The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - The Trip South, 2009, Part VI, Culebra to Boqueron
Updated March 22, 2010

I'm sorry, but I just couldn't resist the temptation to squeeze in a couple more pictures of St. Croix. This once-grand building is on our way into town from the marina, and we passed it often. It is on "Hospital Street" and might indeed have once been a hospital. Perhaps an energetic reader will have the resources to figure it out.

Since the above was written, my friend Luc has figured out that this was the Danish barracks.

Danish Imperial Architecture, Christiansted -

This picture of Barbara in the marina shows how tight it was getting in. The light-colored water in the foreground is very shallow!

To view the trip from St. Croix to Culebra in Google Earth click here.

For the trip from Culebra to Boqueron, click here.

Barbara in Green Cay Marina

We eased into the harbor at Culebra just at dusk. The harbor (Ensenada Honda) was much less crowded than it was last year, and we anchored just about where we had been last year. It all looked very familiar, except for more construction, but we were disappointed in one detail -- the Wi-fi signal that we had happilty used was no longer free, or at least no longer unprotected.

This, together with a desire to get to Salinas and catch up with our mail, kept us from staying very long, but we did have lunch at Mamacita's the day after we arrived.

Iguana at Mamacita's, Culebra

The iguanas, only a theoretical presence last year, put on a good show and I managed to get some pictures as they wandered across the deck and climbed around in the trees.

First, however, we had to clear Customs. We cleared into the U.S. at St. John, but the U.S. Virgin Islands are a free port area, so it is necessary to clear again in Puerto Rico..

A Second Iguana

To do this one goes (or used to go) to the airport, which is a two-mile walk according to one cruising guide. We made it in about fifteen minutes without walking very fast, so I don't think it is that far. When we got there, however, we found a placard saying thaat entering yachts should call a certain number and clear by telephone. Well, we were a little put out, because we could have done that from the boat without the walk, but it was no doubt good for us. We duly called and after reciting our details received a clearance number.

The clearance number is important if one is stopped and boarded by FURA (the acronym for a unified police anti-narcotics force),

Leaving Culebra

and we were glad to have it (didn't receive one on clearing in on St. John) since last year we were boarded three times, challenged two more times, and circled by ominous black helicopters often.

This year, howwever, we slipped out of Ensenada Honda early on the morning of the 25th, rounded Punta del Soldado, and headed southwest toward Punta Arenas on the west end of Vieques, and from there to Salinas without let or hindrance.

Barbara Buying Tomatoes at the Sailmaker's -- Where Else Would You Go?

We did get circled once by a helicopter (I was off watch and didn't see it), but otherwise our only cmpany on the trip was a tug towing a barge to Aguirre. We ran up into Salinas Harbor -- it's actually a sheltered cove behind an island, but it feels like a river -- prepared for a hard time finding a good place to anchor, but instead we found the harbor almost empty.
The Harbor at Salinas -- Many Fewer Boats Than Last Year

Last year we found a colony of live-aboards and many transients in port for a week or three, but not this year. Marianne, the sailmaker who also sells beautiful ripe tomatoes, said the whole year had been slow and that some marine-oriented businesses had folded. We think the recession (even if it's now officially over) has kept many people closer to home. On Tortola, too, we saw huge numbers of charter boats in their slips instead of out working, but that was at least partly explained by the time of year.
Cabo Rojo Lighthouse

We caught up with our mail in Salinas, but the food store we had hoped to shop at was not open because it was changing its name, so we contented ourselves with a pineapple and an avocado from the back of a station-wagon next to the Post Office and the fresh tomatoes from Marianne. Where in the U.S we get fist-sized avocados from the supermarket, the avocados here are huge, the size of a child's football,
The Harbor at Boqueron

and one will provide all the vegetable two people need.

We stayed in Salinas two days, answering mail and paying bills while we had easy access to the Post Office. We went to Drake's in the evening for the local gossip and internet access, but there was very little gossip, as we were usually the only cruisers there. It was there that we found out about the earthquake in Chile and watched the TV coverage.

Horses are very important in Puerto Rico, and we did see one nice example in Salinas that reminded us of the horses we had seen in Vieques the year before.

