Steve's notes: Samaná
April/4/2010, Los Haitises National Park
Photo: P1050657 (boys in uniform)
Steve's note: We by-passed the town of Samaná and continued directly to the National Park on the SE part of Samaná bya. Osprey and Vanilla went to the town and we were told we didn't miss much. Samaná has been described as the Appalachians of the D.R. (that scares me when Luperon is some peoples high point); cruise ships have recently started going there and they have had to clean up their act. The most notable thing they mentioned was having to pay off another comandante, getting ripped off by the gas/water delivery guy (all main anchorages have one... the one in Luperon was Handy-Andy) and have the cruise ships ferry their customers through the anchorage all day.
We arrived at the park about 10 am and put up as many sun shades as we have over the boat and went to bed. We were woken by shouts. I crawled out of the back of the boat, under the sun shade in my jockey shorts to be confronted by 2 men in uniform with a rusted old shot gun lying in the bottom of the boat. I told them "mañana" (tomorrow) but they seemed to want to come on the boat. I said "No mañana" and finally they indicated they wanted $5.00. I had to give them $10 because that's all I had. I asked them for change, they laughed and I told them to "Vamos". Bad timing, we never saw them again and non of the boats that arrived in the same bay were harassed.
The anchorage is beautiful. We anchored among high, green, steeped rounded hills that look like the anchorages of Bora Bora. The water is 84 deg and an emerald green. We were able to dingy among the hills through mangrove inlets as the cliffs and the sides of the hills towered around us covered with ferns and air plants. Another day we roared down a creek at the other end of the bay, rounding corners and skipping around mango roots; just like we did on Mosses creek as a kid. We would end up with flocks of birds flying in front of us as more and more were scared up out of the sides. We walked a trail through the bush under huge trees that were completely chocked with vines. Discovered coco plants and climbed into large caves. It was a great place. We had it all to ourselves for a few days until we were joined by "Osprey" and "Vanilla".
Happy Birthday Amy and Shari
April/4/2010, Boquerón, Puerto Rico
April Birthday's: Amy & Shari (4th), Dawne (19th), Katie (23rd)...and everyone else not mentioned.
Anniversary: Petra and Colin Newbold April 25th
Weren't we delighted when we heard Sylvain hail us on the VHF as were re-anchoring this morning! They had crossed the Mona Passage the following day and had arrived safe and sound. Later that day, together we explored the town and on Monday will either rent a car or get a taxi or use the Publico to get to Mayagüez so that we can clear in to customs.
The Thorny Path, Mona Passage
April/3/2010, Boquerón, Puerto Rico
We sailed into Puerto Rico early Saturday morning.
Just as we were about to anchor a Ray leaped right out of the water and made a big splash as it slapped back in. That's the second "flying Ray" display I've seen; the last being in Cape Canaveral.
We were supposed to contact "Osprey" on our SSB around 7am but we were too busy negotiating our way into Boquerón at the time. "Osprey" was leaving Friday evening to make Cabo Engaño by early morning and pass through the waist of the Hourglass Shoals heading for the south coast of the Dominican Republic. I can only assume that they were as busy as we were and we will try to contact them on Monday.
On Thursday (April Fools Day) Chris gave us the okay to leave Friday morning, so we did. We woke at 4am from our anchorage at Los Haitíses National Park, to time our departure from Samaná Bay before the sea breeze picked up. We knew we were in for a moderately rough ride as there was a very large North Swell predicted to increase by Saturday and Sunday and continue to affect the area for the next couple of weeks. "Vanilla" joined us for a while but as they rounded the bay they decided it was too uncomfortable for them and they turned back to wait for another day within the next few weeks and something without such a large North swell! Once again, we were alone.
On Thursday we prepared the boat for the trip across the Mona Passage. Everything that could fly across the saloon, v-berth, aft cabin, kitchen was tied down; I prepared every meal in advance and re-organized the fridge so that we could grab things easily; I rummaged through the boat and re-organized the ditch bag; I stuffed a knapsack with personal items that we would want to take with us (like my USB stick full of our photos; Steve emptied the water jugs on deck to 2/3rds full (so that they would float if we had to throw them into the water; we brought the dingy on deck and Steve secured it and the motor and all the "junk" on the aft deck; we reefed the mainsail and rigged our baby staysail; and we checked the rigging and the charts one more time. We were as prepared as we could be.
