St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, May 2000
We had the most marvelous sail from Christiansted,
St. Croix USVI to Ponce, PR. The wind was SE to S 12-15 knots over
the night, and we sailed west the whole way under plain sail (genoa
and main). We made a steady 6-7 knots for most of the way, with a
couple of stretches at 8+. And the following seas and current added
a knot. The sky was broken clouds, almost no moon, but still enough
light to see. We left at 11:47 AM from the fuel dock at St. Croix
Marina, planning to run the 120 NM trip in about 20 hours. In the
actual fact, we were off Ponce at 3:30 AM with an ETA of 5:00 AM!
Andi was on watch, and rousted Rob out to shorten sail, in order to
slow down. She had tried reefing the main and overtrimming everything,
but the slowest she could get Akka to go was over 4 knots, and that
wouldn't do. So we rolled up the jib, overtirmmed the main, and sauntered
along at a stately 2 knots for a couple of hours, until dawn rescued
us. We picked up somebody's mooring at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing
Club, and caught a few Zs. Unfortunately, there was some kind of festival
on the point of land opposite, so from 7:00 AM we listened to what
must be the best speakers in the Caribbean, cranked up just below
distortion level. In Spanish.
Highlights of the passage: 6 or 8 dolphins joined us as we left St.
Croix, jumping and cavorting right next to the boat and riding our
bow wave in traditional manner. As we passed about 20 miles south
of Vieques, an American Navy ship patrolled up and down between us
and the island. That morning, they had arrested local protestors against
the use of Vieques for bombing practice. The Navy didn't show any
interest in us, for which we were grateful.
Most people in Ponce speak good English, but none of the important
ones, like the guy at the club snack shop, who was the only one working
on the morning we arrived. It reminded us of when we first went to
Zagreb, Croatia (then Yugoslavia). "Everybody," we were assured, "speaks
English." And so they did -- Rob's professors made puns in English,
and everybody at the consular cocktail parties chatted away happily
in our language. The only exceptions were the bus drivers, cab drivers,
peasants selling stuff in the markets, and of course the bureaucrats
you have to deal with to rent an apartment, change money, etc. I'm
sure it's much the same here, though not quite that bad. Even the
guard at the gate spoke enough English to tell us it's a private club.
I'm not sure he understood our answer, which dealt with reciprocal
privileges, but as we were leaving rather than arriving, he let us
pass both ways.
Until we install the satellite telephone, we rely on restaurants,
bars, yacht clubs, friends, and various business establishments to
make phone and internet connections. It's a nice way to meet people.