Mona Passage

Well we had heard lots of stories about going over the Mona Passage, between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. Watch the weather and don’t go near the hour glass shoals which are like washing machines with very confused seas. We luckily were going the right way, down wind!

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We had a great crossing, beautiful sunset and full moon. Winds were terrific calming as we got closer to the Dominican Republic.
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It was like we were on a lake when we got closer to Samana Bay.
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We saw lots of humpback whales in the bay. Amazing to watch. Thanks to Jen from Our Rose we got these photos.

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IMG_0711We found Marina Puerto Bahia further into Samana Bay our home for about a week while we look around the DR and yes relax in those crystal clear pools scattered around this resort/ marina. Sorry, but this is like no marina we have ever seen. We can not believe we have access to all the facilities of the resort.
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South Coast, Puerto Rico

The southern coast of the mainland of Puerto Rico is a lot more built up than Brett & I thought it would be. There are towns and industry dotted all along the coast with lots of reefs and mangrove areas. In the far distance we could see the mountains which looked very brown and dry.

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Our first stop was Salinas where we ended up staying anchored for a few nights. It was a shock coming into the bay and seeing all the boats after being in the deserted Spanish Virgin Islands. To be honest there are not a lot of boats sailing around these waters, which is a shame as its so beautiful and the people are so friendly.
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Given it was Saturday night we decided to hit the streets around the Salinas marina and go for a few drinks and have dinner out at a seafood restaurant. In the area there were a lot of restaurants to choose from and the people so friendly.
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We hired a car on the Sunday and drove up into the hills to the Rio Camuy Caverns on the Northwestern end of Puerto Rico. The drive was really picturesque  and surprising green given the brown we could see from the coast.
The caves were spectacular and the tour for US$12 well organized with transport and a guide.
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P1050118The Cave system is actually the worlds third largest with more than 220 caverns with these huge stalactites throughout. Pretty impressive.
We stopped at a couple of roadside stalls for fresh fruit & veg and to see the brightly coloured hammocks as you do.
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Ponce sounded like a great place to stop for dinner so we went into the town centre, to the Plaza de Las Delicias with its beautiful park area. They apparently always have exhibits in the park and while we were there they had lots of decorated lions scattered in the park which added to the interest. The are a lot of interesting restored buildings surrounding the plaza.

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The old Ponce fire station built in 1833 with its old fire engines sits in the middle of the square as well.

 

 

We sat on the walkway outside a restaurant watching some of the Puerto Ricans come into the plaza in the evening. A symphony band was setting up as we were leaving and had put out lots of chairs, for people to sit and enjoy their music. Great people watching area.
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After doing a provision run at the big supermarkets before our car was returned we headed over to Isla Caja de Muretos (Coffin Island). The small island is just off Ponce and has a lighthouse at the top, which of course we had to walk to.

 

 

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Would have been nice to spend a couple of days but we had made a reservation at a marina in the Dominican Republic so had to move on.

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There were lots of little islands on the South Coast. We decided to stop at Gilligan’s Island, a protected mangrove bay in a state park and anchored off the Copa Marina Resort.
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On our way to Mayaguez we had a couple of dolphins come and play in our bow.

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We stopped at Mayaguez to check out at customs and walked up to the main town plaza. Wow were we surprised. What a beautiful area to sit back, have a coffee and people watch.

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P1050254Why whose this playing one of the many pianos scattered around town? Jen, didn’t realize she was so musical.

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We were really impressed with the southern coast of Puerto Rico and had great downwind sailing. Even learned a new technique to go right downwind from Jen & Richard.

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Us on the left.

 

Our Rose on the right.

 

 

Lots of bays and reefs to get behind for protection and to anchor with interesting towns along the way. Now its an overnight to the Dominican Republic over the Mona Passage.

Back in Vieques

We enjoyed a great sail over from Culebra with Our Rose stopping in the bay of Salina del Sur where we went snorkeling out near one of the small islands at the entrance.
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Jen & Richard on Our Rose off Culebra.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coastline of Vieques is very rocky with lots of little bays along the south coastline that you can go into to anchor. We stopped at Ensenada Honda Bay for the morning and went out to the reef in search of lobster. No luck. We did find really clear waters and a huge stingray and nurse shark.
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Everybody we had spoken to talked of the bioluminescent bay so we anchored in the entrance. Jen and I kayaked up into the bay so we knew where we were going at night. Alas the moon was too bright and we did not see any bioluminescence. Shame.

P1050008 We returned to Sun Bay which Brett and I enjoyed last April. On entry into the bay Jen & Richard were followed in by dolphins so Richard jumped in with them. They just wanted to play.
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Once again a great anchorage and nice beach to wander along to get to the town of Esperanza.

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Before heading over to the main Island we decided to stop at Green Beach on the Western end of Vieques. What a beautiful place. The water was so warm, the beach line had lots of coconut trees making it look so inviting.
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The boys went in search of coconuts and yes returned with a lot, for rum cocktails. Our last night in Vieques was spent on Green beach with a fire roasting marshmallows, with our rum cocktails.  Richard can make a good fire. Great fun night ashore.

