Category Archives: Puerto Rico

Back to the USA (to sell the beloved Tusen Takk II) — May 22 – September 20, 2019

We have sold Tusen Takk II.

When we moved aboard in July, 2005, it was with the agreement that we would stay on the boat only so long as we both wanted to.  After 13 glorious years during which we both felt like we were indeed “living the dream”, one of us decided that she was ready for something else.  I resisted.  When that didn’t work, I begged for just one more season.  That was granted, and completed in May, 2019.  And so we readied the boat for the anticipated sale and for the long cruise back to the USA.  Among other things, I spent a huge amount of time painting all of the bilges and surfaces in the “downstairs compartments”, and a considerable amount of time revarnishing interior surfaces “upstairs”, including the saloon table.

Our very good friend Bill (nee Dolce Vita) offered to join us for the passage, and we accepted at once;  he arrived several weeks before our planned departure, the better to enjoy Bonaire one last time and to help with the preparations and to be present when a weather window appeared.  Even before his arrival, I had begun preparations by opening up the middle fuel tank in order to see if it needed cleaning after our 14 years of use.  It was remarkably clean, presumably due to our habit of always running the built-in fuel cleaning system whenever we were underway.   When he arrived, we prophylactically took apart the stabilizers in order to check the condition of the trunions supporting the hydraulic cylinders.  We replaced the John Deere serpentine belt, and I changed the JD oil and filter.

It was windy when Bill arrived, and it stayed windy, with no prospect for improvement, causing our minimum standards for the passage to Puerto Rico to slip a bit.  We decided to depart on May 22, knowing that the first half of the trip would be somewhat bumpy.  We planned on leaving around midnight to effect an late morning / early afternoon arrival at Puerto del Rey Marina in Puerto Rico some days and 425 nautical miles later.  Just as the sun was about to go down, I expressed regret that I wouldn’t be able to see Bonaire as we were leaving.  My crew mates were sympathetic, and so we made a hurried departure.

All of our careful calculations about arrival time were soon scrambled. During the initial 12 hours we experienced numerous uncommanded resets of the stabilizer system with the stabilizer system deciding to occasionally turn itself off, sometimes raising an alarm that required a manual reset, and other times just resetting itself. The sea conditions were pretty rough in 4-5 foot seas with 6 second intervals at about 60 degrees apparent. There was also an unfavorable current varying from .5 to 1.0 knots.  We were only making about 6 knots SOG instead of the anticipated 7.5 knots.  Worse, the starboard stabilizer began squeaking so noisily that we decided to remove it from service.  

We arrived at Vieques on 5/25/19, and proceeded to Puerto Del Rey Marina on mainland Puerto Rico the next day. We contacted TRAC about the reset problem, and they sent us a new servo box and an associated control panel.  While we were setting the appropriate parameters in the control panel, it froze.  TRAC sent us another.  While waiting for the parts, we drained and replaced the hydraulic fluid for the stabilizers.  We drained the coolant for the JD and genset and removed and cleaned their heat exchanger cores. We replaced the JD thermostats. We replaced coolant and seawater hoses.  We took the opportunity to get rebuilt two hydraulic cylinders for the stabilizers, and commissioned the removal of broken locking screws in two extra stabilizer yokes. We replaced the zincs on the rudder. We cut a new through hull and rerouted to it the stabilizer heat exchanger sea water line. We replaced the windshield wipers. We replaced an anchor roller on the pulpit. We replaced a defective hi-pressure gauge for the stabilizer hydraulic system. And when the parts finally arrived, as I have said, we replaced the stabilizer servo box and control panel.  And then replaced the replacement control panel.  Whew!

 On our penultimate day in PR we used our rental car to do some exploring along the southeastern coast.  We found for lunch a restaurant (Vinnies) in Naguabo that specialized in seafood.  Later we stopped at a charming little shop (La Casita Amarilla Café, in Humacao) for coffee. We observed many signs of the devastation of hurricane Irma, including many damaged homes and the universal damage to all wind generators. 

When we left Puerto Rico on June 14, the stabilizers were strangely ineffective.  In fact, the boat seemed more stable with them off than with them activated.  We double-checked all of the parameters, and found nothing wrong.  The starboard stabilizer once again got noisy and we deactivated and pinned it.  We had a very rough night on June 16 between Turks and Mayaguana.

