Archive for April, 2007

Entry for April 29, 2007

April 29, 2007

We spent a little time Sunday calking the rest of our lifeline stanchion bases to keep them from leaking and streaking rust on the boat.  During the deluge last Wednesday, we found a few leaks through the deck fittings and also noticed some rust stains from our ocean crossing coming from the stanchions.  Hopefully, this round of calking will fix both problems.

We then went into the Blanco marina around 11 am for the weekly flea market.  One of the interesting things we found was a 10 year old Sailrite sewing machine that someone was selling for $400.  These machines are for sewing sails and heavy canvas and can easily sew through 6 or 7 layers of canvas.  They cost $1,000 to $1,500 new depending on the model. To make a long story short, we talked with the owner about coming to their boat to look at the machine and by time we got there someone else had bought it.  Oh well…

We then decided to haul some water to the boat since the winds were down a little today and the waves in the anchorage were low.  They sell drinking water here for about $1 for a 5-gallon jug – the same type of clear plastic jugs you use for water dispensers at work.  We hauled 8 of them to the boat in our dinghy, lifted them up on deck and then poured them onto our water tank inlet.  The whole process took us about 45 minutes and brought our water tank from just below ¾ to about 7/8.  We’ll probably have to do that once more before we leave to keep the tank close to full since we don’t want to run our watermaker in the harbor.

We had a nice BBQ lunch at the Blanco marina then came back to the boat until later in the evening when we went over to the Yacht Club for a very nice Mexican platter dinner.  It seems that Sundays are a party day around here.  I’m not sure if it’s every Sunday or this one is special because tomorrow is a holiday (Labor Day).   

Tomorrow we are borrowing Janet’s car with Tom and Erica for a 2-day trip to a couple cities on the eastern shore.  We’re very much looking forward to seeing more of the country from the land.  I’ll be sure to bring our camera and post some pics to the website.  Probably later in the week I am going to rent a friends motorcycle for a couple days so we can do a little touring on our own.

This picture is from yesterday when we were grocery shopping and a rancher was bringing his cows down the street.  Very weird.  I almost felt like “running with the bulls….”

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Entry for April 28, 2007

April 28, 2007

Today, Saturday, we overslept a little because we were very warm in the night and didn’t sleep well.  The island releases the heat at night that it accumulated during the day and it helps to calm down the trade winds.  That is why most people who sail around here do it at night, especially if you are heading east, into the trades (like us).  Anyway, the last few days have been “normal” weather for this area and time of year.  The temperature rises to high 80s during the day with winds increasing to about 25 knots by early afternoon.  Sometimes it feels like a train coming through the boat the wind is blowing so hard.  By evening the winds are starting to calm down to 5-10 knots which they hold for most of the night.  Last night they were even less and the water in the harbor was like glass by midnight.  It was still 85 in the boat with no wind.  I eventually moved into the salon and slept on the sofa where there was a big hatch over me directing a little wind down to me.  It seems like our aft cabin gets very warm when the wind dies to nothing.

We dinghy’d into town this afternoon for a late lunch and groceries.  We’ve been trying a different restaurant each day for lunch and today was one of the best.  I had the “special del día” (special of the day) – beans and rice with roasted chicken and salad – and Laura just had a chef salad.   When we got the meals, her “chef salad” was just a tossed salad.  The owner, Andrew, was waiting on us and came to see if everything was alright.  I asked if their chef salad normally came with meat and cheese.  He said, “No senior but I will get you some right away” and came back in about 2 minutes with sliced cheese. Pretty good service!

We then looked for the bakery which we found a short while later.  We bought some rolls that looked really good.  There were about a dozen 8” rolls in the package for 40 pesos (about $1.25).  Then we found a little side store that looked like it had good veggies.  We picked out a couple cucumbers and 3 tomatoes along with a large bunch of bananas.  While the clerk was figuring out what we owed, another man came in to sell us 2 bunches of fresh broccoli that looked excellent.  We hadn’t seen fresh broccoli in about 5-6 weeks.  I bought the 2 bunches of broccoli for 40 pesos (it seemed weird to buy veggies from this other guy while we were in a store) and the cucumbers, tomatoes, head of lettuce and bananas were 77 pesos (about $2.50).  On our way back to the boat, we stopped at another shop and bought a dozen eggs for 48 pesos.  I think the eggs are the only thing more expensive than the U.S.  The fresh veggies are definitely cheaper.

