May 16-17, 2011... Trouble Strikes Anhinga

What we didn't mention in our last blog was that the engine overheated after anchoring in Bahia de Jobos. So picture this, we are in the middle of the mangroves, about 5 miles from the nearest town, and don't have an engine. There was nothing to do but start from the beginning and work our way through the engine cooling system to find out what went wrong.

Day 1: John starts at the sea strainer (not blocked), checks for leaks (none), opens the raw water pump and finds the impeller stripped of all its vanes but one. The pump apparently went dry and the impeller committed suicide. Question 1 - why did the pump run dry? Question 2 - where did the vanes go? Patti gets drawn into the mystery when John needs her smaller fingers to poke around in the pump housing looking for the vanes. John brings hundreds of dollars of tools to the task. Patti brings her tweezers. Guess which ones find the most vanes?

Finding all but two vanes, the Anhinga grease monkeys turn their attention to the hoses. Where is the blockage that made the pump run dry? John opens the seacock (to Patti's horror -- Patti always thinks it is a problem to allow water up through the floor of the boat...) to try to find where in the loop the water stops. Finally isolated the problem to somewhere between the refrigerator condenser that is in-line with the cooling system, and the hose that leads from it to the pump. Finding the hoses too difficult to remove from the condenser, Team Anhinga decides to bypass the condenser and reroute the hose from the sea strainer directly to the pump. Now the problem is that the hoses on board are the wrong size to do this, and we didn't have a connector to make the loop work. Luckily, Gem was in Salinas, and had what we needed.

Day 2: It took 3 hours to cut the hose from the sea strainer off the condenser. Many cuts and bruises later, we decided it was time to go meet Gem. Forgot to mention that it has been pouring down rain for two days. But, we needed that hose connector. So the crew of the Anhinga drops the dinghy and launch on the expedition from the mangroves to Salinas. Clad in yellow raingear, we cut quite a figure chugging up the mangroves and around the bend into Salinas anchorage. Shane and MV were ready for us and had the gear ready -- also had some hot coffee waiting for us drowned rats. Steeled for the return trip to Jobos by dinghy, we left Gem for Anhinga. Back on board, we rerouted the hose, connected it to another, clamped the hose back onto the pump, installed a new impeller, put the engine back together, and crossed our fingers. Started the engine, and it worked. Ran out to the stern to see if water was whooshing out the exhaust and it was. Success!! Team Anhinga fixed it! But we never solved the mysteries...we think a professional will need to be consulted.

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May 9-15, 2011... Solitude

If you want to slow your life down, come to Ensenada Honda, Vieques. There are absolutely NO man-made distractions. We spent 6 nights here and on only 3 nights was there another boat. There is nothing ashore - no roads to anywhere. What are here are thick healthy mangroves, mysterious creeks, clean water, elusive night herons, brown spotted eagle rays, large palometas living under the boat, pelicans and frigates swooping in, cooing doves by the thousands and royal terns screeching as they fish.

In our kayak explorations we also saw the baby barracudas patrolling their piece of mangrove thicket, orange-red starfish everywhere, and the shallowest of coral shoals which along with the mangroves sap the strength of the ocean making this one of the calmest anchorages we've ever been in. John took full advantage of this flat water and installed our new LED navigation lights on the bow. He is now ready to star as a circus contortionist after curling up in the anchor locker to work on the wiring. What a guy!

Our last day here we had a pleasant surprise. Gem, with MV and Shane aboard, arrived in the anchorage. We hadn't seen them since November in Bequia and as always its great catching up with cruising friends.

Today we left this little paradise for Salinas, PR and civilization. The passage was half good, half blechh! In the afternoon we had rain and squalls that went on and on and on. We decided to anchor in the mangroves of Bahia de Jobos and not go directly to Salinas because we needed to decompress from the trip. Here we are, enjoying the sunset.

Cayo de Puerca, Bahia de Jobos: 17d55.918'N 66d14.356

May 9, 2011... Ensenada Honda, Vieques

This morning we decided to move a couple of miles east to a more protected bay, Ensenada Honda (not to be confused with the more famous Ensenada Honda on Culebra, or the other Ensenada Honda on Puerto Rico...aka Roosevelt Roads. BTW, Ensenada Honda just means Deep Bay.) The weather is supposed to deteriorate this week as a bunch of weather systems collide bringing squalls with winds of 20-30 knots from all directions. And t-storms. So to be on the safe side, we moved in here where the winds are cut in half and there aren't ANY other boats! A little turtle popped up to say hi as we were anchoring. We don't know how long we will be here, but it looks like we will be on our own. We have plenty of food and water, so that's good. And there are any number of coves and creeks for kayak exploration. So we're happy.