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Lots of adventures in Culebra, Puerto Rico

We had a great downwind sail with our screecher up to Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. In no time we were checking in at the airport in Dewey with Jen & Richard.IMG_0273

Caught up with Bob and Leo from Adastra on our first night in the bay. Leo has lived on the boat since he was 2 months old so soon became very comfortable.
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There were jeeps and 4 seater golf carts buzzing around the island. We rented the more breezy golf cart which was good fun with the 3 of us only having to jump off once so Brett could make it up a rather steep hill.P1040903

What a great way to get our bearings around the island and see some of the hot spots. We tried to drive into each of the bays to help us to decide where we wanted to head to with the boats to enjoy the snorkeling and diving in the area. It was so much fun buzzing around the island.

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Flamenco Beach

Even managed to come across an old tank from battle practice as Culebra was utilized by the navy for training.P1040896

The Dingy Dock Restaurant is a great place to catch up on emails and lime.

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The bridge in the town of Dewey

Ensenada Honda the main anchorage on Culebra was really windy and the waters choppy so we decided to move over to Isla Culebrita. We walked up to the lighthouse on Culebrita, which gave us great views down into the bay where the boats were and out to the surrounding islands.
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On our return Jen & Richard noticed someone in the water near the reef signaling they needed help, as their boat wouldn’t restart. It turned into a real adventure with Brett towing their boat in closer to shore and Jen & Richard bringing the kids aboard as they had been surfing while waiting for help. Luckily we had a cellphone so they could get in contact with someone on Culebra to come and rescue them all.

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Richard and Brett tried some wind surfing in the bay we were anchored in as it was nice and windy. Looks like a tough sport if you ask me.
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Richard gave Brett and I a diving refresher course as its been a while since we had been diving and we had heard there was good diving in the area and up in the Bahamas where we are heading.

Diving Culebra

 

Diving OK Culebra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On one of the points off Isla Culebrita there are some natural pools that you can go swimming in. Soooo clear and a great place to just kick back for a while.

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We definitely found some great anchorages in Culebra and had great fun doing lots of different things.P1040982

Isla Vieques, Puerto Rico

We left San Juan harbor as planned followed closely behind by a ferry ship asking us to hurry it along or move over. Hmmm if only we could go as fast. P1010620A

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12 hours later we arrived at Isla Polominos off the northeast corner of Puerto Rico near Fajardo, which was a perfect place for a rest.  There were a lot of power boats, anchored to the beach enjoying the clear waters.P1010623A

After lunch we decided to continue on to Isla Vieques and chose Ensenada Sun Bay as home for a few days. P1010625A

 

 

The beach was awesome with nice palm trees for shade and that Caribbean soft sand.

 

 

We wandered the beach down into Esperanza to find Internet and a nice cold one and low and behold found the final round of the masters at an open air bar called Lazy Jacks. Well we couldn’t resist settling in for the afternoon.masters Lazy Jacks

The south coast was very pretty with lots to do.

Esperanza is a small friendly town, busy in the evenings with numerous restaurants and bars along the main street. The Malacon (boardwalk) stretches along the main foreshore where the restaurants all are and you see all sorts walking along it.P1010690AP1010680A

 

We found our own private beach at Bahia de la Chiva, for the day later finding out that it had just been closed for 6 weeks to sweep for old military ordinance. Wondered why a guy in a uniform was watching us closely as we came ashore.P1010656AP1010687A

 

 

 

 

 

Sweep for ordinance….you ask why. For many years the US navy undertook gunnery practice in the area hence there are areas that are still blocked off. Needless to say a beautiful beach.P1010655A

The are a couple of bioluminescent bays in the area so we headed along the rocky south coastline into Puerto Ferro for a night but didn’t see any sparkly blue lights just a nice sheltered quiet bay with Mangrove channels.

Lighthouse at Entrance into Puerto Ferro

Lighthouse at Entrance into Puerto Ferro

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The weather to St Croix is not looking too good over the next few days so we have decided to stay put & relax till things calm down for our sail. To be honest not a bad place to be….

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

We unfortunately had to motor from Culebra to San Juan as it was soooo calm, adding the screetcher (our dedicated downwind sail) only gave us an extra 0.5-1.0KN over the engines alone.   P1010569A

Rounding the Northwestern most point lays El Castillo San Felipe del Morro a sixteenth century forte that in its day was used to protect the city. Coming through the harbor you pass along side Old San Juan city and the walls and see the beautiful colors of the buildings. This gave us a different perspective over our previous shore based visit to San Juan in 2012.

