The ratCATcher cruise is the culmination of our dream.
In 2008 our "baby" was launched with all the appropriate pomp and ceremony.
Finally on 15th January 2011 our adventure began with the Cape to Rio Yacht race.
Come with us as we explore the world of cruising.
The El Yunque rainforest occupies 29000 acres of Puerto Rico. It is one of the smallest in size, yet one of the most biologically diverse of the national forests hosting hundreds of animal and plant species, some of which are found only here. "According to ancient Indian Legend, the good spirit 'Yuquiyu' ( or 'Yokahu' ) reigned on his mighty mountain-top throne, protecting Puerto Rico and its people."
It is simply spectacular. Walking trails meander through giant tree ferns and are extremely well maintained. We hiked to the Mount Britton tower!
The views are mind blowing. Water trickles down the rocks into waterfalls and natural pools.
One of the creatures is The Coquí which is a small 'singing' tree tree frog found nowhere else in the world. The frog population in the rain-forest is one of the densest frog populations in the world. There are 14 species of the tiny Coqui, the 'song' is the mating call and starts every afternoon, increasing in volumn with rainfall.
The forest is home to the Puerto Rican Parrot, the Boa, the broad winged Hawk and the sharp shinned Hawk. None of which we say unfortunately! All are endangered species found only in Puerto Rico. It is also home to about 14 species of lizard, 35 species of migratory birds, 7 species of fish, 9 of shrimp and one freshwater crab! Fascinating! We spotted many lizards, fish and a crab or two. Words do not do the experience justice so here are the photos! On our way home we found another hidden treasure int the form of Mi Vida cafe! Excellent value for money, delicious food and great service!
Isla Caja de Muertos or Coffin Island should not be missed! This uninhabited island is maintained by a rotating group of Rangers. One hikes from white beaches with tourquise waters along paths edged with 10 foot hight cacti. Snakes laze in the sun and slither undercover as you pass by and birds sing out warnings of the human interloper wandering their island. Some of the plants and reptiles found here are endemic to the island.
There are a few stories as to how Coffin Island got its name but this is one of my favourites! Rumour has it a Pirate named 'Jose Almeida' fell in love with a married woman on Curacao and visited her regularly between his pirating escapades. When her husband died he went and married her and during their first raid she was killed by a stray bullet! A heartbroken Jose had her embalmed and placed in a glass box in a copper coffin and buried her on the island. He visited the island monthly and would spend time at her grave! He was caught tried and executed for piracy in 1832. On his death other pirates believed he had actually hidden 'real' treasure on the island and set out to recover it. When they found the copper coffin believing it to be full or treasure they set upon each other and fought to the death. The remaining pirate then opened the box and discovering the remains jumped to his death off the cliffs!
We hiked up to the old lighthouse, visited the tiny museum and met the head ranger named Orlando! He has been working the island for many years on a week on week off rotation. His son is now diesel mechanic on the ferry that runs day visitors to the island. he was able to identify a 5 foot long snake we had found as a boa that he claims is not endemic and must have been let free here by one of the visitors! The local snakes are the same colour as the boa we saw but only 2 - 3 foot long and also not venemous!
The island is also a turtle reserve and the fenced off beach is off limits to visitors and tourists!
Baby Boa at 5 foot long
Back at the anchorage Dani from Joda rescued a pink Flamingo to cheers and shouts from the people on the beach!
Puerto Rico is simply amazing. It has all the conveniences of America without being Americanized! Think American stores on a tropical island with island folks mentality and island time! This is Puerto Rico.
Properties alongside the marina
We have found the most amazing friendly people. Always ready to help with a smile! Our next stop after Mayaguez was Puerto Real.
Service with a smile
Some marinas barely tolerate 'transients' as they call us cruisers. They grudgingly allow us to use their dinghy docks to get ashore but not much else.
Marina Pescaderia in Puerto Real is not one of those. We were welcomed ashore and invited to use the facilities. Jose is the manager and son of the owner who is also Jose. He speaks good English and is very willing to answer questions and assist in any way possible. The second day we were there we approached the office (Jose jnr had travelled to Dominican Republic to set up reciprocity with another marina) to find out where we could refill our gas (propane) cylinder. Jose senior, who speaks no english, happened to be there checking on things in the marina. When he heard what we wanted, he loaded us into his vehicle and drove us about 20 minutes to get it done. He refused money for fuel as thanks. The total of our conversation en route and back was him stating with great pride "Me father (of) Jose"
It was here the local diesel company cleaned our tanks and polished the fuel.