Late on June 17, we decided to stop for some rest and to check our fluid levels at Atwood Harbour on Acklins Island in the Bahamas.  While snorkeling to check our anchor, Barb got a scare when she noticed a big shark.  It didn’t take her long to get out of the water.  Later, a local fishing guide stopped by. Barb asked him if he would use our “lookie bucket” to check our anchor.  When he returned with good news, she rewarded him with my last bottle of rum!  He later returned the favor by gifting us with three lovely lobsters.

We spent 6/19 working on both stabilizers and got our first clue as to the cause of their continued misbehavior; there was excessive play on the shaft of the starboard stabilizer and that was causing excessive wear.  Bill got advice from TRAC and learned how to tighten a nut and eliminate the wobble.

We departed on June 20, and quickly realized that the stabilizers, although quiet,  were not providing stabilization.  Fortunately, the seas becalmed and we could continue with them pinned and deactivated.  We stopped briefly at Highbourne Cay to do some reprovisioning.

We spent the night of June 21 in Nassau at the Yacht Haven Marina, where we had a great Snapper dinner at the Poop Deck.

On June 22 we left Nassau and travelled through perfectly calm seas, arriving at Bahia Mar Marina in Ft Lauderdale 23 hours later.  On June 24, the East Coast head of TRAC service came to the boat. He reviewed the parameters in an effort to find an explanation for the ineffectiveness of the stabilizers.  His initial puzzlement vanished once his attention turned from the parameters in the control panel to the servo box itself.  As he smacked his palm against his forehead, he explained that on most boats the servo box is mounted to a forward or rear bulkhead.  On our boat the servo box was mounted on a side panel to starboard.  Inside the servo box is a gyroscope that senses roll.  But with the servo box mounted 90 degrees off from the usual orientation, our gyroscope was sensing hobby-horsing rather than roll.  No wonder the stabilizers weren’t able to counter the roll we were experiencing while underway!  The solution was easy:  the gyroscope within the servo box could be remounted within the box to be oriented correctly.  It took only a minute.  Then, we spent some time discussing optimal parameter settings to minimize wear, and perhaps most importantly, received an admission that the official admonition to not lubricate certain parts in the stabilizers is an instruction that neither the West Coast nor Each Coast service managers follow.  They strongly recommend the use of a suitable lubricant in order to prevent wear (and the accompanying squeaking that had plagued us).  

We ordered new parts to replace the worn parts and made the parameter adjustments.  When the parts arrived, we rebuilt the stabilizers with the new parts one final time, lubricating liberally.  But each major repair of the stabilizers required the setting of a certain parameter to enable the use of a special device to adjust the orientation of the sensor that informed the system of the position of the stabilizer fin.  When we had completed the repair we needed to return that special parameter to its original value.  Somehow in performing the reset we “stepped on” a different parameter, although it was not immediately recognized.  The result?  As we left, the fins barely moved at all, providing no stabilization!

There were some tense moments, and some invocations of “sailor speak”.  But then a careful review of ALL of the parameters revealed the existence of the grotesquely out-of-spec parameter,  We made the correction, and for the rest of the trip to Brunswick, GA we had lovely efficient and smoothly working and blissfully quiet stabilizers.

It was  June 26 when we left Ft Lauderdale and proceeded up the coast toward Brunswick, GA.  We arrived at about 6 am on June 28.  We found Brunswick Landing Marina to be a very pleasant place, as was the village of Brunswick.  The Marina has a very nice Yacht Club which is the site of Monday, Wednesday and Friday “happy hours” that last from about 5:30 pm until about 8 pm or later, and which feature snacks and nibbles provided by the marina guests and free wine and beer provided by the marina.  Furthermore, the keg of beer is open to guests 24/7!

On August 3 we welcomed our first (and only!) visit by a potential buyer.  They professed to be very impressed.  A few days later they made an offer, and by August 15 we had settled on a mutually-agreeable price.  The sale was completed on September 13.  We are sad to close out that part of our life, but are pleased that our beloved boat will be in the hands of enthusiastic new owners that will take good care of her.  We hope they enjoy her as much as we did.

