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Our Caribbean Adventure: Part Two. Finding a Marina

Posted by on January 23, 2015

Sun Bay Marina Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 2. Finding a Marina.

Sun Bay Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

 

Starting in December 2015 we docked our boat at Sun Bay Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, after determining that it is probably the best marina in Puerto Rico and also one of the best in all the Caribbean.   But we had to do our research and find a place right for us and Languedoc before we moved to Sun Bay.DSCN5217

This is a subject that will probably sound unusual to folks from the Unites States and particularly to folks from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. “What”, they will ask, “is so difficult about finding a Marina for your boat? Just go online, find a good location, look at the photos, check on the rates, and call to see what space is available”.

Not so fast and easy in the Caribbean.

First, you must consider security. In the Caribbean, theft is rampant and common. Dinghys and engines routinely disappear in the night. It is important to find a marina with 24 hour guards at the entry and 24 hour patrols of the docks.

Second, you must consider cost. Marina rates vary from around $12.00 per foot per month to over $20.00 per foot per month. Many charge large amounts for power. Fuel and water are also expensive at some places, yet others charge nothing for water and include the power in the monthly rate. The price difference can be hundreds of dollars per month.

Sun Bay Marina and condosThird, you must consider location carefully. Some places look good until you realize that there are no stores nearby or that the surrounding neighborhood is dangerous after dark. Public transportation is usually non-existent and riding a taxi to pick up groceries can be expensive. Repair shops and facilities may be unavailable or unreliable.

Finally, you need to consider the marina management. Many places never answer e-mail inquiries even though their websites say “Contact Us”. Calling on the phone can also be difficult because voice mail and answering machines are not always present and phones may go unanswered for hours or days. Additionally, mistakes on your bill are common. (Interestingly, although we found frequent errors we were never undercharged.)

When we arrived in Fajardo, Puerto Rico we first chose to stay at Puerto Del Rey Marina. It is the largest marina in the Caribbean and it is huge. They offer free golf cart transportation from your slip because the walk may be so far and dock carts are scarce. Puerto Del Rey also has land storage with hurricane ties downs and a reliable and fair boatyard. So we choose to stay there for 9 months in 2014. But in November, 2014 we wanted to be in a slip at someplace smaller and less expensive. Dockage for our boat at Puerto Del Rey was quoted to us at almost $1,000 per month.

We did our research and concluded that Sun Bay Marina in Fajardo was the place to be. They advertise as “One ofsun bay office and staff the Best Marinas” but that may be saying too little. While we were asking around we never heard any negative comments.

Sun Bay Marina is newer than most, and was finished in December 2006. It was designed and built by Engineer Jose O Perez Miranda (deceased in 2014) and his widow Olga is still the Manager and Operator. There are 286 slips and diesel fuel is available at the slips on docks B – E. The price is very reasonable (currently $15.00 per foot) with a discount if you are a member of the Seven Seas Cruising Assoc. (SSCA). Olga is also an SSCA member and an SSCA port captain.

The dockage price includes power and water so you won’t get an unexpected charge added to your bill. Plus, there is 24 channel cable TV at each slip and reliable free Wi-Fi.

sun bay rest roomThe facility is clean and tidy, and very well kept. Maintenance and upkeep is constant. The rest rooms are always exceptionally clean.  The showers are free (but the water is only about 85 degrees).  There is a meeting room with tables and chairs which is also available if you have a sewing project or something else that needs more space than a Salon table in your boat.sum bay meeting room

The entrance is gated with a 24 hour guard and there are guards walking the docks all night. Plus, the U.S. Government has Customs and Border Protection offices at Sun Bay and both the CPB and DEA keep their boats in slips. This means there are also armed U.S. officers on patrol. Olga lives in a penthouse condo above the Marina and keeps watch over everything even after hours. Theft and trespassing are not a problem.

If you send an e-mail to Sun Bay Marina, you will get a quick response. If you call the office, it’s likely Olga will answer the phone, and you will always get very friendly and helpful service. If you need to order parts or supplies, Amazon.com will ship for free to Puerto Rico and Sun Bay will receive your orders or pick them up at the Sun Bay P.O. Box, and securely store your packages for you to receive. This is a very valuable service. Items delivered by Amazon or other online sellers may be far cheaper than offered in the local stores.

A large West Marine store is about 10 minutes away by car and there is a “Skippers” marine supply store within walking distance. There are also good restaurants within safe walking distance. The ferries to Culebra and Vieques are also within walking distance but the walk route passes through a less desirable neighborhood so driving is a better idea. A beautiful public swimming beachbeach with good swimming is about a 10 minute drive. If you need a rental car, Thrifty, Alamo, and Enterprise will deliver a rental car to the marina and drive you back after your return of the car to one of the nearby offices.

You will want a rental car if you are going to be staying for very long because Costco, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, various auto parts stores, a good hardware store, and several large supermarkets are a short drive away. The drive to San Juan is about 40 minutes and along the way there are other big box stores like Home Depot.

Fajardo and Sun Bay MarinaFajardo is a great spot to start a Caribbean cruise and in February, 2015 that is what we will do. Until then, we know our boat is safe and secure and before we leave we will be able to provision our boat with everything we need for several months, at reasonable prices.

Coming Next: Our big Caribbean cruise down the chain of Islands.

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