We had landed in Boqueron around 10 pm, on the SW corner of PR, a pretty large bay with a lot of anchorage area. The town is known as a local weekend beach destination. The guide books said we could anchor here and call into immigration and customs (now Customs and Border Control, CBP). A chore for the next morning.
We found out that Exit Stage Left and Wandering Star had called in and had to taxi to the port at Mayaquez, but they were Canadian and English. Frank from Utopia called in and was checked in over the phone so we had some basis of knowledge. I called the 800 number in San Juan and began the check in process; name, passport number, vessel registration etc. They asked if I had a 'decal' and we did not so they said I had to go to Mayaquez. Since I knew Frank didn't have to go I started quizzing and soon found that if we had the CBP decal, which costs $28, we could have just cleared in by phone. CBP asked if there was a hardship in going to Mayaquez and I responded that I didn't want to taxi to the Port. Their response was taxi? No, you have to take your boat to Mayaquez for inspection. What?!! This was not a trivial exercise, sailing 15 miles back out around the reefs and in again in 20 kt winds. I said thank you and could I have the direct number for CBP in Mayaquez and began thinking of our next moves.
We began discussing with others and their calls with different CBP officers and their interpretation. Sailacious was from the Czech Republic so we knew they had to travel as well as Dan (Canadian) from Vagabond who shared a taxi with Pepper. Yarika and Symbiosis (US) jumped in a taxi with Luca (Czech Republic) and we got on the internet and bought a US decal. We then called the local CBP and began the check in again. He of course had all the previous information on his computer and said we needed to come in because I needed to get the decal. When I informed him I had a confirmation number for a decal purchase he asked when I had gotten the decal. I said, ‘recently’. He asked how recently and I responded 10 minutes ago! He laughed and said why didn't you say so and then asked if I had a pen to write down a entrance number and we were in!
With the specifics over with I quizzed him on the requirement to bring my boat to Mayaquez, he laughed, “who told you that?” San Juan CBP I responded.... “Next time someone from CBP tells you to do something that is plain stupid tell him you are not going to do it. There is no place for you to put your boat in Mayaquez and no way for us to inspect it”.... I am sure I'll take his advice next time an officer tells me to do something stupid.
Boqueron, as I said was ok, but nothing really to do, we ate dinner at a nice Mexican Restaurant and bought bread and a few things from a local grocery. By the next morning we were ready to leave. Exit Stage Left and Wandering Star had already left and the rest of the boats had decided to hang out for another day or two. While this loose alliance had pretty much stayed together over the last month we could see that the group was beginning to break up as the fear of the unknown as well as the need for the comfort of the pack diminished with the DR and the Mona behind us. Individual goals and objectives, including ours, were now taking priority over the desire for safety in numbers on passages.
The sail from Bogueron to Paguera was nice, we rounded the cape at the SW corner (Cabo Rojo) and began moving east in a nice breeze. We sailed right along the reefs, too close in one case as the Navionics and Garmin charts were not in sync and we hit a shallow spot. That got us back into the coastal mode pretty quick! Later inspection showed no damage but the “bump” was a good wake up call.
Paguera was a nice little town, a lot cleaner and better set up as a coastal destination. The water was warm, the bottom had grasses and coral heads and we could snorkel and shower off the back of the boat again. It was the weekend. The area was full of speed boats blaring latin music, hanging out on the sand and mangrove islands, not too unlike a huge white trash bash for those that remember the Memorial Day festivities at Dog Island!
We stayed pretty much on our own with dinner on the boat. Probably the nicest benefit was the ability to take a shower on the back of the boat, jumping into the clean clear waters to rinse off before the final freshwater rinse with no one looking into our cockpit from 50’ or less away. We had not had this luxury since leaving Conception Island in the Bahamas over a month ago!
We got a recommendation about a happy hour at the beach bar so we made our way into the resort for a drink, they were going to show movies for the kids on a large sheet on the beach later in the evening so we hightailed it over to a local kiosk for some fish and french fries (the resort fare was very expensive) and then back so that Kaylee could watch the films with the kids staying at the resort! Danielle and I enjoyed a quiet hour by the pool people watching until Kaylee walked over crying…. All the kids had left (she had not noticed as she was focused on the movies) and found herself alone, in the dark with us no where to be found!
After a rolly night and a forecast for winds to pick up the next day we decided to leave Muertos. Although we wanted to spend a couple of days here we did not want to be caught in an unprotected location with 25 kt winds forecasted for that night. We did take the time for a nice hike to the top of the island to see the old lighthouse. The island is very dry and had some of the largest cacti I have seen. A swim, lunch and we were off for Salinas.
As we pulled in we were greeted by Wandering Star and Exit Stage Left. We found a nice spot to anchor near the marina and began preparing for the next legs of the journey. Over the next three days the remaining boats in the group began flowing into the harbor and soon everyone that had started with us in Luperon was in Salinas Bay.
Since we did not stop in Ponce our agenda was definitely full. Salinas is a cruiser friendly town with decent shopping and access. We were able to rent a car pretty cheaply and drive all over Puerto Rico including San Juan. We had trips to Best Buy to replace our soaked computer and phone, provisions from West Marine, grocery, and marina shopping for when my parents were to visit in a couple of weeks. We also made it to the rainforest El Yunque, Fajardo and Palmas Del Mar to name a few. Our many trips took us across the middle of the island and the mountains as well as the eastern and coastal areas.
As our agenda had been the fullest and we spent a number of days on land, we watched as all of our boating partners began moving out of the harbor and moving on to new ports. We were now the last ones in the anchorage and though it was only a couple of days we felt a little left behind, and a little motivated to move on. We didn’t want to arrive at the marina we had picked out to meet my parents too early, but with the birds continuing their assault on our canvas and deck, we plotted our next moves. When we saw our first opening we were off!