The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - The Trip South, 2009, Part VII, Boqueron
Updated April 30, 2010



Rainbow Over Boqueron

The poblado (village) of Boqueron is in some ways like Chebeague, a fishing village that has become a tourist destination. It also has its share of "winter natives," retired businessmen who spend five or six months of each year here. It is nowhere near as upscale as St. John, or even Vieques.

The main feature of Bahia de Boqueron is the beach, all two miles of it. It has been developed as a state park, with cabanas and apartments for rent, and so it is kept quite clean. In the summer (I am told) it is crowded, but even in the winter people come from San Juan and nearby Mayaguez for the weekend.


Boqueron

In the evenings and as a break from the beach they wander along the few streets drinking Medalla, the local beer, and munching oysters from the many kiosks that only open in weekends.

Easter weekend is especially busy, and the Thursday before it the streets were filled with delivery trucks and also with beer salesmen pushing full pallets of Medalla on dollies where their trucks could not go. During the days the beach was crowded, and evenings there were noisy parties with several bars pumping out music at very high volumes.


Boqueron, The Main Street

For the people who come here, Easter is a welcome long weekend, but we remembered last year, when we were in San Juan on Good Friday and saw slow processions of mourners, many in tears, singing and winding their way through the streets toward the many churches.

Not much has changed in Boqueron since last year (see Cruise08_7.html ), but there is one good-sized new condo building going up. I suspect that these condos, like the gated condos with the private marina, are intended as summer homes for wealthy Puerto Ricans from San Juan, rather than as winter homes for mainlanders.


Sunset-Watching is a Major Pastime

On the way to the Post Office there is a field (really just the corner of a field) that often has a horse or two in it, standing in the shade. An aerial view of the town from Google Earth shows that this is really the entrance to a good-sized farm with fields extending all along the south-eastern side of the village and all the way to the park behind the beach. Small farms are important to Puerto Rico, as they once were on Chebeague, and perhaps this is a remainder of earlier days.
The Small and Rather Delicate Paso Fino Horses of Puerto Rico

On Barbara I had installed a new saloon ladder just before we left, and I have included this picture because it also shows the painting by our friend Nicoline Heemskerk www.nicoline-heemskerk.nl that hangs over the piano at home in the summer and over the engine room door in the winter months.

Since we like quiet and privacy, we usually anchor well out and away from the other boats, but we have discovered an interesting phenomenon.


Barbara's New Saloon Ladder

When we were anchored quite far out, maybe half a mile from the dinghy dock, the boats that didn't run right in and anchor just off the beach tended to anchor near us, often closer than we liked. Then, however, we moved in closer in order to get a better WiFi signal, and new arrivals, instead of anchoring outside, like the others, shoehorned themselves in next to us again. We really do not understand this herd instinct in people who live on boats. They might as well live in condos and have an easier life with less expense. At first I noticed that many of these boats, whose cockpit conversations we overheard willy-nilly, had Canadian ensigns, but I now think that was coincidence, as we have now seen plenty of U.S. examples as well.
Late Afternoon at "Sunset Sunrise"

As I mentioned, Easter is an important holiday (religious or secular) in Puerto Rico, and we decided we would dress ship for the occasion, so we got out our code flags the night before and rigged them on Easter Sunday morning. As we hoisted them we heard the brave small bell of the village church announcing the first mass of the day.
Barbara Dressed for Easter

One thing that makes life in Boqueron easy for us (apart from our cellphone working and reasonable internet access) is the privilege of using Stan's truck (formerly the "Peoples' Truck", now, for reasons that are unclear, the "Rat Truck"). This lets us go to the supermarket every week or so, and to Walmart or Sears or Borders when that is necesary. It is an interestring situation -- maybe the best of both worlds -- to be in a place that combines a very different culture and language with all the comforts of home (US Mail, familiar big-box stores,
The "People's Truck" at Cabo Rojo Plaza

etc). It is, at least, somewhat disorienting.

Alert readers of these pages will have noticed that we have used the tiny bar "Sunset Sunrise" as our entree into this world. It is, of course, our practice when cruising to find a congenial bar and move into its society, and here we settled early and have never regretted it. Lizette, the owner, expressed interest in Barbara's professional life, so I made for her a little plaque with appropriate pictures of Boqueron harbor and "Sunset" and "Sunrise" in Akkadian.


Sunset Sunrise in Akkadian


Boqueron From the Air. Click here for Larger Image

Boqueron was originally a fishing village surrounded by farms, and as it became popular as a vacation spot the farms gradually were swallowed up. Some (or at least remnants) still exist, and one can get inklings of the past from the farm tracks next to elegant houses, as here, or from the pasture on the way to the Post Office.

It is not at all uncommon to see a horse clattering up the street with a rider sitting very erect, often bareback with just a hackamore instead of a regular bridle. The riders are always men, never women.


Elegant House Next To a Farm Track and Field

We don't always just sit -- sometimes we rent a car and take a look at the interior of the island. One time we rented a Yaris (from Hertz!) and took a three-day trip, somewhat circular. We first went along the south coast through flat dry land that probably used to be sugarcane fields, but soon we turned north and came into a very different countryside of steep hillsides and tiny farms with (to us) impossibly steep fields. As we went on we came into the Carite, a forest reserve that includes the eastern end of the mountainous spine of Puerto Rico. The many hairpin switchbacks made the driving a little strenuous, but the main problem was that Puerto Rican drivers set loose on these roads all imagine themselves to be Grand Prix drivers, using the whole road in the corners, all very well on a closed race course,but not so good when there is oncoming traffic (and especially not good when the oncoming traffic is us!).
Typical Hairpin Turn and View In the Carite

Barbara's account: We found ourselves at the base of the mountains, heading up a steep, narrow road, often with a canopy of dark trees. Blazes of bright red, yellow, or orange flowers in the trees and on bushes by houses.

