Friday, February 24, 2012

The Virgin Inmans

We told Mike and Charlotte that since they were arriving close to midnight, they would need to stay overnight in a hotel  and then rent a car to come to us. After all, getting around when you are boat-based is challenging. But from our anchorage in Salinas it turned out that renting a car was a piece of cake. Sidney, the Hertz dealer would deliver the car to the marina.

So we rented the car for 2 days. We adventured with Colleen and Bruce from Serenity on day 1, winding all through Ponce until we found our buddy boat, Vagabond still in the Ponce Yacht Club. We shopped ‘til we dropped – actual American stores were fascinating after all our time in the Bahamas and the DR. Then we headed back for a terrific meal of fresh mahi on Southern Cross IV.

The next day, we took off in the morning to gather Mike and Char from the San Juan airport. Got on to the freeway headed for Ponce – damn, that’s the wrong direction. Did a U-turn, went through an automated toll booth without the right sticker. Not a good start. Waiting for a nice fine on our VISA when we get the bill.

What a cool hotel! It is right in the airport, quite reasonable and a terrific place for guests to arrive. Make sure to remember that one! Great to see M & C. We’ve been anticipating this visit for a long time so we were overjoyed to see them.

We got them back to the boat – went back out to do some provisioning. We had lunch at the recommended chicken stand – Viktor Pollo. Back to the boat for drinks and yapping. Next morning we set out for a 20 mile run to a little fishing village named Patillas. Ran the boat up on a coral head named &%$**$$##. Set a stern anchor and kedged ourselves off and then anchored for the night. A manatee floated up and said, “Good job.” Explored the town. Not much there. Beers, garage sale, and then back to the boat for mahi, drinks and sweet dreams.

Next day we actually reached our destination in all this…. the Virgin Islands. Vieques (vee AYE case) Island is one of a number of islands in the Spanish Virgins. It was primarily used for military purposes until only recently and so it is not as developed as other nearby islands. We enjoyed a great swim. We walked up the beach and rescued a young couple who had become stuck in the sand in their jeep. Karma rewarded us for our efforts right away. We met George, Iris and a number of their friends who were enjoying the weekend at Green Beach. They spent most of the day in the water like Water Buffalo – eating snacks and drinking PR moonshine rum. They enjoyed Charlotte’s antics as she tried to knock a coconut from a tree – and then invited us to join them for refreshments. They recommended some places for us to visit and told us of a great marina where we may end up leaving Blue Pearl at the end of this season.

In the morning, most folks had scattered so we decided to head out. We started for Isabel Segunda and then shifted course for Culebra. We headed into Ensenada Honda – a big bay near the town of Dewey. Had beers at the Dinghy Dock Restaurant with Colleen and Bruce – then set off to explore a bit. Found the mercado (store) and the panederia (bakery) and finally Momacita’s – a nice little bar on the canal near the ferry dock. Back to the boat for sundowners, crib and another great dinner – and lots of rum.  Rum led to guitars, singing, crooning - man we were good!  Tylenol en la manana (the morning.)

Spent a day snoozing and reading at our Dakity anchorage and then went snorkeling with Bruce and Colleen. Saw great reefs and lots of rays. When the sun is out, the colours in the water are just spectacular. Said our goodbyes to Serenity as they head farther east. We sailed a couple of miles to nearby Culebrita to walk to the lighthouse, swim and relax. Back a couple of miles to Bahia Almadovar for another great dinner, drinks, crib, reading and an early bedtime. Tough life!!!
Pollo carbon
OK - rock it - just like in the snow

How do you get the dam things down?

PR moonshine

Not open today
Dominos and huge hamburgers
Culebrita lighthouse

Top of the lighthouse

View from the lighthouse - nice boat!

Happy Hour with Colleen and Bruce

Local bars

Whoooo hooooo


Hardy sailors

and snorkelers

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Ponce… Wait, Salinas… No, Ponce... OK, Salinas

We crossed the Dreaded Mona Passage!!!  So much has been written about this passage that it has scared the bejesus out of us.  But wait, the weather gurus are telling us that there is a weather window – the best since before Christmas!!!

