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Article by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tips


©1993 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


Calling Puerto Rico "the Spanish Virgin Islands" is like calling the Virgins "the West Indian Puerto Rico" - it's a bit misleading. True, these Caribbean neighbors share some basic ingredients: both enjoy warm seas, trade winds, and a year-around tropical climate; both offer exciting sailing opportunities. But the differences between the two cruising grounds far exceed the similarities.

The most obvious difference in Puerto Rico is, of course, the language. While many Puerto Ricans speak at least some English, a cruiser will do well to learn a little Español. Even a very basic vocabulary - "hello", "please", "thank you", and "where is…?", for starters - will often suffice. Puerto Ricans are very friendly people; they go out of their way to be helpful. In fact, I think it's the people more than anything else that make Puerto Rico such an inviting destination.

As a cruising ground, Puerto Rico offers a unique blend of American familiar and Latin exotic. In the populated boating centers such as San Juan and Fajardo, sailors enjoy the convenience of large American supermarkets, department stores, and facilities of every kind. Yet, in the quieter harbors such as Boqueron and Culebra, the people, the music, the foods and the sights conspire to enchant a visitor with a flavor distinctly Latino-Caribbean.

Puerto Rican anchorages certainly have fewer crowds than their Virgin Island counterparts. However, on weekends and holidays a veritable fleet of local sail and power yachts flock to the islands east of Fajardo and the harbors around Culebra. In typical Latin fashion, these are mostly family affairs, often three generations to a boat! They spread great picnics on the beach and, with the children splashing and the music pumping, it's a real fiesta!

Cruising along Puerto Rico's south coast, the water is alternately murky and clear. Wherever the water is enclosed within a bay or harbor, it is usually discolored by the prolific mangroves, which exude a natural pigment. The coloring is enough to prevent reading the bottom, even in fairly shallow water. Near the mouths of rivers, silt clouds the water until it looks downright brown and muddy. However, around many of Puerto Rico's off-lying islands and islets, and also close along the shores that are free of mangroves and rivers, the water is Caribbean clear.

My personal favorite ports of call in Puerto Rico include Boqueron, an especially fun place to stop. Boqueron is a ramshackle beach town on the southwest coast that offers a good anchorage and a lively, informal nightlife. With its local artists, laid-back atmosphere, and Puerto Rican holidaymakers, it reminds me of the way Key West (Florida) might have been 40 years ago! Another favorite, Playa de Salinas, is an excellent south coast hurricane hole. The harbor is just a 10-minute taxi ride from the attractive and accommodating town of Salinas, and adjacent to some terrific gunk holing in Bahia de Jobos. Of course, we loved Isla de Culebra with its many fine anchorages and quiet island lifestyle.

Last but certainly not least, a few days of land cruising in a rental car reveals the stunning beauty of Puerto Rico's mountain ranges, including panoramic vistas, rustic villages, and tropical rain forests replete with waterfalls.

Puerto Rico - "the Spanish Virgin Islands?" Well, Puerto Rico does not match the Virgin Islands' sheer geographic concentration of scenic anchorages and boating attractions. But Puerto Rican waters are less crowded, and the rich Latin flavor lends a unique spice to the cruising. The culture is lively, the people are friendly, and the cruising is "muy bueno!"

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