Thursday 18 Apr, Puerto Rico day 14: Gentle sail to the west coast and anchor next to Boqueron town.
During the night a very cool light breeze comes from the island. We had slept with ear plugs due to the loud music emanating from the shore. I woke up at 2am, removed the earplugs to the sound of total silence. Not even the slightest ripple on the moonlit water. Further east, the trade winds blow night and day, but here the wind howls during the day and the nights are quiet. Must be the thermal effect of a bigger island, pulling air onto it during the day and cool air falling off the mountains at night.
In the space of time that we eat breakfast the light land breeze from the north swings to the east and almost like someone flipped a switch, suddenly blows at 20kts. And that’s how it stays, all day.
We fly the drone to try and capture the scene around here: the small houses on wooden stilts protruding over the water; the little town with mountains in the backgrounds; the many small cays covered in mangrove and the reef islands out to sea. And of course, Cloudy Bay in the middle of it all. With the gusty wind the little drone does amazingly as usual, despite the numerous warnings on my screen “high wind, land immediately”. Landing is indeed tricky, but Oana catches it perfectly as usual.
Before we depart we re-rig the pole on the starboard side. We plan to sail downwind with just genoa only. So downwind pole to starboard then as we round the SW point we gybe the genoa and reach north up the west coast leaving the pole hanging out to starboard.
Given how deep the anchor went, it lifts surprisingly easily. At first we motor out, weaving through the channel with cays and reefs either side. Once out in deep water we turn west and pull out the genoa. With engine off we are going very nicely at 7-8 knts in 20 kts of wind. To take the rhumline we pass along the relatively narrow Margarita channel between two long reefs. Once in the channel the waves die away and Cloudy Bay is romping along on flat water.
As usual we navigate with the plotter but we are also weary of accuracy. And on this occasion it was wise to be. Luckily the morning sun was behind us, because at the far end of the channel the reef clearly jutted out right across our heading, where Navionics shows 10-12m of water! We steer around it with ease, but not so easy thoughts in our minds. We guess once we get into the Pacific, coastal navigation will all be by eyesight with the sun in the right direction. I’ll have to see how I can comfortably sit Oana on the lower spreader!
At the SW corner of Puerto Rico, Cabo Rojo, there are large orange cliffs with a lighthouse. And buried deep in a small bay on the headland is a spectacular looking beach. It would be lovely to go in and anchor there but the chart does not indicate the depth inside and waves are rolling through the entrance. Not somewhere to venture into safely for the first time. So we gybe the genoa as planned and head north.
The wind is really howling now, accelerating at 25knts with occasional 30 over the deck. With full genoa on a reach we are hitting 9knts with the genoa sheet straining like an iron bar.
Sooner than we thought we arrive at Boqueron bay. Its mouth is 1mile wide with a reef barrier all across it, leaving just a narrow entrance in the middle. One day (in geological time), if humans allow it, this large bay will become closed from the sea and form into a salt lake, with the reef becoming a beach and mangrove. It’s interesting to see these beach bars and salt lakes at different stages of formation as we visit each island and bay.
But for now Boqueron is a classic U-shaped bay, 5m deep with a wonderful beach curling all the way around inside. We take our time and motor all along the beach starting at the southern side and anchor in the SE corner on the windward side, in peace and quiet, away from the main public beach.
Here we relax and do some admin. Since buying the Parasailor spinnaker we have decided to sell our asymmetric spinnaker. I only just put it on eBay, but had also put an advert in Lagoonies bar in St. Martin. Someone in St. Martin, with a Discovery 55, wants to buy it. This is good, but presents us with a logistics challenge to get it to him. It’s not like popping a small package in the post. “Monster” weighs in at 40Kg and even tightly packed is 3x2x2ft in dimensions. The other challenges are that it’s Easter weekend here now plus we want to leave Puerto Rico.
After what seems like endless Skype calls to freight forwarding agents we have at least 10 emails asking for prices. We are looking for around $200-300 price to ship. DHL comes in at a whopping $1600! Evening taking a return flight, with the sail as luggage, is only $500.
We get some responses but mostly to say nothing can be done till next week. So we ponder about leaving the sail at the marina for pick up while we sail off to Dominican Republic … but we won’t have internet or phone signal there. Ho-hum, the dilemmas of cruising life 🙂
It’s now 5pm so we move to an anchorage nearer to Boqueron town. Here there is a lot of activity, music, noise from the beach, jet skis etc. but we want to go to town this evening and our noisy little 6HP engine only moves us at a fast walking pace – so we have to anchor near.
We are in town just before sunset. It’s already busy with people and very much a seaside holiday town. Tomorrow is the start of the long Easter weekend so people are in a good mood. While it’s still what I would call a kiss-me-quick town, it has a charm and certainly an atmosphere that is very pleasant to be in.
After a wander through the streets, shops and bars we settle for a drink near a row of kiosks selling oysters. Seems the town is famous for this. There, we “watch TV” as Oana calls it. Basically the art of watching people as they stroll passed! And a very interesting TV session it is too 🙂
We have some drinks and a tasting of the local dish “mafongo”, which is basically smashed plantain. Very interesting.
We then wander around again. By now, 10pm, the streets are absolutely crammed. Each bar has different music and several have live bands. We watch a very good all girl band for a while, which is certainly a first. Then we come across a karaoke bar. The setup is all out on the street, with hundreds of people gathered around. Usually these bars are to be avoided but this one is just so inviting, the singers here are absolutely riveting. All ages and all styles but all very entertaining and on such a nice atmosphere with people clapping to the tunes and dancing that amazing Latino dance that I just wish I could do. So we hang around there for a while and Oana sings along on some tunes which she recognizes from her Spain days.
We eventually get back to Cloudy Bay passed midnight after a really great evening. It reminded us of Spain or Greece, where whole families come out in the evening. And while there is a lot of alcohol around, no one is drunk, no loud mouths, no aggravation or fights, no bouncers or security, no police. Just everyone having plain good fun and being extremely respectful to each other. Oh, what Britain, and many other cultures could learn from this.
That said, we do have to sleep with earplugs again, as from the anchorage we can hear pretty much every band and karaoke singer in town! Until it finally dies down around 2am.
Another lovely day.