The Great Plotnik

Friday, February 28, 2014

We'd Make an Exception for Arroz Mamposteao.

TGBZ is on the road and TGPD is getting ready to be. However,  TGP and TGD are home and not going anywhere. Cuz Seattle arrives tonight for a short visit. And TGP and TGD are still not going anywhere. Enough is enough. For a little while.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No More Pictures of Sailboats

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Green Instead of Blue

The Great Plotniks returned home last night after what felt like a ten year flight from Fort Lauderdale, but was actually 6 1/2 hours, which followed a 3 hour flight from San Juan, which followed a 30 minute flight from Culebra. The short flight was like being a bird, flying at 2,000 feet over the short stretch of island, keys, rocks and reefs between the islands. 

We got up at 7am on the boat yesterday, which is 3am here, had our last cup of coffee on the deck of Greatful Dad, then got in the dingy to motor to shore. 20 hours later, at 11pm, we got out of the taxi and walked into World Headquarters.

That's 3,670 miles divided by twenty: 183 miles an hour, including sitting in airports. Try doing 183 mph in a covered wagon.

Flying in 2014 is fast but to do it right you have to pick your poison. Newer airlines with newer planes are a lot nicer than older planes that the legacy airlines use. Jet Blue is the Southwest of the Caribbean and they do pack their planes full, but they go a lot of places at a decent price. American Airlines: NEVER again. 

Cape Air: I'd have been happy to stay on the plane, have them turn that little Cessna around and fly back to Culebra and then fly us right back to San Juan again.

While we were gone, Saint Plotniko became green and yellow and white. Sadly, in the Northeast more snow is forecast, it's really cold in New York, and when the Captain and First Mate get back to Maine they are expecting yet another storm.

Not here. I prefer this, but I think I prefer azure water and hot weather even more. We're talking about another sail in the not-too-distant future, this time maybe out in the Pacific.

That's then, this is now. Bienvenidos, we say to ourselves. Welcome to the Green.

Monday, February 24, 2014


The worst part is putting on shoes. Put it off until after the short dinghy ride from the boat to the dock, and the five minute público to the Culebra airport, and the fabulous 30 minute Cape Air puddle jump flight from Culebra to San Juán Airport, but once we got to SJU sandals just don't work anymore. We're back to the Tuna Blimpie in the Food Court, loud speaker announcements no one can understand, the security line, and shoes.  

Lots of people in uniform here. Pilots, TSA, airport security, local police. There is a uniform on Culebra and Vieques too: shorts, t-shirt and sandals. Female toes: painted. Male toes: raunchy. Metrosexuals: some other island, maybe.

I love Puerto Rico. It's the USA and also Latinoamerica. It's not the USA, and it's not a US Territory, like the US Virgins, it is part of the United States Commonwealth. Nobody has any idea what that means. People from The Virgins speak English like Jamaica, Jamaica. People from Puerto Rico speak English like Jamaica, Queens. Their Spanish sounds like Cuba, no vowels. Old men with fewer teeth have w, a and o. A nice old guy at the dock on Culebra helped me find the público (cheap taxi) this morning. I understood one word: "waowawao."

Twelve nights in two hotels and eight bays (two nights in each of two of the bays), no long pants, no shoes. Two restaurants that we motored up to in the dinghy, still no shoes. Took 'em off twelve nights ago in the Hotel FallAparto in San Juán, and didn't put 'em back on until half an hour ago.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Parting Shots


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Down to Two

All of a sudden we've only got two nights left. Ten nights seems like a few billion stars, countless, until you're down to two. We decided to keep the boat in Tamarind Bay last night because the snorkeling is so good here, and also because we just didn't feel like moving.

You can reach Tamarind by car so we've seen people on the beach for the first time since we got to Culebra. Someone has a little kayak and snorkel gear rental place set up on the beach and day boats arrive periodically throughout the day. They line their customers up on the deck, all wearing their masks and snorkels and flippers, give them a little lecture about how wonderful it is to observe a sea turtle, then discharge then one by one into the water, and the people swim around for a few minutes, and sometimes they see a turtle and sometimes they bump into each other, and then they are called back onto the boat and the boat pulls away. 

Then a group of kayakers appears off the point, wearing bright orange vests and paddling in lime-green two-person kayaks with bright red paddles, an instructor in the lead kayak barking out orders no one pays any attention to. They paddle into the lagoon and line up on the shore and then they get back into their kayaks and paddle away. And that's that.

We, meanwhile, sit on our boat and note the activity. A few roosters walk along the beach. The wind blows left to right. Then it changes right to left. The roosters walk back in the other direction. 

Earlier, we took our Morning Snork and when these people are all gone we'll take our Afternoon Snork, followed by cocktails. We've seen Spotted Eagle Rays, huge and square and dark, with barbed four foot long tails, and smaller blue-ish sting rays, attempting to squirm and hide themselves in the sandy bottom, which would work better if they didn't always forget to hide their tails, and we've seen our turtles and tropical fish and hard coral and soft coral. We've swam around in this perfect-temperature water, warm and salving. Barb wears yellow flippers, Chuck has blue flippers but no shirt, Debbie only has one flipper and I have blue flippers but swim in my red Turkish soccer shirt. We watch out for each other, because we're not kids anymore and shit can happen. When we get tired we swim back to the boat, a small convoy of four friends caked in ten days of salt.

I love our red backs of necks, dry and burnt. I love our smell. I love how my skin feels. I love how I feel.

There is no fresh water available for boat usage on either Vieques or Culebra, so we observe strict water restrictions. Every few days we pause for a Joy Bath before getting back on the boat alter snorkeling. Joy is the only soap that lathers in sea water, so what you do, while you are still wet and standing on the ladder, is pour Joy over your hair and lather it up. Then you jump back into the bay and rinse it off, and then you climb back onto the ladder and hose a small amount of fresh water over your head to wash off the salt.

We also use sea water to boil potatoes (no extra salt necessary) for a delicious potato salad, and we marinate chicken or chops with spice blends brought from home, and we go to sleep early after complaining there are too many stars and we don't know any of their names, and sometimes sleep comes easy, like last night, and sometimes the sea has been so rolly-polly you may as well sleep on your back because if you sleep on your side you will be pushed onto your face when the boat rolls, but either way the end point is a gorgeous morning in a deserted bay, roosters crowing mightily, cup of French Roast from Martha Brothers, nobody here but us chickens. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Snake and the Solar Collector

Cay Luis Peña is shaped like an iguana, sort of.

Solar power runs the battery on the boat, sort of.

Today we're heading back to Tamarind Bay. We hope the rays and turtles are waiting for us. The fan coral is beautiful over on this side of Culebra, withh huge flowering fans growing on top of them which look like the tails of tropical fish. 

Engine's on. Here we go.

Thursday, February 20, 2014



Over there is an island, next to it another island,  across the strait is another island and just to the right of that another. Swivel to the left, which I hate to do because my right side is being toasted so perfectly by the sun as I lie on the bow of our boat with my IPad, and you can see off in the distance a range of mountains on the mainland.

But of course, that's not the mainland, that's just another island. The big Island. Puerto Rico. But I can't call it Puerto Rico, because where we are right now, off the coast of Cayo Luis Peña, it's also Puerto Rico. All these islands are Puerto Rico. The big one, the little one, the Cayo and the Roque, all Puerto Rico. But the really big one across over there, where the ferry comes from four times a day, whose red light on the bow we can see bouncing closer and closer to us each night, before it passes us by to steam into Dewey Harbor around the corner, that island is plain Puerto Rico, that the locals here just call "the Island."

To me, they're all islands. Beautiful pieces of rock surrounded by blue blue blue water. And for ten days or so every couple of years we get to wake up in the morning, grab a cup of hot coffee, sit out here on the bow and drink our coffee the way we're supposed to drink our coffee, the way all humans ought to get to drink their coffee.

The thing is, coffee tastes pretty much like coffee, no matter where you drink it, but out here it sounds so much better. For one thing, it's loud, but all the noises are ocean and rock and wave and wind. The four of us all have Irpads or Kindles, and everyone has an IPhone, but they never ring. A text or two every few days, sometimes in the middle of the night when the cell service snaps on for some unexpected reason. So the blessing is silence. Coffee tastes like silence plus that breaker crashing onto that Cay or maybe it's a Roque but they all look like islands to me, but aren't, or so they say.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This is Mofongo

Mofongo de Yuca, to be exact. The mofongo is that large circle of deep fried dough, on the right, made from variable tropical starches like plantain or cassava or yuca. Think crispy, undercooked knish. You need the side of soupy beans to put enough liquid into it so it will be swallowable. The circle of dough is filled with luscious seafood, as pictured here, or you can get it with steak, or vegetables, or even more yuca, which is incomprehensible.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Last Night on Vieques, Arrival on Culebra.

