Ponce is an industrial city with a lot of resources, parts, and service. The 200 amp alternator had begun to sound like a bearing was going out so Bob decided to get it checked. He looked in the yellow pages and located a possible auto electric repair shop. We headed out in search of the place. We thought we were close and stopped at a street vendor to ask final directions. The guy said our repairman had moved and gave us further directions. We finally found the place on the back corner of a Gulf station, a tiny shed with a tin roof extending over a wooden table where the mechanic made repairs. The man did not speak English. After some unsuccessful efforts to communicate, Bob asked, "Quanta questa?" The man wrote down $35.00 labor and made us understand that parts were extra. Bob then pointed to his watch to ask how long it would take to fix it and the man indicated one hour. Bob decided to stay with the alternator and watch the man work. Jerry and I left. When we returned less than an hour later, the man had completed the job. Bob wanted extra brushes and bearings. When he first attempted to convey this, the man insisted that the brushes were still good. Bob finally pointed to the parts and then to his pocket to let the man know he wanted extra parts for future use. Bob is really good with the hand jive!
My challenging experience was to find a dentist on a Friday afternoon who could re-cement a small gold filling that had come out .Believe it or not, after several calls, we found a dentist who agreed to work me in as an emergency and got directions to his office. The staff did not speak much English but luckily the dentist did. He used a cement cured with light so hopefully the filling will stay in place for a while. I'm constantly amazed at how nice everyone is.
The other night I fell asleep reading on the couch. I was rudely awakened by a piercing alarm going off. I was on my feet before I was awake and went to check the alarm we have on the hatch. The hatch was open so obviously it wasn't that alarm. I looked around and saw the light on for the high water alarm. About that time, Bob came into the salon. He shuffled his feet and I thought he was feeling water. In his stupor, he had started back to the stern berth to look into the bilge but then changed his mind and turned back around to ask me to check the automatic bilge pump switch. The switch is beside the chart table bench and had accidentally been turned off. When a small amount of water started sloshing around in the bilge from the boat rocking, the alarm had gone off. We switched the pump on manually, emptied the small amount of water, reset the switch and all was okay. What a fright for the alarm to go off at 2:30 a.m. but it's good to know it works! What I didn't know at the time was that Bob came into the salon with his arm by his side, weapon in hand, prepared for intruders.
Sam and Jerry on Rainbow's End have had some financial reversals causing a change in their plans. Tenants of their two rental properties had vacated without notice, leaving each house unoccupied and one of the houses in a mess. They alternated between plan one of returning to the States and going back to work or plan two of continuing south on a $400 budget. Then they considered plan three of going to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station and trying to get jobs for two months. Both were retired military and might have had some luck, especially Sam who is a nurse. As of the time we separated at Ponce, they were planning to continue south and get jobs to supplement their income. Our insurance required us to be further south than their insurance so we had to move on.
We departed Ponce, spent a few nights in Salinas then headed for Vieques, an island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico where the Navy and NATO conduct war games and arms practice. A small segment of the island was populated and we had seen on local television residents demonstrating in an effort to get the armed services off the island completely. The cruising guide suggested that when you go into this area, you call the Navy and ask if the area is "hot." We assumed it was safe because of the demonstrations, it not being diplomatically a good time to have operations there. Wrong. As we approached Vieques, we heard the Coast Guard on the VHF trying to identify vessels in the area. It wasn't long before we heard a helicopter and then spotted a small Coast Guard cutter. As we continued down the island, the cutter stayed a mile off but was with us all the way. Once we turned into the little fishing village of Ensenada to anchor, they left us alone. However, they patrolled the area all night. The next morning we departed at 3:00 a.m. along the most direct course for St. Thomas. We had not gone far when the Coast Guard called the sailing vessel at our position and headed along our course. They asked us our nationality, identification numbers, where we were headed, etc. Then they advised us that we were in a prohibited zone and that we had to alter course, subject to fine, imprisonment, and forfeiture of vessel. Bob altered course and we added a couple of hours to our passage. One doesn't mess with the U.S. Coast Guard.