And so we are boatless and homeless and living in our 2011 Tiffin Allegro Bus 40′ RV diesel pusher.  We expect to stay that way for the foreseeable future.  We spent some time parked west of Flagstaff on the property of our friend and benefactor Bill.  We are now in Phoenix, where we will store the bus and join Bill and Colleen on an extended trip to Spain and Italy.  We depart on September 30.  In addition to sight-seeing in Madrid and Granada, we will all spend about a week helping our Norwegian friends Lars Helge and Tove with their almond harvest near Itrabo, Spain.  Then on to Florence and Matera.  Then on to Rome, where we will begin on November 1 our return to the USA on a Celebrity cruise on their latest ship (Edge) that will take us from Rome to Florence/Pisa to Provence (Toulono) to Palma de Mallorca to Tenerife (Canary Islands) followed by a week at sea before landing at Ft. Lauderdale on November 15.

This is how we counter my grief at no longer living the dream aboard Tusen Takk II !





Mom & Sis Left, but We Stayed — Puerto Rico, Feb. 5-10, 2014

When we returned to our boat at Palmas del Mar after dropping off Mom and Sis at the airport, and after doing some shopping in San Juan, the wind was still blowing stink.  Worse, it was predicted to stay that way for the rest of the week.   We had no interest in bashing straight into 6-feet waves with a very short period, so we resigned ourselves to spending some more time in Puerto Rico.

Actually, we had a very nice time.  We did a fair amount of socializing with our dock neighbors, Gerry and Douglas, owners of Orion, a lovely Nordhavn.   We joined them for dinners and lunches at a nearby restaurant and tapas bar (where we all became enamored of the paella, and some of us fell in love with the mojitos).   We got together for sundowners overlooking the crashing waves just on the other side of the breakwater that protects the marina.  There, mojitos be damned, I gave Gerry lessons on the finer points of making rum punches.  And near the end of our time in Puerto Rico we shared a car rental and drove up to the Guavate area for some more lechon, once again patronizing Lechonera los Pinos.  Just as much fun as before!

I also took the opportunity to put down a number of additional coats of varnish on the cap rails.

On Monday, Feb. 10, wonder of wonders, the winds and waves abated just as predicted and we made our way back to Culebra.   But the account of our experiences in Culebra, still going on, must await the next chapter of this tome.

Chuck’s Mom & Sis Visit Us in Puerto Rico — Jan. 28 – Feb. 3, 2014

Chuck’s 94 year-old mother Evelyn and (censored)-year old sister Zona came to see us in Puerto Rico recently.  We had a great time taking in some of the sights and sounds of this friendly island.  We visited El Yunque National Forest, Old San Juan (including El Morro), drove along the northern coast and down to the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, visited the Observatorio de Arecibo, visited the city of Ponce, and partook of some famous roasted pig near the town of Guavate.

Mom suffers from severe macular degeneration, but despite this handicap, is a keen  player of progressive rummy.  In many of the pictures that follow, it appears as if she is infirm.  Not so, she is as sharp as a tack and game to go anywhere and doesn’t want to be left behind.  But because of her poor vision, we are careful to make sure that she doesn’t stumble.

We used the first full day of their stay to visit El Yunque, spending a fair amount of time at the El Yunque Portal display/museum and also walking a short path near the Portal, returning to our boat at Palmas del Mar that night.  Next day we drove to San Juan, where we visited El Morro and did some trolley-touring of Old San Juan.   We stayed at Hotel Casablanca, an elegant hotel in the heart of the old city, whose only downside was a lack of elevators.   Mom and Zona were only one story up – Barb and I had a little higher to climb.  We had lunch at the Siglo XX Restaurant, the same restaurant we had used in Feb. 2012 with Norwegian friends Lars Helge and Tove – and had the same delicious paella.  And later we had drinks at the Parrot Club, where Mom and Zona had mojitos and I had a delicious “Parrot Passion”.   After breakfast at the hotel we proceeded west along the coast to Arecibo, where we turned south and visited the spectacular cave in the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, subsequently declared by Mom to be her favorite of their visit.  We over-nighted at Casa Grande Mountain Retreat, near Utuado.  Next day, instead of driving back up to Arecibo, as we should have done, emboldened by the map on Barb’s iPad, we chose to get to the Observatorio de Arecibo by taking a shortcut westerly on some very minor roads.   As the driver, I can say that was a bad mistake.   The “road” soon became a paved path just barely wider than one vehicle; a path that twisted up and down and back and forth on continual switch-backs.  A “road” that caused many interesting contortions when we met opposing vehicles and caused many interesting interjections from the driver.   Finally, after taking hours to travel just a few crow-miles, we broke out onto the highway south out of Arecibo – the highway we should have used in the first instance.  The observatory is the largest radar-radio telescope in the world and was featured in the movie “Contact”.  The concave “dome” sits in a 563-feet natural sinkhole formed in the karst landscape characterized by jagged peaks and deep valleys formed by limestone erosion.   I found the karst landscape almost as interesting as the observatory itself.  When we left the observatory to go to the southern city of Ponce, at my insistence we returned first to the northern city of Arecibo, from which we had beautiful wide scenic highways upon which to travel southward.   🙂