Ensenada Honda, Vieques: 18d07.115'N 65d20.626'W

May 6-9, 2011... Bahia de la Chiva, Vieques

Friday morning we left Culebra for our sail south to Vieques. We started with 10-12 knots of wind, but that soon diminished to almost nothing. In fact, apparent winds of 00 for most of the way. Only when we jibed for the turn to the west around the south coast of Vieques did we have any appreciable wind, and boy, was Anhinga happy! We were gliding. So we sailed to Bahia de la Chiva, anchoring just inside Punta Conejo. I guess because we had so much time to look around while we were sailing, we saw a HUGE turtle just north of Vieques. Always good to see a turtle.

The beaches at Chiva are outstanding. Gorgeous white sand fronting on light blue water, backed by palm trees. How can you miss? Since we were there over the weekend we expected armies of land and boat people to descend, but surprisingly that didn't happen. Saturday -- 3 other boats; Sunday -- just one other. A few of the shelters on the beach housed big (10-20 people) gatherings, but other than that, just a handful of people. And this is a beach at least 1 1/2 miles long. So we had it almost to ourselves.

We put up the awning for the first time since November -- summer is back and the sun is starting to feel a bit brutal in the afternoons. The awning saves our skin and keeps the boat cool too. Off the boat, we kayaked and snorkeled. Biggest surprise was the extent of the reef both on Punta Conejo and west of Isla Chiva, the island in the center of the bay. Best sightings were the squid and pufferfish, and some of the very round brain corals lined up like cannonballs.

Speaking of ordnance... As Vieques was used for years by the US Navy as a bombing range, there is still work being done to clear the island and its waters of unexploded ordnance. Warning signs everywhere attest to this fact. Our welcome to Vieques on Friday afternoon was a tremendous explosion that must have been demolition of some of the collected munitions. We did see a couple of mysterious items. One, a metal cylinder that had washed up on the beach, and another strange truncated conical thing that was on the reef at Punta Conejo. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Bahia de la Chiva, Vieques: 18d06.547' N 65d22.775'W

April 26 - May 5, 2011... Culebra

We rolled all night on the mooring in Tortuga, and the wind and seas were forecast to get even higher. So, though we love Culebrita, we high-tailed it to Ensenada Honda in Culebra for some protection. Thought we would stay till the weather improved, then go back to Tortuga. Well the weather didn't really improve for about 10 days and by then we were happy to be where we were, in a very calm cove north of Punta Cabras, near the Fish and Wildlife Service dock.  Mornings we were visited by a dolphin! Usually when we ran the watermaker -- must be curious about the sound.

We spent our time kayaking through the mangrove channels and exploring the coastline of the ensenada. Lots of herons (blue, green, white, and night), pelicans, brown boobies, bananaquits, yellow warblers, and more. We also surprised a turtle in the middle of the bay -- other than swimming with the turtles, we never got this close to one at sea level. We tried to use the kayak as our principal means of transportation off the boat whenever possible. Our neighbors in the anchorage, Maddie and Skip on Saralane, were intrigued by the kayak thing and we encouraged them to give it a try too.

We also went for some long walks, the most ambitious being the 10-mile round-trip walk to Flamenco Beach on the north coast. Flamenco is beautiful, but the weather was cloudy that day and we didn't see it at its best. (The tostones from the beachside food stand were good though!) Patti had gotten some new boat/hiking shoes and managed to blister her heels immediately on the day before, so we were happy to come by the Colmado Genesis and get some band-aid first aid.

Last year we really enjoyed snorkeling at Melones, so thought we would try some of the west coast snorkeling areas again this year. The first day out we dinghyed through the Dewey cut and tried Tamarindo Bay. At the southern end of the bay, we saw all the likely suspects as well as a little turtle. The most interesting thing there was the series of cages with staghorn coral tied to them. Someone must be experimenting with growing coral to replant the reef. There were at least two dozen of these cages with pieces of coral of different sizes strapped on. Some pieces had been planted in the bottom as well. Fish were interested, so it seems that the project may be working to rebuild reef and attract life.

Next we dinghyed up to Carlos Rosario beach, hitched to a DRNA mooring, and swam towards what looked like rock. What a wonderful surprise! This was 'the wall' that we had heard about -- a coral garden with the most sea fans we had ever seen -- greens, purples, browns -- waving as the surf came over. There were lots of fish too; so much to look at, we were in sensory overload. We followed huge snappers as they swam lazily along the coral heads. We swam till we got too cold (even with our wetsuit tops, we couldn't stay in for more than an hour) and figured on coming back the next day. Which we did. Straight to Carlos Rosario this time, swimming towards Punta Noroeste. Fan gardens galore, bigger fish, and another little turtle, just posing for us! Lots to see -- and we were the only ones out there. Worth the time to explore.

The winds have finally died down to a manageable 10-15 knots and we think we'll be moving on tomorrow to Vieques. Short trip. Stay tuned.

Ensenada Honda, Culebra: 18d18.267'N 65d16.915'W