Thursday, May 2, 2013

“Isla del Encanto” - Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands


The Island of Enchantment
They call it the “Island of Enchantment”. It has tall mountains, beautiful turquoise beaches, a rain forest (the only rain forest in the US or its territories) and also a subtropical dry forest. It has beautiful outer islands to visit, with bioluminescent bays that magically glow in the dark of night. It has a history and a culture all its own. Its people are so friendly – They will go out of their way to help you and make you feel comfortable. Our journey has taken us all the way from Sarasota, Florida to this point now in Puerto Rico and we were excited to get to know this new island – discovered by Columbus in 1493 and where Ponce de Leon established the first settlement. This beautiful island became a United States Territory in 1898 with the Treaty of Paris and we instantly felt at home and welcomed.

Salinas Anchorage
So here we were in Salinas, on the South coast, on a mooring, and near our friends Bill and Ann (M/V Ann Louise) and ready to get to know our new port. It was great to have phone service again– my US phone works in all USA territories, and I called the family and sent texts to let them know we arrived safely. My girlfriend Carol, (since Kindergarten!) had given me the name of a longtime friend of hers that lived in Humacao – not too far from us, so Roberto and Bonnie were also on my list to call and to try to arrange a meeting. Bonnie responded right away – but said they were leaving shortly for Pennsylvania. Bummer! But then she said it was only a half hour drive and they could come Saturday and meet us and take us for a real Puerto Rican experience! Yea!

John and Lavinia
For the next few days we explored the quaint little town of Salinas and its surrounds. We found many restaurants and bars, a Panaderia (Bakery) and two grocery stores. We seemed to gravitate to one particular restaurant /bar – Sal Pa Dentro –and it quickly became our favorite hangout – all due to the wonderful owner – John Baptiste. He was friendly and welcoming– remembered our names – and gave us all manner of assistance with local knowledge. It was also a great place to meet other cruisers in the community - and the beer and food were good too! What more could anyone want? So – even though we did the usual tourist things by car – Old San Juan and its historic fort, Ponce Museum
Enjoying a beer at Sal Pa Dentre
and Fajardo - Sleepy little Salinas struck a comfort cord in me somewhere. For me it was bliss just “hanging on the hook” in our quiet anchorage – water calm and trade winds blowing –looking to the far mountains– sipping my morning java on the aft deck –and taking the short dinghy ride for some happy hour entertainment in the evenings.
If you get excited by this type of life, then maybe this boating thing could also be for you? Our Kadey Krogen 42’ is just perfect for the two of us - and some occasional guests. It is made for this type of travel and I feel very safe with her. Even when we had mechanical problems, she weathered the seas well and brought us to port safely. We feel so lucky to be able to live our dream, and are so glad we made the decision to cast of the dock lines and live an exciting and different type of retirement. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be able to enjoy all the beauty and nature in this world and we love meeting other cruising couples doing the same. It’s all part of the adventure!
Dancing at Guavate
    Roberto, Me and Cap                   Roberto and "Rico"
So – back to Salinas… Bonnie and Roberto came to Salinas in their 4-wheel drive truck and took us on a wild trip up the mountains to Guavate and Cerro de Nandy. Cerro de Nandy is at the top of a mountain and 4-wheel drive – or an old army vehicle – is the only way to arrive at the summit. Once on top, there are people and music and lots of food – it’s the weekend and it’s a party here – campground style! You could say the food was organic - avocados from nearby trees, bananas picked that morning. Roberto had us try the rabbit stew – and I must say it was delicious (sorry to my friend Katie – who regards this not just as a pet – but as a member of her family!) When we arrived – the army was there with multiple jeeps. They were training on the steep, rocky mountain road. When we got back in the truck to go down the mountain, I was more nervous than going up! It was so steep and lots of rocks and boulders! But, we made it down safely, thanks to Roberto’s excellent driving skills and meandered on towards Guavate and the Lechonera (roast pig) for which it is famous. Roberto took his time – stopping at a bar here and there for us to sample a local beer, or a roadside stand for great pinchos – grilled chicken on a stick. We saw beautiful countryside, many people on horseback and all sorts of exotic foliage. We arrived at Guavate –a busy town with many restaurants and dance areas. People enjoy coming to the area to eat and drink and dance on  the weekend and enjoy a party atmosphere. It was so fun to see all this and experience the Puerto Rican culture up close – with a Puerto Rican! We thanked Roberto and Bonnie profusely for a marvelous and unforgettable day. We hope to return next year to visit with these new-found friends.
Cerro de Nandy - US Troops visit
Dancing at Guavate
Once again we were watching the weather and looking for that window to move on to our next stop. The day came soon – calm seas, low winds and a new destination – Palmas del Mar and Humacao.  We had a couple of jobs to do on Partners – so we went to the marina and were greeted with kindness and courtesy as the marina staff at Palmas del Mar assisted us in docking. It was very windy there and entering the marina was with a chop and a surge, but we tied up easily and settled in. We were expecting parcels we had shipped there – one being a six foot piece of brass rub rail – or rubbing strake – to replace the piece that had gotten hooked on the dock in the Dominican Republic. It was difficult finding a replacement piece, as most boats have stainless now, but luckily John Gear –our dear friend and President of Kadey Krogen –
A common sight
put Cap onto a place where we were able to order what we needed. And – Voila! – repaired. Then, we attempted to find a diver to clean our boat bottom and someone to install the new hoist we got to add to the first one we’d installed previously. Both of those jobs became elusive, as we could not find anyone to do either. Finally we rented a car for the day and did some shopping and provisioning, toured the El Yunque Rain forest, Loquillo and Roosevelt Roads Naval Area. Then Richard decided to go to Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo, to look for a rigger there. And success! We found Keno – a terrific rigger! He spent a few days working with us and we think we now have the mast and boom successfully rigged for lifting our dinghy easily!

