About Us

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Indiana, United States
Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings. Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Beach Video...

As Lorrie and I sit here, both with colds (gotta luv this Indiana weather), we decided to put together some clips of Caracas, Playa Chiva and Punta Arenas. After this clip I've now officially exhausted all of our pic and video from Vieques. We both miss it so much. Weather today in Indiana reached 64 degrees (regular heat wave). Only 2 out of the last 14 days has seen any sunshine, pretty gloomy time of year here. Our next trip should be sometime in early November. Not sure where we will stay this time, something to plan for. Anyway here's the video for anyone who might be reading this...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Video Compilation of Feb Trip....

Video was so large I had to bust it into two parts. First part is Orchid and a full review of Quinta Jabali. Second video is Playa Grande and Garcia.

Vieques Part 1

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Last Day on the Island

I woke up at 5am, started coffee, ate breakfast and listened to the roosters in the dark. Can you tell I've slipped into a groove here? Lorrie was up an hour later (she's into her groove too).

We decided to arrive at Orchid an hour later today, thinking we would miss the "no-see-ums". When we arrive at Orchid my windsock is limp as a (use whatever noun you want here). No wind at all. Lorrie looks at me all "doe-eyed". We might as well unload anyway, I say. So unload we do and in the process we get swarmed again. It's 9am but the no-see-ums don't care. I head for the water. Lorrie heads for the Jeep. About 30 mins later the wind picks up and they're gone like that.

A few days ago Lorrie said that 10am is the witching hour, meaning that's when the early beach goers arrive (we're in a totally different class). She was right because about 10:15 our first couple showed up. By one o'clock the beach will be about as full as it's going to get for the day. It's almost one now and there are only 12 people on the beach, about 50% less than last week. The water today is the calmest we've seen in two weeks, hardly any waves. A lot of people head out to snorkel. Lorrie and I are content to just stay on the beach and people watch. After two weeks I've become quite the expert at spotting rookie mistakes in beach site preparation, especially if they bring an umbrella. I'll say 3/4 seem never get it to work. First they never put enough effort into planting the main stake for the umbrella. They just kinda poke it into the sand and voila, instant shade. Usually within 10-15 minutes the umbrella is seen rolling down the beach front. Umbrella recovered, they create a little mountain of sand around the pole. Ten minutes later the umbrella is seen rolling down the beach again. Now they see that the stack is not nearly deep enough in the sand. So...they pivot the pole back and forth trying to work it deeper. Some just try pushing it deeper. Never works. I watched an older couple fight they're umbrella for over an hour. The lady would stand there, like a cat, waiting to pounce on the umbrella when it would come loose, which it did repeatedly. Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and I grabbed my shovel (it's actually an arched stick with a wide, blade type end that works quite well as a shovel). I offered my services, using my two cabanas as proof of my qualifications. I dug a hole about a foot deeper then screwed the threaded end of the pole into the sand. It's been over an hour and the umbrella is still up. Lorrie and I start timing how long it takes different peoples umbrellas to pull up out of the sand. We watch different people get suited up for snorkeling, getting a chuckle out of the ones who put their fins on out of the water, then proceed to "duck walk" forward into the water (just like we did on our first trip). You can tell the veterans, they put there's on in the water and walk backwards.

Lorrie just told me she's not wearing jeans home tomorrow. She said she's not giving in. Maybe I'll wear my Nevados and no socks. Spending two weeks on Vieques sure makes a big difference. We've really been able to sync with the rhythm of the island this time, even with Orchid. We've spent almost every day @ Orchid. We've grown use to the ebb and flow of the visitors and become quite comfortable hanging out in Casa Corona each day.

Lorrie and I walk over to the east side of Orchid, past the rocky point. I wanted to show Lorrie all the different tidal pools. While we were there we found a number of the shells that the land crabs like.

 The balanced rocks on Orchid are like magnets, drawing people to them. Most can't stand the temptation to touch and then the magic is broken. Many fumble for a few minutes, trying to recreate what usually can't exist again. Lorrie and I are walking around the eastern point now and I balance rocks along the way. We make our way around the point and get a look out into  Ensenada Honda. The water color didn't look real. I'm sitting here writing this outside Casa Corona.

