The boys and I arrived safely, although not happily into San Juan after a quick, uneventful flight.
Well, uneventful from the planes perspective, however the youngest, both tired, excited, and full of airport food, made the trip slightly more stressful for me (and those sitting in our nearby vicinity). After we arrived and recomposed ourselves we taxied across town and made it in time to catch the next mini-bus ride across the island to meet up with Pete at a town called Mayaguez. I was very lucky to meet a very kind local who shared his internet connection with me on the bus trip, enabling me to contact Pete and arrange a rendezvous! Our first impressions of the country were that everyone is extremely friendly, always smiling and happy to help, especially when they see a very frazzled looking mum travelling with 3 boys! It was also such a contrast to the DR, double lane highway all the way to the coast (a 3 hour trip), with shopping malls, scattered all the way along the journey, compared with the pot holed roads, small villages and road side stalls found throughout the DR!
Mayaguez is basically a town to clear customs, provision, and then leave. Unfortunately, customs office was closed on the Sunday we arrived, so we stayed till the next day (the boys and I illegally on the boat as Pete was not supposed to get off or let people on until customs cleared). We left as soon as we could for what was to be a 2 hour trip to Boqueron further south along the west cost of PR. As it turns out the trade winds also cause havoc this side of the Mona, and our progress was slow, and marred by us running out of fuel just before we headed in the anchorage for the afternoon. Somehow Pete had used up all the fuel crossing the Mona, which was surprising as we had lasted so long on a single tank throughout much of the Bahamas. Of course, we should have checked before leaving, however we were so keen to keep moving, as we now must get much further south due to the impending hurricane season that will soon be upon us.
There is nothing more frustrating to be within spitting distance of your destination, and to have to spend another 2 hours tacking (or so it seemed) into the anchorage. We were all very keen to arrive and we had been looking forward to a swim on the beach at Boqueron. Fortunately, we made it before sundown, and in time for the boys to hit the beach and discover a very popular jetty that hordes of kids were jumping off into the reasonably clear water!
Next day Pete spent ferrying out jerry cans of diesal to fill the tanks whilst the boys and I did homeschool (we are now getting close to 2 hours a day of work – one day soon I think I will write a separate blog on these challenges), followed by a visit to the small town next to the beach.
Boqueron is very popular with the local Puerto Ricans. Although small, it had a couple of nice restaurants, some very nice ice-cream and Ben’s number one item on his wish list – Jet Ski’s. He’d been wanting a ride on one for about 2 years, and we had finally discovered a place within his (and our) budget. He was one happy boy (at least for a couple of hours post ride anyway!).
After 2 nights at this lovely town, and lots of visits to the beach for some jetty jumping, we staged ourselves an hour down the coast at El Combate, just north of the south western most point of PR. Due to very shallow water we anchored well off the beach – what a rocky night, perhaps in hindsight we should have just got up an hour earlier and had a good nights sleep back in Boqueron.
After a very early start (around 5am), we arrived at La Parguera, hoping to be able to buy a SIM card. No luck, although we did find a bar with internet and were able to place orders on Amazon for a few essentials that we desperately needed. Puerto Rico is the first country that we’ve been to since leaving the US that Amazon will deliver to, and we had a forwarding address at Salinas marina which would hold our items until we arrived.
La Parguera is surrounded by mangroves, so much so that along the waters edge, many of the houses are built into the mangroves which makes for a very pretty site.
Our next stop was Ponce (Poncey) and a fair hop along the coast, so this time we departed at 3.30 am so we would arrive before the winds picked up too much around 10 am. Ponce is the place to provision, it has 3 Walmarts, and many other American department stores. Our clothes were in definite need of cremation, and Max had been surviving on a couple of t-shirts (has anyone noticed in the photos!) so I was very much looking forward to a big shop! As luck would have it, end of financial year sales were on, so I was able to pick up new T-shirts and board-shorts for the boys very cheaply, along with some clothes for myself, and a very long overdue haircut!
We visited the old town of Ponce – lovely square with fountains, and an impressive museum housing an old fire-engine. An early lunch at Burger King could not be thwarted, although it was almost an historic site, with an amazing painting on the neighbouring wall.
After a couple of nights we left for the next destination, an island just of the coast called Gilligans Island, called this because the island itself looks like the setting of the TV, and apparently there is a local fisherman who also looked like one of the cast! Our paths didn’t cross unfortunately. We had anchored up early after another pre-dawn sail, with enough time to complete school work for day day. After lunch we then dinghied over to the island for some snorkelling. As we rounded the corner to the beach area, we got a huge surprise. Around 500 people were set up in the mangroves having BBQ’s, drinking, floating about on pool toys and chilling out to music blasting from beat boxes!
We had a fantastic afternoon, snorkelling around the mangroves (not too much to see but great exercise), and floating along with the current that ran rapidly between the mangrove islands. Very relaxing indeed!
Next morning it was up at 3.30 am again for another 14 nautical mile hop to Salina’s, where we were looking forward to picking up parcels from both America and Australia.
It was wonderful to arrive in the harbour and recognise the boats of many of the friends we had made during our time Samana’s in the DR.
Salina’s is a low key and very friendly town, and a good base for exploring the island, getting repairs done (Pete tore another sail crossing the Mona) and to visit hardware and marine stores. Once again we quickly settled in to life in a marina – daily schooling up at the bar, catch ups with our friends, followed by swimming in the pool or nearby beach, tech time and sight seeing!