Captain's Log, Stardate:

12/16/02

Arrived Puerto Rico!


Hello to All:

It's been so long since I wrote because nothing too exciting has happened.

Mary and I arrived in Trinidad on October 22, spent the next 10 days in "the yard," and then went out to anchor. We rented a car to get around and it was a nerve-racking experience in Trinidad. The 15 minute drive to the supermarket takes you along a road with three NARROW lanes that passes many shops. A "Trini" will drive along the road until he or she needs to stop for some reason, usually to talk to a friend, and then does so. Since there is more freedom in Trinidad than in the United States, there is really nothing to prevent the Trini from stopping opposite a parked car on the other side, certainly no police or highway patrol. What you do is come to a stop and wait for traffic to pass or for the conversation to get boring enough for the Trini to start moving again. Why doesn't this upset the locals? Because they simply pass the parked car even if there is oncoming traffic, on the theory that the oncoming car will squeeze to within an inch or two of the other parked cars. After a week or so of driving in Trinidad, you get tired of all the cars honking behind you because you won't do the same as the locals.

And so it was that Mary and I were on our way to do some "provisioning" one day when I came upon a very tight squeeze. Rather than make a fool of myself, I kept right on going, carefully threading the needle between the parked car on my left and the oncoming traffic on my right. (Keep in mind, we're driving on the left side of the road in Trinidad simply because, as I think I mentioned in a previous email, Napoleon didn't have enough guts to cross the English Channel.) Anyway, I pinched it a little too tight and my passengers' side mirror hit the mirror of a brown car parked--however so briefly--on the left side of the road. Not to worry; Mary simply rolled down the window and pushed our mirror back into its normal position. But as I continued on down the road, it occurred to me that the brown car's mirror probably didn't bend forward as easily as ours "broke away" backward. Oh well, it would have taken 10 minutes to get back to the brown car to see how much damage we did. Indeed it was an old and dilapidated car from what we could see as we sped away.

Actually, the 10 minutes needed to get back to the car was shortened to two minutes as a woman driving an old brown car pulled up alongside us and began screaming something while pointing to her slightly crunched mirror. I thought about how bad it would sound to claim she had parked too close to the driving lane so I suggested Mary take out a US $20, a significant sum of money by Trinidadian standards, and wave it at her. A little later, traffic conditions brought us side by side at a stop light. Mary leaned out the window with the $20 but the woman refused it. I figured she'd go for more. However, she declined it saying she only wanted to bring it to our attention that we should drive more carefully while in Trinidad. She said she too had trouble when she visited a foreign country and knew what it was like to drive on the opposite side of the road to what she was used to. We again offered to pay for the damage and she again refused. I guess that's an "only in Trinidad" story.

Another "only in Trinidad" story, not experienced directly by us, is told by Bob on S/V OohLaLa, friends we first met in Key West in 1994. Being that Trinidad has more freedoms than we do in the US, it's pretty much acceptable to drive while drinking. Yes, it's against the law, but "everyone does it," or many do anyway, certainly Bob has on rare occasion. However, one day when he was out driving with a Stag (beer) in his hand, he came to a stop light and took a snort out of his bottle of beer. After lowering the bottle, out of the corner of his eye he noticed a Trinidadian Highway Patrol car next to him. The cop had already seen the Stag and had him dead to rights. Sure enough, the guy rolled down his window and said, "Heh boy! Yuh know yuh s'posed tah ha' yo seat belt fastened?" Bob looked down at his unfastened seat belt in the same vicinity as his half drunk beer and looked back up at the officer still searching for a defense but cold find none. The cop added, "Yuh know, it's de lah! You betah pull 'round the connah deh so's I can talk witch yuh. When Bob did, the patrolman came to the door, looked in the back seat and said, "Say, you wouldn't hah anudah cold Stag der, would yah boy?" whereupon the two of them downed one together in the hot Trinidadian sun.

From Trinidad, we sailed to Isla Margarita with the Morgan family from California, again via Los Testigos. We caught four small tuna on the way, then went out fishing/sailing from Testigos and caught a single tuna each time. We only saw one shootable lobster in maybe 10 hours of free diving there and he got back into a hole before I could nab him . . . at about 20-25 feet. But fish is better for you, right? And there probably isn't any better eating fish than tuna.

Arriving in Margarita, we found the Bolivar to be around 1300 to the dollar so taxis were even cheaper than last March when we were here. (For example, I paid 8,000 B's for a taxi to take me to the airport, wait for about 30 minutes for incoming crew to get their baggage, and then make the 35-40 minute drive back to the marina. I gave him a 25% tip which brought the total to $7.70.) Gasoline at a station is 17 cents/US gallon. Diesel fuel is 29 cents/gal delivered to the boat. Pepsi costs 57 cents per 2 liter bottle although Coke is a little more. After heavy provisioning at such reasonable prices, we repeated last year's sail to beautiful Isla Blanquilla and back, this time with the Jacobsen family.

No shootable lobster--all too small--BUT on the way back to the West end of Margarita, about 3 miles out, we hooked and landed a 43 LB tuna! I thought it was a yellowfin at first because it had yellow dorsal and ventral fins and yellow finlets. However it did not have the big sweeping top and bottom fins that a yellowfin should have. When we got to Puerto Rico, we bought a new fish book containing more fish (for more money). Now we are convinced it was the fairly rare "big eye" tuna (world record-435 LBs). We were trolling a seven inch "count down" (or "diving") red headed Rapala at the time, doing 9.5 kts on a beam reach. But we were also doing something differently from normal. Our pole is mounted in a rod holder some 5 feet above the water and is angled upward (to keep it from falling out of the holder) so the line is being trolled from about 9 feet above the surface. From that angle, the Rapala has to dive down as far as it can while being pulled upward relentlessly by the pole. So Bruce and I rigged our poor man's downrigger: a small pulley tied to a grab handle down low on the swim steps, about a foot off the surface. Thus the pulley was towing the line from about 8 feet lower or perhaps 15 feet deep. The fish had two FLYING fish in its belly already that probably had been there for no more than an hour or two judging from how they looked. "Hard to believe something that big could ever get off the ground," right? Interestingly, one was swallowed head first and the other tail first. I had thought they always swallowed their prey head first. Maybe its eyes are so big . . . because they're so bad.

Then it was time to head for Puerto Rico, some 490 statute miles to the North, on December 4 with another branch of the Jacobsen family aboard. Winds were supposed to be getting stronger and backing from the East to NE. Keep in mind there is about a two knot E to W current so when the wind is straight out the east, you're not really on a beam reach so much as a close reach. That is, the wind isn't really hitting the boat perpendicular to its heading; more like coming from 70 degrees off the bow. So a NE wind would have put it almost directly on our nose. Ugh. But after we got out from Juangriego (on the NE tip of Margarita) a few miles, it actually clocked to 100 degrees mag, about 88 true, and ranged from 10-25 kts the next two days and nights. We could have laid St. Croix very easily but I was fearful of the forecast swing to the NE (our course would have been 020 degrees so we would have had to be "hard on the wind," not a pretty picture), and our guests had to catch a plane, so we made as much "easting" as we could. In other words, we went out of our way to the east simply because . . . we could. In the end, we could have made landfall at Montserrat, about 70 miles out of our way) but since it was dark after some 45 hrs of sailing, we fell off the wind a bit and came into St. Christopher (St. Kitts) at about 3 a.m., after 51 hours at sea.

We stayed a day there (without checking in) and enjoyed some spectacular snorkeling but again, no lobster. I guess we'll have to go back to the Bahamas or Cuba for lobster. We headed for PR at 6 p.m. and sailed for another 23 hours before we landed at Culebra, a small island west of Puerto Rico (where we heard checking in with US Customs is a breeze). Unbelievably, we flew the spinnaker all of the next day. I'll bet not many can claim that on a passage from Margarita to PR, eh? "Luck has nothing to do with it; it's all skill." Yeah, right. But we did catch three more fish on the three day passage. Nothing remarkable: two tuna and a good sized kingfish. Except for 25% of the crew being seasick during the first two days (no one fed the fish anything but artificial lures), the passage was really nice with an average speed of 7.9 kts for the three days. We would see no ships for 20 hours at a time, waves ranged from 4-8 feet, 100's of flying fish (including three that misjudged their landing approach, landing on deck instead), the night sky was, well, astronomical, sunrises competed with sunsets for their beauty, and the sea itself was, as Eric and I had remembered from last year's Atlantic crossing, gorgeous. Best of all, we got a 20 minute dolphin escort on the way to Culebra from St. Kitts! Life's not too bad when you can be watching these playful creatures from just six feet away. In fact, this particular escort was a cut above the "normal" in that probably a half dozen times, one or two would jump out of the water, clearing it by 3-4 feet a mere 10-20 feet in front of our front row seats on the bows.

We still have a few holes in our schedule during February and March, which you can view at www.escapecay.com if you think you might need a break this winter. Mary and I prefer sharing the sunsets with others so if you'd like to get a tan AND have a little adventure, just click "reply" and let us know what appeals to you. Also, our cell phone in PR and the USVI, 787-354-1379, will work until about February 1, 2003.

If you are getting two copies of this and only want one (or are getting one and don't want any) just click reply and type "Remove" in the subject line.

Hope all is well with you and your family and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

~~_/)Lee & Mary~~~~~~~~~_/)_/)~_/)_/)~~_/)~~~~_/)
S/V Escape Cay