Bookmark and Share
Dominican Hell Ride
Scott Trefethen
08/08/2008, Dominican Republic

There has been a tremendous amount of excitement in our little floating world as of late. We decided to bypass Colombia knowing it added 1200 miles to our journey North this fall. We will be sad to miss seeing all our new friends now in Cartegena or soon to be arriving there from Bonaire. The 'ole Omarsea is in need of some serious work and we have decided to brave the hurricanes and seek shelter in Puerto Rico untill the storm season ends in November so that we can make necessary repairs. As she is a 14 year old charter boat there have been many things to repair and replace. As many of you already know we installed a diesel generator and water maker last fall. However there is still quite a lot of work to do in getting these systems fully up and running. We also must replace most of the lifelines and stantions as they have proven to be very unsafe. Additionally the genoa has seen its last sailing days and will need to be replaced. So we are shifting our focus from cruising to working for a short time to get the boat in top condition. Puerto Rico promisses to be a good place for these repairs.

Our trip North from the ABC's was a tribute to human endurance. We started out of Bonaire headed for Spanish Waters and a quiet anchorage. When we arrived at Spanish Waters we found hundreds of drinking power boaters zooming through the closely anchored sailboats in an inland bay packed beyond capacity. If we had stayed I would not have let the kids swim around the boat for fear they would be run down.

We started North for Puerto Rico that afternoon but 20 miles into the trip the Jib blew apart on us and we headed West for Aruba instead. The next morning we arrived in Oranjistad, after checking into the country and getting some much needed rest we made repairs to the jib and cleaned out the debris in the stb fuel tank. Over the next few days we were able to explore some of the down town areas, buy groceries and take in a movie with the kids. Once we felt the boat was in condition to sail we checked out of Aruba and headed North East into 20kt winds and 8 ' seas. The first 50 miles were a bear. The seas and winds set us 30 degrees off course to the west and we found ourselves headed for the DR instead of Puerto Rico. Try as we may we were unable to gain enough easting to even make the west coast of PR. Originally intended to be a 80 hour passage we made the decision to go to the DR late in the 4th day of sailing. Conditions improved daily the farther North we went. Seas were 4-6' by the time the Omarsea passed the 16th parallel. Still 200 miles south of the DR we entered a belt of amazing thunderstorms. Squall after squall hammered us every 5 hours. Huge bolts of lightning striking on the horizon lighting up the night with blinding flashes. Winds dropping to null the rising the 50 mph in minutes. One squall forced Jean and I to take down the Bimini top for fear it would be torn to shreds. We took pictures of the leaden clouds and curtains of rain approaching. 100 miles South of the DR the Squalls became less frequent and tempestuous in nature. We were able to skirt around many of them and on the final approach to Boca Chica we piggy backed on particularly nasty squall almost the entire day never receiving winds over 20 kts and staying reasonably dry in the process.

We began to see more and more shore birds. Some rested on the ships boom in complete exhaustion. We had flying fish leap out of the waves and land on deck. One particularly athletic flyer struck the dodger and fell down the companionway onto the cabin sole flapping around the boat just outside Ben's cabin. We were able to catch and get it overboard mostly alive. Several others were not so lucky as we discovered them dead on deck the next morning. I have heard of people eating flying fish for breakfast after finding them on deck. It is said they are delicious. However these were too small to make much out of so back they went into the sea. As we neared land we began to see objects we could recognize. Flipflops, cups, styrofoam and plastic bags to name a few. Signs of civilization were all about us now. There were mats of sugarcane everywhere. Sugar is the #1 export from the DR. Cane fields dominate most of the level areas and you will find huge sugar refineries at every major port. We noticed fish beneath the mats of cane as we went by. But we were to tired to deal with cleaning fish at that point.

