't sweat like crazy as I computed. The crew from "Exuma Grouper" joined me after a while. They're having a bad day: some long-distance legal and property-related stuff is not progressing, the outboard quit again, and Doug's having some kind of pains in the side and back. Amanda's been having stomach pains too, but there seem to be few or no doctors in this town, so they're thinking of sailing around to Boqueron just to get to a doctor.

Got groceries (they had bananas today), and back to the boat. The usual afternoon grey clouds cutting off the sun, and the refrigerator has been running a lot and dragging down the batteries. A few sprinkles of rain.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner. Halfway through, Jim from "Mahjongg" next to me came over and invited me for happy hour on their boat. So after I finished dinner, I launched the dinghy and went over.

Had a very nice evening talking with Jim and Debbie of "Mahjongg" and Don Casey from "Richard Cory". We mostly talked about politics and war and immigration and such things, often with a fair amount of heat although we seemed to be mostly agreeing with each other. We talked some boat stuff, too. "Mahjongg" is a gorgeous wood yawl, about 38 feet long, teak everywhere, teak decking everywhere, wood masts. They need to bring the mizzenmast down for repairs, but they can't get into many boatyards with their 8-foot draft. They've been recaulking all the teck decking recently, a big job. But it looks great. They're not sure where they're heading next, and they said each cruise they've done has ended up lasting 10 times as long as they originally thought. They have a house back in Santa Barbara CA that they probably should sell, but it's a wrenching decision.

Some rain at 10, then back to my boat by 10:30.
  10/19/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Gorgeous morning. As yesterday, clouds on the horizon in all directions, but white instead of dark, and it's totally clear and sunny over us. Did another bucket of laundry.

Wind is light from the west, and has been somewhat west-ish for the last couple of days. I've been wondering if we'll see any boats arriving from Luperon. It's too early to call hurricane season over; most people wouldn't leave Luperon for another month or so. But this is such a nice weather-window for heading ESE out of Luperon.

Grey clouds overhead around 9:30; I'm probably going to regret that I did laundry.

Dinghied ashore to a boat-launching area and walked to the convenience store / hardware store. Bought 30 feet of 3-strand telephone wire for $10, for the anchor light. Back to the boat and wired up anchor light to a cigarette-lighter connector; hard to get the very thin wires seated into the connector properly.

Brief but substantial rain at 10:30; had to hustle to get my laundry in off the lifelines.

Dinghied ashore after lunch and did internet at the laundromat. Paula and Amanda joined me after a while; Doug is too sick to come in. They've located a doctor who's in town three days a week, but have yet to get in to see him. Got groceries and back to boat.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  10/20/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Weather unchanged: sunny over us, but clouds in all directions; low hovering north of Puerto Rico.

Doug and Amanda on "Exuma Grouper" are feeling a bit better; they've both started taking antibiotics, which seem to be working.

Dinghied ashore after lunch and did internet at the laundromat. Got groceries and back to boat.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Strong rain starting at 1:45 and lasting an hour or so. In the first 5 minutes or so, the wind did a slow 270, from S to E to N to W. One big lightning-strike onto land about half a mile away.
  10/21/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Very cloudy, with huge low dark clouds south of us. Rain at 7 AM, and mixed sun and cloud afterwards.

Turned on my VHF radio a bit late this morning, around 9:30, and within 15 seconds heard Don on "Richard Cory" calling "Exuma Grouper". No response, and 15 seconds later he's calling me. I respond, and he tells me that Ken on "Ruff Life" has a nice refrigeration unit (Adler-Barbour) in a box that he'd like to give away, am I interested ? Yes, I am ! I have a built-in-to-hull freezer I don't use, because the compressor is AC-powered and air-cooled, and the system has a leak somewhere, and the cold box has lousy old thin insulation. So ripping it out or upgrading it is an item somewhere way down low on my priority list.

So I launch the dinghy and go over to "Ruff Life", which is nearby. I chat with Ken and Andrea and Wally for a while, as Wally tells us about chasing a rat off his boat into the water, and how a barracuda got it. Wally (on "Neptune's Lady") is anchored a mile or so from us right now, but they were all telling me that a 5-and-a-half-foot barracuda patrols the area near my boat and "Ruff Life". Andrea says she'd never swim here because of it, but Don swims here every afternoon, and I've swum here to scrape the hull. Barracuda's often have an unnerving habit of following you around, but they don't often attack humans.

Anyway, Ken plans to get the Adler-Barbour system from storage on land maybe this evening, and I'll check back to get it tomorrow. He knows nothing about it; some other cruiser gave it to him a year ago.

Took some hose-clamps off the engine hoses; they looked a little rusty to me, so I thought I might have to replace them. But once I had each of them off, they looked fine to me, just a few rust spots on some edges, and a lot of greasy dirt. So I just put them back on.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Disposed of garbage, used the book-exchange, bought 11.1 liters of gasoline for $6 (53 cents/liter), and got some groceries.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  10/22/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Lots of rain from 4 AM to 6 AM.

Ultra-light plane buzzed us around 8:15. I think they fly out of a grass field over towards Boqueron; we drove past it once. The plane looks like a big brother of the hang-glider I used to take lessons on; the plane just has a few additions such as engine/prop, seat, wheels, and rudder/elevators.

Come to think of it, this is a pretty interesting place from that point of view. In addition to the ultra-light plane, sometimes we see para-sail-type planes: sort of a parachute with a seated person with an engine-and-prop hanging underneath it. Then there are people para-boarding or something off near the reefs when the wind is up: some kind of combination of a parasail and a surfboard. Finally, there's the Coast Guard surveillance blimp, which is tethered at a base a couple of miles west of town. They use it to spy on boat-traffic across the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, probably drugs heading west and illegal immigrants heading east. Or maybe the drugs head east too, I don't know. And I'm sure it can see pretty far north and south, too. (See Tethered Aerostat Radar System).

I've been reading a cruising log with lots of nice pictures about the BVI's: Indigo Moon. Not quite my style of cruising; they spend a lot of time in marinas and on expensive moorings. But still interesting. I'm trying to read up on the islands I'll be getting to this winter, and they had some info on Venezuela that is useful.

Saw Ken stirring on his boat around 10, so launched the dinghy and went over. Chatted with him a bit about boating and La Parguera and so on. He says he and Andrea see dolphins feeding nearby most mornings at 5 or 6; I haven't seen one here yet. He gave me the refrigeration system he promised, and he said he was glad to get rid of it; the last thing he needs is one more project on the boat. Unfortunately he did exactly what I feared; he left it out on deck last night after getting it out of storage on land, and it got a bit wet. But only the box it was in seems to be damaged.

Back to my boat, and started cleaning up and inspecting the refrigeration system. It's quite a bit different than originally adverstised: instead of a water-cooled Adler-Barbour, it's an air-cooled Isotherm. Disappointing that it's not water-cooled; that would have been much better. But it is a 12-volt DC system; I wouldn't have taken an AC system, I have an (unused) one of those already. It has compressor, holding plate, tubing, control unit, manual. A bit of rust here and there, but in pretty good shape. Looks very easy to assemble, just connect fittings from holding plate to fittings from compressor and apply power. Uses R134A coolant, with big stickers saying it's environmentally friendly. I'll have to read the manual and do some research, and see how I can use it. I'd like to replace the AC air-cooled system I have now, and don't use. I don't particularly need a second refrig/freezer, but this might work better than the DC Novakool I have, and it's great to have a backup. And I've always wanted to learn more about refrigeration. That and hydraulics are two areas of the boat I've really learned very little about.

Okay, by 11:30 I've read the manual. Very easy, just connect the tubes together and apply power. But there are three power-prongs on the compressor, which someone has marked "+", "-" and "G" with masking-tape. These are not shown or mentioned at all in the manual. Since this is DC, I wonder what the Ground should go to ? Maybe it's an RFI-shielding ground. Probably should just connect it to battery negative, but I think I'll look online for instructions before giving it a try.

Wind blowing 15-20 from ESE by 11:30; looks like the normal tradewinds might be back, after being gone for 2 weeks or so. Pretty good chop coming through the anchorage.

Dinghied ashore after lunch and did internet at the laundromat. Found that the Isotherm system sells for about $1350; downloaded some online manuals for it. Chatted briefly with the crew from "Exuma Grouper". Got groceries and back to boat.

Salad and ham-onion-potatoes and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  10/23/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

"If only I had a brain !"
I get out the multimeter and investigate the power connector on the Isotherm compressor that Ken gave me, puzzle over the manual some more, and suddenly things become clear. What I had thought were pictures of bigger models of this system are in fact for exactly this system, and I'm missing a key piece of it: the Electronic Controller Unit. It's an inverter plus some microprocessor-run smarts, and it's not here. No wonder someone gave all this to Ken a year ago; it's worthless without that piece. The compressor itself runs on 12-volt 3-phase AC, not DC.

Chatted with Doug on the radio; he thinks maybe he had a kidney stone, not an infection. I'm an expert on those; I had plenty of kidney stones 20 years or so ago.

My main NovaKool refrigerator isn't running right; I think the thermostat needs replacing. The fridge tends to run all the time; that is what drains my batteries.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Stopped by "Ruff Life" to ask Ken if he'd seen the missing refrigeration part; he'll keep an eye out for it. He says he was told the system was working when someone took it out of their boat and gave it to him.

Got 10 gallons of water. Used the book-exchange. Did internet at the laundromat. Found that the ECU for the Isotherm system sells for about $250; I'm not going to do that. Got some groceries.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  10/24/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Used the book-exchange. Chatted with Doug a bit. Did internet at the laundromat.

Had to jump through some hoops: Google adSense insisted on a "phone verification", so I put in my brother's phone number, sent him email, had him log on as me, take the phone call, do the verification. Having no phone is a little awkward every few months, but otherwise it's bliss ! Another hoop they're making me jump through: they've mailed a postcard to my address in NJ, and when it gets there, I'll have my brother email me the secret code so I can do a "mail verification" with them.

These kinds of little "logistical pains" are common in the cruising life. Doug on "Exuma Grouper" has been having a lot of trouble with them lately. He's tried ordering from a lot of internet sites recently, and the orders have gotten canceled because he's a Canadian citizen ordering to a Puerto Rico PO Box. Various sites have rejected him for various reasons: don't like home address and ship-to address being different, don't like Puerto Rico, don't like a PO Box, USA sites don't accept a Canadian billing address on the credit card, etc. He's been trying for weeks to get a "sellers account" on EBay to sell some property, and it just isn't happening.

I've known people who've had much bigger "logistical pains" while cruising. In Marathon, I knew a couple of guys from Michigan who were flying home every couple of months to deal with bad tenants in the houses they'd rented out. (I took a real estate class once. Professor took a show of hands: why are each of you taking this class ? About 10% were "for personal interest", as I was. About 50% were to become real-estate agents. Remaining 40% were to learn how to evict their tenants !)

Got some groceries and back to boat. I'm trying to "provision up" the boat here, since I won't find a cheaper supermarket any closer to the dinghy dock between here and Trinidad, most likely.

Salad and chicken-onion-potatoes and rum-and-coke for dinner. First can of potatoes I opened was bad; fed it to the fishies.
  10/25/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Batteries very low this morning; read a book for a long time last night, and the refrigerator still is running a bit much.

Launched dinghy and cleaned spark plugs. Called "Exuma Grouper" at 7;45 to see if they wanted to go snorkeling, but Doug and Paula aren't feeling well this morning. So I headed out to the reef by myself.

Gorgeous morning, but the snorkeling was lousy. Water full of some kind of organic stuff, some kind of cobweb-y plankton or something. Lots of grass floating at the surface, some big white translucent jellyfish, and lots of small transparent or translucent jellyfish. And this early in the morning, the sunlight is slanting in and there are lots of shadows, so it's hard to see. Saw a fairly big grouper, I think, maybe 2 feet long and 12+ pounds, and a school of needlefish, I think (or maybe ballyhoo), swimming along just under the surface. Gave up after 15 minutes and headed back in. Washed up and put vinegar on a half-dozen jellyfish stings, none of them too bad. Called "Exuma Grouper" and told them they should be glad they didn't go.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon and did internet. Couldn't find the Isotherm part I need on EBay, but found an entire new Isotherm refrigerator for $295 ! That site is amazing sometimes. But, as a computer person and former computer programmer, I must confess a secret shame: I've never bought or sold anything on EBay ! It got big just about the time I was leaving my nice, all-day internet connection in my office. (Actually, I may have bought something through there once, come to think of it, in a non-auction way.)

Chatted with the crew from "Exuma Grouper". Got some groceries. Back to boat. Hot.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries; they needed it.
  10/26/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Yesterday, I mostly-finished a little computer-programming project I've been doing for the last week or two. It's completely unrelated to sailing. You can see the results at The Biggest Jerk on the Internet if you like.

Worked on replacing rod that supports the stern grill. Cut a threaded rod to shape, found nuts for it, started using hand-drill to enlarge hole in bracket.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Stopped by "Ruff Life" to see if they've found the missing refrigeration part; no luck. They're sweating through some boat-work. Andrea says this is the hottest summer they've had here in a while; it shouldn't be this hot this late in the year.

Used book-exchange, chatted briefly with Doug and Paula and Don, and did internet. After an hour or two, signal faded away. Got groceries and back to boat.

Salad and chicken-onion-eggs-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  10/27/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Finished replacing rod that supports the stern grill. The new rod is aluminum; don't know if it will be sturdy enough.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon and did a long session of internet.

"Dinghying ashore" takes more effort than you might think. Have to:
- put on sunscreen and half-decent clothes.<
- untie the two spring-lines from dinghy to boat.
- stand with one foot on ladder and one in tthe dinghy, and put the drain-plug in, and lift the fuel-tank into the dinghy.
- put a small bag of tools into the dinghy, and maybe a bag of garbage.
- lower the dinghy from the davits, loweringg each end a couple of feet at a time, alternately.
- wrap the laptop into a plastic bag, put itt in a carrying bag, add any books going ashore, and wrap the whole thing in a big plastic bag, to defend against splashes.
- turn off radio and close hatches and portss on the boat, in case it rains.
- load laptop, fan, cushion, myself into dinnghy.
- sort out everything inside the dinghy.
- detach the lines from the davits to the diinghy.
- attach fuel line and start the motor.
- motor in, tie off to the dinghy-dock, and lift garbage, laptop, fan, cushion and myself onto the dock.

Rained while I was doing internet, and still threatening when I finished. So I skipped the groceries and went straight back to the boat.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  10/28/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Another calm and sunny morning; the tradewinds haven't been blowing much the last couple of days.

Making a liar of me, by 10:30 it's blowing fairly hard from the ESE. Howling by 11:30, with a big chop coming through.

Bright sun at 11, running refrigerator and laptop, and batteries are getting drawn down ? Shouldn't be happening; time to check the battery wiring.

Check the batteries. No hot wires, no loose connections, a little corrosion on a couple of terminals. One bank of batteries needs some water, the other needs none at all; that's not good. Check negative wire to engine block, wires to and from solar controller, look into back of electrical panels for loose wires, no problems found.

Check voltages at the solar controller: 17+ coming in, 15+ coming out. So it seems to be charging, but the battery monitor is showing flaky things; charging current going up and down, mostly down, and nothing to explain it. I look to see if clouds have gone over or the mast suddenly is shading the panels. I unplug everything and plug a few in again, watching the charging, to see if something has a short in it.

Try to start the engine, and it turns over once or twice and then stops cranking, and the next key-turn produces nothing, not even a solenoid click. Battery voltage is at 12.75 and refrigerator runs fine; what is this ?

Finally I go into the engine compartment and disconnect the solar controller from the system, by taking out a big fuse, the only way to disconnect it. Wham ! No power in the boat ! All lights dead, battery monitor dead, etc. I put the fuse back in, and still dead ! Not good at all.

I try changing the battery switch position from Both to 1, and start to get some life back. Battery monitor comes alive, lights work. Battery starts charging from solar, then charging current slowly fades to zero over 20 seconds or so. What is going on ?

I leave the battery switch on 1, jumper the positive terminals of the two batteries together, and still get weird behavior. Maybe a battery has a short or something.

Playing with various settings of the battery switch, I get all kinds of behavior. Heavy charging (6 amps into a bank), zero charging, currents up and down.