Last night's dinner routine: help sun down from sky into sea. Add to zen of twilight with rum punches. Talk with Captain while bbq-ing under a million stars. Tonight Big Dipper is directly off the bow, pointing straight down into the sea.The waning moon will rise in half an hour, occluding stars. That's when we'll eat. No point in competing with an almost-full moon.

This morning: sail to Culebra. Sails creaking, hull slicing through water. The Captain and First Mate handle all important tasks. Third Mate and Bucketeer help out in a primarily ceremonial fashion, like "Atta boy, Cap'n."  The scent of salt and sea on face. 

Dewey Harbor looks exactly like it did three years ago. We have heard more birds and seen more fish in half an hour here than in four days on Vieques. Today we wash clothes and buy a few provisions, perhaps have a meal out.  Another fish just jumped out of the water.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Strange Bay

The water is azure from shore to shore, green mangrove on one side 1000 feet to green mangrove on the other side, with one white sailboat in the middle. Except for us, 
this enormous bay is empty.  Above us, on the hill, an observatory, but not a celestial observatory. It's the abandoned U.S. naval gunnery observatory, which the navy used to guide the fire of naval ships onto the island, when they used the Eastern half of Vieques for target practice.

America's planes and ships bombed Vieques for better than a hundred years, from the time when we acquired Puerto Rico from Spain after the Spanish American War well into the 21st Century. Teddy Roosevelt started it and Barack Obama stopped it. The eastern half of the island is still off limits by land, so we would not be allowed to take the dinghy to shore and get off. AVISO signs are everywhere: Do Not Enter.

But the bay is pristine -- except for us being completely alone. Also, the water is warm but very salty, and it's also murky. Even with a snorkel mask we can't see the bottom, and there don't appear to be any fish swimming around. We see pelicans skimming and diving, so they must be able to find fish for dinner but we have yet to see even a mosquito, and except for the pelicans, no birds.

The moon is full and before it rises there are a million stars shining. Occasionally we'll see a con trail from a jetliner 35,000 feet up. There's a blinking red light off in the distance which I believe is coming from the top of a cell phone tower back the direction we came, down near the town of Esperanza.

It's great to be in a non-rocking anchorage where it will be easy to sleep, but it's kinda weird out here. Tomorrow morning we'll untie and head for another bay up the coast from where the plan is to sail to Culebra on Tuesday. 

On the internet we see lots of announcements about Vieques having by far the highest cancer rate in the country. I think it's time to set sail.

Oh, hear that? Wind! Noisy, flag-flapping mast-creaking wind. I can hear our swimming trunks and towels flipping on the rails where we have clothespinned them to dry. That's the only sound. No tree frogs, no animals in the mangrove, nothing but flapping laundry, which is the sound of one boat sitting in an empty bay.

The Bucketeer

There is no fresh water supply available for boats on Vieques or Culebra, so you have to ration what you've got. One thing you do is rinse your dishes with sea water. If you are the Fourth Mate on a crew of four, you are the Bucketeer. 

If you are The Captain your job is to oversee the Alliance Cocktails.

Or, you can just stare at the sunset.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Aboard the Greatful Dad

First night

First morning

Friday, February 14, 2014

Isabel Secunda, Vieques, Puerto Rico

We sat at a table in white plastic chairs on the balcony at Mamasonga, a bar with a cafe upstairs. Beach town. Young but not too young people with bodies covered with multiple tattoos at the bar. I questioned Barb as to how this is done? One tattoo has to come first, right? Then what? Before she could answer she let out a yell as an iguana dropped out of a tree, walked past her and ambled along the railing begging for French Fries. The food was so-so but the iguana was amazing. His tail can rip a hole in your arm so people were careful. Then the iguana hopped back into the tree. Two pigeons took his place on the rail. They scored nothing. It was like Clay Aiken trying to follow Beethoven.

