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30 May 2011

Covering a few nautical miles

We have been mostly on the move since my last post. We hopped through Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins, then spent a few nights in the British Virgin Islands - including a quick haul-out for the required out-of-water survey for the insurance company, which we were able to do at Nanny Cay on Tortola in the BVI - and then took another long (41 hour) passage from Virgin Gorda to Des Haies, on the northwest coast of the French island of Guadeloupe.
We arrived here on Friday morning the 27th, spent a quiet day and then rented a car on the 28th to see some of the interior. On the 29th (yesterday) we headed for Iles des Saintes, off the southern coast, and tomorrow will we move on to Portsmouth on Dominica (after trying to find fuel at Baie de Marigot, just around the corner; we have not taken on fuel since Soper's Hole in the BVI).
Some of our photos in Guadeloupe are here:

2011 05 Guadeloupe

We are forecast to have some stronger wind and seas over the next few days, until Friday, so we will likely stick around Dominica until then, before heading to Martinique for next weekend.

17 May 2011

Great passage, and...

We set off from Ocean World/Playa Cofresi on Thursday around 1030, intending to land at Mayaguez on the west coast of Puerto Rico by Saturday morning. Contrary to all conventional wisdom, the gods were smiling, we had great conditions for nearly all of the dreaded Mona Passage, and we were able to come on around to Ponce on the south shore instead, by early afternoon on Saturday after about 50 hours underway. We were tired but delighted to have another 280 nautical miles behind us.
The weather and sailing conditions since have been mixed at best, but mostly yukky. We spent the weekend at Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, enjoying a but if Puerto Rican music, food and drink at the nearby malecon (seaside) boardwalk, doing a little light provisioning, and then heading about 8 miles south and east for what was meant to be a day of R&R at Isla Caja de Los Muertos.
We found a set of moorings maintained (?) by the park service, and got one fairly easily. It was Monday so the place was deserted; we gather it is a favorite weekend spot for locals. There was a LOT of roll, but it was just one night so no worries (?). JP and Susan swam to the beach and explored the island for an hour or so. After they returned, the weather kicked up a bit more from a smallish squall, at which point JP noticed first that we were lying in an odd position to the mooring ball, and then that in fact, the ball was no longer attached to anything and, therefore, neither were we. We started the engine PDQ and Leigh drive while JP and Susan attempted first to get the mooring on board (to keep it from becoming jetsam) and then, when that proved impossible, to detach from it. There is a second anchorage area on the island, so we went there and spent the night uneventfully.
Left around 0500 to head for an anchorage at Puerto Patillas; good sailing for about two hours followed by major squalls and downpours for the next FIVE hours it took us to finish the 30 or so miles.
Heading around the corner to the east coast tomorrow, hoping for better but the forecast is not encouraging.
Neptune giveth, and Neptune chargeth for the gifts.

11 May 2011

One week in the Dominican Republic

It took only a couple of days for us to address three of our four technical issues - the generator needed a new belt, but a bearing had seized (which probably caused the belt shredding, JP guesses) so the mechanic here fixed both and the gen is now fine. We MAY have identified the cause of the engine not charging the batteries (intermittently); only time and another voyage will tell. With the gen working, that is less of a worry. JP and Susan labored to fix the davit support that had come out for the second time, and feel pretty confident that it will hold for a while. They also made some adjustments to how the dinghy is attached, making it a bit shorter and reducing the torque on the cross-straps.

SO - with only the compass left to be fixed (and that seems to require the ability to turn the boat in all directions in very calm waters) - we set out in our rental car on Sunday to explore a bit of the Dominican Republic. We drove first to the capital, Santo Domingo, in the south, for an afternoon, evening and overnight. We enjoyed a bit of people watching in the Zona Colonial, on the Parque Colon, strolled a bit of the old city (too hot for much of that - mad dogs and Englishmen and midday and all that), and had a nice dinner in a restored colonial house near our hotel in the old city.

