First days in Puerto Rico

Sima
02/12/2008, Culebra, Puerto Rico

We’re still in Puerto Rico, anchored off a nearby island. But let us regress for a bit to tell you what we’ve been doing.

We last wrote about being anchored near Isleta Marina, just outside of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Being in US territory is nice, even though this feels nothing like the U.S. that we are used to…. Fajardo, as we previously said, leaves much to be desired. And the monotonous run of chain stores and strip malls along the sides of the road with Wendy’s, Burger King, Popeye’s, Chili’s, and so on, don’t do much to fill that void. After renting a car at the only rental agency near the harbor (and these cars are not too many steps removed from the jalopies we described on the side of the road!), we headed toward Fajardo proper.

We spent a day shopping, hitting Wal-Mart, West Marine, Home Depot, and a Pep-Boys Auto Parts store. (Sometimes we hardly feel like we’ve left home, especially when, on occasion, a clerk answers our broken accent with spotless English.) We were like kids in a candy store! “Wow, movies for only $6 apiece!” After filling two carts at Wal-Mart to the brim, and buying yet more goods at the supermarket, we were so loaded to the gills that we had to purchase two humongous Tupperware carts (picture a plastic bath tub on wheels). And we filled each of them twice in carting food from the rental car to the ferry to the dinghy to the boat. It was quite an operation, getting all these goods to the boat -unload car at ferry dock; load stuff onto ferry; unload from ferry and onto dinghy; two trips in dinghy with the food; and repeat the next day. But the payoff is worth it. Our cupboards are filled with stores, purchased at reasonable Puerto Rican prices.

It was also good to have gotten the shopping out of the way as we had to get ready to have our first overnight guest onboard! Paul’s niece Casey was to drive in from Mayaguez where she is working in an AmeriCorps program, to join us for a long weekend on Friday after work. So Friday was spent organizing and reorganizing stores, and cleaning the general post-passage mess of the boat. By the time Casey came on board, we had a rather presentable boat once again, with a full fridge of fresh food, and cold Medalla Light, the Puerto Rican beer.

It was wonderful to have Casey with us for at least a couple of reasons. First, it was simply great to catch up with her and hang out. Second, it was fantastic to share the boat with her and see it through her eyes. When she was commenting on how rolly our anchorage was, we realized that we had indeed gotten very used to living on the boat, and did not even notice the constant rocking anymore. Or at least not very much.

Saturday morning we got the boat ready to sail from Fajardo to Culebra, a little island to the east of Puerto Rico. Culebra, due east of Puerto Rico, is only about 20 miles as the crow flies. But we are in the trade wind belt, where the wind blows from the east at 15-20 knots all the time. This meant that we would have to tack close-hauled the whole way to Culebra, traveling almost twice as many miles, in rather uncomfortable conditions, going up and down the waves. So we left as early as we could in the morning, and it took us about 7 hours to get there!

Casey was an incredible trooper! She did really well with the motion of the boat, and spent the day in the cockpit sleeping, napping from time to time; much better than hanging over the railing!

We spent our first night in Culebra on the west side of the island. We stayed at anchor without going into town, as we were all tired from the day’s journey, and the really rolly anchorage – best place we could get before dark – was making us even sleepier. On Sunday morning, we weighed anchor and motored around the south side of the island and came into Ensenada Honda (“Deep Harbor” in Spanish). Dewey, the main town of the island, sits at the end of this bay. It was a short and comfortable trip of two hours during which we were mostly protected by the land from the wind and the seas. Instead of anchoring with the twenty or so boats in the main anchorage close to town, we found a cove with a couple of boats in it, a bit further out, and dropped the hook. After some swimming and unwinding, we went into town to have pina coladas, a moment I had been looking forward to for a while now.

Dewey is pretty small, with a handful of craft/souvenir shops, grocery stores, and restaurants. It’s a bit more well-heeled than Fajardo. Mamacita’s, where we docked our inflatable, Dingleberry, was definitely a tourist place where the bar was tended by locals and expats, but not a single local could be seen dining. Food and drink prices were similar to what you’d find in Boston, so the locals are smart enough not to fill up there. But we were in the mood to be tourists, and enjoyed the faux Caribbean feel of the place.

After a good meal, we dinghied back to the boat, collapsed on the couch, and took in a movie, “Monsieur N”, a mystery thriller about Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena and his supposed escape. It was sort of an “Illusionist” for history buffs, but rather poorly done, and a bit of a disappointment.

The next day we went to explore Flamenco Beach, on the north side of the island, which our guide books had boasted to be “the best on entire island of Culebra.” Of course, Culebra is about five miles by two miles, and the guide books had ceased being credible after their upbeat description of Fajardo, so we kept our expectations low. We weren’t sure how we’d make the three-mile trip to the beach, and were filling up spare gas tanks with diesel for Leander at the gas station, contemplating our next step. (There’s no fuel dock in Culebra, so we fill up 10 gallons every time we go into town.) A mini-bus pulled in, with the words “Playa de Flamenco,” plastered on the front, back and side. “Hey, maybe this fellow can help us!”
Willy, the bus driver, did indeed help us. He took us to Flamenco, and has since become a good friend, watching our dinghy when we’ve taken trips by ferry to Puerto Rico.

Playa de Flamenco was indeed, as advertised, gorgeous, with a long curvy bay of super fine sand, and clear blue water. And a Sherman Tank. It seems the US military left a couple of them behind after they’d finally agreed to stop using the island for target practice. A bit of an anachronistic anomaly on a tropical beach, but pretty darned memorable, to say the least.

Being a Monday, it was not that crowded at the beach, save some very badly burnt American tourists. I think that I can understand that an American populace, which still doesn’t understand (a) that if you stay out in the sun too long without protection, you can get burnt, and (b) sunburns are bad for you, similarly believes that (a) global warming is a hoax, and (b) even if it weren’t, fossil fuels ain’t got nothing to do with it. They all looked like lobsters, save for a stripe or slash where yesterday’s bathing suit had crossed or the beer can had rested when they feel asleep (Really! One fellow had a white plank down his midsection, and we couldn’t for the life of us figure out its origins. )

After a nice afternoon on the beach and more pina coladas back at Mamacita’s (did I already say that I’ve developed a bit of a craving for them . . . ),we went back to Leander for dinner. (Funny how I could just as easily have written “home” for dinner.) Dinner was a cauliflower casserole, which, with much help from Casey, turned out yummy. We spent the rest of the evening chatting, catching up, and locating constellations.

Pictures are at:
Picasa

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One response to “First days in Puerto Rico

  1. Culebra Dive Shop close to the ferry dock. What: Flamenco Beach Where: Culebra Getting There: By ferry from Fajardo (3 daily sliginas from Fajardo: 9am, 3pm and 7pm and 3 daily sliginas from Culebra; 6:30am, 1pm,

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