Wandering around the area later a man stopped and asked if he could help in anyway, was there something we were looking for? We told him we were just looking around and he went on his way. The next morning we had decided to try the local bakery for their renowned breakfast. A full breakfast and coffee with refill cost us $12.68. Here we met the same man from the day before and started chatting. He had worked with Delta airline in USA as a Stewart for 40 years and had retired and returned home. His was originally from San Juan but had fallen in love with the laid back pace of Puerto Real. We had told him we were going to walk after breakfast to pick up fallen mango's in the street. He insisted on taking us back to his house where he had a huge mango tree and invited us to pick what we wanted! Mango chutney was the result!
Love the house colours!
The house he rents is two bedroom, one bathroom and and open plan kitchen sitting room. It is small but lovely in a garden full of fruit trees. The rental only $300 a month!
Finally time had come to leave this happy anchorage and in parting Jose jnr gave us his private cell phone number is case we had questions or needed a translator after we left them stating we could call him anytime.
We arrived in Mayaguez in the middle of a
torrential downpour just before Customs etc closed and decided to wait till
morning! We had no idea what was to occur as nowhere did it mention the offices
were closed on the weekend!
Anyway bright and early we made our way over to
be standing at the door at 0800. We had no cell phone that works in PR aboard
so we didn't call in ahead of time! Eight o'clock came and went and no signs of
life from US Customs house! No problem we thought, they must open at 0900, we
needed to draw cash to pay them anyway and made out way to the nearest Banko
Popular! It was still early with that done so we headed off to buy a chip (Sim
card) and were directed to Centro shopping center.
Ten minutes later we found the cell phone shops
there did not sell chips at all! No problem they said, go to the Mall!
On the way out we stopped a young man and asked
if he spoke English? 'A little' he replied! Good can you show us which road
goes to the mall? He asked why and we explained we were walking there to Claro
(the local service provider) to buy a chip! It's quite far he advised us, it's
better to take a taxi or Uber or....... He hesitated for just a second then
said; or I can take you I am going that way!
This is how we met Edwin, a real live Earth
On route chatting in his pretty good English and
our very broken Spanish he established we didn't need the mall at all just the
Claro main office which, it turns out was closer!
We expected him to drop us and take off, but he
insisted on coming in with us to be sure we managed, got a good deal and to
translate if we needed it. As it turns out we got a great deal and he will be
switching his own service to Claro too. Claro we need commission 😜
He then asked where we were going next and we
explained we needed to go to Customs Office to check in. Later in the day he
admitted he had misunderstood and thought we were looking for aCostume Office! Haha he said he knew his wife
had hired costumes before, like superman or bat girl but he couldn't figure out
what on earth we wanted costumes for!
Anyway he insisted on taking us, on route he
picked his wife Mayito up from the gym and we headed off to US Customs House.
There we finally found a guard who explained the office is closed on the
weekend and we had to go to the main airport, two towns away! He assured us it
was about 30 to 40 mins drive away unless there was traffic! Sigh!
No problem, insisted Edwin and Mayito, it just
so happens they had to go that way anyway as Mayito is presenting her doctorate
thesis in Computer Engineering at that University campus on Wednesday and he
had to show her the route to take to drive there!
In fact both Edwin and Mayito have just finished
their Doctorates in Computer Engineering. They both have one task left, to
defend their thesis in front of the board and then they are qualified! Mayito
has majored in Statistics and Edwin in Mathematics! They hope to be able to
continue studying before traveling the world together! They are both Columbians studying here on a bursary!
Ten minutes into the drive we hit traffic! Face
booking her friends Mayito found out the US Hurricane Hunter Aircraft was on
show at the Airforce base next to the airport! We think every person in PR was
headed there. The 30 minute journey ended up taking 3 hours!
