After a little over two weeks of hectic boat prep, Jubilee was finally ready to leave Fajardo and head for the Virgin Islands with a bit in her teeth.
There was, of course, the usual recommissioning work (prep work in the yard before splashing the boat, flushing & filling of water tanks, provisioning, replacing fuel filters and impellors for both engines, cleaning, re-installing electronics, climbing to the top of the stick to replace the wind instruments, cleaning, bending on the sails, cleaning, provisioning, etc.). Note the prominence of cleaning and provisioning in that list. We also encountered the occasional surprise that needed to be attended to, but luckily we were able to resolve those puzzles. All systems seem to be go.
The big time-consuming projects this winter were plumbing-related. We installed a new head (toilet) to replace our 24-year-old unit that had been rebuilt countless times. We realize that doesn’t sound like a big task, but when coupled with re-routing hoses (fitting connections were of course in different locations on the two different units), installing anti-syphon loops, etc., the effort seemed to grow. All this is done, of course, in very cramped spaces where often one can barely get even one hand in place to connect something (what you see in the accompanying picture is the easily accessible visible stuff). Thus this seemingly simple project quickly turned into close to two days of skinned knuckles, body bruses and sore limbs. Not fun, but it’s done!
We also replaced the head (bathroom) lavatory faucet this year. That was another seemingly simple project that would take less than an hour at home. However, with no way to get a wrench up to the retainer nuts, and with those nuts firmly rusted onto the pipe threads, our only recourse was to employ a Dremmel and diamond cutting blade with one hand (no way to get two hands up there) and grind the nuts off. Connections on the new replacement faucet are plastic, so hopefully that problem won’t re-occur again 15 years from now.
In addition to this work we had our dingy “reconditioned” after 14 years of use. We now have a new old dingy! We also made two trips to San Juan to have the life raft inspected and recertified, plus we had our EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) battery replaced and that unit also re-certified. The EPIRB is again good to go for several more years.
But as much fun as we were having with the above projects at Puerto del Rey, all good things must come to an end. We finally had no more excuses to delay departure.
Tuesday February 4th - Maiden Voyage East to Cullebra
Getting from Fajardo to the Virgins is almost always a direct up-wind slog into the trades. This year was no different as we motor-sailed the 20-some miles to Ensenada Honda harbor on Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands. Although we were getting rained on about every 2-3 hours in Puerto del Rey as moisture-laden clouds hit Puerto Rico and rose, dumping their contents along the eastern shore and up in the rain forest just a few miles west of us, we had generally clear weather all the way across to Culebra.
That is not to say things weren’t a bit wet. The associated video shows what it’s like motor-sailing directly into 6-foot seas with the spray flying. That said, the seas had a reasonable period, making for a reasonably comfortable trip.
Later this year, starting in March, we’ll be turning the bow west and north back toward the east coast … a generally downwind run that should hopefully be a pleasure compared to slogs like this.
As we neared the entrance to Ensenada Honda Judy went to fill our “squirt bottle” with fresh water for cleaning the salt off the forward pilothouse windows when she found there was no water in our starboard tank. We had just topped the starboard tank in Puerto del Rey that morning! Did we have a tank leak? A faucet left on? What caused those 80 gallons or so of water from that tank to be pumped into the bilge?
The solution turned out to be pretty simple. Ten or twelve years ago we had installed a nylon ½” to ½" hose barb between a short length of hose from the water heater and the hot water feed line for all of our hot water faucets. Turns out that 10-12 years of very hot water coming out of the water heater finally caused a total failure in that nylon barb … it broke right in two! We carried a spare barb and spare hose, so quickly were able to replace them both. Luckily this happened here instead of up toward the Bahamas where the loss of a full tank of water could represent a real problem. We’ll refill that tank at Crown Bay Marina as soon as we reach St. Thomas.
Special Culebra Welcome!
While eating a late lunch at the Dingy Dock Café in Culebra we enjoyed the following rainbow display ending right around our boat after a brief tropical shower. No proverbial pots of gold were found on our deck when returning to the boat, but this has to be a good omen for our 2014 cruising year.
We were glad to see that Culebra hasn't changed too much ... it's still pretty much the same laid back place we've enjoyed in past trips. Some say that Culebra is like the US and British Virgins of 25 or more years ago, and it certainly is much less commercial than the other Virgins. The sign to the right seems to say it all.
We plan to spend a couple more days here in Culebra before continuing on to St. Thomas, St. John and the BVI’s. As always, stay tuned as the adventure unfolds.