Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Is What We Came Here For

Puerto Real in the rear view
We had to leave eventually.  It’s very easy to get stuck to a dock and Marina Pescaderia made it very difficult for us to tear ourselves away.  We can’t say enough about how accommodating Jose is to Cruisers and if you need anything, he knows where or how to get it.  So after a week of touring the island, hanging out with other Cruisers who had also crossed the Mona on our weather window, and doing boat projects… we were suddenly done.

We left the marina with a light ESE breeze and motored out the narrow marked channel.  It was about 1:30 pm and it seemed very strange to just unceremoniously take off.  We had planned to stay one more night but when we finished replacing the sanitation hose in the aft head…  the absence of the usual strong afternoon breeze made our decision for us.  Just GO.

White fluffy clouds and a beautiful day for a sail!
Time was closing in on us with my mom’s visit only a week away.  We needed to put some days in the bank so that we could be sure to reach Ponce before her arrival so we motored right by Boqueron, since we had visited there by car already.  It was pretty much a tourist town and we had been there-done that. 

We pointed our bow toward the staging anchorage at Cabo Rojo.  As we got closer we could see that a storm cloud was dumping rain and it looked like it was going to get us.  It’s funny how these clouds will build and then shed their ball of water so quickly… and then they’re gone! 

As we continued to motor toward the lighthouse we watched it all happen… and the rainbows.  Ah the rainbows!!!  I just WISH the camera could capture their glorious and vivid colors…

There were strange rainbo-balls that would materialize in a valley.  They never were arched rainbows, just fuzzy balls of color nestled in the valley.  I’ve never seen this before. 

Then there came the regular rainbow that ended just past the lighthouse.  The colors were intense and “real” it looked like we could sail over to where it touched the water and just climb right up.  It was so CLOSE!

Rainbow over Cabo Rojo
The view to Port - calm water anchorage
We turned into the anchorage and headed for the mangroves.  The winds were very light and the seas almost flat.  Almost.  We dropped the anchor in 8 ft. of clear water over grassy sand.  There was just the slightest of gentle swells reaching the boat from around the cape, but it was not enough to worry about.  We wondered if the swell would be more or less in higher winds. 

Cabo Rojo Lighthouse 
We settled on the bow with our sundowners and watched the fish ping the water’s surface.  The sun settled into the clouds far behind us as we mentally switched from Marina-Life-Mode to Cruiser-Life-Mode. 

It was so quiet.  We could hear birds in the mangroves, thousands of doves cooing and some other unidentifiable birdcalls.  Crickets began to hum.  Tiny splash sounds as the fish jumped out of the water and made their re-entry.  Ahhh this is the life.  THIS is what we came here for…
Sitting on the foredeck for Sundowners with a half moon overhead

And the sun going down at our feet

Doom be GONE!
We had front row seats to see the first pass of the lighthouse.  There’s just something comforting about being nestled into an anchorage below a lighthouse…  Their purpose is to protect sailors from doom…  It’s nice.  All through the night whenever I woke up, I could see the intermittent sweeps of the strong light letting me know she was still on duty. 

The Lighthouse at dawn
The next morning we luxuriated in the quiet calm all around us.  We listened to Chris Parker weather to see what was happening out in the world.  We never listened while we were in the marina.  Time to get back into the routine…  

Sunrise over the mangroves
Looking at our possible stops, we decided to skip a couple so that we could take advantage of some rare light winds this week and make it into Ponce a couple of days before my mom is due to arrive.

Rounding Caba Rojo
We pulled up the anchor and slipped out of the anchorage and around Cabo Rojo with no trouble at all.  I say that because this cape is known for her nasty disposition with any kind of big east wind.  How can we be so lucky?  I don’t know, but we’ll take it!

The cliffs we stood upon days ago
Leaving the west coast, we motored sedately along the south coast inside the protective reef line.  The charts were mostly accurate with the exception of a few uncharted shallow spots that we could easily see and avoid.  The morning was the perfect temperature, not too hot, not too cool… for snorkeling. 

We marveled at the rocks and fans we could easily see beneath the boat as we came closer to our snorkel spot.  We dropped the anchor very near the the reef with its visible breaking waves.  Seas outside the reef were small… and inside they were nonexistent. 

Jezabelle being jubilant
We were jubilant as our eyes swept the scene all around us.  There is just so much beauty it’s difficult to take it all in.  THIS is what we came here for!  The blue, blue water, the beckoning reef, the calm seas, the balmy temperatures… All of it!

We ate a quick breakfast and made our preparations to snorkel right off the stern.  With the dinghy still on the foredeck, we slipped into the silky water and toddled off towards the reef. 

