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.