Oh, what a busy day today was… At 6:00am I took a morning walk on the beach; the wind was indeed much calmer, but the waves looked about the same. I then called up a cab and headed to the Crowley Warehouse at the port to get my kayak. “Quieres alcohol?” Said the cab driver. “No, I don’t drink.” I responded. “No man! Not for drinking, it’s not even eight yet. It’s to clean your hands. Health department guidelines for COVID…”
I noticed that here in Puerto Rico, people take COVID a lot more seriously than in Florida. Every business requires a mask, and you will not be allowed inside without one. In the restaurants people keep their masks on until the food arrives, and even when walking in the street most people I see are masked. “Everyone here is getting vaccinated as soon as they can schedule an appointment. We don’t get why some of you guys in the states make such a fuss about it. When life is too easy, you worry about bull-shit.” The Crowley warehouse in San Juan looks just like the warehouse in Miami. Same layout, same forklifts driving around like it’s rush hour, Even the forklift driver who went to fetch my kayak looked like the twin brother of the driver in Miami. “What’s that thing?” He asked. “A kayak. I’m going to paddle around Puerto Rico.” “Oh man… really? There are sharks out there, you know…” When he drove the forklift back with my kayak I felt relieved. The bags and the palette looked just like when I last saw them, the plastic wrapping looked crisp and unscarred. If someone had asked me to take a bow of gratitude to Crowley Marine I would have done so; $276 to ship my kayak across the Caribbean and have it delivered with no issues felt like a bargain, even with the Jones Act. All the cab rides I’ll be taking around San Juan for the next three days will cost more than that. The drive back from the warehouse to the hotel went smoothly. I was worried I would need two trips, but everything fit inside just one van, though the driver probably had no rear vision whatsoever, and I had my knees pressed against my chest. Getting the sections kayak in through the hotel lobby was a tight squeeze. To say the corridors were four feet wide would be generous; I had to hold the sections vertically in front of me and walk sideways along the narrow aisles. The thorniest portion were two 90-degree bends before the patio where I had to turn in place like a rumba to pass through. The seat section was the toughest; I had to hold it vertically as well, but one handed. It was a miracle I did not scrape the boat against the walls. I’ll need to make this back and forth journey at least three more times.
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After getting the kayak to its temporary home, the next task to solve was what to do with the bags. They are huge, and the hotel front desk told me they cannot hold it while I’m gone. I decided to call my paddler friend here in Puerto Rico and he offered to hold on to them, however, he lives in a town about an hour and a half drive away, and the cab fare estimate to get there was just under $200, one way. It’s somewhat ironic that the last 25 miles were costing only a little more than the 2,500 miles the kayak traveled all the way from Florida. The last mile is always the most expensive mile. I decided to look for another option. As fate would have it, I found a storage place just two miles from the hotel. They had one 5x10ft space available for $280 for a month, more than good enough, I thought. “We only have two units of that size left, if you want it, then come by today.” I took a cab there straight away, lest I get there only to find out that my fortunes had changed. By the time the afternoon came around, I hoped to get some rolling practice with the kayak in the waves. However, just like I was warned, the East wind had picked up considerably late in the day. I looked at the beach and decided to wait until morning. That’s a lesson to remember while I’m here; start early, finish early. I decided instead to take a walk and scout this section of coast line to see what kind of conditions to expect. The waves got bigger the farther west I went, the beach narrowed, and the sand strip gave way to a stretch of cliffs before ending at a small bay straddled by a bridge. A few waves were breaking offshore in some underwater mount that was popular with surfers who were catching some barrels at that spot, but I made a mental note to keep an eye for the foam pile and steer far away from it. Underwater rocks are the thing I fear the most. One bad bang, and I’ll be patching the fiberglass hull.
Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation