Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A few more of the manatee

No, they're not back. We've been out to Blue Hole a couple of times looking for them but the manatee seem to have left us for now.

This is me, beating it to the surface ("slow, controlled ascent?" Nah!) to swim with Mama Manatee.

This is one of the shots by good friend and dive instructor, Darryl Stansbury. Darryl has graciously allowed us to post a few of his shots on Flickr. Thanks, Darryl! Some great stuff. And what a blast! These are all from the dive on Sunday.

And to Tanja and Maike, I'm sorry I didn't get the correct spelling of your names before we went diving. Thanks for your comment. See ya at Lola's this weekend.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Swimming with manatee

Stories abound around here about manatees in and around the reef near Blue Hole. Manatee sightings show up on maps and in most of the tourist information about this corner of the island. Still, many people who have lived here for 20 years or more have never seen a manatee. Some even think it's kind of a hoax, a public relations gimmick based on a single sighting years ago.

Well let me tell ya - manatees really do stop here once in a while. I know. I saw and swam with a mother and her calf yesterday in Blue Hole. They are huge, amazing, curious and gentle creatures.

We saw them during one of my SCUBA certification training dives. It was also a "discover SCUBA" dive for two women from Germany, vacationing here at Shacks. Not only had they never been SCUBA diving before, they've never even snorkeled! Their very first dive and they get to swim with two manatee. As our dive master said, he's made close to 300 dives on this reef and he had never seen a manatee before Saturday.

Elaine and our friend Marisol and I went out snorkeling this morning looking for them, but they were gone, moved on (literally) to greener pastures. Ah well. Even without the manatee it was a beautiful swim on the outside of the reef.

The mother, in the picture swimming above me, has a number of remoras, fish that attach themselves to other creatures. In the other picture, the calf is “walking” across the bottom on his flippers. There are more pictures of the manatee on our Flickr site. Check 'em out.

Gotta see a guy about a horse

Meet Chocolate - Elaine's new ride. She wanted a horse ever since she sold her last one back in college. Thanks to our dear dear friend Tito, she now has one, a newly gelded, six-year-old former stallion. Tito had him for a month or so but never named him. Somewhere along the line, Tito named him Chocolate (choc-o-la-tay en espanol). Any tiny reservations I had about getting a horse vanished when I found out his name. Elaine - the very definition of choco-holic - got great deal on a horse named...Chocolate. I don't have to be hit over the head! This was meant to be her horse. And he really is a beautiful animal.

For now, he's staying at Tito's with Tito's other horses, Flicka and Cowboy. Chocolate will move over here permanently in July or the first part of August when Elane gets back after our daughter has her baby. Bienvendos, Chocolate! Welcome to the Lola family. BTW, there are more pictures of Chocolate and Elaine on Flickr.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's my's Father's Day

Actually, yesterday was my birthday - and what a party Elaine threw for me at Lola's last night. Wow! A lot of our island friends came to help celebrate. And of course Sara is here as a birthday/Father's Day surprise. Thanks to Sara for all her help and to Pat, Charlie, Marisol and Suzann - and to everybody who came to party!

Elaine noted my birthday is always an event. For many years I was the official photographer for an air show that always happened the week of my birthday. Then, Elaine and I ran a kite festival that was on my birthday weekend. Now, it's a party at Lola's!

My other big surprise was a gift certificate to get certified to go SCUBA diving. THANK YOU, Elaine!!! I love snorkeling, especially with Elaine, but I really want dive too. Elaine doesn't so much. So, I go diving, she goes horse-back riding with our friend Tito. That plays.

I got the underwater housing for my camera back and I've taken some new pictures snorkeling. I'll post those on Flickr in the next few days. They need some work though. There is a bad row of pixels in the camera's sensor so I have edit/crop/otherwise fix each photo. That take some time and we're having way too much fun showing Sara around.

This is Sara's fourth day on the island and she's already been snorkeling in at least two places most tourists don't see - the outside reef at Shacks and Natura. Today we took her up on the karst rock top see the blow hole at Jobos.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sara's second day

She's having such a hard time adjusting to life here on the island.

That's her going over the wall into Blue Hole. Her second time snorkeling and she's a pro! We went out to the outside of the reef this morning. Her second time out! Elaine and I didn't get to the outside until last week!

And after snorkeling, she discovered the joys of a hammock. Welcome to the island, Sara.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

An early birthday present

My birthday is still two days away but I got my BIG birthday present early this morning: the 3:30 Jet Blue flight into Aguadilla (which didn't actually get here 'til almost 5:00) brought our daughter Sara to visit. She and Elaine have been plotting and planning this for a long time - complete with "well, I thought I was coming early this summer but now I can't" and "yeah I'd love to come, but later" messages. Yeah right.

It was a HUGE surprise. For weeks I've been thinking we were going to pick up one of Elaine's former students and her husband for a brief stay on this side of the island before they went to San Juan for a cruise. Oh - the set up for this has been elaborate to say the least! There were even e-mails from the student with itineraries and answers to questions about luggage and on and on and on. And I bought it all, hook, line and sinker. Apparently I was one of about five people on this side of the island who didn't know Sara was coming.

