Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dodging Maria

View of Salinas Harbor from our anchorage.

After the bumps and bruises on the tail of Hurricane Irene, we weren’t too happy about the path Maria was taking. She appeared to be going east and north of us, but we still worried about a south swell after her passing and that’s what got uncomfortable during Irene.

Having just loaded up on food and supplies, we took on fuel and water, then decided to head south and west, away from the projected path of Maria. On Friday Sep 9th, we took in our doubled lines, started the engine, and backed out of the slip for the first time in over two months. About halfway out of the harbor, the engine died. Bad fuel? Leak? What could it be? Oops, the fuel valve past the primary filter was shut during Irene when the marina lost power, to facilitate my bleeding/starting our generator. Forgot to open that one up prior to getting underway! At least we were still in relatively calm water, so bleeding the injectors and getting the engine started again after opening the valve wasn’t TOO painful.

That was the only hiccup on the way south, where we pulled into Puerto Patillas for the evening just after sunset.That is, unless you count the loud karaoke coming from shore until the wee hours. “My Way” in Espanol, anyone? As a result, we slept in a bit on Saturday before continuing on to Salinas. The inner harbor at Salinas was still a bit crowded for our taste, so we anchored in the outer approaches in the lee of the mangroves. We had a calm evening and spent Sunday working on little projects around the boat and reading. On Monday a bit of swell started making it in to our anchorage area while we went ashore with Sam & Janet from Flying Fish for lunch. After our return, we hemmed and hawed about trying to find a spot closer in or gutting it out. We finally decided to head for “Mar Negro”, the mangrove lined inlet just to the east of Salinas. The mouth of the inlet is totally protected by barrier islands and reefs, resulting in pond-calm water about 20 feet deep in the center. There were only a few boats there when we passed on the way west, and that was still the case as we dropped anchor just after sunset once again.

We relaxed amongst the rain-showers and kept an eye on the weather as Maria slowed down, at one point to only 4 knots! We coveted the unusual southwest winds (which would push us back towards Roosevelt Roads instead of having to motor into the winds), but didn’t want to brave the higher seas and rain squalls, so we waited until Thursday the 15th to head out. The seas were down to around three feet, about as good as it gets, and as it appeared a swell was still running into the Puerto Patillas bay, we decided to push on to Roosevelt Roads. The wind, forecast to be SE, actually stayed SE for once and allowed us to raise the sail for the final seventeen miles, allowing us to make better time and sail into the bay by 2:30 PM. We moored at “home” and were cleaned up by happy hour.

The parcel of land that includes the marina has been sold to local government, and will be turned over on October 1. Before we left, the question was whether the marina would be administered by the National Guard or the local yacht club as a tenant. When we returned, we found out the latest news is that the Naval Activity Puerto Rico (official name for the remnants of Roosevelt Roads Navy Base) sent notification that they require ALL tenants to depart by Oct 1, to remain vacant until the National Guard sets up access, security, insurance, etc. – and any property left behind will be considered “abandoned”.

This doesn’t have too much impact on us, as we were planning on moving on by Oct anyway, now we just have a hard deadline. Some of the boats, however, have been here for many years and I’m not sure they’ll be able to move in the next two weeks. Should be interesting!

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