Updated: May 15
The rain drizzled throughout the night. I had to wake up and bring down the rain fly, but once the rain stopped it got very hot and humid, and I would wake up again to open the rain fly. This happened at least three times. The one silver lining was that all the rain put an end to the rowdy reggaeton music in the town.
It was very windy from the get-go. The morning brought a torrential downpour at the Guanica bay inlet, and I had to wait until it passed before making the crossing. The bay entrance is very narrow, maybe only about a thousand feet wide, and is rimmed by tall steep cliffs like the mouth of a fjord. I gave it a very wide distance. I did not want to find out how strong the tide races can get there and be sucked into the narrow passage like a cork in a draining bathtub.
At midday I made a rest stop at a very pleasant barrier island. It was the quintessential Caribbean postcard of white sands, clear turquoise waters under the shade of lush green palm trees. To make things even better a group of fishermen there offered me ice cold water which I could not pass up. I considered calling it a day and spending the rest of the afternoon here snorkeling and relaxing, I had already done 15 miles, all against the wind and I was tired. However, I was encouraged when the fisherman told me that there were several more islands further ahead that were equally good places, and so I kept going. That was not the right decision.
The next island, which ironically was named Isla Caribe on the charts, was only two miles further, but when I got there the beach was rocky, the water was turbid with the Sargasso seaweed, and there was no good rest shade. I considered going back but backtracking and quickly giving up distance that has been so hard to wrest from the headwind is always physiologically difficult. I concluded that perhaps this island was just bad luck, and the next island, Isla Ratones, would be much better. The fishermen had even told me that many weekend boaters from Ponce go there, and the aerial image on google definitely showed a large stretch of white sand. “Only three and a half more miles.” I concluded from the chart. I decided to keep moving, mentally strengthened by the expectation that I would soon be camping on a little paradise island.
Unfortunately, this next island was even worse. More rocks, more seaweed, trash everywhere, and an unpleasant smell of dead fish hung in the air. It was a terrible disappointment for all the additional effort against the wind to get there.
A fisherman’s boat stopped to drop a few lines in the water, and I approached them, “Hey, how come this place is so ugly? I thought there was a nice sandy beach here.”
“Oh, you must have been looking at pre-Maria pictures. Yes there was a beach here that went all the way to those mangroves, and it was quite nice back then, but the hurricane took it all away. Yes, it’s really ugly now.”
On the mainland was another beach. “Anything will be better than this place,” I thought as I pushed back out into the water.
Hurricane Maria really devastated this part of Puerto Rico. After I set up camp, I took a walk to see what was around. I found that the building complex behind the beach was an abandoned water park complete with a wave pool and giant water slides that meandered down from a tall central tower. It had definitely not been working for some time. The wave pool was half full of stagnant green water, some sections of the slides had crumbled and what remained looked ready to collapse in the next strong breeze.
Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation