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Boat Fire!

Explosion and then Fire!

About 2:30 this afternoon Shelly heard an explosion and we saw this boat fire in the boatyard across the harbor. This is the second one we’ve seen.

It isn’t one from the regatta. Day 2 was similar to day 1, they do several 30 minute races over the course of a day. Each boat has a racing crew that practice and race together. Trophys were awarded on day two.

And that is that.


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Regatta Day 1

Prepping to Sail Out Of Slip

Today there was an invitation-only sailboat race starting at the marina. Six identical boats were lined up in the slip next to ours and sailed out (no motors on these guys) into 20 knot winds to the east.

At the Starting Line!

They all gathered in the starting area in semi-rough conditions. I was impressed they were able to gather so close together under sail power only. They took off around a preset course

Racing Downwind with Genoas Out


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The Tropical Atlantic

Get the Party Rolling!

The National Weather Service or some agency in the weather prediction end of the federal government designates hurricane season as running from June 1 to November 30 for the tropical Atlantic. It’s called “hurricane season,” though hurricanes are only the most powerful storms. There are also many smaller storm systems from tropical waves to tropical depressions to tropical storms. The better term to use is tropical cyclone.

The peak of the season is usually late August through the end of September. However, this season is looking a bit ominous: There are two systems they are watching for tropical formation and it is only mid-June. The tropical cyclone prediction map from NOAA above show the probability of two systems forming in the Caribbean next week. The leftmost red area has a 90% chance of forming and the storm on the lower right has a 60% chance. Neither are predicted to “hit” Puerto Rico at this time but the storm off Mexico is already causing the winds here to increase a bit.

Interestingly, if these systems get big enough to become named storms, they won’t even be the first of the year, tropical storm Arlene formed in mid-April, only the second time this has ever been observed. But wait! Even more ominously, a big stationary tropical low formed in mid-March when we were in the Turks and Caicos, I posted a pic of the storms at the time (below):

Big Storms in the TCIs Last March

This storm almost got big enough to be named and that would have been a first ever. It generated huge waves in the TCIs, and that’s the thing about these tropical systems. Even if they don’t form named storms, they are usually associated with lots of rain and wind.

So our first tropical cyclone season in the Caribbean may be a busy one. But hey, you can’t say you’re a salt encrusted sailor until you’ve spent at least one hurricane season in the “belt.” We’ve ordered new, doubled dock lines…


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Tax Avoision

Going For My Morning Soak in the Seaside Pool at the Yacht Club Marina

Palmas del Mar is a gated community here on the east shore of Puerto Rico. Actually, it’s double gated. You have to go through a staffed main gate to get into the development. The development consists of many separate houses, villages, condos, and hotels, plus the marina, with a golf course meandering around them. Each community or hotel has it’s own staffed gate, including the marina. The landscaping is well maintained, there are no stray dogs and no trashed out buildings or streets. And there are sidewalks and walkways, the true expression of a luxury community in the Caribbean, apparently.

So this is a high end community for the island. The Yacht Club here has a tiki bar that serves what the locals call the best burger on the island. And it is pretty damn good. But the locals complain that if you don’t have a boat parked here you can’t get in, they hardly ever open it up to the public. Now here is the kicker, the seasonal rate (which we are in) is amazingly reasonable. So we get quite a bit of luxury living without having to pay the steep prices.

Many of the “locals” we’ve met here are expats from the states. Well, “expat” isn’t a proper description since we are in U.S. territory, but nevertheless, it is a bit different here. All PR citizens are U.S. citizens though they cannot vote in national elections and do not have voting representatives in congress. So their law is a mix of U.S. federal law and some Puerto Rican law.

Apparently there is a huge tax advantage for businesses here: There is no capital gains tax. Zero. For personal income tax it is pretty low, like 5% or something. Many of the people we’ve met here moved their business here to avoid paying these taxes, which is a huge advantage. Thus the title of this post, tax avoision. It is a real word. I learned it from watching The Simpsons.

Walking Path Through the Beachside Trees


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Realities of Sailboats

Docked at One of the Larger Slips at The Yacht Club Marina

I haven’t posted a sailing blog in a while because we have been waiting here in Palmas to get some boat maintenance done. The maintenance is finally complete and it took a while. I’ll describe below what we had to do and the events leading up to our extended stay here. BTW, we are not suffering!

So what happened: A few weeks ago we had gotten some routine maintenance done on the engine and generator, an oil change basically. We had been waiting to get the service done (nothing happens quickly here, island time you know) so that we could head out for a couple of weeks around Vieques and Culebra islands. We exited the marina and were about 3 miles out when the engine started sounding funny, like it was going to quit. We needed the engine to go east into the wind and waves. After the third engine hiccup, Shelly declared we were turning back. We got pointed back toward the marina and the engine quit. No matter what we did it would not start. I noticed the Racor filter bulb was not full indicating that there was no fuel coming in from the tank.

