Wednesday, March 18, 2020

South Coast, Puerto Rico


Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) and Puerto Patella

We left Marina Pescaderia, Puerto Real at about 3:20 planning to round Cabo Rojo in the very early hours. Our view of the wind and waves on the Cape from the lighthouse a few days earlier was still vivid in our memory. Although our first stop was only 50 nm, about 92 km, there was a number of considerations for departure/arrival times. Cope Rojo, like so many other Capes, is generally more benign in the early hours and we would be making a land fall on the west side of Isla Caja de Muertos, literally, Box of the Dead, so we wanted the sun high overhead to give us a better view of underwater hazards. As predicted the wind at the Cape was down to about 10 knots on the nose from the east although the seas were still running in the 10 to 12 feet at about 7 to 8 seconds, typical steep square fronted Caribbean waves. After a few the seas dropped about 3 to 4 feet so our progress motor sailing improved. The south coast has a shelf extending out at about 50 to 80 feet, the perfect depth for fishermen to set lobster traps so we were looking hard into the morning sun to ensure we did not catch any in the prop.
Leaving Caja de Muertos

Caja de Muertos is about 6 miles off the coastal city of Ponce that we had already visited by car. Ponce’s harbour is windy and commercial except for a yacht basin deep in the bay. Although it is an interesting historical town, we decided to avoid the trip in and out and chose to anchor off the coast on the island.

By 1300 hours we were well up to the shore in the lee of Caja de Muertos at about the center of the island. There were several tour boats off the beach on the south west of the island but only one other cruising boat to the north. Our first attempt to anchor set the hook on a smooth rock shelf so the hook dragged quickly down the sloping shelf. We move farther north and snuck into a sand bar in about 15 feet. We watched the tour boats head north to Ponce in the afternoon and enjoyed a quiet evening. Very little swell was wrapping around the north end so it was a comfortable night.
Puerto Patilla, Restaurante Tranqlidad on waterfront at left.

We knew from both and Chris Parker’s weather on 8.137 on the SSB/Ham radio that the weather window was predicted to be short with another front coming down from the north but decided Puerto Patilla would be a good anchorage if we had to wait out another blow. It was only 32 nm east on the main island of Puerto Rico and charts showed a good reef for protection.

We again left fairly early, 0630 hours, motor sailing into seas and winds that were building with the approaching front. Patilla is a shallow anchorage will fairly mountainous terrain to the east of the bay and the reef wraps around to the south limiting the amount of swell. Unfortunately, the wind and small swell made snorkelling poor and a fairly rolly anchorage for sleeping. With 30 to 35 knot winds blowing from the east we settled in for what proved to be a five day wait.
The rains have left the pastures green, it is pretty country but the high winds are letting some swell
curl around the reef into the anchorage with rolly nights.

The small community caters primarily to Puerto Ricans getting away from San Juan and Ponce for the weekends. There are a few bars with pub food but we found Restaurant Tranquilidad that served a Camarones Mofungo to die for. The rains that fell with the front left the pastures above the town a spring time green. A great setting for some relaxing days on the boat at anchor albeit a little rolly at night. After five days the winds have abated and we are headed east again. 

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