I can see, in the distance, one of the rocks I balanced high up on a prominent point. I like the way it looks.

Over to the west I can see the three rocks I put out almost 2 weeks ago staring at me like sentinels.

There's a sailboat off in the distance. All you can see is the brilliant white reflected off its sail. The waves are breaking on shore with a cadence we've grown accustomed to. And that's it. That's what it's all about.

People ask us "What do you do in Vieques?" You stare out into the ocean sometimes finding a kind of peace that's indescribable.

Huesta Luego, Vieques

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ceratopogonidae attack

I woke up at 6am and started coffee, Lorrie was up right after me. We had breakfast and headed out to Orchid a little bit earlier today. It was 7:30 when we arrived at the beach, first ones there. As soon as we got the gear to Casana Corona  I noticed that the wind sock (my makeshift version of one) wasn't  moving at all. There were no winds at all, dead still and that's when they made their move. Yep "no-see-ums", in force.  We were both swarmed. We had three options: get in the water (outside temp was 68 when we left the house), go to the truck and wait or use the bug spray that Lorrie had packed. We opted for number 3. I'm not a big fan of chemical sprays but this was war. Even though we had the spray on it was still necessary to walk up and down the beach. We tried sitting and reading but the little buggers were unrelenting. After about an hour or so the winds picked up and  POOF they were gone. Thank gawd...that's the second time we've ran into them on the island. The first time was in November over at Puenta Arenas.
While we were walking up and down the beach, trying to avoid the attack force, we went over to check on the land crabs. I saw a whole group of them not far from where Judy and Andre were haning out. I took a picture of them. A few feet from this group was the remains of the crab from the empty shell (or at least that seems logical to me). I found it interesting the way they were all bunched up together. I guess they must be a gregarious sort of creature.

After the battle with the insects was over things slowed down to their normal pace on Orchid. Most of the time  Lorrie and I were either like this:

or like this.

It was nearly 10am before anyone else showed up on the beach (I guess everyone else knew better with no winds). Orchid beach has been seeing about 25-30 at peak time for the last two weeks. Today there were only 20 and most didn't stay long at all. I did take a walk around the west side of Orchid, past the rocky point almost over to Secret. There are lots of little tidal  pools and places where the water would push up thru little channels. I even found one place that almost looked like a small cave or something. I took a few shots on the walk:

We did snorkel around these rocky points pictured above. Saw lots of black sea urchins. On the way back to the beach I didn't  swing out far enough and ended up heading into some shallow reef. It was almost too late by the time I realized it. A big wave broke right over Lorrie and I tearing Lorrie's snorkel loose from here mask. We managed to make it out without any injures.

Other than that it was an easy day at the beach. We walked over to the rock art gallery a few times. I added a few more pieces. I took a picture of Lorrie:

And of coures she took one of me. You can see my floating pieces (at least the look that way) in the background.

We left Orchid about 5pm, the first one there and the last ones to leave today. Tomorrow is our last full day on the island.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Orchid beach "Au Naturel"

I got up @ 6am, started coffee (sounds like a broken record, doesn't it). Had breakfast and listened to the roosters in the dark. Forecast called for clear skies and by the look of all the stars out they may have just this one right. Lorrie was up shortly thereafter. We left the house @ 7:45, our destination Orchid. Our car has a non-functioning window washer and the rain from the evening before had made a splattering of dust spots on the windshield. At some of the turns heading down to 997 I was nearly blind with the bright clear sun that was out. Who would have thought that window washer fluid is critical to navigating Vieques?

We arrived at Orchid a little after 8am and seeing no cars at La Chiva driving in I was confident that Casa Corona would be vacant. I was right. We packed our gear to the cabana and sat up for the day. It was while we were setting up that I noticed a tent across from the main beach over on the little beach that lies on the east side of Orchid. "Someone has camped here all night!"....I thought. They're not allowed to do that. I immediately felt myself taking possession of Orchid. I also noticed that their tent was right in the midst of the rock art gallery and that a lot of pieces had been turned over. Yep, that aggrivated me a little more.  But then I paused. For what ever reason I thought about what Andre and Judy had talked about, the yin and the yang, when to hold on and when to let go. I let it all subside and thought for a moment, we too had made a mark , just like the campers were doing. I had built two different cabanas on Orchid, some people may find them unsightly (I can't imagine why though). But the thing is, in a few weeks or months it'll all be gone, just like the campers.

