Friday, April 15, 2016

Don't Go There... You Won't Like It

References about Coffin Island mostly talked about how it broke up the miles along the coast when the east winds were honkin’.  Nowhere did we see anything telling about the crystal clear waters in more colors than you can count…  Nope.  There wasn’t any of that.

Approaching Coffin Island
Nowhere did we see any accounts of the snorkeling spots that could keep you entertained for days in calm waters.  Nope – none of that here…

The hike to the lighthouse didn’t make the cut either, but then who would want to do that???

And I’m sure glad we’ve finally grown tired of hanging out on white sand beaches.  You know, you can only stand SO many in a lifetime before they become commonplace…

Wonderful light winds have been forecast for enough days for us to make the entire south coast in peaceful splendor and we’ve been taking full advantage!  We motored out of our anchorage at Gilligan’s Island and pointed directly at Coffin Island hoping to sail for a while.  The winds were so light we had to use motor-assist and were able to motorsail for about half the way before the wind actually decreased to the point that we gave up and dropped the sails alltogether.  The benefit of this is that our water tanks are topped off once more.

We arrived at the island at 11 am.  There wasn’t another boat within sight.  As we approached the island, we both stood on the deck searching for the mooring balls, but really more gawking at the sight of the hills and pristine beaches that awaited us.  It was Friday.  I guess the State Park isn’t too busy on weekdays… 

The mooring balls are so close to the shore you hardly see them until you're there
We picked up the mooring ball closest to the Park Museum and Ranger’s Station and had a quick lunch.  I wanted to climb to the lighthouse before it got too hot but first we needed to have a chat with the Ranger to see what there was to do around here…

Green rocks!!! and some sea glass



Nice facilities in the park

Orlando (like in Florida) was very talkative.  I guess these guys don’t get out much…  He talked our ear off about how money earmarked by Parks & Wildlife for Park improvements and upkeep had been budgeted for other things by the Puerto Rican government.  Sad.  Did I just see an endangered turtle over there???

Museum
Orlando told us that there was an underwater snorkel trail over on the NE side of the island that is good in settled weather.  He advised going in the morning and starting at the north end because tour boats start at the south end.  That way if a tour came they wouldn’t swallow us up.  We decided that it was already too warm to hike the lighthouse but the winds were calm… lets head for the snorkel trail!

The shallow waters around the island are stunning.  We haven’t seen anything like them since the Bahamas and we’ve missed it!  But … wait.  You don’t want to see this kind of stuff…right?



The ride was long with our slow-going dinghy.  The motor isn’t working right – the throttle cables are messed up so we can’t really increase to full speed.  So… we putt-putted along the shore just soaking it all in.  The clouds were forming over Puerto Rico casting the mountains in dappled sunlight and shade.  The colors were various shades of greens, browns, purple, and blue…  Combine that with the ribbons of blue and aqua of the water, it was just all the eye could stand.  Terrible!


Our slow progress convinced us that it might be a bad idea to try venturing out into the windward side so maybe the underwater trail will have to wait for our next visit…  We dropped the dinghy anchor in a patch of pure white sand and jumped in. 

Baby conch with external growth
It was like swimming in a vast shallow swimming pool!  There were fist-sized conch dragging themselves along the sand.  Their crisscrossed trails were everywhere!  I’m glad to see that there are conch babies around, it gives me hope for the future of the species after seeing it so “fished out” in the Bahamas.


Tough guy

Trunkfish



We cruised along the shallow rocky shelves just off the beach and approached the reef at the tip of the island before turning back and calling it a day.  We still wanted to take a closer look at that lighthouse…  Oh, er… and it wasn’t very much fun anyway…

Conch making trails on the sand
It IS Orion!!!
On our way back to the boat, I saw that another monohull had come in and anchored on this remote part of the island far from the park area.  I guess they want seclusion and they have sure found it…  As we neared the boat I saw the name.  Orion.  Could it be???  I thought they were in Culebra!  It HAS to be THE Orion with Sue and her husband Rick… 

We redirected and “ahoyed” them and guess who popped her head out from beneath the bimini…. It WAS Sue!  We had been Facebook friends for SO long and I had hoped we would cross paths somewhere here in Puerto Rico! 

Awesome!!!  We chatted for a bit and then left, promising to come back later for happy hour! 

Back at the boat, we exchanged our swimsuits and snorkel gear for our rock hiking clothes, water bottles and mosquito repellant…  Once we reached the island again and found the trailhead… we realized that there was another (much shorter) trail to the lighthouse that started over on the beach we had just left.  It was hot and windless and we took a vote.  I lost.  We would move the boat to the north side of the island and try the trail from there…
Looks hot right?

This trail is miserable!


Where this all ends up (long story short) is that we did NOT hike the trail to the lighthouse… Who wants to see another lighthouse anyway when instead you can explore a new beach and hang out in cool waters where there are no biting bugs…?











Short hop
We re-anchored the boat a respectable distance from Orion, grabbed a beverage and hit the beach.  


Bruce sat toes-in-the-water-ass-in-the-sand style while I scoured the rocks and beach for the perfect photo.  




This is one of my favorite pastimes and I think I got a few good ones.  The rocks here are full of coral and shells that are frozen in time.  Maybe I should have been a geologist…





Conch shells caught forever in rock




I SEE YOU
Dos Libras and Orion!
Happy hour time came so we cleaned ourselves up, grabbed some drinks and a snack offering and rejoined our new friends (in-real-life) aboard Orion.  Their boat has a really roomy cockpit with nice soft cushions.  Sue has made their boat a real home where ours seems more utilitarian.  It was a pleasant evening sharing stories and getting to know one another…

Sue and Rick are the new SSCA Harbor Hosts for Puerto Rico and I can’t imagine anyone better for the (volunteer) job.  They are experts on the entire Puerto Rico area having lived and sailed here for decades… and still goin’!  












WWS Sisters finally meet!

Sundown came and went and we finally took our leave.  There are still so many more things that we would like to do here on Caja de Muertos… we considered staying an extra day.  But after looking at our charts, the weather… and the deciding factor – tomorrow is Saturday and the island will be crawling with people… we decided to leave some for next time. 








Morning sunrise on the Lighthouse
But you know… maybe we’ll skip it.  Nobody wants to hang out in a place that is beautiful and unspoiled.  Yeah… you wouldn’t wanna go there…


We left Orion sleeping peacefully