Puerto Rico - back in the USA

Published: April 30th 2011
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Puerto Rico

Culebra is one of the small islands to the east of Fajardo. We traveled along the south coast of Puerto Rico, then over to the Spanish Virgin Islands. We will now be heading to the US Virgin Islands


Compare this road crew we saw in Boquerón, Puerto Rico with the one we saw in Luperon, Dominican Republic. There is a difference for sure with the equipment being used.
Signs of being back in the USA
After our passage from the Dominican Republic our first anchorage in Puerto Rico was Boquerón. This is a small resort town located in the southwest corner of the island. It not an official port of entry, therefore we had to get transportation to the customs and immigration office in Mayaguez. In order to do this we found Raul who has a business providing transport for cruisers back and forth for $15 per person. We made the arrangement and got checked in without any problems. It did however cost us $27.50. This was for some customs sticker that was required. Bob was to say the least a little perturbed by the idea that he had to pay to get back into his own country. When was the last time any of you when returning to the United States were required to pay the customs and immigration people to get your belongings back into the country. I finally reconciled myself with the idea that it is simply another tax and it's better to simply shut up and pay. In talking to Raul we could hear the NYC accent and found that he had worked for Columbia
A modern firehouseA modern firehouseA modern firehouse

An impressive firehouse and truck that we saw in Boquerón, PR. Another sign of being back in the US
University until retirement. He moved to Puerto Rico and overheard cruisers talking about the need to get transportation to check in and needless to say his business was started. This was a great help as the official port is a large commercial port and not an easy one to anchor in by private boat (or so we had heard) and therefore continued to Boquerón as most cruisers before us had done. This was quite a contrast from our check in the DR. As we had been moving for quite some time we were looking forward to staying put for a few days and found Boquerón a good place to start that process. We took some time to walk around town, but found that there wasn’t much in the way of shops for provisioning so spent the time at Galloway’s (the local cruiser’s hangout as they had free Wi-Fi). We were able to check in with some family and friends, get caught up with banking and investigate where we are going to be keeping the boat during hurricane season. It is interesting to hear that one of the strongest recommendations for an anchorage is can you get FREE WI-FI. In this
School BreakSchool BreakSchool Break

Some things aren’t any different wherever you are – these kids are on their lunch break and are hitting the local food stand.
case we had to go to shore to get access, but luckily in some places we have been able to get it at the boat (sometimes we have to pay for service but it is worth the convenience).
After being in Puerto Rico for a few days we noted that there are definite signs that we are back in the USA! One of the first was seeing the vehicles and equipment used by the road crews. Quite a change from what we were seeing in Luperon, DR. A few other signs were subtle but still noticeable – the working telephone booths, the McDonald’s billboards, the proper red and green channel markers in the right locations, the sight of working lighthouses and of course Wal-Mart’s and large malls like the ones back home complete with Borders and all the other standard stores.
After a few days in Boquerón we decided to continue our move east along the south coast of Puerto Rico. We had planned on moving only a few hours but the wind was down and even though it was from the east we were making good time so decided to continue to get some distance that day. We stopped
Do you recognize this?Do you recognize this?Do you recognize this?

In any language it is still McDonalds!
in Ponce to get diesel and then quickly headed to Isla Caja De Muertos (Coffin Island) where the water was the same clear blue we saw in the Bahamas. We were able to hook up with friends which were a great excuse for a sundowner on our boat. Cruisers don’t seem to need much of an excuse to get together and socialize while watching the sun set. It is a great way to renew friendships, learn from others as well as meeting new people. A nice side benefit is always picking up new appetizer ideas from others – Janice is always looking for those! Coffin Island is now managed by the Park Service and as a result had trails on the island as well as an underwater trail. We took a hike up to the lighthouse on the hill that was built in 1827. It still is a working lighthouse; however, it appears to be in need of some repair. While on the hike we walked through forest of cacti as well as saw some flowering frangipani. We were definitely rewarded with a spectacular view from the top! It was so nice here we decided to stay two nights so
The BeachThe BeachThe Beach

A view of the beach in Boquerón, PR that many in PR come for holiday
we would have some time to relax. If you're not careful you get so much into getting to your destination that you forget to stop and enjoy the trip. This was an important holiday weekend in Puerto Rico and as a result there were numerous boats out for the day. One surprise was a “fleet” of police boats and sea-doos arriving at the island. It wasn't as if they were spread around keeping an eye on what was going on it was more like the "department picnic" as Bob said if you were a criminal this was the day to be in town.
Our next stop was Salinas which was a great harbor (hurricane hole) with a marina that welcomed those of us that were on anchor, not a common occurrence. We decided to stay a few days here and rent a car so we could do some exploring. We were able to rent a small economy car for only $30 per day. Our first day was spent searching for some parts for the boat. We found out that the cover for our bow navigation light came off some time during our crossing of the Mona Passage. The amazing thing
A Private DockA Private DockA Private Dock

