Exploring new horizons – Puerto Rico

Monday afternoon we dodged the rain a few times but still got soaked……   We picked up internet ashore then went back to Morphie and watched the rain fall again. Not nice.   So another early night followed.

Raining again.... Soaked at the supermarket Vieques sunset

Tuesday morning and the sun came out! Hurrah!   What a difference a day makes. We did some washing and cleaning up then went ashore in the afternoon. Obviously the weather makes the eagle rays happy too as there were about six of them swimming around under the dinghy dock.   Managed to get one of them in a picture….

Eagle ray under the dock Boardwalk in the sun! Vieques anchorage

Ashore we were just checking for weather to make sure the passage to Puerto Rico in the morning was viable – yes it was – so we spoke to the marina at Palmas del Mar and they confirmed a slip for us.   We were then asked to join two couples who were sitting adjacent to us – turns out the American couple owned the other Island Packet in the bay and the English couple had the large schooner.   They had both just sailed down from Florida through the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico – so we gathered lots of relevant and useful information.   And as they were heading down island we shared some information on our favourite islands too….   Was a very productive few hours!   Back on board we got Morphie ready to go to sea and had another early night.

Wednesday morning and we picked up our anchor and left Vieques. It was a nice start to the day … the sun was out, the sky was blue, and we were sailing downwind under genoa alone. Of course, it didn’t stay that way, and we were increasingly chased down by clouds and rain. And of course the sea responded by getting lumpy too…. Never mind – we were both excited by the prospect of exploring a new island.

Downwind sail Being chased down by the rain

After 20 miles we approached the entrance to the marina – this is not huge and is on a lee shore and there was some swell running….. So we hung about outside in safe water to call to find out what side to put fenders on – and no reply to the radio.   Damn….   Always happens!   So we got the boat ready for either side with ropes stern and aft and fenders out….   While we were doing this – head to wind and into the waves – we spotted dolphins playing in the breaking waves. Then we realised that it was two adults and a baby. Wow!!!!   Exciting…. So we watched them play for a little while and then got ourselves back to the task in hand….

Dolphins 2 Dolphins!

Responding to a telephone call – not the VHF radio – the marina told us to go alongside the fuel dock in the first instance and gave us directions. So we then lined ourselves up to get through the narrow entrance and I then spotted we had lost a fender!!!! Richard!!!!!   So we did our man overboard practice to retrieve it… And of course we are now being pushed in the wrong direction for the entrance so we turned into the waves to get away from the hazards and line ourselves up again…..   And of course this is when a monster wave – and I mean monster – broke over our bow with green water coming across the coachroof, into the cockpit, and some even went down below.   OMG – that was a scary moment.   Thankfully we punched through, turned, and made our entrance in a sedate way afterwards.   Phew!

Google earth image of the marina

Shortly after tying up to the fuel dock we moved to a proper slip and I went to the office to check in.   That was quickly sorted – very impressive and friendly service – organised laundry and a hire car before wandering back to Morphie.   After sorting ourselves out we headed out for a walk having a look at the pool on the way. The marina bar is not open on a Wednesday so we wandered up to the local plaza and had a couple of cold ones sitting out on the pavement…..watching the world go by.   Felt very Mediterranean….   We were tired so headed back for another early night.

Morphie in her slip Marina Pool Marina entrance is in the corner

Thursday morning – up early – and picked up the hire car at 9.00 am.   We were heading off to Old San Juan today – we got instructions and, it was only at this point, that we realised that the whole of Palmas del Mar is a private gated community with security gates, golf courses etc and all beautifully landscaped.    Very nice!!!

Landscaped surroundings

We found our way to the motorway – express way tolls and all – and were a bit taken aback by the lanes of traffic and the US way of doing exits…. All felt very busy and a bit disconcerting that people are allowed to overtake on both sides of you.

Proper highways

We reached the historic city of Old San Juan in about an hour – and found a multi-storey car park – in the smartest looking building you could image…..   Old San Juan is beautiful – fantastic historic buildings with some in need of repair, but many stunningly renovated.   Add to that the modern statues; the myriad of museums; the churches; the art galleries; the piazzas; the horse-drawn sight-seeing carriages; the San Juan wall and castillo and you could easily imagine that you were in a renovated Havana..….   Then you spot the cruise ship terminal and the gift / souvenir shops / restaurants clearly with US clientele in mind and you capture the essence of this place. What we weren’t  expecting to see was the sobering tribute to the 6 million holocaust victims and the other tributes along the mall to diverse groups such as police, teachers and women….. I found all this quite thought provoking.   The city was spotlessly clean and very well patrolled by police who either looked by Canadian mounties in their hats or something out of “Chips” on their Harley Davidson bikes….. We even spotted some Segway riding ones LOL.   So here are some of our favourite pictures from the day….

Old San Juan 1 Old San Juan 2 Old San Juan 3 Old San Juan 4

Old San Juan 5 Old San Juan 6 Old San Juan 7 Old San Juan 8 Old San Juan 9

Old San Juan 10 Old San Juan 11 Panorama from the old town looking out to sea Old San Juan 12 Old San Juan 13 Old San Juan 14 Old San Juan 15 Old San Juan 16 Old San Juan 17 Old San Juan 18 Police bikes Old San Juan 19 Old San Juan 20

We had an amazing day out and got back to the marina late in the afternoon and decided we deserved a cold beer. But there was a wedding going on… The marina bar served us anyway and we kept out of the way on the deck and were joined by two other couples who fancied a drink! Then suddenly the wedding party had left and we were alone….   Had a chat to the bar staff and called it a night…. Another exploring day beckoned.

Wedding going on Marina bar

Friday morning up early and we went out planning to explore into the mountains. But we wanted to sort a few jobs out – and the first was to find the propane gas filling station as one of our bottles was now empty.   Job done – bottle stashed – and then onto the minor roads which will take us along the South coast.

Time for a gas fill

Well – the road went up, down, around, corkscrewed, through mountains, through forests, breath taking scenery and amazing little cafes stuck out on the top with viewing platforms.   We had a great time taking it all in and ended up in Salinas – one of our future proposed anchorages – and had lunch in the marina restaurant, which is elevated so that you get views….   We also had local food – well, Richard did by trying the mofungo (mashed plaintain) and the fish covered in a local tomato sauce. I ordered pork with a baked potato but had local veg – and was completely shocked to get two huge chops – one ended up coming home with us by way of a doggy bag LOL.  Had another wonderful day out – and here are some of our favourite pictures….

Exploring day 2 -1 Exploring day 2 - 2 Exploring day 2 - 3 Exploring day 2 - 4 Exploring day 2 - 5 Exploring day 2 -6 Exploring day 2 - 7 Exploring day 2 Exploring day 2 - 8 Exploring day 2 - 9

In the evening we didn’t have dinner just an early night.

This morning – Saturday – and we were up with the lark as we need to return the car today.   So we ended up in Walmart by 8 am making the most of our wheels to pick up more wine, soft drinks and get some fresh produce and bread.   Job done – back to the marina – and we were given a lift back to our slip by the staff in a golf buggy. Nice place this!!!!   Richard has, ever since, been down the hole in the starboard lazarette attaching our new Merlin controller to the fridge while I’ve been blogging….. Oh yes and it’s raining again. And the laundry came back….

Tomorrow – Sunday – and we are back out to sea.   We have three possible places to stay overnight – depending upon conditions and our speed – so we just need to do a proper passage plan as the south coast is strewn with reefs and shoals plus some small outlying islands.   Really looking forward to it – we have loved our time here so far and can’t wait to see more of the island.

Bye for now