The Spanish Virgins, true to Puerto Rico’s nickname, are definitely enchanting. We had an intense 6.5 days of sailing straight down from the Abacos. We saw a weather window and jumped on it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience the Bahamas as much as we would have liked this time around, but we move with the seasons and if we wanted to get to Martinique for special repairs by our boat’s service center there, and then get to Grenada for hurricane season, we had to boogie east and down. And that we did! Passaging is uniquely beautiful and uniquely challenging. It’s no leisurely day sail. I find it hard to articulate the experience into a complete story, but if you follow us on Instagram, you might catch the bits of beauty we’re inspired to capture along the way. The challenges are what you’d imagine they’d be trying to live on a bobbing vessel in ten-foot swells and 20+ knot winds with frequent squalls that make those conditions even a little more intense. But when the sun and moon rise and set, the sailing smooths as winds calm and your outhaul doesn’t snap from the intensity… it’s pure divinity and words do little justice. That’s when poetry fills the page instead of prose. Too psychedelic to even try, but I effort to try with Instagram photos and accompanying poetry. So here are about 5,000 “words” -minus the poetry- to help communicate a smidge.
After six days, we were pretty exhausted yet ready to stretch our legs. The joy of arriving to the sweet little island of Vieques for a few days began with finding a secluded anchorage in the deep turquoise waters of Green Bay where a dolphin swam around our stern to take a look at the new arrivals while we were standing on deck. Daily, they often played off in the distance. Sea turtles and bioluminescence were welcome reminders of the beauty we hadn’t seen since we reluctantly left El Carib in 2020 after COVID hit. Just being back we felt instantly lighter, if you will. We were two fools drunk on life and feeling very accomplished and proud we took the opportunity and did it, just the two of us. You might remember we took on crew the last time we did a long passage.
After sleeping deeply, eating real meals and taking long walks on the desolate beach at Green Bay, we made our way about 4 miles around the corner to an old US military dock to tie up the dinghy and explore. There we found a park with the famous Ceiba Tree, a kapok, and walked along streets with grazing wild horses that were unphased with us walking by and snapping endless shots. From there we managed to have a taxi pick us up and bring us into town. There, we had rooftop ice cold beers and an amazing meal at another establishment across the street. I don’t even like beer all that much but somehow it tasted like ambrosia. The establishment across the street served up local delights, just what the captain and first mate ordered. During dinner a group of SUNY Syracuse students having a language/cultural exchange filed in. That was serendipitous and we enjoyed exchanging pleasantries with them and their professors a bit.
At the end of the day our taxi driver Pito came back to pick us up and take us to the dock where we had tied the dinghy a good 30-minute walk from the magical Ceiba tree where he picked us up. When we told him how far we had dinghied, he was ready to put our dinghy in the back of his minivan and take us there by land. We assured him we’d be fine. We had our night light, lifejackets and portable navigation device. For the ensuing three weeks, we found the Puerto Rican people to be nothing but as warm, gracious and giving as Pito.
A few days later we pulled into Marina Puerto del Rey and landed in one of the most scenic marinas we’ve ever been in, surrounded by rolling green, palm-swaying mountains as far as the eye can see to the west and nothing but sky and turquoise waters to the east. This obnoxiously large and loud mega-yacht charter pulled in and blocked a bit of water view, but we managed and they eventually left. The cloud formations over the water here seem to be just particularly outstanding.
We rented a car once we cleaned up our very salty selves and boat and explored Old San Juan. First was the iconic vistas of Castillo San Filipe del Morro with sweeping views of the ocean from the point it’s situated, surrounded by rolling emerald green lawns. We walked the colorful winding, narrow, cobbled streets that gave a unique feel with its mini, pastel colored facades to get there. Balcony banisters looked newly repaired with fresh paint and wood columns. Bougainvillea, tropical fanned and spiraling plants burst out and over strikingly quaint streets, curved sidewalks and through wrought iron gates. Everywhere there was preparation for Fiesta del la Calle San Sebastián: “SanSé” as it is called affectionately. These people take celebrations very seriously. They do not play: roads blocked off, pallets of beverages 7 feet high, hundreds of booths lining the streets, very professional looking musical stages being assembled in all the major plazas. It’ll last four days.
After lots of walking we got a particularly spirited ride on the cobblestones in a bright yellow “free rides” golf cart back up over the mountain to town and our parked rental car. At one point, I told Paul I could eat my way through PR in search of the perfect mofongo. It’s simply a different symphony of flavors in PR than in the States. After trying three different establishments, thus far, we’ve found the best mofongo in the marina. Not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse. We saw one guy walk into the restaurant there with a shirt that had the Puerto Rican flag and “body by mofongo” across the front! Loved it. He obviously knew he was in the right place. We might need to buy two of those. And the empanadillas… watch out. The ones we’ve had in the States, just do not compare.
After three days and about 30 attempts we nailed a ticket to climb El Yunque. A series of events prevented us from taking full advantage of the day and we arrived late, but know we’ll be back. Now that we’ve made it this far, we can island hop to South America. Perhaps even before we publish this blog. That was a joke. What we did get to see of El Yunque was simply breathtaking and unique, even if parts were still closed off thanks to Maria.
You can’t live in El Yunque, but I’m ready to become a park ranger so I can spend more time. Visiting twice was not enough.
Trails were well-constructed, impeccably maintained, and artistically practical with overlooks and vistas that captured the surrounding beauty and took our breaths away. There was inspiration everywhere and we took a gazillion pictures in-between air sips of awe.
Then the cherry on top of our stay was Blake’s arrival to San Juan, when we got to explore a few sights again and then lots of new ones over the next 14 days of his stay with us. We covered lots of territory and had a truly once-in-a-lifetime whirlwind tour of the Spanish Virgins before landing in St. Martin.