Salinas and Ponce Puerto Rico

We have spent a few days in the Salinas harbor as we waited out the East trade winds to calm down a bit from 20-25 knots to 8-12 knots. During our stop here, on anchor, we all were able to complete boat chores, oil and fuel filters and cleaning and laundry. Along with these common cruising tasks, we  rent a car/van, and drive into Ponce to explore this historic town. Ponce is a 30 minute drive west of Salinas. Salinas is a fantastic harbor and there are several live-aboard sailors living on the hook in this harbor. It is well protected and very safe. Van Sant recommend this harbor to do a refit because you have access to supplies and good boat mechanics. As we have said before, Puerto Rico is really very interesting with a fun mix of third world scenes mixed in with American franchises and products. Add in a full spectrum of roads and highways to drive, ranging from dirt roads with massive pot holes and goats and chickens to four lane highways with automated toll booths, making Puerto Rico very interesting!

But first we had to sail or, should I say motor sail, EAST from our last anchorage of Isla Caja de Muertos. When pushing east into the trade winds you have to get up early and motor sail directly into the calm winds. By 1000 to 1100 hours the trades rebuild and you should pull into a harbor and stop. The other option is to move at night when the trade winds are much calmer due to the heated island and the winds that now flow down off the islands blocking the trades. We motor into this using our staysail and 2700 rpms on the engine doing 6.5 knots. This is the view looking into the sun heading east…the sun glare can be fierce. This is called “up-wind and up-sun.”

Once we arrived in Salinas, we worked our way into the harbor around many anchored and moored yachts and we found a very nice open area at the head of the harbor. The winds were forecast to blow East at 20-25 knots and here we never felt more than 12-15 knots. This is a recommended hurricane hole with mangroves around the east side. During storms, the yachts are moved into the mangroves and tied into the trees. Here is our boat on anchor with our west facing shade cloth tied into the rigging. The sun is soooooo hot and intense at 1400 to 1700, the shades helps block the sun.

On our trip to Ponce the team, which we now nicknamed “Team Six Knots” or “Team Six Knuts” decided to find the office for the massive wind farm that is between Salinas and Ponce. Sure enough, we did find it and the manager offered us a tour of the office and the wind turbine. This was so interesting. These wind turbines are massive and when you stand under one that is spinning and whipping the blades around you realize just how powerful these machines are. Each turbine is a 2.3 MW and they have 44 turbines installed. The site is rated at 101 MW capacity and it will pay for itself in 8-10 years! Each turbine, we were told, can power 1,000 homes. The 5,500 acre site is all farm land that is leased back to farmers by the Puerto Rico Land Authority. Here are some photos from our tour of the Santa Isabel Wind Farm.

Thank you to Rueben, Santa Isalbel Manager, on the right, for our fascinating tour!

We then drove into the historical center of Ponce, where we toured the Catholic Church, the bright red and black Fire Department Museum, Ponce Museum and the Fine Art Museum. The church is Our Lady of Guadeloupe Cathedral where noon mass was being conducted after we took this photo.

After a fine lunch at Chef’s Creations and a nice break, we hit the road and drove back to Salinas passing Sheep, Horses, Goats, Dogs, Chickens and Roosters on the city streets….

Then back at our very nice marina and harbor we enjoyed the pool and the shaded decks where we all talked about our next leg of moving into the USVI and eventually the BVIs…

For now, we will enjoy one more day here in Salinas and then we will take the calm trade winds and power 50 nm to the end of Puerto Rico. Here is the chart of the Salinas Harbor, you can see why this harbor is a hurricane hole!

Now, finally, after all our pushing south and east we will soon arrive in the USVI and then move into the BVIs. Take a look at our last routes here!

Puerto Rico Isla Caja de Muertos

Puerto Rico continues to surprise us with interesting locations. After Puerto Real, Boqueron and Gilligan’s Island, we stopped at Isla Caja de Muertos, a state park on an island off the south coast 6 miles south of Ponce. We wanted to climb up to the lighthouse and also enjoy the beach and a swim in crystal clear waters. We are here with mv/SEA STAR, while our friends on s/vFEZYWIG pressed on to Salinas, where we will catch up with them. It is the beginning of Spring Break and also a weekend so the place was really alive. The Puerto Rican music was blasting as the local families rafted up their boats, drank, swam and simply had a great time together. We anchored off the ferry dock where tourists and locals are brought over from the main island and dropped off for the day. Then at 1530, the ferry blows its horn and everyone departs the beach, leaving it empty for us to enjoy!
This panoramic photo shows the two islands with a very low lying area in the middle where the beach is located. The lighthouse is on the hill to the left and the fisherman’s chapel in a cave is on the hill to the right. After we anchored and launched the dinghies, we headed off to find beach access to walk the trails leading up to the lighthouse. After several beach landings and nearly swamping the dinghies, we finally anchored the dinghies off the beach about 50 yards out and swam ashore. Then we hiked up to the lighthouse. Here are photos of the cactus laden rocky trails up to the lighthouse….

Once we reached the summit, we found wooden observation decks which in very questionable condition, but we had to get a great selfie on the overlooking platform. Our boats are anchored in the distance to the right. What a beautiful view, well worth the climb.
After lunch back on our boats, we took the dinghies into the state park beach where the locals were enjoying their last hour on the beach. At 1530, the ferry boat blew the horn and the beach emptied. We then had the entire place to ourselves. We swam, beach combed and walked the park, 
and then we headed back to our very, very rocking and rolling anchorage.
Of course I had to take some swimsuit photos of Radeen, my favorite photo subject. What a great setting with the rock wall and the beach. How fun….

As the sun was setting, we all decided to head for “home” and make dinner and call it another great day of cruising and discovery. Of course this required another “Hayden Selfie”….Fun Fun Fun with Bill and Lauren of mv/SEA STAR, a Grand Banks 42.

We then returned to our rolling boats and we tried to make dinner and relax, but the roll and the ocean swell made it a very, very long night. At 0601, we pulled up anchor and headed out to sea saying good bye to Isl Caja de Muertos. Onward to Salinas…..

Caribbean Sea Goal Reached

…a lifetime goal reached…

We crossed into the Caribbean Sea on Friday March 31, 2017. A lifetime goal reached and accomplished, that being buying a sailboat, learning how to run it and then taking it to the Caribbean Sea. It has been 1,410 nautical miles since we left Stuart Florida after out refit work. From Stuart, we moved down to Biscayne Bay where we broke in the Spectra Watermaker and enjoyed great friends, Freddie and Gail onboard. Then on Super Bowl Sunday Feb 5, we sailed out of Miami bound for the Caribbean Sea and now, we finally reached that line where the North Atlantic ocean touches the Caribbean Sea. This point is Cabo Rojo on the southwest corner of Puerto Rico.

Small but mighty, Island Spirit pushes on to the Mona Passage

We crossed over the Mona Passage direct from Samana, Dominican Republic, with an overnight rin of 150nm in about 20 hours. We arrived at Puerto Real, which is on the west cost of Puerto Rico, there we checked into customs via a phone call and enjoyed the quet little fishing village. From there we moved only a few miles around the bays to Boqueron, another fun small local village where we worked over the local beers and had another fun night.

Then finally we left there and powered on around the SW corner and reached the Caribbean. Radeen and I were so happy and proud that we actually made it and NOW we will base our boat in this beautiful  sea for the next 4 – 5 years.

Cabo Rojo Lighthouse where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean Sea

For now, we need to power east into the trade winds and work our way down the south coast of Puerto Rico. The normal process is to up anchor at 0600, daybreak, and motor sail into the lighter trade winds until about 0900-1000 at which time the winds build to 15-20 knots and the seas come up. So, we turn into land, find a place to anchor, maybe a cool town, and drop the anchor around 1000. This process is detailed and explained in the book by Bruce Van Sant, “Passages South, the Gentleman’s Guide to the Thornless Path.”

Powering into the East trade winds early in the morning using the engine and staysail

Then, we have the day to discover this new spot, dinghy into town and explore….

Taking a break and exploring the local towns and drinking the local beer.
Hayden’s hat is sporting the logo of the local beer, Medalla.

Then we get up and do it again. If we want, we could head out in the evening at 1700-2100 when the winds drop and then motor sail all night into the light east trade winds until the AM. We plan to do that to reach the Spanish Virgin Islands of Veiques and Culebra. After cruising these, we will then push into the US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. Johns, and then finally the British Virign Islands. For now, we are enjoying our short hops to the interesting small towns and state parks along the coast.

We really like Puerto Rico….it is very interesting

Overall, we are very impressed with Puerto Rico. We thought we would just blast on by here, but now we are finding all these very interesting villages and harbors with mangrove islands. Very fun!

Just look at Radeen’s very happy smile as we rounded Cabo Roja and reached the Caribbean Sea. Radeen loves to travel more than anyone I have ever known. We both love to sail and live on our boat, so, it was only natural that we now travel using our sailboat. We will rediscover the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, many of which we have chartered to before, but this time we will have no schedule and no timeframe and that should make this really very special.

Beautiful Radeen, happy Radeen, traveling Radeen

Welcome to the Caribbean, it is going to be a very exciting time ahead for us. This map shows each day of our passage along the coast. Thank you for sailing along…..