Eventually I decide the problem is in the battery switch itself. The wiring is maybe slightly unusual, in that the solar goes to the switch Common terminal. So charging current from solar flows through the switch, to bank 1 or 2 or Both. All the loads are attached to that same switch Common terminal. So I think this morning, the boat has been running with solar powering everything directly, and the batteries effectively disconnected from everything else (except the battery monitor). The switch is intermittent, at any setting. By jiggling the handle a little, I can make the solar charging current change, although it's a little sloppy, because the controller reacts to so many factors.

I should charge (ha!) ashore to a marine store and buy a new switch, but I want to think about this a bit more. And it's very rough to go 3/4 mile to the store by dinghy. And I want to do internet.

So I leave the boat with the switch apparently working, 5-6 amps going into each bank of batteries. I lower a second anchor, in case the first drags (not good if the engine won't start).

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon and did internet. Got a few groceries and back to the boat without getting rained on; there are some evil-looking clouds further inland. Batteries getting a couple of amps into them when I get back to the boat, so that situation is tolerable for the moment.

Salad and ham-onion-chili and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  10/29/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Rain at 4:15 AM, and rained off and on until 6:15 or so. Grey with low dark clouds.

Into the engine compartment at 6:30. Took the back off the electrical panel and installed jumpers across the battery switch. Hoping this will make everything work fine, confirming that the switch is bad.

No sun until 9 AM, and not much then.

By 10, getting some decent sun, but no more than 3 amps total out of the solar panels, whether the 3 amps is going into the batteries or being consumed by the refrigerator. No-load charging voltage not getting over 12.9, but it's early. Then I add the laptop load, and the solar seems to ramp up to satisfy that. So now I'm totally confused; is the solar controller bad ? Guess I'll have to wait until midday and see if charging voltage gets up to the 13.7+ range it should get to.

Around noon, got a few periods of strong sunshine, and solar put 13 amps or so into the batteries, and charging voltage is up into 13.3 range. Looking good; I think I need a new battery switch.

Dinghied ashore just after noon and did internet. Chatted briefly with the crew from "Exuma Grouper". Got a few groceries and back to the boat. Looks like batteries have charged well today.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.
  10/30/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Launched the dinghy around 9 and headed east along the shore. Stopped to chat with Doug and Paula on "Exuma Grouper" for a while. Then ashore to the marine store, and bought a new battery switch ($45). Looks like a drop-in replacement for the one I have; actually I was hoping to get something a little bigger, because it's hard to get all the wires to the terminals with big wires and terminals fairly close together. But they had only one type of switch at the store.

Stopped briefly at "Exuma Grouper" on the way back.

Back at the boat, opened the package for the new switch and read that, if it gets intermittent, try switching it back and forth rapidly to fix it. Shoot, maybe that will fix my old switch. I try it for a minute, and I don't think it helped. Hard to tell.

Started working on the switch at 10:45. Turned off loads and disconnected wires, and managed to prop some wires together so the solar, one battery bank, and the refrig are connected. That takes away some of the time-pressure of the work.

Got the old switch out easily. Wanted to enlarge the hole through the wall to make more room to attach wires to terminals, but the mounting screws are just outside the edges of the hole; can't enlarge it.

Then I realize that the new switch is not identical to the old: the old one is flush-mount on the back, and the new one has a 1-inch or so standoff, which will make it even harder (impossible) to attach the thick cables. So I get out the hacksaw and carefully cut off the "standoff" part of the switch body. Goes better than I expected.

Screw the new switch to the wall, then into the engine compartment to connect cables and wires to it. Getting the last thick cable, the cable from Common terminal to engine starter motor, is as difficult as I feared, but after about 4 tries I get it on. A few extra wires still dangling; there always were too many thing connected directly to the battery switch; I want to move some of them elsewhere.

Throw the switch to "All", and solar is charging the batteries nicely ! Looks like the old switch indeed was bad.

Jumper the loose wires to a live point, and the refrig runs but the lights don't. Hmmm. Would be great to get the lights going again; it's hard to work in a dark corner of the compartment with only a half-strength flashlight that is hard to prop up in a useful direction. And there's a strong chop again today, which occasionally rocks the boat enough to throw me off-balance a little as I half-crouch in the engine compartment.

Trace a thick red wire from battery Common to a screw connecting it to a big "lights from AC or DC" switch, and decide that's a good place to tie the loose wires to. Take the screw out, and the thick wire bounds off; it was under a lot of pressure.

Make a little jumper cable so I don't have to put 4 wires onto that one screw, and I have to combine a couple of lengths of 14-gauge wire to make a cable thick enough. I don't have any red 10-gauge or so, just a little 4-gauge and lots of 14- and 18-gauge.

Back into the engine compartment and try to put the jumper cable and thick red back on, and sproing ! Screwdriver slides off, screw drops into somewhere, and I can't find it.

Get out a tray of screws, sort through them, eventually find a long one that seems to thres into the hole. Take it out and use it to match shorter screws. Find one, into engine compartment, try to hold two balky wires and a screw and a screwdriver in bad light in a tight place, and eventually the screw drops and is lost somewhere.

Do it again, and again, and again ! Even though I spread some newspaper to catch screws, they escape. I hear a couple hit the bilge, but can't see them. A couple seem to go along the batteries or somewhere. I remember and try a trick: tie some thread to the screw, so if it drops, you can catch it with the thread or at least find it via the thread. It works once or twice, then the screw escapes the thread and is lost.

A good thing about singlehanding is that you can scream swear-words without offending anyone. I'm sweaty and frustrated and afraid I might run out of screws that fit. I take a break for some lunch.

After lunch, I lose another screw, then decide to give up on adding another wire to this place; now I just want to get the original wire back into place. That's easier, and after a couple of tries I succeed with that.

Now I'll just jumper the loose wires to somewhere, and see if I can get the lights working. I start to jumper them to the place I just worked on, but choose a different place, and now the lights work ! So I guess that whole effort was wasted; that thick red wire didn't go to battery Common. Could have sworn it did.

Anyway, by 1:45 I'm done. New switch works, everything works, just a jumper wire connecting refrig and lights into the system. I'll replace that jumper tomorrow.

Dinghied ashore and did internet. Got some groceries and back to the boat. Batteries look good.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  10/31/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Nice, sunny morning, and the solar panels are charging the batteries like gangbusters.

Crap ! By 10, I'm seeing strange charging symptoms again. With nothing else changing, not sunlight or loads, charging current is changing fairly rapidly, from 2+ amps into one bank down to 1.4 then 0.6 over the space of 10 seconds or so. Then back up again, somewhat. Should not be happening.

Around noon, solar putting 11 amps into the batteries. So I guess the system is okay. Loafed all morning instead of finishing the wiring. Did put a big cable-clamp around the major cables to hold them in place.

Dinghied ashore, got 10 gallons of water, did internet, got some groceries. Batteries look good.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  11/1/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Listened to Chris Parker's weather, and heard a couple of boats in Luperon getting ready to leave tonight, heading east to Puerto Rico. No boats I recognize. His forecast for the north coast of the DR sounds too light; long-timers in Luperon often said he didn't do well on DR forecasts. It's been blowing so hard much of each day here, and today's local VHF forecasts are full of "small craft cautions", so I find his north-coast-DR forecast of winds 8 to 10 to maybe 15 hard to believe.

Finished the wiring in the back of the electrical panel; last bit went pretty smoothly.

Batteries charging well: solar putting in 8 amps at 13.15 volts at 9:45 AM. That's what I would expect; why wasn't I getting that yesterday ? Maybe the sun is just stronger this morning ? But 15 seconds later, solar is putting almost nothing into the batteries. Then back up to 8 amps. Up and down, up and down. What is going on ? Maybe I need to replace the solar charge controller. I guess I'll try opening up and cleaning all battery terminals first. But the alternator seems to charge the batteries fine (steadily) when the engine is running.

Wind blowing hard by 10 AM.

Dinghied ashore and did internet. Chatted with Doug and Amanda. Got some groceries and back to the boat.

Salad and chicken-onion-eggs-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  11/2/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Wind blowing hard from SE by 9:45.

Checked battery water and terminals. No problems.

Getting 11+ amps into batteries around noon.

Dinghied ashore and did internet. Got some groceries and back to the boat. Batteries look good; I think I've got the system settled, with the refrigerator thermostat set so the fridge is cold enough but not running excessively. With the usual afternoon grey clouds holding off today, the battery monitor shows 13.25 volts with about 2 amps going into the batteries at 4:30 or so; quite decent.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for 15 minutes, to exercise it and make sure everything works after my excavations in the electrical panel. Started easily and ran fine. Alternator put 30 amps into the batteries for a minute or two, but soon was down to 11 amps at 14.45 volts, so the batteries seem to be well-charged from the solar during the day.
  11/3/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

I'm starting to think of moving east; probably will leave here sometime next week. Listened to NOAA weather at 6, and the wind may ease a little on Tuesday. Chris Parker at 7 was too faint to hear, and I missed him at 8:30.

From here, I'll probably do a short hop to Gilligan's Island, then a longer hop to Ponce. There, I'll see if I can get the auto-pilot motor armature rewound; that might take several days. Then maybe a stop at Coffin Island then a hop to Playa Salinas. Stay there through Thanksgiving, then a long passage to the Culebra area. Have to be in St Thomas before Christmas to catch my plane flight to NJ.

Launched dinghy and cleaned spark plugs. Thought of going snorkeling, but the wind-ripple is starting a little early this morning. So snorkeled under the boat at 7:30 to scrape the hull.

Lots of particles in the water, but I don't see any jellyfish. Lots of fish schooling around the boat, and they get excited as I scrape stuff off the hull. Hull is in good shape, just some isolated barnacles and goop growing. Rudder and skeg are a little more heavily covered, and prop has lots of grass, and some big barnacles on the hub. Done in an hour or so.

Added 9 gallons of water to the tanks; I want them full when I leave here, because water isn't free east of Salinas, and is easiest to get here.

Wind blowing by 9:15 or so.

Blue sloop "Indigo" came in and anchored while I was dinghying ashore, around noon. Beautiful boat.

Dinghied ashore, got 10 gallons of water, and did internet. Chatted with Doug; he says another boat came in and anchored in front of me, and these are the boats he heard on the radio a few days ago. He thought they were here at the time, but they were in Boqueron. [Thinking about it later, they must have had a rough trip from Boqueron, if they arrived at noon or later. The recommended way to do that trip is to leave at 6 AM or 7 AM, so you get in here before the strong E wind starts blowing at 9 or 10. They must have been plowing into the teeth of that wind the last couple of hours of their trip.]

Can't believe a new thermostat for my refrigerator would cost $76 ! (Only asked one place; sure I could find an off-brand equivalent for much less.) Good thing I've decided I don't need one after all.

Got some groceries and back to the boat. Bad timing; thick grey clouds everywhere, and as I got halfway out to the boat, I saw an advancing line of heavy rain coming down towards me. Tried to beat it to the boat, and was about 15 seconds too slow. Fortunately, had the computer wrapped up in a couple of plastic bags, and got that and the groceries and fan and cushion under shelter without too much water on them. I got pretty wet. Five minutes later, the rain was over and it didn't rain again all evening.

Salad and chicken-onion-eggs-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  11/4/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Heard a couple of dolphin around my boat for a while starting at 5:15 AM; first time I've heard that here.

Eavesdropped on "Mattkare" and "Indigo" talking on the VHF; "Mattkare" has some kind of exhaust system problem. The boat looks like a WestSail 32.

Eavesdropping on people talking on the VHF is a common pasttime on boats; it provides a welcome diversion from the daily routine, and sometimes you learn something useful, or can call someone back with a useful suggestion for them. In big, active harbors such as Georgetown Exumas, the radio traffic can be incessant.

Speaking of Georgetown, I chatted with Doug yesterday and again this morning on the VHF, and he said they're planning to be back in Georgetown by Christmas. But I don't see how they're going to do it; that's only 7 weeks from now, he just ordered a bunch of vitamins and stuff to be shipped to here, and they're planning to stop in Luperon for some checkups at the hospital there. If everything goes well, including weather, I guess they can do it. It will be downwind and down-swell the whole way, which is crucial. More than 600 miles straight-line from here, but probably 750 as they'll do it.

Tradewind starting to blow around 9:45.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. At the dinghy dock, met Lou of "Indigo" and Rob of "Mattkare". They have indeed come from Luperon, and are heading down-island. Lou eventually to Cartagena, and maybe through the Panama Canal. They were delighted to "escape" from Luperon, as we were last year, and they never want to go back, I think. They say the theft there is worse than ever, anchors and dinghies being stolen. [Later, Lou told me that as he left Luperon, he dropped his shorts and mooned the harbor, to express his feelings about the place.]

We didn't have much time to chat, since I was heading in and they were heading out, but I did point them to the nice marine store; Rob needs a new muffler, I think. I did ask about Doug and Nancy on "Presque Isle" in Luperon, and they said it looks like "Presque Isle" will not leave this year; all signs are that they're going to stay permanently. I said I probably will go to Trinidad for next hurricane season, and Rob says Trinidad is worse than Luperon ! So I'll have to chat with them about that.

Did internet in the laundromat. Not very comfortable today; lots of huge women and screaming kids. Met Jo from "Mattkare". Chatted with the crew from "Exuma Grouper", then ran into Jo again in the supermarket and chatted with her for a while. She and Doug say that "Mayor Mike" is no longer in Luperon, and apparently has left his sinking steel boat behind. As far as Jo and I could calculate, there indeed were about half as many boats in Luperon this hurricane season as there were last season.

Turns out "Mattkare" spent last hurricane season in Salinas, then were unable to get out of Salinas for winter cruising. First they had boat troubles, then flew out for Christmas, then their cat had serious medical problems, then other things conspired to keep them there. So they spent a solid year in Salinas ! Then their US visas ran out (they're Canadian), and they had to get out of Puerto Rico. So they went off to Luperon for hurricane season.

Got groceries, then ran into Rob and Lou outside the restaurant. I think they're going to revoke my cruising license: Lou asked me where he could drink a beer in this town for less than $2.75, and I had to admit I've never drunk in any of the places here. Then they complained about the high price of ice here, and I couldn't help them with that, either; I have a refrigerator, not an icebox, so I don't buy ice.

Back to the boat. Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Rained for a while at 6:45, then again an hour or so later.
  11/5/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Woke up at 4 AM with a sudden, splitting headache. Pain over right eye, sinus pain, jaw tension. Took some pills and it slowly came under control a bit.

Still feel lousy at 8 AM.

Heard on the VHF: a cat fell overboard from "Mattkare" and they think it may be ashore on a nearby mangrove island. So "Indigo" and "Mattkare" are starting a search for it.

Blowing hard from the E by 10. Second round of pills seem to have headache under control.

Dinghied ashore and did internet at the laundromat. One washer started flooding the place, but I just propped up my AC cords and kept computing ! Eventually a guy came in and mopped up the water.

Salad and chicken-onion-eggs-rice for dinner.

Starting to get itchy to leave; I can't dawdle here too much longer. But the weather forecast seems to say swells are fairly big right now, with a "swell event" of even bigger swells coming on Wednesday. One thing I've never understood: forecast says swells are from north, and we're on the south coast. So, shouldn't we have no swells ? But I guess we see tradewind swells, from the east.

Brief rainshower at 7:30, then some fireworks from shore at 8. Half a dozen rockets, sounding very loud both on launch and detonation. Pretty, but brief. Must be a holiday or something. (Next day, Andrea guessed it was in celebration of a couple of weddings.)
  11/6/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Starting to get some nice sleeping weather; cool enough in the early morning to have to pull a sheet or even a sheet-and-blanket over myself.

Horizon looks pretty lumpy this morning; lots of swells out there.

Added water to batteries, but they didn't need much.

Dumped 9 gallons of water into tanks, but was surprised to see that big aft tank is only 2/3 full; I had been expecting it to spill over full at any time. So launched the dinghy and made three trips ashore to get 30 gallons of water and dumped them into the tank.

Small catamaran coming in at 9:15, but heading around east side of the big island; maybe it's a local boat. On second thought, it looks a lot like "Exuma Grouper"; don't know why they'd be moving. Wind starting to blow.