We thought this was an interesting way to make the dock “private”
was that even after being soaked in salt water the LED bulb is still working! Luckily Bob had taken off a stern light some time ago and saved it “just in case”. Well, it was a clear cover so the permanent magic markers came to the rescue. We colored the clear lens with red and green marker and we're back in business. Our search for a more permanent replacement was not successful but it took us to San Juan on the north side of the island. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the historic area but we have put it on the list for when we return through this area. It's amazing how quickly you can get caught up in the great American consuming economy. While driving through San Juan we stopped at a shopping mall. This thing turned out to be three stories tall and had every American retail store you would have found in the mainland. In Borders we were able to get a great cup of coffee and Skype home. Bob’s sister, Cathy turned 60 so he surprised her with a call to wish her happy birthday – it was great to have a good connection. We then went out for a nice dinner and drove back to our boat through some incredible mountains on a freeway that was backed up for miles.
The second day with the car we were decided to be tourist and drove up through the mountains to Arecibo – the world's largest radio telescope administrated by Cornell and funded by National Science Foundation. A mountain range runs from one end of the island to the other (east to west). Many of these mountains are over 4000 feet. It is impossible to get to the north side of the island without going through this mountain range. The scenery was breathtaking, even if the roads were designed for race car drivers practicing their turns. Some of the road was barely 2 lanes even though there was definitely 2 way traffic. As you might imagine Janice thoroughly enjoyed this trip! As we drove higher into the mountains the foliage kept changing. We saw huge stands of bamboo(over 5 inches in diameter at its base), ferns as big as trees and plants along the road that normally are seen in dish gardens back home. Around each turn we were looking down another gorge that was
A Public TelephoneA Public TelephoneA Public Telephone

Hadn’t seen working telephones on the street for quite a while. It is nice that they do have AT&T service here!
maybe 200 feet deep. Everywhere we looked it was incredible lush tropical vegetation. The trip took us about three hours of course for most of the time we were traveling between 20 and 30 miles an hour going uphill and around hairpin turns. For those of you not familiar with Arecibo it was built in 1963. it was located in Puerto Rico for 3 reasons: first there was a natural cavern approximately 305 meters wide that the reflector dish would fit into so it saved significantly on construction costs, second it was part of the US and third its location on the Earth's surface was ideal for receiving radio transmissions from space. Just for clarification these radio transmissions are not like receiving alien AM/FM radio transmissions but are in fact radio transmissions generated by celestial bodies. These radio transmissions provide information about the location and the structure of galaxies millions of light years away from the earth. Even though Bob said it was probably a “geeky” thing to come to visit, it was definitely impressive. They have built a great visitor center where you can learn more than you'd ever want to know about radio astronomy. For those of you
First look at BoqueronFirst look at BoqueronFirst look at Boqueron

Here is the “downtown” area as you arrive by dinghy into Boquerón. It was quiet during the week but definitely woke up closer to the weekend.
with a Cornell connection, please note that your ID will even get you a $2 discount (what a bonus)!
The next area to travel to was the Spanish Virgin Islands. For those of you not familiar with this area, it is made several islands east of Puerto Rico. The two main islands are Vieques and Culebra were on our itinerary next. We found a great anchorage on the west side of Vieques after crossing over from the island of Puerto Rico. As usual the wind was on our nose, but we veered off the rhumb line so we could sail better and are more comfortable as the waves started to build 6 foot in 18 to 20 knot winds. We put the anchor down early enough in the day that we got in time for snorkeling. It is always great to see the coral and tropical fish that exist only feet away from you. We are both glad that we got new prescriptions in our dive mask before leaving home as everything is now crystal clear. Many of you may remember hearing about Vieques in the news some years ago. For many years the Marine Corps has used this and
Bright Colors EverywhereBright Colors EverywhereBright Colors Everywhere

The buildings are always very colorful once you come south. They use lots of pink, reds, oranges as well as yellow and blue – quite a rainbow of color on any street
other islands in this area for live fire drills. As a result you can walk the beach but are restricted from going in land because of unexploded ammunition. As a result of significant protests from the Puerto Ricans the Marine Corps has stopped using the islands and has taken steps to clean up unexploded munitions. There are many great dive sites around PR and with only a 3 ½ hour flight from NYC it makes it very accessible. We wanted to take some time to explore Vieques but the weather predictions were for some strong winds and squalls coming in a few days so we kept moving. We currently are anchored of a town by the name of Dewey on the island of Culebra. There is a very busy small airport nearby as well as a ferry that travels back and forth 3 times a day to the main island of Puerto Rico. As we were arriving in the Bay we noticed the large numbers of power and sailboats heading back to the main island. As we mentioned before this is a big holiday weekend on Puerto Rico and many people take the week off before Good Friday and come
Oysters Anyone?Oysters Anyone?Oysters Anyone?