We have been told that the Mona Passage (this is one of the big thorns) has unpredictable currents everywhere and rough shoals east of Cabo Engaño and Balandra Head. It makes perfect sense, since the ocean bottom drops from 150 feet to the second-deepest hole in the world, the 16,000-foot-deep Puerto Rican Trench. The massive volume of water funnels through this 60mile gap between the Eastern coast of the Dominican Republic and the western edge of Puerto Rico. And to top it off, thunderstorms, often severe, get set adrift from Puerto Rico's coastal front by the cooling of the night. It is obvious that it would be foolhardy to leave on anything less than a perfect forecast, right?
Yes, it was fairly windy (average 20kts) and uncomfortable (6-7ft with a 9 sec. interval) but the NNE winds were in our favour and we sailed the whole way. Luckily, we saw no "organized convection activity" and "Lion's Paw" rode the seas like a pro and the patch that Lori left me worked wonders. I didn't throw up at all!
As we entered the waters of the Mona, It is reminiscent of the fright I had when we first set sail for Lake Huron after meeting Blue Blazes. That seems such a long time ago and as of writing this, I haven't had internet for a while and often wonder the where-a-bouts of "Blue Blazes". We call for them on the SSB before Chris, just so that they know they are in our thoughts. Unfortunately, Harley and Janice can receive (hear us) but they do not have the availability to transmit using SSB.
Funny, I still re-call the trip around Georgian Bay with our friends Petra and Colin and Karen and Pat (summer 2009) to be the worst yet regarding wind and sea state. Another time was the five miles from one bay to another in the Chesapeake. The big difference was time; those passages were 30miles, 4 or 6 hours having the snot kicked out of you. This passage was 150miles and it was crossing through the Mona at night. One good thing, the clouds gave way to a brilliant moon (Easter weekend) and we know that our Whitby 42 is a sturdy and reliable sailing vessel made for these conditions, it gave us a steady average of 6 knots. However, we still wore our life jackets, just in case.
Timing is everything and we have arrived on Easter weekend. Customs I believe will be closed until Monday or Tuesday; we are both too tired to do anything about clearing in, so we fell asleep as everyone else was waking.
Luperon to Samaná
March/28/2010, Los Haitises National Park
It was a misty morning as we left Luperon.
So far this trip, we have not had the usual "prevailing conditions" (Eastern trades) and therefore we have not been able to travel as our guide book "The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" suggests. He suggests hugging the coast in the night lee of a mountainous shore. We have experienced no night lee (a lee from wind and sea at the margin of sea and land. Created by thermal effects caused by the land cooling faster than the sea. Significantly abetted by orographic effects on mountainous coasts).
We bi-passed the town of Samana and continued directly to the anchorage in the Los Haitises National Park which is on the south east end of Samana Bay. "Vanilla" and "Osprey" headed towards town. It took us another few hours of travel but it was absolutely gorgeous and we were alone. We wrapped up the boat and fell asleep.
Steve will write about our experiences while at Los Haitises National Park and I will type it in when finished. I believe this to be our best anchorage since leaving Georgian Bay.
Please check out our photo gallery: Dominican Republic - Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises National Park is a national park located on the remote northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. It is a protected virgin forest with little road access. Haitis (singular) means highland or mountain range in the Taíno language, although the elevation of the park's hills ranges from 30-40 metres (98-130 ft). There is a multitude of caverns created by water erosion. Native Americans adorned these caverns with pictographs and petroglyphs. The culture or cultures which created these artworks remain unidentified, some of them possibly predating the Taínos.
Despite advanced deforestation, the precipitation is still considerable, ranging from 1,900-2,000 millimetres (75-79 in) annually. The park is near the top rank in both annual total rainfall and annual number of rainy days among sites in the Dominican Republic.
March/26/2010, Luperon, The Dominican Republic
Above is a photo of the improved "new" bridge that we cross to get our despacho papers. It extends over a stinky conduit for raw sewage. Apparently, the old system involved pulling yourself across the stream hand over hand along a slimy rope while standing in a leaky rowboat. This month, it cost us $20 US dollars to receive our despacho and we all know that it is to line the pockets of this comandante.
We have our despacho papers for Punta Cana (another $20 US). It cost us $113 US to stay in Luperon for a week and we are supposed to check in and out of each port while in the D.R.
We are heading to Samana, Dominican Republic tomorrow, where we've heard there is a great national park. It is there, that we will wait for a weather window from Chris and stage in Punta Cana or jump straight to Puerto Rico and cross the dreaded Mona Passage. The plan is to wait until it is flat and calm and motor the 80miles across.
We are going to travel with another two boats "Vanilla" and "Osprey". They were thrilled that we were going tomorrow and that we had contacted Chris for the okay.
