More on Puerto Rico and……… our departure!!

March 8, 2012

wow, it’s been a long time.   We have been on the go, and experiencing some wonderful times.    We arrived in Culebra, and anchored just outside of Dewey, so I could go for a swim, before going in to the main harbor.    We then went in to anchor, and rush over to the ferry dock to meet the kids coming in from Puerto Rico.  Jill (larry’s daughter, her husband Dan-who did the offshore leg with us coming down, and daughter Isabella).  They arrived nearly on time………..island time, and we made our 1st important stop–the Dingy bar for their 1st vacation cervesa (beer).

Culebra is a small island in the Puerto Rico territory of the US.  It is a lovely island, environmentally conscious-(as much as they can be- with financial and logistical and political corruption limitations), and really beautiful friendly people.

So the afternoon we arrived to pick up the kids, Larry went with them to get the cervesa, and I went over to the dock to bring the dingy over to The Dingy Bar-aptly named.  While getting in the dingy, I see the Customs Immigration guy pull up in his truck, and chat with another cruiser.  When he leaves, I ask the cruiser why he had gone to customs, and he said we have to check in to Puerto Rico.  I am thinking that it isn’t necessary, as they are a territory of the US.   When checking in anywhere—that is mandated to be the 1st order of business by the captain, before anyone else gets off the vessel, and any thing else is done.

so the next morning, Larry and I hike over to the airport where the Customs/Immigration/Homeland Security office is, and proceed to begin check in.  The customs guy says……….”didn’t I see you on the dock yesterday afternoon??”  shit—-busted..   me  “Ahh, yes, you did.”   so he said we are in violation, could get a $5000.00 fine, or just a written warning, and then next time a big fine.   So I told the truth, we were late for the ferry to pick up the kids……….blah, blah.  It was kind of the truth.  So luckily he was a nice guy, and let us go………..this time.    Seems they have gotten much more strict since 9-11.

The next morning we did some shore exploring, and shopping, and then headed over to Culebrtia, a beautiful island just a few miles away.  We grabbed a free mooring, and all jumped in to do some snorkeling around some really awesome coral heads.  The next day we went over to Flamingo Beach for some time at another beautiful “secluded beach, where you might be the only boat in the anchorage”  Well, the beach is indeed beautiful-fantastic………….but by no means secluded.  We arrived on the 1st day of a holiday weekend, along with at least 1/2 the boater population of Puerto Rico. The cruisers call them the Puerto Rican Navy!! They have huge, fancy motor and fishing boats, and sardine themselves in lines just off the beach.  The boats are all loaded up with family and friends, and they have a blast.  All are very friendly and helpful, and everyone gets on just fine.  The blasting music gets a bit tiresome, but it’s all part of the party!!

The next few days, the kids did some beaching, and exploring, and we went to some outer islands, working our way to mainland Puerto Rico.  We had beautiful weather and great sailing.  We also showed the kids what it is like to spend a couple of nights in really rolly anchorages.  We all rolled out of our bunks bleary eyed in the morning.  They were not impressed.

We went into Sunbay Marina in Fahardo, rented a car, and began our land adventures.  We rented an economy car for the 5 of us, so now we know how poor sardines feel in that little can!!

We rode through San Juan in the middle of the morning, getting lost alot.  Finally we got on the main road for the north shore and headed West.  We passed thru modern industrial areas and then little villages where they were still tying up their horses to the hitching posts outside the little market.  All of the towns have a main square with a church.  Beautiful architecture, and usually well cared for with pride.  The north shore is pretty rugged, and we happened up some areas where they were surfing, and riding wave boards.  The shore line is really rocky, so it looked really big, and really treacherous.

Oh, to be young again………………

The next day, we went to visit the Rio Camuy Cave Park near Lares.   This is a natural area of 2000 caverns with stalactites and stalagmites that was discovered not too long ago, and has been opened as a park.  Only 500 of the caves have been explored, and we went right down into some of them.  It was truly amazing.   We had to take a trolly way down to an area, and were then met by a guide.

I couldn’t do it justice with a description.  I will try to add some photos.

Later, we were driving around looking for a waterfall that we wanted to see, and happened upon a “winter festival”.  This place was off in the middle of no where, lots of people, all dressed up, with lots of local food, a craft fair, and again….really loud music.  I believe that the local knew that we were ‘from away’, and we were welcomed like long lost friends.

In our driving around the island, we were at times along the beach, other times high on mountain ridges with fantastic vistas all around, some great roads, other’s with pot hole that can compete with Maine roads in winter.  Everywhere we stopped for directions, or gas, or snacks, or whatever, people were very friendly and helpful.  When we attempt to speak in our terrible spanish, the interaction is even better!!

March 16th  Friday   0445am

FINALLY, and sadly we are underway.We have been waiting for this 3-4 day weather window for about a week.  We are leaving from Boqueron, Puerto Rico.  Our goal is to head up the west coast to near the NW end of the island and then head NW off into the deeper water to avoid and shelf effects on the water.  What I mean by deep is over 3000 feet.  There is an adjacent area of around 800-900 feet, and when these waters meet, it causes bigger seas.  hard to believe this can happen with such vast depths, but it does.

