Eastward Ho!

April 17, 2022

Dateline: April 5, 2022 6:00am

We were prepared to leave the security of the marina and head across the south coast of Puerto Rico. We read many guidebooks that talked about the best ways to tackle this coast and they all recommended making the passage in small increments…and much of it in the wee hours of the morning. It is dark and not our most favorite time to sail! But the winds and seas are reduced during these hours, which makes it much more comfortable.

Our dock guy, Cano, had just come to work and was happy to untie the front lines while Dale slipped the loop off of the back piling. Ken worked his magic and backed us right out. While he gathered up and tied the lines and fenders, Dale followed their initial track out of the shallow bay.

It was a beautiful morning with very little wind and seas. We motored happily along for a couple of hours toward the southwest point of Cabo Rojo. We had read that the winds can howl through this area, but we were sure that this was not the day and we would push our early departure another hour or two to the La Paguera area. We saw a couple of anchorages that were recommended as a stop to allow an early morning departure. Naaaa…..we can continue on, not much wind today!

Lighthouse at Cabo Rojo

We rounded the point and the winds increased. And with the wind came larger waves, straight on our nose! We attempted to sail in a zig zag pattern to keep the waves from crashing into our bow. No dice. We made absolutely no progress, and the farther out we went, the larger the waves! We were only 10 miles from our anchorage. On normal days, this would be less than two hours. We bashed for three and a half hours before we finally got into a more sheltered entrance to La Parguera.

We stayed two nights anchored in Bahia Montalva, five miles east of La Parguera, before continuing on at 5:45 a.m. on April 7.

Slow Dancer at anchor in Bahia Montalva
We explored the surrounding mangrove islands

Our next stop was the more touristy area of Guanica, near an island that the locals refer to as Gilligan’s Island.

Lots to watch in this anchorage!
Lots of nice houses surrounding the bay
We explored Gilligan’s Island and found a beautiful hidden lagoon
Mangrove roots, interesting how they can grow in sand and saltwater
Who knew Iguanas could swim?
Nice beach front restaurant

We enjoyed three nights at anchor at Gilligan’s Island before having to depart at 4 a.m. The winds were calm, but it was VERY dark. Where’s the moon when you need it? We had to thread our way out of and around the mangrove islands and into a ship canal. With Ken on the bow looking for fish traps and Dale with eyes glued to the chart plotter following our track out of the anchorage, we spent a tense 35 minutes before heading southeast again. Our goal was Ponce or an island near this large city. Once we were close, we spotted the island. Hmmm….not as much protection from the winds that would begin howling at any minute as we had hoped. OK, heading toward the Ponce yacht harbor. Ugh, looks crowded and industrial. Where else can we go? We had the coordinates for Isla Caja de Muertos, literally, “box of the dead”, or Coffin island. There is a story (maybe true?) of a pirate who buried his wife on the island. Many that came after thought that he had also buried treasure and so the search was on. Today, it is a getaway anchorage for Ponce locals and cruisers like us.

Isla Caja de Muertos

We anchored in the nice sand and settled in for a good afternoon. The day was April 10, Palm Sunday. We had heard that the local Puerto Rican people loved “Semana Santa” or holy week. We found out just how much! We were suddenly surrounded by many, many jet skis as well as ski boats and a parasailing boat. We spent the afternoon bouncing around from all of the wakes and were relieved when they all departed at around 5 p.m. During the day, two additional boats came in to the anchorage. This is a large anchorage, but apparently they liked our spot because they both anchored very close to us. This creates a problem when pulling up our anchor, as one or both of the boats could be over it, and we were leaving at 5:30 a.m.!

We waited until 6 a.m. and assumed that neither boat was leaving, so we crept up slowly on our anchor and were relieved that it was between the two! On to Salinas another 3-4 hours away and half way across the island.

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