Puerto Rico Thank You and Good Bye

Puerto Rico was good to us.

Here we met again many of our old cruising friends and we also made many new friends.

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The girls from S/V Salty Kisses

One of our best moments was visiting Guavate’s lechoneras and spending an afternoon with Greg and Michel from S/V Semper Fi eating roasted pig Puerto Rico style and dancing with the locals.

 Michele and Mira dancing

Michele and Mira dancing

In Fajardo, the most wonderful thing happened: we got a new kayak we named Junior, thanks to our great new sponsors KaykShop.bg. We tried the kayak right away on a short expedition up Fajardo river. It was a smooth ride and we were very pleased with Junior.

Up Fajardo River

 

Our favorite place on the island remains old San Juan with its massive forts and colonial buildings, narrow streets and blue cobblestones.

Сан Хуан

Fort in Old San Juan

The most unexpected non-touristy site we visited this time around was the Monkey Island, where we met the resident Macaque monkeys used for scientific research.

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We are leaving Puerto Rico with a feeling of deep gratitude to this beautiful tropical island, which was home to us for the past 6 weeks, and its people, who treated us like friends and made us feel welcome every minute of our stay.

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We felt safe sailing in the waters around the island knowing that the US Coast Guard is just a call away on channel 16. They deployed an airplane and a helicopter investigating a mayday call we overheard on the radio, which to us sounded like a prank, and they took the positions of all boats in the area, who have heard the call, ours included, in order to establish a search perimeter, but a boat in distress was never found. Way to go guys, thank you for watching over us!

The customs’ officials in Fajardo and Ponce were pleasant and smiling when we cleared-in presenting our one-year cruising permit. As Canadian cruisers, we don’t need a visa to visit any US territory, only a cruising permit good for an entire year with multiple entries, which costs 19 US$. No other fees are charged entering or leaving Puerto Rico.

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We are grateful to the Fajardo’s Post Office manager who let us use the phone and the branch address for free, so we were able to order and receive mail, as well as to the supervisor in Post Office Ponce branch, who assisted us as well when we had an issue with a package held by the US customs in New York for over 3 weeks.

We are grateful to the Fajardo ferry operator who gave us a free lift right to our boat with one of the little shuttles that go between Isleta Marina and the main pier, when we accidently locked our kayak to the fishing docks, forgetting the key for the padlock aboard Fata Morgana…And to the guys who gave us and our huge pile of provisions a free lift with their motorboat in Ponce.

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We are grateful to Marina Puerto del Ray for immediately hauling Fata Morgana out and accommodating us at a discount price in their boatyard, after we had an emergency issue which could turn ugly if we weren’t near a haul-out facility (Ivo popped out the through-hull fitting for the starboard head while at anchor in 20 feet of water, and we almost sunk the boat).

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We are grateful to all those women and men, about a dozen, who gave us free lifts when we were walking and hitchhiking in Fajardo and in Ponce to the stores and shopping places, which unfortunately in both cases are miles away from the anchorages, and public transportation is unavailable. They would go out of their way and bring us to wherever we were going for no charge at all.

We are grateful to the free outdoors gym near La Guancha, just next to our anchorage in Ponce, where Maya loved to go now and then and do some exercises in the company of a few noisy green parrots building their nests in the palm trees in the park.

Мая в парка

Maya in the park

We are grateful to the pizza-woman in Sam’s Club, who always took our order with a smile teaching Ivo new Spanish words, and, it appears to us, she would put extra cheese on our pizzas, every time (we would share an extra-large 10-dollar cheese pizza in Sam’s Club every time we went there, about 10 times).

We are grateful to the waters of the sea around Puerto Rico for being so generous with us and sharing a few of their tastiest fishes.

Ivo the fisherman Иво е голям рибач...

Ivo the fisherman
Иво е голям рибач…

We are now all stocked up on the cheapest possible provisions from Sam’s Club, ready to continue our journey to the next unforgettable destinations: Aruba, Colombia, Panama, and beyond

провизии

провизии

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Neptune, Thank You For The Fish !

After three weeks in Fajardo the time came to sail west. We set sail for Ponce, only about 60 miles away. The east winds behind us at about 20 knots, Fata Morgana was doing 7-8 knots, sometimes even 9, surfing down the waves.

Slowly, a black cloud appeared behind us and started catching up on us. The wind died briefly before the squall hit- rain and wind over 30 knots. The sails were wing-on-wing and Ivo decided that we wouldn’t reef in advance. And just when the wind started whizzing, a fish took the lure. Ivo started bringing in the fish, so Maya an me had to reef the sails and to keep the boat close to the wind at about 2 knots speed. A bit of panic aboard, and screaming at each other, the normal stuff…

Ivo bringing in a fish. Иво вади риба.

Ivo bringing in a fish.
Иво вади риба.

The fish took out half the line and it took Ivo an eternity to bring it in. Heavy. This is a good sign. And even before it was close we could tell what kind of fish it was by the red fins and tail- Mahogany Snapper- our favorite- white juicy flesh.

Ivo the fisherman Иво е голям рибач...

Ivo the fisherman
Иво е голям рибач…

The squall passed, the rain stopped, only the sea continued to be nervous for a few more minutes, after the weather was calm again, yet Ivo was still busy with the fishing rod. Finally, he brought in the fish-exhausted, bloody, almost dead from the long battle (the fish, not Ivo). Maya brought the hook and the medical alcohol we use as anesthetic for the fish. The anesthetic we put in their gills, they calm down, fall asleep and never wake up…

Mira also wanted a picture with the fish Мира също искаше да се снима с рибата...

Mira also wanted a picture with the fish
Мира също искаше да се снима с рибата…

All this happened about 200 meters from Cayo Santiago, also known as Isla de los Monos (The MOnkey Island), where we decided to stop for a day or two. We cleared the reef, furled the sails and dropped the hook.

Ivo fileting the fish Иво филира рибока

Ivo fileting the fish
Иво филира рибока

It was almost noon. Time for lunch. We had a big fish to fry. Ivo took care of it. A lonely dolphin who greeted us in the anchorage and a flock of about 6 frigatebirds shared the skin, guts, head and bones. We only kept the juicy filets.

 A frigatebird Фрегата


A frigatebird
Фрегата

During the course of the past one year and a half we caught about 10-12 of these snappers around Cuba, Mexico, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico and we tried different recipes: we barbequed them, we baked them in the oven with tomatoes and onions, we fried them. But we found that the tastiest is when I bread it with eggs and flower, served with white rice or mashed potatoes and cold beer. Even Maya who is very pretentious for food and usually doesn’t eat fish likes it this way and eats quite a bit (without beer). It became a tradition- every time we catch snapper I bread it. The other types of fish I prepare differently.

Snapper filets Филе от снапър

Snapper filets
Филе от снапър

Thus, we never know what will be the menu aboard Fata Morgana. Maybe breaded snapper, or sashimi, or mahi-mahi on the BBQ..? Whatever the Crazy One would spare. And we are always grateful to Him, provided it is NOT an ugly barracuda.

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Ivo enjoying the gifts of the sea

Neptune, thank you for the fish!

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Pig Roast and Bachata in Guavate

Another epic St Valentine’s weekend.

Beautiful Perto Rican girl dancing Bachata

Beautiful Puertorican girl dancing Bachata

There is a unique place in Puerto Rico and probably in the entire world named Guavate, a small mountain village where every Sunday a great crowd gathers. As early as 11 a.m. people from all corners of the island start to arrive blocking the road. Traffic, cars, people, musing booming, even in rainy weather. If you by any chance find yourself there, you might wonder what is this madness about? The answer is: it’s about the pigs.

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But we didn’t get there by chance. Our cruising friends whom we met for the first time in Ponce 6 months ago brought us here. “Would you like to experience some local culture: authentic music and food?”, wrote to us Greg and Michele, who have spent lots of time in Puerto Rico and know very well where, when, and what is happening. Of course we would like it! Sunday around noon they picked us up with a rental car at the ferry pier in Fajardo and after an hour and half long drive we got to Guavate, not far from Carite Forest Reserve.

Traffic, people, madness in Guavate

Traffic, people, madness in Guavate

Since forever the locals come to Guavate to feast on traditional pig roast. On both sides of the street there are dozens of small restaurants Lechoneras, where piglets are being roasted slowly on Sundays. In the two biggest restaurants El Rancho Nuevo  (The New Ranch) and El Rancho Original (The Original Ranch) there is a large dancing space where people dance under the sounds of merengue, salsa and bachata. The live music is deafening, there is no breaks. This is the spot where Anthony Bourdain, of No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern from Bizzare Foods on the TravelChannel came to sample the best of Puerto Rico.

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The Puertorican people like to organize family activities in the weekends. Everywhere on the island on beaches, parks and in restaurants they celebrate the end of the week without any other special occasion. The parties always include lots of food, drinks, loud music and dancing all day and all night. But in Guavate the situation is out of control.

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Bachata

We arrived around 2 p.m. It was raining, but no one seemed to notice. The roadside restaurants were already packed with people, 99% locals. We took our spots on a long line for food. While we were waiting, we watched a pig slowly getting roasted. Maya was appalled. “I saw a pig, half pig (the butt half) and I felt vegetarian. So I pretty much just ate a little portion of rice.”

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Besides pork, we had choice of many traditional Puertorican side dishes: juicy boiled yucca with a hint of garlic, yellow sweep potatoes, creamy and not too sweet, two types of fried plantains, yellow rice with black beans, blood sausages, and more. Everything was delicious and the price per portion was 8-9 US$, which included 3-4 side dishes and a beer. For 27 US$ we stuffed ourselves and we had one portion left for dinner (Maya’s portion).

We got a few Styrofoam boxes loaded with food and we made our own portions at the table.

We got a few Styrofoam boxes loaded with food and we made our own portions at the table.

After we lifted our satisfied faces from the dishes we gave up trying to have a conversation with our friends in the pauses between songs, and the only thing left to do was dancing.

Mira dancing with the local talent. This woman had some heartbreaking rear parts and she was not afraid to use them...

Mira dancing with the local talent. This woman had some heartbreaking rear parts and she was not afraid to use them…

Only Maya didn’t enjoy it. In her composition the next day she wrote:

I myself personally hate crowds and loud music. I felt lost and confused. Everything became a blur. The music was blasting as if I was standing under a rocket launching to space. As Greg said, my teeth started vibrating. A lot of people were dancing and so would I if the music was my type. I felt like shooting myself. But I liked the fact that normal people could have fun once in a while. I also liked the nice long car ride with a purple Gatorade in the middle, and the conversations we had with Greg and Michele. Amazing people.

Greg, Michele, Ivo and Maya at the table in Guavate

Greg, Michele, Ivo and Maya at the table in Guavate

But if you ask me, I would stay in Guavate and dance until the last song… For me this was the most authentic, the most fun, awesome experience in Puerto Rico. If you prefer to mix with the locals and not to see any other tourists, if the Latin American rhythms make your blood boil, if you like pork roast and are curious to try traditional local delicacies at very low prices, and if you have only one day to visit the island, you must choose Sunday (even if it’s raining) and go to Guavate.

Live music and dances in Guavate

Live music and dances in Guavate

 Michele and Mira dancing

Michele and Mira dancing

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