Monday, January 30, 2012


When they started to fit us with helmets and life jackets we realized we weren’t just viewing some Dominican Republican waterfalls.
Look at all the life jackets - hmmmmmmm
Papo asked us if we wanted to go on an outing.  Only $30 if we could get some other boat people to join us.  So we talked it up among the folks with whom we’ve been travelling and several others jumped in!  We met Kathy from Curiosity who told us that you could walk up to these falls and jump in.  Some of the jumps were quite big but you could find a way around them if you don’t like heights.  Good, said Glen.

My butt has gone to sleep
Off we went – 15 of us in a 12-passenger van that was really designed for 8.  Before we left town the driver had his head out the window, wincing along with the rest of us as we went over the topes (bumps.)  We stopped at the local garage/blacksmith and filled up the tire.  Then – off we went – got to know each other very well – but wait… we have to stop at Handy Andy’s house to get the cooler.  Now where is that going to go?  Behind the driver, under Harry’s (from Vagabond) feet.  So, off we went – but hold on.  We have to stop for beer and rum.  That goes in the cooler so no one else had to lift their feet.
Anyone who has driven in Mexico or China knows what it is like to career crazily down the road with chickens, goats, motorcycles, children running to school and burros carrying their burdens.  The morning beer gave us something else on which to concentrate.
When we weren’t shrieking with terror, we were able to enjoy the scenery – like running into a stampede of local cattle meeting us head on.  The mountain-side is really lush – reminded us of the hills in Maui.  Lots of ranching, sugar cane, mahogany plantings and mixed farming.
After an hour, we arrived at the waterfalls – where we learned that our $30 did not include admission to the park.  Papo must have forgotten to tell us.  So we could do 27 waterfalls for 500 pesos, 12 waterfalls for 280 pesos or 7 waterfalls for 180 pesos.  The cruising community opted for 7 waterfalls.
Swimming buddies

So off we go...

and go...

and go.

We walked upstream for 15 or 20 minutes and then came to an impossible spot with water plunging down from 12 feet.  “Just swim over to me, put your foot in my hands, put your hand on the rock and when I pump your foot up, grab the other guides’ hand. “  Crap – we aren’t going down the waterfalls, we are going up the waterfalls.
We are walking up the waterfall?

Here goes Pam

and Glen

Resting between terrors
This went on for an eternity… or maybe an hour.  We finally got to a place that really was impassable and our guide, Gusto said, “Alright – lets go.”  We turned around and flew back down the smooth rocks – one cataratas after another.  The second last was the biggest – maybe 15 feet.  One of the cruisers was more enthusiastic than the rest and let out a blood-curdling scream as she went over.  That would be Pam. 
The Screamer
 After our trek back we gorged at the buffet of bread, salad, rice, spaghetti, chicken, mystery meat and frijoles.  Washed down with ice cold white rum (very good!) and muchos cervesas.  Delicioso.  

The trip back was shorter – because we had beer in our bellies and lots of stories to share.  Glen’s command of Spanish was very limited but impressive, nonetheless.  At least Glen seemed to think so. 
Our guide was able to take plenty of video with our camera.  We will try to stitch it together into a You-Tube video

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Worst overnight crossing ever…

Well that wasn’t fun!  Of our two overnighters, this was our second best.  Chris Parker, the weather guru told us not to go, but we were anxious to get underway and our group thought we knew better.  We left Provo, Turks and Caicos at 7 am and got out on the Caicos Bank.  There were five boats travelling together.  Serenity, Falcon’s Nest, Vagabond, Fawkes and us and we were all jumping and plunging into the waves. The waves were sharp and choppy – only about 2 to 4 feet but a 1 second interval.  Bang, bang, bang.  And it got worse.  By the time we got near the edge of the banks we had to tack back and forth, motor sailing to make any ground.  When we finally got off the bank, around 4 pm, the sea was confused with 4 to 6 feet waves.  It was a grin and bear it evening.  Our bow went under water a number of times and we were glad we had lashed our anchors on well.  Water poured over the decks and, as we discovered later, through some leaky windows.  Later into the night the seas took on a rhythm and we were able to make good time – until we hit a current that took about a knot. 
Our travelling buddies took some hits, Serenity had to pull over to lash their dingy and work around a blown out mainsail and Falcon’s Nest had to travel in the big winds and waves with full sail as his furling system stopped working and he, a single hander, could not bring in the sail.  We are now all in Luperon harbour on mooring balls and probably will get together another day to share tales but now we are all tired after our night out.
Critters – a couple of dolphins escorted us off the banks as if we had outworn our welcome.  Once into the deeper water we were warned by a buddy boat to watch out for whales and sure enough, Glen saw the flipper of a humpback.  They gather in that area just like they gather in our other favourite tropical spot – Maui, for January through March for their breeding season.  So orcas in the Pacific northwest on Miss Pearl and now pilot and humpback whales on Blue Pearl.  Also, we can’t forget to mention the flying fish that constantly “fly” out of our way as we travel.  One even ended up in our dingy, which was unfortunate for him.  An amazing feat, actually as our dingy is up on davits, about five feet from the waterline.
We motor sailed and sailed all through the night.  We were headed for Puerto Plata, about 15 miles from Luperon, along the north coast of the Dominican Republic.  We had made the decision for Puerto Plata because it is closer to Puerto Rico and we heard that clearing in and out is nice and tidy there.  No officials asking for “regala” – gifts.  About 12 miles out a squall went by – only got us a little – but the wind changed by 30 degrees and all of a sudden we were dead into the wind.
Luperon dingy dock

Local fleet

Lovely senorita in Luperon
Local select baseball team

We were met as we entered the harbour by Papo and Handy Andy in their skiff.  We were provided a mooring ball at $2 a night.  They made sure we knew they were our contacts for gas, diesel, ice, rum, cigars, tours, transportation, and just abour anything else we might need.  They arrived back in an hour with the Commendante and his team.  Four of them boarded the boat and filled out forms and searched the boat.  One was in full uniform, the other three in jeans and t-shirts.  No payment needed but a "gift" of rum made them happy.  Then to town to clear through the local port authority, immigration, DR ports and agriculture.  Total bill was close to $100 but all in bits and pieces.  $20 to the Tourist Officer, $43 and $10 each to Immigration.  Port Authority was $10 and Agriculture was $10.  Each in a different ramshackle building or trailer.

at a mooring in Luperon - $2 per day

Papo brings fuel
So we are in Luperon after all.  Not such a bad thing because we had heard so many great things about this little fishing town.  The DR was not part of our cruising plan – but now it is.  We have to spend 3 or 4 days here due to weather and then we will try to fast track it to Puerto Rico.  We have about 250 miles to go – straight into the trade winds and we have to cross the Dreaded Mona Passage.  It’s actually called the Mona Passage but we’ve never heard a cruiser call it anything but the DMP.  The trick is to do it in little bites - all early in the morning before the trades kick in.
Captain Steve's
Anyway – we are sitting in Captain Steve’s in the morning after a wonderful catch-up sleep.  Drinking beer and passionfruit juice – making plans – enjoying Luperon, Dominican Republic.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seasoned Sailors

We finally did an overnight trip – adventurous sailors us!  We left Rum Cay at 4 am, travelled past Samana Cay and the sun set just before we got to Plana Cay which is near Acklins and Crooked Island.  Bumpy used to tell us he was going to work for a contractor who was commissioned to shorten Long Island and straighten Crooked Island.  
We had decided to motor-sail because the winds were forecast to be light and variable.  Well – so much for forecasts.  The wind was blowing 15 to 20 from the southwest – which is kind of like saying that water runs uphill.  We motor-sailed through that for 4 or 5 hours at crazy speeds up to 7 knots.  Then the “light and variable” came – for about an hour – and it was east north east winds for the rest of the trip – again at 15 to 20 – and we went even faster.  We saw speeds over 9 as we coasted down waves.  
Pam went to bed at about 8 pm, ready to take over the helm at 11 pm.  The watch time passed quickly enough.  The darkness is overwhelming – you can hear the sea but you can’t look out at it.  The starts are amazing – we took off the interconnect cover so we could look up into the sea of stars.  Quite overwhelming and humbling.
Pam stayed alert, looking for hazards, thinking about ways to find world peace and her next basket project.  Glen napped.  At the 2 am watch change, before she went below, Pam said that travelling at these speeds were going to get us to landfall before sunrise – not good.  So we turned off the engine and sailed at 6+ knots for the rest of the night.  Just after the sun came up we hit a squall.  Or the squall hit us.  Unfortunately for Pam, Glen was off watch so Pam had to reef the main and bring in a good bit of the jib – or wake up Glen.
We arrived at Turks and Caicos with buddy boats, Serenity, Falcon’s Nest and Vagabond and landed at a partially built marina on West Caicos to rest and recover.  We dropped the anchor at about 8 am.  Glen made an omelet to die for and we washed it down with champagne.  We look for any excuse to drink champagne and this seemed like a good one.  You can’t say, “We’ve been drinking all day” if you don’t start in the morning.
After a lovely nap, we pulled ourselves together, restarted Yan Diesel and headed over to Sapodilla Bay on Providenciales – we seasoned sailors call it Provo.  
This guy missed a turn - we are off in the distance
We cleared customs and immediately started to check the weather for our next leg.  Checking in with customs on Friday meant we couldn’t check out until Monday – so we looked into weekend activities. 
On Saturday we dinghied up to a marina run by a local character who does a cruisers net at 7:30 am.  He sounded knowledgeable and fascinating so it was a required trip.  We didn’t count on the wind and waves and so the 4-mile trip ended up taking an hour.  Bumpy, wet, ugly and memorable.
At South Side Marina we met the sonorous, erudite, London-voiced Simon, who knows everything and makes you feel so very much at home.  We bought diesel and gas and as we were hanging around he mentioned a group were headed to Da Conch Shack for lunch and would we like to join them?  Would we???  