This evening we went to the yacht club because they had advertised a band with specials for dinner.  We were only about the 3rd or 4th couple there and the band was on break.  Some of our other boater friends came in and sat with us.  Ray is a brit who has a boat in the harbor along with a “flat” on shore.  Ted is another single boater with the same setup.  They have both been here for several years.  I asked Ray why he had a flat when he also had a good sized sailboat in the harbor.  He looked at me like trying to decide what he should say than finally sort of gave in and said, “Because I’m a dirty old man.”  He said the local Dominican women liked the foreigners (probably because they had money) and bringing a girl back to a flat was easier then to a boat.  He called it, “My little love nest.” Ted didn’t agree or disagree so I think he felt the same way.  They both talked about their “girlfriends” a few times during the evening.  Both of them are 70 years old but in great shape.

The band seemed like a group of local guys who got together because they had something else in common other than music.  They were pretty bad.  We had one cocktail and an appetizer then left a little while later.  We were the last ones in the restaurant and it was only 7:30.

The picture is the band.  Don’t they look great?  You’ll be thankful I didn’t include a soundtrack…..

Entry for April 27, 2007

April 28, 2007

We woke up to sunshine and warmth this morning, but as we’ve seen in the past few days, it doesn’t mean we won’t be getting showers or even a brief downpour. Wednesday night, it rained hard. We had leaks we didn’t know existed, but were able to find the sources and took care of them. We got over 7 inches in a bucket and afterward, we wished we had funneled some of that rain into our water tank. We don’t use that water for drinking anyway, so it would work just fine, Reminds me of the cistern well on the farm…the water in the harbor is really nasty, so we aren’t using the water-maker at this time.

Our plans for the day were to go with some other folks and head into Puerto Plata, a town not too far from Luperon, that has better shopping, etc.. (I even heard they have a fabric store!)… We all loaded up in Janet’s van and prior to taking off, she informed us that there may be some problems with the police (commandante). And she was right. Before we even left the parking lot of the yacht club, a man was on his cell phone informing the police, and before we were even into town, there they were, pulling her over. The reason there were problems is that they think she’s getting paid to take us somewhere and this is taking away their business from the taxi’s and buses. Guess there’s no “free trade” here – it’s their way or no way… One of the police got in the van with us, told her to drive to a certain building in town (the ministry of tourism and development) and there she had to go explain what she was doing. They really don’t believe gringos (Americans), and didn’t believe that she was not getting paid. From the results, things didn’t go too smoothly. They wanted us all to get out of the van and be taxi’d to wherever we were going, when she wanted to be able to take us back to the Marinas. They really gave her grief about that, but she insisted that it being a private vehicle, she’d take us back, which she did. Now I don’t begrudge these people making a living, but catching a ride with someone that knows the sights and where all the good shopping is shouldn’t be a crime. Janet had told us that she was one time put into jail, so she has an attorney in Puerto Plata that will handle today’s problem too. So here we are, back on the boat, but will maybe catch a bus later in the day with Tom and Ericka, to see some sights.

I’m hoping some of the sights we see are more impressive to me than Luperon has been, I’m really missing the white sandy beaches and clear waters of the Bahamas and the Caribbean. I’ve heard other parts of the DR are just wonderful, so I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Tonight there was a Mexican dinner night at one of the marinas, so we went to the Yacht club around 5:30 and met up with Tom and Ericka then headed over to Puerto Blanco marina for dinner.. It was pretty good and again, cheap! Bill got to meet Bruce Van Sant, a old timer that wrote a great book on sailing and getting into areas around here .. Bill’s been “living” by that book, so it was pretty cool. Bruce’s book was the boating bible we used to get this far after only being sailors for 6 months.

Entry for April 26, 2007

April 28, 2007

I really like the Dominican Republic. Maybe we’ll find out stuff that makes me change my mind in the future but right now it is a cool place. Here’s a good example of the mindset here – One of our boating friends said they knew someone locally who had recently taken their drivers test for the first time. One of the questions was, “How long can you stop in the road, blocking traffic, to talk to someone on the side of the road?” (or something like that). We all cracked up and even laughed harder when we heard what the driver’s test answer was – “for a short time”. Can you imagine seeing that question (and answer!) on a test in the U.S.?

Thursday, April 26, 2007: after an easy morning of lounging around, we went into town, got a late lunch at one of the restaurants, and picked up our laundry at Steve’s. I might just get spoiled having someone else do my laundry!! J After dropping it off on the boat, we decided to take a dinghy ride around the harbor. There are all kinds of little inlets and interesting scenery about. One area has sharp cliffs that fall into the depth of the waters, and not far there are rocky little beaches that reach around areas of Mangrove trees. Although the water is brown and murky, the fish jumped occasionally in from of us as we putted along. In one area, we had to dodge a line of bobbers that ended up being a net set by one of the local fishermen who were actually out there picking up other nets they had set along the way. It was a nice little journey.

The picture is the yacht club which overlooks the harbor. Nice view, huh?

Entry for April 24, 2007

April 24, 2007

OLA! I know Bill wrote a quick note to tell you we made it to Luperon, Dominican Republic. It was quite another overnight trip, I’m hoping there won’t be very many more of those.. We get so wiped out and we seem to lose a day. Although we did have all sorts of people stop in to see us today.. Papo, a native Dominican, to let us know that he supplies the boaters with everything from diesel, gas, and water to the flag of their country.(it’s proper boating etiquette to fly the country your visiting’s flag as a courtesy).he also brings the customs guy to your boat which starts the process of “checking in.” Then we were off to the immigration office, after filing paperwork and taking care of our passports and $36.00 later, we were told that the agriculture and sanitation departments would come out to the boat late afternoon as they weren’t available at the moment. When they did arrive around 4:30.. It was another 40.00 to them. Governments don’t seem to change wherever you go…

Anyway, after immigration, we took a brief walk into town, found a nice place to get some breakfast, really cheap—a huge meal besides purchasing a fresh pineapple and a dozen eggs only cost us 380 pesos (11.00)then back to the boat for some much needed napping. Although, since we were planning on going to a pot luck dinner for the cruisers in the area, I did end up making some cream puffs .And of course, they were a BIG hit! One of the cruisers told me they have a Flea market on Sundays and that I should do some baking to sell, as there aren’t any good bakeries in the area. Maybe “Sugar n Spice” will still exist in far away places!!

Time once again to “catch” up with a good nights sleep.. and this anchorage is so nice and calm, we should get a good one.

Nighty night, don’t let the bed bugs bite!

It is Tuesday morning and we’ve just gotten up after a wonderful night’s sleep. This anchorage is so protected, I’ll bet we wouldn’t get much more than a ripple on the water in 30 knot winds. There are high hills all around us and coming in from the ocean you have to take a couple 90 degree turns which cuts off all the ocean swells. Luperon harbor is widely known as one of the best “Hurricane Holes” in the entire Caribbean. The bottom is mostly mud which the anchor can bury into easily. Even if the boats drag their anchors in a storm, the shore all around is mud and mangrove roots which would just cushion you from any damage.

The DR is so beautiful after the almost desert conditions of The Bahamas. Everything here is green and lush with hills AND MOUNTAINS! We haven’t seen mountains since our trip back to NY for Christmas. We’re hoping to rent a car and see some of this beautiful country.

Did you know some of the cities in the DR were founded by Christopher Columbus on his second trip in 1502? I’ll put in some good info on the DR in future blogs. It’s a very interesting place and we’re hoping to see much of it over the next couple weeks.

As Laura mentioned, checking in was a drawn out process. When I checked in to the Turks and Caicos Islands, the entire process was done in one office with only one official. It did cost $41 but that included checking out which I did at the same time as checking in. Here we have talked with 8 people (so far) with a cost of $81 total which included the $5 “donation” the customs official said he would gladly accept (“no obligation senior…”).

The immigration office was at the end of the dock so we wandered into town when our work there was completed. I thought “Why did they put the slums next to the harbor?” as we walked down our first street. Oops. This was downtown Luperon and how many of the people in this country live. The streets were somewhat dirty with dogs, goats, chickens and kids all having a great time it seemed. It seems like a very happy place with everyone laughing or talking to their neighbors while sipping beer and sitting at a small table on the side of the sidewalk. There was lots of music playing, mostly Hispanic/Mexican flair, from the cafes, bars and homes lining the street. The streets were narrow and very busy with small, 100 cc motorcycles the main mode of transportation. Many of the motorcycles are like taxis. They are called motorconchos and most are driven by very young men who don’t look old enough for a license. We haven’t tried them yet but I’m sure we will. They will give you rides to different places in town for a very small cost – we’ve heard that it was 10 – 20 pesos (current exchange rate is 31.5 pesos = $1 US).

We were looking for an ATM to get some pesos and a proprietor for one of the local shops directed us to the local telephone, Internet, bank office if we “come back to browse” his shop. We changed a $100 bill for RD 3,150 (RD is Republica Dominica) – commonly called pesos. Wow! Now I had a couple 1,000 note bills burning a hole in my pocket.

We went back to the shop and I ended up buying a DR t-shirt for RD 300. I think he saw a sucker. While I typically try to negotiate just about any purchases – even in the US – I think I can learn better techniques from these people as I was only able to get him down from RD 380.

