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 Par-gwera."
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 all 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 departure 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.
"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." 

Mangroves, I learned they're called:  "... are tropical trees that thrive in conditions most timber could never tolerate — salty, coastal waters, and the interminable ebb and flow of the tide."  From

The blimp, nicknamed Fat Albert, was managed by a small Naval facility outside of town, very hush-hush. There were all sorts of rumors surrounding Albert and the Navy; including the suspicion that a number of UFO's were buried in the hills, where dastardly experiments were being performed on hoodwinked aliens.

Whenever Navy personnel were questioned directly about Albert's purpose for being their answers were vague and something to the effect, "Whatever you think is happening..."  A visiting cruiser, a retired Naval intelligence officer who became a good friend, said Albert was simply one of a number of blimps forming a satellite grid in the Caribbean tracking weather and whatever else they wanted, primarily smugglers.

Fat Albert became a terrific barometer for us after it was struck by lightening. It took over a year to repair the damage, and once it was airborne again, whenever bad weather was approaching they'd lower the blimp to be safe; part way if the prediction wasn't too bad, all the way down and we battened down our hatches.  All the way up meant another beautiful day, which was most of the time.  Fat Albert was also a great help navigating towards Parguera on dry land, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We took the dinghy for a ride along the shore, which was lined with an assortment of colorful wooden houses called casetas:  a Caribbean version of  Victorian Painted Ladies, and most looked unoccupied. How pretty they were, with wrap-around porches filled with beachy décor.  I could live in one of those, I imagined.

Johnny's docks, Ruff Life behind
Initially all we saw of Parguera were the bars and pool halls, gift shops and tiny colmado congregated near the docks full of yolas for rent, like most places.

I'll never forget our first real foray through town in search of anything resembling a marine store. Cap, Czar and I wandered through a neighborhood of brightly painted concrete homes, some owners preferring neon; all with fences; accompanied by the sounds of barking dogs and roosters crowing.  Flamboyan and other spectacular flora were common in everyone's yards.  Gorgeous.

Czar ignored all distractions as he dutifully kept pace with Cap.  A leash wasn't necessary but he was kept on one in public, since we'd learned how alarmed people could be at his size.  Nodding politely and hola-ing those we passed, most everyone returned our greeting.

We were headed for God-knew-where and I was already dripping in sweat by 8:30 in the morning.  I wondered if I'd ever get used to the heat.  At the top of the hill the road curved back around towards the water and I was relieved to be heading downhill.

To our astonishment, half-way down the road and appearing like an oasis in the desert was a real-live strip mall with a paved parking lot called El Muelle (the dock).  Shops included in the L-shaped structure were a pharmacy, post office, Chinese restaurant, video store, surf shop, laundromat, open-air bar-restaurant, and anchored by the most beautifully-stocked grocery store, NOT a simple colmado but a real market.

I turned to Cap.  "THAT'S IT!  I'M DONE.  We're living here."


And for twelve years we did. Contrary to our original desire to cruise to Venezuela and possibly farther, destiny instead kept us in one spot while cruisers passed US by; and the rest of the world escaped us socially and culturally.  We were isolated from most everyone and everything, and had to rely on our wits and one another to make it through our toughest times.

Our immersion and acceptance into the local culture, hard won, afforded unique perspectives and opportunities in both our business and personal lives.  Ruff Life's crew became honorary Borinquen; and with our art became known throughout the island and beyond.  Even Czar became a celebrity!

The tale from here consists of individual stories containing a wonderful collection of diverse, interesting and outlandish characters, which I hope to formally publish and try and make some money!  

Our grand finale was cataclysmic; and directly resulted in my current attention: painting and championing for the homeless, 'there but for the grace of God.'  I learned the truth to the phrase, "You don't choose the cause, the cause chooses you."

Thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed the story.  Please Bookmark this site for information on future publishing, from my lips to God's ears.  For more stories, travels and adventures on land and sea, please visit Travels with Buttercup.

To read from Chapter 1:  A Rough Start

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