We were the only people around.  We had the whole reef to ourselves and we loved it.  At first it seemed a bit of a dud, only sea grasses and shallow water.  But we persevered and soon found ourselves floating around above a long stretch of coral.  There was very little surge so we were able to sort of lose ourselves in the underwater world. 
Strange poofs.  What IS that?

Creepy abandoned fish trap.  See the fish head at bottom-right?

Finally perfect snorkeling conditions

I love creeping up on the little creatures and see them just going about their business.  It’s hilarious to see these tiny wrasses protecting their turf.  They are so small and yet they fearlessly come out and stand between their home and the hapless intruder… of any size.  

Swim with us and enjoy the highlights of our snorkel on Arrecife Laurel…

There was a vast field of this coral right beneath the surface

Flamingo Tongue Snail!

Strange fluffy stuff

And ANOTHER Flamingo Tongue!!!

A wave from beneath

We snorkeled for about two hours, each in our own world.  Bruce carried his new speargun around but never saw anything like a lobster or a fish of edible size.  We met up and decided to head back to the boat.  We started that way and I realized that there was reef between us and the boat.  Somehow we had worked our way around to the outside.  Now how do we get back in???

We continued on... trying to be skinny.  I held my breath so that my lungs would make me more buoyant to float me higher in the water. I narrowly made it over the coral field.  I bumped my tummy and my elbows a little bit on the way over and actually had to wait for a wave to wash me over that most shallow part. The coral stained my swim-top but I didn't break anything...

I know, I know... next time we will try to find our way back the way we had come.  

It was still early in the day and the winds continued light.  We pulled up the anchor and meandered through along the south shoreline amongst the many coral reefs and small islets that keep the waters flat.

Reef with a marker!!!

No need to stop...
We had planned on stopping at La Paguera for the night but as we drew close we re-evaluated our needs.  We had no need to stop.  No need of anything from the grocery.  No need of being amongst people or noise.  And lots of need for more of what we’ve had for the past 24 hours… So we passed the town by and stopped inside the protective curve of Arrecife Enmedio.

There is one Active Captain post about this place and I think poster is confused… There are no mooring balls here, unless you count the fish trap floats.  I hope someone didn’t try to moor to one of those!!! 


We did our usual circle to check depths, and then set our anchor down with plenty of swing room in all directions.  There wasn’t a forecast of much wind from any direction, but you can’t be too careful.  

There wasn’t a very wide shelf for the anchor and we ended up dropping it in about 25 ft. with depths of 6 ft within our swing radius on the side closest to the reef.  We put out all of our chain and set it well.

Since the reef was further from the boat this time, we had to splash the dinghy.  It’s been on the deck since we left the Dominican Republic.  It didn’t take us long to get it into the water and re-commissioned.  We loaded our snorkel gear and took off to find a beach… or a reef…  What we found was shallow grass.

We moved around to the other side of our small island and were able to make it close enough to what could be called the shore without hurting too much grass.  We anchored the dinghy and walked the last few feet to semi-dry land.

So THIS is what we came here for…  What are these small reef islands made of?  They are sand and a lot of broken and dead coral or shell.  We walked around, thankful of having worn our tough water shoes… 

We trekked over the pile of shells to see what was on the other side.  We found more shells and broken coral.  There was a minefield of small sea urchins in the water on the outer side.  If anyone tried landing here I hope they had some GOOD shoes!  

There were hundreds of dead and dried shells left on the rocks.  I remember a time-gone-by when finding one of these was a big deal…  Now that I no longer have room to collect them, I must settle for taking photos and memories of them.

Thinking we had seen all there was to see, we went for a spin to the mainland side of the channel between the reef.  We were considering moving the boat to the Phosphorescent bay anchorage.  Unfortunately we didn’t take the iPad with us so when we neared the shore and found the depths less than 5 ft, we decided we couldn’t get into the anchorage.  We returned to the boat and settled in for the evening.  It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized we hadn’t been in the right spot and could have gone into the cove for the night…

We ended our day sitting on the foredeck watching the fading daylight play on the mountains and clouds and Caribbean Sea.  If you close your eyes you will miss something spectacular here but we are lucky enough to have plenty to spare… 

As we sat there sipping our sundowners and talking… Bruce sucking on a cigar he got in the Dominican Republic….  The breeze had come up so we were nice and cool.  We recently had our showers with plenty of water for washing our gear and ourselves… We realized that this was truly what we had come here for.  After all of the charters we’ve taken in the past where we wished we could be on our own boat… we are finally here…. on our own boat.  And it is everything we thought it would be.

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