The D.R. turned out to be a very interesting place. The people are extremely poor. Yet they are also very creative and industrious in their business dealings. One needs to be fluent in Spanish to truly enjoy all that the D.R. has to offer but if you are like me and only speak a smattering of Spanish, there are a great many adventures in store for you. The country still has loads to learn about how to attract and keep cruisers here. The check-in process is long and complicated. You are expected to work with Customs, Immigration, the navy and the Marine Guard or Coast Guard. Each officer will be expecting different information from you and the Navy will make a cursory examination of your vessel both on arrival and on departure. Their main goal is keeping foreign nationals out of the country. They will be looking for stowaways that do not have a passport more than drugs onboard. We chose to come into Boca Chica on the South Coast. It is the riviera of the D.R. and is a very busy port. As you enter there is a container ship terminal to port. The channel is well marked and will bring you past the two marinas available here. The first is the Club Nautico. Here they have fuel, water and slips. Just beyond staying to the North edge of the channel in 16 feet of water you will find the Var Par marina. This facility is brand new and very modern. It has a restaurant, internet access, free water with the slip, 110v power, and if you prefer moorings just to the south. Raoul is the dock master and is a very well connected person. We recommend spending a few minutes with him to arrange your needs while you stay. Greg the taxi driver is a fountain of information and can help you get anything you need as well. Propane can be filled here. The tanks are taken by motorcycle to a place toward the west end of the country, filled and returned the same day. $19 for a 10lb tank taxi fee included. The people here are very nice to deal with. Their food is fabulous, particularly the local chicken and potatoes. We found that the average meal which consisted of 5 courses cost about $10 pp. The restaurant at the Var Par marina is run by Rubio who will cater to your every whim. He invited us into his kitchen and showed us the special of the day he and Teresa were preparing. When the food arrived at the table despite telling Rubio that we were only moderately hungry there was far too much to eat and we spent a wonderful 2 hours lingering over delicious food, cold beers and great service. On our departure we were told we needed to get a "Dispatcho" from the Marine Guard. It was a formality that caused us a small problem. Having stored the dingy on deck we would have to walk the 2 miles there and then back or take the local motorcycle taxi service as Greg and his auto taxi were busy. Jean and I decided to take the adventure and hopped on the back of the motor bike. We had seen three people on bikes before here and now I realized why. This is how most of the islands 9,000,000 inhabitants get around. The driver was excellent and though he tried to squeeze past a couple of cars with us onboard causing our pulses to race we arrived at the Marine Guard building cool and refreshed with the nice ride. When we entered I was sure this was the correct place but there were 20 some people walking around without uniforms. We were invited into an office and given seats by an officer who handed our passports and papers to another man who left the office. Beer was being served all around and we were told that the present Captain was being replaced and this was his last day at the post. It should be noted that we were not offered beer ourselves and the officer we were working with did not drink. After about 10 minutes of polite conversation our papers were returned to us with the Dispatcho and we were back on the motorbike headed to the marina. While getting on the bike Greg the auto taxi driver met us and Jean said she felt like it was getting to more like home now that she was running into people she knew. The Omarsea and her crew spent the day at the dock waiting for the winds to die down. By 9PM we were able to pry her off the dock and begin heading out for Perto Rico. We settled into our passage mode and jean put the kids to bed. It was with a bit of sadness we were leaving. Perhaps we will find our way back some day.

Steve & Kelly come to visit in Bonaire
Scott Trefethen
07/02/2008, ABC's

So often in life we get busy with jobs, kids and living that we find ourselves drifting away from our friends. It was a tremendous pleasure to find that though separated by 3000 miles for many years our friendship with Steve & Kelly has lasted the test of time.
Within minutes of their arrival it seemed we had just seen each other last week. Talk centered on our respective children and families.
We are a really neat pair of couples when we get together. Jean and Steve are so much alike as are Kelly and myself. It lead to many moments of laughter through the week as we saw the similarities in both our strengths and weaknesses.
As the days passed we spent many hours swimming in the clear azure waters off Bonaire learning the names of many colorful and attractive reef fish. Our evenings filled with sitting in the boat's cockpit sipping drinks watching amazing Caribbean sunsets.
We spent a couple days touring the island. Here we saw pink flamingos and large iguana. There was land sailing and visiting the site of ancient Arawak Indian rock paintings. We liked to stop frequently and see the arid landscape. Bonaire is a desert surrounded by the sea. Tall cactus grows all over and every plant seems covered in long sharp thorns. There are fantastic rock formations left by the receding ocean over the millennia. Many of these have caves and overhangs that shelter wild honeybee hives. To our surprise we ran across heard of wild donkey. One of which walked up to the car a few weeks before when Jean and the kids were on the north shore. The animal helped itself to a large bag of potato chips. Despite a very mild scolding the donkey displayed no signs of guilt for his thievery.
As a treat Kelly and Steve took us out for pizza one evening. We arrived early but there was a tremendous wait to be seated. As is the case with most parents we opted to do take out and eat on the beach with the sun going down. But as so often happens in the islands we were still waiting for pizza when the sunset and had to take our wonderful dinner back to the boat and watch the stars come out. Only last night three planets had been in direct alignment over the western sky. We joked of the illuminate and the joining of the magical pieces of asteroid in the Movie Tomb Raider.
One of the highlights of their visit was the instant attraction between our kids and Steve and Kelly. They began calling them Aunt Kelly and Uncle Steve. Stevie was glued to Steve's side pretty much all the time and Kelly and Juli did some wonderful female bonding while brushing each other's hair sitting on the stern.
Our week with Kelly and Steve seemed to evaporate before our eyes. We have great memories of them having such fun with the crew of the Omarsea. It was one of those special times together when you really hate to see it end.
We are looking forward to getting together with Steve, Kelly and their children in the near future

French Angel Fish
Scott Trefethen
07/02/2008, Klien Bonaire

We have had a number of requests for updates these past few weeks. In responce we spent a great deal of time in the water photographing some of the amazing sealife to be found here so we could share these with you.
The Angel in this picture was shot in 10' of water early in the morning over on little Bonaire. This stretch of reef was amazing in it's diversity of life.
The kids can now identify 35 species on sight and we are adding new ones daily.
It is really exciting to see an new fish and discover it's name. Julianna is absolutely fearless when it comes to getting up close and personal with these denizens of the deep.

New Movie -The Deep II
06/01/2008, Bonaire N.A.

Ben the Windsurfing King
06/01/2008, Bonaire N.A.

On arriving here in Bonaire we looked at many water sports that the kids might be able to do. After ruling out scuba and kite boarding, Ben suggested he was really interested in learning how to windsurf. For those who have never been to Bonaire it is one of the finest places in the world to Windsurf.
Three world champions are from Bonaire. One of these was here the day the kids first took lessons. On the Eastern shore about mid island is a large cove called Lock bay. It is perfect for learning to windsurf. About of a mile across it averages 2' deep and is lined with beautiful beaches. Jean and the kids joined a new friend of ours Ingo from Germany for a day of lessons and surfing. They rented boards and Ben received a private lesson from Raymond at "Windsurfing Place". Ben was quick to pickup the basics and was sailing on his own an hour later.
After the days sailing I interviewed Ben about his experience.
Ben said. "It is fun and really challenging. The hardest part is steering the board. I found standing up and going forward easy to do.
Dad: What words of advice do you have for people who have never tried windsurfing? Ben: "Yes do it! Definitely get some instruction. Remember that you will fall off a million times but you will learn to be the master of the board.
Dad: If you had the choice between playing game boy and going windsurfing which would you choose?
Ben: " Windsurfing!"
Dad: Good answer Son!

Omarsea is a living reef
06/01/2008, Bonaire N.A.

After arriving in Bonaire we were struck by the tremendous diversity of fish life. Here you can see the school of Sergeant Majors that adopted the keel of the Omarsea as an artificial reef. We have to clean the hull of barnacles about once a week. The Angelfish and blue tangs crowd us as the bits and pieces of barnacle fall from our scrappers. We have been very fortunate in that a friend of ours gave us a copy of the local coral reef fish ID series. We are beginning the process of learning the more than 500 species of fish that live here just off the stern of the boat. Our goal is to learn as many as we can in the next month we will be here.

Bonaire Anemone

Coming from the Pacific North West we are no strangers to anemones. They carpet the rocks of the inter-tidal zone on the Oregon coast. However I have never seen such a beautiful anemone as this species? It is roughly 11" wide and the tentacles are 5" long. A pale green with purple tips they are numerous in the shallows here by the beach attached to coral outcroppings. This animal was photographed in 6 feet of water just off the bow of the Omarsea.

Omarsea was here!
06/01/2008, South Coast Bonaire

This photo shows the Boys and I building a stone memorial to commemorate our successful voyage to Bonaire. There are hundreds of these along the storm strewn southern shore. We had a great time trying to gather and balance the coral stones in a very strong wind. After several crashes we were able to walk away knowing that our tower would stand for all eternity in kids time or at least till the next big storm came along. Tilting at windmills was never so much fun.

Great Pyramids
06/01/2008, Bonaire

No, we are not in Egypt. This is a photo of a salt pyramid taken on the south end of Bonaire. The islands oldest industry, salt farming, once employed slave labor. Salt being crucial to many chemical processes is produced here in huge salt ponds. Seawater is driven by the trade winds through narrow channels or pumped using windmills into shallow lakebeds. There the sun evaporates the water leaving a supersaturated solution or heavy brine. This is then dried further until only the salt remains. Salt crystals are scooped up with heavy machinery and loaded into a hopper where it is cleaned of impurities and then piled into these huge piles for storage awaiting cargo ships that take the salt to America. They produce 400, 000 metric tons of salt per year. This salt primarily goes to the Unites states for use in residential water softeners. We stopped near the pyramids to take pictures and could see salt crystals the size of large grapefruits in the piles.

Pink Salt Ponds of Bonaire

This brine encourages the growth of a bacterium that turns the ponds a vivid pink color. Small crustaceans living in the brine (Brine Shrimp) thrive themselves turning pink as they feed on the bacteria. While we looked at the brine ponds we noticed that a layer of salty foam several inches thick formed on the downwind side of the ponds. This foam blew across the road like snow, as though from some giant washing machine out of control.

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]


S/V OmarSea
Who: Scott, Jean, Ben, Julianna & Stephen
Port: Oregon
View Complete Profile »
SailBlogs Friends
Christa Wandering Dolphin 

Powered by SailBlogs