Puerto Rico !!

Sailing toward the country from the west one can see the island for miles. It first appears as a shadow or maybe a mirage from interrupted sleep. As the sun begins to demonstrate her presence in the sky the mountains seem to take shape and finally the colors of the topography begin to develop. How amazing it is to see only blue water for a few days, then land. We now notice the brightly colored homes and establishments….a hint of Caribbean. The pink, yellow and aqua homes dot the green background with some right down to the clear blue water.We arrived in Boqueron on Saturday January 21 after leaving Thursday morning from Luperon. We had been reading all about this passage for months and it is supposed challenging weather coming across the open waters of the Mona Passage. With a settled window we got lucky and motor sailed the first several hours and then quietly sailed our last night out under a sliver of a moon, without wind or storms ( as it quite often can be).
Boqueron is a beautiful seaside village in the southwest of Puerto Rico. This was landfall. The anchorage is very large just off the almost 1 mile palm studded beach.We celebrated our arrival with a big breakfast and “sailor’s  morning nap “after a few sleepless nights. We went ashore in the afternoon and met our other traveling companions (3 other sailboats we made the passage with) for a celebratory beer. Mike and I walked to find hardware store for dinghy adhesive…we have a patch that wants to give us trouble and no more glue. We had a local guy give us a lift about a 1/2 mile out, he wanted to wait and take us back to the dock, but we felt after being on the boat for nearly 3 days straight we could use the exercise. No glue to be found, but nice walk.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Galloways. This is the cruisers hang out. It’s a simple open air bar and restaurant situated right on the water. When we mentioned to the owner we had all made our first Mona Passage crossing and she gave us all a round of drinks. By this time we are pretty sure these are the nicest people. We stayed the following day, resting, watched a little football, and spent time  restoring order to the boat after a few nights sail. A few beach walks and just another beautiful sunset for the books.

We made progress the next week to the south of Puerto Rico to La Parguera , and Ponce, and Las Salinas. The mountains along that shoreline look as if we could be sailing through Colorado foothills. We watched the clouds form high in the mountains, and distant rain showers cover the inland. In Ponce, we took a taxi to the center of the city to see the old firehouse and several historical buildings.  We had not found wifi since leaving Luperon and when we stopped, assuming we could find it at the little coffee bistro, (after buying a round of caffeinated beverages) found their wifi was NOT working. ( this seems to be a trend on this adventure……unreliable wifi spots…certainly makes you appreciate some of the comforts of ‘home’ ..wherever that may be)  A little bit more city Ponce was, than we have been used to since Puerta Plata. While on the south coast, anchored in a quaint marina in Salinas, we took a group field trip to El Yunque, The rainforest. There were 3 other boats cruising the same path that we became great friends with, and so we shared a couple of car rentals and headed”  norte “. The land here was set aside by Roosevelt and we were thankful for his foresight. It is a great drive up into the deeply canopied forest. We parked and walked about 1/2 mile up and down to a cool waterfall. There were many people there …..some swimming  in the fresh waters. Along the walk there are stands of enormous bamboo, lush trees, hibiscus, and we were taken over by the aroma of wild ginger. 

From Salinas as well we picked up our friend Jeff From San Juan for a week with us on Lost Loon. We made stops at the WalMart, hardware store and we were actually too late for Old San Juan, but as we drove through we realized we should have planned the entire day here. It is cobblestone streets and colorful tightly woven storefronts that would transport you to a European village. It will be on our list next year. 

Leaving Salinas we made anchor in Ensenada Bay, and visited the village of Esperanza briefly to get ice and wifi. We saw wild horses on the beach and through town.  We were very careful to watch our dinghy in this place. We had heard of another boat, catamaran , actually from Bayfield WI that had the motor stolen off the dinghy 3 nights before. And they told us later when we met up in Culebra that 4 others had been stolen in a weeks time. This is a bad problem down here.  Thieves look for motors, they really don’t want the boats, but will take them. So every night we hoist ours and lock it to the davit on the back of the boat. It is our lifeline to shore, one cannot anchor out and not have transportation to land and services you need. 

