Monday, March 16, 2015

A Little Too Much Excitement

Saturday morning and we were all up bright and early to catch the 6:30 am fast ferry to Fajardo, on the eastern end of Puerto Rico. We joined the crew of Almost There all ready for the 45 minute ride (cheap cheap at $2.25 a person) and a plan for breakfast in Fajardo.

As light dawned on the dock, the slower cargo ferry was loading and no fast ferry in sight so we took our open air seats and enjoyed the hour and a half trip.

Earlier in the week I snapped this with both ferries, fast on the left, cargo on the right.
Our plan was to run errands for repair equipment and replacement parts, do a bit of shopping at West Marine and Wal-Mart and then head off to enjoy the sights in the rain forest. As is usual with us, we hate planning way ahead so the only car we could find to rent on a Saturday morning was an old, and little bit rusty and clunky Ford Taurus. We all piled in and bounced our way over pot-holes, frequently looking back to see if anything had fallen off the car.

Errands and shopping completed, we headed into the El Yunque National Park. We have been here before but not Robert, Shena and Kinsley, so we clambered around some of the waterfalls and generally enjoyed the moist coolness of the forest. Did I mention there was a lot of mud? It's a rainforest so of course there's rain, which makes the trails very slippery with mud. We still managed to make our way up one waterfall and then once back to the car used another waterfall pool to wash off our shoes, ankles, legs and anything else that was spattered.

We got off the main road looking for the park entrance...
Lost? We're not lost! Everyone comes through the bamboo forest to find the rainforest. Ok, maybe we're a little lost.
Shena & Kinsley trying not to take a dip in the super cold mountain water.
So many shades of green.
Critters and birds were everywhere - although most of the birds we could only hear.
Never ending cascades; you could hike here a long time and never see the same waterfall twice.
A mid afternoon meal at Lolita's Mexican restaurant along the highway was our next stop. Tacos, chimichangas, enchiladas and empanadillas all washed down with the house sangria ... Yum! The place is so busy that even at four in the afternoon they need a parking valet. He was amused by our car I think.

By 7 pm we were all ready for our fast ferry ride back to Culebra but once again the cargo ferry was in place at the dock so we donned our sweaters and waterproof jackets in preparation for the upwind ride. It was most likely going to be a bit rough and salty, but we much preferred the open air seats to those inside where, to be honest, we knew the smell and sound of other sick passengers would be enough to set us off.

This is where the excitement of the day set in... We were only about five minutes off the dock when there was a commotion at the port rail. We though someone was shouting they could see dolphins but given it was dark we figured it wasn't worth moving. Then a fellow hopped up on the stair and started banging on the pilot's window yelling that there was a man overboard!!

Mass confusion ensued with passengers and crew alike running back and forth, very quickly becoming evident that the ferry was not properly equipped to deal with this situation. No floodlights to angle out over the water and no life-rings to throw and for us, the language added to the feeling. Kudos to the captain though as he cut the engines but still managed to angle the ferry in the wind and waves to be able to pick up not one but four guys from the water.

We didn't get a lot of detail, but the end story was that these were not passengers who had fallen off the ferry but rather four guys whose boat had capsized or sunk, from the looks of it rather quickly. They had no life jackets on and had grabbed anything they could that would help them float. One guy was clutching a diesel can, another a buoy, and it must have been a truly fearful time for them as the ferry was steaming out of port and straight down on them. I think we all took it as a reminder of just how careful you have to be at any time but most especially at night.

The ferry returned to port where the rescued boaters disembarked and reports were made to the coast guard, and then about an hour later we were underway once more. As expected it was a rough, wet rid upwind to Culebra but sheltered behind the pilot house we arrived relatively dry and a lot less green than many of the passengers.

Time for a restful sleep with no dreams of disaster at sea.


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