We sat outside in the courtyard at El Conuco. It started to drizzle. Barb suggested we go in. I said, "nahhh. It'll stop." She said "I don't think so. Let's get a table inside." The minute after we sat down inside the skies erupted. It rained for ten solid minutes like you only hear in the tropics or Texas. Water sheeted off overhangs. The rain on the tin roof made it impossible to talk without screaming. The mojitos and tequila were fantastic and the shared community of diners experiencing nature together made the liquor taste better. People laughed and joined each others' shouted conversations with wide-eyed smiles. 

Then the rain stopped and the stars came out. The diners turned back to each other. Things got quiet. The moment passed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don't worry. Be happy.

Life is good. Don't fly American. But life is good. Barb's Travel Advice: "We're on vacation. We'll get there."

But American -- new name AmAeroflot, with their aging fleet -- two planes yesterday, and both had to be taken out of service and new ones brought in. The one in Dallas arrived from Miami so late and in such bad condition that the pilot made the sign of a knife across his throat as he got off, shaking his head. We sat four hours in Dallas waiting for the new plane. At least it came. Barb was right. We did get to San Juan. At 4am.

When we threw open the curtain this morning this is what we saw:

But we didn't even stay  -- took a taxi to the ferry at Fajardo and jumped on the 11:30 to the island of Vieques. Here we are.

Tomorrow we'll cross over to the other side of the island and hook up with Captain Crow and Navigator Finch and get on the boat. Today, a nap. Tonight, we go to town.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


First plane was delayed an hour. But the second plane is delayed two hours. So all is well!

So, what is WITH cowboy hats in Texas? I mean, it can't be fashion, it has to be a statement of one kind or another. Is wearing a big, black Stetson kind of like having a huge tattoo? Shows you're a real man? I think that's probably it. 

Actually looks pretty good so maybe that's the reason. But I don't think so. Maybe boys in Texas don't feel comfortable going out of the house without their hat on, like girls have to put on eye makeup.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Phone cable, IPad cable, camera-to-Ipad connector, bottles of spices for galley, snorkel, fins, shorts, swim trunks. Travel guitar, tuner, capo, pick. Hope the sea stars aren't dying and the turtles and rays are still hungry. Weather forecast for next three days: 85, 88, 86. Mofongo!

Meanwhile, an ice storm hit Atlanta, delaying the departure for Colorado of Dr. BZ. Great, one more thing to worry about. Thank goodness for cell phones.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Faeries and Wedding on the Queen

Mummy P. at Descanso Gardens:
(while being pushed in a wheel chair):

"I don't know why we've come here."
"I'll just stay in the car."
"I don't need to see camelias. I've seen camelias before."
"You go."
"I'm cold."
"Why are we here?"
"Is this where we came in?"
"Why don't we just turn around?"
"I'll go sit in the car."

(while getting out of the wheel chair after an hour at the gardens):
"My, that was fun! What a good idea this was!"

That last comment wasn't being ironic -- she meant it. She had a fine time getting out of the house. The faeries and her granddaughter helped.

Mandy's wedding on the Queen Mary was quite fine too. Lots of old friends and grand hugs from the little girl we met when she was six. A very sweet evening.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


I guess if you've made it to TGP's age without ever having had a backache, you're one lucky guy. That said, yesterday Plottie bent to get some lettuce from the crisper, and...whammm...that shouldn't hurt like that, should it? Why don't I just stand up now? Wooooooo. Man. Are you kidding?

Plot figures this is minor, but if this is minor, major must be completely debilitating. The internet says ice: ice is helping. Got what Kaiser calls a prompt return call, that is eight hours later, and Dr. I Dunno Wadda YOU Think says 'how 'bout ice?'

Short airplane rides tomorrow and back home Sunday but then long ones next week. The internet says it takes weeks to heal, but we're hoping that's for a really bad one.  Meanwhile, The Duck had the foresight to purchase Whine Protection so Plotnik is unable to cry about it.

What do people with chroically bad backs do?

Monday, February 03, 2014

After the Rain

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Superbowl Sunday.

It's impossible to describe how much The Great Plotnik misses the future POTUS and her brother BROPOTUS. She will run the country and he will watch her back. Then, when she's done, he can take over, as long as he learns to walk first.

Looking at these two makes 2,500 miles feel like 25 million, especially on a rainy Sunday.