Some of our cruising buddies from Serenity, Bound For Glory and a couple of others

Our coach

So we loaded into the back of a pickup truck and careered across the island anticipating the perfect lunch.  Lunch was fabulous.  We had rum punches, beers and every variety of fish known to man.  Glen had a panic attack when he learned that it ended up being a group bill and he could have choked down several more beers on someone else’s tab.
Back to the dinghy for another bumpy ride home – turkey burgers, crib and off to a glorious sleep.
After several morning visits from other cruisers, we set off for Las Brisas – a local bar/restaurant.  Spend a couple of hours with folks over a lovely lunch.  Glen and fellow cruiser, Bruce left to acquire a rental car so that we could tour the island the next day.  After a trip to the local – amazingly fresh vegetables – IGA we headed back to the Blue Pearl for conch salad and grilled cheese sandwiches.  What a dinner!
Art shot from Las Brisas

Woo hoo - fresh produce from the IGA

Conch salad - can't find our own so get them from the IGA

Master Conch Salad chef

We used our car to look for a dinghy propellor for Serenity and travelled from one end of the island to the other.  Our friend, Colleen, has a connection with Sandals/Beaches which she used to get us an impromptu tour of the resort here.  Very cool - family oriented.  We zoomed around for lunch, went to customs to clear out and then returned the car.  Had a dip in the pool at Las Brisas and then headed back to Serenity for Sundowners.

Tomorrow we head from here to Ambergris Cay - across the banks.  On Wednesday we stage to Big Sand Cay in the morning and prep for an overnight trip to the Dominican Republic.  Luperon sounds funky and cool - but we will try for Puerto Plata which is 15 miles further east along the DR coast.  Our objective is Puerto Rico so we can't dally - tempted as we are.  Cruisers coming north have told us heart warming stories about the DR but we will only be spending a bit of time there.  Maybe next year!

We will be using our SPOT locator as we move so if you are interested you can follow us along our way. 

Blue Hole - very deep and scary

Another art shot

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Leaving the Bahamas?

We left for Conception Island after a mad dash to the airport in George Town to pick up a replacement part which is at the core of our boat wifi system.  The $80 cost for the part was small after the $22 shipping costs, $40 ride out to the airport, the $30 brokerage fees and the $35 duties.   BUT, we have internet!
Our buddy boats left George Town earlier in the morning but by 10am we had cleared Elizabeth Harbour and were on our way to Conception.  There was no wind and we motored the whole 30 nm.  Along the way another boat hailed us on the radio to check out the pilot whales that were floating on the surface like black rubber inner tubes.  Sure enough, as we came closer we could make out some detail before they slowly slipped under the water.  As soon as we passed they rose back to the surface.
We rounded the point of Long Island and were able to spot the Columbus Monument that we visited last year.  Conception – where some believe Columbus first landed - is only 15 nm further on and so it was less than 3 hours before we spotted the 10 other boats in the harbour.
Looking for Columbus' footprints.
Mountain Climbing

The next day we took the dinghy to explore the mangrove creeks in the island.  The island is part of the Bahamas Trust and so critters are protected.  We saw lots of turtles but didn’t see any of the sharks that fellow cruisers have reported.  