We left the shop and walked back to a restaurant we had seen called “Steve’s Place”. I had heard him on the marine radio saying they had free Internet for anyone purchasing a meal. Plus, we hadn’t even had breakfast yet! We went to “Steve’s” and it was very nice. Every place is open-air since the temperature doesn’t vary out of the 70 – 90 degree range here at all. We were the only ones in the restaurant since it was only about 11 am. We sat down and Steve came out and introduced himself. Then his wife brought us coffee with a toddler in her arms who was the cutest little girl that played shy with me and peaked around her mother’s head. Laura ordered Heuvros Rancheros (sp?) and I had ham and eggs. Laura’s breakfast showed up with a smoked pork chop on the side. That was a first!

Steve’s Place also sells some fresh groceries so we were able to get a few things without going to the Supermercado. We then walked back to the boat for a much needed nappers.

Later in the day the agriculture officials showed up to inspect our veggies. I think it was mostly ritual as they only asked a few questions while filling out their forms before requesting $40 for clearance.

Around 5 pm we dinghy’d into the yacht club for their pot-luck dinner. Only one person had showed up before us so we thought it was going to be a bust. After we ordered a couple cocktails and sat out on their deck overlooking the harbor, more people started showing up and by 7 pm there was a good crowd. I think I’m really going to like this place. During happy hour at the yacht club (5 – 7 pm) El Presidente’ beers are only 65 pesos for a liter bottle. I think we better start walking these hills to work off some of the carbs (hehe). The view from the yacht club is awesome and I hope to take our camera up there today for a picture of the harbor and surrounding hills. I hope it stops raining long enough for a good picture. It seems to rain here once every hour since we arrived. Nobody seems to notice as they don’t wear rain gear or anything.

The party seemed to be picking up speed around 8 pm but we were dead tired and decided to head back to the boat. We had probably slept only 3-4 hours in the last 48 and needed a good nights sleep. I think we slept for 9 hours straight last night and I woke up in the same position as I went to sleep. Life is GOOD!

I noticed a few loose belts on our engine this morning so I worked in the engine room while Laura fixed us a nice breakfast. I haven’t done anything on this engine except to add a little oil and water since Marathon which was 150 engine hours ago. It’s running very nice since I’ve changed most of the convoluted mounting hardware that was on the pumps and alternator.

We’re now getting everything ready to head into town for laundry. I don’t think we’ve done real laundry for 3-4 weeks and I’m scrounging for clean t-shirts. Steve’s Place does laundry – they will wash dry and fold for 100 pesos a load. He says you can do it yourself using their machines but the price is the same. No problem mon. We’ll drop off about 4 loads to keep his wife busy and pick them up tomorrow. That price is about $3 a load which I guess is comparable to what we paid in the laundromats back home doing it ourselves. In the Bahamas, some places were $25 a load which is why we haven’t done any laundry in so long….

Does anybody have a good suggestion on the best way to learn some street Spanish? Both Laura and I want to learn enough to get around in the Latin countries and we’ll start by trying to find a decent book somewhere in town. Gracias!

So early afternoon we decide to take our laundry in. I had told Bill most of the places would probably be closed, as they practice the “art” of siesta (most places from 12-2). Well the restaurants are open and that’s about it. The bank was closed and we had some issues with our debit cards in their ATM. We decided to take a walk all the way through and out of town when all of a sudden, coming down one of the side roads, I see a cow, then another, and some more and soon a whole herd maybe 15-18 in all, heading into the middle of town, with a man on a burrow keeping them in line. What a time not to have the camera. It was quite the sight! Now with my farm girl background, cows crossing a road may not be so strange as many times we crossed our beef cows from one pasture to another. But never did we take them through the town of Esperance. So when Bill and I walked out of town, we followed a trail of hoof prints and “calling cards” and eventually came to a pasture area and ranch. I made a comment about “could be upstate NY” except there’s banana and palm trees growing, but with the mountains in the background and the lush green fields, it pulls a close second.

Back to the boat just as it started raining again, guess we’ll just read and maybe enjoy our “siesta” Rough life, eh?

The picture is of the western part of the harbor with Second Wind somewhere near the middle. It was a cloudy day as you can see the tops of the mountains in the background are hidden by the low clouds.

Entry for April 23, 2007

April 23, 2007

We’ve made it to Luperon!  Last night’s sail was a real rock ‘n roll with squalls and rain the last 3-4 hours.  But, we anchored in Luperon harbor around 8 am this morning and completed our check-in with the Dominican Republic officals.   After check-in we found a bank to change some money to Pesos and had breakfast at a local eatery.  This place is not what I expected never having really been to a 3rd world country.  I’ll explain more later but we are in fine shape, the boat is running excellent and we have visas for 15 days here which can be extended if we decide to stay longer.  Lot’s of great sailing in the past week has brought us almost 400 miles from Georgetown and to 3 countries in the past 4 days.