Anyone for oysters? Every few feet there were stands loaded with oysters to eat.
to Vieques. When we pulled into the harbor we were amazed by the number of powerboats rafted together throughout the harbor. By the end of the day on Easter Sunday the vast majority of them had left to return to the main island. As we walked through town the place was almost desolate however you could see the remains of what must've been one hell of a party. Trash cans were piled high with beer cans and all the people working in the bars and restaurants had that shell-shocked look in their eyes. There are a large number of guest houses and when we walked down to the ferry dock we were amazed to see long lines of people waiting to go back to the main island. These people were carrying everything they needed for a week at the beach. Large numbers of coolers, beach umbrellas, folding chairs and people piled up waiting for the ride home.
We decided to take a day to ride the ferry back to the main land to try to hit up a few marine stores to try to get a few things that we need to fix a few items that aren’t functioning properly.
Lighthouse at SW corner of PRLighthouse at SW corner of PRLighthouse at SW corner of PR

A view of the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo located on the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. Another sign we are back in the USA!
The ferry is subsided by the state and as a result it only cost $2.25 for a 1 ½ hour trip. It travels back and forth 3 times per day and from what we see it is very well used. We had to rent a car to be able to get around - we went to a few stores but only found a fix for the wash down pump (to clean the anchor when it comes up as many times it is loaded with mud). It was a pleasant day, but had quite a wild ride back as the waves were quite high. We were happy that we weren’t sailing in it today.
Today we took a hike to the other side of the island to see Flamenco Beach. We had been told we shouldn’t miss it – we now understood why. It is a beautiful horseshoe shape bay with a pure white beach that seems to go for miles. There is also a campground located here – we now know where all those people with backpacks on the ferry were coming to. If anyone is interested in a little get away we would highly recommend this area. If you
The Mts of Puerto RicoThe Mts of Puerto RicoThe Mts of Puerto Rico

It is hard to show how spectacular the mountains are in Puerto Rico. This is just one small glimpse.
aren’t into camping out near the beach, there are plenty of guest houses here that would be a great place to stay. With reefs near by, there is plenty of opportunity for snorkeling and diving here as well. This evening we had a get together on the boat with all of the friends that we have been sailing with on and off for quite a while – it was great to catch up with them all. We realized that once we leave here we may not cross paths with some of them anymore as we will be heading in different directions or will stop for awhile in the Virgin Islands to visit family. It has definitely been enjoyable getting a chance to know them (Zero to Cruising, Top of the World, Saralane and Snowbird). Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.

Additional photos below
Photos: 70, Displayed: 32


What is it??What is it??
What is it??

We aren’t positive but think this is an observation balloon put up by the DEA. We only saw one, but heard there were others all along the west coast of Puerto Rico.
Another LighthouseAnother Lighthouse
Another Lighthouse

Another lighthouse – this one near Ponce PR. There are reefs bordering the coast of PR and these are a reminder that you need to stay clear.
Watching the weatherWatching the weather
Watching the weather

It is always something to be able to see the weather so clearly. The rain was hitting the south coast of Puerto Rico but we were safe and dry at Coffin Island.
Approach to Coffin IslandApproach to Coffin Island
Approach to Coffin Island

This is the view as we approached the anchorage to Coffin Island -what a beautiful place
Visiting the lighthouseVisiting the lighthouse
Visiting the lighthouse

This is the lighthouse that was built in 1827 on Coffin Island that we climbed up to see. It is still a working lighthouse, but definitely could use some TLC.
No Snowmobiling AllowedNo Snowmobiling Allowed
No Snowmobiling Allowed

Note the 3rd symbol over on the top row – we asked some Puerto Rican’s how much snowmobiling they do around Coffin Island – they hadn’t noticed the sign before and had a great laugh with us.
A forest of cactiA forest of cacti
A forest of cacti

We were dwarfed by the forest of cacti that we hiked through on the way up to the lighthouse.
A strangler figA strangler fig
A strangler fig

One of the many strangler fig trees we saw along the same path.

1st May 2011

Hi, It is always good to hear from you and follow you in your travels. Great tan lines, beautiful sunsets, what a way to spend retirement.
2nd May 2011

Arecibo - NAIC - my first job a Cornell
Wasn't that place fantastic. When I first went to Arecibo I went up on the telescope. The views are magnificent, but scary when you have a fear of height as I do! We drove under the dish which conceals orchids and other beautiful fauna. It's magical for sure. Glad you got a chance to see it. Best. Nelson
3rd May 2011

Just saying hello
I don't know if you remember us Mike Michelle and baby Joshua. We first met in Elizibeth City and we last saw you in wrightsville beach. I hadn't looked at your blog in a while. Its nice to hear your doing well, last we talked you were not sure if you would go back north or south for the summer I see you decided. We ended up going to the Bahamas for a few months now were heading back up the ICW. Whats your plan for hurricane season? Fair winds and following seas Mike, Michelle and Joshua

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