With the decision made to return to the US and a good weather forecast for the next 7 days, we made preparations to leave Culebra on March 30, 2020. We would make a direct passage to Florida, with a short stop on the main island of Puerto Rico to get water (both our watermakers were out of order).
I checked the Government website related to the Covid shutdowns and found that Puerto del Ray Marina was open to sell fuel and water. Puerto del Ray is one of the largest marinas in the Caribbean and is located on the coast of Fajardo PR, about 25 miles from where we had been hiding out in Culebra. Michelle suggested that we call in advance to let them know we were coming (she’s such a rule follower!!), but I didn’t want to take a chance that we’d be turned away, so we left without giving anyone advance warning of our plans. When we were just outside the harbor entrance, I called them on the VHF radio and was refused entry (of course!). I reminded them that they were a designated relief site and HAD to allow us in to get water (or fuel, if we had needed it).
After a 10-15 minute delay while the Dockmaster called his boss, who called the local police, who called the US Coast Guard, etc…, were were told we could come in to the marina for water, but we couldn’t leave the boat while docked. When we landed, we were met by three armed guards to make sure we didn’t cause any trouble. Initial impressions aside, we found the guards to be very kind and patient with us. It took us over an hour to put 500 gallons of water aboard and those poor guys had to stand there in the heat with their masks and gloves on the entire time. Even in those conditions, they were so kind to us and they even gave us a couple of ball caps for Michelle and me and treats for the dogs.
With our water tank full, we set out around the east end of Culebra, along the north shore, past San Juan, past the Dominican Republic, past Haiti and all along the north coast of Cuba. We turned north once we hit the Gulf Stream and “Yada, Yada, Yada,” we were back in Florida (7 days later). We thought we were going to head to Marathon in the Keys (about 988 total miles), but the weather Gods had taken pity on us and given us an easy passage, so we continued on to Vero Beach before stopping. That turned out to be a good decision since the Florida Keys were locked down tight.
In our next post, we have to get a new insurance policy that will cover Roam in the United States and decide where to spend the hurricane season!