After much consideration and lots of late night and early morning conversations, we decided that Puerto Rico would be our next destination. Our time frame for getting north of Cape Hatteras by June 1st, the official start of hurricane season, limits our stops. Though it might have been nice to linger in the Eastern Caribbean islands, a straight shot north is more in keeping with our schedule. We've visited Puerto Rico before and it's wonderful. Also, since it's a US Territory, it's an easy check-in to the USA.
There are several US ports of entry in Puerto Rico, but the one that seemed easiest and most appealing was in the little town of Dewey (aka Culebra) on Isla Culebra. The anchorage in Ensenada Honda has a well-marked entry and the bay is protected from the tradewinds and wave action. By having previously enrolled in the USA's new SVRS programs (Small Vessel Reporting System) and filing a pre-passage float plan with US Customs, we are hoping the check-in procedure will be painless.
Culebra, a little island just east of Puerto Rico's main island, is considered a paradise by some with white sand beaches and a laid-back island attitude, but with enough amenities (food, booze and internet) to keep visitors happy. Its name, “Culebra”, translates to snake, but from my research I ascertained that there aren't many snakes on the island and what few there might be, they're neither venomous nor aggressive. I can live with that. We're interested in judging the “paradise quotient” for ourselves since Culebra is still considered a bit off the beaten path.
If time permits, we'd also like to spend some time in PR's capital city of San Juan. It's a beautiful Spanish colonial city, well-preserved and great to explore. Though we've been to San Juan in the past, our memories are so bad nowadays, it'll be all new territory.
We expected the usual wait and hassle of the check-out procedure, but there was none. There was only one other person at Immigration and we whizzed through the process, as fast as you can whiz through an official procedure that involves 15 forms, carbon paper and lots of rubber stamps. Customs was the same. We paid our fees and we were legal to leave. We were all psyched up for our departure. We had more $TTs left than we'd planned on, so we caught a maxi-taxi to Massy's to spend them on non-perishable food and the few freshies we planned to take on board. David had a hankering for a Quarter Pounder at Burger King next door to the supermarket, but when he ordered it, they were all out of beef! We settled for an iced coffee at Rituals and then caught a maxi-taxi back to Chaguaramas and lugged our booty back to the boatyard. While David loaded the dinghy, I spent all but our very last $TT1 at the little Dockside Market. Back aboard, we stowed our purchases, hauled the dinghy and made last minutes checks for an early morning departure. We took our Stugeron … just in case.
The course is all plotted. We've checked weather. We have as many freshies aboard as we think will last in this heat without refrigeration plus plenty of canned goods in the larder. We're off at dawn. We'll update Gentry with passage notes en route, but it's a short trip (~500 nm), so we won't be out of touch for too long.