Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls

Among my neighbors, the critters; turtles, fish, birds – I haven’t seen any manatees in many months – my favorite is the Pelican. They are big and slow, except when flying, and I’ve never heard a sound from them, not a squeak not a squawk.

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The Brown Pelican is not one for wasted motion. When he is sitting on the boom of the old schooner nearby, you would think he was dead.  Then with a few flaps of his big wings he’s up in the air soaring over the water.  He spots a fish, tucks in his wings and turns into a diving missile.  He hits the water with splash that would wake an old man from his mid-day nap.  I would jump up thinking; ” My God! I’ve fallen over board!”

 There is also is a type of gull called the Laughing Gull – really. They are half the size of our NW gulls, with white bodies but black heads. They also are aggressive thieves, muggers; vile assailants of the peaceful and patient Pelicans. However, justice seems to have prevailed for I’ve not seen one actually steal a fish from the Pelicans. But, they harangue and harass them mercilessly.

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The patient peaceful Pelican doesn’t struggle, doesn’t fight. You would think they were best friends;

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But he just patiently holds his fish in his beak underwater away from the gull until he can maneuver it around and into his mouth without the gull grabbing it. Then he swallows his well-earned prize.

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I couldn’t get a good picture of this, but after he swallows his catch he wiggles his tail. Very cute.

Apparently the Pelican thinks I’m alright. At least enough to use my boat as a perch.

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Another Day

Monday,  March 9th 2015
I’m sitting on the fore deck.  It’s almost 6 pm.  The sun is low but still warm.   There’s a light breeze rippling the water.   I’m listening to soft music and watching pelicans fishing along the shore.  A beautiful evening.  One of many.

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The sky is a pale blue.   There are fewer of the fluffy cumulus clouds than usual.   I see some towering  nimbus on the horizon coming from the Virgin Islands to the east.  The wind will be picking up soon.

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What’s New

Not much. But, there was a very appealing little catamaran anchored ahead me in the bay. They were a family of 4, 2 young happy playful boys. The parents were very soft spoken and mild. Unlike most cruisers they, and their boat, seemed quite humble. They were a nice addition to the family of sailboats, while they stayed. The boat was a 30-35 ft catamaran with a tiny cabin between the 4 ft wide pontoons. It was very colorful –

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also unusual among cruisers here. Most of the colorful boats I’ve seen were from france. But, it was very well layed out and attractive;

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I wish I had been able to talk with them, but such boldness isn’t in my nature. They were only here 3 or 4 days and left this morning before dawn (6 am Friday the 20th of February 2015). They didn’t carry any flags, except the PR courtesy flag, but the boat’s name was Havkatt III. It seems to be either a Scandanavian or German/Albanian/Austrian….?

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Sailing again . . . a bit.

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Went sailing a bit – only a few miles out. The winds were too light to do more than shake out the sails, but the seas were low, so it was a nice day. It was good to get ‘out to sea’ again, if only for little while. I feel it’s about time for another sailing trip, maybe to St. Croix. It’s about 30 miles south by southeast. If that heavy black cloud doesn’t come settle in over my head again. We’ll see.

Yesterday I found out there was enough water at the end of the city dock for the boat and someone on a little sloop there has a water hose to a house on shore. I got permission from the owner of the house, as water is very expensive because it has to be piped over from the mail island (PR). So, I got all 300 gallons the tanks will hold – saving many trips in the dingy and the time it takes to pump water from the dingy up to the boat. It was a ‘good thing’.

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Tropical Storm Gonzalo headed this way – – –

It just reached designated TS status, but it looks mean…

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And, it’s got several hundred miles of water to pull energy from before it arrives.   However, there are warnings it could develop to a hurricane by the time it hits here.

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Not looking good, so I moved into the mangroves;

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And, later came John and Trudy from Oslo, Norway on their very fine Bavarian 47 ft sloop.

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Scrapes, scratches, aches and pains – hauling heavy mooring lines into the mangroves, dragging anchors and chain out into the narrow passages.  I’m probably aground, but the tide is not at the high point so when I need to get off I can just wait for the next high tide.  The storm (possibly hurricane) is expected Monday night through Tuesday night.

Entry made from the mangroves – my wifi antenna pulled in the PR service – maybe I can make entry while storm  blows overhead….  That is I hope it blows ‘overhead’ and not into me.

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The first post was early afternoon yesterday (Sunday) after I came into the mangroves.  It is now 6 pm Monday.

Hurricane Gonzalos

The bad news is the storm has been upgraded to a category 1 hurricane.  The good news is it has tracked north away from us.  The projections are for medium winds 30-40 mph.  If that holds true – and storms in the late part of the hurricane season are known to be very fickled – it will not be difficult, wet and windy, but not dangerous.

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P.P.S. …

No worries… except for Bermudans . . .

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In just a few hours before it was to hit us with hurricane strength it veered north.  BVI and USVI got hit pretty bad and Bermuda is facing it with category 3 strength.

But, all is back to normal.  Some residual winds 10-20 knots forecasted, but nothing to be concerned about.

Now, I have to gather up all that gear…. ugh.   But, this was a good hurricane preparedness exercise.

Bahia de Almodovar

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Monday, Sept 30th (looked it up)

A good day in Bahia de Almodovar . . . mostly

The weather has been so mild I thought I’d try this somewhat exposed bay a few miles east around Culebra island. The water is clearer. Much better than my anchorage in – the bay doesn’t have a name anyone can find, but a collection of government buildings is called San Ildefonso, so that’s what I’ll call the bay, or cove. Can there be a bay inside a bay? The large bay, almost the size of the whole island, is called Ensenada Honda, which basically means large bay.

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There were several moorings available in this bay, Almodovar, so i didn’t have to use my anchor, which needs a good cleaning. That is a good thing.

Rick and Sue are here on there Morgan sloop ‘Orion’. And, another Morgan, belonging to Chris and Aleta – same age group… Chris is French, I believe. He speaks with an accent that isn’t Spanish… I’m so cosmopolitan… can’t even tell an accent. He also was a commercial diver, among other things. Quite an experienced sailor as well.

Didn’t do much Monday. Started diving on Tuesday; snorkel and hookah (compressor). During my dives occasionally I would feel pools of cool water – quite refreshing. I suppose because it is exposed to the Caribbean. Directly south, between Vieques Island (about 10 miles southwest) and St. Croix (about 40 miles southeast) there is nothing until South America (about 500 miles).

While I was diving here I saw a Ray fish, about 2 feet across, and several Jacks and a couple of Puffer fish, and conch shells but nothing else – some ugly Sea Slugs. The last couple days. I’ve seen manatees, a turtle and a small shark (about 3 foot) chasing a school of sardine (I guess).

I worked on cleaning the boat some. But, when the growth comes off I have to swim away or one type of sponge can sting when it gets on you. So, I started wearing my light Lycra full-body swim suit. Better, but still had to rinse off well. Also, after several dives and hours I still haven’t got it completely clean.

But, there were a couple little problems. Yes, here we go, again. I have an underwater camera (or had), the second one, that I hadn’t yet tried. So, I brought it on the dive. I had it attached to a little bracket and belt around my neck. As I was in the water trying to figure out how to operate it – on hindsight I might better have done that before I got in the water – the camera popped off the bracket. Not able to re-attache it after trying to take some pictures and a video I put in the pocket of my swim trunks. I know.

I realize now it would have been wise to swim up to the boat and at least put it in the dingy. But, as I swam I would keep checking it hadn’t dropped out. check. Yup. check. All well and good. So, after exhausting myself once again I put my gear in the dingy and climbed up the swim ladder then climbed into the dingy. I then checked my pocket – nope, no camera. Somehow I wasn’t all that surprised. I looked about on the chance it might have just fallen in the boat. Nope. Not here. Yup. Down there – somewhere.

On the chance that it floats I untied the dingy and began a circling search pattern from where I was swimming. I suppose that may have looked a bit odd to the others moored in this bay, but I’m getting rather accustomed to that. And, that’s probably good preparation for further such occurrences as I age.

No success, of course. Tomorrow I shall have to start a diving search. I do keep busy with these events.

After a restless night I woke at about 5 am. At 6:30 or so i took the kayak out past the reef – swells and wind waves were slight. Back at the boat trying to get out of the slippery kayak I tumbled in the water – but I had bathing suit and diving gear so I just stayed in – I don’t think anyone even noticed, but just in case I sort of acted like I had just intended to go ahead and take a dive, even convinced myself – and went searching for the camera. I actually felt some confidence I’d find it. The bottom is very plain – little vegetation and no rocks or other distractions. But, after over an hour – nothing. Lost. Again. Sigh.

Another diving search and dingy search came up empty – there’s more money thrown into the sea…

Second ‘problem’. Lesson: Do not put air compressor that gives you the air you breathe by the gas generator that supplies it with electricity. Why? Carbon monoxide poisoning, that’s why. duh. Sometimes it isn’t that I don’t know what I’m doing – I just don’t seem to be giving it much thought. Really need to work on that.

