The Casa Roja Bed & Breakfast is in full swing. We’ve had a house full of guests, including the owner of the house, for the last week. I’ve been sleeping on Christian’s sailboat to make room for the guests.
Due to the rain last week, my grass-cutting responsibility has been on hold. But early this week, the sun came out and I spent two days cutting the grass and pruning the bushes at both houses. The properties look great. I wish I had been able to finish before the guests arrived to provide a great first impression … but not much I can do about the crazy unpredictable weather around here!
My primary responsibility, though, is transferring the guests to and from the island in the 12-foot aluminum motor boat. I also take Christian and the rest of our staff (consisting of Christian’s wife, son, and son’s girlfriend) back and forth. In both cases, there is usually quite a bit of cargo as well – either suitcases for guests, or groceries and garbage for the staff.
The transfer itself is not so difficult. Yes, there can be a lot of wind and chop, and there is a lot of boat traffic – fishing boats, tug boats, sail boats, and other taxi boats. We have some marine life to watch out for too – penguins casually swimming about, and sea lions playing in the water or napping on the large, flat-topped mooring buoys. Coming from windy, busy San Francisco Bay, I’m used to most of this – except for the penguins.
Even the docking at the marina is straightforward. We generally have a reserved space, alongside one of the dock fingers. Because of the regatta happening at the end of the month, the marina is quickly filling with boats though, and we are likely to lose our prime spot. But still, it’s not difficult to dock this little motorboat.
The trickiest part of the transfer is the landing on the island itself. We don’t have a dock or pier. We land directly on the rocky beach. We have 3 or 4 different landing spots depending on the tides and wind. It took me a while (and a few boots-full of water) before I mastered the beach landing – approaching the beach at the right speed and angle so that I can cut the engine and raise it out of the water before the propeller hits the shallow rocky bottom, and still have enough speed so that the bow just gently glides up onto the beach. A few times I’ve stopped short and either rowed to shore or stepped off into deeper water than I’d anticipated (hence the boots full of water comment).
On the approach, I also have to watch out for submerged boulders and lines. There are a bunch of other boats tied up at the beach with lines running out to buoys offshore. These lines can be at varying depths depending on the tide, so it’s not just a matter of knowing where they are, but also knowing approximately how deep they are at a given time.
The most time-consuming (and nerve-wracking) task though is managing the anchoring of the boat once I’m on the island. For example, once I land with the guests, I’ll anchor the boat and help them with their luggage to either Punta Piedras or Casa Roja. I might then stick around one of the houses and do some work in the yard. But, because of the big tidal change here – anywhere from 10 to 15 feet – I have to constantly go down to the beach and check on the boat anchor. (I go check every 30-60 minutes depending on tide height, wind, etc.)
If the tide is coming in, I have to make sure I have enough line between the anchor and bow, and enough line running from the anchor up the beach. If the tide is going out, I have to make sure I keep resetting the anchoring further and further out so that the boat doesn’t get beached. (I’ll see if I can post a video of the anchoring process.)
Now, with my sailing background, I’ve been trained on calculations to help with all of this. But, I still feel uneasy given the nature of conditions around here. I’m still getting familiar with the slope of the beach, and the location of boulders and lines. If I’m not careful I could easily anchor the boat in what seems to be a safe spot at high tide, only to realize I’m boxed in by lines or boulders as the tide goes out.
I also have to pay attention to wind shifts. On several occasions, the wind has shifted, so I’ve had to move the boat to a different anchorage midday.
As you might imagine, this becomes difficult when I’m simultaneously trying to mow the lawn, or do other work around the house – and then my 30- or 60-minute alarm goes off and I walk down the hill to check on the boat, always with that slight worry of seeing the boat stuck high up on the beach, or worse, drifting down the channel on its own.
But, so far so good. From time to time, I’ll take a break and take the boat back to the yacht club, where I can enjoy the fast WIFI, tasty lunch, and pleasant view of the marina. Here, I can dock the boat worry-free and just relax.
Apart from working in the garden and running the boat taxi service, I’ve been spending my time chatting with guests and staff, enjoying evening barbecues on the deck at Casa Roja, and taking casual strolls along the beach and hillside.