Puerto Rico Bound
February 20, 2020
While I realize more time has passed we have been busy and neglected to uploading some posts. The dates do correspond to what we were doing at the time.
We left St. Croix on Feb 11th and headed to Culebra 40 mile sail. Culebra and Vieques are known as the Spanish Virgin Islands but essentially they are considered a part of Puerto Rico. Moving from the USVI to a higher level of security required us to check into “Puerto Rico” when we entered Culebra waters. We used our ROAM App to check in and had a first being required to have essentially a face to face skype-like interaction with US Customs and Border Patrol. It went uneventfully and after answering a few questions and seeing our innocent looking faces we were allowed in. We quickly moved to Culebrita, one of our favorite anchorages, as we knew a North swell was coming in the next day or so making this anchorage untenable. We met some other cruisers headed in the opposite direction there and got some advice on Puerto Rico and the Mona passage. Culebrita has a beautiful white sand beach along with a very old lighthouse looking over it. We were there with only two other boats that night. As predicted the North swell came in the next day and we moved to a more protected and secluded anchorage, Almodovar. We spent the next two nights in Almodovar waiting for swell to come down before making our way around to the other side of Culebra hoping to get one of the two mooring balls in Puerto Morelos (anchoring not allowed). With luck we took the last ball there and had a great dinner dinghying into Dinghy Dock. The night was still rolly so we decided to move the next day to Vieques. We sailed to western most edge of Vieques and stayed at Green Beach which looks back towards Puerto Rico. It is a beautiful very long bay and beach and we found a good sandy patch to put down anchor. We spent the next two nights there relaxing and getting things set for going to Puerto Rico.
On the 17th of February we sailed to east coast of Puerto Rico and into the marina at Palmas Del Mar which would be our base for the next four days to provision and explore inland Puerto Rico. There was a swell and the marina entrance literally had a series of crashing waves that we had to “surf” in on. Linda did a remarkable job bringing boat in as I prepared the lines and fenders. Palmas Del Mar is a very large development with multiple restaurants, golf courses, tennis courts along with 100s of nice villas. The marina had very few boats. This was our first marina with a high concrete dock and one that experienced surge lurching the boat forward and back at times. We chaffed through one of our dock lines (of course after we had drove 90 minutes to West Marine for other supplies). We wish we had larger fenders and more dock lines. One of the marina residents gave us a section of old firehose to protect one of our most vulnerable lines which is something we will need to get when return to Wilmington. We rented a car there for three days and really spent little time in the marina.
Our first day was going to visit Old San Juan. We toured the city using a walking tour we found on line. It is definitely something to do if you are able. The history of the town and all the various countries that controlled it is interesting. The architecture, sculptures and art are phenomenal. There is a huge wall that protected the entire city which for the most part is entirely intact. We visited the home of Ponce De Leon sitting in the gardens essentially by ourselves. There are two remarkable forts to visit El Morro and San Cristobal. They are massive structures that you can walk through with incredible views overlooking the harbors and grounds. It’s hard to describe the enormity of it compared to those such as Fort Sumpter we have visited in the US. It was a long day and a lot of walking. Found a neat small bar off the beaten path where we had some empenadas and very good Mojitos. We then walked back to where we parked the car and noted massive amounts of people “invading” the areas we just seen as they poured off of four cruise ships that arrived that afternoon. Good timing.
Second day of exploring was getting up early to beat the crowds and visit the El Yunque National Rain Forest. It was a bit rainy (I guess rain forests get rain) and we drove into the park. We stopped and saw some waterfalls and drove to the end of the park and hiked the Mount Britton Tower Trail. We went to the top of an observation tower at the top of the mountain and when the fog and clouds cleared for a few seconds every couple of minutes you saw vast amounts of palm trees lining all the mountains surrounding us. Half of the park was still closed from the effects of Hurricane Maria which was kind of sad. On our way back as predicted the hoards of people were arriving as we were driving out of the park. The rest of the day was spent hitting the Home Depot, West Marine, Walmart, and large grocery store to reprovision as this will be our last real big stop to reprovision in this fashion. Nothing like this will be present in rest of Puerto Rico, DR, Turks or Bahamas.
Our last day of having the car we drove along the southeast coast of Puerto Rico visiting Puerto Patillas and Salinas. There were several quaint roadside stands along the bluffs but other than that there wasn’t much to offer. Our plan at that time was to slowly make our way along the south coast of Puerto Rico hitting these two places up as night anchorages along with others further west. Beautiful views but the anchorages we saw were not impressive or what we were hoping for.
We filled our tanks with diesel and clean water and left Palmas Del Mar Marina on the 21st with the intention of sailing to Puerto Patillas for the next night.