After a four day passage from Santa Marta Colombia we arrived the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club on the south coast of Puerto Rico just after sunrise. We had reserved a slip but it was hours before they opened. Robin hailed them on the radio anyway and the security guy at the fuel dock responded and pointed us to a slip that would handle our eight foot draft. It was right next to an over the water restaurant with a patio below. We pulled in, tied up and called Customs on the phone. Wow! The friendly, welcoming official on the phone gave us clear instructions on what to do and welcomed us back to the USA and all in perfect English. Mike napped as we waited for the Customs man to show up at the boat and by late morning we were visited by Homeland Security and checked into the country.
Early that evening we heard music and went in the cockpit to see what was going on. There was a party on the patio with great Latin music booming from a boat tied up around the corner from us. We were sipping a cocktail in the cockpit when one of the party goers stopped by the boat to see where we had come from and were surprised when we told them Colombia. One thing led to another and the next thing we knew we had a small crowd at the boat. One lady brought us excellent home made paella from the party and we were introduced around and the commodore of PYFC invited us aboard his large power yacht for a trip to Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) with his family. The next morning it was off to the island in a big Hatteras. It was a blast at the island with this gracious family and their friends. Late that afternoon a big squall moved in and we roared back in the big Hatteras at 30 knots beating the squall to the marina. The people at Ponce Yacht and Fishing club were fantastic! They gave us phone numbers in case we needed anything, offered us rides and gave us some great ideas of places to eat, shop and get sails fixed.
After a few days of boat chores we were ready to explore inland. Time for a road trip. We rented a car on Mike’s birthday and drove over the top of the Island to San Juan on the north coast. We stayed in a small, boutique hotel in Old San Juan. While touring Old San Juan we came across what looked like an old time barber shop and realized that Mike was overdue for a haircut. We popped in and told them he just needed a trim… The lady that gave him the haircut was a bit OCD… she took a very long time and for about the last 15 minutes she was actually measuring and cutting one hair at a time. In the evening we strolled the narrow streets browsing through the shops stopping frequently to sample the libations of the many bars in the area. For dinner we went to the historic Barrachina Restaraunt where we took in a flamenco show and made new friends. After dinner we ended up in a local bar where Mike made a new Puerto Rican buddy who seemed so happy that we were having a great time on his island. When you’re a cruiser inland trips have to include stops at chandeliers to pick up boat parts. We hit just about every one on the island. We stopped at the big West Marine in San Juan and made a significant donation when we left, but it had been a long while since Mermaid had been near a West Marine. We headed back for Ponce but stopped to eat at Restaurante La Guardarraya, a place that both our LA friend Alicia and our new Ponce friends said we must try. The spot is off the beaten path, has been there forever and is given the reverence that someone from Fort Worth would give Joe T. Garcias. The specialty of the house was Chuletas Can Can. One of our new Puerto Rican friends described it to us as “You know in the opening of the Flintstones where they carry out the huge hunk of meat, its like that.” He didn’t lie. Chuletas Can Can is a pork chop with the rib still attached and a thick strip of fat around the edge. It’s seasoned and fried until the fat is crispy and the meat is tender and juicy … ¡muy sabroso! On the morning that we returned the car we stopped at the Plaza Delicias in the historic part of Ponce. The colonial architecture around the square was way cool and the old fire station was an impressive sight.