So, without really exploring Punta Cana, we readied ourselves, got our dispachos from the DR navy, made overnight snacking food and set out, just after 9 AM.  We watched a couple of humpbacks breeching as we left the Dominican Republic behind us.  It was so calm that at times there weren’t even ripples on the water.  It was so calm that we realized that we were going to arrive at Ponce at 3 in the morning.  So – fearless and adaptable sailors us – we changed our destination for Salinas after first checking with as many cruising resources at hand, that Salinas was a port of entry.  One of the cruisers tried raising US Customs and Immigration on his satellite phone but was not able to get a connection.

So we sailed on through the night, enjoying the smooth ride, the stars and the good feeling that we were going to be 30 miles further down the coast.  This coast does not make it easy to sail east so this was a real gift.

Caught another mahi and hooked something else that might have been a whale.  Our line spun out with the sound of a banshee and near the end, Glen put some extra resistance on the line and it gave way.  Good thing ‘cause we think whaling is illegal in PR.

After a beautiful sunrise we coasted into Salinas, set our anchors and prepared to explore – just have to check in first.  Minor.  BUT – the port of entry has been closed for two years and the sympathetic but firm official told us we had to sail back to Ponce to clear.


Anyway – Glen made an omelette while Pam steered and we motored 4 hours – no wind at all – back to Ponce.  Anchored and phoned.  They said, “Phone back when you are at the fuel dock.”  Called the fuel dock.  “We are on break ‘til 1PM”  OK, wait ‘til 1 – go to the fuel dock.  Met a couple who had been waiting since 11 AM.  We waited a bit, had someone come on and quarantine our garbage, someone else to see if we are bandits.  Then they took our ship’s registration papers and told us to meet them back at the office for our new cruising permit.  Waited an hour in the office and finally – a shiny new cruising permit – but a lousy anchorage.

So – back on the boat, fire up Yan Diesel and head 4 hours back to Salinas.  We are currently in a snug anchorage after a harrowing pitch black arrival.

But, the DMP is behind us and friends and family will be here soon to explore the Spanish Virgin Islands!  Whoopeee!
Yummmm - more mahi!

The Dreaded Mona Passage

Pam on watch across the DMP

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heading East

These overnighters are killing us.  It’s hard to figure out if you left yesterday or the day before.  And getting a few hours sleep is magnificent when you can.

The trade winds lie down at night and make it possible to move east – mostly motor-sailing.  We wait until the winds die down or until we think they are going to die down, and then set out.  Sometimes we get it wrong and get a washing-machine ride.
We left early from Luperon to Sosua – getting in around noon.  Sosua is a cool little tourist town – settled during and after WW II by German Jews trying to escape from persecution in Europe.  The little bay was beautiful with crystal clear water and amazing tourist hotels.  We napped and ate and then hoisted anchor at 6 PM.  We struggled around the first cape – and over the night learned that we were going to struggle around every cape.  The winds pile up the seas and it is very bumpy going.
We had the opportunity to have the bottom cleaned when we left Luperon but Glen cheaped out and decided that not much could have accumulated in the 2 weeks we were there.  WRONG!!!  We burned 3 times as much fuel as usual and were the last in the pack getting into el Vallee (Escondido). Glen dove on the propellor and found it totally encrusted with barnacles.  He cleaned the prop but the entire bottom was covered with the same growth.  We had to drop out of the convoy to head into Samana instead of heading on to Punta Cana. 
Five miles out of Samana the engine overheated and we had to shut it off.  Glen checked that the barnacles hadn’t clogged the water strainer, he checked that the heat exchanger (radiator) had fluids and he checked that the impellor was intact.  He didn’t check that the fan belt was broken – which it was.  Genius Glen found that we could run the engine at low revs and the temperature stayed in the normal range.  Then – aha! – the alternator isn’t putting out any voltage.  So GG headed back into the engine room, determined the problem and we were soon back underway to Samana with a new belt.
We arrived in Samana at 9 AM, cleared in, arranged for fuel, arranged to have the bottom cleaned, took a motorconcho to the local market for oranges and lemons, found a bottle of Glen Kinchie for only $30, got back on the boat and we were underway for Punta Cana by 4 PM.  Samana looks like a cool little town, a place that needs more exploring some day.  It is a quaint little fishing town that has been discovered by cruise ships so there are perfume, jewelry, gift shops along with the other hustles you see in cruise ship towns.  Samana Bay is a humpback whale mating/birthing ground like Maui and so the place is covered with whale watching experiences.  We saw lots of spouts as we travelled in and out of the bay.  Neat place!
Another overnight sail to Punta Cana and here we are.  We arrived at about 6 AM and had to heave-to in the swell in front of the marina, waiting for it to open.  This is a magnificent place.  To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t go to a place that would in the likes of me.  But here we are, AC blowing full on, dining out at the restaurant.  Living the grand life – for one night.  Then it is back to the grind – we leave in the morning at around 10 AM in light airs to transit to Puerto Rico.  This is an 18 hour run to clear into PR at Ponce (Pon say).  
We’ll spend a night or 2 recovering, looking around Ponce and then try to figure out how to connect with the Inmans.  Mike and Charlotte are going to be with us for a week or 10 days while we explore the south coast of PR and try to get to Isla Vieques in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  We know Mike would like to try some of the Glen Kinchie.  We doubt there will be any left to try.  Should have bought 2 bottles.


