16 December, 2016
Ha sido un tiempo……
Sooo…. It was brought to my attention that I didn’t close the chapter on the stuck transmission lever. One of the hazards of A.D.D., I guess-“oughta sight, oughta mind”. After bleeding the lines, we’ve had no more trouble, but you can bet that we test it before coming into any tight spots now. I guess that goof-ups are how you add to your list of “Standard Operating Procedures”. Our list is getting pretty long by now.
On the subject of A.D.D., every time that I sit down to write, I come up with another little project to do instead. Pretty soon a day becomes a week, a week a fortnight, and before long, a month has gone by. Let’s catch up:
The 15th of December dawned warm and sunny-81 degrees with a 10kn breeze. Off the dock at 08h00, we were anchored in the bight at Isla Caja de Muertos by 09h45, in the company of 2 sailboats. There are several versions as to how “Coffin Island” got its’ name. My favorite is the story of a Portuguese pirate, Jose Almeida, who fell in love with, and married a Puerto Rican woman, taking her pirating with him. The story goes that after she was killed by a stray bullet, he had her embalmed and entombed in a glass coffin, which he then proceeded to hide in a cave on the aforementioned island. In the ensuing years, until he was captured and executed at El Morro fort in San Juan in 1832, he visited her tomb often, leaving half of his treasure there. Many years later, a Spanish engineer located the coffin and gave the island its’ name. No mention was made of the treasure. The official story is that the island got its name, because the outline on the horizon looks like a human figure in repose-BORING! The island is uninhabited now, save for a few Ponce Park rangers who maintain a small museum, picnic/swimming area, and automated weather station on the west end of the island. Apparently, a ferry boat from Ponce lands at the decrepit dock near the anchorage on weekends, bringing daytrippers from the “mainland”.
We dropped “White Star” and headed north along the coast, looking for a sandy beach on the sharp limestone shore ringing the island. There was a small patch of sand at the foot of a trail that we presumed led up to the lighthouse perched some 500 feet above the water, but the waves rolling in, and the rocky bottom precluded leaving the dinghy there. Plan B. We dropped Suz, the backpack and my clothes on the sand when the waves subsided for a minute or so, then moored the dinghy in deeper water. It was a refreshing swim to shore. The hike up to the lighthouse started in dense, scrubby vegetation, giving way to a cactus forest, finally ending in an arid zone at the top of the ridge where the lighthouse stood. Built a couple of decades before the Americans received Puerto Rico in the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War, its’ architecture is typical of the colonial style that is found around PR. The lighthouse is totally abandoned, save for the automated light atop the tower there. The view was nothing short of spectacular.After our morning hike, we went ashore at the other end of the island where the ranger station is located, and checked out the “museum”, which was actually an exhibit of posters describing the flora and fauna of the island and surrounding sea. Besides the rangers and a couple of kids off of one of the anchored sailboats, we had the island to ourselves.
The anchor was up, and we were underway by 06h25 the next morning, with winds around 10kn. When we reached the southeast corner of Puerto Rico, the night lee had dissipated, and we experienced a little bit of a rocky ride, with 20+kn winds blowing the tops off 2’-4’ seas on our nose. After surfing the rock-lined channel into the marina at Palmas del Mar, we contacted Roberto, the dockmaster, who asked us to tie up at the fuel dock. “Don’t need fuel, just direct us to our slip”. Well…..we pulled in to the fuel dock, where Roberto and one of his guys got us secured. When he asked us to get off the boat, I have to admit that I was a bit confused. Turns out that he put us in his golf cart and drove us around the nearly-empty marina so that we could pick our slip. Unheard of! After he explained the pros and cons of the different docks (close to the office, a little more surge, a little less wind, and etc.), we settled on one far from the office/main gate, but with less surge. The guys got us properly secured, and gave us some tips on line placement, delivered in a very nice tone, then drove us to the office, where we met Juanjo, the Marina’s general manager. By the time that he finished his welcome orientation, we felt like we were checking into the Ritz, not a marina. After he had arranged for a driver to take us to San Juan airport four days hence, and sensing some unease, he gave us his cell number, telling us that if there was any problem, that he’d take us himself. More on Palmas