November 29, 2006
Rather than spending our day after Thanksgiving fighting crowds in shopping malls we worked off our turkey and stuffing by snorkeling a reef off of La Parguera. The sun was warm and the water was a refreshing and comfortable temperature. Many local boats were setting their anchors at a couple of popular islands nearby – we counted more than fifty small and medium sized power and sport fishing boats clustered at one location. Sometimes four to five boats were rafted up together. Puertoriquenos standing in chest-high water with their canned cervezas in insulated jackets chatting or sometimes batting a beach ball back and forth. Where we tend to seek isolated anchorages, these folks seem to prefer tight quarters for the socializing. It was a fun atmosphere, even from a distance, as we dinghied past to observe families young and old enjoying themselves and the company of others. Even though Christmas is a very important holiday on this island (some people reportedly keep their Christmas trees up year-round), holiday shopping was not on their agenda for this day either.
It was hard to leave La Parguera, but other destinations were calling our name. On Saturday, November 25th we pulled up the hook, waved goodbye to our new friends, and set the sails for Cayos Cana Gorda. Cayos Cana Gorda is a series of three keys off the shores east of Guanica. The southern most key in the series is now more popularly known as “Gilligan’s Island”. Too bad Rod’s Skipper hat and my MaryAnn wig were packed away in a Halloween storage box!
With southeast winds between 10 and 15 knots apparent we had a fun close reach sail from south of La Parguera up to Gilligan’s Island. We were lucky that the conditions permitted such a sail as normally the trade winds are too strong on the nose to allow such progress. On approach we entered the Guanica ship channel, which was well marked, before turning east along the shoreline. We passed by Punto Jacinto, taking pictures of the beautiful homes on the ocean view bluff. As we rounded the point we spotting “Magus” in the anchorage and were excited to catch up to some of our Luperon Class of ‘06 mates.
Since we arrived on a Saturday there were a number of local boats enjoying the waters and beaches of Cayos Cana Gorda as well. We picked up Chris and Yani to toodle about in the dinghy and check out Gilligan’s Island. The island is now a state park and has trails and picnic tables sprinkled about – most of which were being used by the weekenders. We walked through to the favored swimming spot between Gilligan’s Island and its neighboring key and joined the others in the chest-high water for some afternoon socializing – drinks in hand of course.
Early Sunday morning “Magus” was under way and by that afternoon we had the Cayos Cana Gorda anchorage to ourselves. The sun was setting, casting a warm red glow across the horizon as we took a dip in what was now our own private pool. The water that was so refreshing earlier in the hot day now felt warm to our skin in the dropping dusk temperatures. I think it got down to 78F that night.
Chris Parker, our weather forecast guru, reported increasing trade winds by Wednesday so we made the decision to move on while we still had light winds on the nose. So we upped anchor on Monday morning and headed east into the day’s first light, motor-sailing a straight line to Isla Caja de Muertos in less than five knots of breeze. Most guide books recommend a path to Ponce, which is Puerto Rico’s second largest city and a popular stop for yachties on the south coast. We agreed to skip it for now and make further easting as the winds allowed. By noon we had the hook down at Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) and were enjoying lunch in another private anchorage.
Isla Caja de Muertos is a picturesque island with an impressive 19th century Spanish architecture lighthouse atop its 244 foot peak. The name of the island is based on a legend of a pirate and his mistress who died tragically shortly after their marriage. The heartbroken pirate had his true love embalmed and placed in a glass topped coffin (picture Snow White) so he could visit her from time to time (eew). Well, eventually the pirate was hanged for his crimes and his crew, who believed there to be hidden treasure in that creepy coffin, were more than a little disappointed in the contents. Murder and suicide befell the crew and the maiden was finally put to rest in St. Thomas. The legend held through the years until the island was officially given its current name. Others, who prefer a lighter story, say it is so named because its distant silhouette has the shape of a coffin.
Only one night at Caja de Muertos (remember the weather forecast) and we were heading to Salinas on Tuesday morning. It was going to be another day of light wind motor-sailing, which can be somewhat boring if you don’t have some kind of diversion. From our charts we saw we would be passing over many different depths in route which could mean dinner. So Rod got out the caveman handline and I dispensed Beautiful Babe Spit (credit to Ann Vanderhoof, “An Embarrassment of Mangoes”) on the hook that was disguised as a blue plastic fringy fish thing. This lure has provided dinner in the past (as long as BBS was administered) and it did not fail this day. Fish On! Tonight we would be having Cero Mackerel. A good sized one that would actually feed us for a couple of days.
We arrived in the Salinas harbor just before noon on Tuesday, November 28th and anchored among some of our Luperon friends, “Magus”, “Maatkare”, and “Indigo”. The Salinas harbor is very protected, which is great when strong winds come through, but since it is so enclosed it is not a place where you jump off the boat for a swim. Rod prepared fish fillets for dinner, which were delicious, and we started making plans for doing some inland touring while here. This is where we will rent a car and leave the boat for a few days to visit historic Old San Juan on the north coast, among other sights, and make long-anticipated trips to Costco, Home Depot, and other large superstores for provisioning. Not sure which we’re more excited about – 16th century Spanish forts or first-world shopping. It’s a toss up, really.