Updated: May 15
Yesterday afternoon I got very worried about the wind. This part of the coast bends back East again for about 7 miles which means I have to paddle directly into the wind. Unlike other sections thus far in the journey, the trade wind here blows over the ocean unimpeded by land, picks up speed much earlier in the day and takes longer to die down in the afternoon. I stared out to the horizon looking at Viequez island to the Southeast, my wide brim hat was barely hanging on to my head, and I wondered if I would have the physical and mental strength to make it through this section.
Up until 3:00am the wind howled and my tent was shaking uncontrollably. Then, miraculously over the next two hours it died down considerably. I saw that as my window of opportunity and was on the water at 5:30am. For good measure I drank one of my He-Man potions (aka, the 5-hour energy drink) to feel pumped up and ready to blast out energy through my paddles strokes like an Energizer Bunny. The He-Man potion really does work. for the first few hours I felt like an Olympic athlete and powered over swell after swell like they were ripples in a pond. I became singularly focused on rounding the headland in front of me. No time for early morning photos; the magic potion effect is like the Mario Star power, and I had to make the most of every minute. The coastline had the shape of a fingered hand. There are four separate hilly headlands with their tops punctuated with wind turbines. For some reason, none of the turbines were working even though there was plenty of wind to spin the blades. Perhaps, like so many things here in Puerto Rico, they were a casualty of Hurricane Maria as well. Many towns near the coast look dilapidated, businesses like restaurants are shuttered, and houses seem abandoned. Even some four years after the storm, the scars on the island are visible everywhere.
On my way to the last headland the wind picked up and I had increased my efforts to squeeze every drop out of the He-Man potion and keep pace. I also had to look out for boat traffic as several of the early ferries to Culebra and Viequez were leaving and arriving from the Ceiba port terminal and were crossing through my path. No doubt, they had no idea I was there. After the last headland I took a sharp turn due North, and with that I formally ended the headwind portion of the journey. The last two miles were an easy breeze, and I even got to put up the sail. I arrived at an island called Isla Piñeros. The beach here is fantastic for camping and I had a beautiful view of the green mountains of El Yunque in the mainland with their tops shrouded in clouds. The only issue were the signs propped all along the beach. Not only was it forbidden to camp on the beach, but it was also forbidden to even land on the island as there were unexploded munitions from the time the US navy used the island for target practice.
I didn’t plan on venturing into the mosquito infested interior of the island, so I assumed I would be pretty safe from stepping onto any bombs. I pitched my tent right next to the sign which I concluded should be the safest place; someone had to walk up the beach and put the sign there.
Tomorrow morning I’ll leave some of my own unexploded ammunition buried in the sand for some unfortunate foot. But I suppose that if I bury mine deep enough I’ll have done a better job cleaning up after myself than the US Navy. I only paddled twelve miles today and with my early start, I finished quite early and there wasn’t much to do. The beach to the west is blocked by fallen trees so there isn’t anywhere to walk. I found an old pot potty cover that washed up and it became a very comfortable seat. I spent hours watching rain storms rolling in from the sea and over Farjado Bay wishing they would come over to where I was. I could use a freshwater shower.
I turned on my phone to see if I could pick up enough reception to listen to NPR and catch up on the news. I heard that the president of Haiti has been assassinated by a paramilitary group. I turned the phone off.
From here I can already see the Northeast cape of Puerto Rico. There isn’t much left to complete the journey now.
Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation