Swimming with Manta Rays
Francis Bay, St John
Today Manta Rays were swimming around the boats in Francis Bay. As soon as we heard we grabbed our snorkels and camera and jumped in the water! They swam around at least 1/2 hour, going in circles with their huge mouths open. Several times I could almost reach out and touch them! I had heard they were in this bay before and everyone knew I had been Manta hunting for weeks. Thank you Chimayo for the heads up or we may have missed them.
Manta Rays are the largest species in the Ray family and can exceed 20 feet across. As in the whale family, it is interesting that the largest species lives on plankton. The Manta has 18 rows of teeth on the lower jaw. An average size Manta Ray will consume 44 to 46 pounds of plankton per day.
I will never forget this day! See more pictures in the Photo Gallery!
An opportunity to get stuff
We arrived in Puerto Del Mar and splurged on a slip. We met Rich and Judy on Moonshine right after we started cruising, at a Seven Seas GAM in Florida. We met them a second time a few months later in Georgetown, Bahamas, and buddy boated with them on and off from there to this side of Puerto Rico. They keep Moonshine here year around and do short cruises through the Virgin Islands in the winters. Having a car here they have offered to run us around to get our shopping done.
West Marine did right by us and we came away with two new VHF radios and a new remote mic, also a new washdown pump. I have to say that we feel the Protection Plan they sell has been worth the costs. Instead of having to ship a unit in for the manufacturer's warranty, they swap your unit for a new model in store. Needless to say we also contributed to their daily sales quota, going up and down every isle two or three times. Next day we went off to Walmart with a long list and filled the trunk to overflowing. You have no idea how exciting a trip to Walmart can be! I have a list that is growing by the minute, there are so many things that are not available in the islands. Items that you can find are very expensive, the import tax can be as high as 40%.
After three nights in the marina we had most things on our lists, we had several great meals shared with Moonshine, and were ready to go. With the wind blowing hard from the east, we decided to make a short sail north and spent a night at Caya Santiago, nicknamed Monkey Island because it is a protected habitat for Rhesus Macaques Monkeys. Just before sunset I heard a bunch of racket coming from the island and a large group of at least 20 monkeys were walking along the beach. I wondered if there was a feeder that turned on at this time of the day. A bit later we watched monkeys swinging in trees and playing on the ground for quite a while.
When we decided to spend one more season in the eastern Caribbean before heading west, I said I wanted to visit all the places we missed on previous visits to an area. Vieques is an island we did not visit before but I had really wanted to, so leaving Monkey Island at dawn we sailed east to Sun Bay. The beaches of Vieques are among the most beautiful in the Caribbean. The wind had shifted a bit north and we had to tack several times but it was only 25 miles so we made it easy. We spend 4 nights anchored near the town of Esperanza, touring the island by Publico (a minivan bus). As we sailed along the south coast of Vieques, we noticed several boats anchored in bays that we had thought were off limits. A bit of history here: the U.S. had a big Naval Base in P.R. up to 2004 called Roosevelt Roads. The ships and planes would use Vieques as target practice and many areas are forbidden due to 'Unexploded Ordinances'. Can you even imaging using a beautiful Caribbean Island for BOMB practice? In 1999 a local resident of Vieque was killed by a jet bomb that the Navy said had misfired, all bombing has since been discontinued. So anyway, we pulled in and anchored in one of the bays without setting any bombs off! There was another boat there that told us where to go for good snorkeling, there was a large old wreck with a bomb laying in the wreckage. Hmm, live unexploded bomb or practice dud? We will never know.
Sailing to windward with 3 tacks we made it back to St Thomas and to the main harbor of Charlette Amalie to find friends waiting for us! 3 of the 4 Cruzateers are together again and the party continues!
This has been a very expensive few weeks. Back on St Thomas we loaded up with provisions and a few more items we couldn't find in Puerto Rico. Now we are ready to set sail for Christmas Cove, St James Island for some fun water activities.