We made our way to the Spanish Virgin island of Vieques, then Culebra. These are as beautiful as the anticipated British Virgin Islands. Mountains out of the sea. We enjoyed snorkeling, getting conch ( trial and error learning how to crack and extract the meat sea an afternoon education) and lobster. We had 2 great sail days before we landed in Culebra, the town anchorage near Dewey. We sailed in 17-20 knot winds on the beam with full job, staysail and main. Lost Loon showed us she could scoot along pretty well at 7.2 knots if given the right conditions. (Kinda like those racehorses with a solid track and great jockey!).  We met up with cruising acquaintances at the Dinghy Dock Bar and restaurant, witnessed  a man arrive from his boat with his cat on a leash, visited an empty nude beach and had a great day of snorkeling………….yes I did say nude beach. We took the dinghy to the beach sign and read about the turtle habitat. There was an unofficial sign pasted on the placard saying “nude beach”, but since it was deserted we will never know. It was then we noticed numerous little plastic red flags on the beach. They were numbered and had width and depth measurements written on them. We figured they were marking the turtle nests. The information sign talked all about turtle habitats in the bays on that particular side of the island. There were corals and reef formations that appeared to be beautiful for diving or snorkeling off that beach. So we left deciding to retrieve our gear .  We were treated on our return to a spotted eagle ray that soared in and out of the water 3 times right ahead of the dinghy! Before returning with the gear, we stopped in a local dive shop to ask about diving and snorkeling. We were told that the likely reason the nude beach was deserted was that they were marking and removing unexploded ordinance (military term for…..BOMBS!!) from navy practice 25-30 yrs ago. Well….not turtle nests at ALL. Those little flags were marking practice bombs 2-5 ft below the sand we had been walking on.  It would figure that they would wait until we arrived to begin cleaning them up. In fact, we later read about how the entire island is littered with these. However outdated, there are cautions everywhere saying that although outdated, could hold potential harm. Would put a new meaning to clearing your ears underwater should one of those go off!! The day was a great snorkel, too little time to arrange a dive. Most of the coral, in so many types was within 10-15 ft of the surface and a good number of reef fishes to watch as well. That would finish up our Puerto Rico visit. Next stop will be the real Virgin Islands……St Thomas, St John, Jost Van Dyke!

Well thanks for stopping by..Leave me comments, I love to hear from everyone..I have more pics, but limited bandwidth to upload…its all good Mon! Have a great day, be thankful for each one. 


Despacho de Luperon

So after 9 days of residence in Luperon Dominican Republic, we had finally waited for our weather window to Puerto Rico. We had also received our part for our wind generator we had been awaiting from Spain.We had tasted quite a bit of the food and culture in the DR and ready to move along. We had met 3 other cruising boats also ready to make the journey. We all had dinner the night before to discuss the travel route and have the last Presidentes ( beers). We retired that evening early with plans to check out of the country the next morning. 

