03/30/2013, Isla Providencia, off Nicaragua
We had an aggressive, challenging 800 nautical mile passage from the Dominican Republic to Isla Providencia, an island off of Nicaragua belonging to Columbia. It took us a full six days and nights. Some days the wind blew hard and the seas built as high as seven feet, possibly more. On those days the passage was difficult for me, exhilarating for Dennis.
Every day was filled with perfect sunshine and the nights offered picturesque sunsets and a lovely full moon. One evening as the moon began to rise in the east and the sun was setting in the west a pod of about 12 dolphins put on a most amazing show for us. Centime sailed herself into the sunset with the autopilot on and the sails correctly set. We donned our life jackets for front row seats to the show.
Up at the bowsprit the dolphins raced to catch the waves off the bow and would strategically cross above and below one another passing in front of our fast sailing boat. We rode with them at the bow, hooked in and holding tight, as Centime rose up and down with the waves. Below and around us the dolphins played. They were dark gray on top and silvery underneath, and as they maneuvered around each other their stomachs would shine and sparkle with the light of the setting sun and the thousands of bubbles they were creating. A few would even jump higher with their tails fully out of the water. It lasted nearly a half hour and it was spectacular.
On the sixth morning I had the watch from 4:30am to 8:30am. As the moon set and the sun rose, the winds turned north and strengthened to about 28 knots. The seas began to slap us broadside pretty hard and I had to head her upwind just a bit to keep her steadier. Soon Dennis was up making coffee and adjusting sails, reefing in the mainsail and putting out a reefed genny. For the next 14 hours or so we flew, for six of those hours we sailed at around eight knots.
The most challenging part of the passage was trying to come into Provedencia at night. We had read that it was safest at night to anchor off of a northern reef rather then enter the harbor. The reef is invisible in the dark and we arrived before the moon came up. It was truly scary for me attempting to navigate inside a semi-circular reef in the pitch black of night. I had visions of the boat crashing into the reef and Dennis and I being pitched into a rough, wild ocean, miles away from solid land. As we made the approach, I was at the wheel and Dennis was at the anchor. The boat pitched like a wild horse in the wind and Captain Dennis fortunately decided to abort.
Once we turned around to leave the wild reef everything began to look up. First the most beautiful red-orange, fat, full moon rose and began to light up the sky. Then with the wind and seas behind us the sailing felt easier. As we came closer to the lee of the land the winds and seas began to diminish. While it was calming slightly, we still had to navigate through what we had read was more difficult then the reef. Dennis got on the VHF radio calling any vessels in the harbor for information. Thankfully the Captain of a large well-lit freighter responded and guided us in. We thanked our lucky stars to finally have arrived and to be safe and snug at anchor.
The Island's name is Providencia, which means heaven. When we finally arrived in this most peaceful beautiful harbor and set the hook - it was heaven. I am so very very glad to be here.
Photos to come
03/22/2013, Casa de Campo, DR
We venture out early tomorrow continuing our journey to Panama, with a couple of stops, weather permittin,g on Isla Beata, off the SW coast of the DR, and Isla Del Providentia off the east coast of Nicargua. We hope to be in Panama by early to mid April and back to New Hampshire for a visit in May.
Please wish us Fair Winds and Calm Seas!!!!!
Heidi and Dennis
03/20/2013, Playa Tamarindo, Culebra
Here is a clip from Judy's AMAZING turtle video. Nice job, Judy!!!
03/17/2013, Culebrita and Playa Flamenco and Playa Tamarindo
Let the second annual Strong Beautiful Women Sailing trip begin!
After heartfelt hugs, our first turtle sightings and Dennis' delicious fish tacos, we dingied into the main town of Culebra in the Spanish Virgins and started the night off right - with congo players and dancing. The turtle sisters - Debbie, Judy and Brenda - had arrived. Soon we were joined by our Dutch friends: Irene and Theo. The drummers were awesome, topped only by the laughter and dancing. Dennis captured a great video of Debbie sticking out her tongue and then laughing so hard she had to cover her face to hold things together. Heidi captured a video of Judy dancing on the dock with 3-4' tarpon. Irene and Theo met the ladies and soon captured their hearts as they had ours. And Brenda, aka Bonita, won the official Culebra dancing award presented by an island artist!!