After breakfast on Monday, we headed for the mountain area that is north and west of the capital, to a town called Jarabacoa, to stay in a very nice resort hotel called Hotel Gran Jimenoa. It is right on a bend in the river Jimenoa that absolutely roars - lovely, lovely spot - and though May seems to be off season, the staff was very friendly and the rooms comfortable. The location is the main draw, and there are many activities in the surroundings, from white water rafting to climbing the highest peak in the Caribbean (Pico Duarte, 3,400 metres), to hang gliding...we elected the rather tamer visit by car to two of the waterfalls that are nearby, Salto Jimenoa Dos, and Salto Baiguate.

I am finding it hard to write concisely about our impressions of the DR. Susan said today that there is a 100-peso economy (about 36 pesos = $1 US) and there is a 1000-peso economy - meaning, you can get a meal for 100 pesos or so that is delicious, plentiful, served in a safe and friendly environment - and then you skip from that to the more standard $20 and up entree type restaurants (at or near the hotels, for example). We saw brand new high-rise condo buildings in Santo Domingo on the Malecon (waterfront) that could be in Miami, and plenty of very nice vacation houses both near the beach here in Playa Cofresi and near Jarabacoa. We saw lots of people clearly making subsistence incomes selling produce, breakfast foods in the town square, flowers by the side of the road. We were greeted warmly nearly everywhere (the hotel in Santo Domingo was an exception that we can't really explain) by nearly everyone; music is played in what to our ears is a nearly relentless fashion - everywhere, all the time, and at full volume - and if there isn't music playing, someone is usually singing. I guess what I would say is that it is very apparent that this isn't a place you can understand quickly or easily, but it is easy to see how people fall gradually in love with the DR and want to stick around to see and understand more.

You can see a selection of our photos by clicking on:

2011 05 Dominican Republic

We are back at the marina now, and have spent today provisioning in Puerto Plata, returning the rental car, topping off the water tanks, cleaning the boat, checking on the weather, and generally preparing to head out again tomorrow. We are going to try again to make a long passage; our target is Boqueron, on the west coast of Puerto Rico. It's about 250 miles, so we should arrive there sometime early on Saturday...though I am NEVER supposed to say such things.

05 May 2011

Ocean World Marina and Boat Repair?

We left Provo on Saturday 30 April and headed across the Caicos Bank. It is very beautiful, we think...the ride was too uncomfortable to prove it by us! We knew we were heading into a less than ideal crossing, but had hoped to get all the way to Big Sand Cay south of Grand Turk, to stage for our trip to the Dominican Republic. Alas, much too much headwind and banging around for that, so we stopped first (for two nights) between Big Ambergris and Little Ambergris, right on the southeastern edge of the Caicos Bank, then headed along to Big Sand on Monday the 2nd. It is a lovely, lovely uninhabited island (we took an unbelievable number of photos, even for us); you can see them here:

2011 BigSand

Last evening, after talking about the weather window with Chris Parker, the cruisers' weather guru, we headed out from Big Sand intending to go all the way to Samana on the east coast of the DR. Alas, after a fabulous sail for the first 8 hours or so, the wind started to clock and to die, AND we confirmed that our batteries were either not charging or charging inconsistently from the engine, AND we already knew that our generator, which would otherwise provide battery charging as an alternative and back up to the engine, was on the fritz. So, we bailed for the north coast, and Ocean World Marina, at Cofresi, four kilometres or so from Puerto Plata.

The gen problem JP and Susan were able to diagnose:

Note thoroughly shredded belt. The engine problem awaits the arrival of the resident mechanic and electrician tomorrow; he is already at work trying to find a replacement belt. We are hoping we don't have to order it.

We will spend at least a few days and maybe as much as a week here, because we want to take care of our little problems, and see some of the DR, probably by car. Here is a little taste of the place; it is so different from the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, but really beautiful:

For anyone keeping track, we are now 1,186 nautical miles from our Kent Island home marina, "as the crow flies". Raconteur and her crew are NOT crows, and we have sailed and motored many more miles than that, though I will have to consult Susan and the log to find out exactly how many. We have about 762 crow miles from here to Chaguaramas, in Trinidad, to cover between now and early July...yes, that means we "flew" 1,186nm in seven months, and need to "fly" 762nm in seven weeks. Some serious island hopping ahead.