In order to comply with the country’s immigration laws we needed to present ourselves to all the same authorities as we did upon arrival. We would get papers that we would have if we needed to stop at another port in the DR before Puerto Rico. We were assured they would be in their offices at 0730 in the morning. We were up early to ready and prep the boat for the passage that we had estimated to be 2 days and 2 nights to Boqueron, PR. We arrived at the defunct dock at 0800 and proceeded through the offices. We were required to now pay $20 US to get our paperwork to leave. Following which we needed to present ourselves to the Commadante of the Navy to receive the exit paper, the despacho. . Since the bridge was out and the Navy without a boat ( yes! Believe it), we needed to walk to the office in a roundabout way, down the street, across another bridge, and up the hill to complete papers and retrieve the officials to take them to our boats. A beautiful location on top of a hill overlooking the harbor we presented our paperwork. The officials are dressed in army fatigues, no weapons, though. They do not speak a lick of English, but thry try to pronounce all the names on the passports, and we all laugh together. You are careful at what you say, lest you may be questioned about your readiness to leave. When all the boats had completed the process the Commadante and his assistant proceeded to take all 6 of us in 2 trips back to the dock, riding 3 on a scooter! We had 2 dinghies to transport them to each boat. You see,  it is his responsibility to see that we leave the harbor, and it is a requirement that we leave within the hour. ( the question is…. how would he even know we left without being able to check the harbor….sans boat??) Mike had the lucky job to move him from boat to boat to receive his approval. It is customary to present a gift, so we gave the crew 3 cokes for their effort. I waved them goodbye as they snapped my photo with the name of the boat and Mike drove them away. By the time Mike had returned them to the Luperon dock and then back to the boat I had 75% of the anchor chain retrieved and washed meticulously…( remember the filth? I had cleaned thick greasy muck from the chain links…thanks to the seawater wash-down pump on the bow…. it has been invaluable!)). The Engine was started and electronics were ready, but I couldn’t pull up the anchor. The windlass pulled with its might and stalled out against a stuck anchor right below the boat. I hear Mike yell, “just pull it up ” as we watch the 3 other boats in our informal rally exit the harbor. Were we stuck on a rock? What was holding it down there? I politely ask Mike to come forward as I laid on the windlass again.  As the boat moved forward it seemed to be slowly raising, to reveal a mess of an anchor covered in a rats nest of thick and narrow ropes. The anchor itself was barely visible. I quickly retrieved a sturdy knife by which Mike cut us loose. We had managed to tangle ourselves in numerous feet of old moorings at the bottom of the harbor. No telling how many there are. We had read stories of Christopher Columbus coming to this port to retrieve the Santa Maria after it was stolen from him at Bahia Isabela just west of this location……Could these be old anchor ropes from that many years gone by? It was fun to wonder who had used the ropes in the past.

With the anchor cleaned and now stowed we began our slow progress out the harbor, almost on time. We set sail in the cleaner open waters of the Atlantic to the east. Our first day was with variable winds and we made headway along the north coast of the DR. It was beautiful scenery as we passed enormous cliffs rising out of the water and big harbors along the way. As the tail-gunners,  we had a clear view of all 3 ships sailing before us in the clear water and blue skies. 

As we rounded the  east end of the DR and headed into the open waters of the Mona Passage, it was late evening. It is known that the weather coming across the passage can be challenging. At the end of a warm day, the heat moves off Puerto Rico east to the passage and as it hits the moist air storms and squalls develop. We are thankful for none ( just as forecasted). The moon did not breach the horizon until 12AM. It brought light to the water and the environment around the boat. We sailed through the night with our 3 hour shifts. At dawn we had sun and less wind. We made contact with the other boats and determined their location. There was about 24 hours left of our transit. We rested during the day, fished, and passed the time reading about our destination, Puerto Rico. We looked forward to a new location, different foods, and different culture…..plus cleaner waters and better dinghy docks!!

Our second night presented us with great sailing winds. We reflected on the warnings for challenging weather on this passage and couldn’t believe our luck. We had what Van Sant refers to as ” unlikely event you have settled weather for the Mona”. With the water trickling behind the stern we cruised at times close to 6-7 knots. For ur boat that is excellence. We carry a lot of fuel and water, designated as a long range cruising vessel, so we tend to be slower than some other boats. By morning light we could make out a glimmer of a coastline, Land Ho! We began to sense the odor of land and vegetatio the closer we approached.

By 1030 AM we had anchored in waters of glass at Boqueron, PR. A long crescent beach lined with palms greeted us. We made a celebratory breakfast and then just one phone call to clear into US territory very uneventfully. Our rally of four vessels met that afternoon to celebrate the beautiful, safe and uneventful crossing the Mona Passage. We were now half way to our destination in Grenada. Our sailing trips now would be smaller day or early pre-dawn trips from island to island working our way only a little more east, and eventually a south rhumb line.

Come on back….. Puerto Rico is a blast!!!