On our left, the world went straight up and was tree-
covered, with vines and flowers, and sometimes a house inserted at the edge of the road. It was suddenly cooler, and dark.
We could see gardens of vegetables or banana or plantain trees edging down the steep hills, row by parallel row cut into the hillsides. This is dogged, laborious farming, with a machete, mostly.


View From our Balcony at Hacienda Caribali
We then went on to El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national park system. We wanted to spend some time there, and as we drove in we passed people swimming in a river and having cookouts on the shore, but it was getting late in the day and we were tired, so we started looking for a place to stay. After all, we were on an interstate, and there should be a motel, right?

Wrong, as it turned out. We saw no sign of any and when we asked, people suggested San Juan or Fajardo, neither of which seemed appealing. We were about to give up when Barbara saw one of those blue signs with a bed, indicating lodging. It didn't take us long


El Yunque
to decide that wherever it led, we were going, and we followed increasingly small and winding roads to a hiltop, and there we found the Hacienda Caribali, which turned out to be delightful! As it turned out, we were the only guests, and after a very good dinner we sat around a table with the owner, Josť Diaz, and a group of friends, drinking a very pleasant wine. Somehow, whenever we wanted to buy a round everyone's glass was always full, but ours were mysteriously never allowed to get empty -- clearly our money was not good here, so we tried to repay the hospitality by telling stories of our trips. The farm raises paso fino horses, descended from the horses brought by the Spaniards, and it keeps a string of beautiful trail horses.
The View Out to the East, With the Ocean Beyond

The ranch has kept itself alive by diversifying and developing a tourist/resort business, which seems very successful. When we stopped by the ranch to say good-bye the next morning, there were lines of families and children signing up to ride and getting assigned to their horses. Others were signing up to ride ATVs, and still others wanted to run go-karts on the track in front of the stables.

We, however, drove back into the park and up to a trailhead, where we left the car and walked along the edge of a valley, almost even with the tops of the trees below us, to a pool at the foot of a high waterfall, where families swam and played in the water. The forest is a magical place, with flowers by the road and trails, flowers in the treetops, frogs calling in the coolness, and birds all over with high fluting voices.

[Barbara] Once in a while we would come to a gap in the trees and look out over mountain slopes, wooded, plunging miles down toward an empty forested valley, and out beyond, more sharp, wooded peaks. On the trees near us, vines hung heavy and clumps of epiphytes, white ghostly plants, perched on the branches, their roots hanging down into air from twenty feet above our heads. And flowers in the trees, bursts of intense yellow or bright red-orange.


A Typical Trail with Interpretive Sign
We came to a stone tower, complete with spiral staircase almost wide enough for people going up and down to pass each other. From the top we could see for many miles out over the mountains and treetops to the water on the east coast and even to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We learned that it was not the ancient fortification it appeared to be, but was built to give visitors to the park a clear view in all directions, the dream of an earlier park ranger.

The park has an elegant interpretive center, an open, airy building (really just a roof, for the most part), approached by bridges over ravines full of tall tropical trees and with water running below. On the side of a hill, it is at treetop height and birds fly around it and through it.

We walked down a paved (!) path for about forty-five minutes to a waterfall full of families playing in its pools. This was very pleasant, but not very pristine. We knew there were other trails, but left them for another day and went back to the highway to head for San Juan. As it was a holiday (long) weekend, the traffic in the opposite direction (toward the beach) was very heavy, but we found San Juan almost deserted. A friend in Boqueron said that everybody in San Juan was in Boqueron, but I know for a fact that some of them were in Luquillo (another beach resort), too.


Playing in a Waterfall
We found a room, pleasant and not very expensive, in (of all places) a Howard Johnson! No orange roof, however; this was just a nice old hotel in Old San Juan that happened to become a HoJo franchise. With the desk clerk's help we found a place to get rid of our car (a real liability in Old San Juan's narrow streets) and went out to explore. The city of San Juan is a huge sprawl, but the old city is on an island and is very compact and easy to explore on foot.
Wild Flowers by the Roadside

Plaza de Armas in San Juan from our Hotel Balcony
The old city is a place of many little plazas, some with ceremonial buidings, and street after street of restored and brightly-painted houses. Like Charleston or Savannah, it invites the photographer, and I had to edit heavily to keep the collection manageable.

We could not see the whole city in a day, but we walked up one beautiful streeet after another, and when we were tired or thirsty there was always a cafe where we could get out of the sun, get a drink, and rest.


Brightly Painted Street in San Juan
One place we had to go, of course, was the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, usually called El Morro, the fortress that has defended San Juan and its harbor for centuries. Its construction was started in 1539 and finished in 1783 (although we did see gun emplacements from the Second World War).

Between the fortress and the town is a fairly narrow neck of land that was cleared and kept open to give the fort a clear field of fire against attacks from the land side. Of course it is windy, and people of all ages, often in family groups, come here to fly kites.


Former Barracks Just Outside El Morro Fortress

Looking Back at San Juan from El Morro

Inside the Fortress

Several Generations of Walls


Sentry Box - El Morro


Street in San Juan

A Quiet Square - San Juan


There is No End to Picturesque Streets


"Sunrise - Sunset" Our Base in Boqueron

A Nicely-restored Little House


Another Nice Garden on a Side Street


The Little Drawbridge That Leads to the Beach and Guards Gated Condos and Marina


The Beach at Boqueron -- Two Miles Long



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