Sunset Clouds - Boqueron

On the way to the Post Office there is a park, really just a vacant lot, that often has horses grazing. As we passed this time, however, there was a horse being schooled on a lunge line with a bareback rider. The horse did not particularly like this and bucked, kicked, and crow-hopped, but the rider stayed on his back as though glued down. We watched for a while and never saw the rider even close to off-balance. It was a remarkable display of horsemanship; the boys who grow up on the small farms (called fincas) seem to develop excellent riding skills.
The Blimp That Keeps Watch Over Us - Boqueron

Salinas was hot and full of mosquitoes. Fortunately I had bought screens for the deck hatches before we left, and with these installed we could leave the hatches open to catch what breeze there was, and two small 24-volt computer fans gave us a breeze over our bunk, so the nights felt cooler.

On the morning of the 28th we slipped down the harbor and headed west. We went out through a gap in the reefs, passed just inside Isla Caja de Muertos and by the Ponce sea buoy. All these were places we had stopped last year. Going east along this coast it is a good idea to make short hops, early in the day, before the trade winds pick up, but this year the

Boqueron Sunrise

trades are very erratic, and in any case we were going with them. For a large part of the trip we were slowly overtaken by Michigan Service, a tug towing an unloaded barge, but he left us and headed into the huge industrial complex at Guayanilla, while we went on past the Guanica sea buoy and Arrecife Margarita toward the high bluffs of Cabo Rojo.

Once around Cabo Rojo we were almost home. Since it was a Sunday, the beach at El Combate was lined with small boats anchored just off the beach and with a stern line ashore as is the local custom. They were competing with each other in the volume of their stereos, so we were happy to pass them by. East of Boqueron there is a small blimp on a tether (I think it might technically be called a "tethered monostat") that carries a radar and is a piece of the War on Drugs, keeping watch out over the Mona Passage. We didn't see much of it our first few days because the sky was quite hazy, partly because of activity

Aft Pilothouse Bulkhead - Firring Strips

from the volcano on Monserrat, but partly because of dust from the Sahara!

In Boqueron we collected mail again and reconnected with our old friends: Lizette, Terry, Stan and Rita, Mark, and others. With a good cellphone signal we could attend to various business matters, and it was getting on toward Income Tax time, so the pilothouse was no longer very shipshape, but was piled with papers and forms.

Since we had no plans to go anywhere for a while, once the taxes were done I dismantled the pilothouse, all except the dashboard, moved the chart drawers and their case below, and in one push put firring strips on the aft bulkhead, insulated it, and put a wooden ceiling over it. The pieces had been precut on Chebeague, but one was missing, a casualty of an early attempt to make a drogue on the way to Bermuda.

Not Finished, but Functional

Except for the covering board over the wireway on the starboard side, which is temporary, this is now about the way it will be (except painted) and I can start on the boxes and sound insulation around the engine room vent ducts.

About every other day we walk up to the Post Office to get our mail, then come back to the boat and do chores or rest or swim. Barbara is working on an article for a scholarly journal, and I can always find work on the boat to do.

While we were weighing anchor in Culebra harbor, the port brake rod on the windlass had snapped, which I did not think should have happened.

Side Street in Boqueron, Defended by Dog (Perro)

I had some discussions on the phone with the makers, the Ideal Windlass Company, in Rhode Island, and the upshot was that I sent them the old rod and brake bands and they will return them repaired. It is nice to deal with small companies that both know and stand behind their products!

We are exploring the village of Boqueron a little more this year, and thoroughly enjoying the process. Except for the main street, it is a place of narrow alleys and brightly-painted houses. The ubiquitous SUVs sometimes find the going a little tight.

Boqueron Street

I have mentioned our Wi-Fi amplifier(from Island Time PC) before, but will reiterate that it has really made our wandering life easier. It does not always guarantee us a good conection, but quite often we do find one, and it is much easier to work from the boat instead of lugging our laptops ashore and connecting in a bar, especially now that the hard drive on my laptop refuses to boot.
On the Way Back from the Post Office - Boqueron

Elaborate Second-Floor Garden - Boqueron

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VII