Monday, January 27, 2020

Back Doorstep Kayak Expedition

Hope those rainclouds stay out there!
Long story short, we bought a new kayak!  And luckily for us, the winds laid down enough to make a beach expedition easy so we could take it out for a spin!  The waves were only about 1 ft or so, with a larger one or two rising higher, and then breaking in a tumbling crash.  All we had to do was to wait for those two breakers to rumble on by and then GO!  Our plan worked and very quickly, we were settled into the inflatable seats, paddling easily along the coast of our beach toward the east.

It's so wonderful out there in our bay, Bahia de Patillas.  The water is clean and clear when the winds are light, and we love gliding along on our little kayak.  It's a way to regain a little bit of the freedom we've had living on a boat these many years.

A line of clouds with dark blue bellies threatened rain, and we could see a couple of spots where the curtain was already falling.  This prompted us to hustle a bit so that we could be in through the river mouth  before possible squally winds could catch us.  As it turned out, the squalls stayed far offshore and we had an easy time getting to the mouth of the Rio Grande de Patillas after all.

Paddling along on gentle swells
We approached the mouth of the river just outside the wave line, looking for a deeper spot to paddle across.  We went all the way to the far bank, but didn't see any way that we could get across without getting out of the kayak and walking across.  No worries, this is very easy and we were across in a jiffy!

Shallow banks across the river mouth made it impossible to paddle across.
The shallow, rocky bank stretches all the way across!
Once inside, the waters were calm.

We beached the kayak on the eastern side of the river so that we could explore the small beach there.  It also gave us an opportunity to let the water we had collected on the way drain out!  This was a new place for us to explore, having only previously walked the western shores, but it's a small beach, so there wasn't much to see other than some interesting seed pods, and another crazy spider web, only this time in miniature!!!

Crazy Spider web!  TINY!!!
Which way do we go?  Left... or right?

We loaded back into the kayak and set off to the far western tributary because it looked like the deepest water.  It was so calm and quiet as we slowly let the wind push us along, only paddling now and then to guide us in the right direction.  We could hear something scrambling in the trees lining the bank, and once I got a glimpse of a big iguana sunning himself up high in the branches.  He made a loud crash as he dove out of view, causing the branches to dip and sway.  We drifted past many unseen eyes as we floated up the river.

Some kind of fish swimming away rapidly! Now Bruce wants a new fishing pole!!!
As we continued upriver, large boulders appeared under water and along the banks.

We explored the western tributary as far as we could go before we were blocked by a bunch of fallen trees.  Being lightweights, we were easily convinced to turn back and take the eastern branch that flows around a small island in the middle of the river.

The further we went, the more clear the water became.  What started out as being murky green, gradually turned more and more clear.  Bruce took a little taste and sure enough, the water was completely free of salt!  The river bottom was also increasingly rocky, with big boulders visible as we floated along the surface.  It became necessary for Bruce to  be on the lookout for rocks or branches that could either scratch our new kayak, or interfere with the fin mounted on the bottom for stability.

Eventually we felt the inevitable light scraping of the fin on the rocky bottom, and we realized that the free ride was over!  We would have to either turn back, or portage across the rocky shallows.  Well, this being a true adventure expedition, we got out and walked!  Bruce did the gentlemanly thing and forged ahead, while I hung onto the kayak as it floated over the rocks.  It was pretty easy, and when I occasionally slipped on a rock, the kayak steadied me.  The wind-against-current made the kayak seem light as air!

Can you tell that I'm HAPPY???

We intermittently paddled, and portaged the kayak all the way up the river past the causeway bridge that stretches across the river plain.

As soon as the water became deep enough again, we hopped aboard and paddled efficiently along with the wind at our backs.  Bruce on the lookout and me providing propulsion.  When the water shallowed again, we jumped off at the first complaint from our rudder and happily plodded along in the rocky river bed.  We had come well prepared with our camelback packs full of water, and our water hiking shoes!

