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 guns. To continue my journal, which I wrote in the mornings while drinking coffee and waiting for night-owl Cap to wake up:
"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."
We did, for 11 days. At first, the anchorage in Boqueron was full of sailboats yet empty of life; except for 4 dogs on a teeny boat whose owner, I later learned, ran a one-woman crusade to rescue Satos, or strays. There wasn't another trawler in sight.
"Most of these boats are unoccupied right now. No one we know, except for Double Eagle. His Dominican crew member was forced to go back by the Coast Guard, even 'tho he had traveling papers. There are more dogs here, and we spotted another collie in town behind a tall metal fence. I wondered if it was a female...at least Czar could earn his keep."
A small colmado was just off the main plaza and the first time we stopped, Czar and I waited outside while Cap ran in for the groceries. It was about 9 in the morning and I was people-watching while Czar sat alongside me beautifully. In my memory the plaza had a circular path snaking beneath lovely trees, no idea what kind. Benches and trash receptacles were scattered about. Despite being early the sun was hot, and a few men already had beers in hand. One or two were still sleeping.
Younger men, working or hustling, greeted each other with words I was finally beginning to understand; a shopkeeper swept in front of her store. It was a beautiful morning and I felt relaxed, and relieved to once more be under the protection of our U.S. government. No more being pinched for dwindling cash under threat of official action.
(Photo note: everyone wanted their picture taken with Czar; coulda made a fortune over the years. Here's Erika from Germany, traveling solo around the world by selling her hand-made jewelry, more in a future chapter.)
While we waited I noticed one bedraggled man staggering towards us or the colmado, I couldn't tell which; but as he neared he stretched out his arm towards me. I wasn't sure what to do or expect so I remained motionless, as did Czar, even when the man firmly but gently gripped my forearm to maintain his balance, mumbling something in Spanish. We stood thus connected, staring at one another for a few moments until a young man came up and led the man away so tenderly I was ashamed of my unwarranted fear. The Ugly Americana.
"Some watchdog! He's useless!" I barked at Cap when he came out, adding, "I thought you said he was a good protector."
"He is; if you were really in danger he'd have come to your defense."
Wednesday, March 18
"Monday, right after writing, a welcome sight pulled up alongside and dropped anchor: Water Witch! I couldn't be happier. They came in with 7 others, including Aussie D'Light, Beyond and Sara Jean. It was great to have a friend to talk to again.
"Cap went in for his shot of pool, and yesterday was St. Patrick's Day so we went to Wildflowers to watch the annual parade. It consisted of a bagpipe player, a Master of Ceremony who looked like the Mad Hatter in green, down to his shorts and socks, and 20 or so ex-pats in Shamrock hats, all having great fun. I said I thought there would be floats, to which the answers were, "You're in Puerto Rico!!" Silly me. Had green Bass Ale, plus Craig kept setting up various shots."
"Well that did it - he said he had it and was leaving; would sell his guns and take off. What a shock! I knew he was right about my attitude, but I didn't expect him to jump ship, so that was another fun evening. This morning we agreed to try again - me not being negative about everything; and we spoke of renting a place for a month and using the time to work on Ruff Life; scout the area; see what it's like to live on land again. And tonight Bill and Judy are taking us to dinner to discuss the 'opportunity'."
"It was a long dinner - starting off with "What kind of experience do you have?" It was sounding like an interview except I didn't want the job to begin with, so I let Cap do the talking. They were nice enough and dinner was ok, fried chicken and beef stew. We stopped in the bar afterwards but I was tired from all the emotionalism of late, so Cap brought me home. I asked if we could discuss it the next day; it sounded like long, hot days, from 10am to 11pm or midnight, slaving over a deep-fat fryer. Not quite what we had in mind but we would talk, so after dropping me off Cap went back in to get something from a 'friend.' Didn't get back 'til late, and he had a hangover the next day.
"I left early to get a bottle of rum to repay Aussie D'Light, then went to the beach with Vickie while Cap slept. Jeff's been in bed for 3 days with an ear infection."
|Tradewinds trawler Ruff Life|
|Years later, back on land|
Author's note: I must take this opportunity to make a point: I'm writing this during the 2020 Coronavirus epidemic, and due to closings and physical restrictions, many couples are finding themselves in the same proverbial boat as Cap and I were on Ruff Life: cooped up with one another 24/7, day in, day out. Remember the advice I said we were given back in Florida: Boating will either make or break a relationship; and today's stay-at-home orders aren't much different. Perhaps, then, it's a bit easier to understand the often cantankerous relationship Cap and I had, even in Paradise.
"When Cap finally woke up he asked if I'd like to leave for Ponce in a few days. What??!! Seems he heard from Craig that the church across the street from Wildflowers is hoping to get them (or more likely the bar) to move or better yet, close; so that ended that discussion. We can rent something further south."March 24
"Guess an 'attitude adjustment' was required, because we've been having a nice time the past few days, playing Yahtzee, reading and I worked on my needlepoint. I wanted to paint the mirror frame attached to the bedroom door but had trouble with a design, so Cap sketched out something better than I'd imagined, surprised the hell out of me.
"Czar's been misbehaving so he's in training again. I cooked up some Chicken Cacciatore; however, I had the munchies when we went to town after dinner, so I ate a lobster-stuffed pie (empanada), slice of pepperoni pizza and chocolate ice cream. Just like going to the boardwalk when we were kids. Had a nice surprise when the TV actually picked up a signal and we got to watch Cadfael. Funny what we used to take for granted.
"The trades pick up early morning and last until late afternoon, pretty strong - 30 knots. Vickie and Jeff helped us get diesel and water at the marina's dock, since I'm still terrible with tying off. We said our goodbyes at Wildflowers, picked up a couple of souvenir tee-shirts and beer can huggies, and at 6:30 this morning pulled up anchor and cruised the short distance to El Combate, a shallow spot with no protection, but a pretty stop for breakfast.
"We have the place pretty much to ourselves; no other boats; because it's a 3 day weekend and most everything is closed. We walked around cute neighborhoods but never spotted any wild monkeys (we'd heard stories). Swam at the beach, Cap made some breakfast burritos, and we tried to leave at 2 pm but just after pulling anchor the engine died.
"Something happened with the batteries because the engine wouldn't start, so Cap's got the charger going. He got Czar to swim to shore by tossing him in and then jumping in after; but Czar did really well. At the moment, he and a new friend are having fun running back and forth along the beach. Finally, another dog the same size."
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To read from Chapter 1: A Rough Start