7 December, 2016
Our crossing of the dreaded Mona Passage couldn’t have been more benign. The wind and seas cooperated fully. At times, the surface of the ocean looked like mercury, with nary a ripple to mar its’ glassy surface. This particular piece of the ocean has a nasty reputation. In the slot between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, water boils up out of the miles deep Puerto Rican Trench, and is pinched between the islands, the 400-foot depth of Horseshoe Shoal acting like a sandbar off a beach, causing waves to stack up in a rather singular fashion. Couple this with the prevailing Trade Winds, and thunderstorms marching west off the coast of Puerto Rico nearly every night, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a lot of sea stories. Sorry, no story. We love PLEASURE boating (And, it’s oftimes better to be lucky than good).
With “la Isla del Encanto” in sight, I gave Jose, the owner of Marina Pescaderia a call. He had expected us to be there the following morning, but our pushing through without an overnight stop at Sand Cay, as originally planned, had put us in early. He told us that he wasn’t at the marina, but would call his “guy” to help us in. At 16h45, we were tied up, and ready for a cold one, some 56 hours after leaving Providenciales. The marina was immaculate, although many of the boats berthed there were far from it. It looked like we might have been the only transients in what appeared to be a 200 (or so) slip facility. The electric supply was strong, and the freshwater pressure great. The fixed concrete docks were pretty new and in very good condition. The fee structure here also fit our thrifty profile. $1.20/ft., $.24/kwh, and $2.50/day for water. That night, we slept in air conditioned comfort-livin’ large!
Probably don’t need to tell you how we occupied the next morning, arising to the roosters sounding off around the bay, you know that you’re in the islands. After the Girl was desalted, we headed in to explore the little fishing village of Puerto Real. There wasn’t a whole lot to see. The town looked pretty depressed, without much in the way of commerce. The fish market, a couple of scuba shops, and a marine supply/service operation were the only visible places of business. Also of note was the relative absence of young people (a sure sign of a dormant economy). We had lunch at the Mercado Bakery on the outskirts of town, and had a good time people watching (and being watched) as the locals streamed in and out at lunchtime. No ingles spoken here, we were going down fast when a bilingual teenager from the continental U.S. came in and helped us with our order. Turned out that she was studying premed at a university on the island, and was from Springfield, MA.
Having seen the sights, the next day was consumed with living. While Suz took care of office/computer stuff, I re-bedded some deck hardware and repaired a broken hatch. Late in the afternoon, we finally met Jose, the owner, who had been AWOL since before our arrival. Over sips of “Don Q” rum, we got the Chamber of Commerce spiel, after which, we coaxed his life story from him. Jose gave us a several page handout, detailing anchorages, attractions, and his favorite restaurants and hangouts along the south coast where we were headed. He told us that he knew lots of people along our route, so if we needed any help along the way, that we should call him. Okay……so here’s the abbreviated life story. Born here, Jose went off to Georgia Tech to get his degree in engineering. Returning home, he settled into the family business, servicing the landline telephone system all over the island. Well, in comes Carlos Slim (see Mexican multi-billionaire) and buys the Puerto Rican telephone system. Five contracts have since dwindled to one, as Mexican companies (owned by Senor Slim) took over the maintenance operations. Jose also started a Redi-Mix concrete company, but with the collapse of the Puerto Rican economy (PR is in federal receivership), new building isn’t happening. They’re now doing custom structural and decorative concrete. Okay, so where does this marina come in? As Jose tells it, “My Dad was in town with a few of his buddies, got really drunk, and bought a marina.” His family has no interest in boating or water sports, so the already decrepit marina and its’ wooden docks continued their downward spiral, until finally, as he tells it, a decision needed to be made. “I told my Dad that he either needed to sell the land or rebuild the marina.” I guess the rest is history. They started the permitting process in 2008, as the economy was tanking, and completed construction in 2011. Jose, who loves the water, and has had a boat of some type since his first Boston Whaler as a 10-year-old, runs the operation in his spare time. He told us that the bank was paid, and the marina is breaking even financially. Of course, he is looking to build the business so that he can “sit at the marina bar and drink Don Q.” I have no doubt that he will, with the level of service that he provides. I love stories about people who work hard and succeed, but I digress.
We fueled up the Girl on relatively inexpensive (compared to the rest of the Caribbean) Puerto Rican diesel, and were off the dock at Puerto Real by 07h00 this morning, the 7th. Taking advantage of the remainder of the Night Lee, we cruised in light winds, and were anchored inside the reef behind Cayo Caracoles by 10h30. Here, we spent the day just playing in the sun, enjoying dinghy rides and the warm Caribbean water. We debated staying here for another day, but think we’ll move up the coast tomorrow, and stay a few days at “Gilligan’s Isle”.
No internet, just cell, so no pictures.