Updated: May 15
The wind really picked up early today. This northwest corner of Puerto Rico juts out slightly north from the rest of the island, and so the coastline is more exposed to the trade wind. For some reason, however, the waves were nowhere near as large as yesterday, but the sea felt much more confused, and I spent a lot of effort trying to hold my heading. There wasn’t any place to land for long stretches and I resigned to having to pee in the kayak. This is always a tough thing to do when the water is calm, let alone when the sea is tossing you like a washing machine. You try to relax but you can’t help but worry about the next wave washing over the open cockpit, so it takes much longer than usual to get business done, which increases the risk, which increases the worry, which increases the time and so on. By midday I decided to look for a place to land for the day, but I wasn’t seeing any good places. Everything seemed to be either rocky, or exposed, or very steep. I texted my paddler friend from Puerto Rico to see if he had any local knowledge. “Try Jobos Beach. There’s a big headland rock and it’s usually calm behind it, but just be aware that it’s a party beach, pitch your tent after dark so no one bothers you.”
I checked the GPS, Jobos beach was only a few miles further. From the aerial image it seemed like the beach faced due north, however, there was a large rocky headland on the eastern shore where the beach carved a pleasant and sheltered armpit. As I came in to land I rode a few rollers, while also trying to dodge a few surfers who seemed to come from nowhere, but once I made it into the arm pit the water was calm as a lake.
Just as I was warned, the place was packed, the salsa and merengue boom boxes were competing with each other, and everyone seemed to have a beer can on hand. “Hey, we have cold Medalla. You want one?, Oh where d’you come from in that thing?” Someone on the beach said.
“Oh thanks, but right now I really can’t drink alcohol, or I’ll get more tippy than the boat. Haven’t eaten anything. I started from Arecibo this morning…”
“Oh, you came far! Did you catch any fish? Well, we also have Mountain Dew too, but it’s not cold. Let us know.”
The headland that protects the eastern flank of Jobos beach has eroded into a field of sharp and jagged stumps. I saw two people climbing over the rocks near the breaker zone with bare feet and wondered how long it would be before one of them stubbed a toe. There are two rocky mounts separated by a valley of sharp rock stacks. On the descent to the valley there’s a sign telling not to go further due to cascading water. It’s not an empty warning; when a big wave hits the headland mounts, two waterfalls pour into the valley with foaming thunder. In rough weather I think the waterfall never stops cascading. A little further from the mounts the sea has carved two blow holes. One is very narrow, and the waves squeeze the air pocket into a plume of whistling white spray. The other blowhole is a bit wider and has formed an arch which is a popular Instagram photo. The person stands on top of the natural bridge with the frothing water below. I thought of walking over the arch, but after I saw an obese lady have the same idea I had second thoughts about it. There was a lot of time to pass today as conditions got progressively tougher with the afternoon. My kayak is a big conversation starter as people want to know what I am up to. I’ve come to conclude, however, that this is a hindrance because it leads me to talk about the same things repeatedly. “Yes I am going around Puerto Rico. No, I’m not crazy. Yes I thought about the sharks. No, I’m not fishing. No, my wife isn’t unhappy with me doing this for so long, because I don’t have a wife, or a girlfriend.” I have instead started to make the effort and steer the conversations to be more about them than me.
One guy was here for his retirement party. That seemed a strange thing, because the man, although older than me, didn’t look near retirement age. “I’m a border patrol agent on the San Diego Sector, and I just completed my 25 years this year, so I am out. No more chasing after Mexicans. I want to enjoy life from now on.” Another person said he was a retired water treatment plant operator from Pittsburg, “I would have kept working there for another 5 to 10 years, the pay was good, but I was starting to get forgetful of things, so I thought it was better to quit while I was still doing the job right…” And then there was a local from San Juan who when I told him this was my first time in Puerto Rico, he said to me, “Don’t believe the headlines you hear on TV about Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a lot nicer, safer and more beautiful than the media makes it out to be.” I asked him about a recent story on the news of a famous Puerto Rican Boxer who killed his pregnant girlfriend and dumped her body into a lagoon, because he’d thought the baby was going to be a hindrance to his boxing career. He’d bound her feet with wire and a concrete block before throwing her off a bridge. “Yes, unfortunately that story was true, but excluding that, Puerto Rico is very nice and safe, just be careful…”
Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation