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PART 3- CALMS SEAS AND HEADWINDS - THE WEST AND  SOUTH

June 24th - Day 8

I was fortunate the tide did not reach me last night. A couple of waves came close enough for me to hear the rushing water soaking up by the dry sand.

 

Around midnight I was awakened by the blasting sound of Reggaeton, followed by puffs of green and red fireworks. June 23rd is Noche de San Juan when all of Puerto Rico heads out to the beaches after dark to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. “Yes, it’s a big night in Puerto Rico, everyone parties on the beach, jumps over the waves and light up firecrackers until sunrise. Very fun times, ” my Puerto Rican friend later told me. The locals in Aguadilla were certainly enjoying their time to the fullest. The blaring Reggaeton was so loud  it was drowning out the fireworks and I tried to mentally tune out the beating rhythm to get some sleep. 

In the morning things had quieted down. As I packed up I only heard an odd car or two drive by in the distance blaring out more of the same numbing music that had been going on all night. The waters were calm, and I quickly covered the last eight miles to the tip of the Rincon peninsula, and rounded the westernmost point in Puerto Rico.  At the very end was an enormous dome which looked like an observatory, but I later discovered it was the entombment of an abandoned nuclear power plant. I had never heard of there being a nuclear power plant in Puerto Rico, but in the 1960s, the island was the testing site for a new type of nuclear plant where the steam produced would make a second pass through the reactor, pick up extra energy and avoid condensation after turning the turbines. The project was a big deal for Puerto Rico as it would have provided all of the island’s power needs and then some. However, the reactor was plagued with operational problems, never functioned at full capacity for very long, and was eventually decommissioned. I’m sure that a few locals complaining about their cancer also didn’t help the project’s image. On my way around the cape, I saw a boat dropping lobster traps, and I wondered if perhaps the lobsters were unusually large in these waters.


After four days of camping, I decided that I could go with a one-night hotel stay. Yesterday my shorts pulled against my legs when I slid into the cockpit, and the willy hammock chaffed hard on my groin and pinched my scrotum. This hurt a lot when it happened, and the sea water made for a constant discomfort that could only be abated with a freshwater bath and a good night sleep. I looked on google maps to see what there might be in the vicinity of Rincon and found a small suburb close to Mayaguez that had a beachside hotel with a funny name, the “Yukayeke” Resort.

 

I located the entrance from the beach which was hidden in the bushes barely visible from the water and went in to take a look. There seemed to be no one around. No guests, no staff; the only sound was a waterfall cascading into an inviting swimming pool and the odd thunder storm rumbling in the distance but steadily getting louder and closer. “Oh, this place is very pleasant, but where could everyone be?” I thought as I walked down a footpath under the shade of overhanging trees. Eventually someone heard my calling. A old lady missing a front tooth walked out of a room where she had been laying in her bed watching a soap opera on the TV. “I’m sorry, we’re fully booked,” she said

 

“You can’t be serious. There’s no one here.”

“It looks like that, but we have a Quinceñera that starts today and will go until the weekend. Everyone is arriving tonight.” Quinceñeras are a girl’s coming of age birthday party in most of Latin America when a girl turns fifteen marking the transition to womanhood. It’s always a big deal, but I’ve never heard of one that went on for four days.

 

“You can check the Rancho Grande Restaurant next door. The lady who owns it is my sister. Her name is Lourdes, and she sometimes rents a room. Tell her that you spoke with Miranda and that you’re looking for a place to stay. You might want to go quickly; it’s going to pour.”

 

She wasn’t kidding about the rain. Walking outside became more like swimming;  tin roofs from nearby buildings rattled like they were being pelted with stones, and the gutters were gushing like fire hoses. In twenty minutes however, it was over, and the sun was shining above dozens of brimming potholes.

 

I was soaked but refreshed from having the salt washed away from my skin, and my scrotum which was making me walk funny. The restaurant was a large, roofed outdoor patio facing the beach with dozens of free chickens running around. There were no customers (I think due to the storm that had just passed), the only person was a lady seated at a table tallying up receipts. She was absorbed in what she was doing and didn’t notice as I approached.

 

“Hi, I’m looking for Lourdes.” I said. She took a freight as she realized I was there, and I saw that she had a really big mole above her lip.

 

“Yes, that’s me. Can I help you?”

 

“Miranda next door told me you might have a room to rent for the night.”

 

“Yes I do, but it’s not a room. It’s a two-bedroom apartment. I’ll rent it to you for $90 if you pay cash.”

 

I thought that was a great deal given how expensive hotel rooms were in San Juan. I paid her right then and there. “Oh, by the way, I have a very big kayak on the beach I’m traveling with. Is there a chance you have a place to put it?”

 

“A kayak, yes. My husband runs a kayaking business. He takes people out on the lagoon just behind us. You can leave it in our yard. It will be safe there. We are still serving lunch for the next 30 minutes. The only dish right now is mofongo relleno with chicken.”

 

I was hungry enough to give the mofongo a second chance at a first impression.