So we will be trying to do a 300 mile passage to the Turks & Caicos.  This will take us along the northern shore of the Dominican Republic which can have really snotty wind and seas much of the time.  We think this is a good weather window for calm seas and light winds.  Catch 22–better conditions for comfort-poor conditions for sailing.  So our fuel tanks are full,  (that computes to approx  $800.00 worth of fuel) and we are on our way. There are times when being able to call vessel a motor sailor is not all bad.   I figure we should be able to make 125-150 miles in 24 hrs.

So what does this mean??   Motor sailing…….. Am I no longer a pure-ist sailor?  Have I become a softie??  So what.  I no longer move as fast as I used to, I can no longer jump to the bow of the boat in a ‘single bound’, I can’t always pull the entire main up without using the winch.  and the bruises take much longer to heal.  So safety, and prudence, and conservative have more meaning for us at this point in our lives.

We have about 2000 miles ahead of us, to return to Maine.  Too early to speculate on a time frame, or what routes we will take—inside the Intracoastal Waterway from Fl. or open ocean?  I’m sure it will be both as weather conditions will determine those choices.

We have spent the past week preparing for this.  What does that mean??  When we were in Ponce, a large city on the south shore, we were in a nice anchorage at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club.  They allow boats in the harbor to use their dingy dock, and shower/laundry facilities for $10.00/day.

I like no dollars per day, so we found a different dingy dock.  I did sneak and use their laundry tho.


There, we changed the oil and fuel filters, topped off the fuel and water, went to visit the town.Larry got his blood drawn (which they never sent the results of), and Larry got a tooth pulled.  As usual met some very friendly, helpful people.  The marina area is several miles out of the city, so it’s take a taxi or get lucky.  we met a lady at the marine store who went to college in Worchester, Ma. and she gave us a ride into town and a little tour.  She is married to a general surgeon who when to school in Boston.  They are both natives of Puerto Rico.

All of these towns have beautiful town center park with fountains.  They are lovely, and a relaxing place to gather and people watch.   The architecture is beautiful, and at one time, not too long ago, this entire downtown area was a bustling thriving place.  But no more…….malls have arrived with JCPenny and sears, and wal-mart, and Burlington.  It’s is sickening.  Hundreds of beautiful retail buildings with for rent signs.  i thought we only did this to our towns in the United States.  but they are a territory here………..   We do appreciate the nice modern marinas, and good roads,so I guess we are hipocrites.

Anyway,  from Ponce, we continued west.  We spent one night on the very south west point of Puerto Rico all by ourselves, and I had a nice swim.  The next morning we went around to Boqueron to wait for the weather, and make final preparations for leaving Puerto Rico.

We arrived in Boqueron on Sun.  Sun is the Puerto Rican party day.  The place is a mob scene, loud music, lots of food, lots & lots of people walking all over in a one lane street with 2 lane traffic, and cars parked along each side!   Picture Old Orchard Beach on the hottest busiest day of the summer with a one lane road.  but there were no funnel cakes, or fried dough, or cotton candy.

Just lots of fresh oysters, octopus, and spanish fried sandwiches.  and of course, cervesa.

Jess, the girl we met at the caves and her friend Ricardo, came down and we had a really fun afternoon.  Jess, is from Md. and is working here on a dive boat.  Ricardo is a horse vet.   Jess wanted to come with us in a big way, but couldn’t leave her job this soon.  too bad, we would have loved to have her.  Ricardo knows the folks who own the horse farm that we visited.   The horse farm story is coming soon…………..  It was an awsome experience for all of us.

We have to check out of Customs when leaving Puerto Rico.  A courtesy thing, which makes it easier for us to enter other countries–particularly the Dominican Republic.  So, to be prepared for whatever, -the other day we motor 12 miles up to Mayaguez, a very large city, and do the customs thing.  This place is not a boat friendly harbor.  Big boats-shipping and ferry, but not sail.  There are NO facilities.  So we anchor in yucky water, dingy in to a even more yucky beach, and walk to customs.  The customs building downtown is in a beautiful building with a locked gate all around it.  We walked completely around it a couple of times, and finally some local guys showed us how to get in.  We go in, and see that one of the officials has been watching us on camera –walking around the building–trying to open the gates……………….  what’s weird with this picture??   When we got in, I asked him if he had been watching us trying to get in, and he laughed and said “si, si”.

So we were there for a good hour and a half, answering questions, and waiting, and more questions, and then we find out we have to go about a mile over to the immigration office.  This “courtesy” check out took us 4 hours!!!

By that time it was too late to go back to Boqueron, and the wind had come up.  Needless to say, we spent a miserable rolly night.   But——it’s all part of it.

Yesterday was spent again topping off the fuel and water tanks, but this time, no  fueldock.  Larry had to go back and forth to the gas station with the jerry cans, and refill a couple of times.

We stowed the swim ladder, the fender, hooked up the jack lines, put the big head sail back on, and secured the emergency life raft.

So again, here we are underway. on our way, wish us a safe passge.  More later……..about the horse farm…….

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