Knowing we had a month to ourselves before we embarked on our trip to Bermuda, the Azores, and beyond, we focused our attention on boat projects and visiting Jayanne and Steve McLaughlin in Puerto Rico. Some of our most fond memories of our cruising days back in 1988 and 1989 were with this wonderful couple. Bill and I were sailing on our beloved Wings, a Westsail, and Jayanne and Steve were sailing on Tashtego, his father’s Tartan. Together, we sailed, snorkeled, feasted on the fish the guys speared, and learned a lot about the priorities of life. Eventually, we all sailed back to New England, babies came along, and our lives became too busy to cross the miles for visits.
Before setting off for Puerto Rico, we had a few more days of enjoying St Thomas. Hikes were always in the schedule, while visiting with other boaters and locals ashore was part of our evening routine. Being April, with the summer and threat of hurricanes coming, many folks were making plans to move their boats to safer cruising areas. For those heading to Europe, some chose to ship their boats rather than sail there.
Sailing to Puerto Rico was a breeze, literally! It was a downwind ride with plenty of wind and large rolling seas. We knew that heading back to St Thomas in a month would be much more challenging as those same winds and seas would be on the nose, and make for a slow and very wet ride. Alembic is always up for a good romp and so were we! But first, we wanted to make a quick stop in Culebra to see this lovely little island that we visited almost thirty years ago.
It was nice to see that the hurricanes didn’t devastate this area nearly as much as nearby islands.
We found the people to be welcoming and creative, as seen in the garden signs. And finding Christopher Robin was a treat! Our dear friends, Angie and Peter, had owned this Westsail and sailed it from Maine, across the Atlantic as far as Turkey, and back through the Caribbean. They sold it to a Canadian couple who owned it for the last thirty years, putting huge amounts of love and care into it. Unfortunately, it dragged during the hurricane, suffered damage that they felt was beyond their abilities to fix, and was sold to a local friend. We met this young man and his lady, who were fixing it up for more years of adventures! Sail on, Christopher Robin!
Arrival in Puerto Rico was delightful. Helpful marina workers and sailors were always ready to lend a hand with the tricky dock landing and our list of projects.
But the grand delight was seeing Jayanne and Steve!! Many years have passed with so many experiences shaping our way of life and our paths, but there’s something about good friends…hearts sing when reunited. We spent nearly every evening for a week with these two, catching up on all we have missed. They have two fabulous adult daughters, many gorgeous homes, and more boats than I could keep track of. When their girls were very young, they built a business, East Island Excursions, which has huge boats of all types to take folks out for day tours or longer. Jayanne has continued to work for them even after they sold the business. Hopefully, they will soon untie the lines and head off for more cruising!
After many complicated projects were completed, and we had a chance to visit the lovely spot where Lindsay had stayed, we made plans to sail east again. We were so sad to depart from Jayanne and Steve and this island. Goodbyes are very hard for me.
Kenny’s lifelong friend, PJ Saltzman, had lived in Vieques for a few years, and we were curious about his connections there. So we sailed to Vieques to explore before heading further east. PJ was back in the States, visiting his parents, when Hurricane Maria struck and devastated so much of this quiet island. The owners, Dan and Maria, of Al’s Mar Azul, remembered PJ fondly but were seriously struggling from the aftermaths of the storm. They have since sold the restaurant after many years of ownership.
One more quick stop in Culebra, the north harbor this time, broke up the sail to windward, back to St Thomas. Here, we relaxed in the tranquil harbor and hiked up to the ancient lighthouse. The island might be small, but the caterpillars are huge!!
Coming back to St Thomas was bittersweet. Goodbyes to all of the Caribbean, especially to the dear people we met and reunited with, left me with a heavy heart. But the excitement of crossing the Atlantic was enough to keep my mind engaged on grand plans and high hopes.