The day after Thanksgiving, Kraken, Ddraig and Villa Veritas all left Boquerón for the short hop over to Cabo Rojo. Winds were light with calm seas and we were able to actually sail instead of motor. Cabo Rojo has a beautiful lighthouse but unfortunately winds and seas had picked up making the anchorage very rough and rolly. We decided not to try to dinghy to shore in those conditions and stayed on the boat. I went down to get dinner together and ended up feeling sick so had to come back up on deck where I stayed until the waves calmed down around 3 am. Once again leaving on a Friday didn’t have the best outcome for us!
We, and the crew on Kraken, were ready to find a more protected anchorage so we left early the next morning for La Parguera.
Villa Veritas has a much shallower draft, so they had been able to anchor closer into shore where it was not as rough. Having enjoyed a calmer night, Andrew and Jazz were determined to explore the lighthouse. This turned out to be a wonderful blessing for us because they got some great drone shots of Ddraig as we sailed by. These were the first pictures we had ever been given of us under sail and they are amazing!
La Parguera is great little town with lots of bars and restaurants. The anchorage is very busy on the weekend but quiet during the week. There is also a bay with really good bioluminescence but since the moon was too bright while we were there, we missed it.
Unfortunately in La Paguera there aren’t very many places with dinghy access. We did find two spots, one on each end of town that would allow us to leave our dinghies while we went in search of the perfect mojito.
A lot of businesses are closed Monday thru Wednesday, but on the weekends La Paguera is a happening place with music, dancing in the street, food vendors and awesome mojitos. There was a Christmas parade one of the nights we were there. We found a great table in a restaurant overlooking the street and settled in to wait for the 6 pm scheduled start. A number of drinks later, at around 8:15, the parade finally kicked off. Based on the size of the town we were expecting a couple of floats and maybe a marching band, but this was a serious parade with large floats, at least three drum lines, a number of marching bands, queens of all ages, elaborate costumes, etc. It was still going strong an hour and a half later when we decided to head back to the boat. They really take their celebrations seriously in La Parguera!
All the way through Florida and the Bahamas I was on the lookout for Manatees. We were even told they came up into the bay at Luperon, but I never saw one. When we arrived in Puerto Rico, I notice “Manatee area” signs, but I didn’t get my first glimpse of one until La Parguera. It will always be one of my best memories from there. We also found some decent snorkeling around the mangroves.
Our next stop was Ponce which is the second largest city in Puerto Rico. We anchored near the yacht club and just off the boardwalk. The boardwalk is a line of restaurants and bars along the water and seems to be a popular hangout. It is also where we really started noticing a lot hurricane damage. The parts of the boardwalk directly over the water were still damaged and access to that area was blocked off.
Ponce was also the first stop since Key West that had Uber available! We took full advantage of this and made multiple trips to Walmart and Home Depot. We were also able to celebrate Russell’s birthday at a Longhorn Steakhouse.
Salinas was great and easily accessible to cruisers. The people are friendly, Russell and I walked all over town and never felt the least bit uncomfortable. We were able to fill one of his prescriptions simply by showing the pharmacist a picture of the bottle. Cost of these pills (without using insurance) would have been around $200 in the states but we only paid $20 for the same pills here. It’s rather mind boggling!
Puerto Ricans seem to start celebrating the holiday season before Thanksgiving and, we’re told, will continue all the way through Three Kings Day which is January 6th. Salinas was no exception. We were there just in time for the Christmas boat parade. There was an official parade route posted at the marina but as we watched from Ddraig, boats seemed to be going every which way through the anchorage! After a bit they did sort of get it together with most of them going the same direction. They were making smaller and smaller circles with each boat stopping to make a turn in front of the grandstand to show off their lights and music. All of them had music which was turned up to maximum volume. It was crazy and fun to watch. And as far as I could tell, no damage was done.
Since we didn’t want to miss out on seeing Old San Juan, we rented a car in Salinas and drove over for the day. We got the car for $50 per day from a guy named Sidney who provided us with a nice, clean Kia. No paperwork was involved. Sidney told us the cost of insurance and tolls were included in the price but, although there was a toll sticker on the car, we did notice the lights never turned green as we drove through the toll stations. Thankfully we never needed to confirm the insurance viability.
Russell’s phone had decided to take a swim the day before we went to San Juan so a trip to Best Buy was first thing on the agenda. The rest of the day was spent walking the fort and shops of Old San Juan. We certainly got our exercise in that day, but it was well worth it and highly recommended!
The forecast showed promising conditions for an overnight sail on December 19. We left at 6 pm expecting to have winds of 12 to 15 knots and fairly calm seas. What we actually got were 4 to 6-foot swells and winds between 15 and 20 on the nose. I had not prepared (Bonine, crackers and bucket at the ready) and was seasick. Russell ended up at the helm almost the entire night. We finally dropped anchor in Sun Bay off Vieques at 11 am. The anchorage was rolly, but we were just glad to be able to rest for a while.
We had read a lot of negative things about Vieques, seems there is a lot of theft, so even though it looked beautiful, we didn’t go ashore. The next morning, we sailed over to Culebra. Yes, we actually sailed!! Coming around the bottom of Vieques the winds were behind us, so we had a great downwind sail for a short time.
After we made the turn toward Culebra with the wind on our beam, we were sailing along at 7 ½ knots when the fishing line went off. We caught the first fish of the day, a smallish barracuda. We are very careful about eating larger reef fish due to the toxins they can have built up in their systems which will make you sick. This one looked small enough to be safe so he was filleted. Later we caught a larger barracuda and two bar jacks which were thrown back.
This is our first holiday season since we cut the dock lines and while we are missing family back home, it’s also going to be exciting to see what a “Cruiser Christmas” in Culebra will look like. Stay tuned…