The next day we circumnavigated the 7-mile long island, sailing past pretty cays (I've read there are 23 of them) many with white strips of sand, skirting past reefs and jagged rocks. Once we rounded the northwestern point the seas came to us from the fury of the Atlantic with large swells, which gave us quite the rolly trip. We anchored in the quiet Bahai de Almodovar, ringed with mangroves. We shared wine as Judy whipped up a delicious dinner including fresh bok choy, and we shared life's stories under a starry sky.
On Sunday we sailed to the small island of Culebrita off of the northeast corner of Culebra. This is a very beautiful, small and uninhabited island. First on the agenda was snorkeling and playing in the water. Here Heidi saw a beautiful loggerhead turtle, Debbie became master of her snorkeling equipment and Judy and Brenda snapped away with the underwater camera. We saw large and colorful parrotfish before landing on a nearly perfect beach. Hiking across to the east we came upon another beach - wild, deserted with strong crashing waves filling our souls. Later when we climbed to the lighthouse on the top of the island with 360 views we noticed we were the only ones there - it was our own special place for the afternoon.
That evening our Dutch friends, Irene and Theo invited us over for a Greek dinner. καταπληκτικός - Stupendous. First the sisters unanimously agreed to induct Irene into the sisterhood. We had a ceremony on the deck of their Sabre sailboat - made in Maine - complete with the tying of an ankle bracelet and the giving of a turtle. Irene shared a turtle with us too, and photos and videos of turtles in Trinidad giving birth under a full moon. Irene is a true turtle sister for sure. We ate and drank, sang and danced the evening away. As a treat Dennis and I opened a very special bottle of Greek Vin Santo dessert wine that we had brought back from Santorini and our Greek wedding. All I can say is it was a magical evening. Thank you Theo and Irene.
Another fun adventure was renting bikes back on Culebra. We rode first to Playa Flamenco. Noted as one of the world's top 10 beaches it extends for over a mile of pristine silky white coral sand. The Discovery Channel called it the second best beach in the world and I'm meaning to find which is their number one. On the way I nearly toppled off of my bike as a giant iguana, three to four feet long, darted right in front of me - I'm not sure who was surprised the most, me or the iguana. We walked the beach, splashed in the water, Judy even did a headstand - you go girl!
Later we rode to another beach rumored to have great snorkeling. What a find this was. The reef was filled with strong live corals: brain corals, bright purple sea fans, all kinds of soft corals, sponges, sea urchins, tunicates - a huge diversity of life. We swam through a large school of bright blue tangs weaving through the soft corals and sea currents. At the beach Dennis struck up a conversation with a local man Ranthy who shared that tomorrow would be a good day to swim with sea turtles off of Playa Tamarindo in the Culebra National Wildlife sanctuary.
Just to step back in time a bit, Debbie and I have exchanged turtles for nearly twenty years. A friend of mine, Linden introduced me to Native American totems when I was trying to conceive. My totem was an upside down turtle. The story is that if the turtle is on her back then one must pay better attention to and honor Mother Nature. I went through the ceremony to right the turtle and about two days later I conceived Nico (after waiting for years) and nine months later he was born. Anyway, Debbie and I share a small wooden turtle that we have transported through the years at important occasions.
Culebra is home to three endangered species of turtles, Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback, who come to Culebra to lay their eggs. We followed Ranthy's advice and sailed the next day though the Luis Pena channel to Tamarindo. What luck - we swam with dozens of Green turtles!! At one point Judy spotted a turtle and we swam with her and watched as the sun sparkled off of her back revealing a gorgeous shell intricately colored with varying shades of red and brown. She swam magnificently and Judy captured it on video!! I will have to try to set up a link for viewing.
Later at Playas Malones we held hands and jumped off Centime, together splashing into the turquoise waters...bubbles all around (photo on blog below). It was a joyful time of celebration.
