Monday, February 10, 2014

Kayaking Lago Dos Bocas

I had intended last weekend to blog about the work I presented at the AAS meeting, but then I went kayaking instead - so I'm now going to blog about kayaking on Lago Dos Bocas.
Lago Dos Bocas (Lake Two Mouths) is a reservoir in the mountains near Arecibo. It was built in 1942 as part of a hydroelectric scheme (also involving Lago Caonillas, another reservoir upstream of Dos Bocas, built in 1948). Since then, the reservoir has lost over half of its original capacity to silting, but it still produces electricity and, since 1996, water from the reservoir has also fed the 'Superacueducto' that supplies the San Juan metropolitan area.
The 'two mouths' of the name refers to the two rivers that meet just above the Dos Bocas dam: the Rio Grande de Arecibo and the Rio Caonillas. These form the two arms of the lake. A third river, the Rio Limón, joins the Rio Caonillas branch about 2 km above the dam.
Chart of Dos Bocas from Soler-López 2012, USGS Scientific Investigations Map 3217
 A short way south of the dam, on the western shore where it is easily accessible from Route 10, there is a ferry terminal, or 'embarcadero', run by the department of transport. This has car parking and a free passenger ferry that serves lake-side houses and restaurants, and a jetty that is used by the restaurants' own boats. Most importantly, for our purposes, it has a slipway from which we can launch our kayak.
El Embarcadero
On previous occasions, we have headed up the Rio Grande arm and into that river and have explored quite a way up the Rio Limón. This time, we planned on heading up the Rio Caonillas arm. Our kayak is a 4.4m Feelfree Tri-yak, a sit-on-top tandem kayak. Due to its length, it tracks well (keeps going where it is pointed, rather than spinning off in a random direction) and has a third central seat that we use as storage space.
It took us about 30 minutes from arriving at the embarcadero to get the kayak off the car, carry it down the slipway, clip on the seats, get our equipment together, put on our buoyancy aids, and get out onto the water. We set out across the Rio Grande branch then headed on east, up the Rio Caonillas branch, passing an abandoned restaurant on the point where the two arms meet. A bit under a kilometre up, the lake turns south, but before we reached the corner a rain shower swept down from the mountains.
Abandoned restaurant on the point
We quickly pulled our ponchos out of the kit bag and scrambled into them. Visibility dropped, and the wind whipped around us as we ploughed on. Fortunately, winter showers don't tend to be thunderous, and rain is seldom cold in Puerto Rico! As soon as the rain stopped, we started to feel hot again. The ferries and restaurant boats zoomed past us, throwing up low wakes that seemed quite large enough from a kayak. We waved to the tourists as they went by in their ferries - quite a few even waved back!
We passed the mouth of the Rio Limón after about 30 minutes paddling, entering waters we had not kayaked before. Another shower came through, then our objective came into view. We had been to our favourite Dos Bocas restaurant, the Rancho Marina, many times by ferry, but this was our first visit by kayak.
The Rancho Marina
Kayak on the beach at the Rancho Marina
We watched a ferry disgorging passengers onto the jetty, then ran the kayak onto the beach and ran a mooring rope around a handy post. We did not have time for a full meal - we had to get back to the embarcadero before dark - so we skipped straight to desert. Kayaking and Key Lime Cheesecake - what could be better!
Key Lime Cheesecake!

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