I could not think of a way to get the fuel flowing again so we put the sails up. We had an excellent east wind that let us sail straight back to the marina entrance. But we still had a problem, we had no way to maneuver in the tight spaces of the marina, or stop, once we got there. And the entrance was tricky, it was somewhat narrow with rocks on both sides, and some decent waves to push you around as you came in.

Shelly called for a tow. This is quite simple back in the states and all up and down the east coast there are boat towing companies. Here, not so much. They do exist, but it turns out they were all working at the site of a plane crash that had happened not too far away the day before. What are the chances?

Shelly called the marina. They said they could help us get in but we’d have to get through the breakwater entrance first. As we approached, we dropped our main and reefed the jib way, way back so that we would slow down but maintain steering. We passed the rocks outside the entrance, they were alarmingly close. The boat, however, handled excellently and we sailed right up to the long outside dock of the marina, and we were going slowly enough that they could stop us with our dock lines. They did come out to help in their small boat but I think events happened so quickly that they really couldn’t tie on and do much.

When telling the story to others, they comment that the difficult part was sailing through the breakwater. We tacked once. Otherwise sailing in was not so stressful as losing the engine. Over the next few days they towed us to a couple other locations using what is actually a large dinghy. The guys here are quite the experts.

What happened to the engine? Diesel tends to get gunk in it from bacteria and fungus that can live in the fuel as long as there is some water. There is always a bit of water in the tanks due to condensation. Over time, usually years, a kind of black, gummy gunk accumulates. Our tanks had a lot, we don’t know when they were cleaned last.

Usually it takes years to get that bad. As we look back, we are lucky our fuel line “chose” to clog when it did. It would have been pretty terrible in the Mona Passage or just about anywhere else after we left Florida up until we got here.

So. Good Karma!

 


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El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque Peak, home of the Great Tainto Spirit Yucahu

I have immersed myself in rainforests from Nepal to Cascadia, Peru to Hawaii, Patagonia to New Zealand. I love the diversity of life from the mosses to the towering trees forming the canopy. The yellow, red, purple and white flowers that spring forth in the humid shade.

So I guess it was appropriate to visit one of the great rainforests of Puerto Rico on my birthday. It was quite spectacular, though we didn’t get to hike the trails on this trip (we’ll do that later). On the drive there it was, well, raining. Torrentially. But not so much while we were in the forest, we got some good views of the mountains.

We learned a few things. Before the Spanish arrived and took over, the island was occupied by natives known as the Tainto. They called the island Borinquen. This is a name for the island that is favored over Puerto Rico by many locals today, similar to the way the original native name Denali was favored over Mt. McKinley by modern Alaskans.

The Tainto believed the great spirit Yucahu would over and protected Borinquen. The legend has it that Yucahu resided at the top of the highest mountain in this rainforest, now known as El Yunque Peak.

When you visit the rainforest and experience the power of life and the elements around you, it is easy to understand why the ancient natives believed such a deity resided in the highest, most inaccessible location, surrounded by the vast forces of nature.

And… Another year older!

At Coco Falls in El Yunque National Forest


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Salinas to Palmas del Mar, PR

Good Karma at Palmas del Mar

We finally turned the southeast corner of PR to arrive in Palmas del Mar today. I have to characterize the last two days as quite difficult, and as a matter of fact, traversing the southern coast of PR has been some of the most difficult days so far from our starting point in Rock Hall, MD.

Though getting down to the Caribbean has not been easy, traversing the last 80 miles or so directly east has been slow and rough, fighting both the wind and the waves. Yesterday we travelled for 6 hours to gain less than twenty miles. We anchored at Porto Patillas and because our electronic chart had a bug, we didn’t have enough detail to go close into shore safely. We noticed several other boats about a quarter mile closer to shore, the obvious anchorage, but because we didn’t have a good plot of where it was too shallow, we opted to stay out a little further.

That proved to be problematic. We had side-to-side rolling all night because the protection was not good. I decided that the boat rocking in this manner is by far worse than any other motion. You can’t even lay in the bunk without rolling side-to-side. Neither of us slept much. We were more than happy to get up at 5 a.m. and move on. I started having motion sickness as soon as I got out of bed, something that has never happened. Drugs took care of that. Drugs, baby, drugs.

We turned the southeast corner of the island and started moving north to stop at Palmas del Mar, a very nice marina. We were so tired after we got here with Shelly’s professional docking skill, that we crashed for the afternoon and haven’t explored anything yet.