For a final treat we sailed across to mainland PR and stopped for lunch at the beautiful Isla Palominito. Dennis and I snapped picture of the women floating like true mermaids in the turquoise waters with the small island beach in the background. We also donned our "Chicas (or girls) Rule" t-shirts and our red Dominican beads for final photos. What great times with great friends!
(Chicas - please add your own comments and stories too.)
03/16/2013, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Above picture from Playa Flamenco, Culebra, PR
It's been awhile since our last real post. Things have been wild, with almost continuous visitors from January 25th through yesterday at noon (3/15/13) ... and it's been a blast! Not only did we host 16 people from Gorda Sound to Buck Island to Jost Van Dyke to Culebra, we caught up with four of our favorite sailing buddies in the midst of all that ... two whom we hadn't seen since last spring! We also got surprised by catching up with Paul and Monica on Moonshadow in Benures Bay, Norman Island, for some sun-downers. We hadn't seen them for a really long time! We posted pics of all of most of those friends and family, but I'll try to get a few more in now.
As for highlights, there was lots of fun singing along with Allen's guitar playing and sitting back while Allen sailed us up Sir Francis Drake Channel to Virgin Gorda. We hiked up onto Little Jost Van Dyke for some spectacular views and had a fabulous time at the full moon party at Trellis Bay. The moon dancer was awesome!
We lazed in the sun on Sandy Spit, off Green Cay/Little JVD, with Stu and Vicky, while being entertained by hosts of pelicans pigging out on the myriad unsuspecting little prey surrounding the island, and we snorkeled at the Indians off Norman Island. We also had a blast skinny dipping off Little Jost Van Dyke! We were also fortunate to hook up with sailing buddies Mark and Eileen for several dinners, one of which was with Stu and Vicky. It's great when we get the chance to bring our two worlds together in such a fun way!
We dined in style at Le Château de Bordeaux restaurant on St. John with Hugh, Kathryn, Stu and Vicky and had a great sail with them between Lovango and Congo Cays to some great snorkeling around Christmas Cove, St. James Island, off St. Thomas.
We got seriously "bubbled" at the Bubbly Pool, JVD with Vern and Sarah, and we circumnavigated Tortola with some really great and very peaceful anchorages and moorings along the way. The peacefulness was good, because as we were sailing up to JVD from Norman, we got the news that Vern and Heidi's mom passed away. After some tears and reflection, they decided nothing more could be done at that point, so we kept on keeping on, starting with heading up to the Bubbly Pool. The rest of our trip allowed for a mix of fun, peacefulness, reflection, great meals and logistical preparations for Ruth Malin's funeral the following week.
After our return from PA for the funeral and some great catching up with family, Heidi and I came back to St. Thomas and sailed to Culebra, where her three "strong, beautiful women" friends (Brenda, Debbie and Judy) met us. We had a blast together with great dinners, fun excursions and lots of laughter and dancing. Here's where we had another opportunity (multiple, actually) to mix our worlds ... we hooked up several times with Irene and Theo, our great sailing friends from the Netherlands, whom we hadn't seen all season, for some dancing to the Conga players at The Dinghy Dock and a fun-filled evening (and fantastic Greek influenced dinner) aboard Sotirius with, of course, LOTS of music and dancing! (And, yes, Tom, I brought the Ouzo, but alas, we had no takers!)
Also, as a continuation of a tradition started by Hannah last spring in Martinique, Judy, Debbie and Brenda each performed a flying leap off Centime, captured on film for all posterity. Later, in the sparklingly clear waters off Isla Palominitos, they all jumped off together! Thanks Hannah!
So now, after all the great times, fun, reflection and tears, we are readying ourselves for our next big crossing. We are not sure yet where our point of departure will be, but we are looking at a minimum 4 day, possibly 6 day crossing from somewhere up here (PR to Haiti) toward Panama, weather dependent, where we will put good ol' Centime up on the hard for another hurricane season. This crossing will be our litmus test as to whether we will be comfortable, just the two of us, for the larger crossings ahead of us.