Tuesday evening Sue invited me to dinner with them and Chris/Aleta. It was very nice. She makes a wonderful potato salad. As good as mother used to make. Maybe better. We also had some good conversation.  PS.  I forgot to mention the Lion Fish Rick shot (spear) and cleaned…. carefully (their spines are very poisonous).  Sue cooked it perfectly.  It was excellent – like Red Snapper.

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Wednesday; Rick/Sue and Chris/Aleta left in the morning. No one in the bay but me. Also, I see no activity in any of the million dollar mansions along the hillsides. Just vacation homes I guess…. the 1% are doing well.

Sometime in the morning – about 9 or 10 – I noticed a conch ‘gatherer’ at the west edge of the bay. He is wading chest deep towing a plastic kayak with a 10 gallon bucket in it. His head is down in the water – he’s using a mask and a snorkel to breath. He will suddenly disappear then come up with one every few minutes. At several hundred yards I can’t make out what, but it appears orangish and about 4 to 6 inches across, so probably conch. I’ve seen them around the bottom. He worked all the way around the bay, about a half mile, then around a small island and down the channel entrance east of the bay. He worked at least 8 hours before I saw him paddling back toward Ensenada Honda.

Thursday; Today is when the manatees showed up. Quite near the boat. I was tempted to swim around them, but it looked like it was either a mother and calf or bull and cow. Either way they could get a bit testy. And, one is very big..

A second ‘conch gatherer’ showed up. This was the guy who heard about the other guy – the one with the initiative and equipment. So this one is older, gray scraggy beard and apparently wearing his street clothes. No snorkel, no bucket, no kayak. Just him walking around for hours putting Conks in a plastic bag. Still, he may have made enough for some wine to go with his conch fritters.

I plan to go back to Ildefonso tomorrow morning (Friday). Rick says this bay fills up with Puerto Rican power boaters on the weekends.

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Larry & Sherry onboard Carousel

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Although I’ve been at this anchorage for several months – actually maybe many months, losing track, but why bother – I visited one of my four liveaboard neighbors here in this little bay off Ensenada Honda (big bay) in Culebra while I was paddling about in the kayak looking at a couple pretty little sloops (never seen their owners).

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He was working on his dingy when I was going by so I stopped and said hello. He is a young 74 yo named Larry with his wife Sherry. They live in the fine 45 ft trimaran pictured above. They built the boat themselves 30 plus years ago in Edmonds Washington (Puget Sound north of Seattle). They have been in this bay for most of that time although taking trips up and back from Venezuela where he still owns a home.

He’s been through a couple hurricanes and many storms in those years. The worst was Georges in 1998. From Wikipedia;

On making landfall, Georges brought a 10 foot storm surge, along with 20 foot waves on top of it. The hurricane spawned 2 F2 tornadoes on the island. Georges dropped immense precipitation in the mountain regions, amounting to a maximum of 30.51 inches and winds over 155 mph. It killed over 600 people in the 10 Caribbean islands and 6 US states it passed through.

He told me how his wife had gone ashore to a shelter and when winds got to 100 mph or so he got in his dingy to go ashore. His dingy was flipped and he was tossed into what must have been terrible storm waves even in this little bay. He got to shore and had to wait out the storm outside the shelter because they couldn’t dare open the doors until the eye of the storm came over and the air pressure equalized. He said it was the most terrifying day of his life. I wouldn’t doubt that a bit.

His trimaran has mast furling, as well as jib, or head stay, furling. And, he said the boat can do over 20 knots! He said he’s many times sailed near 15 knots. Most monohulls have maximum hull speeds of 6-9 knots.

On a side note…
It’s been strange weather, but pleasant.  Except for the occasional calms.  We do need some wind to cool and keep mosquitoes down.
Nights have actually gotten down to high 70’s.  Unheard of for this time of year.  Very unseasonable, which sounds pejorative, but here in this situation that is definately not the case.  Today it has been overcast – again, very unusual.

Right now it is drizzling rain.

Rain here normally comes in squalls with strong winds and driving rain that is gone in 1/2 an hour.

But, the drizzle and calm is a pleasant change.  More like a drizzling grey but warm summer day in Seattle.

I miss Seattle.  And, Puget Sound.

But, it is so cold there on the water for most of the year.

Perfection will have to wait for the return of the Garden of Eden.