There are many ways cruisers can run the south shore of Puerto Rico and that is because, along the 92 nm coast, there are so many places to anchor, explore and dock! The south shore of Puerto Rico is a great section of the “Thorny Path.” You feel as if you have finally made it, and you have! You have made it to the Caribbean Sea once you round Cabo Rojo on the SW corner of Puerto Rico. The run we made this second time was similar to our last run in 2017, but we pushed a little harder as our destination is St. Thomas. Take a look at the run we made via this graphic and you will see the many challenges due to the consistent easterly tradewinds during the day time.
Katabatic Winds and Diurnal Wind Patterns
Puerto Rico is such a large island that it creates its own wind pattern and in doing so, it overpowers the east tradewinds. The island heats up during the day and then cools down at night. During this cooling the winds downdraft off the mountains and flow out to sea. This downdraft pushes the East tradewinds to the southeast and slows them down. These slower trades will be 5-10 knots, maybe 15 knots from the southeast. When the island heats up, the katabatic winds stop down-drafting and the tradewinds take over again blowing from the east 15-20 knots. The well-known solution to moving east into these trades is to run between 0300 to 0900 when the winds are most calm. Then by 0900, you need to turn into shore and anchor, waiting for the next day. Look at this picture of us pushing into the calmer katabatic winds as we rounded Cabo Rojo entering the Caribbean Sea.
Here is our happy selfie at this SW corner of Puerto Rico. This is a big deal. We have been running from Annapolis, MD, 1,000 nm down the coast, and then 1,300 nm to here and we finally reached the Caribbean Sea! THIS is a point to celebrate. A lifetime goal accomplished, not once, but twice!
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Stops along the way
With the knowledge of katabatic winds and moving just 3 to 6 hours each day, the next question is: Where do I stop? We have enjoyed some of the logical places.
This is the place where you can first swim near the mangroves in the state park at Caracoles and play on a beautiful sand bar. If lucky, you can take the dinghy to one of the 5 famous bays in the world to look for the bioluminescence. We were unable to see it in 2017 because of high winds and we were unable to go this year due to pouring rain. You can also take a fun dinghy ride along the shore to see all the cool homes built over the water.
On the weekend there is a real party with the locals which makes it even more fun. During the week, you can have it to yourself. Again, you swim, crawl, hike thru the mangroves and float with the tide in little rivers pushing out to the ocean beaches and swells. This is soooooo cool. Then you can hike the trails and relax on the many secluded beaches. All the while your boat is anchored in a wide open cove all to yourself.
Salinas, a must stop
We anchored all the way in past all the boats and past the marina to the head of the harbor in Salinas. There is plenty of room here and the holding is amazing. Our 55 lb Rocna came up with so much sand and grass and mud it was bigger than the hoop on the top. This is a hurricane home for sure. Many yachts are stored here on the anchor, just look around. From here we dinghied into the wonderful Marina de Salinas with their great pub and cafe. Sunday beers are $10 for 5 Coronas in an Ice Bucket. We enjoyed renting a car from Sidney, the marina will connect you, and from here we drove to Ponce and to tour the area. Lots of shopping, Walmart, Kmart, Walgreens, and a large grocery store. This is the place to reprovision.
Meet up with NEW friends
We met up with mv/SMARTINI and their buddies Paul and Liz and we all had a really good time at the pub on Sunday afternoon. Fran and Butch connected with us via radio while off Big Sand Key. We talked about making the run directly to Samana or Puerto Rico in that weather window. They were only thinking of running south to Luperon. Well, we encouraged them to push onward to the SE and run toward Samana. Then, if all was good, they could keep pushing to PR, and they did. They were so glad they made the run. It was fun to meet them, especially since they are friends with Bill and Lauren on m/v Sea Star. Thanks for the beers! Good people and fun friends…
Long Push, 50+ nm to Culebra
For this leg, we pushed onward over 50 nautical miles into the east trades skipping Las Palmas and Fajardo and Vieques and onward to Culebra. Again, we like to take the weather windows and run as far as we can into the east when the windows open up. Of course, once out, this window was NOT like forecasted, typical. It was 15-18 knots and it was EAST, when it was supposed to be SOUTHEAST. Not ESE, but clearly SE. East is on the bow, SE is off the bow. So we powered onward and bashed our way into the 4-6 foot seas and winds. First with just a staysail and 20 degrees off the wind, then we added the jib when the winds were finally and briefly 45 degrees off the starboard bow. All the while motor sailing to push into the big seas. This is how we do it.
As we pushed on to Culebra, our destination of St. Thomas could be seen on the distant horizon. Now that is a real thrill. We pulled into Culebra to enjoy the island for a day and to take a break. The winds are the same today and tomorrow, so we will move over to STT tomorrow, making our destination for now.
One more day
We have one more day, 20 nm, and we will have returned to St. Thomas and closed the loop since the day we shipped our damaged boat back to Colin Mack for repairs. Once we cross a line off the Crown Bay Shipping docks, we will call this delivery complete. Shipping was booked at $12,000, including travel costs, and Radeen and I now feel we have earned our money! Fun Fun Fun times.
Here are a few more photos … thanks for sailing along with us, we really enjoy sharing this adventure.
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