el Vallee coconut grove


The fuel dock

Breakfast at Cap Cana Marina

Laundry day

Blue Pearl at Cap Cana

Partying with our cruising buddies

Monday, February 6, 2012

Time to Move!

We’ve been waiting for the experts to tell us we can go.  We are Waiting for Weather Windows in W(L)uperon or Lying Low before we go in Luperon.  Or how ‘bout this one – Wasting Away Again in Luperonoville - where the rum is cheap and so are the aspirins.

Anyway, the Trade Winds are blowing 20 right from the east, the north swell sends 10 foot seas hurtling towards the shore and the wind and swell combine to create a washing machine effect.  NO FUN!

So we’ve been patient.  Even with friends and family arriving in PR in days – we’ve been patient.
BUT WAIT!!!  We think we’ve got a window!!!

The weather gods may have conspired to create an opening.  Jinder said something about burning special incense, putting pins in a voodoo doll and making a special request to his gods.  Thanks, Jinder! 

We might be heading out Tuesday night to hug the coast in the island “night lee” to make Escondido.  A night lee occurs when the cooling land mass creates conditions that knock the Trade Winds down.  We see it every night at about 7PM, when the winds die down – and every morning, when the winds kick back in at about 10 AM. 

When the north swell dies, and the Trades get below 15, the night lees make it possible to transit along the coast.  So we will leave Tuesday evening to get into Escondido Wednesday morning.  Sleep at anchor until evening and then head around Cabo Samana towards PR.  Maybe only Punta Cana, DR or maybe all the way to Boqueron, PR.  We’ll let the weather decide.

The main thing is that we will be a step closer to our rendezvous with friends and family in PR.
Luperon has been a blast.  This is a cozy cruiser community integrated with the friendly DR fishermen and townsfolk.  We’ve loved Captain Steve’s – his esposa Annie is a delight.  Wendy’s is awesome, JR’s has a great music night.  Papo and Handy Andy have become amigos.  We appreciate their work ethic and will be sorry to say goodbye.  The food has been cheap and fantastic and did we mention - cheap.  The beer is cold and delicious.  We won’t be sorry to say goodbye to the bug – we all seemed to catch it and each spent 2 days close to el bano.

But what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?

Hasta la vista, baby!

Entertaining on Vagabond

Enjoying lunch in Puerto Plata

Lunch at Captain Steve's in Luperon

Fixing the antenna

Our view back into town - about 75 boats here... waiting
Pam at work

Before varnish...


Local kiddy sailors

Planning our escape...