Conception Turtle

The reefs around the island are full of life and we saw lots of folks out there with spears looking for fish and lobster.  We aren’t clear on whether the seas around the island are protected or just the inland parts but the hunter-gatherers from other boats were comfortable collecting their bounty. 
After two days we were warned of a huge cold front and so we ran to Rum Cay to hide from the 20 to 30 knot winds.  Caught another mahi on the way over.  We’ve become a little trapped here.  The winds don’t seem to be changing to any large degree and so it appears that we will have to motor directly into big wind and seas for a couple of days to get to our next stop – the Turks and Caicos.
Government Dock
Cruisers planning session
In the meantime, we’ve explored the island, got to know some of the other cruisers and their plans and contributed to the restaurant and bar businesses on the island.  “Kaye’s” is run by her daughter Delores.  Delores wrote a book – “Rum Cay, My Home” which is a prescribed text in the Bahamas public education system.  When you want a beer in her place, you go behind the bar to get it, find the opener and make your own change from her cash box.  Her place reminded us a lot of Miss Pearl’s place in Great Inagua and we mentioned that to her.  She knew Miss Pearl so it was cool to be able to tell her that our boats – Miss Pearl and Blue Pearl are named after her.
Hurricane Irene took off the other roof - this one's nice
Delores Wilson
We are hoping to leave early Thursday morning for a 190 nm run to the Turks.  That will take us for our first overnight run.  Glen has plenty of experience driving and sleeping at the same time so this should be a natural for him.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best holiday EVER!

Hi all, we’re the Frasers,

Simon, Sharon, Blair, Lauren and Erin.

We pulled the best babysitting gig ever, as Pam and Glen kindly invited us to stay on Blue Pearl whilst they went home for Christmas. Lauren came from Toronto, Simon came from Ucluelet, Sharon and Blair from White Rock, and Erin came all the way from Osaka, Japan.

Blair was there alone for a few days. So the day after Pam and Glen left he invited a few locals over.

Just kidding. He did errands and went for walk exploring Stocking Island.  From the top of Monument Hill took a picture of Blue Pearl (closest to shore). Simon was the last to arrive, and as the weather was ideal, we headed up north.

So, we were coming to anchor in Rudder Cut Cay (just south of Musha Cay – home to the rich and famous David Copperfield) and this power boat passes us. A lady is waving from the aft of the boat, points to herself and says they are from White Rock! They live a few blocks from us – go figure huh?! Small world.

So we had Christmas Day Breakfast tucked into a picturesque cove. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, sun, heat, and blue water.

A day later we headed up to Staniel Cay to Big Majors Cay – affectionately known as the “Pigs” because there are some enterprising pigs that swim out to our dingies etc. and receive food!

We stayed in the “Pigs” for two nights, until the wind changed and came from the west (bad for most anchorages in the Bahamas). So we headed back down (with a stop at Little Farmer’s Cay) to Georgetown.

There was a sailing regatta on. We took the dingy out to one of the turnaround markers and had a great time watching the boats make the turn. As they tacked (made the turn) the crew ducked under the huge sail boom as it swung over, then pull these planks across the boat, then scrambled out on them! This happened very fast, with much yelling and cursing and laughing.

We celebrated “cruisers” New Years – which is 10:00pm – cause its REALLY hard to stay awake that long! The next evening though,we put together a beach snack and had sundowners.

All too soon it was sundown on our trip. We had a great time, and thanks to Glen and Pam for trusting us with Blue Pearl. DAYS of travel yet to come to get everybody home – but that’s another story.
Bye all!

P.S. We couldn’t figure out why the Microwave started every time the SSB radio went on – hell we couldn’t even make the damn thing work – all we got out of it was a time signal!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Movin' on

We’ve been back on the Blue Pearl for a week now.  Blair and family seemed to enjoy themselves and they left the Blue Pearl sparkling.  We are anxious to get underway but we have to wait for a part to arrive from the US.  We are drinking coffee and tapping our fingers, waiting for Customs to open.
We will head to Conception Island – part of the National Park system and then on to Rum Cay.  There is a blow predicted for Sunday/Monday and we will weather that in the lee of Rum – while drinking same.  Then we make a long run to Mayaguana.  That will be our first overnighter.  It is 120 miles and there isn’t much in between.  After that comes the Turks and Caicos Islands.
T&C sounds interesting.  Folks who have been there talk about the GREAT grocery stores and the amazing 5 star hotels.  We will spend a few days there staging for our run down to the Dominican Republic.
During our week back we’ve spent time walking, exploring and socializing.  It has been enjoyable but we are getting itchy feet.  It is time to move on!
Sunset in George Town

Exploring Beaches

What can I get you?

Pam's handiwork

More baskets

Sing along

Weaving loons