I’ll write more later.  The computer I’m using is only free while we are eating breakfast here.  I’ll work on better Internet access when I’ve had a few hours sleep and fill in the blanks from the past few days. 

Entry for April 20, 2007

April 20, 2007

Yesterday we woke up to the wind howling through the anchorage again.  Our poor dinghy was bashing into the water again as I had only tied it about ½ way up on the davits because it was so calm last night.  I raised it the rest of the way and it was still close to hitting the water as the boat moved up and down with the waves.

We spent the day quietly on the boat working a few odd jobs, reading and relaxing.  I finally figured out how to clamp down the small pump for our watermaker.  I cut a 2” wide X 8 “ strip of rubber off a small roll we keep on board then put two screws through the ends.  I wrapped the rubber around the small motor and screwed the ends into the board under the motor.  Voila’!  Instant pump mount.

Laura worked on cutting out drink holders from the piece of teak I bought her in Marathon.  She also used the router to finish off the edges (yes.  I’m letting her use the router again since her finger is all healed up).  She also baked cookies which I don’t think we really need and there are no other couples around to pawn them off.  I guess we’ll have to eat them all – chocolate, chocolate-chip cookies.  Mmmm

Later in the day we decided to move the boat to the other end of the bay where we could leave easily in the early morning for the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We motored against the 25 knot wind for about an hour before anchoring behind a reef.  I wasn’t too sure about this anchorage because it wasn’t very protected if the wind changed.  It turned out my fears were actualized when the wind changed about 11 pm and the boat started rocking and rolling pretty good.  We went to bed around 10 pm because we had the alarm set for 3:30 am to get moving for our 60 mile sail to Provo in the Turks and Caicos.  When the rolling boat woke me up around 11 pm I checked everything out to make sure we hadn’t pulled up our anchor and tried to get back to sleep.  Nothing doing.  I was awake until about 2 am when I decided if I raised the mizzen sail it might help to keep down the rolling while we were anchored.  So I got up, took the sail cover off and raised the sail.  It is the farthest aft sail we have and just about hangs over the back of the boat.  This is a new sail we had made in Marathon and it is very heavy so doesn’t bend much.  It’s like putting up a big piece of plywood to act as resistance when the boat rolls from side to side.  It didn’t stop the rolling but it calmed it down a lot.  I finally got back to sleep around 2:45 am and the alarm woke me up at 3:30.

We finished up getting the boat ready for the ocean and left the anchorage by 4 am.  I motored out of the bay using my GPS for navigation and radar to make sure I didn’t come close to the other boats.  By 5 am we were sailing in the ocean with a gently swell.  The sky started getting light around 5:30 and sunrise was 6:20.  It was just a gorgeous day!  The winds were a little light and every couple hours we had to run the engine to keep us on schedule.  But, it was almost unbelievable for an ocean.  At one point the boat was sailing along with about 8-10 knots of wind on the beam.  We were doing about 6 knots and seas were no bigger than 1 foot.  I’ve seen more turbulence than that on the Mohawk River!  We were running on autopilot and Laura and I were both reading without a boat or plane in sight for almost all day long.

The reason we wanted to leave so early is we had to get here before about 3 pm to read the water while coming across the shallow last 9-10 miles.  With the sun over our shoulders, we could easily see where the shallow water and coral reefs were.  We anchored about 3:30 pm in Sapodillo Bay, Provo, TCI (Turks and Caicos Islands).  We got the dinghy ready and motored into the beach where Laura watched the boat while I walked to Customs and Immigration for check-in.  In theory, only the captain is allowed ashore until the boat and crew and checked in.  Oh well….

Hey!  I haven’t mentioned anything about fishing lately.  Well, a couple days ago we were trolling a line with one of my rubber Ballyhoo on the end and I heard the reel just click a few times.  I didn’t think anything of it but when I reeled in the line there was only ½ the rubber lure left on the end and it had big teeth marks in it.  YIKES!  I figured I had the drag turned up too high on my deep-sea fishing reel so I turned it down.  Today, I trolled another one of the same lure and we heard the line peeling out.  We stopped the boat and I grabbed the fishing rod out of the trolling holder.  The line had stopped going out so I waited a minute.  Nothing happening so I reeled in the lure and parts of it were missing too.  Darn!  I’m hoping for a Mahi-mahi to supplement our larder.  Maybe tomorrow…..

Laura made Shrimp Alfredo for dinner tonight.  We usually put shrimp and broccoli in it but we were out of broccoli (and much of our other fresh veggies).  Instead she put in frozen mixed veggies and it was great!  She’s good!!

