We stay only one night at anchor in Culebra. After arriving, we dinghy to shore and then walk to the airport to check in at customs (that, in itself, is a whole other experience). On the walk back, we stop at a restaurant for an early dinner and play billiards with the boys. The next morning we dinghy to a beach. The boys play on the sand while Matt and I snorkel. It’s good snorkeling but it’s stormy so visibility isn’t great and the water is rough. After a while, we dinghy back to the boat for school and lunch. There is a torrential downpour that lasts all afternoon, filling the dinghy with 18 inches of water. We close all the hatches and portholes.
At bedtime we realize that Malachi didn’t tighten the screws on his porthole and that half his berth cushion is soaked. Matt pulls everything out and piles it in the salon. We plan to leave for Puerto Rico in the morning.
We wake up at 6:30 on Saturday and say a quick “Happy Valentine’s Day.” We are anxious to get moving. We are underway by 7:30 am. Matt would like to get to Puerto Rico in time to rent a car and have some fun. It’s a rough sail, with waves coming from two different directions and the wind from a third. I watch the level that shows how much the boat tips. One second, we are 10 degrees to starboard; the next (literal) second we are 20-30 degrees to port. This side-to-side goes on for the whole trip. The boys divide their time between lying eyes closed in their berths and on deck staring out at the horizon. We arrive in Puerto del Rey Marina before 1 pm. It is the largest marina we’ve ever been in. It seems they have over 1,000
slips. It takes us a while to tie up the boat and connect the electric. By the time this is done, Matt is hot and sweaty and just wants a shower. We are planning to leave the boys on the boat while we check in and bathe. I say we should close the top hatches before we go. Matt says they’re fine. I say it might rain. Matt says the boys can handle it. I say they’ve never closed those hatches before. I’m still trying to pack my shower bag as Matt says in irritation, “Can we please just GO?!” We go.
Checking in at this marina takes forever. It’s generally a 5-10 minute process. Forty minutes later we are still there. As we stand at the counter, we start to hear pounding on the roof. We both look at the windows behind us. It is pouring outside, with no sign of relief. Matt says he’s sure the boys closed the hatches and, even if he ran now, it would take about 10 minutes to get there. We finish up and go shower. When we come out, the skies have opened again and are unleashing torrents of water. We get back to the boat to find all three top hatches open and Malachi sobbing hysterically. He tried so hard to figure out how to close them but couldn’t. Everything is soaked. Our berth cushion is so wet that the excess water just flows down onto the floor. Our whole boat seems like a sodden mess (I would like to sit down and start crying but there’s really no place to sit). I comfort Malachi and tell him that none of this was his fault and there was nothing he could have done differently. He is still so upset. I had gotten dressed up for Valentine’s Day and I now start yanking off my nice clothes and put on everyday ones. I am livid (both at Matt and at myself for not insisting the hatches get closed) and also anxious about the long passages ahead. I just don’t want any additional work. Joshua, in the meantime, has managed to spill a full bottle of water in his berth – one of the few dry spots on the boat.
The immediate task at hand is to find a place to sleep tonight. We walk down the dock together. Matt says we can look at this as a pre-passage baptism. “Or maybe something is trying to drown us,” I comment. Matt tells us to go to the restaurant while he figures things out with a car rental and a hotel. About an hour later he joins us and, although neither was easy, he managed to get both of them for a Saturday evening that is also a romantic holiday. We go back to the boat to pack for the night. It’s pouring again as we leave (a slip neighbor says it’s unusual and has been gorgeous for the past month) and a cart gives us a ride to the car rental place. We drive through Fajardo to the Inn. There are abandoned buildings and the houses have bars over their doors, windows and even bar-enclosed patios. Not a good sign. We get to the Inn. All of the rooms have doors that enter from the parking lot. Again, not a good sign. Matt checks in as the rain continues to come down. We drive to the room and Matt says he’ll look at it and, if it’s not ok, we’ll just check out and drive all over Puerto Rico to find something else. He comes out and says slowly, “Well, … I think it’s clean.” That’s like hearing that the person your friend wants to set you up with has good personal hygiene and is employed. Aren’t those baseline assumptions? Are those really the positive attributes you’re hoping to hear about? I sigh. The truth is that we don’t have many options. We’re in a new country, we have no telephone, it’s getting dark and it’s the boys’ bedtime. All the other hotels (including this one) were booked and we’re lucky a room opened up. We go in and unpack our few belongings. I give everyone two chocolate-covered almonds that I grabbed from the boat before we left and say “Happy Valentine’s Day.” We put the boys to bed. The room doesn’t even have Wi-fi so I give up and get ready for bed. Matt does too. I just want this day to be over. Next year on Valentine’s Day I will look back at this one and laugh. But not just yet.