Dinghied ashore and went to library, because I wanted to print out some boat-cards. But their internet connection was having problems: their filter was blocking 99.9% of all web sites. Did manage to get a weather forecast; swells are 5-6 feet for next couple of days, then 2-5 on Thursday and 2-4 on Friday.

To the laundromat, and did internet there. Got groceries. On the way back to the dinghy-dock, bumped into Jo from "Mattkare", and she said they haven't found their cat.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  11/7/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Emptied 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft tank.

Dinghied ashore, got 10 gallons of water. To library, and printed boat-cards. Weather forecast says swells won't subside until mid-Thursday; supposed to be 2-5 feet on Friday and Saturday. So I might move to east end of this large bay on Thursday afternoon, then around the corner in open water on Friday morning.

To laundromat to do internet. Chatted with Doug and Paula for a little while. Saw Jo, and they still haven't found their cat. She says they don't even know exactly when it disappeared off the boat; they came back to the boat one evening and it was gone.

Got groceries and back to the boat.

Salad and chicken-onion-noodles-mushroomsoup and rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 6:30, went over to "Exuma Grouper". Spent the evening playing dominoes and chatting; a nice time. Back to the boat around 11.
  11/8/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Wind blowing hard by 9, and very hard by 10.
Fuel level 5.0 inches at engine hour 4032.
Tightened fan belt.
Emptied 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft tank.

Solar panels definitely not charging the batteries properly. Need to investigate further.

Dinghied ashore, got 10 gallons of water. To laundromat to do internet. Got groceries. On the way back to the boat, stopped to chat with Ken and Andrea on "Ruff Life" and Don and Olga on "Richard Corey", giving them my boat cards and telling them I was planning to leave soon. Gave "Ruff Life" $5 to give to the people who own the water-tap we've all been using, since the other day Andrea was poking me a little about all the water I've been hauling, saying that the price of water here has been skyrocketing recently, and the people may stop letting us use their tap.

Back on the boat, it's clear that the refrigerator thermostat has gotten stuck again; I think the fridge has been running the whole time I've been ashore.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for 25 minutes to charge batteries.
  11/9/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

Out onto the foredeck at 7:30, and raised the secondary anchor. A bit difficult becase the two rodes were twisted, but had everything up and scrubbed and stowed by 8.

Planning to leave in the afternoon. Will motor to east end of the bay this afternoon, then out into open water tomorrow morning. Weather forecast from Chris Parker seems to contradict what I've seen online, but I'm going anyway. Only a matter of 5-10 knots of wind anyway.

On the way ashore, stopped by "Mattkare" and "Mahjongg" to say goodbye and give them boat-cards. Sounds like "Indigo" and "Mattkare" will bypass Ponce and be in Salinas before I get there. "Mahjongg" will be out of here in a month or so. Lou and Rob had "Mattkare"s muffler in pieces when I stopped by.

Not blowing as hard as usual today; that's a good sign.

Did internet, chatted with crew of "Exuma Grouper" and said good-bye to them, got groceries, back to boat. Solar is charging at 14.2 volts, which is great ! That's been the big problem, charging voltage never going high enough.

Stowed everything and got the boat ready for motion. Anchor up at 3:10. Motored out, and engine working fine. A bit of a swell outside the inner reefs and islands, but nothing bad. Heard "Mahjongg" on radio saying someone ashore might have found "Mattkare"s cat !

Went "inside" as long as I could, then out an unmarked gap between reefs. A little rougher fully outside, but still not bad. Headed for Cayo Salinas, where I've anchored once before, but it was rolly then, and it's going to be rolly now. So diverted into a likely-looking place, going slow and holding my hand on the throttle while watching the depth-sounder, but no problem getting in. Really nice little anchorage, at 17.56.811 66.58.334. Probably behind Cayo Don Luis, but I'm not sure; my chart isn't too detailed here.

Anchor down by 4:30, but took engine another 10 minutes to cool down to where I could shut it off. Jet-ski came by and made the anchorage a little less nice for a minute, but it went away.

Police boat came by and tried to talk to me at 5:30, but a language barrier can be a handy thing at times. They wanted to know where I came from, and where before that, and I just kept saying La Parguera, Ponce, Salinas, Culebra, and eventually they shrugged and went away.

Salad and chicken-onion-beans for dinner.

Up and down all night, checking that the refrigerator is running enough but not too much. I'm worried that it might drag the batteries down so I can't leave early in the morning. If I have to wait for some sunlight, that might put me out into the teeth of the strong wind at 9 AM or so.
  11/10/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at Cayo Don Luis, Puerto Rico.

Up at 5:45 to get ready, then started engine at 6:05. Relieved that it started; I had been worried that the refrigerator might have run the batteries too low. But they seemed to crank without much problem.

Anchor up at 6:10, with enough light in the sky to see well as I eased out of the anchorage. Motored south and made the turn east around the point at 6:35, just as the sun was rising over clouds on the horizon.

Motored east. Conditions are about as nice as you'll get out here, maybe 5-10 knots of wind on the nose, swells maybe 3-4 feet from SE, slightly rolly at times but nothing to complain about.

Buzzed by two police boats around 6:50, but I just waved and smiled a lot, and they zoomed away. Saw several small fishing skiffs at various points.

Checked the stuffing box, and it's running cooler than it used to. Guess that Goretex packing just took a while to loosen up.

Into Gilligan's Island anchorage and anchor down by 7:45 at 17.56.600 66.52.644. Engine off by 7:50. Cut through reefs is unmarked, but I shouldn't have too much trouble using GPS to get out in the dark tomorrow morning; it's a fairly wide cut.

Still not blowing much by 9:45; I probably could have gone straight through to Ponce this morning. I had been tempted to, whlie I was out there. But I'm tired, from not sleeping much last night. And why not break a 6-hour trip into a 2-hour piece and a 4-hour piece ? The only advantage to arriving today would have been to see about getting my auto-pilot motor fixed in Ponce; now I'll have to wait until Monday to ask about that, and won't be able to leave until Tuesday morning.

Rollier here than I expected; some swells getting through the reef. And they seem to be going back to the deepest corner of the anchorage; no point in moving further in.

Wind fairly light in the afternoon again, although there are some whitecaps out in the ocean.

Cleaned engine intake strainer.
Emptied 5-gallon diesel jug into fuel tank.
Transferred a gallon of gas from on-deck jug to dinghy fuel tank.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  11/11/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at Gilligan's Island, Puerto Rico.

Started engine at 4:40. Felt my way out of the anchorage. First obstacle was a couple of small white fish-trap floats; I knew approximately where they were, but they were invisible in the dark. Finally they glided past on the port side. Then I used GPS and depth-sounder to ease out through the cut in the reefs. Finally in open water at 5:05. Some swell, but very little wind.

Motored east. Police boat buzzed me at 6:15. Sunrise at 6:30. Kept an eye on a tug-and-barge that came out of Guayanilla ahead of me.

Into Ponce, and docked at the fuel dock at 8:40. No one in attendance, which was fine with me for a while. Started a bucket of laundry, got 5 gallons of water and dumped it into water tank. Then the attendant showed up, and boats started flocking around. I'm planning to get 100 gallons of diesel plus 5 in the jug; that should make my tank about 2/3 full, which should be good to get me to St Martin at least. It's a gorgeous, calm Saturday morning, and there's some kind sailing-pram regatta going on, so the place is hopping.

I started pumping diesel in the hot sun, having to go slowly as usual, because my boat has a narrow vent line, so the fuel couldn't go in too fast. Soon a boat full of guys eager to get going was waiting for the diesel hose I was using; there's only one hose for gas and one for diesel. I tried to go as fast as I could.

So after a while, I asked one of the waiting guys how much I'd pumped so far, and he said 18 gallons. I thought I'd be up to 30 or so by now. Anyway, I stopped and let them have the hose. Got another 5 gallons of water.

Got the diesel hose back, and pumped some more. After a while, got some fuel backing up the neck of the filler, so I stopped and went to see how much I'd pumped so far. I was flabbergasted when the attendant said I'd just pumped another 67 gallons, and that my previous session had been 118 gallons, not 18 ! The tank must be tip-top full, even over-full. So I stopped, got 4 gallons in the jug, got 3 gallons of gasoline, and paid the bill. $554 ! Yow !

Well, I'll burn it all eventually; it won't go to waste. But then I had a bad feeling, and looked for spillage in the engine compartment, and sure enough, there's diesel on top of the tank and some on the floor of the engine compartment. Probably spilled a pint, maybe a quart. Wiped up some of it, but the engine is very hot (and the exhaust riser probably is lethally hot), so I can't climb over it to get to everywhere.

Miraculously, no fuel got into the water. None came out the vent, and I wiped up the little bit that foamed up out of the filler.

Should be able to start the engine without an explosion; diesel has a high flash-point. I leave the compartment door open, run the blower-fan for a minute, then start the engine. All is well.

Off the dock around 10, and there's a flock of little sailboats driven by 6-year-olds in the open space where I want to anchor. There aren't a lot of choices in this anchorage; it's full of moorings, deep, and the wind swings from SE during the day to NE or N at night. So the boat shepherding the little sailboats asks where I'm going, I say I want to anchor, and they herd all the sailboats to one side so I can anchor. Finished around 10:10, at 17.57.966 66.37.062.

So a successful trip, with a bit of credit-card pain at the end. 190.6 gallons of diesel at $2.86/gallon, total of $545. 3 gallons of gasoline at $2.86/gallon, total of $8.60. Engine hour about 4040.

I try to track fuel prices as I move around. The prices here should be cheaper than the fuel dock at Crown Bay in St Thomas, which is the next available fuel dock I could bring the boat to. The gas station at La Parguera was about 20% cheaper for diesel, for example, but I'd have to carry jugs half a mile to the dinghy-dock and then dinghy them out to the boat; there's no fuel dock in La Parguera (maybe at Club Nautico; should have asked; but it's probably expensive). No big-boat fuel docks in Salinas or Culebra, no fuel at all in Esperanza on Vieques. Don't know prices at marinas on east coast of PR; I've never been into any of them.

By 11, the fuel dock was empty. Bad timing.

Some kind of parade ending ashore nearby. I'm too tired to launch the dinghy and go investigate. Guess it's Armistice Day or Veteran's Day or something.

Hot and light winds in the afternoon.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Music ashore, off and on until 1:30 AM or so, but it didn't bother me. Not as loud and trashy as I've heard here before. The guidebooks all warn about incredibly loud music blasting until all hours, but I think it must have been toned down a bit since the guidebooks were written.
  11/12/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Boat smells very diesel-y, but not much point trying to clean up in the engine compartment until I've burnt some of it off, and been in some rolly swells so anything else that's going to spill, spills. Must be some open hole on top of the fuel tank to let it spill when over-filled. But they built a major bulkhead right across the top of the tank where all the pipes and hoses go into it, so things there are impossible to get to.

Dinghied ashore around 7:30 and got 10 gallons of water. Looked for book-exchange, but they've moved it; will have to go back when the restaurant is open.

Put the water jugs aboard, and started a bucket of laundry. Put my luggage-trolley-plus-milk-crate into the dinghy, then dinghied to other side of the anchorage. Locked up the dinghy at the boat ramp. Someone left their car-keys and cigarettes and stuff on a post in plain view and went boating; anyone could steal their truck. Walked a mile or so to Santiago's Cash and Carry, a big warehouse-type store. The only food store within miles of the anchorage. That's one of the big downsides of this place: no stores except some boardwalk cafes. Even the big yacht club doesn't have a marine store or anything.

Bought various groceries, including a case of soda and a case of beans. Prices decent but not great. But I can't pass up an opportunity to stock up on heavy stuff without too much effort. Trundled it back to the boat-ramp, onto the dinghy, and out to the boat by 9:30.

Dumped 5 gallons of water into the aft tank.

Went ashore after lunch and walked all around the yacht club, asking where the book-exchange had moved to. Best guess is that it's inside the closed-for-the-weekend office. Watched the small-sailboat kids coming back in. Got 10 gallons of water and back to the boat.

Connected to a very strong WiFi signal, but it wouldn't let me do anything; must expect me to go to some site and log in or something. Bummer.

Went ashore around 3:30, docking at the ramp where people feed the tarpon and pelicans. Among a couple hundred 2- to 3-foot tarpon, saw a 2-foot green eel undulating. People crowding around and throwing food to the fish, who are snapping it up.

Walk out and take a look at the ocean, and it looks a bit choppy in the afternoon wind. Climb up into the observation tower, a hundred or so feet up, and enjoy the great views in all directions. Back down to stroll on the wooden boardwalk, sit and read my book for a while, listen to the loud music coming from several directions, and enjoy some people-watching. Only a few pretty women, unfortunately.

Clouding over by 5, and back to the boat.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Around 6:15, after sunset, a small boat anchors about 30 feet from me and cranks up the stereo. Luckily, they stay only about 45 minutes.
  11/13/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather much; too much RFI here. He said something about a tropical wave; hope it's not going to develop into a depression. There's been almost no talk about tropical waves in the last month; seems the heart dropped right out of hurricane season this year.

Dinghied ashore around 7:30, and started looking for some kind of boatyard boss to ask about getting my auto-pilot motor rewound. Second guy I approached spoke English, told me no one in the yard could do anything about my motor, then said "hey, hop in the van and I'll take you to a motor shop". So I hopped in, and we drove off. Turns out he's a refrigeration guy, lived for 30 years in Connecticut before getting tired of the cold weather, came back here. Drove about 5 miles to a little motor shop, where a couple of guys looked at my armature. The verdict was no-go; they can't repair it, mostly because the connections of wires to commutator are press-fit instead of soldered, it seems. Maybe a place in San Juan can do it, but that place usually does much bigger motors. So back in the van and back to the boatyard.

So I guess it's back onto the internet to talk to some motor places again. Maybe I should just put in an 1800 RPM motor and see if the auto-pilot tolerates it. The old one supposedly is 830 RPM, which is the problem; I can't find even a 900 RPM motor for sale anywhere. And changing pulley sizes is not an option; the old motor already has a very small pulley on it, and I'd end up with a comically huge pulley on the pump.

To the office to ask about the book-exchange, and finally I find the bookshelf stuffed into a storage closet with cement bags and such piled around it. Manage to find a few interesting books, and dump a few of mine.

On the way back to the dinghy, see some Customs-type cops heading for the fuel dock, probably to check in a sportsfisher that's been docked there overnight. I head out to my boat, half-expecting a whistle from them at any moment, wanting me to come over and talk to them. I stow things on the boat, and delay hoisting the dinghy in case I do all that work and then they whistle me over. Finally I decide I can't hide all day, and hoist and lash the dinghy and get ready to go. Engine starts fine.

Anchor up at 9. Motored out of the harbor without looking toward fuel dock, hoping the Customs guys wouldn't see me and whistle me over. Made it out okay.

Maybe 1 knot of wind this morning; very calm. Motored straight across to Coffin Island; maybe 2 or 3 knots of wind by time I arrived. Clouds in just about every direction but still a sunny, gorgeous day. Anchor down by 10:40 at 17.53.384 66.31.740. Engine off by 10:45. Lovely here.

After lunch, I launch the dinghy and go for an excursion. Up around the north end of the island, which turns out to be pretty far by dinghy. Anchor for the first time just about due north of the north tip of the island; if the anchor lets go, the dinghy will end up back in La Parguera. I see a small sportsfishing skiff a quarter-mile down the east side of the island, but no one else.

A nice snorkel, just a bit too rough for complete comfort. Plenty of nice fish, and some interesting coral heads (but all brown). Too many types of fish to remember them all. See a big cubical thing and then a big rectangular thing, sitting on the bottom, obviously manmade; can't tell if they're solid or hollow; don't know if they're artificial reef pieces, or remains of a shipwreck. Back near the dinghy, I see what looks like a shark-tail sticking out from underneath a coral head, and go to investigate. As I get closer and closer, I see more and more shark. Must be close to 6 feet long, snoozing while resting on the bottom under the coral head, with a small fish (maybe a remora) sliding along one of it's fins, grooming it.

