Tuesday, April 6, 2010
SEA 9; Sailing to Puerto Rico and a moment of expensive idiocy
I spent a couple days in Samana, DR, where there wasn't too much to see. Two cruise ships per day came in and anchored and left at night, so the town was over-touristed. There were supposed to be some nice waterfalls nearby, but when I asked how much to get there (only 8 kilometers) they wanted $150! Once I realized they didn't mean Dominican dollars I laughed and walked away, I suppose they manage to regularly squeeze that out of the cattle coming off the cruise-liners. I met a wonderful young Dutch couple on an Aluminum 36' sailboat that looked more like a spaceship, called "Seagull". I dined aboard a few times with these gracious hosts and they were also kind enough to give me paper charts covering the rest of the way down the Caribbean. We sailed in convoy to the national park across the bay for a two night stay. We walked the trails together, looking at caves and beautiful mangrove lined creeks under the shadows of forested cliffs (see photo with Lexi and the Dutchman). When we parted ways I sailed the Mona Passage over to Puerto Rico and they began to make their way to the US.
I'm in San Juan, Puerto Rico now. The original plan was to take my time sailing along the southern side of the island and ending up here, but the wind was right for coming straight here, and when sailing alone I don't pass up rare weather that makes my life easier. I catch my flight here to Tokyo for my brother's wedding at the end of the month, so I need to stick around the island for a month. I walked around town the first afternoon which was Easter Sunday. All of San Juan seemed to be outside in the sun, flying hundreds of kites, enjoying the beach and using charcoal grilles.
The next day is where my "expensive idiocy" story begins. I was sitting at anchor with heaviest anchor and 50ft of heavy chain down. In a sudden rain shower I looked out the cabin and noticed I was dragging anchor and was now within 5 ft of a sunken sailboat, whose mast was still sticking up out of the water some 20 ft up. No problem, it happens; I started the engine, pulled up enough chain so that the anchor was hanging above the bay floor, and motored to a new spot. This time I let out more line and really made sure the anchor buried itself snugly into the mud. The local immigration officer now returned my call to explain how I could clear into the island. He explained that I needed to come to the marina so that the officers could board my boat. Feeling very clever, I look my largest Styrofoam float and detached the anchor chain at it's shackle which connects it to more nylon line, then I attached the large float to the anchor chain. This way I could leave all that iron down there and just come back later, grabbing the float and hooking back up, without breaking a sweat getting it all on deck only to have to re-anchor later. As I threw the float in the water, I immediately realized what a stupid move I had made. The float, with all that chain on it, was quickly sucked down to the depths. Hundreds of dollars worth of anchor and chain, resting comfortably in the murky depths of the San Juan bay, 5 fathoms down. I noted my position with the GPS and motored cursing all the way to the marina to clear in. I cleared in without incident and had a nice Dutch Family invite me aboard for a wonderful dinner. Their 3 little blonde girls sang at the top of their lungs along with the "Mamma Mia" movie. I didn't sleep well that night, tossing in my rack trying to think of how the hell to get my anchor back. Luckily I have another lighter anchor, I motored back out in the morning, dragging it around the area hoping to snag the chain of the larger anchor and pull it up. No luck. I anchored on the lighter anchor and dinghied in to the marina, rowing straight up to a dive boat. The friendly Captain Orlando decided to help me for a mere $100, a real bargain.
"You lost your anchor?" "No... I know exactly where it is! It's just not, uh, attached to the boat anymore." He immediately took me back the anchorage, deployed his diver, and had a line with a big orange float tied to my lost anchor chain within 10 minutes of splashing in! What a relief. I gave them a bottle of Dominican rum and the C note, and was on my way, quite relieved. I would have spent a fortune having to replace that gear.
Now I need to make use of my time here by getting my wind generator installed and getting a working stove onboard along with other projects.