On the way to Mo'Bay - USVI, Puerto Rico, USCG and help from strangers on small islands

Lilli Mae
Fri 24 Feb 2023 01:32
Hi Everyone, hope you are all well?


It is currently 1800 local time (2200 UTC) and we are settling down for some dinner and a few drinks. We are now on the southern shores of the main island of Puerto Rico anchored on the eastern end of Bahia de Rincon. The nearest town is called Salinas. The view “outside our window” are of the mangroves. 


We have had quite a few days of adventure since we last spoke. We have travelled over 100 nm from Nanny Cay where we stayed on Tortola, BVI. We have had 4 major stops including our current position in Bahia de Rincon. We are now only 20 nm east of our major stop over point in Ponce (pronounced Pon-say). We will sail to Ponce tomorrow. Clare Linton will join the Lilli Mae crew in Ponce on 26th February. We are looking forward to that!

As I mentioned we have had quite an adventure since we last reported in. We are now in position F on the above chart. 

The trip from BVI to USVI on Sun (19th February) was pretty uneventful but still very pleasant. We had to stop to check-in with US immigration and customs in Cruz Bay (position B) which was a bit of a pain finding a safe place to leave the boat at anchor. But then we moved to a lovely place in the USVI National Park called Caneel Bay (position C) on St John. 

Anchoring in the national park was prohibited. Mooring balls were provided and cost only US$26 per night and free if you used them during the day. We stayed 2 nights on St John, USVI in Caneel Bay and spent time walking on the trails to Cruz Bay, turtle watching and drinking cocktails on the beach!


We left St John on Tuesday (21st Feb), sailed by St Thomas, USVI to starboard and headed for one of the Puerto Rican islands Culebra (position D). We had a great sail over; all of the sailing is downwind. We arrived in the harbour of Culebra (pronounced Ku-leb-ra) at about 1500 local time. 


By the time we settled the anchor, launched the dinghy and discovered we had to check-in with customs at the Culebra airport, the customs office was closed. Checking in and out of each of these territories is a serious business and the US customs and immigration service (in Puerto Rico) are not to be messed with! Given Culebra is a small island, the airport was tiny. The Customs office had a list of telephone numbers to contact posted on their door but our attempts to phone on our mobile failed. Then a very helpful person named Matt came to the aid of complete strangers and he made contact with the main customs office on our behalf and loaned us his phone to talk with the customs officer until he had to board his plane. Eventhough we had to return to the airport the next morning Matt’s intervention was a great help! Thanks Matt!!

On Wednesday (22nd Feb) we sorted everything with the customs officers at the airport including getting a “US Cruising License” that enables Lilli Mae to cruise around the US until Feb 2024 and utilise simplified entry and clearance procedures. On Wednesday late morning we lifted the anchor and headed south west to the west end of the 2nd largest Puerto Rican island called Vieques (Vi-ek-kes). After some discussion with the US Coast Guard about restricted areas we decided to change our plan and head for a very small island called Cayo Santiago (position E). The island is 0.3 nm long and half that wide. It is a monkey sanctuary and we anchored in about 3.5m of water on the western side in order to get as much protection from the wind and swell. We were completely alone!


From where we were anchored we could see and sometimes hear the monkeys playing around! Fortunately although they can swim Lilli Mae was too far off the island for them to practise their crawl!
Although we got a reasonable nights sleep it was still a bit “rolly"

Our journey from Cayo Santiago to Bahia de Rincon has been eventful. From a sailing point of view it was pretty straightforward. The wind was from the NE and we were mainly heading west. We had a following sea which was not too lively. We cruised along at between 5 and 6 knots using our headsail on starboard tack. However we were involved with the USCG central station and helicopter looking for 2 kayakers. When we left Cayo Santiago quite early this morning, we (Howard) thought that we saw two objects on our starboard that looked like persons in a small boat or kayaks. We reported our possible sightings talking directly to the helicopter crew. We could see the helicopter change its course once we had confirmed the approximate position of our sightings. The last we heard was the search was being suspended awaiting further information.

Our current anchorage is great. We are anchored in about 4m depth and we are within 75m of the sandy beach and mangroves in front of us. There is not much protection from the wind but the mangroves are great protection for swell in the bay. It is very still in the bay so hopefully it will be a good nights sleep tonight.

All the sailing has been really relaxed; we have day sailed all of the journey from BVI and as mentioned we are within 20 miles of Ponce were we plan to be until around 28th Feb. In addition to the excitement of meeting Clare, there are lots of shops to enable us to stock up on provisions for the next part of the trip.

We are now only 600 nm from Port Antonio, Jamaica and 690 from Montego Bay. This is the closest we have been; in March 2020 we only made it as far as the BVI before we had to abort our mission! Keeping our fingers crossed this time!

Anyway, that is it for now.
Will report in again before we set sail for Jamaica on the 28th subject of course to the weather.

In the meantime take care where ever you are.
All the best, The Crew aboard the good ship Lilli Mae.

email: illi_mae {CHANGE TO AT} mailasail {DOT} com
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