Into the dinghy, and go a couple hundred yards SE, and anchor again. Not so good this time; lots of broken coral and some decent fish. Some nice schools of 20 or so 5-inch grey/yellow fish wiggling around on the bottom, probably grunts or chubs.

Back into the dinghy, a quarter mile S to some really shallow coral, and anchor again. Jackpot ! Great coral formations, rising steeply from the 10-foot-deep bottom to within a foot of the surface, making wide mesa's just under the surface. Tons of fish, including a slow school of about 500 blue or violet 10-inch fish, probably angelfish. I've seen this kind of school elsewhere, and they're very pretty, flowing slowly, crowding to feed off places in the coral, most of the fish blue/violet but also some brown and maybe a slightly different species. Lots of nice snappers of various kinds. A couple more schools of grey/yellow fish, probably grunts or chubs again, but bigger this time, maybe 12 inches long. Very nice.

Back into the dinghy, and now a huge grey cloud has extended from the NW to cover the sun, and I'm a little chilled, and I can't read the water-color any more. Time to head home. I'm almost exactly halfway around the island from the boat; which way to go home ? Back around the N end and down the W side would be calmer. But I'd like to be able to say I went all the way around the island, so I head SSW to go around the S end.

I start to regret it; the wind is picking up and the swell is greater, especially now that I'm out of the shelter of the reef area. I have to hold the fuel connector onto the outboard to get it to run smoothly; I really need to replace this connector.

Finally make it down around the S end of the island, and back up part of the W side to get back to the boat. Starting to threaten rain, but I get everything (including myself) hoisted and washed and stowed without getting rained on. Turns into a very grey late afternoon, and looks like plenty of rain and lightning over the big island, 5 miles N of here.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice-creamychickensoup and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Around 7, I hear a skiff going past in the dark, and he pulls in to the park dock. Two minutes later, a front comes through, with the boat swinging around from SE to E to NE to NW, and it starts blowing 20+. Settles down to N 20, and this is not a good direction for me. No protection in that direction, and the coast of Puerto Rico is a good 4 or 5 miles away, so soon there's a pretty good swell and chop making the boat pitch. Then the wind starts varying from N to NNE to NE and back again, and the swell rolls me a bit too. I start to get nervous about the anchor holding, and the nasty solid things downwind of me now, so I start the engine. The guy who went ashore in the park has turned on lots of lights inside the buildings, so that's a handy reference point that I keep an eye on, to see wind direction and make sure I'm not dragging anchor.

I'd heard vague reports of this front on NOAA weather, but was unclear where it was. And the VHF weather forecasts said nothing about it. In fact, as I'm sitting here in N 20 wind, I turn on the VHF and hear the same forecast again: E 5-10 today, tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night. Liars !

The only good thing: Ismail said when the first cold front reaches down to here, that means hurricane season is over.

After running the engine for 20 minutes or so, I finally decide I'll need to put out a second anchor for peace of mind if I'm going to get any sleep tonight. I put on some clothes, come up into the cockpit and think about what I'm going to do, and the wind starts easing a bit. Soon it's down to 15 or so, and I shut off the engine and decide I don't need a second anchor. The wind stays NE more often, which gives me a tiny bit of shelter from the north end of Coffin Island. Eventually I go to bed. The boat is still rolling and slewing far too much to be comfortable, but it's tolerable.
  11/14/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Coffin Island, Puerto Rico.

Weather forecast on VHF still says E 5-10 for today and tomorrow, but I'm seeing E 15-18 or so, and lots of swells on the horizon in open water. So I think I'll stay here today, unless it gets much lighter in the afternoon. Thick rainclouds in the early morning, but then they start to clear a bit later. A bit rolly.

Chris Parker's weather says everythings amazingly calm in the whole Caribbean, with some showers over the east-PR and St Croix area. Says nothing about the wind I'm seeing.

Solar charging has been working perfectly normally the last few days. I'm starting to think the controller got "confused" by the refrigerator running too much and the engine never running. After some sustained engine-running with the alternator charging at 14+ volts, and getting the refrigerator a little more under control, the solar is back doing the right thing: charging at 13+ volts in the morning and 14+ volts in the afternoon.

By noon, wind down another notch, to maybe 12 knots, but still a lot of swells on the open-ocean horizon. Could fight through the 3+ hours up-swell to Salinas, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow.

Around 2:30, spotted a mast approaching from the west. I've been expecting "Indigo" and "Mattkare" to show up sometime, but why did they choose today to travel ? Looks like just one boat, and a dark hull, which would be "Indigo". And the mast is gyrating in every direction; it's rough out there.

Around 3:35, "Indigo" arrived and anchored. I chatted with Lou on the VHF briefly; he's tired and hungry (didn't eat lunch). He came all the way from La Parguera today, and it was a rough trip. "Mattkare" started out with him, but they had a slight engine overheating problem, and then (unrelated, I hope) the engine just quit, so they went back in to La P. They think it must be a fuel system problem.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  11/15/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Coffin Island, Puerto Rico.

Woke up around 3 and found everything going wrong. Refrigerator is running hard and drawing down the batteries. And the wind is up again, instead of dying out like it should every night. It's blowing E 12-15 or so, which means a rough trip today (if I go). I don't want to stay here any more; it's too rolly to be comfortable, nothing to do, and who knows when the wind will stop blowing ? Especially since the weather forecast on VHF radio seems to be unreliable.

I try to get the fridge to run less, but it keeps going. So I turn it off completely. Can't sleep. So by 4, I'm up and starting to get the boat ready to go. It'll be a rough trip, but no point in putting it off.

Engine started at 5:05, and it barely started; should have run it briefly last night to charge the batteries after the grey afternoon we had. Anchor up at 5:15 in windy conditions. Motored NE along NW side of the island, looking out for the only obstacle, a big white/black marker buoy. Never did see it.

Got around the end of the island and into the teeth of the wind and swells and chop and current. They're costing me about a knot, and I'm making only about 3.5 knots over ground. Boat motion isn't too bad, mostly pitching with an occasional roll.

The forecast on VHF radio today matches reality a little better than it has the previous few days: they're saying E 9-13.

I slog on, straight into the waves and wind. Sunrise at 6:30, and the sun is red when it's on the horizon. Engine is running a couple of degrees hotter than it usually does; will have to clean the heat-exchanger a bit. I keep the RPMs down a bit to be conservative.

A long, boring session of hand-steering in rough conditions. Motion got a bit worse as the trip went on; some bigger steep swells that the bow slams into, slowing the boat down suddenly.

Finally get into Bahia Rincon, and get some protection from the reefs, and feel better. Approach the entrance to Playa Salinas harbor, and there's a police boat looking me over. Ease into the harbor, letting the engine cool a little, watching the depth-sounder carefully, looking over the fleet of anchored and moored boats. There's "Fidelis" at anchor; looks like Dave and Annie are still back in the USA. Other boats I recognize from last time I was here. No sign of "Santana". Didn't see "Quest" either.

I go pretty deep into the north end of the harbor. Anchor down at 9:35 at 17.57.644 66.17.594. Engine off at 9:40. Nice to be in a calm place. Everything looks good down below; books stayed on the shelves and so forth. That's the hallmark of really horrible rolling: when the books get thrown off the shelves.

"Indigo" came in and anchored about 10:50.

Feeling headachey, probably from getting up so early and then having a rough trip. Took some pills. Pumped up the bike tires.

Chatted on the radio with Lou on "Indigo". He was awake at 5 AM and saw me leave Coffin Island, but he didn't leave until almost 7. I asked what I forgot to ask him yesterday: did "Mattkare" get their cat back ? He said no, the cat someone found ashore wasn't their cat, and he and I are pretty sure their cat is gone forever. Jo on "Mattkare" is pretty upset about it, naturally. Lou asked me for a dinghy-ride to shore, to save him the trouble of launching his dinghy and getting the motor off the rail and onto the dinghy.

At noon, loaded garbage and motor-armature and bike and me into the dinghy, then to "Indigo" and picked up Lou ! Got ashore, Lou went into the marina office, and I biked to the cafe and did half an hour of internet for $2. Actually, it cost $2.15; today is the first day of the new sales tax in Puerto Rico, 5.5% for state and up to 1.5% for local. They haven't had a sales tax before, but the government has been running out of money. Email from "Fidelis" saying they're coming back from USA very soon, and will be looking to head east ASAP, as I am.

Lou caught up with me at the cafe, and said he's going to put his boat into the marina. He got a beer and hamburger for lunch, and I biked off into town.

I biked miles in and around town, looking for a particular machine-shop. I had a map showing the location, but had been told that it has moved. Got directed all around by various people who spoke very little English, and finally got sent to the same auto-parts store where I'd tried to get motor-bearings the last time I was here. There, the guy looked at my armature, and couldn't say "no" enough. The only motor work they do there is new brushes, maybe a little soldering. I asked him about the machine-shop, and he says it's 15 minutes or so by car east out of town, and too far to bike.

So I gave up on the armature for now. Went to the library and did another half hour of internet. Then to the Grande supermarket. They had sausage for sale ! The supermarket in La Parguera never had sausage (spicy, the kind for spaghetti), and neither did the meat-counter inside Santiago's in Ponce. Now I can make spaghetti for dinner again ! Last time I had it was 9/25 (see, that's the advantage of keeping a detailed log).

Got groceries, biked back to the cafe and marina, and hooked up with Lou. He bought 3 bags of ice, and we went out to the boats. I guess he has no refrigeration, just an ice-box; I'd never cruise without refrigeration. Lou said he's going to stay in the marina for a month, and it will cost $300. He said the new sales tax will cost him an extra $17; he should have gotten here one day earlier. (I said I'd heard the Puerto Ricans were scrambling to do their Christmas shopping before the new tax kicked in, and he said he was at a big shopping mall last week, and it was a complete zoo, worse than the usual frenzy). He needs to wash the salt off his boat and clean the decks, get water, and use the AC power to do some boat-work. He seems very concerned about the salt all over his hull (the salt does show up very clearly on his beautiful shiny dark-blue hull), and how dirty his recently-gelcoated decks have gotten. $300 for a month (I think his boat is about 40 feet) is cheap compared to Florida, say, but anchoring here is just fine.

Totally grey and threatening rain and blowing 15 or so from the south. But nice to have a cool afternoon.

Salad and spaghetti (yum!) for dinner. Bummer: no alcohol, because I took some Tylenol earlier in the day.

Tired from the early trip, and the miles and miles of bicycling I did in the afternoon. Into bed and slept solidly.

Rained steadily from 6 to 7:45 or so.
  11/16/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

NOAA weather at 6 AM said E 10-15 through the weekend and swells 3-4 and then 4-5, so I'll have to wait. If I can get swells 2-3 and wind 10 or so, I'll head east.

Launched the dinghy early and went over to "Indigo" to see if Lou wanted my help to get his boat into the marina. He was delighted to get my offer of help, but he's having second thoughts about going in today. He needs to talk to the the people in neighboring slips to get their help too; one factor is that his boat backs up very poorly, requiring high RPMs to get any motion at all, and you don't want high RPMs in close quarters. In fact, he's having second thoughts about going into the marina at all; he may just stay at anchor. But he needs water, and he has even bigger tanks than I do, 250 gallons. He could jug water from the dinghy dock, but they want 25 cents/gallon here (most people just take it for free, I think). That's why I tanked up at La Parguera, and some more at Ponce. He even mentioned possibly going to Ponce mostly to get water; he'd be crazy to repeat the rough upwind slog we just went through, just for that. Or he can dinghy-jug some water here and then tank up near Fajardo or in St Thomas. But water isn't free from here on east.

He also will be leaving the boat for a couple weeks to go to some kind of class in San Juan. I told him I'd left my boat here at anchor a couple of times, with no problems. And if a hurricane approaches, he could dash back from San Juan.

Back to my boat, and Lou went ashore. 15 minutes later, he was back out again, and said he certainly won't be going into the marina today, and maybe not at all. He said $300 is a lot of money, and what's wrong with anchoring ? Then he offered to treat me to breakfast at the cafe, but I've already eaten and feel like loafing anyway. So he went in to eat.

Some sunshine this morning, but still mostly cloudy. Light wind from east. Couldn't get Chris Parker's weather.

Talked to Lou on the radio around 11, and he said there had been four manatees playing around his boat for a couple of hours this morning, bumping into the hull. One of them grabbed his inflatable dinghy and almost sank it, and left slimy flipper-marks on the side of it. I think the manatee was trying to mate with the dinghy.

Lou says four boats he knows have come out of Luperon and arrived in Boqueron. I don't know any of them.

Added water to the batteries; needed a moderate amount. Pumped a quart of diesel-y glop out of the bilge and bottled it for disposal ashore.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Used the book-exchange at the marina. Found where they'd moved the bike-rack to, and moved my bike over there. To the marine store, where they didn't have any fuel line connectors for my outboard, but I bought some electric wire ($10) as spare stores.

For the fuel line, I think I'd like to bring a hose out of the cowling, meet the hose from the tank, and have inline male-female connectors to make the connection. But they sell connectors that assume one end will be mounted on the motor or on the tank; can't find an inline male-female pair. Will have to think some more. Also, the hose inside the cowling is smaller diameter than the fuel-tank hose.

Back to the marina, where I chatted with some cruising ladies at the laundry room. Turns out Judy on "Quest" left either the morning I arrived, or the morning before, and made it to Vieques. She must have had a rough trip; she left after that front came through, when the weather turned from calm to rough. And Lee on "Santana" still is here; I just didn't recognize his boat as I came in.

Lou appeared, and I walked with him back to the marine store. Bought some gloves ($3). Went to the little grocery store and bought some rolls.

Back to the dinghy dock, and happened to check out fuel prices, and it appears I made a mistake by fueling up in Ponce. Last year, Ponce was much cheaper than here; this year, Ponce is slightly more expensive. Here it's 59/liter for gasoline and 79/liter for diesel; I paid $2.86/gallon for each in Ponce. At 3.75 liters/gallon, that means diesel costs $2.96/gallon here. Wait a minute; I did okay ! But gas is only $2.20/gallon here. Very confusing, liters and gallons.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Dinghied ashore to snack bar after 5. Was supposed to meet Steve there to talk about getting my armature fixed, but I was 15 or 20 minutes late, and he'd been there and left. I thought he was going to stay and drink for a while.

Drank and chatted with Lou for a while, and with Doug and Dan and Tony for a few minutes. Lou is pretty interesting; he's a high-powered vascular surgeon, and is finishing up some medical research that he's going to publish. He lived and worked in Argentina for 10+ years and Chile for several years and Mexico for a couple of years, and speaks fluent Spanish. He bought his boat near NYC in 2003, cruised down the ICW, and stopped in St Augustine FL for a couple of days. He met a woman, they started living together, and he ended up spending 2 years there. They broke up, and he started cruising again. He's heading down to Martinique and then across to the ABC islands and then to Cartagena.

Lou thought he had figured out the happy-hour thing here, talking in Spanish to the waitress earlier in the day, but he had a nasty surprise when the bill came. Turns out the Monday-thru-Thursday happy hours are less happy than the Friday happy hour, and this is Thursday. So his "grande" rum-and-cokes were full-price, while my "normal" rum-and-cokes were slightly discounted for happy hour (but maybe not as good as on Friday). The bottom line: he had to pay $24 for four "grande" rum-and-cokes; I paid $3 for two "normal" rum-and-cokes. Then he left them a tip on top of that (I wouldn't have). And after he and I looked at the fuel dock for minute to see if he could bring his big boat in to it, he left to go buy dinner at the cafe ! So he's running through a fair amount of money, eating a couple meals a day ashore, and drinking ashore (not that it's any of my business). That's why I tend to eat and drink on my boat all the time, unless I'm with company that wants to go ashore.

Back to the boat and into bed. A bit headachey later; took some pills. Very still evening; screens up to keep out bugs.
  11/17/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

No change in the NOAA weather forecast; swells up to 5 feet for next 4 days or so at least.

Couldn't get Chris Parker's weather again this morning; apparently he's off the air for several days, and his paid subscribers are pretty irritated about that. Especially because this is the time of year (the transition from hurricane season to cruising season) where many people make a big passage.

Small sailboat near me ran a noisy gas generator on deck all day yesterday, and again today. Guy must be sanding inside the boat or something. Makes it uncomfortable to sit outside on my boat; too noisy.

After lunch, dinghied ashore and started biking towards town. Saw Lou coming out of the cafe, then we met Steve. He doubts that the machine shop can do my armature; will have to send it to a company in San Juan, EWCO. Lou is going to walk into town and get a taxi to the machine shop, to see if they can do a genset part for him. So I started walking/biking to town with him.

We had a nice chat on the way, first about piracy and then about women (unrelated topics). He was dismayed at how far away town and the supermarket are, but I had told him it was 2 miles or so. We got to the supermarket at separated; him to find a taxi, me to bike into town and do internet at the library. Did that, biked back to the supermarket to get groceries, and found Lou inside the supermarket. He was told there are no taxi's, which doesn't really surprise me. He did walk into town and use an ATM, then couldn't find the library (I'd loaned him a map, but he'd given it back to me). So I got groceries and biked back, and he got groceries and paid $3 to have them drive him back to the marina.

Dumped 3 gallons of water from jug into aft tank.

A reader emailed me recently about all the time I spend hauling water, and saying he planned to install a watermaker. I have hauled a lot of water recently, because I wanted to tank up before getting into pricey territory. Even so, it's not that difficult to do: just take the empty jugs with you every time you dinghy ashore, and fill them at a dock-side tap. Lifting them up into the big boat is an effort, especially if the boat is rolling. Personally, I wouldn't want a watermaker: they're expensive, a bit finicky, take a lot of power, and really shouldn't be run in dirty harbors. But if you have several people aboard, hauling water might be too onerous. And if you had small tanks and were cruising where water is expensive, the economics might favor a watermaker. You can read more on a section of one of my web-pages: watermakers.

Had a salad, then dinghied ashore and went to marina snack bar for the Friday happy-hour. Had a rum-and-coke and fries and delicious ribs for $7. Lots of cruisers there, including Dave and Annie from "Fidelis"; apparently they've been back for 2 days, and I just hadn't seen them. Everybody else was there: Tess and Eric from ???, Nick and ??? from "Nancy Ann", Lou, Tony, Dan, Doug, Lee, a couple more people whose names I forget. Lou said he's found us a ride to the machine shop on Monday afternoon.

Chatted with Roy and Wanda for a long time. He's ex-career-Army, and they have a son in Iraq. We talked about politics a little, and most of his opinions (delivered at high volume) seemed to end up with shooting someone dead. For example, his solution to illegal immigration across the Mexico border: first time an illegal is caught, paint an "X" on their forehead and send them back. Second time they're caught, shoot them through the "X". Still, it was an interesting conversation. Asked him what his son in Iraq thought about the war, and he said "he's a grunt, he doesn't know anything !" (actually, he's a sniper; but I thought that was a perceptive comment about how much the soldiers there really know about what's going on). He believes civilians are crazy to try to put any limits on the military when there's a war; once you're at war, there should be no limits, no rules.

We talked about cruising the Orinoco river, and other things. They're going to hustle down to Trinidad in time for Carnival, skipping most of the islands on the way because "they've been through them once, so there's nothing more to see". They've been cruising since 1999 or so, on two different sailboats. They used to live in Wilmington NC, and I've cruised there. They lived in San Diego, and my sister's family lived there, and so on. Lots of little things to chat about.

Got 5 gallons of water. Back to the boat by 8 or so.
  11/18/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

No change in the NOAA weather forecast; swells up to 5 feet for next 4 days or so at least. Forecast getting worse, not better. Chris Parker's weather still off the air; he's been at a couple of cruising shows or something.

Gunfire around 7 AM; someone said later that it's probably start of some hunting season, maybe for pigeon.

No genset running today on that small boat nearby ("Mysterion"); the peace and quiet is nice.

Around noon, dinghied ashore, taking laptop along. To cafe and had a long chat with Steve from "Nonsuch" (took me a while to remember his name and boat name). Talked about medicine (he has eye problems), gossip about boaters we know who are in St Thomas now, and politics. Interesting chat. Then I did half an hour of internet ($2), and got a big pile of terrific magazines from the book-exchange shelf. To the dinghy dock and chatted with Dave and Annie there, then out to the boat.

Chatted with Lou on the VHF later; he's been reading one of those Patrick O'Brien books since 7 AM and hasn't been able to put it down. He said "Mattkare" is at Coffin Island, so I guess their engine problem wasn't serious.

Salad and cornedbeef-onion-noodle and a beer for dinner.







  11/19/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

NOAA weather forecast sounds like swells from east will get worse and worse over next 4 days or so.

A little more gunfire around 7 AM; hunting.

Around 8, "Mattkare" and "We Don't Know" arrived from Coffin Island. Saw a dolphin swimming near my boat.

Loafed on the boat all day, mostly reading and listening to the radio.

Opened up the engine heat-exchanger and tried to clean out the raw-water side of it. Top half pretty gunked-up, but I rodded out the tubes with a series of wood dowels of various diameters. Big hose-clamp around heat-exchanger has broken; will have to get a new one.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Added a pint or so of oil to the engine. Ran the engine for 15 minutes to charge batteries and try to flush debris out of the heat-exchanger.
  11/20/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

A little more gunfire around 7 AM; hunting.

Lou called on VHF; he's arranged a second, earlier car-ride to the machine shop, but already has 5 people to fit into a small car, so no room for me. But he'll take my armature for me. Fine with me.

Noisy genset started at 9 on that small boat nearby ("Mysterion"). But it didn't run for long.

Then Nick from "Nancy Ann" came by, and said there is room in the car for me after all. So when Lou came by, I got into his dinghy and went ashore. With Sterling from "We Don't Know", we piled into Nick's car and headed into town. He took a slightly eccentric route, covering an extra mile or so by looping around town instead of just continuing through it. The machine shop turned out to be far out of town, well past biking range.

At the machine shop, the owner couldn't make a genset part that Lou needed in metal, but was able to grind down a bolt-head that will make his temporary fix work better. But no help for my armature; the best he could do was give me info on a company in Ponce that might be able to do it. The shop was interesting, with lots of interesting pieces of engines and transmissions and hydraulics and such lying around.

Then we decided to head off to Walmart in Santa Isabel. We shopped there for an hour or so (the pretty-woman quotient was pretty low today, alas), and the check-out line experience was excruciatingly slow. But we finally got out. Lou had said he might want to buy Nick a drink somewhere, but by the time we got out there was no more talk of that, thankfully. Back to the marina, and Lou had bought so much that I helped him load his dinghy, then Nick ferried me out to my boat. Back by 12:45.

The guys ribbed me a bit because I bought a whole heap of snacks (cheese-curls, about 25 package for $40) and almost nothing else (actually, a water bottle, and a box of latex gloves). But I told them, snacks cost at least twice as much in all the other supermarkets in PR and USVI's and BVI's, so I'm stocking up with 6 months worth while I have a chance. Heck, if I get to another Walmart, I'll buy some more. You have to load up when you get the opportunity.

I chatted with Sterling a bit during the trip. He's on a yellow trimaran with his 12-year-old daughter, and she wants to stop cruising. They came from Key West, through Marathon, then through the southern edge of the Bahamas (Andros, Longboat Cay), to Luperon for hurricane season. He didn't like Luperon much, like many people. Now he's probably heading to St Croix to get a job ashore for a while. He was there years ago when hurricane Hugo hit, with 240-MPH winds (according to him). He's from Lousiana, and has cruised back and forth across the Big Bend between Florida and Alabama about 15 times. He confirmed my understanding that Florida is outlawing anchoring just about everywhere of any interest; the place is getting very hostile to cruisers and liveaboards. He's had crew aboard for many passages, and has had terrible luck with his choice of crew: about 2/3 of them have turned out to have warrants outstanding, and other problems.

Opened up the engine heat-exchanger again and rodded out the tubes some more.

Salad and spaghetti and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran the engine for 10 minutes to try to flush debris out of the heat-exchanger.

Rained suddenly several times during the night. Had to jump up and dash around to close hatches and ports.
  11/21/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

NOAA weather says swells will be down to 3-5 range on Friday and Saturday. Not great, but it might be the best opportunity to leave.

Chris Parker's weather back on the air. Didn't hear much of interest.

Nice-looking blue trawler "Blue Magic" came in and anchored slightly close to me around 9 AM.

Around 10:30, launched the dinghy, went ashore, and got on the bike. Biked the couple of miles into town, to the library. Found a handwritten sign on the door saying "Cerrado de 11:30 - 12:30", and it was locked tight, although I'm sure it couldn't have been later than 11:15. To the supermarket, got groceries (breakfast cereal is cheap here; I'm stocking up), and biked back to the marina. Chatted with Tony and Nancy and Steve near the laundry room for a while. "Fidelis" says they're moving out to the reef area, and may head east on Friday or Saturday.

Out to the boat, and Rob from "Mattkare" swung by to say hello. His engine problem in La Parguera turned out to be "the water pump in the exhaust manifold", which doesn't quite make sense to me. And as he arrived here, his engine "started running rich", so I guess his Westsail 32 must have a gasoline engine (Atomic 4, maybe).

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Met Lee standing up in his dinghy outside the marina entrance, seeing if the wind would blow him in. It was working, but taking too long, so he started the motor and went in. I think he's been out in the sun too long.

Chatted with Lee for a while; he's been here all season, and will be heading to Culebra in a couple of weeks.

To the cafe, and did half an hour of internet ($2). Most armature-rewinding shops I found are in UK or Australia, for some reason; will have to do some different searches.

To the marine store, and bought a hose-clamp for the heat-exchanger ($9). To the marina, and sat reading a book for a while. Chatted with Lee some more, then Lee, Tony and I helped push a sailboat off the fuel dock, against the wind which was pressing it against the dock.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Brief hard rain at 4:30 AM. Heard a few drops and closed the hatches and ports, and a minute or two later it suddenly rained hard.
  11/22/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

Missed the NOAA weather at 6 AM, and not much useful on Chris Parker's weather.

Brief hard rain at 9 AM.

Installed the new hose-clamp around the body of the engine heat-exchanger.

Heard the NOAA forecast at noon; unchanged. Swells 3-5 starting Friday, wind E-SE 10-15 starting Thursday.

Blew hard from the E all day, inside this sheltered harbor. Good day to be in harbor.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Used the book-exchange in the marina, then went to the marine store to look at fuel tanks and fuel line parts. Balked at the $50 price tag for a new tank and connector. Met Steve coming out of the cafe, ducked in there to sign up for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner, then walked to the marina and chatted with Steve for a while, mainly about Venezuela and politics.

I don't know; the more I learn about Venezuela, the more I want to stay away. Sounds like some places are very safe and others are full of gunmen who invade boats and take everything, even all the clothing. One boat here was invaded while in Venezuela, and as the owner started up the companionway carrying his gun, one of the invaders jammed a gun into his face. Four armed invaders, and they took everything. The country is beautiful and has lots of great anchorages and hurricane holes, and doesn't get many hurricanes, but it's not safe.

Rob and Lou came by, carrying Rob's outboard to do an oil change on it. Five minutes later, Rob came back and asked for a lift to his boat to get a socket-ratchet. I had one in my dinghy (with a spark-plug socket on it, in case the outboard won't start), and lent it to him. Sat in a nice shady, breezy spot in the marina and read a fascinating book (by Francis Crick, about consciouness and the brain) for a while. The lady from "Magus" said it's 43 in Miami today, and snowing in Jacksonville; that made us all feel good.

Salad and spaghetti and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  11/23/2006 (Thursday; Thanksgiving)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

Heard a sound-truck (loudspeakers) on the east shore of the harbor at 7:15 AM, blaring out some music and message for 5 minutes or so. They don't have many of those trucks here, fortunately; they were common in the DR. The only word I caught from this one was "quesadillas", so it must have been advertising a restaurant or festival or something.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Blowing fairly hard again this morning. Blew hard from E all day.

At noon, NOAA weather forecast has slid out a day: now says 3-5 swells won't start until Saturday.

At 3, dinghied ashore and went to the cafe for a special Thanksgiving dinner. Chatted for a while with a biker from Nebraska and Steve and Rob and Bob and Lou. Found Rob has a house on a small island offshore from the south tip of the Alaska panhandle, 500 miles north of Vancouver. He used to live in Colona BC, but wanted to move out of city life. About 30 people live on the island.

Around 4, we went inside for salad and bread, and Rob and I ended up at a table together. I thought 35 or more people had signed up for this dinner, and the place would be overflowing, but there are plenty of free seats and I think about 25 people here. Rob and I chatted about various things. I said I'm unsure whether I should go to Venezuela, because he and others keep saying how beautiful the country is on the one hand, and how dangerous it is on the other hand. He thought about it for a while, and said I probably should go there once, to see for myself. It may be a one-time-only experience, the way I think of my stay in Luperon.

By 5 or so, they were serving the main meal, and we got heaping plates of food, with plenty left over. I had a big turkey drumstick, some white meat, stuffing, gravy over top, mashed squash, creamy sauce with onions in it, and some kind of candied yams or something. Delicious ! Pumpkin pie or pecan pie for dessert. We all stuffed ourselves silly; Lou was so stuffed that he was uncomfortable. Chatted with Rob about Canada (he's Canadian), politics, war, religion, etc. Had a nice time. $17 for meal and soda.

Got 10 gallons of water. Back to the boat by 6:45 or so. Some rain at 7:30.
  11/24/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

NOAA weather forecast has slid out another day: now says 3-5 swells won't start until Sunday, and wind will get a slight N component then: NE-E 10-15 Sunday through Tuesday. Maybe I could leave Monday morning.

On email, someone asked what is wrong with 3-5 foot swells, especially if they are long-period. The problems are: NOAA radio doesn't tell you the period, the forecast is for the entire east Caribbean so I don't know if I could trust the forecast anyway, and everywhere I go the swells seem to be short-period, maybe 4-5 seconds, which makes them steep and rough (plus they have wind-driven chop on top of them). Only once or twice I've been out in long-period swells, and they're no problem. But that's very unusual.

Pretty hard rain at 6:30 for a while. Very cloudy and still this morning.

Blowing fairly hard from E by noon.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, and took the laptop to the cafe. Had the place to myself, except for cleaning staff; guess everyone else is still digesting their Thanksgiving meal. Did half an hour of internet ($2). Bad news on rewinding the motor; one place wants all kinds of details before giving a quote, and seems to assume the commutator will have to be replaced.

Heard from Desmond on "Maranatha", and their plans have changed. They had said something about maybe going through the Panama canal and eventually sailing to Japan (boat's in Grenada, and they live in Japan). He just bought a house in Japan. Now they think maybe they'll be cruising 6 months each year, and plan to cruise the Windwards and Leewards again this season, and probably leave the boat in Grenada again next hurricane season.

Back to the boat, relaxed for a while. Saw a pretty girl in a bikini kayaking around, but she was far away. Went ashore again. Biked a couple of miles to the supermarket and got groceries. Back to the marina, and put bike and groceries into the dinghy. Out to the boat and stowed everything.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Emptied 8 or so gallons from water jugs into aft tank. After dark, dinghied in and got 9 gallons of water. I do it after dark here because I'm not sure if they'd try to charge me during the day. I've seen other people take water for free during the day, but why chance it ? Someone ripped down (or maybe it just fell apart) the cardboard "25 cents/gallon" sign since the last time I was here.
  11/25/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at Playa Salinas, Puerto Rico.

NOAA weather forecast is mostly unchanged; NE-E 10-15 with seas 3-5 from today through Tuesday. Supposed to get rougher on Wednesday.

Trawler "Blue Magic" left at 6:30, heading for St Thomas. They washed off their anchor for a solid 5 minutes before letting it aboard their spotless boat. They washed it with a deck-wash hose, raised and lowered it into the water a bunch of times, washed it some more. Amazing.

Added water to batteries and strapped them down. Tried to start engine at 7:30, and not enough battery to start it. Raised first 20 feet of anchor chain and scrubbed it. Tried engine again at 8, and 8:30. Finally got it started at 9:15. Raised anchor and motored out of harbor. Saw a dolphin as I went.

Met Lou in his dinghy outside the harbor, coming in from checking out the reef and ocean, I guess. He says he and Rob (I think) will be leaving Monday. I told him I may be staying two nights out here, and going on Monday too.