Tomorrow we will leave here at sunup for Abergris Cay about 40 miles southeast of here over the Caicos banks.  These banks (like all the others) are large areas of very shallow water so you have to travel during the day and keep watch in front of the boat for coral.  Once we reach Abergris we’ll either anchor there or Long Cay for tomorrow night – whichever looks better for the winds.  On Sunday we’ll go about 20 miles to Big Sand Cay and anchor before launching an overnight passage to Luperon in the Dominican Republic 80 miles to the south.  Hopefully we get a couple hours sleep during the day on Sunday..

On Monday our weather window closes as a front is supposed to come through with very unsettled weather for the next 4-5 days.  Hopefully, by then, we’ll be anchored in the very protected Luperon bay.  Yea!

We’re very close to finishing up our 2nd 1,000 miles on Second Wind.  I think when we reach Big Sand Cay we’ll have finished 2,000 miles under our keel since Deltaville, VA.  That’s a lot of hours at 5 knots.

Entry for April 18, 2007

April 20, 2007

On Monday afternoon we left the expensive marina and motored about 2 miles back to the anchorage.  The wind was still blowing and the boat was bouncing around pretty good but the marina wasn’t much better.  Our one night there was $235.  $80 for the dock, $70 for 16 gallons of diesel, and $85 for dinner.  Yikes!

With plans to leave for Mayaguana tomorrow, we spent the rest of the day securing everything in the boat and making preparations for an ocean crossing.  I spent my usual restless night before a major crossing and was up around 5 am.  When will I get used to this?

Tuesday morning was sunny and cool (mid 70s) as we motored out of the Rum Cay anchorage into the North Atlantic.  (Yes.  It’s the “north” Atlantic all the way down to the equator.)    As we turned the boat southeast, we had a pretty big following sea – probably 8 – 10 foot swells.  They were very far apart and gradual slopes so it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.  It took us about an hour to get used to seeing this wall of 10 foot high water coming toward the boat from the rear, feel the boat rise up gradually and pick up speed as the wave pushed us forward, then slowly fall back into the trough.  It wasn’t scary or uncomfortable because the space between the waves was something like 12-13 seconds.  They were very gentle with us.

We ended up motor-sailing because the winds were from behind us at maybe 10 knots.  That’s not enough wind to push the boat very fast down-wind.  We set our course for Mayaguana and spent the day on a gentle rolling ocean.  Laura was reading most of the time and I was navigating and making sure everything was ok with the boat

Around sundown we passed an island called Samana Cay.  The locals on the island are trying to say this was actually the island Columbus first found, not San Salvador which is only about 80 miles to the northeast.  One corner of the island is called Columbus Anchorage which is where they say Chris first set foot in North America.  I gave it a salute as we sailed by in the dusk.  As we motored into the lea of the island (the wind come from the direction of the island) the seas calmed down and the wind became steadier.  We actually were able to turn the engine off and sail at 5-6 knots for about 2 hours.  That was the only time during our 27 hour voyage we had the engine off.

Sailing at night is still scary for us but, once again, it was beautiful with our second sunset at sea and a sky full of millions of stars.  We are still waiting for our first “green flash” which is supposed to occur occasionally when the last bit of the sun goes under the horizon while at sea.  People tell us about it but I haven’t seen it yet. 

Since there are no city lights to cover the stars, we could see every star in the sky very clearly.  Even the ribbon of light from the Milky Way shone clear from horizon to horizon.  Later in the night we saw the Southern Cross (usually a southern hemisphere constellation) for the first time.  I think it was visible from here because of the time of year.  Spring brings the tilt of the earth farthest south as the sun approaches the Tropic of Cancer.  Oh!  I almost forgot!  About mid-day on Tuesday we passed south of 23 degrees 30 minutes north latitude which is the line of the Tropic of Cancer.  We are now in the tropics!!

Laura and I alternated 2 hour shifts at the helm throughout the night.  There wasn’t much to do since the boat was running fine on autopilot and the seas were pretty calm except for the large swells from behind us.  She only woke me up once when a huge cruise ship was heading our way.  I showed her how to detour around it.  It was moving very slowly and we came within about a mile of it.  It was quite a spectacle in the middle of the ocean night.

This was the first of our 3 (so far) overnight ocean passages where I actually was able to take catnaps during my off-shift.  I guess I’m starting to get used to it.  It’s tough when the boat is rolling around about 10 degrees on each side with the waves.  You have to wedge yourself between stuff so you don’t fall out of bed.  I eventually found an excellent place in the cockpit.  I put 2 large cushions on the floor and curled up between the seats and the steering pedestal.  The boat would have had to roll over to move me.