Approaching the causeway bridge...
We continued on past the causeway bridge and found the river running more rapidly across the rocks. There was still enough depth along the western  bank for us to keep paddling. We came upon a very long cable running from the shore to some fallen trees in the middle of the river.  As we approached, we decided the best way to get past it was to duck beneath.  Bruce boldly grabbed the cable at about the same instant that I realized what it was...

It was a fallen power line!!!  And in looking around, we saw that there were SEVERAL of them running across the river bottom.  Overhead were the new lines installed after hurricane Maria.  The old lines were simply dropped and left where they fell!

More than a little bit disconcerted, but happy that Bruce didn't die from grabbing the cable, we ducked beneath and continued upstream until we reached a rapids that came from a slightly elevated area of land.  We could easily have portaged across the short distance and continued on into the river proper, but we decided to call it a day.

On the return, we made much better time.  Even though the wind was now in our faces, the unseen river current made a huge difference in helping us glide along.  Our worries about having to work much harder to get back to the river mouth were unfounded!  Also easing the way, was the fact that we now knew where the deeper water was, so we were able to keep kayaking over areas we had walked on our way in.

Suddenly we were back at the river mouth again!  Wow that seemed fast!  We strategized about the best way to cross the bank, and decided to just portage along the western shore.  We paddled right up to the beach and got out.  Picking up the kayak, we realized that we needed to drain it again.  Just the process of paddling brings a fair amount of water in, but draining it is quick and easy!  That done, we picked up and plodded along the water's edge... until I saw a brilliant blue something in the rocks.

It was a piece of blue sea glass!  A good omen for sure!  Although why we needed one at this point was lost on me.  We had already had a fabulous day and it looked like the waves across the sand bar were not much bigger than when  we came through earlier.

We paused in our homeward trek so that I could look for more treasures... meanwhile, Bruce scouted up ahead to see where would be the best point to reenter the water.  Walking along in the quiet of nature is just heavenly.  It seems to bring out all my joy, lifting my soul as it all bubbles to the surface.  THIS is why we came to Puerto Rico.  The fact that we can have these adventures without having to go far is what keeps us getting out of bed in the morning.  For sure this is the best alternative to continuing to cruise on a sailboat... which was no longer a viable option.  SO.  HAPPY!

Of course I had to play with the treasures I found on the shore!!

This was not staged!  I found this piece of glass wedged into the driftwood log!
Bruce returned with the news that he had found us the perfect, calm place to plop back into the Bay, so we picked up the kayak and hiked the short distance back across the bank at the river mouth.  He was right, it was an easy spot with only tiny waves and a nice sandy bottom for us to wade out to get a water start so as not to damage the fin.

Just like that, we were paddling away from our river adventure, with the light breeze helping us along, rising and falling on the gentle the swell.  I always get a kick out of going over the swells, kind of like a carnival ride.  Our new kayak did a wonderful job and we felt very steady and secure.

Just about perfect!  The squalls have all passed and it's smooth sailing paddling!
The trip back to our beach was so easy with the wind now behind us.  We always try to paddle upwind first, and it's convenient that it's the direction we wish to go anyway!  The sun was higher on the return trip and the water was clear and cool.  We are absolutely in paradise and are still marveling that this is our HOME!

We're also very happy with the little kayak we bought.  When Bruce found it and told me he wanted me to buy it, I had my doubts.  For the price - Less than $300 - I just couldn't believe that it wouldn't be some lightweight "toy".  But after using it for the maiden voyage, we are both so happy with the purchase, and see many happy excursions in our future!

As I said before, I'll now repeat.  THIS is why we came to Puerto Rico!

Today's route

Sunday, January 26, 2020


Each Beachwalk is unique...
We may walk this beach a thousand times...
But no two will be the same!

This morning I looked out of my bedroom window at the pink edges around the clouds as the sun came up, and it energized me.  Bruce was easy to convince that a beach walk was the way to jump-start our day!

