Saturday, February 03, 2007

Wednesday 31st January

Caja de Muertos
Puerto Rico.

17 54.6 N
66 31.0 W

After listening to the weather forecast for the next few days we decided that it would be best if we cut short our stay in Ponce and headed towards Salinas before Friday. The winds were going to be increasing to 20 – 25 knots and the waves and swell were going to increase to 7 – 10 feet, as it was all expected to be from the East it would mean that we would be bashing into the weather. With a 2 day period of grace we opted for the go early option and checked out of the marina at about 09.30hrs, it must have surprised the marina as we had told them we were probably going to stay for 3 nights, still the weather dictates everything. Getting off the dock was just as much fun as tying on to it was the day before. We had to hook the aft line off of a pole whilst being blown away from it towards the finger pier, it had hooked on so tightly that I had to manually undo it whilst leaning over the safety line and trusting Gerry to keep the boat steady enough that I wouldn’t fall into the dock – it wasn’t a good feeling but we managed OK. Again there was no one in sight to assist, not even another boat owner who may have had some sympathy. All the times we reversed in to the marina slip at Whitney’s without assistance have paid off though, we can do almost any docking and departure without the help of anyone else. Once free of the dock we motored over to Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) to stage for the night, as suggested by Bruce Van Sant in his guide. We had a very quick trip across to the island as it is only 7 miles out from Ponce. There were supposed to be moorings to tie up to but when we got there we found 2 other boats there, one tied onto the only mooring we could see and the other boat was anchored. Following suit we dropped our anchor and made ourselves at home for the rest of the day. We put the dink into the water and motored into the shore for a look around, there is a quite large dock which evidently ferries tie up to, we couldn’t climb out of the dink onto the dock as it was above my head height so we found a small sandy bay where we could pull the dink up onto the beach. Then we came across another minor problem, we couldn’t get the outboard motor to lock into the tilt position so we gave it up as a bad job and headed back out to our boat. We began doing a job that we had been talking about doing – rearranging the stuff we store in the lazarettes to make it easier to access the stuff we frequently use. As soon as we had everything out of the 3 lazarettes and spread around the cockpit our neighbours from Boqueron, John and Ann who had arrived in their boat just after us dinked across to us and asked if we had explored yet. We told them about our problem with the outboard tilt lock and John told us that they had had the same problem a while back and he had gone to the outboard manufacturer for a solution. As it happened it was an easy fix and he shared this with us – all to do with the ring that holds the tilt mechanism in place – we’ll share it with you if you ever need to know! We finished re arranging the lazarettes and decided that we had done a good job, then Gerry decided that he was going to dive and examine the bottom of the boat as the water here was clear and the current wasn’t too strong. A quick look turned into an hour of scrubbing – although he had cleaned the prop shaft and some of the hull before we left Luperon there were still enough barnacles on the hull to open our own private reef. Scrubbing brush, scrapper and elbow grease managed to get a good deal of the living reef removed from our hull, the bad news was that Gerry found that the cutlass bearing on the prop shaft has crept out of the housing by about ¾ inch. It has possibly been caused by the pounding we have been doing through the waves, but we can’t be sure. Anyway it will have to be replaced before we go too much further as if it is left and continues to creep further out, the bush will eventually stop against the prop and may spin the bush causing the bearing to disintegrate and we wouldn’t be able to motor – not a good thing as we need the motor for all those times when we can’t sail.
Having finished cleaning the bottom of the boat Gerry showered and changed then we set off in the dink again, this time beaching successfully and making it ashore. A 19th century Spanish architecture lighthouse sits at the top of a hill to one end of the island and a cavernous rock which has what are noted as “spooky caves” to the other end, according to the guide you used to be able to go into the caves but they were barricaded off with big no entry signs posted so we couldn’t go into them. I did manage to take a couple of photos of the cave’s entrance – 2 statues are located there, one of St. Carmen – the patron saint of fishermen, and one of Christ. If you enlarge the photo and look carefully you will be able to see them, St. Carmen is the smaller statue on the right with her arms extended.
There was also a load of gazebos set out as a picnic area and there was supposed to be a museum of some sort there, we found the museum room but there was nothing in it. The views from the island across to Ponce and out over the Caribbean Sea were spectacular. Apparently there are some park rangers who live on the island and take care of the place, what a job! On the top of the outlook Gerry found an anchor, it was too big and too beat up for us to use as a replacement for the one we lost, so we left it where it was. We returned to our boat and replaced the dink on the foredeck, then it was time for cocktails and nibbles whilst watching the sun go down and the moon rise – my favourite time of the day. As it was a full moon it turned out to be quite a spectacular evening, of course I tried to get the green flash on film but there was no green flash – I’m beginning to doubt that it ever happens!



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