We find the Cutoms office and hand over our
papers only to discover I had left our old passports that have our US visas in
on the boat! Grumbling a little the Customs officer must have seen the horror
on my face! I just couldn't imagine having wasted Edwin's and our time and
having to go back to the boat to fetch it. Well the officer had a touch of
earth angel himself, he examined our passports saw we had been in and out of
USA and accepted that we must have Visas to be able to do that, so ' No
Problem'. He nearly got kissed!
On route back we had them stop so we could get
us all lunch and had local speciality dishes of fried plantain, stuffed chicken
breast, beef bits, rice and beans and of course a couple of Cervesa's each.
By this time everyone from the display was going
home and it had been raining all day! The trip back took 2 hours with detours
to avoid flooded roads.
are so thankful to our Earth Angels, Edwin and Mayito! We could not have done
today without you and we got to meet awesome interesting new friends.
Realizing we would not make landfall in Puerto
Rico before dark we decided to drop anchor at Isla De Mona! Wow, thank
goodness! We would have missed a slice of Paradise had we not stopped!
Heading into the anchorage following two range
markers, all you can see is waves smashing on the reef and until you up close
no gaps! When the gap appears it's a maximum of two boat widths! In the gin
clear waters below you the reef lurks as dark brown stains on the sandy bottom!
Holding our breath we motored in almost to the shore then turn sharp left to
the mooring balls!
Only then did we breathe easy! Having just
sailed an overnight we turned in to catch up on some sleep. About two hours
later we surfaced rubbing our eyes in wonder at the Paradise we found ourselves
Gin clear waters gently rolling onto clean white
sands or against towering cliffs! The rocky shore waved in and out creating
small private beaches between them. Looking out to sea the reef stretched from
end to end except for the small gap we entered through!
It didn't t take us long to don snorkel gear and
set out to explore! Stunning healthy reef teeming with Blue Tang, Parrot fish
and the beautiful Black Durgon of the Triggerfish family with his electric pale
blue lines between his tail and body!
Isla de Mona is often called the Galapagos of
the Caribbean and we can understand why! Fourty nautical miles west of Puerto
Rico, this isolated island is about 7 miles long and 4 miles wide! It is a
designated National Marine Sanctuary. We had been told you were not allowed
ashore unless you had made application beforehand but decided to take our
chances and go and ask! What a friendly warm reception we got! There are four
Rangers, two policemen and a biologist on the island and they do one week
rotations from Wednesday to Wednesday! The new crew hand just landed and taken
over. They spoke good English and were super friendly! We were welcome ashore
to hike the island, they even opened the small museum for us and gave us
information on the trails and caves to visit!
The Island teems with large Iguanas, found only
here, with their two horns on their heads. Wild boars dating back, according to
the Rangers, to Christopher Columbus' times and goats.
It was inhabited by the Taino Indians for
centuries and there are Taino drawings on the cave walls! Christopher Columbus
'discovered' it in 1493 and it became a port of call for Spanish Galleons.
Following the Spanish the Pirates took over and it's rumored Captain Kidd made
use of it. The numerous caves were used as is supported by the cooking
utensils, fragments of Sabers and even chains found in them.
Following Pirates Guano miners harvested there
until 1927! Piles of their rusting equipment and remains of train tracks are to
In the 1930 and 40's a sport fishing club was
established and their old lodge can be found on the western shore!
Boar hunting season takes place between May and
November. This is to keep the numbers down and generate income for the
Strolling along the reef edged beaches we were
delighted to find fresh turtle tracks from the sea. Obviously the night before
they had come ashore and laid eggs. The large indentation where they made the
nest and their tracks back to the sea easy to spot!
Turtle track and nest
After a chilled evening listening to the sounds
of silence we slept well.
The next morning we set off to climb the path up
the cliffs, we wanted pictures of the boat from above! Along the trail we found
freshly dug earth and peering around we saw brown bodies scuttling away back
into the bush! Boar or Goats we are not sure but it was thrilling.
The path up the mountain strewn with the fallen
leaves of overhead trees is teeming with hermit crabs. It amused me that as they
heard us coming they would pull into their shells and now being on a steep
slope would roll down the side among the leaves, their bright red legs and
pincher tucked tightly into the shell! Their favorite abode is the empty shells
of the periwinkles found everywhere.
Hermit crab roll! :)
Words do not do justice to the magnificence of