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Ch 27 - Sidetracked

"We've gotta get outta this.  Pull out the chart and see if you can find somewhere to duck in," Cap sounded tired.  He'd been grappling with Ruff Life's wheel for two hours steady.
"RIGHT HERE...a place called La Parguera."
The wind had been kicking Ruff Life's beam since we left Cabo Rojo; and shortly before Cap spoke a terrific downpour had begun:

March 26 - La Parguera, Puerto Rico
"It was cold and the rain pounded so hard it hurt. Couldn't see 100 yards, but Cap slowly picked his way through the coral to the anchorage.  Dropped anchor, heard a shout, and there was Water Witch!  They left at 3 am and got in an hour before us, and the rest arrived within an hour.  Hit town for ice then went to WW for appetizers with Beyond and Chris Myr.  I brought Hummus made from a box, which tasted OK but not as good as Joanie's on Destiny Calls: (smashed chick peas, lots of garlic, Tabasco, oil)."
We'd been heading for Ponce and none of us had planned to stop so soon, but everyone was getting a workout that morning. We lost touch with our sailing friends shortly after departing at 7; but they also lost track of one another in the storm. It was just dumb luck that we all wound up in the same anchorage along the coast, I thought.
"Cap doesn't want to use the generator much since a piece inside broke loose and blew a hole through the housing. We'll probably have to get another one, once we start working. The anchorage is dead calm this morning. There are some little islands covered with trees which pop out of the water, and there's a blimp nearby." 


Ch 26 - Boqueron

After 22-plus hours crossing the Mona Passage from the Dominican Republic, we finally dropped anchor on the west coast of Puerto Rico at 5:30 pm.  Incredibly, we'd spotted the island around 8 that morning, but the strong trade winds working against us turned the last leg of our trip into a marathon.

We anchored in Boqueron, which was recommended as a smaller and more pleasant anchorage than Mayaguez, the nearest metropolis farther up the coastline; but despite what was written in Passages South, when Cap called customs to check in they demanded both of us present our paperwork in Mayaguez; but we could wait until after the weekend.  We hired a publico to take us there and back; and the Customs Officer, who spoke fluent English, was very nice but gave us an earful, complaining about cruisers following erroneous instructions in some book.  We kept quiet.  He also mentioned Ruff Life was allowed to stay in P.R. for 60 days or we'd have to formally register the boat and pay taxes on her value.  We'll be gone, we assured him.  Again, no one mentioned gunsTo continue my journal, which I wrote in the mornings while drinking coffee and waiting for night-owl Cap to wake up:

March 16, 1998 - Boqueron, Puerto Rico
"Mayaguez had stores - Michaels crafts, J.C.Penny's, etc; McD's Burger King, Church's Chicken - even a Denny's!  It's like Florida.  Boqueron is small, lots of tourists but not a real built-up place.  Restaurants, pool halls, T-shirt shops.  No banks, and we're out of cash.  Called Hillary and she's sending our mail via Fed-Ex to Wildflowers, a guest house run by an American couple.  We splurged on dinner - $64 - our eyes popped at the bill since we were thinking exchange rates, but everything's in U.S. dollars, ouch!  At least it was really good."
That first meal out was in Galloway's, a casual bar and restaurant on the waterfront, popular with tourists and still in existence (you can find photos on their page).  It felt like heaven and we understood the menu (except for said prices), which included familiar food. The servers, who spoke English, kept the drinks coming while we lounged in plastic patio chairs for hours, ordering course after course, oblivious to the bill we were racking up. There was music coming from somewhere and they even had a couple of shelves for a small book exchange, which grabbed Cap's attention immediately.  I could live there.

Ch 25 - the Mona Passage

"What do you think they want?"  My legs ached from pushing against the front station like I was playing a pipe organ.  I wedged myself into the corner of the fly-bridge seat, holding the side wall and the back of the seat to steady myself, for hours, since dawn.  It seemed Ruff Life was moving one fathom forward and two back, for the island of Puerto Rico was getting no closer as we wallowed in the waves; and on top of that the Coast Guard arrived, but remained some distance off our starboard side.  They didn't seem to be moving, either.
"They're probably scanning us to see if we're smuggling Dominicans," Cap answered nonchalantly.

"CAN THEY DO THAT?  What about the guns?!"  He wouldn't let me throw them over the side.

"Why don't you go below and see if they're trying to hail us," since our hand-held radio wasn't working.

"I'm not goin' - it's a death-trap down there!"

Earlier when I went to check on things I found poor Czar with his back leg caught in the string from the window blind.  Everything was either knocked over or out of place, and the strap holding the fridge had moved above a corner of the freezer.
"I screamed to Cap to try and keep the boat stable.  The fridge had shifted forward and it was hard to get the strap back on.  I was totally panicked, thinking I would get hurt after all, and by my archenemy, the Norcold!"
The fridge door was swinging back and forth, and the floor was covered with yellow rice.  I released the dog, left things where they were and crawled back upstairs.  Czar was on his own; he was, after all, Cap's dog.  To backtrack a bit:

Ch 24 - The Park

Los Haitises National Park, the Dominican Republic
"What are we supposed to do with all these bananas?"
Cap, wearing a boyish grin on half his face and covered in mud, proudly held up his 3-foot prize.  He and Jeff had spent hours exploring caves in the park, which we were urged to visit as long as we were in Samana.  It wasn't a park in the regular sense and we'd need to take Ruff Life to get there.  From Wikipedia:
 "Los Haitises National Park is located on the remote northeast coast of the Dominican Republic that was established in 1976. It consists of a limestone karst plateau with conical hills, sinkholes and caverns, and there is a large area of mangrove forest on the coast.
"Other parts of the park are clad in subtropical humid forest and the area has an annual precipitation of about 2,000 mm (79 in). The park contains a number of different habitats and consequently has a great diversity of mammals and birds, including some rare species endemic to the island. Some of the caverns contain pictograms and petroglyphs. The park has become a popular ecotourism destination but the number of tourists allowed to visit is limited."
Along with others we were waiting to cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.  The Mona was reportedly a cauldron where the Atlantic and Caribbean Seas smashed together, and everyone talked about it with gloom and doom. Anything to postpone that voyage had my vote.

According to broadcasts we still had several more days to wait for a good weather window, so along with Water Witch we decided to head for the park, which we'd heard was spectacular.  First we stopped in town to purchase our park permit; good for 48 hours and pretty cheap as I recall, 20 bucks or so.

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