So calmed down we settled into our cabana, it was then that the show started. We noticed the campers emerge from their tent. And yes..they were both naked. They walked out into the water hugging and kissing enjoying the moment, free spirits, I guess.  To each his own. We knew that within an hour or so more people would be showing up, many with children so the show wouldn't last. We were wrong. They continued to parade around, passing an occasional joint between each other. I decided it was time to talk a walk to the other side of the beach (away from the show) and maybe see if I could get some pictures.

As I headed west from our cabana I noticed "Maddies" sand castle, it was mostly gone now. She was one of the daughters  of a young couple we had seen  2 days ago. "Will" was her fathers name, I spoke with him about snorkeling. Maddie had stayed on the beach with her mom when they had arrived at Orchid, not going out into the water with her other two sisters.  Lorrie and I were watching how she was mimicking her mom who was laying on the beach reading. After her father headed into the surf giving the 2 other  girls boogy board rides Maddie couldn't stand it any more. She decided it was more fun being a kid. Later, after she was finished in the water, she built the sandcastle, putting her name on it.

Further down the beach I saw an iquana track. This wasn't far from where I filmed one a few days  ago. you can tell it was an iquana by the line in the sand, made by the dragging tail.  At different places along the beach there are virtual iguana highways.

 As I turned to head back to the other end of the beach I looked at my own footprints, first ones this morning.

I decided next to walk down to where Andre and Judy would hang out each day. I wanted to see if any of their land crabs (kinetic evironmental art as Judy called it) were present. On the way down to that spot I found these tracks below. I thought maybe they were from a mongoose.

There was no land crabs present down by Judy and Andres spot. There was however all kinds of sign. Those little rascals had been very busy, that much is for sure. I took a few shots:

I thought this one was interesting. The way the land crab crossed the tire track:

Then I found this guy. He looked to be anti-social:

Not having the video cam today was turning out not to be such a bad thing. I was slowing down and looking at things. Reminds me of Aldo Leopold following skunk tracks in the spring. All kinds of activity on these beaches if you just take the time to look. The little sand crabs are particularly industrious with tracks heading out in all directions from their little holes.

Someone had left a pair of beach shoes on Orchid a few days ago. This heron walked right by not giving a second look.

It was after I took this shot that I noticed the campers were gone and the show was over. I decided to walk over to the area they were at and see what kind of tracks they left. First thing I found was their fire ring. They had used one of the rock sculptures  as part of their fire ring. When I reached down to try and pick up the piece of coral it broke into a number of smaller pieces. Ying and Yang

I replaced the broken coral with a new piece. I hope Andre and Judy would approve.


Kodak Play-Sport has bit the dust...

Not sure what happened but the video cam is finished. Looks like there was a short on one of the battery terminals. So glad I got the video I did this trip. From now on it's gonna be pictures only.

Clear skies this morning...I think we're headed back to Orchid.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Updated Snorkel maps

I felt that I needed to upate the snorkel maps I had put out last November. Since we've been here this time we have snorkeled  from Garcia, Orchid and Green beaches. After three trips to the island I would list the best snorkeling something like this:

#1 Punta Boca Querada (off of green beach) You've got a long swim to this one but it is the very best coral we've seen so far on the island. I have a map of it below. The pink line is nothing but sea grass. The orange line is where we snorkeled. Be warned there's a strong current out in that water. Good thing we had on our vests it was a long swim. One caveat with this spot, it is access by water only as it is in the restricted area:

#2 Left side of Orchid beach as your looking out into the ocean. We saw a super huge ray out there and lots of larger fish. Since we've been on Orchid this time people have spotted rays, octopi and barracudas. I've noticed some people going out to snorkel what I'm talking about on Orchid. They return saying they didn't see much. What I think is happening is they're not getting out far enough. You really need to get out and around that point...imo. Here's a picure of what I'm talking about. We've had people tell us they've been seeing eels on the other side of the beach. Anyway..here's the map:

#3 is the isle off of Playa Chiva. We've not been to it yet this trip but we know that the west side of it is pretty good.