It was a successful trip. Cap spent the next few days working on our engine –“Stonewall Jackson”. After talking to Lehman about our intermittent engine failure problems, they suggested changing all the filters -in hopes that all new filters would stop our problem of air getting into the engine. He changed all the Racor filters and fuel filters and seals and did a complete oil change to the engine and generator. It was a big job and he was exhausted. I tried to help – mostly assistant type things, because this is definitely a blue job!
Leaving Salinas Anchorage
View from our Mooring
With everything fixed, we left Salinas and cast off once again for the next port on our way towards Trinidad. This was going to be Vieques, but many people – locals included – warned us that it could be a bit dicey there and to be careful. So we bypassed Vieques and headed for Culebra and a beautiful, calm mooring in crystal clear water. It is so beautiful to see this blue Caribbean water with those lush green mountains. At night they are dotted with lights from the few villages scattered here and there. We had a fantastic crossing with calm seas and low winds – and our engine purred all the way!  We hooked the mooring ball and settled in to a backdrop straight out of National Geographic!

Cayo Luis Pena from Dinghy
The next day we woke see to the M/V Ann Louise approach and catch a
Enjoying Bloody Marys on Partners
mooring next to us. We called up to say hi and invited them over for Bloody Marys on our aft deck and it was fun to be together again. Sufficiently relaxed, Ann and Bill went back to their boat and Cap and I went up to the fly bridge to try our new hoist. The dinghy went down without a hitch! Cap wanted to explore the area and so off we went – our new little 20hp Tohatsu motor only sipping on petrol – we were able to go quite a distance and see many of the beaches and surrounding area. We saw fish, and rays and reefs with fan coral wafting at the water line. We saw turtles swimming and far off views of Vieques and St Thomas, as well as the smaller islands around. We came back to the boat and relaxed and read and then headed into town to check out our new area.

We enjoyed Culebra and spent much time in our dinghy sightseeing and swimming. We enjoyed some dinners with Ann and Bill and went to the Panaderia for a Wi-Fi connection. Our internet booster – Wirie – somehow stopped working and so we mailed it back for service and will have it sent to us down island. All in all things were peaceful and easy – until our A/C stopped working. Richard was loading our generator – when “Pop!” – Something blew and the A/C quit. And quick as that – we un-moored and cast off for St Thomas, because Cap thought that we had a problem with our Genny (generator) and that was a very bad thing…….
Bill & Cap in Salinas
Touring Old San Juan
View from Old San Juan Fort
Bonnie & Carol -my friend from kindergarten- in PR











Cap and I at El Yunque Rain Forest
El Yunque Views

Palmas del Mar Marina

Sunday at Culebra anchorage

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