Sure enough, as I turned into the wind and got a look at the ocean, I saw some pretty good swells on the horizon, and wind is a bit high. I think I'll wait and leave late Sunday night instead of tonight.

Nosed out and back in through the little pass I plan to use in the middle of the night, to get familiar with it in daylight. Looks good. It's the pass west of Cayos de Barca.

Started to put the anchor down, then raised it and moved forward a little so I can see out a gap between two cays, to see what the ocean looks like. Anchor down at 10:40, inside Cayos de Barca. Engine off at 10:45. Seemed to cool down pretty quickly; I think rodding out the heat-exchanger helped a bit.

Saw another sailboat that came out of the harbor after me; they're heading to anchor inside the pass at Boca del Infierno, a mile or two east of here. I found that pass a bit scary even in daylight; I wouldn't do it at night. No markers, and land is pretty far away, so it's hard to judge your position and make sure you're in the gap between the reefs without seeing the water color.

I'm planning to leave at night because the wind should be lighter than during the day, and because I want to arrive in daylight. My likely destination is the Green Beach anchorage at the west end of Vieques, which is about 45 miles away. My likely speed into the swells and wind is 4 knots, so that's 11+ hours. Leave at 3 AM, arrive at 3 PM, allow 3 hours for possible emergencies or slower speed than expected.

The only possible intermediate anchorage is at Puerto Patillas. Shelter looks mixed, but I'm tempted to stop there anyway just to break up the trip, especially since I have no auto-pilot. It's 15 miles or 4 hours from here, so I could leave here at 7 AM tomorrow, get there at 11 AM, leave at midnight, get to Green Beach at 7 AM. I think I'll do that.

Several local skiffs coming past me, some waking me. This place is more popular (on a weekend) than I thought.

After lunch, launched the dinghy and went snorkeling under the boat. Scraped the hull (not much to scrape off) and the prop (grass and a few tiny barnacles). Looks good. Water pretty cloudy with particles, so I didn't bother trying to go snorkel on the reef. Pretty exposed out there anyway; need a really calm day to snorkel here.

Salad and spaghetti and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine for 20 minutes to charge batteries and make sure engine will start early tomorrow. Still fiddling with refrigerator to keep it from running too much.

Ate too much for dinner; got a bit of a headache and didn't sleep well at all. Little wind at night, which is great for travelling tomorrow, but bad for sleeping tonight.
  11/26/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at Cayos de Barca, Puerto Rico.

Engine started at 4:30, anchor up at 4:45. Eased out through narrow pass in dark, getting into open water at 4:55. Headed SE then E. Making about 4.5 knots over ground. Very little wind, but swells from a couple of directions. A bit of rolling but hardly any pitching, which lets the speed stay up.

Had to dodge around a slow-moving tugboat in the dark; I think he was waiting for daylight to get into one of the passes into Aguirre.

Sunrise at 6:37, but sun quickly behind clouds.

Sailboat came out of Boca del Infierno, about an hour behind me.

Heard Sterling on "We Don't Know" saying they'd moved out of the harbor to scrape the prop, and were going to head to Vieques today. Lou on "Indigo" said he's going to do the whole Salinas-to-Culebra jump (65 NM or so) in one shot tomorrow.

Heard a brief snatch of NPR from St Thomas, but it was quickly drowned out by a Puerto Rican rock station on the same frequency.

Feels strange to be heading into anchorage so early on a nice calm day. I could do a couple more hours, I think. But the next anchorage is seven hours away; can't do that. Have to pace myself; there's also a 5-hour hop to Culebra after that 7-hour hop to Vieques.

Water very clear here; starting to get glimpses of bottom in 25 feet of water.

Anchor down at 8:50 at Puerto Patillas; engine off at 8:55. A light roll here, with occasional bigger roll, but not bad. More space than I expected.

Sailboat that had been following passed by as I approached the anchorage; he must be doing 5.5+ knots. I think my boat is the slowest out here, both sailing and motoring. But I don't push the engine hard, and I think I'm under-propped.

By 11:30, hadn't seen any other cruising sailboats go by. Didn't see any all day. So not many people are taking advantage of this day of the "weather window".

Laid down and closed my eyes and tried to sleep, but didn't really sleep. Too warm and rolly, and I can't sleep in the middle of the day and wired from travelling and worrying about the next passage to come. But it was good to relax and read and eat and not be rolling and steering.

Jet-ski came roaring close by every half hour or so. My boat is the only semi-interesting thing in this harbor, so they keep zooming by.

Decided to leave around sunset for Vieques. I'll arrive around midnight, and have to feel my way in to a strange anchorage (Green Beach) in the dark, which is not a good thing. But this anchorage is almost wide open; the only hazards are the island to the east, and a reef extending to the NW. Should be easy to get into via GPS and depth-sounder, but it's not very protected. But it's the only anchorage in the area.

Around 4:15, half a dozen dolphins in a tight school about 1/4 mile away.

Salad and peanut-butter crackers for dinner.

Unfurled the mainsail, started engine at 4:50, and anchor up at 4:55. Motor-sailed W, then S to get out, then SE and E. Bigger swells than there were this morning, and more on the beam, but the sail is helping to steady the boat a bit. Not getting any drive from it, even though the wind is a bit stronger than it was this morning; the wind seems to be on the nose always. Dodged through a lot of fish-trap floats (in 85 feet of water).

An uneventful trip. Made about 4.3 knots at first (probably 3/4 knot of current against me), then just past Punta Tuna and turning a little ENE, hit a current that took away another half a knot. Slogged NE at 3.8 knots of so for an hour or two before speed built back up to 4.4 knots over ground. No traffic except a tug far in ashore.

Headed toward the west end of Vieques, totally by GPS; partial moon is setting behind me, and it's dark ahead. Keep going and going, and finally I'm back onto soundings, in 80 feet of water. See a white light ahead that I can't figure out, along with some red lights I think are on the west end of the island. The white light seems to keep receding from me; wonder if it's on Culebra, 20 miles away.

Got out a spotlight to use later as I go into the anchorage. Tried to plug it into socket in the binnacle and got a nice spark; guess I need to replace that socket. GPS turned off; for a moment, I thought it had died (I do have a backup GPS), but it had just turned itself off when it saw the low-voltage spike. Turned it back on and it was fine.

Line up a mile west of the island, and furl the mainsail. Turn east and ease in, watching depth and GPS and sticking my head out of the pilothouse to look at the dark bulk of land. There are supposed to be moorings here, so I want to avoid running over one of them, and that white light now looks like it's a big boat anchored here.

Depth gets down to feasible anchoring range, 23-25, with plenty of space to shore. I nose in a little further, finally putting anchor down in about 18 feet of water at 18.06.698 65.34.858, at 11:40. Can't tell if anchor is grabbing; can't see direction of anchor chain. I back down on it a little and call it done. Engine off at 11:45. Lash and stow and shut down everything, and lounge on the foredeck in the cool of night to cool off. Lots of stars, and lots of lights on the E end of Puerto Rico, 5-10 miles NW of here.

That elusive white light is some kind of yard light shining on the base of an old lighthouse or turret or something, ashore on the NW corner of the island.

To bed, and although it was a bit rolly and this caused lots of boat-creaking noises, had several long periods of deep sleep.
  11/27/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at Green Beach, west end of Vieques.

Calm morning, and I can listen to NPR ! Back in civilization ! Looks calmer than yesterday, so the other boats out of Salinas should have a good trip.

I see 6 or 8 mooring balls here, very close in to shore. Far closer than I would have dared go in the dark. Very clear water: with the very light wind, I can see lots of detail on the bottom, 18 feet down. Looks like a nice bit of sandy beach here, and maybe a road ashore. Might be popular on a calm weekend, with boats coming from east end of Puerto Rico.

No sign of that "lighthouse" I saw last night; looks like it's a major power substation, a terminal for an undersea power cable from Puerto Rico to Vieques. Don't see any cylindrical tower like I thought I saw last night.

Engine start at 7:35, anchor up at 7:40 and motor-sailed out. North up to reef, eased across it, then ENE along N shore of Vieques. Went almost to Isabel Segunda before turning NE; should have gone E a little further. There's a pretty good W-setting current in the Sound here. Was a few miles W of Culebra when I arrived, so had to go straight into swells and current for a little while. Into the Ensenada Dakity anchorage and grabbed a mooring at 1:00. Engine off at 1:05.

"Buddy" and "Fidelis" and "Quest" are here; chatted with "Fidelis" on the radio. They're going to St Croix in the next weather window. Judy on "Quest" is flying out of St Thomas for Christmas as I am; will have to chat with her about arrangements.

Finally got some use out of the $140 I spent on an Orinoco WiFi card and Cantenna antenna. Only one weak signal with the 3Com card, but several usable signals with the Orinoco/Cantenna combination. The strongest signals had security on them, but managed to connect to a weaker signal. Uploaded log file and did a bit of email. (Some rust spots on the Cantenna even though it's only about 5 months old.) Had to keep aiming the antenna as the boat swung.

Showered and then relaxed. Ahh: sitting in my undies on my sailboat in a beautiful place, listening to NPR, reading an issue of Scientific American, and eating cheese curls. It doesn't get any better than this !

I stand corrected; it does get better:
A woman on a nearby sailboat took a swim, wearing only thong-panties.

Chicken-onion-rice for dinner. Feeling a bit headachey; took more pills.

By dark, no sign of "Indigo" and "Mattkare". I didn't think they'd make it here in one day; bet they stopped at Green Beach.

Slept very solidly.
  11/28/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity in Culebra.

Chris Parker's weather says it's going to start blowing harder this afternoon, and then 20-25 with gusts to 30 for several days after that. Next possible weather window might be middle of next week; I'll go to St Thomas then. Hope "Indigo" and "Mattkare" make it here soon.

Sail visible at 7:50, coming around the point from the west, but I don't recognize the boat.

Replaced power socket in the binnacle; had to sculpt the new one's mounting holes a little to make it fit. Stitched hole in pocket of one of my pairs of shorts.

Starting to blow harder from NE by 9:30. Still less than 15 knots or so.

John from trimaran "Buddy" stopped by to say hi on his way in to town; I saw him last in Salinas. I've been trying to hail him on VHF, but it turns out he never has the radio on.

Did a bunch of internet. Nice to get WiFi from the boat, even if the signals are a bit flaky.

Small blue sailboat on port side left, going to town, so another sailboat on port side moved closer. The couple on board fiddled with the mooring lines for long time, with the woman coming up on deck and to the bow several times to help. Would have been unremarkable except she was wearing red lingerie: thong panties and bra. She wasn't young or amazingly pretty, but still it was appreciated. So now I have thong-wearing women on both sides !

Blowing 15 by 1 PM, suddenly started blowing 20 at 1:15. Back down to 15 or so by 2:30 or so. Up and down all afternoon.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

No sign of "Indigo" and "Mattkare". Three possibilities: they never left Salinas for some reason, they left and had a problem and went back, or they diverted to Esperanza on Vieques.

Blew 15 to 25 all night.
  11/29/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity in Culebra.

NOAA weather says swells will be building to 8-12 feet over next couple of days.

Lots of big grey clouds in all directions. Rain at 8 AM. Blowing 20+ much of the time. But a couple of charter-type catamarans went out into it, heading east. I guess they have to get back to base by a certain day, regardless of weather. And better to go today than tomorrow.

Wind howling by 10:15, probably sustained 25 a lot of the time, and still boats are leaving the harbor. Maybe I'm a wimp, but I'd have to be very motivated to do that. It's rough out there.

No usable WiFi signal all morning.

Woman on port-side sailboat is wearing a black thong bikini today.

Got connected to internet for only about 1 minute flat, but managed to upload my log file in that time.

Salad and spaghetti and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind blew very hard all night, probably 20-30 with gusts approaching 40. Didn't get good sleep, lying there wondering if the mooring will let go and put me on a lee shore. Should have lowered my anchor as "Fidelis" has done, even though we're on moorings.
  11/30/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity in Culebra.

Still lots of grey clouds and lots of wind.

This is getting a little tiresome, just listening to radio and reading all day long, while wind blows and blows. Wind is supposed to start easing on Friday night.

But there's one ray of sunshine: today the woman on the port-side sailboat is wearing a white thong bikini !

Shit ! Suddenly, at 9:40, the thing I'd been worrying about actually happened: heard a "chunk", boat started swinging a little wider than usual, and I ran up into the cockpit to find that my mooring line (my line, not the mooring's pennant) had chafed through ! I'm adrift, and there's a hilly lee shore 100 yards downwind. Tried to start engine, and no-go. Dashed up to the bow and let down the primary anchor, and stopped the boat halfway to shore. Lowered the second anchor too in case the first dragged. Back to the cockpit, and the engine started after a little more cranking. Safe !

Looks like the mooring line I was using was just soft, and the polypropylene pennant on the mooring ball chafed right through it. I checked for chafe yesterday evening, but not when I got up this morning.

Let my heart-rate settle down, and considered my options, and decided to move over to the windward side of the harbor. So I hoisted up the secondary anchor and its rode, then the primary. A bit tricky in strong wind with a lee shore behind, motoring forward 20 feet and then dashing to bow to pull up 10 feet of chain, cleat it again, back to helm to get motoring again before anchor can start dragging. Left both anchors dangling off the bow and motored out, with one last regretful look at the lady in the white thong; she was doing something up on the bow of her boat.

Across the harbor and anchored at 18.17.967 65.16.711 by 10:20. Now I can drag 3/4 mile before hitting anything.

What really bothers me about this episode is that I've done similar things a couple of times before: sat in some situation thinking "you know, if X happened, it would be very bad" and then not doing anything to prevent that from happening or leave that situation. Could have cost me the boat this time.

Got usable WiFi connection for 10 minutes or so, then it was gone again.

Chatted with Judy on "Quest" on VHF. She's over by town. She'd rather be back on a mooring in Dakity, but in this wind she's afraid that if she raised the anchor, she'd blow back into another boat before she could get back tot he helm and motor away. Turns out we are flying out of St Thomas on the same day; we'll have to see if we can coordinate trips.

In the late afternoon, weather seemed to be calming a bit. Periods of 5-10 knot wind, punctuated by occasional gusts of 20-25. Did more internet, but wind is gusting and shifting often, making boat slew around so much that the WiFi connection keeps breaking and reconnecting. Have to hold the antenna out of the side of the pilothouse and keep aiming it in various directions to try to keep connected.

Armature-rewinding place on the internet says $400 to rewind and put in new commutator on auto-pilot motor. New motor (but wrong RPM) costs about $150, so I'm going to keep looking. I've been told about a couple of rewinding places in St Thomas, so I'll go to them when I get there.

A bit of a roll here sometimes; swells are bouncing in through the break in the reef, even though open-ocean swells are from the E and the harbor opening is S of me.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

After dark, weather got stronger again. Long periods of strong wind and horizontal rain all night.
  12/1/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Still solid grey low clouds and lots of wind, with periods of very strong wind and horizontal rain.

Engine wouldn't start at 9:15. And more horizontal rain.

A little after 10, started engine and raised anchor. Motored up to town, and anchored by 10:40 at 18.18.315 65.17.798. Let engine run for another 15 minutes to charge batteries.

Several WiFi signals, but none usable.

After lunch, launched the dinghy. Very rough water and strong wind. Had to spray starte fluid into carb to get it started, after a week of non-use. Went ashore; too rough to even stop at "Quest" to say hello as I went past. To the book-exchange at the gift shop and exchanged a heap of books for a bigger heap of books. To the ferry dock to check out the scene; not much happening. Wind howling through the streets. To the school, and found out they don't have internet in their library; Steve had said they did. One grocery store closed until late, but got a couple of groceries at the other store. No bananas. Back to dinghy, and rough ride out to boat.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Calmer in the late afternoon, but then windy and some rain during the night.
  12/2/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Still very windy and fairly cloudy.

Got a WiFi signal for less than 5 minutes.

Dinghied ashore after 9. Exchanged a couple of books at small book-exchange, got onions at one grocery store, milk at the other. No bananas anywhere; I like to have a PB-and-banana sandwich for lunch every day. Back to boat through very rough conditions.

