Back in the Boatyard, Baby!

Sanitas finished the 2019 cruising season at the Puerto del Rey marina in Fajardo Puerto Rico. This marina is massive – it holds over 1000 boats in wet slips, and several hundred “on the hard” for hurricane season storage. It’s so huge, they employ a fleet of golf carts to drive you from a slip to the parking lot or the main office building because the walk can be nearly a mile! I’d often choose to walk, and I could get my daily 10,000 steps just doing laundry!

Once we pulled into our slip at PdR, the vacation was over! Now the hurricane season preparation spreadsheet comes out, and we get to work cleaning Sanitas from bow to stern and making her as safe as possible from tropical storms while we travel for the summer. Capt. Mike and I rented a storage unit on land so that we could remove as much as possible from the boat, giving us the chance to clean very thoroughly and allowing ventilation so that we don’t return to mold or mildew. But remember how far our slip is from the parking lot? Getting everything off the boat is a challenge, even with a rental car.

Once she’s mostly empty, we could get down to business and do some once-a-season jobs like cleaning and marking the anchor chain….

….And inspecting, cleaning, and removing the sails.

Knowing that we are inside the hurricane box, we took special care to remove anything that could be grabbed by the wind. For the first time, we removed all of the running rigging, replacing the thicker braided nylon lines with thin parachute cord “messenger lines”. I almost don’t recognize Sanitas with no canvas and no lines!

While we were in a wet slip, we had access to fresh water so that we could spray a season’s worth of dirt and salt water off everything. We also had access to electricity, which means air conditioning – hooray! We set the thermostat at 72 deg, and I think it actually got the temperature inside the boat down to around 80. Unfortunately, being in a slip so close to land and to other boats also meant LOTS of tiny little flies. I hung up fly paper and by the time of our haul-out, we’d captured hundreds.

One thing that made all the heat and dirt and flies tolerable was the $1.50 rum punch pouches sold in the marina cafe. In all kinds of tropical flavors, and ice cold, it was tough to walk by without stopping for a treat.

Finally, the big haul-out day arrived, and Sanitas got to go for a little ride! Capt. Mike did an excellent job backing her into the teeny little haul-out slip, and the very professional boat yard crew drove her across the parking lot, transferred her to a small hydraulic trailer, and slid her into place in the dry storage yard.

We chose Puerto del Rey for a reason – it supposedly has the most secure hurricane storage in all of the Caribbean. In the boatyard, concrete footings reinforced with rebar provide strong tie-down points. We used ratcheting tie-down straps rated at 10,000 pounds to secure Sanitas to the ground. In theory, all of the boats lined up and tied down together provide additional strength. We have our fingers crossed that it’s true, and that we’ll have no problems during the storm season! To further reduce risk, we hired a caretaker to visit and inspect Sanitas periodically, and to double check that she’s secured before every big storm.

After two weeks of hard work, Sanitas was safe and secure and Capt. Mike and I could have a little fun. We explored Luquillo Beach and the kiosks that serve the tastiest food and drink we had in Puerto Rico.

And we took a day to explore El Yunque National Forest – the only tropical rain forest in our national parks system. True to its name, it rained the whole time we hiked, so we didn’t have great views…but the vegetation and scenery and waterfalls were amazing! We worth the trip and the soggy hiking shoes!

Finally, a little drama to close out our season…. on the day we were scheduled to fly from Puerto Rico to Colorado, Southwest canceled all flights to Denver because of weather. (Although how they knew at 5am east coast time there would be bad weather in Denver at 8pm mountain time, I have no idea 😡) So we were left to reschedule our flights, find a new place to stay in Puerto Rico, extend our rental car, and cancel our hotel in Denver. On the positive side, we had a day to explore Old San Juan. So we made the best of it, hiking through the Castillo San Felipe del Morro fort, and touring the governor’s residence at the Fortaleza.

I could have spent several days just wandering the streets of Old San Juan, enjoying the people watching and sampling the tasty food! It’s the only city I’ve ever visited where the historic streets are paved with blue bricks – due to the iron content of the ingredients.

I realized that we’d been in Puerto Rico almost a month and we had yet to try paletas – the local version of popsicles, made with fresh fruit and all kinds of gourmet ingredients. Well, we certainly remedied that error on our last day!

And of course, we visited the iconic Passeo de Sombrellas or the Umbrella Passage and joined the rest of the selfie-mad tourists. Instead of rainbow colored umbrellas, they were camouflage print during our visit in honor of Memorial Day and in support of the Army National Guard. I can’t wait to do more exploring when we return to Puerto Rico in the fall!

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