I will not be getting internet unless a miracle comes our way. We've heard that Samana is very remote and it's the closest that you can get to Bora Bora in the Caribbean???
For Chris Cornford; of the 50 T-shirt hanging up over Shaggy's bar, one is the Toronto Police marine unit (black)... were you here?
“Queso de freír”
March/25/2010, Luperon, D.R.
Photo of old cock fighting ring
On Monday, with water bottles in hand, our Spanish for Cruisers and our map from Van Sant's book, we headed into town, this time early in the morning.
According to Steve's cruising guide (Embarrassment of Mango's ... again thanks Karen for giving us that book), we should be able to buy some frying cheese "Queso de freír".
I decide to be a tourist and display my camera (with a noted risk of having it stolen) and took lots of photos . . . always asking first if I could. Check out the photo gallery for new photos under the album "Luperon". Today I managed to stop and start a conversation with everyone and anyone who looked my way and whom tolerated my pathetic effort asking what they did for a living, what their name was, where they lived and how long in Luperon and most of all asking for corrections of my pronunciations and for them to repeat more slowly so that I could respond to their answers. We have found most of the people in Luperon to be really friendly and very apologetic about the state of the roads that have been torn up (the broken water mains too).
We tried to take pics of not only the poverty which is so obvious, but also the richer homes. All houses here are fronted right up to the sidewalk, even the larger ones with court yards. Except for the very poor, all are behind steel gates and barred window coverings. Although there is a lot of neglect, even some of the poorer houses are treated with care and the fronts and streets have been swept clean and the greenery cut.
We found the cheese shop after Marg asked directions (using broken Spanish). It had obviously moved since the writing of EOM. The cheese was orange. I expected white. We haven't tried it at the time of writing.
We did find the cock fighting marina (see photo). It appears cock fighting has been abandoned for years but it must have been on par with horses racing in its day. It was in a well appointed area which must have had extensive landscaping and large trees for shade (all overgrown now). It originally had a tin roof suspended from the pylons. The rich would sit in the numbered seats inside (possibly the numbers were to keep track on who was betting) and the pour would stand along the edge from where I took the picture.
On the way back to the boat in a hot sweat, we were "enticed" "escorted" "coursed" "I don't know how it happened" into an outside street bar by a hooker. And there we sat with her and her just turned 65 year old Canadian from Vancouver that she had been shacked up with for the last week. He was less some of his teeth (I'm sure he came that way). These are not the type of people we are out here to meet but they are very prevalent in a place where the biggest draw is that "It is cheap".
The beer was cold from a bottle and was 120 pesos for 3 - 16oz Bohemia. Spelling guy this is the right spelling! And it is much better than the Presidente. (120 pesos = $3.30 US, $1.10 each). As the Vancouverite boasted, he could live well here on his Old Age pension. I'm not sure if he factored in the price of the hooker?
You can see by the photos that there are municipal improvements going on, similar to those experienced by Shorty (Marg's mum) on Truscott Drive in Mississauga. The main street and part of a paralleled street (some say the parallel street by mistake), were torn up weeks ago. People apologized profusely about the mess but everyone knows that paving is along way off .. Mañana (tomorrow).
Many of the sidewalks were only 2feet wide and we took some photos of heaved ones probably not caused by frost, maybe earth quakes. We had 2 small ones the other day. The wisdom is: better many small ones than one large one.
How would you like to run a snow plough over one of those sidewalks?
You don't run your hand along the fences that line the sidewalks; they are all made of barbed wire. The high block walls that encompass the schools are all spooled with razor wire and have guards (no gun) at the doors where the kids come and go. When the kids are in school, there are always a lot of them that are not. Which brings you to think that school is a privilege here not a right.
Venturing into town.
Photo: Heading into town from the dingy dock
Steve and I aren't the sharpest tacks, however we do learn fairly quickly from our mistakes, one of which was walking around Luperon mid-day, without a water bottle between us.
It was Monday and this was our 2nd trip into town. We set off around 11am in search of engine oil, me with my handy notebook to ask, "Donde puedo comprar motor aceite?" "Where can I buy motor oil?" My first mistake was to pronounce aceite (a-see-et-eh) ..wrong and I don't know what that meant but I corrected my pronunciation to say "Ah-say-teh" and we were directed to the Esso station further along the street as you leave Luperon. We bought 2 large jugs. We wanted to buy 3 but didn't have enough money, so I got to use more of my broken Spanish and said "Lo siento" . . a typical Canadian favourite.. "I'm sorry" as the young gas attendant put the oil back behind the locked and chained cabinet.