We bypassed Plana Cays in the dark which we saw on the radar and finally saw Mayaguana on the horizon around 8 am – 24 hours after we left Rum Cay.  About 2 hours later we anchored off the main town with 5 or 6 other boats in a very calm anchorage.  We made it!  This was the longest hop of the trip through the Caribbean so we were glad to get it under our belts.  We have about 50 miles to Caicos, 40 miles to stage for the crossing to The Dominican Republic then 80 miles across to Luperon.  We hope to be there by Sunday if all goes well.  We’ve decided to take advantage of the unusual north winds and keep moving rather then spend time becoming more familiar with The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands.  Maybe next time?!

I remember sitting in the cockpit last night searching for the first ray of daylight in the eastern sky while Laura napped below.  I finally saw a lightening of the sky on the horizon and thought, “Yea!  We made it through another night on the ocean!”  Then I was sorry that my friends, the stars, who would be blinded by the sun and leaving us for another day.  I was sad.  Lisa – what do you make of that struggle?

After anchoring in Mayaguana, we napped for about 2 hours then dropped the dinghy in the water and motored in the town.   I felt like I had worked one of those famous 24 hour shifts at ReserveAmerica only the decisions I made there did not have a large effect on my living or dying like how close should I come to this island in the dark. 

We motored into town at low tide and the dinghy wasn’t happy about the shallow water.  Even between the channel markers, we went aground with the motor raised to its “no water” position.  At that point, I think we only need about 1 foot of water and we were still churning up the sand.  We eventually found a place to tie up and we walked ½ mile into town.  As we were looking around at an intersection trying to figure out which way to go, one of the locals came up and said, “Are you looking for a restaurant or something?”  I said, “That sounds good” and we walked down the road together.  We found the “restaurant” which was mostly a bar where I ordered a Corona.  They didn’t have any rum punch for Laura so she had the special – rum and coke.  It came with a ½ pint of Bacardi Gold Rum, glass of ice and can of Coke.  Our drinks were the same price – $5 each.  Laura ended up taking about ¾ of the bottle back to the boat after mixing her own drink.

I bought the local gent a drink for showing us where the “restaurant’ was and he was very thankful.  He had the same as Laura only skipped the Coke and traded the bartender for a couple cigarettes.  On the way back to the boat we asked a gent on the side of the road where we might find groceries.  We were looking for some fresh bread if possible.  He said, “Right here next door” and yelled down the road for one of the kids to fetch the grocery store clerk.  About 10 minutes later a man came and opened the store for us.  It was a poor excuse for a store and they didn’t even have any bread.  We ended up buying some onions and bananas.  I didn’t have enough Bahamas money for both of them and didn’t want to break a $20 U.S. bill and get Bahamas change.  This is our last stop in The Bahamas.  The clerk didn’t have U.S. change and I only had $2 in singles.  We decided to put back the bananas until another guy who came in behind us said he would pay for them.  I told him they weren’t important to us so it wasn’t a big deal to put them back.  He insisted and paid the $3 for 3 bananas saying, “Just return the favor to someone else someday.”  I love that.

I’m writing this as we are making dinner – steak and mashed potatoes with corn – one of my favorites which is usually saved for a celebration – a successful overnight ocean crossing!.  As I went out on the back deck to turn the steak on the grill, I looked down in the crystal clear water, calm as glass, and it looked like it was only about 6 inches deep.  I know the water is 10 feet deep and we have about 4 feet under our keel.  It will take me awhile to get used to this water clarity and not be instantly worried about the tide going out or something when I see it.  Dinner was awesome.  Laura and I sat and chatted for a couple hours after dinner finishing a bottle of wine.  It was an excellent ending to a long 2 day passage.

 

Hi Gang, after Bill read this to me I told him about a few things he forgot to mention. One of them was that as we were motoring here during the day, we’d see flying fish, and they tickled me every time I saw them. They zip up out of the water, flapping their fins and go anywhere from 50-100 ft across the top of the water. They sometimes do a “touch and go” as I call it, as they touch the water and zip up again into the air just above the water. I think they’re the funniest thing!! They usually do this as a safety precaution getting away from predators, but I think sometimes the boat scares them up as they zip out in front of the bow. I’m waiting for one to flop up on the front of the boat…

Also as we were motoring into the anchorage, at about 25 feet under us I could see starfish and all kinds of coral and fishes. The water was so calm and clear. I’m anxious to do some snorkeling tomorrow in the reef that we are tucked behind. We’ve also seen conch and a variety of stingray in the clear waters, Where we docked the dinghy, we saw a bunch of HUGE discarded lobster heads.  Of course only needing the tails for food…  Bill said he’d be afraid to catch something that big, they may try to eat us!! Well, it’s been a tiring 36 hours, time to hit the hay… good nite!!!