After 10, started engine. Tough to raise anchor in very windy and rough conditions. Motored E and anchored by 10:35 near E shore at 18.18.336 65.16.977. "Fidelis" is over here.

I'm swinging a little close to a no-wake marker, and a DRNA dock; I thought I'd get NE and E wind, but here's it's a little SE.

Chat with Judy on "Quest" on the VHF; the other day she got so wet on the short dinghy-ride from town to her boat that she's not going ashore any more until the wind eases.

At 12:55, I'm looking forward to hearing "Car Talk" on NPR at 1 PM for the first time in 4 months, when I look out to see Dave and Annie from "Fidelis" coming back from town in their dinghy, and the motor has quit right in the middle of the harbor. They're stuck 3/4 mile straight downwind from the boat, in this wind.

So I do my good deed for the week: I gas up my dinghy, put gas can in the dinghy, launch the dinghy, and head down to them. My only worry is about the reliability of my own motor; we could end up both stranded and blowing downwind to town.

I get to them and offer gas and carb-cleaner fluid, but Dave says it's definitely the float valve, and so Annie gets in my dinghy to handle the tow-line and lighten the load on it, and I tow them back to their boat. All goes well, and I have a nice chat with Annie on the way. Drop them at the boat, back to mine, hoist the dinghy, and listen to the second half of "Car Talk".

Weather slowly getting a little less cloudy, but still lots of wind.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Listened to "Prairie Home Companion" on NPR, for first time in about 5 months.
  12/3/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Still fairly windy (occasionally very windy) and somewhat cloudy. Rained a couple of times during the day.

Added water to the batteries; they needed a fair amount.

Listened to "Car Talk" again, hearing the part I missed yesterday.

Raised anchor at 1:50 and motored over to town. Anchor down at 2:10 at 18.18.295 65.17.948.

Finally got a long-lived WiFi connection ! Found out "Mattkare" and "Indigo" are still in Salinas; don't know why. Did a long internet session.

More and more of my readers have been emailing me, saying I should have a separate starting battery for the engine. Here's why I don't:
1- It's better (for your batteries) to have your daily load drawing all of your batteries down by X%, rather than having half of your batteries sitting idle and the other half being drawn down by 2X% each day.
2- I never really had this engine-starting problem before. So something has changed: batteries getting older, refrig thermostat problem, solar strangeness, using laptop more, something.
3- I'd need a battery combiner or isolator or something (not a big deal), because you don't want to change battery switch from "Starting" to "All" while engine is running (could blow alternator diodes).

I'm tempted to fix the problem in one or more ways:
1- Fix refrig thermostat.
2- Maybe engine starter motor needs lubrication (it did a couple of years ago, but doubt it's really contributing much to this problem).
3- Add more batteries (probably rip out the air-conditioners to make room for the added batteries) but still run them as one big bank.
4- Add a wind-generator, to get power at night some of the time.

Salad and spaghetti and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley but he got away.

Fairly calm night; wind starting to ease a bit.
  12/4/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Up at 5:30 and into the dinghy at 6. Through the canal to the other side of town, to the ferry dock, to catch the 6:30 ferry. As I got out of the other end of the canal, the outboard started misfiring, running very badly; one of the two cylinders must have stopped firing. Made it to the dock and tied up. No time to investigate it now.

$4.50 for a round-trip ferry ticket to Fajardo. Joined Dave and Annie from "Fidelis" and Judy from "Quest". We yakked all through the almost-90-minute ferry ride. Pretty big swells from the NE, but the wind is down today. This is supposed to be a short lull in the weather before the wind picks up again.

A guy came over and introduced himself to me; he's from "Carousel", and nice trimaran anchored next to me. Turns out he's semi-retired, but he and his wife run the boat as a charter boat, and have a couple of houses on Puerto Rico, and she has a job on Puerto Rico. So they sound pretty busy to me. He's been to Venezuela, so I pumped him for info about there. He said something like you can't sleep at night there; he used to sleep on deck with a .38 under his pillow to be ready for armed thieves.

To a rental-car place near the ferry dock in Fajardo, where there was a very slow line, and we didn't have a reservation. But after almost an hour, we were through and into a car. They called it one of their "new" cars, although it was a 2005, had 30K+ miles on it, and a few significant dents in the bodywork.

Good thing I had brought a Puerto Rico roadmap; no one else had. We worked our way around the outskirts of Fajardo and onto Route 3, then headed for San Juan. I remember doing this trip 15 years ago when my brother-in-law was stationed at Roosie Roads naval station; back then it was a multi-hour ordeal on narrow roads. Now it's all highway, although there's a lot of slow traffic in some places and plenty of streetlights on a couple of the highways.

Found the computer place that Judy is taking her broken laptop to, and after hanging around for 10 minutes we decided to leave her and come back for her. Thick, slow traffic in the area, so it took a while to drive only a few miles to the huge Plaza las Americas mall and drop Annie off there. Backtracked and Dave and I went to an outboard place. He bought a couple of thermostats for his motor; I thought of buying one for my motor (I think mine is stuck open, making my motor run cool) but the $30 price stopped me. I did buy a new fuel connector that installs into the cowling ($19).

Back to the computer place, and waited 15 minutes while Judy kept calling customer support and getting hung up on; don't know why she has to call from here; the computer store has decided they can't do anything for her. Finally she left and we made the slow slog over to the mall, getting there at noon.

We separated and I did a quick walk through the mall, which is huge and three-story. Had the same experience I've had in other fancy malls since becoming a cruiser: I walk around marveling that there's nothing in here that I want or need (except some of the pretty women).

Met for lunch at about 12:40, and we're all tired and starving. Into Sizzler and had the lunch buffet ($9).

Back onto the road around 2, and I started feeling sick. Headachey and a cold sweat, stomach is too full, tired. Fortunately I brought a traveling pouch of pills, and I take a couple. After a while, we stop for gas and I use the bathroom and get some water from a water-fountain, and feel a bit better. Paid about $15 as my share of car-rental and tolls. Into a shopping center outside Fajardo, and I nap in the car while the others dash into West Marine and Pep Boys and Office Max. Then we go across the highway to another shopping center. By then I'm feeling much better, but I take two more pills to get rid of the rest of the headache. And another trip to a water-fountain helps a lot; I think I'm dehydrated too.

In Walmart, they don't have solar-showers, or the 12V trouble-light I had been idly thinking of buying. I get some snacks. To the supermarket, and there are no decent prices on cereal, so I get some other things. Dave and Annie run into a cruising couple from Brazil (Bob and Isabel) who they met a year or two ago; small world. We give them a ride back to the ferry-dock, fitting 6 people and all their groceries and stuff into the fairly small rental car. I asked them about Venezuela, and Isabel said Puerto la Cruz is safe, the offshore islands are safe, but the coast and the inshore islands are not.

We have to wait about 90 minutes for the last ferry of the day, but I'm feeling pretty well now. So we chat some more; we've done a lot of yakking today, and it's been lots of fun. The others mention the boat I was next to in Dakity (they call the woman the "thong bikini woman"), and it turns out that boat had a Venezuela-invasion story too: in the process of being invaded and robbed, one of the robbers smashed the man in the face with a heavy frying-pan and knocked out half of his teeth; he has a mouth full of "new teeth". That does it: I think I'm not going to Venezuela.

Onto the ferry, and the swells seem a little smaller tonight, but it's hard to tell in the dark. Rained several times during the trip back, but fortunately it had rained itself out (for a while) by the time we arrived. So I got into my dinghy and quickly cleaned the spark plugs as best I could in the dark. Got the motor started and it ran tolerably for a minute or so, then started faltering. By the time we had both dinghies loaded and ready to go, my motor was running badly. I made it around the ferry boat and 1/4 of the way up the canal before it died. So the other dinghy took me in tow. Fortunately, it's a gorgeous night for a tow: calmer than it's been in a week, and no rain (at the moment). So they towed me out to my boat; got home at about 9. Stowed everything and hoisted the dinghy and went to bed.

Around 10, a sudden rainshower caught me with hatches and ports open; had to dash around closing everything. Then it rained about every 30 minutes or so all night, sometimes with a fair amount of wind.

Sprayed then squashed a cockroach in the galley. Mashed a couple of tiny bugs; not sure if they were cockroaches. Put out some boric acid powder.
  12/5/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Wind starting to pick up again; probably 15-18 this morning. Weather forecast says swells are about 5-6 today, which is a little too big for my taste. Swells will be up to 6-9 soon, so I think I'll be here another week.

Launched the dinghy at 8 and cleaned the spark plugs. Top one was clogged with lots of oily carbon; bottom one had lots of dry carbon. Cleaned them and started the motor and ran it hard for a while, getting some chunks of carbon out of the exhaust. Still ran slightly rough. I could see that if I don't hold the fuel connector on tightly, the gas level in the inside filter housing starts falling.

Dave stopped by at 9 to say they were moving back out to the Dakity anchorage, and wanted to make sure I wasn't stranded on the boat with a non-working dinghy. Very thoughtful of him.

Cleaned engine intake strainer; it was completely full of seaweed.

Did some internet. Found out why "Mattkare" and "Indigo" are still in Salinas: "Mattkare"s engine is "shot" (don't have any details), and Indigo's electric anchor windlass is burned out.

Wind shifting more to ESE. VHF weather says swells 4-6 today and 4-5 tomorrow; could be possible to go to St Thomas, maybe.

Back out around 11 and cleaned outboard spark plugs again; the top one was fairly oily after just the running I did earlier this morning. Looks like the new fuel connector I bought is not an exact match for the old one; may have to buy a short new length of hose to make it fit.

Heard "We Don't Know" faintly on the VHF; they must be in Vieques or near there.

Heard Paul on "Bare Necessities" coming in, and chatted with him on the VHF a little later. He says it's really nice out there, that the big swells are only on the north side of the island, the sound is very nice. But he was coming downwind, not going upwind as I'd be doing. And I don't want to leave yet, now that I have this nice WiFi connection. Tried to call "Fidelis" to ask them how the water looks, but they don't answer.

Did more internet in the afternoon.

Got contact with "Fidelis", and it sounds like the ocean is still a bit rough. And there's a pretty good chop inside the harbor, too.

Cleaned the spark plugs one more time, then hoisted the dinghy. The new fuel connector will connect much better; I just have to get a longer piece of hose inside the cowling.

Rained hard a couple of times.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries. Just after I started the engine, huge black clouds with some lightning hovered over us, and soon a drenching rain was pouring down. Almost no wind; in fact, we slowly did a 270 or so and then back again. Rained very solidly for 30 minutes or so.
  12/6/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Culebra.

NOAA weather at 6 AM says swells are 5-7 feet and will be through Saturday, then 7-9 on Sunday. But the forecast area is large, so maybe things are calmer here. I don't want to go to St Thomas yet; it's rolly there, but calm and WiFi here. So I'll stay a while longer.

Light wind until 8 AM, then started picking up a bit. Blowing 20+ by 11 AM.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Bummer: couldn't get a WiFi signal today.

Spliced the mooring line that chafed through.

Salad and spaghetti and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries. Took the opportunity to motor forward and put down the second anchor; I'm hearing of strong wind coming on Sunday.
  12/7/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Spent the day WiFi'ing and reading and listening to radio.

Gave myself a major haircut. It's a project: have to run an extension cord from inverter to head, assemble the clippers, cut the hair, then go on deck without getting hair everywhere, and take a solar shower. Then clean up and put everything away.

Judy stopped by and said she spent an hour on hold yesterday trying to get Toshiba to take her dead laptop back, and it cost her $5 even to an 800 number.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for 20 minutes to charge batteries.
  12/8/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Got a little WiFi in the morning, but then nothing.

Judy came by to give me a magazine, and to say she might go to Culebrita soon.

John from "Buddy" stopped by to say he probably was going to St Thomas, maybe tomorrow. Last night a powerboat moored close to him and started blasting music at night; he blasted talk radio back at them. Then at 1:30 they came back from town totally drunk, and another music-fight ensued. So at dawn he got in his dinghy and took the cover off the outboard and revved it up loudly right next to their boat until he'd woken them all up, and they yelled at each other for a while.

Dinghied ashore after lunch; outboard ran tolerably. Saw Judy at the dock. Did book-exchange and got groceries. One grocery store was closed but the other was open. All of their bananas were really skanky: every single one had split-open peels, many with bruises. Bought two of the least-damaged. Still surprises me how hard it is to get bananas in many places in the islands. Back to the boat, hoping the outboard would keep running okay. Got back, and took the plugs out, and they looked okay. But the motor still is running slightly roughly. Maybe I'll buy a new motor in St Martin or somewhere.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  12/9/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Several bursts of rain and wind from 6 AM to 8 AM.

No WiFi today.

Loafed and read and listened to radio. Heard "Car Talk" and "Prairie Home Companion" and lots of other good stuff.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  12/10/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at Culebra.

No WiFi this morning.

Blowing pretty hard by 10:30. Blew hard all day. Lots of whitecaps and stiff chop in the anchorage.

Salad and chili and rum-and-coke for dinner.

In the middle of the night, killed a cockroach and another bug in the galley.
  12/11/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at Culebra.

NOAA weather says swells are up to 9 feet today; will be 7 feet later in the week. But long-period.

Couldn't get any WiFi all day.

Did a small bucket of laundry.

Around noon, lots of cloud and wind and some rain. Cloudy much of the afternoon.

Found the fuel-hose I need to install the new connector in the outboard; thought I had one on board.

Cleaned up some diesel-y water in the engine compartment. Tightened fan belt. There has to be a better way of adjusting the tension than this standard sliding alternator bracket.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Ran engine for 25 minutes to charge batteries.

Killed a couple of cockroaches and a couple of other bugs in the galley during the night. Now it's war.
  12/12/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Lots of wind and rain at 5:30.

Launched the dinghy and installed the new fuel connector. The work was easy except for forcing one end of the new hose up onto the internal fuel filter; that required a lot of force at an awkward angle. Got it on far enough to clamp, and it didn't leak.

Dinghied ashore around 9:45. Motor ran okay but still won't throttle up as far as it should; it starts choking. But at least I don't have to hold the fuel connector on with one hand as I go along.

Used the book-exchange and got some bananas. Chatted briefly with another cruiser, but his deafness made it a little hard. He's been down to Grenada and liked it.

Saw a big storm coming, and got back to the boat 5 minutes ahead of it. Stowed everything and hoisted and lashed the dinghy, then watched a wall of rain come across the harbor. Squall with 30+ knots of wind and tons of rain hit at 10:30, then another 20 minutes later, and another 30 minutes after that. By noon the clouds were starting to thin and some sunshine came through.

VHF weather says swells are 5-7 feet for next couple of days.

Still no WiFi.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain and wind a couple of times around midnight.

No bugs in the galley during the night.
  12/13/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Culebra.

Listened to weather forecasts and decided to go to St Thomas today (VHF says small-craft advisory and strong wind tonight; Chrsi Parker says moderation predicted for weekend may not appear). But since I didn't run the engine last night, it won't start this morning. Tried at 8:30 and 9:15, and there's just not enough power in the batteries. Irritating: I hate getting a late start. Brought up 30 feet or so of each anchor rode to save myself work later.

At 10:15, engine started. Anchors up by 10:30. Motored down the harbor, and raised the mainsail.

As I got to the harbor entrance, saw that "Quest" is in the Dakity mooring field; so Judy didn't go to Culebrita as she'd been planning to. Tried to call her on the VHF but no response; a little later I saw her on deck and hoisting the dinghy.

Pretty rough as I got outside the reef; maybe it will sort itself out and calm down a little further out. But I doubt it. I'm losing about 1.5 knots to seas and wind, making just over 3 knots over water. A long slog to SE down the channel.

As I turned past the last reef-buoy, I heard catamaran "Legacy" coming out behind me, and talking to "Quest"; sounds like she's coming out too. And she said "Fidelis" left this morning, for St Croix, I think. A little later, "Legacy" was telling her that's it's not bad out here, but they're crazy. It's rough out here, with big long-period swells from ENE and smaller short-period swells from ESE, wind and wind-blown chop from E, and I'm heading just slightly N of E. Wind probably 15 or so. Boat motion is more up and down and side-to-side than forward. I'm happy when I can get over 3 knots over ground. It's ugly.

