Friday, May 1, 2015

The South Coast of Puerto Rico

Being in Puerto Rico meant living the cruising life again! Although we still faced many miles of traveling into the wind, Puerto Rico's south coast has many wonderful places to anchor and explore. We were able to travel the coast in light winds in the early mornings and enjoy lots of salt water recreation which we had all been missing. After a few days of shopping and relaxing in Puerto Real we hopped along the coast with stops in Boqueron, Cayo Enrique, Cayo Aurora (aka Gilligan's Island), Ponce, Isla Caja de Muertos, and Salinas before going to Vieques. It was fun making new friends and catching up with others we had been with on and off since the Bahamas. We were so busy playing we neglected to bring the camera along. But we caught a few good moments along the way.

We picked up these teeny kayaks at a Sam's Club. It was like getting the kids their own bikes. They can launch and land them singlehandedly which means independence for them and freedom for us!

There's been a huge bloom of sargassum in the Caribbean. We got used to swimming around it but it got caught in the props several times each trip which was really annoying. Cubby is the collector (cough hoarder cough) in the family and wanted to keep this pile. 

We got a dock space in Ponce with plans to get a few maintenance items taken care of. But the surge in the harbor was so bad that our dock lines were working one of our cleats loose. We got out of there in a hurry.

Isla Caja de Muertos was very pretty but we were roasting! As we moved east it seemed to get drier and hotter. 

The place was deserted... 

...and very desert-like. 

We decided to make the trek up to the old lighthouse. Cubby brought her horse Stormy along for a trail ride. Another hill to remind us how physically unfit we all are. 

The lighthouse is really pretty. It would be cool to see it restored. 

A beautiful view to the South from the lighthouse. 

This sunset over the clouds, water and mountains was filled with so many different grays and purples it was amazing. But very hard to capture.

This is how Andy and Drew organize their tackle box. Another reason to swear a lot. 

The mangrove system along the south coast is really amazing. We loved exploring the maze of hidden, narrow waterways that twisted and turned throughout the mangroves. Sometimes we'd come across a little patch of sand where we could beach the dinghy and go for a snorkel in the current. On the weekends the Puerto Ricans tie their small boats to the mangroves and spend the day just floating around in the water. It's really peaceful and the water is so clear and warm you really can linger for hours. It's a lifestyle we were happy to embrace! Too bad we didn't take any pictures. 

Drew caught this Goby in one of the mangroves and wanted to share because it was an interesting and new catch for him. 

We came across this little dock and beach and spent some time fishing and relaxing in the shade. The sun was intense so we stayed out of it as much as possible. 

The hottest part of the day was spent playing with lego, reading or watching a movie. 

Everywhere we went we met friendly little beggar kitties. This girl liked sharing our lunch and playing with straw wrappers. 

As we approached Salinas we could easily see the massive wind farm at Santa Isabel noted on the charts. Andy found contact information for the facility and arranged for us to take a tour. Ruben was our very friendly and knowledgeable guide. It was so cool of him to take so much time out of his day to teach us about the operation. 

All of the data from each turbine can be monitored on the computers. 

Ruben gave us a presentation about the company, the history, the construction and the current use of the site. 

These things are massive! And much quieter than we had assumed.

The turbines were built on existing farm land. With good planning and PR the company was able to work with and minimize the impact on the farmers who can continue to use the land right up to the bases of the turbines. 

Ruben also gave us a great recommendation for lunch. We try to eat where the locals eat. It's more challenging from the language perspective but way more interesting and delicious! How about a smaller bite, Cubster.

While we were in Salinas we decided to visit the hot springs. Given how hot it was, it seemed strange to seek out a hot water experience but why pass up a chance to take a dip in the fountain of youth?

Of course we found another kitty the kids wanted to adopt.

We all preferred the warm pool over the hot pool. Cool shower, warm pool, pet kitty, sit in shade. Repeat. 

It was quite the peaceful setting with soothing spa music piped throughout the grounds. 

While stuck in Salinas (relentless wind on the nose) we decided to cough up for the two week "bay membership" so we'd be free to use the facilities at the marina near our anchorage. There are some days that the use of a pool is priceless. We spent a lot of time hanging around that pool socializing, using the wifi, cooling off and doing laundry. 

It was a brief but super fun time hanging out with the crew of Penny Lane. Safe trip and maybe we'll catch up with you down the road! 

It was great reuniting with our friends (and partners in stress from Ocean World) on Victoria's Ghost. We had a lot of manatee encounters in Salinas. One tried to make baby manatees with our dinghy in the middle of the night and another made a pass during the day then headed over to VG. The kids paddled over in their kayaks and got a great look! Thanks Lea and Roland! 

We made one quick stop between Salinas and Vieques. Sometimes the kids sleep right through our darkness departures and other times they wake up. It's always better for all when they sleep through it. If not, catching an early morning cat nap helps.  

Arriving in Vieques marked the end of our passage to windward. Everyone who had left the Bahamas at the same time we had continued heading south toward their hurricane season destination of Grenada. It was such a relief to let go of all the planning and weather watching but it was also strange to suddenly be alone. All of the energy and momentum of the previous weeks disappeared so any suggestion of relocating or trying something new was met with, at best, ambivalence. So we simply lingered in our lovely lonely spot for a few days enjoying the snorkeling and marveling at our first rainy days in forever.  

I hate it when one of these guys just hangs around under our boat. And even after they're caught and released they still hang around making a swim off the back of the boat much less appealing. Jerks. 

But the company of a barracuda can provide some fishing recreation when the spearfishing is a bust. Hasta luego, Vieques!  

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