Trip to Desecheo Island

Posted by Cassie

For my birthday, I wanted to do something special. We don’t do a whole lot of gifts, but I do like to have special experiences. Desecheo was top of my list of explorations since moving to Puerto Rico.

Desecheo  is a small deserted island about 12-13 miles west of Rincón. It had once been a bombing range, like many of the uninhabitated islands that comprise Puerto Rico, but has since become a nature reserve. The Spanish verb “desechar” means to cast or throw out, so I imagine Desecheo as “Castaway Island.”

Desecheo island
Approaching Desecheo by boat

We have always been curious about Desecheo since it is the only landmass looking west from Rincón that one can see. The sun always sets near it to the left or right and it seemed to call to us to explore it. So we figured my birthday would be the best occasion to go out there and see it in a snorkeling adventure.

We booked our snorkeling tour with Taino Divers. There is no actual docking marina for boats in Rincón and so one person had to swim to the boat and bring it up to the beach where all of us tourists had to help load the boat with the dive materials. The boat ride was fairly slow but fun. It took us about 45 minutes to reach the island.

Birthday kiss
Britton giving me a  birthday kiss on the way out

Once we arrived we noticed two police boats and a helicopter chopping around the sky over the island. We learned that there were Dominican refugees on the island trying to illegally immigrate to Puerto Rico, but had only gotten as far as Desecheo. And while technically it is Puerto Rico, Desecheo is completely uninhabited and has no fresh water sources or even coconuts to survive on!

Other side of desecheo
While the west side of Desecheo is more verdant, it is still very desolate

Talk about castaway! They were stranded there and stuck in a survival situation. The police were just waiting them out until they were ready to give up and be deported. It was quite interesting and sad to think of the risk these people were in, searching for a better life. No yola had arrived for them to crash upon the beaches of Rincón. They were stranded and we were right in the middle of it, snorkeling the troubled waters. The guys at Taino said that they had seen it before with Haitians or Domincans on the island. All they wanted was water. They tried to help, but were prohibited from doing much. Many of the runs for the border turn into rescue missions.

Police boat
Police Boat talking with Taino Divers about the Domincans

Once it had been determined that the situation was stable, we were given the ok to go ahead and jump out and snorkel, but we were warned not to go onto dry land.

The snorkeling was fantastic! The visibility was about 40-50 feet down, though our little disposable water camera didn’t capture it very well. There were a couple of SCUBA divers as well and they said it was world-class. I swam with a sea turtle dashiing right between my fingers. Britton said I was down holding my breath so long that he was beginning to worry, but I was so caught up and mesmerized with the turtle. Fortunately, I have always been able to hold  my breath about 2 minutes and so I was fine.

Sea Turtle crop
Reaching for the turtle

We also saw some very healthy coral reefs and tons of fish. Crumbling some potato chips into the water brought up a lot of fish like these yellow fin snappers.

Yellowfin snapper
Yellow fin snappers

Britton SnorkelCassie Snorkel Monkey

Even though we got a little sea sick (me more than Britton), we had a great time on this day trip. If there is any criticism about it, I would say it was a bit expensive especially because they add a $20 per person “tax” to visit the island that is not included on their website. They also cut the trip shorter than advertised. We were supposed to return around 2pm, but we were done and driving home by 1pm. They also had no set “lunch” time and so very few people ate any of the pasta salad lunch that was included in the fee.

But overall the snorkeling was fantastic, the crew was knowledgeable and friendly and the Dominican situation added a striking reminder of our geo-political place in the world.

New Project in the Works

Posted by Cassie

We have just started working on a new project with our super-talented friends, and many people around Rincón, that is bound to be awesome. Stay tuned!

Here is a clue in picture form:

Smudge Stick

Borinquen Beach Aguadilla

Posted by Cassie

As part of a long, fun birthday weekend (which we will post more about soon) we will start at the end. One of my new friends shares my same birthday and she wanted to celebrate it at a new-to-me beach in Aguadilla they call Borinquen. It is near Wilderness Beach which we also have yet to check out, but is definitely on our list as well. (For those unfamiliar with Puerto Rico, Borinquen is the ancient native Taino word for the island.)

Golf courseDriving through the golf course to the beach

To access this beach one must drive through the Borinquen golf course which threw us off a little. The beach, like all beaches in Puerto Rico, is open to the public. This golf course/beach is very close to the BQN Aguadilla airport and is just gorgeous!

BQN beach PlaneAirplanes coming in low

The beach is nice, long and sandy with a sunset view. We talked and drank and snacked and overall enjoyed ourselves. Someone said it was a “Gidget Day” which I thought was a great name for it! :-)

IMG_0640 IMG_0629 IMG_0628
The two birthday girls and fun with friends on the beach

IMG_0630Long sandy beach with hardly anyone but our group on it

There are some rock outcroppings in the sea that appear to just float there. We are going to try and put together a floating party near those rocks hopefully someday soon.

BQN Beach Sunset
Floating rocks and cliff face at sunset

We love Borinquen Beach and would highly recommend it for a beach party!

Marbete Time in Puerto Rico

Posted by Cassie

When we bought our truck back in October we didn’t have a mailing address. That complicated things a little when we went to Aguadilla to register the car and change over the title. And while we now have a mailing address we never got around to updating it in the system, so we never received the paperwork to get our marbete (pronounced Mar-Bet-Tay) sticker.

Marbete is registration and compulsory insurance (government liability). It is required on all vehicles. We have heard that the police check more heavily for marbete than they do for drunk driving and definitely more than they do for running red lights, bad U-turns, driving in non-existent lanes, etc, so we knew this was not something to procrastinate too much on.

We stopped into one of the inspection shops near the agro we frequent in Rincón  around late May early June because our sticker said it was good until July and we didn’t know if that meant the whole month of July or just until July 1.

An inspection place in Rincón

The place was empty except for one helpful man who said (in Spanish) to me that we shouldn’t worry about the marbete until July because it would last through the month. He said we could come back in July before it was due and they could do the inspection that is required to get the sticker and then we could go to their offices in Aguadilla. He also gave us some helpful advice: go during the middle of the week, in the middle of the month, in the middle of the day. We stored that info away and waited.

Well, yesterday was the day. It was the perfect time to go according to the man from the inspection office in Rincón. We drove in to a different inspection office in Aguada (they are all over the island) and were helped right away. They just ask you to turn on the vehicle, they place an emissions probe into the tail pipe, charge you (we paid $11) and print out a certificate with emissions numbers. Beforehand we had to give them our paperwork from when we registered the car even though it wasn’t the current one so that they could put our info on the certificate.

Next we headed to the Obras Públicas (Public Works) area of Aguadilla where CESCO (Centro de Servicios Al Conductor or in English, the Driver Services Center) and the Colecturía (Collection area) are. This is also where you can get your driver’s license. We knew where to go because this is where the seller of our truck took us when we first registered it.

Marbete sticker
The all-important marbete!

We waited in a short line (about 15 minutes) to get the registration paper in CESCO and to update/change our address so that in future years it will come to us in the mail (we brought a water bill to prove our new address, but I am not sure it was necessary this time). Then we took that paperwork to the other office (the Colecturia) that is about 100 paces away.  There was virtually no line at all there and we paid the $169 with a card. 20 minutes after parking at Obras Públicas we were out with our marbete in hand and updated info. We had heard horror stories so we weren’t sure how it would go. Overall, I would say I have had longer waits with lousier service in the Colorado DMV than we did yesterday. I would even say that everyone was quite friendly and helpful to us! Perhaps it was all in timing, but we were pleasantly surprised.