Monday, April 11, 2011

How to get to Puerto Rico

From South Caicos; go east for 200 miles, turn right and go south for 200 miles. That’s more or less what we did. Our objective was to start just far enough north of the easterly trade winds to take advantage of a little southeast shift in the wind. We needed to make headway east before the strong easterly trades winds reestablished themselves, at which point we could turn south and use the east winds to our advantage for the second half of the trip.

Sunrise at Six Hills just as we pulled up the anchor to head offshore
Snowbird heading for South Caicos
The forecast was for light winds from the southeast, shifting to the east or northeast after about 48 hours. The actual conditions were a bit different…. winds were less southerly than forecast and stronger than anticipated at about 15 to 20 knots. The seas were big and bad. For the first 20 hours we sailed almost directly into steep 8 to 10 foot seas, with an occasional 12 footer thrown in just to keep us on our toes. It was rough, wet, windy and nasty. It was hard to move around the boat, hard to sleep, hard to eat and just overall uncomfortable. The conditions moderated somewhat after the first day but it was a pretty rough ride until we reached Puerto Rico 80 hours later. Skip has always jokingly referred to the boat as ‘the mighty Saralane’; on this trip she earned her nickname.

Clouds after the seas calmed
We had company offshore – Unicorn and Happy Times made the passage the same time as we did and though we couldn’t see each other we checked in twice a day on the SSB radio to see how everyone was doing. With 80 miles to go, we picked up this little flyer. He stayed with us through the night, huddled under the solar panels, and he flew off at dawn. I hope he made it to land.

Pretty bird on jib sheet
This little guy is the only thing we caught on this line offshore.

We arrived in Boqueron on the southwest side of Puerto Rico in late afternoon and after a few hours of attempting to clear through customs and getting conflicting information from customs about how to go about it, the customs office closed for the day. It was just as well… when we called again in the morning we got a simple “No problem, just bring your papers to the customs office and we’ll clear you through.” After a $30 taxi ride up the coast to the customs office in Mayaguez we are officially back in US territory. Our American flag still flies off our stern but we’re flying a Puerto Rican courtesy flag up the mast now.

Land ho! 
We caught up with the crew of Happy Times, Mike & Cheryl and their daughter Mikayla, who we hadn't actually met yet; we’d only spoken to on the radio up until now. The passage to Puerto Rico was their first offshore trip – and they were ready to celebrate! We were all cleaning up our boats and resting up after the trip but we took time out for a celebration dinner.

The salty crews of Saralane, Unicorn and Happy Times. (photo thanks to Cheryl from Happy Times)
Mikayla comes over for a visit
Captains Mike & Skip making captain-y decisions about new halyards
We had a nice rain shower shortly after arriving in Boqueron. It cleaned most of the salt off the boat and left behind a great rainbow. Mikayla took this shot from Happy Times... nice!!

Saralane happily anchored in Boqueron.
Boqueron is a funky little beach town, quiet during the week and rowdy on the weekend. It’s a mix of locals going about their business, sailors from all over, vendors selling trinkets and t-shirts, expats who came for a weekend and stayed for ten or twenty years and a sizeable population of both accomplished and aspiring alcoholics. Everyone seems to get along just fine though making Boqueron an easy place to hang out for a while or lose yourself for a decade. 

Seeking shade
Our view

We had our laundry done – by Brandy Alexandra. I kid you not. She’s the only person in town who does laundry since the local laundromat closed. She has one washing machine and no dryer, just a bunch of clothesline hanging under a big mango tree in her yard. 

Brandy.... our laundress
It took a few days to get the laundry done but it was worth it just for the entertainment value of hanging out with Brandy. She fits into a few of the above named categories… though I can tell you she’s not a local, a sailor or a vendor. We’re not entirely sure that all our clothes actually got washed… she said she might just hose down a few things instead of putting them in the machine. Uh… OK, I guess.

Mango trees are everywhere... and we've picked our fair share.
We've made friends with some people here and picked up information about places we're intending to visit along the south coast. Everyone is going in different directions but it’s likely we’ll see some of them later in the summer in the Caribbean. There are people in all phases of their lives on the water…. Canadian Rene, who’s taking his boat Kajou to St Martin to sell, has been sailing the Caribbean for the past seven years and is ready to live ashore again. Sailing with him was Mirko, from Italy, who’s just starting his days of hitchhiking on boats around the Caribbean. (We really hope to see Mirko again – he’s a chef and has promised to make us homemade gnocchi and pasta!)
Rene from Kajou telling tales with Skip
Hanging out in the restaurant

Mirko... make us some pasta!

I guess you can tell I was able to recover some of my photos.... I'm in a much better mood now. Here I am during the recovery process. Notice Skip took this photo from outside the room.... maybe I was a little crabby.

We've been here for a week and are just starting to get to know this little town. I know I say this about most places we go; we hope to be back here again soon. But, when the wind drops this evening we'll pick up the anchor and go around the corner to spend the night under the Cabo Rojo lighthouse. Tomorrow we'll start traveling east across the southern coast of the island. 


Eliza said...

Great photos from this post!! I especially liked the one of Saralane anchored in Boqueron. It looks like you're having so much fun. XO

Cindy said...

Continues to look wonderful. Well, maybe the trip down to PR wasn't "wonderful"...but you're there! Sail on. xxoo

Madeline said...

Hi Lize - Welcome back from San Francisco... hope you had fun there! I'll admit - we ARE having fun down here. Except for the 3 1/2 day lashing out in the ocean. Yipes.

Hi Cin - Our quarter berth awaits your visit... : )

xo M

Kim said...

Maddie and Skip - good for you! It's still chilly in Pittsburgh. Love reading your blog and getting a sense of your travels and adventures and all the people you meet. Can't wait to see you both face-to-face.
Much love!

live, laugh, love, Linda said...

Hey you two, so great to keep up on your travels! I'm utterly and completely jealous, though not about the 8-10 ft waves!! Just got some snow here in Rochester yesterday, but it didn't stick. Bulbs are up and blooming despite the cold temps and we're on vaction!:) Off to Toronto for a day or so then to Ithaca to see Brian for Easter. Madeline, I've been in touch with Monte and Danny via FB and photos of Andy Semel and his son just popped up the other day! Memories..... Love ya,