Forgot to mention that in Salinas, we saw quite a few manatee. Apparently there is a freshwater spring that flows into the bay and that is what attracts them. We’ve seen many more manatee since leaving Florida than we did while there. Also, this side of the island is spectacularly beautiful. Lots of tropical forest covered mountains and no big cities.

 


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Cayo Enrique to Salinas, PR

Sunset at Caja de los Muertos

Been a while since I updated the sailing blog. I’ve been too busy sailing and doing security research, but I thought I should put out an update of our journey since Cayo Enrique.

We left Cayo Enrique very early in the morning about a week ago. We delayed a day due to high winds on the previous morning. Our planned destination was an island off the south coast of PR called Caja de los Muertos (Coffin Island). Unfortunately, though we woke up at 5 a.m., we did not get going early enough to avoid the wind and waves pushing against us as we moved east. We were moving so slow at a little more than 3 knots that there was no way we would make it that day. Plan B, anchor at Gilligan’s Island.

Yes, that is the name and yes, it is apparently named after the TV show. We anchored in a protected cove and dropped the dinghy down to cruise into the island. There were lots of families having picnics and hanging out on the beach. The water is very warm, it’s almost like sitting in a hot spring and that’s what lots of people do: They bring tables and chairs and set them up in about two to three feet of water, sit and have a picnic in the water. There was a ferry shuttling the people back and forth from a nice resort on the main island. It was pretty busy.

The next day we again got up at 5 a.m. and headed into the east winds. The waves weren’t so bad on that day so we arrived at Caja de los Muertos island in a reasonable amount of time. Anchored alone off the island, we were both pretty tired from the last two full days of activities and so stayed on the boat until the next morning. We took Namaste in to look around after breakfast. This island is a state park that people visit either by boat or ferry, with a beach and a lighthouse on top of a hill.

Tall Cacti Line the Path

A trail crosses the island and up a few hundred feet to an abandoned lighthouse. Unfortunately, you can’t see much from the top of the hill due to the high bushes, and the lighthouse is closed and probably not safe to be inside.

This island is the subject of some interesting legends involving pirates and treasure. You can read a bit about it here, though I found that article a bit confusing.

We got back to the boat and decided we needed to get to the anchorage outside Salinas that afternoon because we were running short on water. The wind wasn’t directly on our nose and so finally got to sail a bit, which made Shelly quite happy. We pulled into the bay and saw a couple of manatees as we were anchoring. The next morning we pulled into the marina here for a few days recovery before the final eastward push to the east coast of PR.


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Superyacht Cybersecurity Consultant Available

Vulnerable to Cyber Dangers?

Sirs:

I bring to your attention this article on “super yacht” cyber security, and in fact, the severe lack thereof: Click here for the link. Make no mistake, this is a fundamental safety and privacy issue that I have personally verified.

Given that I am a uniquely qualified expert in cybersecurity and marine cyber systems and electronics (perhaps one of the very few in the world), I solicit my services to owners, operators, and representatives of such vessels. I offer expert evaluation and recommendation of not only secure systems but also privacy. I guarantee the utmost discretion and privacy for all my clientele.

My linkedin resume is available here: Mark’s Linkedin resume.

Email contact at m.scottnash@comcast.net

Thank you for your consideration,

Mark Scott-Nash


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Cayo Enrique, Puerto Rico

Thunderstorm Building near La Parguera

Today we left the marina at Puerto Real after having been in dock for a month. The Pescaderia Marina was excellent and the people fantastic. However, it wasn’t exactly my kind of place mainly because it was difficult to walk around the little town of Puerto Real. Just about every house had a dog that would charge the fence barking as you walked past. You also couldn’t safely walk out of the town because there were only two narrow, busy highway-type roads and neither had a sidewalk OR enough room to walk on grass beside the road. The only (safe) way in or out of town was in a car or on a bike, and I wouldn’t exactly call biking on those roads safe.

We left this morning and motored south past Boqueron and then around Cabo Rojo, the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, in dead calm air. As we rounded the corner, the sea once again became clear turquoise, you could see forty feed down to the bottom. We found a free mooring in the reefs off the little town of La Parguera to hang out and snorkel for a couple of days.

So far this is a great mooring, you can hear the waves break on the reef and it’s very calm. We haven’t snorkeled yet but the reef is supposed to be pretty good for that. The great thing about being on a mooring or anchored is that the boat swings to point into the breeze, letting you scoop the air through the deck hatches and giving you constant airflow, very comfortable in the tropical heat here.

Hey, we are in the Caribbean!

Cabo Rojo Lighthouse


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