After some weeks of high winds, we've finally got some calm days, and our bay is laying down nicely.  Walking along in the cool morning air, barely a breath of breeze whispers from the palm forrest, bearing delicious flower scents.  My bare feet on the sand register the cool of night, then the contrasting warmth as I approach the water.  It's an amazing time to be out here!

Today's photo subject!

As we walked along, we searched the rock piles for sea glass.  Some days are good, others not so much.  When we started, it seemed like we wouldn't find much.

I can't say that I got much exercise, but just getting out of bed and walking around must count for something.  Add to that, bending and reaching for bits of glass... Can't complain.  But the best part is what it does for my mind.  I wish there was scratch-n-sniff technology for the blog, because the honey scented flowers hidden somewhere behind the stand of palm trees is simply heavenly.  I can feel it washing through my head, brushing away any worries or cares.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Island Staycation ~ Culebra, PR Part 2

Waking up to coffee on the patio overlooking the Freakin' Caribbean was just as awesome as we expected.  It's been a long time since we've seen a sunrise over the water, and it felt really good to just sit and watch the changing skies.  Gradually the lights of town were replaced by the creeping sun.  Sleepy sailboats across the channel met the morning with us... the first Puerto Ricans to see the sun from our far eastern position.

Lights of the town slowly blinked off as the sun came up.

We have wonderful memories of being in the Dakiti anchorage across the channel.

Taking our leisure, we watched as the neighborhood came alive.  Like most Caribbean islands, Culebra has no shortage of fowl!  The roosters crowing, chickens clucking to peeping chicks, and the added bonus of guineas and even peacocks, punctuated our morning peace.

Guinea fowl picked at seeds below our balcony

Roster daddy watches his women and children, keeping them safe from marauding cats!

Peahens lounged below our balcony.

As lovely as it is to just sit on the porch and watch the world go by, we've got only one full day to enjoy our temporary home island!  We packed up our picnic and snorkel gear, and hit the roads! We have no real agenda, so every time we saw something interesting, we just pulled over to investigate.  First point of interest:  the Culebra Cemetery!

You can see into the cemetery as you come down the hill!

We would have gone in and walked around, but there were workmen getting started cutting the grass, so we went on our way. People always give us funny looks when we're visiting random cemeteries...  

I remember we used to visit this station by water!

We had to make a fuel stop before going very much further.  Typical Island style, they don't send you out with a full tank.  You just need to return it with as much or more than you found it...  I'm sure they make out like thieves this way because people will fill it up before returning it... But anyway, fueling up was fun too.  We used to come to this station in our dinghy as it is situated along a canal that leads into the harbour form outside. Coming into the fuel bay, there is a one way street.  Happily, there were no cars lined up in front of us!  Early birds get the fuel!  Next stop?  Let's find a beach to snorkel!!

Melones Beach

Melones Beach is one of the places we visited by boat.  We came here briefly in 2016 when we had friends chartering.  I definitely get a tugging feeling when I stand on the shore and look out at places we used to roam freely, without the limitations of living on the land...   
But this is fun too!!!  Wheeeee!!!

I walked the beach, picking up pieces of coral "bones" to make a wind chime for our condo.  The little broken pieces make a lovely tinkling sound when they hit one another.  I like to hang them from a pice of driftwood on my patio.  I moved from Melones beach over to Playa Sardinas, looking for shells and other treasures.  That's where we found the lovely swing!!  Enjoy the peace of that Moment of Zen!

Hey baby... wanna go for a ride?
Bruce backtracked to get the cart, and picked me up on the road.  Off we went to the next stop, Playa Tamarindo!

Laguna del Flamenco

Check another Bandera de Hector off my list!!

Perfect spot to spread a picnic blanket...
I can't really even remember when was the last time we snorkeled... Playa Tamarindo is a great place to reset that clock!  Bruce went out for a look while I set up our picnic lunch in the shade. When he returned, it was my turn to go out and look around.  I can't say that it was the best place we've snorkeled, but it was still pretty cool seeing the fish in their natural habitat.  I always love seeing the Flamingo Tongue snail on the purple sea fans... as destructive as they are. And I saw some sort of sea slugs or worms of some kind just hanging around on another soft coral. 

