Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another yola on the beach

We woke up Sunday morning to the racket of a helicopter hovering just outside our window. Actually it was over the field next to us but it sounded like it was right outside our window. Obviously a police helicopter, it hovered and circled the field and flew up and down the beach for more than an hour searching for something. Or someone.

A yola (a small boat) had landed on our beach during the night and the police and Border Patrol were looking for Dominican refugees. By the time I walked down to the beach any refugees were long gone. Only a few Border Patrol agents and the helicopter remained.

The boat apparently came ashore at high tide because there it sat, high and dry on the rocks. Unlike many of these boats, this one was in good shape. No holes in the hull meant it came over rather than through the reef.

This was a pretty small boat compared to some of the others we've seen. We haven't heard any numbers of people that might have been on board but it couldn't have been too many. Judging by the amount of gasoline left in plastic cans on the boat it must have been a pretty fast crossing.

There also wasn't the usual debris - clothes, water containers, toothbrushes, shoes, children's toys, backpacks - we saw when other boats landed. That said, a friend who owns property by the cliff said he found clothes left behind as the boat people ran up the hill away from the beach.

Monday evening the tide came in and lifted to boat free of the rocks. At Ola Lola's we heard the boat was drifting west with the wind and current past VillaTropical. We don't know if a fisherman managed to snag it and haul it away or if it drifted out to sea past Villa Montaña. Whatever happened to it, by Monday morning it was gone.

No yola to burn on the beach. No yola left to break up on the beach and rocks and reef. No pieces of fiberglass stuck in the reef. The yola and all the people it vanished.

It was like yola had never been there at all.

Friday, June 24, 2011

San Juan Roadtrip

We recently had to go to San Juan to take some paperwork so Elaine can get her Speech-Language Pathologist's license her in PR. She has two college degrees and has taught at the university level. She received her Masters degree with honors. She has (and has given the licensing people) copies of her high school, undergrad, and graduate transcripts.

The junta, the group that oversees licensing, denied her application for a provisional license (until she takes the test in October) because she did not show and provide a copy of her high school diploma! Are you kidding me?!?!?! Apparently they weren't. So Elaine's sister dug her hs diploma out of a box in her basement in Cleveland and sent it to us. All is well now - we think. The junta meets on the 30th and we should know the first week of July.

Her high school diploma? Are you kidding me?

There was some fun in the trip though.

Taking a tip from the Japanese, where horizontal space is at a premium, this carfair along Carr. 18 in San Juan went vertical to display cars.

On the way home we saw not one but two Ford F150 pickups with three horses in back. I hate to say "only in Puerto Rico" but I've never seen horses transported in the beds of pickups. I have heard it's not all that uncommon in West Texas. People, especially those from the States, kinda freak out about horses in pickup trucks but for the most part, the horses seem okay with it. And We're fine with it. As long as the horses aren't driving.

Noche de San Juan

One of the biggest party nights of the year is the unofficial holiday Noche de San Juan (Night of St. John). Originally the holiday was to celebrate St. John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. The tradition is that if you go to the ocean and throw yourself backwards into the water three times, you will have good luck in the coming year.

We celebrated early. Elaine took a sunset ride on Chocolate and then we had dinner with friends on the deck at Villa Tropical.

We headed home early because in the current reality this is a night for camping (illegally) and all-night partying on the beaches. Beaches such as Jobos are as busy overnight as they are during the day. That's all well and good. The sad part is most of these beaches have few or no sanitary facilities and too many people simply disrespect the beauty of la isla.

And the next morning...

We just hate to see our beautiful beaches like this so we tend to avoid these big summer party weekends and celebrate quietly our own way.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Scuba diving at Shacks

Shacks Beach - the beach right in front of Villa Tropical and just down from us - is one of the best dive sites on this side of the island. It's a shore dive which means we just walk in to the ocean, swim out a little way across Blue Hole, and then drop into a beautiful reef.

The "outside reef" - outside Blue Hole - is a "finger-and-groove" reef. The reef forms canyons that we swim through. It reminds me of films of fly-bys through canyons in the American Southwest: swimming along 30'-40' underwater with these walls of coral soaring above us.

The entire reef is like Swiss cheese, riddled with holes and ledges, some you can swim through, some you can swim under. There are three tunnels through the outer reef that we use to back into Blue Hole. In fact there are tours of the tunnels and swim-throughs in and around Blue Hole.

A KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) shot of the reef at Shacks Beach. Blue Hole is at the top left. The inner shallow reef takes up most of the photo. The deeper outer reef is to the right.

Lately, Darryl has been taking a new route out of Blue Hole back to the inner reef. The "old" route was more direct but came through a kinda tight space. The new route, part of which is pictured above, is up and over and through several different passages before coming out on top of the inner reef.

I love diving out there. We wait all winter for the calmer flatter waters of summer so we can dive Shacks. During the winter - surf season - Shacks is usually to rough to dive. That's when we dive "around the corner" on the west side at Natural and Crashboat.

But now it's summer and time to dive Shacks!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's my birthday - it's my birthday

Well, it was my birthday Thursday. What a great day! I've had some wonderful birthday celebrations over the years, but this absolutely one of the best whole birthday days I've ever had.