Steve and I decided to get off the main road and walk down one of the side streets back to the dinghy dock. It was along that street that we discovered Ed's Car repair shop. We smiled and politely asked if we could buy motor oil and one older man politely asked his son to open the store for us. I heard the word "gringo" and should have corrected him by saying that we were Canadian not American yankee's, but instead asked him his name and we laughed and joked around as Steve looked at the oil prices and we decided that we could afford to buy 2 smaller jugs and that would suffice. On our way home we stopped at Shaggy's and this time bought our beer which was very cold and enjoyable at a price of 70 pesos each ($2.10 each).
Shaggy's - The Bar Stool Sailor
March/25/2010, Luperon, D.R.
For the Blog:
Photo of Shawn P1050482
On Saturday we went for a quick walk up the main street and ended up at Shaggy's, The Bar Stool Sailor pictured above. This guy (Shawn his Christian name) looks just like Shaggy from the cartoon Scooby-Doo. We told him it was our first time here in Luperon and our first time at his establishment. He gave us 2 free beers! He's a sponsored Latitudes & Attitudes magazine and that's just what they do!
The great photo of Steve and his catch again!
March/21/2010, Luperon, The Dominican Republic
I have to put this on the web... see any similarities? go back to "Fish On" story and don't forget to check out the pic's in the gallery.
Steve wants to write a fishing book ...lol
All Bucket's full
March/21/2010, Luperon, The Dominican Republic
It was more like a torrential downpour. Steve and I enjoyed a 9 pm shower.
March/21/2010, Luperon, The Dominican Republic
Bath tub or dinghy?
March/21/2010, Luperon, The Dominican Republic
We had a little rain last night. Here's a photo of one of the buckets we put out last night to catch this precious water. Steve's filling our fertilizer sprayer that we use to rinse off our bodies after swimming in the salt water.
We’ve cleared into the Dominican Republic
March/19/2010, Luperon, The Dominican Republic
It is truly beautiful! After months of trepidation we have found Luperon, Dominican Republic absolutely awesome. We arrived yesterday. It was cloudy and muggy but the mountainous hillside was lush with vegetation and was a welcomed sight after our 330 miles from Rum Cay. It took two nights and three days to get here and we sailed some of it but mostly motor sailed close hulled in fairly flat conditions.
The Bahamas were turquoise and mostly clear. The ocean crossing was a sapphire blue. And the waters here are green-brown in colour but not as green as some of the waterways that we encountered along the ICW.
March/17/2010, Somewhere on route to Mayaguana
It had to happen! I had a fishing line out and a hand line (it is a large spool with 80 yards of 120 lb line on it that you wrap by hand) all Wednesday morning. At about 1:30p the hand line goes tight "fish on". I start winding it in, it's really heavy and I see the fish jump, it's really big. The picture in our fish I.D. book of Mahi Mahi looks like it's being coloured by Disneyland animators, it is so colourful. The colour of an excited Mahi Mahi is so vibrant it is fluorescent, bright greens, blues and yellows flashing back and forth. It doesn't look real, more like a cartoon figure. Our pictures don't do the fish justice, he was no longer excited. . .dead!
I'm winding him in and Margaret is cleaning the fish landing area in the rear of the boat and pulling out the gaff blanket and booze (not for me the fish). I get him to the side of the boat and tie the line to the cleat (the line is that thick). I skewered him with the gaff and hosted him onto the boat, threw and old rug over his head and lay on top of him as I gave him a good dowsing of booze in the gills. "Fish on board" Ten minutes later I pull back the rug to see how he is doing and he starts flopping around like crazy. I get him in a leg and head lock like all star wrestling and work the carpet back over his head "Fish still on board". I decide, I better have a beer and wait. Last Kalik beer on board, next beer Presidente.
Next time I check he is less rambunctious and it is time for the great filleting knife that Heather gave me as we left Georgian Bay. I won't go into great detail, but it's a big job filleting a 50inch fish. I threw all our canned tuna overboard. We weren't going to fish anymore, but Marg saw a fish running in our bow wake. It had bumps on its back and it looked like Tuna, so we threw the lines back out, no luck. We gave up fishing for the rest of the trip.
