Caya de Muertos
09 March 2007 | South Coast of Puerto Rico
We got up at 02:30 and started to get the boat ready for the early morning run across the south Puerto Rican coast. The wind had settled down to around 12 knots but there were some threatening cumulus clouds making it a dark night. We didn't bother to raise the main as we were looking at an east run dead into the wind. I doubt tacking up the coast would have been much fun anyway with the prevailing conditions. The right way to do Puerto Rico in the Winter is to make small 5-20 nm hops sailing from 5AM to 8AM during the morning lee. We had to get our boat to the British Virgin Islands where the boat and Roq could be baby sat by my parents. We were on a bit of a mission at this point.
The seas were up a bit by the time we got around Cabo Rojo and started to head east. We stayed off shore a bit to stay well clear of Margarita Reef. We were doing 7-8 knots motoring into the wind and seas. As the day progressed the breeze and the waves continued to eek their way higher and higher. The wind would settle a little and you'd wonder if it was going to lighten up and then it would pick back up to a little more than it was before. It wasn't long before we were in the 20 knot range again. There was also a kind of haze building in the sky that made the day a little darker. Reminded me of Los Angeles.
Things began to get fairly uncomfortable and we started to think about anchorages. A neat sounding place called Gilligan's island was coming up. We considered it but decided to press on. As we got into the intra-anchorage zone we wondered what we were thinking. It was pretty heavy going. We saw a ketch sail out from the coast. It looked like he was trying to go the same direction we were going but he was under sail. On his ear, he disappeared behind us on the first tack. A good day for adventure sailing, but not pleasure sailing.
As we pounded our way east we decided to try for Caya de Muertos a small island off shore about half way along the south coast. As we came into sight of the island I tried to maximize the use of any lee the island might be providing. We had to get in fairly close before the wind abated but the seas came down some progressively a good ways out. The island is like a gentle arc circumscribed in a north/south orientation with a large hill on the north side. The hill has an old Spanish lighthouse at the top and there's a nice new dock for the weekend ferry to drop off at. The entire island is a park and it is pretty well maintained.
We dropped anchor at around 10:30 right behind the big hill to get as much protection as possible. Oddly enough there were two other cruising boats anchored off of the flats to the south with very little cover from the wind (maybe they were watching the snow fall outside?). It seemed like we had been going for a full day but it was still too early for a beer.
Hideko Roq and I hiked around the island and took in the stunning vistas from the top of the hill by the old light house. The light house was locked up and unavailable for inspection but you could walk around it. The ranger station had a ranger, a worker and a biologist on duty. We had a chat with the biologist and he told us that the haze was particulate from the volcano erupting on Montserrat. Later I looked at a small scale chart and sure enough the volcano was east-southeast of us, dead upwind. The sea turtles use one of the eastern beaches here for laying eggs. We saw some iguanas and lots of interesting birds on our walks.
We made our way back to the boat and did a little snorkeling to wrap up the day. It had been a long one but we had another to go before we could finally end the relentless beat up wind we had been on since Luperon. We turned in early and set the alarm for 3AM.