We had trouble leaving the DR on time. The custom official arrived almost 2 hours late and then wanted us to give him extra tip money. This delay caused added stress to our departure since we were getting ready to cross the Mono Passage. I am new to sailing and I am learning about different kinds of knots, when to pull on which line, and a rope is called a line, etc. I am not paying much attention to the details about the various bodies of water we are crossing, I listen to Matt talk about what the wind is doing and the currents – is that not enough? Matt was kind enough to explain how scary this passage could be when I asked him about the blog and he “politely” explained he did not have time to think about the blog when he has to think about the weather. After that conversation I think we both were on edge even more about the journey that lay ahead. It was important to start as early as possible and this delay was not helping.
About 27 hours later of sailing straight through the night and taking turns sleeping we arrived in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico. Needless to say we had an excellent sail and had to slow the boat down a few times because we were going to fast. Matt is an experienced sailor and could easily sail these passages without the motor, however, having me on board he will typically err on the side of caution.
We dingy into the Puerto Real marina and it is teaming with life as many people have come down to buy fish at the fish market. We check out the scene and scope out the shower situation, cost of water and gas. Have a beer and chat with a few other couples that are making the same journey we are, in these conversations we learn that the marina will give you a car for $25 a day plus gas expense. We find another couple that is excited about exploring the island and agree to rent the car tomorrow morning and travel over to San Juan and split it four ways.
The couple, Igor and Sylvie have been sailing together for less than 2 months. Igor is Ukrainan but has been in living in the States for many years. He spent time in Las Vegas working at the circus show in front of Treasure Island and interestedly enough as a male stripper. He is in his 50s now and says that career is for the younger kids, now he is becoming a sailor. He is making his way to the Virgin Islands where he hopes to find work on boats and maintain this lifestyle. Sylvie is French Canada from Quebec, she joined Igor to help as crew about 2 months earlier in the Bahamas. She would like to continue sailing with Igor and hopes she can find work in the Virgin Islands as well. Sylvie is around 50 and looks like she could be 35, she dresses only in a swim top and skirt and is tan and fit from living outside and doing landscaping.
Together the four of us take off in the pick-up truck, we stop at a roadside food truck and share a potato full of broccoli, cheese, corn, beef, and sour cream, and make our way to San Juan. When we get to Old San Juan we split up and agree to meet back up around 5:00pm. Matt and I take off exploring each street and stopping to have ice cream and a beer. Old San Juan is definitely worth seeing, it is cobble stone streets and little cafes and galleries full of character. There is a big fort we walked around and it was near there that we experienced something strange. We went down a small street and were taking photos when two kids stopped us and told us we were not allowed here and no pictures are allowed, if “they” caught us they would break our camera. We didn’t believe this kid and kept about our business but he was insisting and another adult walked by and told us we needed to listen to him and leave. So that is what we did feeling bewildered and wondering who “they” were. The drive back to the marina felt long and we were tired. It seemed like the more scenic route going home and we hoped to have more time to explore over the course of the week.
The next morning we started our sailing without even needing to start the engine and we sailed smoothly into Bocqueron for Semana Santa. The town was very cute and packed with people despite the rain that came and went. This is the day I learned that my sister would be joining me in Puerto Rico for part of the trip and as we walked the town and I drank delicious mojitos, the night got the better of me and Matt had to take me home and we missed the epic party of Semana Santa. I felt really awful the next day as we sailed to another anchorage and Matt went out for a hike with Igor and Sylvie, I stayed home feeling a little embarrassed and under the weather. The next anchorage we cruised too with Igor and Sylvie was a small industrial village. We picked them up in the dingy and went for a jungle ride and then heading to town to walk around and check out the sites. A walk to the beach we thought was going to be around the corner turned out to take over an hour and 12 corners later. However, once we arrived at the beach there were beautiful people dancing and drinking and having a great time. As it got dark we were happy when one of the locals agreed to give us a lift back to our boat. We said our goodbyes to Igor and Sylvie and hoped we would see them again.
The next few legs were very difficult as the currents were extremely strong and at times the boat seemed to be moving backwards. We could not wait for weather windows because we needed to get to Fajardo so we could pick up my sister when she arrived. After about 3 stressful days of sailing and a few other awesome towns we got to explore, we arrived in the marina in Fajardo and were able to fill up on gas and water and rent a car to get the girls from the airport. Once I picked them up we got some great street food and headed to El Yunque National Forest. We found a couple waterfalls that were unspoiled from tourism and had a great time hiking and playing in the freezing cold water all by ourselves. That evening we made dinner, had some beers and got to take showers at the marina (always a treat). The morning was going to be the first time the girls had ever set sail. Matt played it safe again and we motored sailed over to Culebra. Our first anchorage was just a place to swim and dive. Matt speared 3 giant hog fish and one huge lobster while we snorkeled and enjoyed the hunt. I was super excited because this was my first time doing fish prints a psedu-gyotaku art form. Everyone helped make one and some came out really nice. We were treated to Matts famous lobster bisque and we had fish fry almost every day. We sailed to another out island and swam, hiked and played in the tide pools. Afterwards we sailed back to Culebra and the girls prepared to leave. From there Matt and I sailed to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.