So Elaine and I are at the airport at 3:30, looking for a person I've never met but Elaine has described several times.

And then I see our daughter come through the gate! OMG!

Surprised? You bet.

Pleased? Happy? You can't even imagine! This is going to be a GREAT week! It's already a GREAT birthday/Father's Day!

Thanks, you two. I love you both.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Wow, have we been busy. Seems like I had more time to write before. Now I'm way behind.

Some of you have already seen the new snorkeling pictures on Flickr. Thanks for looking and sharing your comments.

A couple of times lately we've ventured off the "friendly confines" of "our"reef off Shacks Beach down to Playa Crashboat, about 15 minutes down the coast from here.

It's a whole different world! First, Crashboat has a sandy bottom for a long way out into the ocean. Except for the coral and the life it supports on the pier and the off-shore platforms (more about that in a moment), there's a lot of open, relatively uninteresting sand.

But just a couple minutes swim north of the beach, the sandy bottom gives way to a amazingly fascinating reef, an are called Natura or Natural. It's not at all like "our" reef here; there are none of the caves and deep holes. Instead it's a much flatter, shallower reef, but with new fascinations.

We saw more sergeant major fish than we've ever seen before - hundreds of them! And little baby ones! The babies look just like adult sergeant majors but they are tiny, less than an inch long. And blue parrotfish. And bright red cardinalfish and reef squirrelfish. And a huge porcupinefish hiding in a hole in the reef.

We saw several pairs of Puerto Rican (aka banded) butterflyfish. And a little tiny baby angelfish, its black body and yellow stripes brilliant against the coral.

On Wednesday we went back to Crashboat but this time we snorkeled out by the pier and the fueling platforms. That was yet another new world. The water is so blue and clear you can see all the way to the sandy bottom, 40 or 50 feet down at the platforms.

We were in swarms (that's really the only way to describe it) of sergeant majors (check out the picture above and others on Flickr). But that doesn't do it justice. They were everywhere! And just below the surface were schools of mackerel scad - those little silver guys catching the sun. We saw a trumpetfish, hanging head down next to a coral-covered piling. There is a lot more to write about but it's been a long time since we posted so I'm gonna end this one now and put it up.

Hope you enjoy the pics.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Cutting the grass

Dang it! I cut down the "fireworks" flower. (I don't know what it's really called but it looks like a burst of red-orange fireworks.)

I didn't mean to, of course. I slipped with the "mower."

The choice weapons of mass vegetation destruction (or at least control) are the machete and my personal favorite, the weed-whacker.

When I first saw a weed-whacker used to "mow" a fairly large open area of grass, I was puzzled. When I found out Katie only had a weed-whacker to "mow" the Lola yard, I said to myself, "hmmm."

Turns out, at least here at Lola's, a weed-whacker is a remarkably effective tool. There are only a couple of small open areas. The rest is in fact trimming around ponds and plants.

But sometimes I slip and cut down something I didn't mean to cut down, like the fireworks flower. My biggest problem with it is keeping the week-whacker level so the grass gets cut at the same height. I am getting better though. Today's job looks less like a bad hair cut than previous attempts.

It has been suggested that if I cut the grass more often, I'd get more practice.

Hmmm. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Catching up

Hi, blog-fans -

Sorry we've been away so long. It's been a really busy week here on Lola's corner.

Wednesday was the flood of course. Water reached places we've been told it's never been before. There was a lot of clean up after that.

We had a lot more rain on Thursday. We didn't have flood Thursday but there was still a lot of water standing everywhere. The ground was so saturated water just had nowhere to go. We had to get a pump to get the standing water out of the garden.

Of course three feet of water in the bar meant a lot more work to get ready for the weekend. Fortunately we didn't lose anything.There was just a LOT of washing - walls, glassware, the floor, the deck (five times so far). But we did it and opened right on time Friday.

And that was on top of unpacking the stuff we brought back in suitcases. And finishing unpacking and putting away the stuff that was shipped and came Thursday before I left for Milwaukee on Friday. It's a really good thing we decided to downsize and simplify!

It hasn't all been work, though. The main goal of the next month is recovery and vacation for Elaine. She worked SO-O-O-O hard to get EVERYTHING done before she moved here. She really did a lot more than she should have so soon after her surgery. So my promise to her (and to a whole lot of friends) was that this month would be one of total rest for her. So far the first week hasn't been as total rest as I would have liked and I planned but we're finally setting into a calmer routine.

We've been going snorkeling pretty much every day, sometimes more than once. Elaine finally got to swim in New Hole (more about New Hole soon). The ocean is beginning to have its "spa effect" on Elaine. I can see her relaxing day by day, poco a poco. Which is exactly the idea.

And today she went horseback riding with our friend Tito. She just got home with an amazing happy grin on her face.

The dogs are happy the "pack" is back together again, especially Jazz. He was okay before but a little insecure. Sometimes his tail was tucked and he'd be a real cling-on. Now his tail is up and wagging all the time. You can see how much happier he is that we're all together again.

Me too!