The Direct Route
To get to Luperon, the "normal" way is to leave Rum Cay mid-morning to sail overnight to Mayaguana Cay; leave there at midnight to reach South Bore channel in Turks & Caicos at day break; then proceed to Provo to check-in by mid-day; leave Provo, in settled weather, to cross the 50mile Turks & Caicos bank, the sun high and a lookout to spot coral heads (which we've heard there are many; anchor at the west end of the bank overnight and then sail to Sand Cay to wait for a window to sail to Luperon, Dominican Republic in the night in order to arrive in the morning (wind is calmer off the larger islands in the night).
We sailed (well mostly motored) directly to Luperon from Rum Cay, 54 hours, leaving at 7 am Wednesday (after Chris) arriving 10:30 am Friday.
I checked in with immigration, then customs, then the port authority and then brought the navy out to the boat in my dinghy. I don't think they own a boat. The navy is the only one that doesn't charge a fee but they do ask, very politely, for a gift and make it clear that they are in charge of our security. We gave them $10 US and a cake. It was all done in good humour, a smile and we were joking and laughing through-out. It was a great experience. The navy spoke English, the other officials did not. I didn't try to speak Spanish. D.R. courtesy flag is up.
March/16/2010, Rum Cay
On the way to Rum Cay I caught a small barracuda and let it go. Then a 2ft Mahi Mahi. I got excited and tried to pull it onto the boat with the fishing line and it jumped off the line as it came out of the water. Then I caught a large barracuda. I figured if the Mahi Mahi could jump off the line as I lifted it, maybe the barracuda would too. As luck would have it, it did. I didn't want all those teeth aboard. Maybe I had better buy more canned tuna!
I have to acknowledge that I got so excited when Steve (we) caught the Mahi Mahi. It was so colourful! I was so disappointed that we weren't ready to catch anything. When we do things stupidly we have a frank discussion as to how not to repeat what just happened. Now we are ready with all equipment out and a plan of action if we get another bite. Meanwhile, I'm trying to bake a Hawaiian Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese icing and tidy the boat for our arrival in the Dominican Republic.
Off to Rum Cay
March/16/2010, George Town, The Bahamas
We left George Town as planned in the early morning hours. "Alesto" waved us good-bye as we pulled up the anchor. We met Lee and Sherry "Alesto" in St. Mary's and again in George Town where about a month ago, on Volleyball beach, they shared their advice and experiences for our trip south. When it was time to get the weather forecast, Lee radioed us to ask if he could relay a message to Chris Parker. Lee knew that we would still be motoring out of Elizabeth Harbour during the weather forecast and it would be hard to hear Chris on the SSB. We accepted. Lee radioed back to us and confirmed that nothing had changed and we would have a wonderful sail all the way to the D.R.
The north swell was about 4-5ft and we had a good sail to the tip of Long Island. As we rounded Cape Santa Maria, the wind came off our stern and we had to motor-sail to Rum Cay.
Earlier that day, we heard the radio transmission co-ordination of a rescue. A boat had come hard aground on a reef at Conception Island and was taking on water. Four dinghy's from the anchorage at Boobycay were running out to the boat. Another boat, whom stayed behind was relaying messages and keeping track of everyone involved. We recognized all of the boat names involved and a sick feeling came over us as we listened. A helicopter had been dispatched from Staniel Cay. They had been called in for commercial purposes only (to repair the damage) and there was conversation back and forth as to estimate time of arrival and names of insurance companies etc. Steve and I decided that it was best to ready our ditch bag and life vests and bring them up to the cockpit (something that we should have done before leaving George Town).
Later we heard the helicopter (whom had dropped a diver into the water and had deployed pumps etc) tell everyone to stand down because nothing could be done with the falling tide and the existing waves. We heard that the boat had many ragged edged holes and it was being bashed further into splintering bits. We assume the boat was lost.
We stayed in deep water and anchored off Rum Cay in fifteen feet with no coral heads in sight.
Leaving George Town
Well the week went fast with Lori and Jack and Mike and Heather. They didn't really have the best weather but I do think that everyone had a blast. I will download the photos today if I can get a good connection.
We spoke with our weather guru today and he said that we should go. We have our departure papers and we'll head out early tomorrow morning either for Conception Island or Rum Cay. You most likely won't hear from us until the Dominican Republic.
So, sadly we say goodbye to The Bahamas and all the friends we've made here.
The world is small though and I'm sure we shall meet again.
Hi Nan, The photos were blue in colour and you would have picked that out because you are the best photographer we have in the family. We downloaded the photos from Lori's camera and she was upset to hear that the photos were blue. It has happened before...ahh! I'm going to now add our photos from our camera.
We off to Georgetown to pick up a bolt and fill with water and provision for the trip south. . . leaving soon