Monday, October 31, 2016
Happy Halloween, everybody! No costumes or parties this year, just finishing touches on the place as it goes on the market.
Today is our good friend David's birthday. Sadly, David is no longer with us but his spirit lives on and on nights like this - rainy and stormy - breaks through. The photo is of David's favorite glass at Ola Lola's and his favorite drink.
David loved having his birthday on Halloween. He was so honored and humbled that people all over the world were having birthday parties for him. Plus, he always had a party for himself.
David was a golf course designer. He designed Royal Isabela here in Isabela. And he created the concept drawings for Ola Lola's.
One Halloween/birthday he was nearing completion of a golf course project. He threw a party for the construction crew and the course staff and their families. They cleared out the cart house for the party. The only rule was you had to come in costume. Well into the evening, the course owner and his wife came to the party, both dressed in regular street clothes. David met them at the door and said, "You know the rule: everyone must be in costume."
"I'm dressed as guy who signs your paychecks," the owner said.
"Great costume!" was David's reply.
Here's hoping your Halloween is spooky and fun. This Medalla is for you, David. Happy Halloween and happy birthday!
Sunday, October 30, 2016
October has been a terrible month for diving. In fact I haven't been in the water in a month! The last time I went diving a group of us went to the south of the island to dive The Wall off Guanica.
There are several dive operators who go out to the wall but our favorite is Island Scuba in Guanica. The Wall is about two-and-a-half miles off-shore. For 28 miles it wraps around the southwest corner of the island. Last time I checked there were 16 marked dive sites on The Wall. The top of the wall is at about 65 feet. From there it plunges to between 160' to over 200' depending on where you are on The Wall. For a number of reasons our "floor" was at 100 feet.
One of the great things about the site we dove is there are frequently sharks along The Wall. Two Caribbean reef sharks hung out with us along The Wall. Two more joined us at the top before we headed back to the boat. (See the video above.)
Scared? No! Fascinated? Absolutely! Caribbean reef sharks are not aggressive. They were mildly curious about us but that's it. And what amazing beautiful creatures! I will dive with them any day.
Other than that there hasn't been much diving. I used the phrase "diving drought" but the lack of diving has been in large part because it has been a rainy summer and fall, especially up in the mountains. All the rain - and the silt it washes into the ocean - plays havoc with visibility. ]
And then in early/mid-October, hurricanes Matthew and Nicole started bringing waves. Much of the time storms don't interfere too much with diving but both of the storms drove waves from the northwest. Swells with a "lot of west in them" screw up diving everywhere.
But they did bring surf - and that's a story for another day.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
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Monday, October 17, 2016
Nine years ago on the night of the October full moon, Elaine rode Chocolate on the beach. She want me to ride, to feel the magic. It was windy, occasionally spitting rain but the moonlight and the ocean truly were magical.
We - Chocolate and I - turned to look back and to wait for Elaine to catch up with us. We'll never know what spooked him - a flash of moonlight on a wind-tossed wave, the "strange" shape of Elaine jogging toward us, whatever - but something did. He spun and bucked. I was a very green rider and wound up on my back in the sand. Chocolate took off running the other direction.
It was one of the longest nights of my life. We searched and searched up and down the beach for him. Our friend Tito (who gave Elaine Chocolate in the first place) came out to search on his horse. Sometime after midnight we agreed to give it up for the night but to meet again at first light to look. Of course Elaine couldn't and was out again by 2:00 am. By first light. all of us - Elaine, Tito on horseback and me - were already out.
Sometime after sunrise, Tito found Chocolate tied up in a yard across the main road and nearly a mile away. We couldn't figure out why he didn't come home or go to Tito's (where he lived for a while). Most horses know the way back to their barn. We figure in his fear he got confused and ran up the wrong road from the beach.
Word finally got to us on the beach that Tito had Chocolate and was headed home with him. Elaine ran home. I turned and started home on the beach. Like something out of a movie, as I walked on the beach there was a full double rainbow in the sky ahead of me.
Last night, the night of the October full moon, we decided to go for a sunset/moonrise ride. It was truly magical!
Chocolate and I are a very different team now. I've been riding him bareback a lot lately so I decided to forgo the saddle and ride with just a bareback pad. We were comfortable together, riding and even trotting easily. As the light fell into dusk, there was no anxiety from either of us.
It helped that it was a different night. No wind whipping up the waves, no funny lights reflecting off strange surfaces.
It was a beautiful, easy, comfortable, magical ride. I love it.
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Ah, Hurricane Season! Hurricane Matthew, the fifth hurricane of the season, was briefly a Cat 5 early this morning. Since then, Matthew has slipped back to a Cat 4 and may weaken even further before it hits Jamaica.
When then-Tropical Storm Matthew went by well south of us, it brought us winds up to about 35 mph, rain and one of the most beautifully intense thunderstorms I've ever seen. If the storm hadn't frightened the dogs so much, I would have loved it.
Even as we send positive energy into the universe for people in Jamaica, eastern Cuba and Haiti, we are also grateful for what Matthew was - small - and was not - big and dangerous - when it went by us.
We are actually very fortunate here in Puerto Rico and especially here on the west coast when it comes to hurricanes. Most of the time the storms that form off the Horn of Africa are either tropical depressions (winds less than 39 mph) or tropical storms (winds 39-73 mph). Puerto Rico is usually the wedge that divides storms going north along the east coast of the US or south into the warmer waters of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
One reason these storms don't usually develop in to hurricanes until after they pass us is slightly cooler ocean temperatures between Africa and Puerto Rico. For one thing, the Atlantic is deeper and colder that the Caribbean. But there is another factor as well: Sahara dust.
Dust from the Sahara Desert streams across the Atlantic in the upper atmosphere. At times this dust cloud is heavy enough it can be seen from space. (A friend of ours used to work at the observatory in Arecibo. Part of his job was to monitor the Sahara dust.) This dust cloud actually shades the waters of the Atlantic just north of the equator. This shade keeps the water several degrees cooler than it would be without the cloud. This in turn means the tropical storms crossing the Atlantic have less warm moist air, which they depend on for development, to feed on until they hit the Caribbean. Thus, they frequently remain tropical storms, not hurricanes, when they hit Puerto Rico. (Another aside about the Sahara dust: this stream carries nutrients from the Sahara that help feed the Amazon forest. We are connected in ways we can can't even imagine!)
On those rare occasions the tropical storms do become hurricanes before they hit Puerto Rico, they are usually small and not well developed. Because they travel from east to west. they expend a lot of their energy - and rain - crossing the island. That means the eastern third of the island gets hit much harder than we in west do. A few years ago when Hurricane Irene passed over, the east side of the island had 60 mph winds and nearly 13 inches of rain. By the time Irene got to us there was no rain and 40 mph winds. That's what I meant by being fortunate here in the west.
And one more digression if I may: we had 40 mph, even 60 mph winds, when we lived in Michigan., usually when it was somewhere between 0 and 10 degrees. Here we 40-50 mph winds - and it's still 80! It's much easier to tie stuff down when you're not wearing thick gloves or your fingers aren't numb or sticking to whatever it is you are trying to tie down.
Here's hoping everyone in the path of Matthew hunkers down and is safe.