"Gilligans Island", then Mayaguez
We left the marina at Ponce at mid-day, late by our standards so we could get some exercise, take advantage of the facilities and leave with all the washing done, water and fuel topped up to overflowing, ready for a month or so in coral waters and reputedly very expensive shopping. As the sail to the port where we planned to check-out of Puerto Rico was a long one, we broke journey in a sheltered bay know as Gilligans Island – nothing like the local name. It was lovely, a large open bay sheltered behind a complex reef needing some attention to the chart and forward looking sonar to avoid the lumps of coral. Although there we facilities ashore – a village and a large holiday complex, we decided to veg out on the boat and enjoy the seclusion.
The next day (Saturday 12th) was FUN – the 1st third of the sail was rolly downwind again, but then we turned to go north up the west coast and were roaring along in flat water with the wind on our beam. We reached 9kts with only the genoa up! We sailed over the various reefs in the approach to Mayaguez bay, at one point in just 4m of water. We have been warned that it is a prerequisite for Bahamian sailing to have the courage to sail in very shallow waters, so this was good practice. As we approached the bay the trade wind was replaced by a very brisk sea breeze, a 180° swing, throwing up a real chop in the now exposed bay. We had to get ashore to check-out with customs, so we had a really wet and wild dinghy ride into the main docks where customs are based. What we didn’t realise was there were no landing facilities there, so we parked the dinghy between a small motor boat and the quay and clambered up the 8ft high wall with only a swinging tyre to aid us. The sea breeze was blowing the chop right into this corner as well, so this was a wet and dirty experience.
However we were rewarded with the first of two meetings with quite delightful Puerto Ricans which made up for a lot. The customs officer could not have been more friendly and helpful – not a common occurrence in our travels so far! With his guidance we motored over to the quay we should have used in order to do some last minute shopping. Setting off walking in the wrong direction a local lady stopped to offer us a lift, took us to the supermarket, waited for us to shop and drove us back to the dinghy! She had spent some time in Europe and couldn’t believe that we’d sailed over and were headed for New York (neither can we sometimes). Meetings like these quite restore your faith in human nature.
We got back to the boat sodden with salt water and with a filthy dingy. Raising the anchor this morning to leave for the Turks & Caicos we also brought lumps of foul mud on board, probable for the first time since Europe! Anyhow, we set off from PR and Caribbean waters in good spirits, thinking how lucky we are for our way of life, the experiences and the enjoyment of sailing!