Friday, August 31, 2018

NOW Friday, August 31

This is a NOW post but it is related to Hurricane Maria.

Over the last week we dove and snorkeled two sites that we haven't visited since Maria, Rompeolas and Steps Beach in Rincon.

Rompeolas is a site in Aguadilla, It is a shallow, easy-to-get-to dive with a nice reef at the south end and really interesting rocks and cracks to the north. Maria devastated the area, destroying an oceanside bar and damaging all of the houses along the beach. The beach itself, like so many, disappeared, stripped of nearly all the sand. The damage is clear even in this photo taken three months after the storm.

Because of the shoreline damage and given that Rompeolas is less than a mile from Natural and half-a-mile from Crashboat, I was really afraid of what we'd find underwater.

We've had a lot of rain in the last week, thanks to a lingering "tropical wave" so visibility wasn't the best. Still, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the reef survived.

There are more corals, both soft and hard, and more sponges surviving here than at Natural. I can't explain it. Just one of Mother Nature's quirks.

We also snorkeled at Steps Beach (the surfers call it Tres Palmas) in Rincon. This is kind of a bellweather area for us. One of the best remaining stands of elkhorn coral is at Steps. Once ubiquitous in the Caribbean and Central America, now up to 95% of the elkhorn coral in the world is dead. So this place is important.

As we first swam out, I was saddened by the amount of broken coral near shore. But as we swam into deeper water, the huge slabs of healthy coral colonies began to appear.

Further out the sloping reef also appeared in good shape. The hard and soft corals, anenomes, and sponges all seemed healthy and none the worse for having survived a hurricane. In some ways this isn't surprising. Rincon faces west. Steps Beach is south of the point of Rincon that juts out into the sea. (The point of Rincon is the point where the Atlantic Ocean becomes the Caribbean Sea.) The heaviest ocean forces from Maria were from the north and Steps was pretty protected from that. It is still a delicate area with endangered corals. It was good to see how well it survived.

And to make the day complete, Stephanie (our friend and the new owner of Ola Lola's) swam with a turtle for the first time.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Maria log day 50 November 11 Saturday

Saturday, November 11, day 50

Yep, we were busy! More than 130 people showed up today. Some were on the waiting list from before but a third of them were new registrations. The 80 bags of grain and the repackaged alfalfa went quickly.

Ric and Michelle - our husband and wife vet team - and Manuel, our farrier, were busy too.

Fifteen people brought 20 horses to be seen.

When we first came to the island, seeing horses in the backs of pickup trucks was pretty strange. Now it's just commonplace, a part of the culture, no big deal.

I did see something I've never seen before. One guy, after talking to Ric, rode his Paso Fino around the parking lot. This was obviously a show horse. After showing off for a few minutes, the guy rode the horse into the back of his pickup truck. No ramp - the horse jumped into the truck bed. (Damn - I missed the video of that one!) Before the afternoon was over I watched two more horses - this time without riders - jump in to pickup trucks.

When we closed up for the day, Elaine, Ric, Michelle and I went to Ocean Front for a late lunch. Ocean Front's ocean-side deck was badly damaged by the storm surge from Hurricane Irma. Maria finished it off, They made a make-shift bar and seating in half of the parking lot. The rest of the parking lot was full of heavy equipment dumping huge rocks to make a seawall.

It was great having some time to catch up with good friends. Oh - happy Veterans' Day.

Maria log day 49, November 10, Friday

Friday, November 10, day 49

Our work to help other horse owners continues. So many people need help, so many horses!

On Thursday our friend Michelle brought 40 bags of alfalfa cubes from the racetrack on the other side of the island. The first thing was to transfer them from Michelle's trailer to the Ola Lola deck.

Our other Michelle friend, Michelle from Tropical Trailrides, gave us eight 50-pound bags of alfalfa pellets.

This morning I loaded half the alfalfa in our truck to take to the Picadero. Volunteers repacked the cubes and pellets into small two-pound packages to give out.

Most of the horses here have never had anything as rich as this alfalfa. And now, post-Maria, their nutrition levels are way down. If owners were to feed large amounts of the alfalfa cubes, there is a great danger of the horses colicing, a digestive disorder which in severe cases can be fatal.

We were expecting more grain to come from the racetrack today. And it did - sort of.

Two Isabela police officers volunteered to drive to Canovanas on the other side of San Juan to pick up the grain. Because the Municipio de Isabela is a sponsor of the program, they could use the municipio's roll-off truck.

It started getting late and they weren't back yet and we started to worry. We got a message that the truck and the grain were in Isabela but they couldn't get it to us at the Picadero. On the way back from San Juan, they were involved in a minor accident. Eight bags of grain wound up on the highway. The policemen stopped in the middle of the Autopista (expressway) and recovered all but two bags of grain!

Somewhere after the accident the clutch cable on the truck broke. They drove more than halfway home in first gear. Okay, people - that's above and beyond!

One of volunteers, our good friend Ivan, and I took my truck to the police station to transfer the grain. It took us three heavily over-loaded trips to get all the grain to the Picadero. We finished unloading too late for the Friday group. But we're ready for Saturday! We expect Saturday to be busy. we have grain and we have a vet and a farrier coming to do clinics.

It's Friday so it's pizza night at Carole and Rolf's. St. Jeremy - who has done so much of all of us - is leaving tomorrow to go back to Michigan to be with his wife, daughter and new baby girl for a week. So tonight is "special" pizza night - gourmet pizza from Junior's Pizza rather than the "usual" food truck pizza.

Any excuse for a celebration! Jeremy is going to be with his family. Yay! Celebrate! Next week when Jeremy comes back - He's back! Yay! Celebrate!

Re: a question

Thank you to everyone who responded to my question about continuing to write about Hurricane Maria. The response, both in comments here and via email, is that you still want to hear about Maria.

I'm grateful for that, and grateful for the responses. The next post will be a Maria post.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A question

It's now been almost a year since Hurricane Maria. Is anybody out there still interested in the Maria stories?

Let me know - either way - either by commenting to this post or via email at

I would love to write more about the Maria experience, but I feel like it's old news and nobody is interested. Thanks for your voice, for your opinion.

NOW August 11 Scuba Diving

It was like something from a si-fi disaster movie. You know, one of those where the heroes are standing, watching storm roll in, unstoppable, probably devastating.

Four of us were diving at Natural, swimming along at about 35 feet. The sun was shining, it was beautiful. Up ahead, right where we were going. the water turned dark, ominous, almost black. The sunshine we were swimming in was completely swallowed up.

We reached the edge of the darkness and looked up. The sun was totally eclipsed by a huge floating raft of sargassum.

It was a strange, slightly unnerving experience, but one of the coolest things I ever seen underwater.

After a bad two year stint for diving, bubbles are starting to look up. I've found some new people to dive with so I'm not as dependent on just a few. I'm also gaining confidence leading dives. So far everybody I've taken out has come back. We've mostly done Natural and Crashboat but we plan to expand to other sites soon.

This is one of two albums of scuba photos I posted recently on Flickr:
Have a gander at the photos. And enjoy!