At 6am the next morning we stood on the deck of the Caribbean fantasy; they must have been on the rum when they came up with the name. It's just a huge car ferry, with 3 casino tables, lots of fruit machines, and massage parlour. Jackie had packed her cosi, but the swimming pool was somewhat of a disappointment, no bigger than a jacuzi, empty and decorated with beer bottles. It was, let us be kind, somewhat uninviting. The fantasy belched diesel fumes into a vermillion sky and we watched the sun rise behind the silhouette of Puerto Rico.
We docked at 8am, on schedule and waited in line at immigration. The line moved painfully slowly but by nine o'clock it was our turn. We handed the immigration officer our documents, had our finger and thumb prints scanned, and were photographed by a mini camera. He just needed to check one small thing and ushered us into an adjoining glass room, offered us a seat and said this will only take a couple of minutes. The door automatically locked as he left the room.
The couple of minutes turned into three quarters of an hour as he returned to his watchtower to grill the rest of the passengers. Homeland security wasn't rushing and our tight schedule was being squeezed. Eventually we were waved through and we took a taxi to a car hire company we had found on the net, that sat right on the P2, the road we needed to get to Salinas, which we reckoned would take about an hour and a half, although the taxi driver told us it would take three hours. We hoped he was wrong.
We had planned to reach Salinas by midday, see these two boats, drive back to Mayaguez and catch the same ferry back to DR at 8pm, tight but do-able.
All didn't go smoothly at the car rental office though. They couldn't process our rental with my debit card, but luckily Jackie had a credit card which would do the trick. So the nice lady, Stevie, at Enterprise started the processing again. "Can I see your license?" and Jackie handed over her license. "I'm sorry" she said this license has expired in March 2013. Oh no! Now what?! Well they juggled things a bit and somehow managed to satisfy their systems that we were good people of honest intent and we finally set off in our little red Honda to our rendezvous in Salinas with Jean, pronounced John.
It was about 10.30am and we were at least an hour adrift from our plan. On top of all of this we were going to have our schedule squeezed some more. The car hire office closed at 5pm and we had to be back on board the Caribbean Fantasy by 6pm at the latest.
Of course, one small detail we had overlooked was that in America, and in American colonies, like Puerto Rico there is a speed limit of 55mph. We didn't have a map, all we knew was that Salinas was just off this highway called P2, so if we stay on this road which we had seen on google maps, that became the P52 around a town called Ponce we would be fine. That was until we called Jean to get directions.
Turn off at La Isabella and call me, he said, which we did and pulled into a Shell garage, to get some bottles of water, and call Jean, on a bad line and his Spanglish accent. The check-out man in the garage told me that Salinas was the next turn on the right along the highway we had just turned off, great almost there, it's about midday, and almost back on schedule.
Jeans' directions seem to contradict the guy in the petrol station, but we go with his, thinking maybe the boat isn't exactly in Salinas we go under the main highway, get lost in a town we know is wrong, turn round looking for a left, or was it a right turn he said. Miss the turning altogether, take a wrong turn onto the slip-road to the highway going the wrong way and locked into a shouting match that is de rigueur for all married couples driving to places they don't know, without a map in a foreign land with tight deadlines to meet. Now we're heading down this motorway in silence looking for the opportunity to turn around but there are no exits for what seems like miles and miles and we're running late. The guy at the Shell garage said that there were no signs for Salinas, Jean said something about 65, and right in front of us is a big sign that says SALINAS, 65. Well what about that, we found it by mistake, call jean who talks us through the middle of town, on a mobile that keeps dropping out and arrive very hot and desperately in need of a cigarette, the car is a no smoking car.
It's about half twelve by now, and in the scorching heat of a the day we step into Jeans RIB for the short ride across this beautiful bay to where the Hardin sea wolf is moored about half a mile offshore.
We climb aboard and fall in love.
She could do with a little TLC but she is beautiful with her two highly varnished wooden masts gracing a cloud dappled blue Caribbean sky.