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We stayed at the San Juan Bay marina for a week and every day got up and went for a kayak ride into Laguna del Condado a popular place for water sports.P1010592AP1010599A

 

 

 

 

 

We ended up buying folding bikes in Condado after the first day as it took us too long to get anywhere by bus and we walked into a folding bike store along the way. We decided it would get us to a lot of places we wouldn’t otherwise go and would be a great addition to the boat. We have ridden them every day since buying them.P1010590A

We went on a great ride through Parque Central over some bridges to Parque Lineal through to Plaza Las Americas for some air conditioning and a wander.  While on the ride we found some wild Iguanas hanging out in the trees and swimming in the Mangrove Rivers.P1010606AP1010616A

 

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We also cruised around Condado beach area and into old San Juan. We stopped for a refreshing Pina Colada at an open air market.  The city/beach life style reminded Brett of Vancouver. P1010587a

Time to move on and head to Isla Vieques so are provisioning up to leave Friday night.

 

Sailing Lessons

We were fortunate to arrange sailing lessons with Johan and Marlene when we purchased the boat. This was a great opportunity to not only get the obvious catamaran lessons and boat specific maintenance but also to get to know Johan and Marlene and understand more about the cruising lifestyle. We had fun along the way and by the end of the 6 weeks on the water Johan and Marlene felt more comfortable that we could be set free by ourselves to enjoy “soft seas and fair winds”. We enjoyed our time with them as you can see from the photos. The lessons extended beyond sailing which was great.

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Since Brett has enhanced his boat maneuverability skills his next learning experience awaits; the galley, something he has been reluctant to enter but I know he would love to learn another new skill! I can then focus on continuing to improve my boat maneuverability skills too. GoodbyeA

Thanks Johan, Marlene and Marco for the good times over the last 6 – 8 weeks or 700 NM of sailing. All the best, a new adventure awaits. We wish you well and hope to see you in George, South Africa one day.

Culebra, Puerto Rico

We left St Thomas, US VIs at 3:00am and had a nice downwind sail arriving at 8:15 am. Dewey, Culebra is a small really laid back town and you got that feeling walking around the streets. The houses and buildings were brightly colored which added to the ambience of the place.

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The first night we stayed inside the reef at the entrance to Ensenada Honda. The water was amazing and there were some interesting other boats in the area. Time for some snorkeling along the reef and to spot turtles.P1010497AP1010503A

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we sailed around the corner to Isla Culebrita a wildlife refuge where we found paradise.

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We stayed for the day and went snorkeling with the turtles a hike to the lighthouse (the oldest on the Caribbean) and lastly for a wander on the white sandy beach.  It was really hot and the views were amazing from the top of the lighthouse.

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We could have stayed for a week but time did not allow and we wanted Johan, Marlene and Marco to see old San Juan before they left the Caribbean.   Next time……..

San Juan

San Juan is a real history lesson and a beach getaway! We were here for 3 days so stayed pretty central.                                

Old San Juan - Sentry Box along the wall

 

 

Old San Juan is very picturesque enclosed within 3 miles of city walls with an oceanfront esplanade to wander and enjoy the history and the weather, which incidentally is a lot hotter than Calgary. There are 5 huge gates that allow access into the city. Back between the 1500s – 1800s access to the city was controlled via the gates.     

 

 

Brett at Paseo de la Princesa the start of the esplanade

 

The ocean esplanade is well maintained and a great walk. Make sure you have good shoes and water because it’s hot out there. There are 2 large fortresses along the city wall, that took over 250 years to build, and were built to protect San Juans harbour.

Kids with their kites in the park. Castillo San Felipe del Morro is in the background

 
       

 

   

The views from the fortresses and park are incredible, but its windy! Those good old Trade winds to help the sailors out. While we were up at Castillo San Felipe del Morro the school kids were all out flying kites, which apparently is a regular occurence.

 
   

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

 
 
The entry fee into the forts is very reasonable. The condition of the them is incredible and they allow you to walk around inside and on the various structures, which surrprised us. Well worth a visit.
 
 
 
 
 

Different areas within the city have different styled balconies and columns which define the year they were built

  

  
Within the city walls there are bold coloured houses and shops,which line the narrow cobbled streets.  
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cobbled streets lined with beautiful homes; Govt house is at the far end

 

 
 
 
 
 
The area around Govt house (which you can visit) is quieter and has some incredible homes with really nice entrance ways behind the gates. It is a busy place – trust me!  
 
 

He was a good listener.....

 

 

 

 

 I found a new friend in one of the many plazas around the city.         

 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The locals play dominos and chess in the many parks around the city.
 
 
 
 
 

A little sunburnt but maybe the Rum is having an effect too!

  
  
 
 
While in San Juan you cannot miss the Rum and  yes we found a great bartender to help us sample!!
 
 

Candado Beach - an interesting walk...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We stayed at a hotel along Condado Beach and walked to Old San Juan. Of course Brett found a cool bar right on the beach which had awesome views (not just of the sunbathers). Its touristy closer to Old San Juan and very busy and is gorgeous all the way down to Ocean Park. You can walk along in front of all the hotels and locals homes.
 
 

Brett looking out to the Carribean

 
 

 
LOVED SAN JUAN AND YES WE WOULD RETURN! If only we had had more time to get out of main San Juan.