A long, slow, rough, slogging trip all day. Speed usually varying from 2.7 to 3.2 knots. At this rate I'll get in right at sunset. Too rough to read much; it would make me sick. So I listen to the radio much of the time.

As I approached the west end of St Thomas, rain-squalls with some wind started coming off the island every 20 minutes or so. Since there wasn't too much wind, I kept the mainsail up and kept going, hoping the sail wouldn't get damaged.

"Legacy" slowly overtook me, far to the south, and I lost sight of them. "Quest" still pretty far back, and to the S.

Getting protection from the island by 3 or so, and inside the reefs by 4:30 or so, and the boat motion improved each time. So did the speed; getting close to 4 knots now. "Quest" slowly catching up from the SW.

A surprise as I neared the airport area: an island I don't remember from the last couple of times I was here. It's just outside the area of the detailed chart I have. A bit disconcerting.

Neared the anchorage, and one last huge squall comes through. Fortunately it passes before I have to stop and go on deck.

Got the mainsail furled easily. Took a pass around the Honeymoon Bay anchorage to look for shallowish water, but it's pretty full. An empty spot in the middle, but it's 28 feet deep. So I find some 17-foot water a little further out, less sheltered from the swell but safer. I see "Quest" passing to the south of me, heading further east to the main harbor, as I finish anchoring. Finished at 5:30 at Honeymoon Bay.

Back in cruise-ship territory; there's a cruise ship at the Crown Bay docks. Saw one all lit up out in the ocean south of here after dark. Going very slowly, probably taking much of the night to go 60 miles to San Juan.

Cheese-and-crackers for dinner. A shave and shower made me feel better, but I'm still pretty wired from the trip.

Killed a couple of bugs in the galley in the middle of the night.

Never did get the increased wind that the VHF weather forecast predicted for tonight. Maybe that was it during the squalls during the day ?
  12/14/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Could barely get a WiFi signal using my Cantenna and Orinoco card; very tenuous, and every swing of boat made me lose signal. Changed back to 3Com card with its mostly-omnidirectional antenna, and it worked great. Did some internet. Heard "Quest" call "Fidelis" on VHF, so "Fidelis" must have come here instead of going to St Croix.

Launched the dinghy. Went around the corner to the ferry dock, and used the book-exchange there. Then a long, slow, upwind ride up and across the harbor to Crown Bay Marina. Outboard kept going. Lots of boats in the anchorage, but the dinghy dock wasn't as crowded as I've seen it sometimes.

Took the auto-pilot motor armature to two alternator/motor places, and both said they couldn't do it. One suggested looking for a used motor on EBay. There's one more place on the island, but they are farther away. Guess I'll take it to NJ and try there. I may have to buy a new, higher-RPM motor and hope it works.

Found a nice hose-clamp on the sidewalk, then to the marine store and bought a couple more (I used up a couple on the outboard fuel hose). To the supermarket, then had to wait 15 minutes under an awning while it rained hard. Back to the marina, got $10 of gas at $3.39/gallon. Then an easy downwind trip back to the boat.

Blowing harder at noon today than it was yesterday. While hoisting the dinghy, it started swinging pretty dangerously; could damage the davits. There are a lot of swells and wakes here. And VHF weather said small-craft warnings today.

Did a little more internet in the afternoon. Four charter-type boats came into the anchorage, some during a pretty strong rain-squall.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Cruise ship left the Crown Bay docks and went out to sea, passing about 1/4 mile west of me. Like a slow-moving city, shaped like a brick. Lots of people lining the deck-rails, and as usual a few taking flash pictures of the island/ocean scene at dusk.

Killed a couple more bugs in the galley during the night.
  12/15/2006 (Friday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Blowing like stink today.

Did some internet in the morning. Then anchor up at 11:40 in boisterous conditions, boat yawing wildly as the wind is gusting and swerving. Motored upwind through Crown Bay, then did the tight passage through Haulover Cut. Greeted by a squall as I got into the main harbor. Not as many boats anchored as I'd feared; tonight is the Christmas boat parade, so I thought it might be jammed here. "Fidelis" and "Quest" and many boats I've seen before are here. Got the primary anchor down fine, but second anchor tangled with first for a little while. Got it down and finished by 12:35 at Charlotte Amelie.

Rolly here, as usual. St Thomas generally has lousy anchorages. Three cruise ships at the dock.

Got a WiFi connection for 15 minutes or so. It disappeared about the same time that a megayacht left the harbor; the signal might have been coming from that boat.

Chatted with "Fidelis" briefly on VHF. Nothing much of interest.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Only about 4 lighted boats in the harbor, moving around but not in an organized parade. Lots of competing music blaring from land.

A bit headachey, and it's rolly and noisy here; slept fitfully. Reading a huge Tom Clancy novel, which is a real page-turner. His usual effort: the good guys (the military) eventually triumph over the bad guys (terrorists and the media and the State Department).
  12/16/2006 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas, USVI.

Couple from "Alborada" next to me stopped by on their way ashore; the guy remembers my boat from Marathon and Ft Myers Beach.

Launched the dinghy. Checked the spark plugs; they were good. Pumped up the tubes.

Half an hour later, the guy from "Alborada" was back, saying that he couldn't get his anchor up, it was hooked on something strong, and did I know of a diver in the harbor.

Dinghied ashore. Checked out some shops and an internet cafe. Found a bakery and bought a pastry (very expensive) and bread. Asked about taxi or bus to the airport. The bus is cheap but won't let you take luggage, so it has to be a taxi.

Met Dave and Annie on the dinghy dock. They wanted to hop on a bus and sightsee around the island. I was willing, and had a tourist-type bus map, and we started flagging down busses. But the bus system is FUBAR: the drivers have such thick accents that they're hard to understand, the destination signs they show sometimes aren't right, there are no printed route maps or posted route signs, and the route numbers on the busses are completely different from those on my map. So I left and went to read my book and eat my pastry in the park for an hour or so.

Into the dinghy, and out to the boat, intending to raise anchors and head back to Honeymoon Bay to get out of this rolly harbor. But I stopped by "Quest" to say hi and tell Judy about transport to the airport, and she invited me to her boat tonight for an "eat all the food before she flies out for Christmas" party. So I'll stay another night.

Listened to "Car Talk".

"Maker's Match" came in and anchored around 2:30. Last saw them in Luperon a year ago; they've been down to Venezuela.

Not able to get a usable WiFi signal today.

Felt a bit headachey in the late afternoon, so took some pills. Not quite as rolly as it was yesterday, or else I'm getting used to it.

Salad for early part of dinner.

At 6, went over to "Quest". Soon the boat was overloaded with visitors. Dave and Annie from "Fidelis", Chuck and Terry (?) from "Maker's Match", Dave and someone from someboat, Pete from a Morgan sailboat, John, someone and Trixie/Pixie from "Silver Sea", and Judy and her cat and dog. We were kind of jammed around the small cockpit area, with a person or two in the cabin and one or two up on deck. Nice food, with egg-nog, chunks of grilled bratwurst, various kinds of dip and crackers and nuts. Lots of talk about shared acquaintances. At one point, the cat got spooked and fled up the companionway into the cockpit, landing in some of the food trays sitting up there.

Chuck of "Maker's Match" told me that he'd been reported dead on the SSB radio nets. Apparently, a boat with a similar name to "Maker's Match" had been in the same general area, and the guy on board had died. A week or two later, someone confused the two boat names and said the guy on "Maker's Match" had died, and someone who knew Chuck reported his death on a radio net. So for a month or two afterward, he and his wife were running into acquaintances who were amazed to find him alive and well.

Chuck loved Venezuela and the rest of the S Caribbean; they're going right back as soon as possible. Sounds like they came up here mainly to get cheap flights back to the USA for Christmas.

Turns out Dave and Annie caught a bus today and it went mainly to the shopping centers in the NE part of the island. But they had a good time.

But after a couple of hours of chatting, my headache was coming back, so I excused myself early and went back to my boat around 8. Hoisted the dinghy in the dark with the boat rolling a bit, took a couple of pills, and went to bed. Slept pretty solidly.
  12/17/2006 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas, USVI.

Saw a diver at "Alborada" around 8 AM. When I looked over at 9:30 or so, the boat was gone but a fender was left floating there. So I suspect they couldn't get the anchor up, tied a float to it, and went sailing. Or else the diver left a float tied to the obstacle to mark it, so others would avoid it ?

Added water to the batteries; only a couple of cells needed a little.

Raised anchors by 11:50 and motored down the harbor (saw a sea-turtle swimming very close to my boat), through Haulover Cut, through Crown Bay, and to Honeymoon Bay. Finished anchoring by 12:30.

Listened to "Car Talk" again; just as funny the second time.

Did a long internet session.

Listened to "Prairie Home Companion".

Salad and chili and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed 4 bugs in the galley in the middle of the night.
  12/18/2006 (Monday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Did a little internet, but connection very flaky.

Saw a sea-turtle swimming close to my boat.

At 2:30, put the dinghy down and went snorkeling. Swam to shore off the bow of the boat, watching out for high-speed dinghy traffic. Some nice fish; a pleasant swim. Noticed thousands of small barnacles starting to grow on the hull, at least on the port side. Back aboard the boat after 3.

Skiff stopped by to hand me a notice: they'll be filming a movie here in first week of January, so all boats have to move out. Wonder if they'll make people remove their mooring balls ? A lot of the boats here are permanent boats for people working on the big island.

Salad and peanut-butter sandwiches for dinner.

Killed 2 bugs in the galley in the middle of the night.
  12/19/2006 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Loafed all day. Did a little internet.

Got rolly in the afternoon, and continued into the evening and all night.

Backed up the laptop hard disk onto CD-RW's.

Saw a sea-turtle swimming near the boat again.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed several bugs in the galley in the middle of the night.

Read "The Pelican Brief" by John Grisham during the night. The ending is set in St Thomas, not far from where I am. The only part he got wrong is that he writes of "up to 20 cruise-ships in a line, waiting to dock". They don't ever wait; they're scheduled in to dock spaces like airliners in to gates; waiting would cost big money. And I've never seen more than about 5 ships here at the same time, spread across two docks. But I have seen an old picture showing a couple of extra ships anchored inside the harbor.
  12/20/2006 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Raised anchor at 12:50 and motored back over to main harbor. Finished putting two anchors down at 1:40, very close to my old spot at Charlotte Amelie. "Quest" is here but Judy is gone. "Fidelis" is gone; "Maker's Match" still here.

Loafed all afternoon. Some diver-types messing around in dinghies near me, and then they seem to have put down a mooring for "Sweet Karma" a bit close off my bow. I think we'll be okay, but if we swing too close while I'm gone, they'll have to deal with it. I was here first.

Several bowls of salad (to finish the head of cabbage) and a peanut-butter sandwich (to finish the bread) for dinner.

Turned off the refrigerator and started to empty it. Found a piece of ham in the freezer, so fried it up and had it with some parmesan cheese I forgot was in there. Then found two containers of yogurt I'd forgotten about, so ate those too. Good thing I have a strong stomach !

Defrosted the refrigerator, taking out huge slabs of ice.
  12/21/2006 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas, USVI.

First time I've seen this: there's a cruise ship anchored outside the harbor, in the neck of the East Gregorie channel. The docks are full of the usual three ships. A boat is ferrying passengers to shore. Guess Christmas must be prime cruising time.

Took out screws to loosen the thermostat inside the refrigerator, but the wires are short and I don't want to break anything by taking it out all the way. Did my best to read part numbers off the side of it. Sprayed some electronics-cleaner into it and put it back in. Will see if I can find a replacement for a reasonable amount of money.

Dinghied ashore and got rid of four bags of garbage. To internet cafe to use the book-exchange, but pickings were slim. Saw cruise-ship passengers arriving via lifeboats at the waterfront.

Back out to the boat, and stopped by "Sweet Karma" next to me to ask for a ride to shore later. Had a nice chat with Ken; he's a former biomedical guy, did a lot of work in Africa including when HIV first crossed from monkeys to humans, or when it mutated (I'm not sure). He's looking to fix the boat up and sell it. He got hit by hurricane George a few years ago, but what wiped him out was a bunch of looters who came by after the storm.

Back to my boat, and packed and got ready to leave.

At 1:30, Ken picked me up and took me ashore. Got a taxi ($10) almost immediately, and got to the airport about 15 minutes later. A little slow through security, but through to the gate about 90 minutes before takeoff time. I knew I'd be early.

Plane was about an hour late, but flight went smoothly.
  12/22/2006 - 1/7/2007
Boat at anchor at Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas, USVI; I'm in Trenton, New Jersey.

Found solar-showers for $7 at Walmart ! Bought three of them.
Ordered new thermostat for refrigerator ($33).
Ordered Pentax Optio W20 waterproof digital camera ($245).
Ordered LED bulb ($9).
Ordered battery-disconnect switches from Harbor Freight ($16).

Monday: Up to Newark to my youngest brother's place for Christmas day.
Tuesday: To Pipersville PA to my youngest sister's place to help her replace rails in her rail-fence around her 5-acre place.
Wednesday: Other sister's family arrived from Indianapolis.

Camera arrived on 2nd business day after ordering it. The thing has features and settings out the wazoo.

Bought SD card for camera ($15).

Wanted to renew my passport, but it's just too difficult. And will cost $67 plus $30 "execution fee" plus $60 "expedite fee" plus $15 or so for pictures plus $15 or so for overnight delivery service. Total near $200 ! And they confiscate your old passport, leaving you without a passport for a while until the new one arrives. Mine doesn't expire until next November, but I wanted to do it now because some countries don't like to let you in if your passport expires in less than 6 months. Guess I'll bite the bullet and pay the $200 next time I'm in NJ, in July or so. What a pain.

Installed new blinds for my mother. Rebuilt a toilet.

Went to my youngest brother's house and we spent half a day installing insulation in the basement ceiling. Can't get away from fiberglass even in NJ.

Had a horrible headache all the night of 1/2 and the morning of 1/3; it's been building slowly for the last couple of days. In the morning, had cold sweat and paleness and felt faint too. Was feeling so shaky that I had Mom drive me to my dental appointment. Had teeth cleaned ($115). From material the dentist gave me, I think my headaches may be due to TMJ or bruxism (grinding teeth while asleep). Will have to go get a night guard for my teeth and see if that makes any difference (dentist would make a custom one for $300+). The material says you shouldn't read with your head propped up with one hand; I do that all the time when reading in my berth, probably for 2-3 hours each night.

Bummer: although I ordered the thermostat on the 23rd or so, it didn't ship until 1/2, so it will arrive after I leave. Will have to have my brother re-ship it to me somewhere.

Dropped off my armature to be rewound; guy in Trenton is going to send it to some place in Maine. Should have done this last week, but somehow last week melted away. Probably will cost $150 or so.

Surrendered my FL driver's license and got a NJ license ($34). Easier than I expected: not even a vision test or knowledge-test; maybe they grandfathered me in because I had a NJ license 20 years ago ? Didn't do anything high-tech such as thumbprint or retina scan either; just a photo and a signature. They did have a "6-point" identity and address check: had to show passport, FL driver's license, and a bank statement with my new address on it. Lots of people were being turned back because their birth certificates didn't have embossed stamps on them (and they didn't have passports).

Bought a night-guard ($25) for my teeth to combat bruxism or TMJ (although package says on the side "not for TMJ"; I think those are just legal weasel-words).

Mom bought me a new suitcase; the old one looks like the airline guys ran a forklift over it.

LED bulb arrived.

WiFi signal suddenly went away; couldn't do WiFi from home for a day or two. Then I switched WiFi cards, and the signal was there again. Wonder if my newish Orinoco card and Cantenna combination has died somehow.

Had an eye exam ($65) and ordered bifocals ($129) at Walmart. Managed to snap the salt-corroded hinge on my frames when I took my glasses off in the exam, and getting them fixed was a struggle, even though I had broken them right in the optician's shop inside Walmart. Apparently the frames I bought in that very store a year ago are discontinued already, and at first they said they had nothing compatible to repair them with. I managed to find a compatible pair on the wall, and then they found some compatible ear-pieces lying around. So they fixed my frames for free.

Was warm the whole time I was in NJ; not a chance of snow or ice.




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