We stayed at Hotel Melià in Ponce, right across the street from the Parque de Bombas.   Another lovely old hotel (which even had an elevator) whose only downside was its upside:  the central location.   Super convenient, but at the mercy of motorcycle, boombox, glasspack muffler, drunken party, and other assorted noises out in the street for most of the (Saturday) night.  Next morning we were the only passengers on the tour bus parked right outside the Bombas – the old red-and-black firehouse that has been converted into a museum.   The hour-long tour cost only one dollar per person – half price to old folks such as we.  It was an interesting tour, but the highlight for me was skirting past the 25 de Enero Street district, a residential area in which all of the homes are painted red and black, just like the Bombas museum.  Our guide explained that in 1899 firefighters saved the village and the mayor rewarded the entire crew with homes.   To this day they are kept freshly painted in red and black, and although the current firefighters almost certainly live elsewhere, the homes are occupied by the descendants of the long-ago heros.   Here is what Wikipedia says:

On January 25, 1899, a large fire (later dubbed “El Polvorin”) threatened the lives of Ponceños, as well as the economy of Puerto Rico as a whole, given Ponce’s de facto role as Puerto Rico’s banking and agricultural capital. A painting inside Parque de Bombas commemorates the heroic acts of seven valiant “bomberos” and a civilian who fought bravely against the voracious fire that threatened the region. Disobeying orders from the American troops that had recently taken control of Puerto Rico, the group was able to appease flames that had started inside the U.S. Army’s gunpowder reserves. Due to their courageous efforts, disaster was narrowly averted. For their success, the group was honored many times both in Ponce and the rest of Puerto Rico. A few yards from Parque de Bombas, on Plaza Federico Degatau, sits an obelisk to their memory, and at the Cementerio Civil de Ponce (Ponce Civil Cemetery) a mausoleum was erected in 1911 to their memory where all seven heroes were eventually interred. Later on, the Parque de Bombas building was painted in Ponce’s traditional city colors, red and black. A series of homes built a few years later for the firefighters and their families on 25 de Enero Street were painted in these colors also.

After our tour we packed up and drove back northward.   Our destination was the famous area near Guavate where roasted pig (lechon) is served at a number of roadside restaurants.  Our specific goal was the Lechonera las Pinas, one of the most popular, and one we had discovered in 2012 with our Norwegian friends.  Then, as this time, we were there on a Sunday afternoon, and the area was packed with locals and tourists.   Then, as this time, we were fortunate enough to grab one of the last open places in the crowded parking lot.  Then, as this time, the band played old-style music in a corner of the noisy open-air dining area.  Great fun and great food.

When we had completely over-stuffed our swollen bodies, we returned to our neglected boat and played one last game of Progressive Rummy.

On Feb. 3 we drove back toward San Juan, stopping at the Plaza las Americas Mall for lunch at the cavernous Cheesecake Factory before dropping Mom and Sis off at the airport.  Then, a quick stop at West Marine for some nautical supplies before heading home to our boat through bumper-to-bumper traffic.  The wind still howling offshore, we stayed at the dock for a number of additional days while waiting for better cruising conditions.  But to learn of our activities after the departure of our guests, tune in to the next episode of Chuck and Barb Go Cruising.