We will try our best to keep you posted as to our real start date and our arrival.
PS ... see Heidi's recent post, Celebration of Life, below.
03/01/2013, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
We had a heartfelt trip with my Bro Vern and Sister Sarah in the British Virgins. It included several fabulous sails to Norman Island and Jost Van Dyke, then off to Peter Island, then the Indians...and finally to Pennsylvania by air. It started and ended in joy with lots of tears in between.
Vern has always had a passion for sailing, so first on the agenda was tacking through the Narrows off Soper's Hole, Tortola, with invigorating winds. Half of the fun is the journey on Centime, past pristine green islands with gorgeous white sandy beaches, strong winds blowing your hair. The other half is landing in a quite peaceful anchorage to watch the sunset, enjoy a meal, a drink and the wonderful company, and reflect on the day as the sun sets.
The next morning in peaceful Benures Bay at Norman Island, it was hard to decide if we should leave or stay, yet the wind was beckoning and off we sailed toward a small British Cay - Great Tobago. It started as the most perfect sail, wind off the starboard quarter, shifting to a run through the Narrows, when we received the news of our Mother's passing. Dennis took the helm as we were all in a bit of shock, although at nearly 94 years old, we knew that her days on Earth were numbered.
It was an interesting time, connecting with my brother and sister at sea, writing a eulogy in the cockpit, sitting back and reflecting on life. I delivered that eulogy a week later with Dennis and Nico by my side, Vern and Sarah, and his kids Amy and Adam nearby. I was particularly grateful that I had visited her just two weeks earlier and had been able to spend some good time talking with her while she was able. I was also able to help her with a phone conversation with her grandson Nico who was in college in Montreal, and to remind her that she was a good grandmother, good mother and that she was loved.
Yet before the trip to Pennsylvania, on that peaceful sail in the British Islands, we were told that all was proceeding fine without us, in the capable hands of Amy and Adam and close friends. Vern and Sarah do not have many vacations and everyone in PA encouraged us to enjoy the full week as best we could. We diverted to Tortola to arrange flights and then sailed to Jost as the seas continued to build from the north.
Jost Van Dyke has an interesting land formation that opens up to the Atlantic. When seas build from the north they travel through a narrow passage, towering high as they reach land, and then crashing into a pool appropriately called - the Bubbly Pool. We hiked about a half of a mile over rock formations with lovely vistas, through mangroves and past a salt pond. Once we arrived we waded out to our chests only to get "Bubbled" as the foam and current, stronger than any Jacuzzi you might imagine, carried us back to shore. I screamed with joy and tried again, and again, and again. In retrospect it was an amazing way to relieve some of the grief and tension that had built for a few days, and to connect with my brother who is simply amazing.
On our final full day in the British Virgins we sailed into Roadtown, Tortola and had a delicious dinner at one of our very favorite restaurants - The Dove. The chef here is phenomenal starting with his amuse-bouche, a surprise appetizer of pork meatball with watermelon carpaccio and a delicious sauce, through to my duck, prepared to perfection and artistically plated. We opened some fine wine and toasted to our Mom who had made it all possible.
A few days later we flew into the cold and celebrated my Mom's life. Nico flew into New York as well and we met him for the drive to PA. The funeral went as well as could be expected, I read my eulogy and we all said our tearful goodbyes. My cousin Kay and husband Jeff, whom I hadn't seen for over a dozen years, surprised us at the internment. It was with more tears that we laid her in the ground, next to my wonderful Father, Grandfather Hendricks and very special Grandmother Katie.
Back at Vern and Sarah's home we prepared a yummy dinner and let the wine flow. Soon we were laughing about childhood memories, playing old tunes and then we started to dance - all of us - young and old. I was so very pleased that Nico could join us for this important time. Best of all was moving from the kitchen to the living room at Vern's home, the tunes cranked, the wine flowing and all of us dancing, with sorrow and laughter bubbling from each and every pore. I am grateful for family. Thank you Mom for making it all possible.