Puerto Rico to St. Thomas

Our second season as live aboard sailors is fully underway. After making it to Puerto Rico we spent 5 days at anchor resting, recharging and waiting for some good weather to continue on our journey. We recently found our window and were ready to head out again. Our goal was to make it to St. Thomas sooner rather than later, so with a weather window of about 4 days we planned to set out and make a few day runs to get ourselves from Puerto Real, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

Our journey started with an early wake up and trip to shore to bring the dog for the bathroom. Then we lifted anchor just as the sun was rising and headed east to begin our journey across the south shore of Puerto Rico. We headed out before the morning winds picked up and we had a nice quick sail to the south west corner of the island before turning and heading east around 10:00am. We quickly discovered that our main halyard was wrapped around one of our shrouds, so it was out of commission for this sail until we could get Matt up the mast to untangle it. We were able to motor sail with the Jib for a bit before we rounded the corner, but once we were headed due east along the south coast the wind was basically on our nose, so we had to simply motor the rest of the afternoon. With light winds though, we managed to maintain a speed around 5 knots.

Isla Caja De Muertos at sunset

When we set out, our goal was to make it to Isla Caja De Muertos, a small island off the south coast, near Salinas Puerto Rico. It was 70 miles from our start point in Puerto Real. The light winds allowed for our maintained speed of 5 knots and we had the island in sight around 5:00pm, and dropped anchor around 5:45pm, just before the sun set. There was a nice beach on shore that I was able to bring the dog to, but the surge was a bit tricky to contend with so it was a quick trip.

When we first rolled up we noticed an old dock, which appeared to be in good shape as well as some structures on shore, and a well groomed beach. Our first thought was a resort, but we couldn’t spot any people. Before heading out the next morning the dog and I were able to explore a bit and we discovered some covered shelters with picnic tables, as well as some public restrooms. Our theory is that a ferry comes to the island at some point during the day and people hang out and enjoy the beach. We only stayed one night and were out before business hours the next day so we are still unsure exactly how the island is used.

The next morning we were up early again to head out on our next day sail to our planned spot of Puerto Patillas which was approximately 35 miles away. A shorter sail than the day before, but there appeared to be a decent spot to anchor for the night. The conditions were great all day; calm seas and light winds (on the nose of course) so we motored all day at 2000 RPM and averaged a speed right around 5 knots. The only thing we really had to contend with all day were the fish traps! They were everywhere along the south coast of the island and they were just about a mile or two offshore.

We love sailing in the nice calm conditions so when we were about 10 miles out from Puerto Patillas we made a snap decision! I had checked the weather earlier using our Iridium Go! and the calm weather was going to continue so I proposed that we make a quick stop in Puerto Patillas and then head onward for a calm overnight 70 mile sail to St. Thomas. 

Matt was onboard with that decision, but we still had to make a pit stop in Puerto Patillas anyway because we had a short list of tasks to accomplish before continuing on. First on the list, and one of our top priorities, was getting the dog to shore for the bathroom. Next we had to get Matt up the mast to untangle the main halyard line. It was a bit rolly in the anchorage, but since the halyard was only snagged on the shroud it was going to be a quick trip up the mast anyway. We have invested in a Milwauke coorderless right angle drill and a harken winch bit so I was able to quickly zip him up, he was able to free the line and back down he came; all in less than 15 minutes.

To all the sailors out there: If you haven’t heard about the right angle drill and harken winch bit, take a peek at an article I wrote this summer about how these two items make our sailing life SO much easier!

With job 2 complete, and a unobstructed halyard line, all we had left to do was re-fuel. We still had 7 jerry cans of diesel fuel left from when we left Luperon a few weeks ago, so we emptied three cans into each tank, leaving us with one spare, which brought them both to about full. After this we were ready to get underway again! So from anchor down to anchor up we had spent about an hour, and were able to set sail again before it got dark. We dodged the fish traps on our way out and then we turned and headed toward St. Thomas. It was a strait shot, 70 miles and with the light wind and both motors we were projected to be there right around 8:00am. The winds remained light for most of the night, picking up briefly around midnight, but nothing that impacted our speed. We were able to maintain a solid 5 knots (or sometimes more) and our projected arrival time was on point.
Matt was on watch most of the night, but I woke up and took over around 5:30am. At this point the island was in sight, but we still had a few hours to go and some cruise ship traffic to contend with. We had a Carnival ship to our right, heading into the main harbor in St. Thomas, and a Norwegian ship bearing down on us to the left. I always get nervous when we are around big cruise (or cargo) ships so I backed our motors down a bit to let the cruise ship pass and head into the harbor ahead of us. This also gave us some time to check our Navionics for a good spot to anchor. We are the kind of cruisers that prefer to anchor with just a few boats around so that we can put out plenty of chain. We are fortunate to have AIS so we could scope out the area in the main harbor and we immediately noticed that there were quite a few boats, approximately 10-20 big boats in the main harbor. This being the case we started looking for alternate spots. We ended up scoping a nice spot right outside the main harbor where there were only a few other boats that were moored. We were able to cruise in and drop anchor in about 15 feet of water right around 8:30am, just in time to take cover from the morning storm. 

After resting up for a few hours, we located a spot to take the dog and brought her to shore to relive herself. She was a happy camper after that, so we were able to sit back and enjoy the rest of the day. We watched a few cruise ships come and go, and headed into shore to ‘check in’. We learned while at the customs office that when you come from Puerto Rico there is no need to check in because you are already checked in to a US territory. Since we were already in at shore we decided to grab a few grocery items and then head back for an early dinner and some sleep!

Check in tomorrow to see how the anchorage worked out for us! Our cute little quiet spot didn’t turn out to be so quiet. 

Stacy RiboliniComment