Puerto Rico

 Home Up Curaçao - Again!  

 

Crossing the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic was relatively benign.  Good news - it has a nasty reputation.  The wind in a squall forced us to take a course north of Mona Island, but that just meant we were relieved of having to make too many decisions about our landfall.  It would be either Mayaguez which is a port of entry, or Boquerón which isn't - though we'd read that one could anchor at Boquerón and then take a taxi to Mayaguez to clear in.  Since 9/11 however, things had tightened up considerably and we had (American) friends who'd had real problems with the authorities for not following the regulations to the letter.  To be sure, we called the coast guard.  They had no idea, but would try and contact immigration.  When they finally came back the answer was less than clear, but couched in a way that implied we ought to go to Mayaguez.  That was, of course, the easiest answer for them to give.  So to be on the safe side we went Mayaguez.  That evening we dropped anchor close to the ferry terminal, but in shallow water well out of the way.  Next morning we'd put the dinghy in the water to go ashore and clear in.

Next morning with the ferry gone the terminal had a deserted look.  We dinghied over.  The wall was predictably high (ie above our heads) with just a rusty broken ladder in one corner blocked by an old pilot boat. 

There was though a brand new shiny sign announcing that there would be a charge for tying up any vessel on the harbour wall, to avoid any doubts it clarified that this included dinghies and tenders.  Surely not.   We had attracted the notice of a security guard who was walking over to the harbour wall.  He confirmed that the charge was $1 per foot with a minimum charge of $25.  "It's since we were privatised."  he said  "But you could pull your dinghy up on the beach on the other side of the bay and walk round on the road.  That would be free.  Or you could tie up on the jetty a bit further round the point, a bit longer walk, but also free."  Neither wading up the beach in decent cloths or walking for miles in the heat really appealed much to Lindy.  "Just pay." she instructed.  So we did.

"No weapons beyond this point"  read the sign on the entrance to Border Security.  The implication being that weapons were OK everywhere else.  Welcome to the USA.  There being no ferry, all the doors were locked, but after some rattling we were let in.  Clearance was as efficient as you'd expect - passports, finger prints and eyes all scanned.  All done.  "Which ports can we clear out from when we're ready to leave" we asked.  "No need. Just leave this card with a marina when you leave the US or post it back to us when you arrive in the next country".   What a change after all the mountains of bureaucracy we'd become used to.  The cruising permit took a little longer and whilst we waited the officials explained where the supermarkets were, computer shops, how to get to town etc.  We already liked Puerto Rico.

And what about the rat you're asking?  Well, we'd found one pad with a perfect rat silhouette of rat hair on the sticky pad, so it had obviously got stuck and freed itself, perhaps when the boat rolled.  One thing seemed certain - from now on ratty wasn't going anywhere near one of those pads ever again, peanut butter or not.  More drastic action was needed and in Mayaguez we found one of those old fashioned non humane spring-,loaded rat traps with jaws.  In the bilges that night, smeared with tomato paste which we now had plenty of evidence to suggest was ratty's favourite food, it was set.  We'd barely put our heads on the pillow and there was a loud satisfying snap followed by less than a minute of banging and ratty was toast!

The following morning after a proper burial at sea for our ex shipmate we sailed back towards Boqueron, where we now knew we could have anchored to clear in but then we'd have missed the computer shop and the rat trap!  Boqueron is a lot more cruiser friendly and the yacht club, although too shallow for us, can't do enough to help cruising sailors.  The anchorage is of a busy tourist beach - Boquerón's only real reason for existence.  It's a very busy place with narrow streets full of bars and restaurants serving the visitor, but even busier that normal when we were there as it was the venue of a Gay Pride weekend - so rainbow flags, outrageous costumes and very loud music were the order of the day.  However, we still needed to do a proper restock after our time in Las Aves and Boqueron only boasted a couple of small shops. We were also on a mission to head east as it was already the middle of June, so after a couple of days we were off again.

A couple of hops and an overnight stay in Guanica, surrounded by the decaying remains of the cranes of sugar processing factories brought us to Ponce.

     "The Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club has a reputation of welcoming visiting sailors" says noonsite.  Well it didn't seem very welcoming to us and nor to any of the other cruisers we spoke to.  It's not that they were unfriendly, more that they were indifferent.  They'd also constructed a schedule of charges that gave a strong impression that they'd rather we weren't there.  Like $10 per person per day to tie the dinghy to their dock - and that didn't allow the use of any of the facilities except the very public showers.  Alternatively, you can tie up opposite the yacht club on the public jetty or in the fisherman's harbour for free.  Hmm let me think.

Ponce is a proper place, a city of 200,000 people and the infrastructure you'd expect in a country which is (almost) part of the United States.  So shopping malls, super stores, all the things that sailors like us left home to get away from, but now yearn for.  It also has a historical town centre (with Gaudiesque fire station) which, as in many places, struggles to retain a vibrant feel when all the real shops are now out of town.  So for us it was shop till you drop time. 

 
We had been planning to leave the boat in the marina at Ponce for a few days and hire a car to tour the island, but the prices were so outrageous we thought better of it and with our lockers full to overflowing we headed east again.

A couple of days later and we were in Salinas - a large protected shallow bay right next door to a reef protected network of mangrove channels which forms one of the best hurricane holes in the Caribbean.  Just as well when you consider that statistically PR is just about in the centre of hurricane alley.   We did need to haul our anchor and reanchor though.  Bad holding? Too close? None of the above, just trying to find a decent wifi signal.  And the club here, what a difference after Ponce.  Free secure dinghy dock, use of facilities, free garbage disposal and friendly, supportive large cruising community.  There was also a cheap car hire operation solely focused on cruisers so it was from here that we organised seeing more of the island.

Tourism for us is also about shopping, all kinds of shopping - chandlers, hardware stores, department stores, clothes shops etc, any chance to buy something we haven't seen for a long time even if we don't actually need it yet.  This might have something to do with the fact that we have now raised the water line on Samarang twice!  So when we drove to San Juan our first stop was West Marine, followed by Sears and JC Penny.  Then break for some more traditional tourism, into the old town and lunch in a Turkish Restaurant. 

 

More shopping the following day - antifoul and epoxy paint at much lower prices than elsewhere in the Caribbean.  Then back on board in Salinas waiting for the elusive window to sail back to Curaçao, the tropical waves were already coming across the Caribbean Sea every 3 days ..........

 

Home Up Curaçao - Again!

 

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Last updated 5th June 2017