#4 East side of Caracas. Easy to get to and lots of juvenile fish.

#5 Last place we've snorkeled this trip is the little cay off of Caracas and Garcia. We did 3 of the sides. The surf was up that day so it was kinda rough. Lots of sea fans. Here's the map:

My battery was dead on the video cam when we were at Punta Boca Quebrada today. I wish I had some video to show. It was really fantastic. We spent the afternoon there after having spent 8-12 at Orchid. The tradewinds have been so strong on Orchid the last few days that you just can't really snorkel. I did tend to the rock sculptures though.

I'm sitting here typing this in at Casa Dos Chivos. Someone just went flying by our house on a racing ATV. Loud as hell. For an instant I thought I was back in rural Indiana where it seems like every red-neck has one of those annoying things.  Jeez...


Casa Corona

I awoke @ 5am this morning, determined to be the first one to Orchid. I woke Lorrie up @ 6am. We had coffee and listened to the roosters, in the dark. Forecast was calling for a 40% chance of showers, we decided to head out anyway. Left Casa Dos Chivos @ 7:30.

We made it to Orchid about 7:45 and were the first ones there. I immediately went to work on the roof of the cabana because it looked like rain. Sure enough it began sprinkling. We stuck it out and finally it abated. Eventually we were rewarded with clear blue skies and not a soul on Orchid. I spent the time under the shelter to make a better sign for our new cabana. I got some video of it.

While we were sitting there in our beach chairs I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was down by the old cabana. An iguana, I got some video of it:

Finished filming the iguana I went back to just sitting under my new house, starring out into the Caribbean. It was then that a man and his daughter walked up  to Casa Corona. I hadn't even noticed him on the beach. He came up to me and said "Your Curt, from After the Mortgage". I said, well yes....I am. He then told me that I was the reason he was on Vieques. He's been reading this blog and enjoys our exploits. I thanked him for the kind words. Having someone else enjoy what we love so much makes it all worth while. Hope you have a great time on the island Kenneth and Sydney.

Oh that reminds me, last night when we were entering Casa Dos Chivos (it was 7:30 or so) someone stopped a vehicle on the road outside and yelled "Hi Curt and Lorrie!".  Not really knowing what to do I yelled back hi. He then indentified himself as VQSJim from trip advisor. Jim said he's been enjoying reading the blog. Jim IS the person to go to on Trip Advisor. He's an expert on Vieques. Jim lives on the island not far from Casa Dos Chivos.

It's 1pm now. There's about 26 people on Orchid. Surfs still pounding. I did go out and snorkel for a bit and  followed  a ray across Orchid for a long time. The surf is still too rough to get close into the reefs. We've been watching people use the old cabana here on Orchid. We're glad to see other people getting some use of it.

We ran into Bill and Bev on Orchid. Talked with them for a bit.  Said hello to a retired couple from Michigan with their daughter Brenda . They come down for 3 weeks or so every year. They like seeing the rock art. I did my duty as curator today, adding to the collection and mending some damaged pieces. We hung around on the beach until 4:30. Then headed by to Casa Dos Chivos.

When I got by to the house I gave Peter a call. We met Peter on our trip last November. Peter had emailed me on the 22nd wanting to hook up. Having no internet at the first house I didn't get his email until this morning.  Peter and Rick are in the process of renovating a house they bought a fews years back in Los Chivos.  We did end up making it over to their place and it's really something to see. They have, what we think, is a better view than Quinta Jabali. The two of them are great hosts. Lorrie and I  even got to try one of Peter's gin/tonics, without the tonic. It was quite good. The amount of work they've put into their place so far is amazing, different vista and elevations. They were having to large palms delivered from the main island the next day.  We would have loved to have taken some pictures but company was so good the thought never crossed our minds. Thank you Peter and Rick for opening up your house to us.

Made it back to the house @ 8pm. I was so tired from the long day that I turned in early.