Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

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  • Day192

    This next friend, was well acquainted with St. John in the Virgin Islands. Matt, who we endearingly call Red, lived in St. John just after he finished college. So it only seemed fitting we meet him at a bar in St. John …Coral Bay, Skinny Legs! Burgers and Beers. What more does a cruiser really need?

    We made a few stops to favorite places like Normans Island, the Willy Ts and to the northern section of Francis Bay, St. John. It was a genuinely beautiful time, Red with his puns, Mike with his computer programing talk, Kirsten with her music and every day we’d drop that and go snorkeling. It wasn’t until our passage from St. John Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico we saw any drama.

    Red was behind the helm sailing at a run (the wind was directly at our stern), all sails in flight as far as they could reach. Mike and I were leisurely sitting with the fishing poll stuck in its nook towing a fake plastic squid to catch a tasty fish. All was boring and calm and then ZZZZZZZIIIIING. In light air I brought in the main and tried to furl in the genoa to slow the boat and get the sails out of the way…. This was a lot easier in thought than action. We lost too much speed, the sails backed and the fish, that dang fish, which Mike was reeling in decided to swim right underneath the boat and wrap around something down there. All of a sudden turning on the motor looks like a bad idea…. What if the fish wrapped the line around the prop? Turning on the engine would mean cutting the line to our dinner – BUT if the fish somehow got the line stuck on the rudder, it would fine…. Instead of taking down the boarding ladder and diving in… we opted for continuing on our trip to the island of Culebrita where we would anchor under sail. But not before flogging the sails for another 20 minutes. The furling line on the genoa was caught and had to be manually rolled-in then out and untangled with pliers… ah the joys of sailing.

    We had a beautiful sail into Culebrita where there’s a protected sandy bottom bay – excellent holding. We anchored under sail like pros; no engines used all day! What an accomplishment. We found Culebrita to be absolutely pristine and Red needed no coaxing to dive immediately into the water to check if the fish was still ensnared under the boat. To all of our dismay the fish got away but we still had the lure and hook so there’s always next time. On the bright side, I woke up the next morning and watched turtles come up for air and dive back down. It was the largest amount of turtles in one bay I’d ever witnessed and was wonderfully serene.
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  • Day199

    Well, to start at the beginning… We decided to head first to a marina in Fajardo as we had friends arriving the next morning from Boston via San Juan. Customs & Immigration was by far the most straight edge we had encountered after visiting, the French, Dutch, Dominican, & even the English islands. If you’re wondering, yes, Mike and I are both Americans. The whole welcome back to America team must be in JFK airport somewhere because before we could even put a credit card down for the night, the C/I officers were called and summoned. So we awaited C/I to come board Gaia. 20 minutes later three large men with big black shoes, guns, holsters, & gleaming badges came aboard Gaia opened their big black briefcases and thus began the questions and triple carbon copied paperwork. Easy enough questions, we had nothing to hide but what if they suspected something, what if they found an error in our paperwork, what if we accidentally threw away a receipt they required….. All these what if questions whirled through my mind and it was mainly because there were three guns in MY home, three intimidating-looking officers, and I don’t care much for that.

    The officers eventually left with smiles and what they had come for, our money and documentation in their triple carbon-copied papers. But just a warning to other cruisers – don’t mess with the letter of the law, the second your docklines catch in PR or your anchor settles, hustle on over to the C/I with your boat papers and passport.

    IMG_0068The following morning, we met up with more Boston friends, Talia, Julia, & Nate, in Fajardo. We filled the tanks with FREE water and set sail for Vieques in search of some campgrounds for our 4 friends and brilliant beaches. Vieques did not disappoint.

    For $5 a night/tent, there was a wide open grassy-fenced off field complete with amenities. We anchored just off the main fishing dock in Esperanza. We hid behind the small island along some smaller local boats. Guidebooks and park rangers told us the mooring balls were free but they’re NOT! The anchorage was a bit dicey but we managed to hold. In Puerto Rico, the main waterfront drag is called the malecón, and is home to some pretty great eateries & bars. WIMG_7796e trended towards the smaller joints for breakfast & enjoyed those places greatly. Our first day was finding our bearings so not much to say there but the second day was far more successful. We found the beaches, we did the snorkeling, and made the picnic. We fell in love with the seclusion of Plato Negro, a calm white sand beach, and camped out on the beach for the night. We joined forces with even more friends, Jeff & Erik Lambert. And then there were 6 friends of Gaia in the Caribbean!

    IMG_7798We all signed up for a night kayak tour of The Greatest Bioluminescence Bay In The World in ‘Mosquito Bay’ or ‘Bio Bay’. The gentleman pictured to the left was very passionate of the tour and explained why Mosquito Bay, Vieques won such a prestigious title.

    We first begin with Dinoflagellates (the drawing behind our new friend), these organisms, when disturbed, emits bioluminescence. Dinoflagellates survive off of and thrive around red mangroves, which happen to surround Bio Bay. Secondly, the mouth of the bay is in an ‘S’ shape which makes it difficult for these microscopic organisms to find their way out. The bay is also shallow and has a tidal change of only a few inches. Bottom line, these dinoflagellates ain’t goin’ nowhere. The best time to see these tours were on nights like the ones we experienced. We had a downpour of rain in the morning and then nothing but sun for the remainder of the day; at night, we had no moon allowing us to have the best visibility of the bioluminescence. We assembled into our clear-bottom two-person kayaks and followed our guide (who wore a blue light on his kayak) to the middle of the bay. At first, with a splash of my paddle, I was dismayed not to see a single reaction. But as we paddled out, I noticed random streaks of light through the water! They were fish. With each flick of the fishes tail, the dinoflagellates sprung to life, illuminating their path! It was phenomenal, I looked down and it was like champagne bubbles flooding underneath the kayak and when I splashed my hand in the water a wave of bioluminescence erupted. When I took my hand out of the water, it was still wet and there was bioluminescence on my hand! Ah!

    Mike said he’d seen amazing bioluminescence in Luperon, DR that was impressive, but this, this was a whole different league. Our guide told us to stay in our kayaks or else the shark will get you. We laughed but then…. We spotted a flick of a very large tail shaped like a nurse shark tail. We kayaked over to the light that had now faded and sure enough, Mikes paddle dove into the water and the bioluminescent outline of a nurse shark jetted out from under our kayak. We sprang into action and gave chase to the agile bottom feeder. Kayaking after schools of illuminated fish and a nurse shark was such a highlight of our trip. I strongly recommend experiencing Bio Bay first hand.

    Vieques was fun-filled with beaches but Culebra is where I fell in love.
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  • Day206

    We sailed from Esperanza Vieques to Ensenada Honda, Culebra (it’s-a-not-a-honda. it’s-a-Beta! – I made that joke too many times to count – we have a beta engine.) and immediately stormed The Dinghy Dock, a bar and restaurant where you could go from dinghy to dock to barstool & beer using only three steps on land. The barkeep asked us our order and the 7 of us looked at each other unsure of the best way to enjoy todays happy hour. (dramatic and patriotic drumroll please…). It was then, our brilliant and bold friend Nate stepped up to the bar counter and fearlessly spoke the words; ‘I’ll have a rum and passion juice drink, please.’ And there you have it, the most refreshing and rejuvenating happy hour caribbean drink ever to be ordered was requested (and politely at that). From hence forth, we’ve named the drink, ‘The Nate’.

    Our friends camped out on Flamenco beach and we gave them our handheld VHF to communicate with, they came up with their own hailing name; a mix between Beer & Flamingo – Beermingo. A perfect mix if you ask me, it was kinda fun hailing them on channel 72 ‘Beermingo, Beermingo, Gaia.’ And knowing some stranger was probably also listening in to the shenanigans. By the way, Beermingo, if you’re reading this: ‘the blue monkey is over the full moon – Over.’

    The island is best explored via golf cart which we made great use of by traversing one end of the island to the other multiple times. Zoni and Flamenco beach boasts to be of the most picturesque in the world…. and it’s true. After snorkeling, playing soccer, and running around with the beach crowds, I think most of us preferred Zoni since it was void of all other people. In further exploration of Culebra, we picked up a mooring ball in Carlos Rosarion Beach and found the snorkeling to be phenomenal. Good snorkeling is a constant search for us. The real treat from Culebra is technically not on Culebra itself but a tiny island near Culebra called Culebrita. There’s a perfect beach which was overtaken by mosquitos. But if you’re able to swim or run faster than the mosquitos you need to explore the pools of Culebrita. All of us happen to be big fans of mother nature and rock climbing so climbing up and down the boulders that create natural eddies and all sizes and manners of pools was A LOT of fun.
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  • Day67

    Super excited for what this country has to offer!

    Technically part of Puerto Rico and therefore US soil and US water, but not good enough to be mainland USA, but not far enough not to be, but still far enough not to be USVI which would require a new permit, but not a new passport stamp and new customs by phone and then not by phone and a registration number that isn't right but if you remove numbers it is... No wonder nobody could tell us the deal, because nobody knows. Customs won't even reboot their computer to complete the immigration process. I guess we'll wait and see how this plays out.

    Culebra is one of two Spanish Virgin Islands, located just east of Puerto Rico. The other being Vieques. The islands themselves have stuggled (figuratively) to ever be put on the map. Having little significance to Puerto Rico or anywhere else, perhaps their biggest blip in history is that they have been host to US bomb testing over recent years.

    As with all isolated islands unable to sustain any kind of industry, tourism has begun to take hold. And rightly so. Claimed to be the second best beach in the Caribbean, Playa Flemenco was a deilght! Anchoring on the opposite side of the headland (in an extremely calm anchorage) left us a short walk through an ex miltary explosive zone, and a hop through a chain link fence, short of the beach. We were greeted with a horrific tourist scene which we immediately avoided and found our spot on an endless expanse of white sand and tuquoise blue. Worth the walk and some.

    Culebra also played host to Jools' first cray. Questionably qualified at diving and diving in questionably marine reserve waters, Jools had an announcement. He was not to leave this trip without his first crayfish. So it was to be. Mere hours later, at the bottom of the decent, tucked under a rock no bigger than a doormat, sat two delectable treats. Hesistant at first, then slow off the mark, dinner looked a distant dream. However, with Wallace in his veins, the scot delivered on his ambition and treated the boys to two tasty treats. In fact he completed the dive with a third which, selflessly was discarded for take at a later date. Mark my words. Muy bien. Feliz navidad!

    Christmas eve was spent on the wifi at the Dinghy Dock, a restaurant on the waters edge, providing beers and dinner to the the local mariners. As we soon discovered, many locals live on their boats and use this as their local watering hole.

    Christmas day brought strong wind. Holed up in a womderfully calm anchorage in Esenada Honda, we were reluctant to leave. However, our sense of adventure got the better of us. We battened the hatches and weighed anchor, confronting the onslaught that lay ahead. Culebrita was our destination, a short hop from Culebra itself, but said to host the second most beautiful beach in the Greater Antilles. A must do.

    The waves were powerful, steepening up as they shoaled on the shallow water around us. We eventually made safe haven in paradise! Selflessly sharing the beach with only one other boat (who left a short time later) we basked in its beauty; rich white sand, foreshore lined with palm trees, and turquoise water! I whipped up a quick foccacia bread and Christmas lunch followed shortly after - a top ten sandwich in Jools' books. Not bad from boat rations!

    The afternoon flashed by. We went swimming, explored ashore, got coconuts, made cocktails, climbed the mast, consumed some frosty beers and played a few games. A shame we couldn't be with the families but it was undoubtedly the next best thing!

    We cruised back to Esenada Honda in the setting sun. A shallower, downwind route was much less rough and much faster getting us back to anchor in no time. With no fresh catch and no fresh meat, canned chicken was hardly going cut the mustard for a Chrissy dinner. Not being too happy about the situation, especially given my morning efforts to find a tasty bird, I absconded and turned my efforts to what we did have in good supply - beer and cocktails. Meanwhile, the boy's got creative. They made pastry and turned it into a pie, a massive chicken pie. It was definitely the first time I've had canned chicken pie for Christmas dinner but I tell you now - if I get any say in future Christmas dinners, it won't be the last!

    Boxing day brought the gift that Christmas day couldn't. During our excursions on Christmas, we sailed past a reef that looked too good to be true. The reef protruded from a headland on the mainland, curling around between shallow rocky outcrops and clusters of mangroves. Behind the reef was a shallow anchorage, accessible (just) by an equally shallow channel. All of this was exposed to 20+ kts of prevailing wind. If you haven't yet caught my drift, let me give you a hint with a math problem: lots of wind + very flat water + windsurfing gear + windsurfer(s) = ? Unlike a regular math problem there was more than one answer to this one: a heap of fun, fantastic windsurf session, tired arms, torn sail, happy boys...I could go on. Extremely glad we made use of the opportunity nature provided us with!!
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  • Day71

    Tourists, spanish and crazy, crazy drivers.

    We just ticked off the western most point of our sailing route. Unfortunately, that coincides with the leeward most point, which means we have several days upwind sailing ahead, but that be tomorrow's problem!

    We planned this sail for Boxing day but the wind we woke to almost forced us to postpone. We did our due diligence and decided to have a crack. Although it was rough, we had protection from Culebra and some outer reefs and were running a deep angle which, in the end, made for a really enjoyable sail. Felicity's fishing rod hooked us a mackerel in the late stages of the journey which saved us another night on canned chicken. Phew! Fish tacos instead! We're in a little conundrum with our fishing. Two, actually. The first is that we're not marine biologists, and none of us have knowledge of the local fish. Hence, we don't know what's good for eating, what's good size or in general, what the hell we're doing. The second is that reef fish here may have Ciguatera, a food borne toxic disease. The combination of these two is what makes it difficult. The food gods looked upon us once more that day, and put us within reach of google. Confirmation was all we needed. We're making in roads on our marine biology, when we have to. Soon enough we'll be able to leave our good friend google on the mainland.

    We're tucked up in the lee of Isleta Marina. An odd spot, consiting of two small islands connected by a shallow reef. Isleta Marina, as you could guess, is and island with a marina, a very unloved marina at that, and towering apartment blocks for the unintrepid holiday goer. An overwhelming sense of neglect struck us before we even got close. Shipwrecks litter the anchorage, marina and harbour. I'm not talking the Titanic, not even Rainbow Warrior. I'm talking Carlos Sanchez' 15 foot dinghy, or Gomez' 25 ft yacht. In fact there are even sunken boats still in their slip at the marina. Loads of them! I would take a stab and say less than half of the boats in the water here are in a useable state. How sad.

    The issue only got worse ashore on the mainland. Direlect houses, businesses, cars, and infrastructure - the whole town of Fajardo appears tired. Except for the dry stack. Four stories of pristine boats, stacked on the hard and sticking out like a prince amoung plebs. It's obvious maintenance is a struggling aspect of this culture. The marina manager agreed. Noting that often these things were passed through generations, and some younger generations were reluctant to spend money on their inheritance.

    We allowed ourselves on full day in Puerto Rico. Hardly generous but we have a schedule to stick to (believe it or not). Hence when I say 'full', I'm packing that day like Fraser's lunchbox at high school. Speaking of lunchboxes, fuel for the day started with homemade toasted french baguette, fried eggs, beans and sausages, woo! We took our dinghy to the marina and ferried ashore. We met a top bloke on the ferry who offered us a ride to the car rental. We were on our way by 9.30, pretty good considering our starting location. After the first acceleration, first bump and first requirement to brake, I was entirely confident our rental car was not up to the challenge. Warning lights on an a busted dash were the least of our worries, was we dodged potholes, a million lunatics and lanes that end without warning. A very stressful drive.

    Our first stop was El Yunque NP, the only tropical rainforest America. Given that it's not in America, this is, in fact, a useless fact. Nonetheless, it was a rainforest and boy did it rain. This didn't deter the hoards of tourists idling about, obstructing our mission. We're talking, queues for the visitors centre, queues to park, not being able to park at all, single file continuous moving queues on the tracks. On a rainy tuesday in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't believe it. The rainforest itself exceeded expectations but the excursion was marred by the crowds and the rain, which entirely obscured our view from the peak. Anyhow, a leg stretch/workout was well overdue and much appreciated.

    From El Yunque we travelled west to San Juan, stopping only for mexican on the road side. Bloody good mexican.

    With minmial research and even less time, our expectations for San Juan weren't high. But they were blown away. San Juan is the beating heart of Puerto Rico, and it's port delivers life blood to the country. Without it, Puerto Rico wouldn't be.

    Old Town is on San Juan island at the mouth of the harbour, joined to the mainland by a short bridge. Since the 1500s it has been fortified to protect to port of San Juan, Puerto Rico and hence the shipping entrance from Europe to the 'New World'. The significance of this port to trade for the spanish empire can be seen in the size and complexity of the fortifications or 'Castellos' which overlook and protect the port and city. Now a World Heritage Site, the fortifications cover the island from tip to toe, and make a coastal spectacle for visitors; avid sailors and ghastly cruise ship guests alike.