The amazing Flamingo Tongue Snail!

The ever popular Sargent Majors

Hey lady... you gonna eat that cracker?
After that refreshing swim, I joined Bruce where he was lounging on the blanket, and handed out the lunch.  As tempting as it was, I did not share with the very bold rooster that came begging!  Not a behavior I wish to reward!
It's a little creepy, trying to enjoy my lunch with a rooster lurking behind...

Our condo from across the channel
After a lovely afternoon at the beach, we loaded up again and drove around the island in its entirety.  Reminded once again how small this island really is... we ran out of places to go (in the golf cart), and decided to return to our condo to check out that lovely swimming pool!  

We found the Peacocks!

We enjoyed a nice walk around the property, and after playing with the herd of snapping turtles in the pond, we joined another family in the pool.  We heard about the difficulties they were having in securing transportation back to the main island in time to make their flight out of Puerto Rico tomorrow morning.  They were taking the last ferry off of Culebra today, and just heading straight to the airport to wait for their flight out tomorrow morning.  They had several kids, so the intra-island flights were too pricey. I don't imagine that it is going to be easy for them.  Too bad getting to and from this beautiful island is so difficult for tourists!  And then the rain began to fall...

Back to our cozy condo for the evening!

Happy that we had the opportunity to enjoy the island and beaches before the rain came, we retreated to our comfortable patio.  We showered, and then made some frozen pizza on the stove top (look it up), which set off the smoke alarm, and a frenzy of airing out the condo... but then we settled again and enjoyed our evening in peace.  

The next morning, we were happy to say that there seemed to be no lingering smoke smell... and life on the island was back to normal.  The chickens scratched, and the sun came up in pastel splendor.  

We cleaned up our condo and went to the drop the keys into the box in the clubhouse.  Hens were still roosting there when we left!

We still had some time to kill before turning in our golf cart and proceeding to the ferry landing.  The skies were threatening, but if we could just squeeze in a little more touristing, this would be a staycation well spent.  

We stopped to take more flower pictures.  I love the variety of small flowers we have here.  You have to slow down and look closely to see them, but the reward is great!

There's a nice little viewing area

Imagine my delight and surprise, when we zoomed past the little Culebra Museum... Wait, what???  They're open???  Park this baby and lets go inside!  We have been past this place many times, but have never seen these doors open!  What a treat.  A very nice lady showed us around, and even settled us to see a very interesting video about the history of Culebra.  It has a lot of information about life before the US began bombing this area, and after.  Sometimes the US are just SCHMUCKS!  I hope that some day, all of this can be repaired.  That is all.

When we got ready to leave the museum, it began to rain.  Our luck just ran out!  We had to huddle behind the windshield but still managed to get soaked on our way to turn in the cart.  The driver took us to the ferry landing and we were still pretty early.  I managed to talk the workers there into letting us sit inside of the terminal because of Bruce's age.  I felt only a little bad about all of those people standing outside in the rain... while we enjoyed the chilly comfort of these chairs!  Sometimes having an old guy is a good thing!
Mad dash in the rain!

Lucky us!
As I mentioned before, we were both soaked to the skin.  When we boarded the ferry, we began to shiver immediately.  We held our backpacks against our chests the entire way home in an attempt to gain some insulation from the cold.  I swear the guys working on the ferry were completely aware of our plight and did nothing to help us.  Everyone on the ferry was shivering!  
Bye Hector the Protector!

Bye Culebra!  We will be back!

But even with that last little kick in the pants, we still had a wonderful and memorable time here in Culebra.  It was very different from our times here on our own boat, but I think we're going to be ok with that!  

All in all, our staycation went very smoothly.  We arrived home before dark, and we didn't lose anything!  And we didn't have to navigate!