Entry for April 15, 2007

April 20, 2007

We picked up our anchor and motored into the Sumner Point Marina in Rum Cay this morning around 11 am.  The narrow channel going into the marina was fairly easy to run after I checked it out with the dinghy yesterday.  We tied up at the fuel dock and topped off our diesel tank with 16 gallons.  That was how much we used in the past 4 days from Nassau.  I think the marina is basically closed on Sunday’s because there was only 1 person here when we came into the dock and they couldn’t even start the fuel pump.  I had to wait about ½ hour for the gent with the key to show up.  Oh well….  It is The Bahamas….

This marina is pretty isolated and the town center is about a mile walk away.  We haven’t seen any of the town yet as we should have taken our dinghy over to the government dock and walked in from there.  Every Bahamas island has a government dock where the supply boat stops.  Everything on the island has to come from boat.  It’s a real party atmosphere when the boat comes to the island, usually once a week. 

We ate dinner at the marina restaurant and the food was so-so.  This marina is under new management and I guess the people are wondering where they fit in.  Most of the marina staff have been very unhelpful but not rude.  Dinner was fried grouper, some tiny new potatoes and a small salad on the same plate.  $35 per person and it wasn’t ½ the food or ½ as good at the backwoods bar we found in Long Island.  New eateries are always a crapshoot anyway, right?

On the plus side, we met some very nice boaters here and became quick friends with a few of them. 

Entry for April 14, 2007

April 15, 2007

Yesterday we had a great sail from Thompson’s Bay up the west coast of Long Island.  As we neared the top of the island, we turned to the northeast and Conception Island.  The winds were mostly from the northeast so we motor-sailed for a couple hours.  The forecast was for the winds to change to mostly east which would be good for the anchorage on the west coast of Conception.  As we approached, the winds continued mostly from the north which would make for a dangerous anchorage.  We changed our plans and motor-sailed to Rum Cay – another 25 miles southeast.  We had good wind for that sail but needed to keep the motor running to average 6.5 knots and get to the anchorage by 6 pm with enough light to see shoals and coral heads.  The wind picked up and we eventually stopped the engine and still were sailing 6.5 to 7 knots with the jib, main and mizzen all trimmed for the close reach.  It seemed like we were going really fast and we would have normally taken in some sail if we didn’t have to keep the speed up.  It was a lot of fun and we anchored around 6:30 pm in 8-10 feet about ½ mile from the Sumner Point Marina in Rum Cay.

On our way, we put out the fishing line and Second Wind is no longer a fishing virgin.  We heard the line peal out and I immediately idled the engine, jumped out onto the back deck and grabbed the fishing rod.  About 10 minutes later I pulled in a 2 foot Barracuda.  They are not good to eat so I pulled out my lure and put him back in the ocean.  No other bites during the sail and I eventually pulled in the fishing line because it would have been too hard to stop the boat with all our sails up.  It was great fun.

We haven’t been sleeping too well lately because of the warm, humid nights.  Last night was the same and I hope I get used to the heat shortly.  Tonight seems better as the winds have picked up to about 15 knots which seems to cool things down.  We have all the hatches open and there is a good breeze through the boat but the temp is still 83 inside.

We took out dingy into the town and marina today and made reservations to stay in the marina tomorrow night.  There is supposed to be a cold front coming through on Monday morning so we’ll stay in the marina until the weather calms down a little.  We’re hoping to leave here on Monday morning (or Tuesday morning if the cold front is delayed) then leave for a 26 hour run to Mayaguana.  This will be our last stop in The Bahamas and the longest run of the trip to the Dominican Republic – 130 miles.  We’ll leave early in the morning and should be there a little later the next morning after sailing all night.  We’re supposed to get north winds after the front goes through which should make for a great sail.  After Mayaguana we’ll sail to Provo in the Caicos Islands where we’ll need to check in with Customs and Immigration.  I think we’ll also need to checkout when we leave that country but I’ll find out for sure when we get there.  The next step after that is an 80 mile ocean crossing to Luperon or Puerto Plata in The Dominican Republic.  We’ve heard that those are good cruising cities and are looking forward to spending a few weeks exploring the DR.

I’m looking forward to staying in the marina for a night or two but not looking forward to handling the boat in tight corners again.  The boat hasn’t been in a marina since we had the rigging work done in Marathon over a month ago. It might be nice to turn on our air-conditioning and sleep “in the cool” for a night or two. This place is expensive – about the same price as Nassau – and the channel is very narrow.  We may have the marina send out a boat to guide us in.  I think they have Internet so hopefully I’ll be able to post some of these blog entries.