    Inside the towering walls and fortresses is the town on Old San Juan, a cross polenation of Spanish and Caribbean architecture, resembling something one might imagine Cuba to be, cobblestone streets included. Interestingly, and reiterating above, a coastal suburb outside of these walls, hundreds of houses on prime beachfront property were all direlect. Historically being an area for slaves and theives (outside the walls) might have had an influence here. Heavily rennovated and adapted to the foreign crowd, the town inside the walls is stuffed with high end clothing and jewellery shops, arts and craft stalls, the odd pub and restaurant (not as many as we had hoped) and of course, all the american wonders; starbucks, pizza hut, Wendy's. ... you name it! We dined at a local joint, couldn't read the menu, ordered something that resembled unripe banana, got something that looked like a muffin, thoroughly enjoyed it and were on our way in the pouring rain, back to Fajardo. On the way we took advantage of a Walmart and stocked up. We've learnt to love a Walmart, that's for sure. Reversing the morning's commute, we caught the last ferry back and got back to the boat around 11pm. All in a day in Puerto Rico.

    It was disappointing we couldn't make it to Rincon, the surfing capital of Puerto Rico or to Ilsa de Mona for some world class diving. We would have worked these in if our cruising grounds permitted. Another time.

    I'm writing this one from the boat. We're broad reaching in 12kts and blue skies. The boys are in kindle klub, rolling through the books. We've topped off the diesel, gas, and water and have Vieques in our sights. We'll spend the next two nights there before battling back up to St Thomas to collect Cat and Dave. Bring on the New Year!
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  • Day73

    Our tour of the SVIs resumed in Vieques, the second of the two islands. It's skinny, tall and longer than you'd expect. Very few people populate the island and even less make themselves visible. It would have to be one of the more isolated places we've been.

    Although it didn't really feel that way, Vieques was rather disappointing. We failed at trolling. We failed on the crayfish hunt. The diving, which was supposed to be top notch, was decisively average - so much so we didn't even bother. The phosphlouresence was supposed to be the best in the world yet offered little more than a fizzle and many mosquito bites. Our first night's anchorage was picturesque yet overly rolly. And the wind blew strongly all the time except when we tried to go windsurfing.

    These first world problems swiftly became a distant memory on the evening of the second night. We made anchor in Esenada Honda (not to be confused with Esenada Honda on Culebra Island - really original place naming here). Excluding the odd passer by, we were the only people in the harbour. We tucked in the lee of some mangroves, in what later became glassy water and had the darkest, flatest most peaceful night of the trip. Boy did I relish that sleep! As it was our last night as an awesome threesome, we topped off the night with a cheeky man date, stargazing.

    Dawn alarms blared the next morning, as we reluctantly rose from our slumber and made haste eastward, directly into the oncoming trades. Cat, Dave and a very distant Jost Van Dyke awaited.
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  • Day9

    The fort was absolutely incredible. It's positioned on the end of a peninsula of the island--to the north the Atlantic, to the west the Caribbean. The fortifications are impressive, and helped the Spanish Armada hold it against invaders. Overhead three flags fly--the flags of the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the Spanish Armada.

  • Day9

    We walked back to the cruise ship, down the hill from the fort, and through the streets of Old San Juan. Eric was a trooper, wearing his boot for his tendinitis, but keeping up with the group and having a great attitude.

    We left port later that day, and I was surprised to realize that I'd like to come back someday. I had no idea Puerto Rico would be a place I would be interested in making a return visit! We'd like to visit the other fort and spend more time learning about the history of the island.Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Puerto Rico, ፖርታ ሪኮ, プエルトリコ, 푸에르토리코, ເປີໂຕລິໂກ, ព័រតូរីកូ, ପୁଏର୍ତ୍ତୋ ରିକୋ, เปอร์โตริโก, Borikén, Borinquen, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, i-Puerto Rico, Mpotoriku, Orílẹ́ède Pọto Riko, Pɔrotoriko, Portó Ríce, Portorico, Porto Rico, Portoriko, Porto Riko, Porto Rîko, Pôrtô Rikô, Porto Rikoo, Portoryko, Potoriko, Pɔtoriko, Puerto Rikas, Puertoriko, Puerto Riko, Puerto-Riko, Púertó Ríkó, Puerto Riko nutome, Pueto Liko, Puɛto Riko, Puwetoriko, Pwetoriko, بورتوريكو, پورتوریکو, پیورٹو ریکو, פורטו ריקו, Πουέρτο Ρίκο, Порторико, Порто Рико, Пуерто Рико, Пуерто-Ріко, Пуэрто-Рико, პუერტო რიკო, पर्टो रीको, पोर्टो रिको, प्युर्टोरिको, પ્યુઅર્ટો રિકો, పోటోరికో, ಪ್ಯೂರ್ಟೋ ರಿಕೊ, பியூர்டோ ரிகோ, പോര്‍ട്ടോ റിക്കോ, পুয়ের্টোরিকো, ပေါ်တူရီကို, 波多黎各

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