Thursday, March 29, 2018

Crusing Puerto Rico: Mayaguez to La Parguera

Like I said in my last post, in retrospect I should have planned on landing at Boqueron and checking in by SVRS there, and arranging transportation to Mayaguez if the CBP agents requested we clear in person. The reason is that Mayaguez is a rather large, industrial and somewhat charmless city, the already somewhat neglected waterfront is pretty ugly post-Maria, and the storm destroyed the only decent places to land a dinghy. Now your choices boil down to one ragged dock that's just begging to puncture the dink, or a steep rocky beach with a shore break. Regardless, we stayed for a full day and night. The morning that we arrived, Judy's son Justin, wife Jo, and kids Ziggy (8 yrs old) and Coco (5 yrs old) drove down 45 minutes from their home in Rincón. The kids were quite excited to see Oma, but that wasn't enough to coax Coco into a dinghy ride to Windbird. She promised she'd get on the dinghy the next day, when we were taking the family sailing to Boqueron. In the meantime we visited at the skate park by the beach. When Justin and Jo took off to meet a friend for lunch, Ziggy decided to stay behind and visit. We played games aboard and I took a nap, and then we went back ashore for Dawn and I to get some US dollars and do some provisioning at the nearby Selectos supermarket (quite good, but I miss those DR prices!) and for Ziggy to do some more skating. Justin and Jo picked him up at sunset, and he was quite excited to go sailing the next day.

As it turned out, Coco still took some coaxing to get on the dinghy at 7am the next morning. She was frightened of the shore break, but readily agreed to swim 30 feet out to the dinghy, so Justin stripped down to his skivies to swim out with her! Kid logic, I dunno! The Sunday sail to Boqueron started as a motorsail in the night lee, then turned into a beautiful close reach, then a progressively rowdier beat as the day trades picked up. We had one reef in the main, soon put one in the yankee, and debated putting another in the main. By the time I was ready to do it, we were abeam the entrance to Boqueron harbor and it just made sense to douse the Yankee and motorsail in. Well, that's when it got a bit crazy. The wind howled through the harbor at 20, then 25, then 30 knots. We kept the main up and tacked back and forth at 3.5 knots, making steady progress for the last few miles to the anchorage. The kids didn't seem to mind one bit - I think Judy was more concerned than anyone else! In retrospect, yeah, should have thrown that second reef in. I know, I know - "the time to reef is the first time you think of it."

Boqueron is much smaller than Mayaguez and considerably more charming, if a little rowdy on the weekends. The party was in full swing on Sunday afternoon. We walked along the waterfront and found a little local place for some typical Puerto Rican food (e.g. everything fried!). Our good friend Leslie from S/V Texas Two Step turned out to be nearby, staying with Dave as he did a job placing new high-tension powerline towers (he's a longline helicopter pilot), so she dropped in to say hi and share a couple of Medallas. That was really an unexpected treat! Justin, Jo and family rather accidentally found themselves an unofficial taxi back up to their car in Mayaguez, and then Judy, Dawn and I lounged on the waterfront enjoying the party atmosphere and another beer or two. On the way back to the boat we stopped at our friends on S/V La Mischief for what turned into a 3-hour happy hour. Judy told a lot of her stories from her circumnavigation, and we heard some of Steve (the captain of La Mischief)'s interesting cruising stories too. Good times had by all.

The next morning we picked up Ashley from La Mischief, as she was leaving the boat for a week surfing in Rincón before heading home to New York City. She road to Mayaguez with us in Eddie's VW Jetty. Eddie is the same unofficial taxi driver that brought Justin/Jo/Et al there the previous day - a Puerto Rican who grew up in New York, quite an entertaining guy. He dropped us off at Hertz where both Judy and Ashley had reserved cars. We picked ours up, said goodbye to Ashley, and headed up to Rincón. Initially we went to Justin and Jo's place in the hills high above Rincón. They have several acres of land, a hobby farm of sorts with chickens and goats and a pig and a horse (plus five dogs and several cats), plus various fruit-bearing trees and a veggie garden. They were hit hard by Maria and have mostly been without water or electricity since, though a recently-installed solar array on their roof has helped out on the latter front. Ziggy gave us the tour around their place, and then we got back in the car and took a tour of Rincón's famous surf beaches. It was a gorgeous day, with just enough north swell to see the amateurs out surfing. As the sun set, Dawn and Piper and I checked into a nearby hotel - we weren't sure how all the animals would affect Dawn's allergies and we didn't want to cramp Justin & Jo with a full house - and then we rejoined the family for a fantastic sushi dinner at "Pool Bar," which is exactly what it sounds like, a sushi restaurant and bar with a pool on a deck overlooking the bay.

The next day Dawn and I ate breakfast at a bakery and picked up Judy's decaf coffee before heading up to Justin & Jo's place. We had plans to get out into the country by finding the Gozalandia waterfalls with Ziggy and Coco in tow. It took a little under two hours to get there as we stopped in Aguadilla to pick up a picnic lunch, which put us at the falls just after noon. It was a short hike up to the upper falls, where we spent about 90 minutes wading, swimming (even Piper swam!), swinging off of a rope swing into the natural pool under the falls, and jumping in from short rocks. Then we went to the lower falls, where there were several higher leaps culminating with one three-quarters of the way up the falls, about 35 feet or so. I did that one twice (the second when Judy failed to snap a shot of me going the first time!). Lots of fun and a great way to cool off in the Puerto Rican heat and humidity. We dropped off Judy, Ziggy and Coco back at the house at 3pm; this was the end of Judy's short stay on Windbird as she wanted to spend some more time with her grandkids. They all planned to meet us again in a few days at Gilligan's Island, however.

We dropped off the car in Mayaguez and took an Uber back to Boqueron. Both Windbird and our dinghy did fine being unattended overnight - the former at anchor and the latter locked to the dinghy dock. We had dinner at one of the local restaurants when we got back, our first time trying the famous Puerto Rican dish Mofongo, which is basically like shephard's pie but using plantains instead of mashed potatoes. I had it with carne frita & calda (fried beef and soup) and it was ok, but Dawn had one with flank steak that was fantastic. Once back at the boat, it was early to bed for a 3am wakeup.

The next morning we were anchor up at 4am for our 20nm sail around Cabo Rojo, the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico, to La Parguera. When cruising the south coast of Puerto Rico, as when coasting the northern Dominican Republic, you make use of the night lees. The difference is that while the DR only has a few marginal anchorages, Puerto Rico's southern anchorages are fairly close together, so you just depart in the morning in time to be in by 8 or 9am. It was dead still leaving Boqueron, but the night lee didn't do much good rounding Cabo Rojo, which accelerated the wind and waves just like Bruce Van Sant said it would. We pounded into the short, steep Caribbean chop, making less than 4 knots headway. Consequently we didn't get into La Parguera until 9am, anchoring behind Cayo Caracoles. Fortunately this was the last real trouble we'd have getting east on the Puerto Rican coast as we fell in the habit of leaving early and getting in early, and we had some really nice light wind for motorsailing...and motorsailing...and motorsailing some more!

Next Post: Cruising Puerto Rico from La Parguera to Fajardo

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