Monday, December 14, 2009

The "White Sea" of Salinas - a Kayaking Excursion

After a few emails and multiple times trying to connect with the Sierra Club we lucked out when Jeff emailed an English speaking trip leader - Jose - who gave us all the needed details so we could join the group on an excursion to "Blanco Mar" (the White Sea) in Salinas. Jeff had gone to Salinas spearfishing, but there are many cays and we really wanted to join this group because they go to all kinds of places you will never find out about otherwise. Also they are like-minded people who know things we don't about ecology. There is "Blanco Mar" and across from it "Negra Mar" or the "black" sea. They are named for the tannin or lack of tannin excreted by the particular type of mangrove that lives there. There is a lot to learn and I may not have it all straight but I believe there are 4 types of mangroves: red, black, white and another that it is disputed as to whether or not it is a mangrove. They all have the ability to remove salt from the water but do it in different ways. The red mangroves live completely in the water and have a couple of organs at the base of the leaves that process the salt out. The white mangroves live more in sand and excrete salt out the leaf surface. I think the black ones are in the water (not sure). We saw blooming mangroves that had little fruits, and the cool thing is that they do not produce seeds, the "fruit" matures in place and sends a long root like thing down to the water as a way of propagating. Really cool!

Here we all are gathering at the launch site waiting for a few lost people. It is a beautiful, calm, sunny day and I am just in a bathing suit like most of the people.

We kayaked about 4 miles maybe (kind of my limit if it is windy) and because we started a little late it got very windy. I hate the wind. I REALLY hate kayaking in the wind. We went through some mangrove areas and then got some information about the ecosystem on a little beach and then had to cross to another cay. The wind and waves had picked up some but we made it across. We stayed on this cay for the remainder of the time swimming and chatting. Then a huge squall came through - one that you could not be on the water in. It rained, it got really cold, it got super windy. I was frozen. It was warmer in the water so we stayed there and finally I was too cold so I put on my only shirt, both our life vests and my lycra skin. Still cold. Then puuufff it disappeared and got nice again.

On the other side of our little cay it was calmer and warmer but more exposed to the outside reef. Jeff tried to kayak "surf" and I looked around at small life. I really enjoyed the plants going in one direction and the neat water ripples going in another.

The roots are so ornate - like baskets.

We went through many "tunnels" which is what we like best. The water wasn't clear so we didn't snorkel or see many fish but usually you can see schools of baby fish in mangrove areas - mangroves are a sort of nursery for fish.

The roots are really interesting.

It was still windy and a little rough for me on the way back so I got lazy and Jeff towed me. I did paddle but really he did most of the work. He is strong and knows that paddling isn't my thing. I view the kayak as a way to get to somewhere so I can float and wait to see things. He prefers to paddles for miles and miles just to paddle. The Sierra Club is doing a lot to preserve and protect areas like the mangroves. They have mobilized fishermen and made it worth their while to protect areas they have historically dumped garbage in, over fished or harvested wood from. Now they receive money for parking ($5 bucks a car), they get some of the money from the club, and the biologists don't have to act like enforcers or enemies. The locals now are selling fried fish and tostones to groups that come through and are keeping garbage off the road and see this as an opportunity and not a take over. That balance is always hard to achieve anywhere. They are trying to set up similar arrangements in other areas of forest and mangroves to help keep some of these areas wild. We are looking forward to the next outing. It probably won't be kayaking, but I'd like to visit some of the organic farms on the island, go on some identification hikes etc etc. They do some really neat camping/hiking/kayaking trips that we hope to take part in. I didn't like the part where I was cold (I hate being cold) but otherwise it was a nice day and we met some nice people. A special thanks to Jose for giving us the English verison of information. We appreciate the extra attention - I REALLY need to and want to learn better Spanish!


Rosa said...

Great Pictures, very colorful. Los colores estan bellos!

casas tres pequeñas said...

I love the colors in the calm waters. It would make a beautiful fabric.
As an avid reader of your blog I just want to say thanks for all your great blogs about our favorite island!
We will be at our home in Rincon over Christmas and are having cocktails Dec 26th around 5:30 at Calypso bar at Maria's beach. It's a "come meet and greet your adoring blog fans". We would love to meet you guys if your over that way. I know you live south of Mayaguez and it might be difficult. We're hoping Nick and Miri and Summer and Stefan will come for a cocktail. you can find me on facebook or my business website