Blue Water Dreaming
Puerto Rico - A modern and progressive island with welcoming and warm people
Boqueron - 7 to 18 December 2008 - (18.01.25N-67.10.56W)
We've been in Puerto Rico with Zenitude in 2007 but at the time we were in a rush to keep going and reach Saint Martin. We had made the mistake then of first time cruisers, we invited friends and set up a date AND a place for them to come and stay with us. We had to rush thru our route. After that, we learned that when cruising, you tell your visiting friends that they can choose a place to visit you OR a date, never both. So this time, we are going at a leisure pace, with plans to visit the places we missed before.
Easting along the south coast of Puerto Rico is quite painful as there is no other option except going against the trade winds. The way to do is to start at daybreak when catabatic winds neutralize the trade winds. It means going in short trips as trade winds are back before noon. With this plan in mind we started going and reached Ponce after stopping  in Playa Combate for one night and Gilligan Island for a couple of days.
We are planning to stay here for several days and spend Xmas and New Year's Eve. Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico, after San Juan. There is a nice marina, Clube Nautico de Ponce, and we are very close to La Guancha, the Boardwalk, a popular place at night with bars and food kiosks and loud music (sometimes can be a bit annoying at night, specially when it is Karaoke night).

It is possible to anchor and for a small fee use the marina facilities including internet. We found the anchorage quite deep and the holding not very good. One day we came back to the marina in the evening after spending a good part of the day out to find Zenitude at anchor about 200 yards from where she should be. Not the best of feelings.

In the afternoon the wind was blowing 30 knots for a couple of hours and the anchor dragged all the way to the big ships dock. We were lucky that our neighbor cruiser managed to get the Coast Guard to rescue and re-anchor Zenitude. It could have been a disaster otherwise.  After that experience we moved to a birth in the marina. We are paying the price, it is not very expensive on a weekly basis and we have peace of mind. 
Ponce - 19 December 2008 to 9 January 2009 (17.57.92N-66.37.00W)
We found also that Ponce is a great place for provisioning, it is possible to walk to a big shopping mall (about 1/2 hour walk) with a fantastic supermarket. On the way back it is easy to get a cab to bring all the shopping.

We also rented a car for several days and did big shopping of non perishables for the whole season, thinking that next big shopping was going to be Guadaloupe. We know from previous experience that Guadaloupe is an excellent place for provisioning as well.

We went to San Juan and spent a wonderful day and a great dinner at one of the nice restaurants in old San Juan. We really enjoyed old San Juan but as it is in the North coast we decided we are not going there with Zenitude, at least not this season.  

Oscar cooked a good dinner for Xmas Eve but New Year's Eve celebration in La Guancha was a disappointment. Apparently New Year's Eve is a family event in Puerto Rico and people celebrate at home.

And, most importantly, 3 days after the new year,  Alicia comes to the world and we become grandparents!
Ponce and Club Nautico Marina
Lighthouse circa 1887
Caja de Muertos Island
Sunset in Boqueron
There is an island called Caja de Muertos, just 7 miles from Ponce, a nice beach and a good place for diving and snorkelling. We visited several times while in Ponce, it has a nice anchorage with good holding, an old lighthouse from 1887, it is also a weekend play ground for Puerto Ricans but it is quiet during the week.

On the 8 of January we decide to keep going. We would like to get to Vieques but we have stronger than forecasted head winds and we are banging and crawling at very slow speed. We decided to stop for the night along the way in Puerto Patillas, a tiny little village not used to see many cruisers at their door steps. It seems to be a fishing village.
There seems to be some semi-permanent cruisers, having arrived from Dominican Republic and just seem happy to remain here, all the sailing plans forgotten. 
Our target port for arrival from Curacao was either Ponce or Boqueron, the West setting current made the decision for us and we ended up in Boqueron, so here we are comfortable anchored in a very wide and calm anchorage. We are also enjoying the town atmosphere. It is a town with cruisers and Puerto Rican weekenders, the result is a quiet town during the week and a very different, party town on the weekends.