We - Elaine, Darryl and I - started the day with a beautiful, relaxed dive at Shacks - flat seas, no surge, very little current. One odd thing on this dive: what current there was was running "backwards," from west to east, instead of the usual east to west. Not a big deal for us diving but noteworthy for its strangeness.

Elaine and I had brunch at a new little place up on Carr. 110 call "My Sweet Place." They specialize in waffles, pancakes and cakes, but they don't open until 11:00 am. That struck us as a little odd but it was perfect timing for us. And I have to say, they served the best cup of coffee I've had in Puerto Rico. The beans are from a small coffee plantation called Hacienda San Pedro. We bought a can of beans to try at home.

At sunset we went down the road to the Eclipse restaurant at Villa Montaña for an oceanside dinner at the invitation of the owner. They set up a table for us right on the beach. We've always said that Eclipse had the best setting and ambiance of any restaurant around. And our dinner - tuna tar-tar and tempura shrimp for starters, then grilled kangaroo medium rare and fresh bass, topped off with key lime pie and chocolate mousse for desert - was unbelievable. We'd never tasted kangaroo before. It's a mild red meat, similar to but markedly different from beef. The service, which at times over the years has been suspect at Eclipse, we're very please to say was excellent. Thank you, Alain, Yosset, Maria, Giovanni, and of course Chef Jeremy for a wonderful wonderful birthday dinner.
I got to talk to, or at least had birthday messages from all of the kids at sometime during the day. Just as we sat down to dinner Amy and Miguel and Kennedy (who are visiting family on the mainland) called and sang "Happy Birthday." Then Kennedy got on by herself and sang the Spanish version of "happy birthday." I cannot begin to tell you how touching that was.

For the record, I am not 29 or 25 or celebrating "the 35th anniversary of my 25th birthday." I just turned 60 and I'm damned proud of it! There are those (me included sometimes) that never thought I'd still be here. But I am and I'm glad and I'm lovin' my life!

Thanks to everyone for all the amazing birthday wishes! It was a great start to my 61st year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Squid sex

The reef squid are always among our favorite sea creatures. Their constantly changing iridescent colors, their graceful dance-like movements in the water, their curiosity and their beauty are endlessly fascinating.

On Saturday we got to watch part of their mating display while snorkeling at Shacks Beach. First, two males separated themselves from the shoal (pod) and fought each other in a spiral display of dominance. The the victorious male went to court a female (the photo above). She was having none of it, indicated by her white translucent color. The whole encounter was amazing!

You can see more of the squids' mating behavior in this video:


By the way, after the first video finishes, just wait and let the series continue to play. It's a fascinating series about squid and octopuses.

Huge thanks to our good friend Tracy Abney for turning us on to this series of videos.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Comings and goings, to-ings and fro-ings

Sunday night we said adios to another great friend, Colin Dow. Colin has been here for three months (can it really be that long already?). He came from Montana(!) to work at Villa Montaña. Talk about a change! A former NFL player, Colin fully embraced the island life while he was here. Among other things he became a certified SCUBA diver. Not quite sure where he's going to dive in Montana. Guess he'll just have to come back and dive with us.

Colin, thank you! It has been a too-short pleasure. Come back soon 'cause we're gonna miss ya.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Happy birthday, Rosa! (redux)

Last night we had a surprise extra birthday celebration for a friend and co-worker, Rosa. The celebration last week at OneTenThai was great but something was missing - one of Elane's special birthday songs!!!

Last night Rosa got the full Ola Lola's birthday treatment, complete with an Elaine song - in Spanish! Too much fun!

Happy birthday another time, Rosa!

Mucha lluvia! (lots of rain!)

So far, it has rained every day in June. It rained just about every day in May. It's pretty common have a nice morning and then have a cloudy afternoon, sometimes with rain, sometimes without. But this! It seems like the sun hasn't been out for more than a few minutes for weeks! This is a really really strange weather pattern.

We tried to have a Thursday adventure. We started out for Rincon with our friends Pat and Bill. The plan was to check out some art shops and studios in Rincon and then drive down to Boqueron for the evening, watch the sunset, drink some beer, and check out someplace different.

It started raining just as we drove into Rincon. Okay. Don't really want to walk around in the rain looking for art studios. So we headed out of Rincon for the highway south toward Mayaguez and Boqueron beyond. By the time we got to the highway, PR 2, it was raining so hard we could hardly see. Mission abandoned, our new adventure was just to get back to Isabela safely. It rained all the way home. Elaine and I both kept thinking "Oh, what a mess it's going to be when we get back!"

Fortunately, as frequently happens, it rained harder south of us (Aguadilla, Aguada, Rincon, Mayaquez) than it did here. Not that we didn't get a lot of rain. We did. But we didn't flood - except for the corral which as been wet for a month.

There has been no diving: the ocean is a mess from all the muddy water pouring down the rivers from the mountains. Elaine hasn't done much riding: the trails she usually rides, the ones that aren't totally flooded, are muddy and slippery and mosquito-infested.

This pattern is supposed to break by the middle of the week. As long as it's not replaced by a hurricane, I can't wait!