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Itchy feet is a terminal condition
Dancing Naked to the Rolling Stones?
05/09/2012, Luperon DR

Yes a strange title for a sail blog. What it means is I have time alone on Ooroo.

The last time that happened the crew came home to find me doing just that. Yes, those who know me can believe it.

This anchorage is a little to tight for that to happen again in Luperon.

Oli, Charlotte, Dakota and Mark hired motor bikes this morning and went in search of more young gringos and a good if they have been lacking on board Ooroo. I expect them back late tomorrow.

I do enjoy my "lone time".

Yesterday was a huge day. We spent hours at the waterfalls with helmet and life jackets jumping, sliding and basically frolicking in the 27 waterfalls near by. We had no expectation of what would be there. So needless to say it was surpassed. It was allot more exhilarating than I could have imagined. Putting your trust in a guide who points to the place 10m below and counts to three... Then you jump.

They made us cross our arms across the chest and then shoot down 5m natural rock slides only to hit the water below and then get taken away in the white water, reentering that place were you can breath air another 5m downstream.

The highlight.....was when Charlotte didn't fold her arms and got beaten and bruised by the rocks going down. She emerged coughing and spluttering and crying in pain. Now you think I'm a masochistic bastard...but the highlight was holding my little girl until she regained her composure and then holding her hand as we continued to jump and slide. Priceless. Like Oli she doesn't hesitate. She just jumps, gets bumped and jumps again.

I have also discovered that Dakota likes to talk. Not about anything useful I might add. You sort of tune out up until he says something hilarious. I had to match his bull shit with some of my own just to shut him up. He is great to have onboard and looks after my Charlotte, like any dad would expect. Also priceless.

I hope he knows how to ride a motor bike?

The Dominican Republic is a huge contrast to the Bahamas. Lush green mountains, cattle being mustered on horse back, guys ridding donkeys and lots of cheap fresh fruit.

My first duty of the day was to finely chop some Mahi, add fresh lime juice, chopped mango, pineapple and skinned tomatoes. The final touch was Tabasco and chillies.

It's my special Cevechi Salsa. That's my lunch....just add corn chips.

Last night I cooked Mahi puttanesca, Oli contributed an Argentinian Melbec and Dakota and I shared a Cuban Cigar. Can I say Priceless one more.

I have a wicked plan. Jules knows these plans only too well. This one also includes her.

I'm coming home. Starting 2000nm and two months behind schedule I didn't want the pressure on to push onto the Pacific and miss all the good stuff. My old China and honest boat broker, Tony Brewer has booked me a dry berth in St Martin. Ooroo will have to fend for herself for 6 months while I head home to reconnect with my girl, my parents, my mates and my business.

I will also get new sails, a new loo, dingy and have the rigging tuned.

Mark is heading to South America and may hitch a ride with his mate in Martinique. Oli may come home for Christmas after exploring the jungles of Equadore and Charlotte will walk the Camino in Spain. Oli want to complete the Pacific with me.

So the wicked plan suits all. I'm glad my kids have the get up to go places.

Port Tack....335nm to DR
05/06/2012, Luperon, Dominican Republic

We finally left Rum Cay for the Dominican Republic (DR). I'm on the first watch, 9pm till midnight and we have 20 knots of Easterly wind and are cruising at 8-9. The moon is almost full. It's a beautiful night.

But Rum Cay almost kept us. It did keep Marianne. The plan was to leave the afternoon of Thursday and anchor away from Summer Bay Marina so we could up anchor early and escape. Bobby had other plans. He said stay, no charge, why anchor when you can socialize with us. So we stayed and socialized. When we did finally 6.30 the next morning I hit a reef. Totally my lack of concentration on the unmarked exit to the marina. I got into it at low tide and here I was touching up a reef at high. No damage was done except to my ego. We managed to back out with a stack of curses on my part, check the keel and keep sailing. I wasn't going back. And here we are 18 hours latter, Charlotte is asleep a the on the sofa...feeling a little off with the rocking and rolling of Ooroo. Dakota is right next to her watching Californacation, laughing out loud with earphones on, while Oli and Mark sleep.

Rum Cay was our first real Yachty Experience. Pot Luck dinners consisted of the collective talents as fisherman and chefs. Bobby and his partner Grow, excelled at that. Each night we had 20 plus people, fresh fish, guitars, beer and rum.

The days were spent fishing, reading, exploring and constantly fixing things. Talents are exchanged. Marks electrical skills, Dakotas refrigeration skills, spare parts were exchanged for rigging advise, rum for water etc. everyone chipped in to turn a bad wind situation into very memorable stay. I can highly recommend this place...hospitality, tranquility, honestly and integrity. Sorry if that sounded like a school motto...but I did mention Rum earlier too.

We have sailed almost 90nm of our 325nm trip and in doing so clocked up our first 1000 nm in Ooroo.

We dinned on the Mahi Mahi, I managed to pull in. This fish will feed us for three days? We had previously lost two lures to the big ones out here.

We sailed between Crooked Islands and Plana Cays. We are missing some recommended spots in these islands however after 6 weeks in the Bahamas we are due for the cultural change that DR promises. We also have a weather window that should make this passage ideal.

The night sail was much the same as the day with winds from the east. In the morning while having bacon and egg sandwiches we passed Turks and Cacos to the north and where comfortably beating into a 15 knott breeze.

FISH.....Oli was up and had the fight of his life. After loosing two Mahi's the day before we changed the line on the rod and re rigged the lure. It didn't fail us. Oli landed a Mahi that will feed us a further 4 days. We estimate it to be 20+kgs. My flea market $85 rod has just caught more than it's value in one fish. Yeh.

As if things couldn't get better the wind backed to the NE. Our 6 to 7 knots will now get us to Luperon in the DR before the land breezes kick in tomorrow. Providing it doesn't die off to much overnight.

Now we do we cook the Mahi tonight?

It's midnight and Mark woke me from a wonderful sleep. Ooroo felt like she was on railway tracks. The wind and water seemed to be working as one and not as opposing forces. There was no slapping, bucking or whistling, yet I could tell we were traveling fast. The full moon ignites the night. Mark was hyper from the wonderful watch he just completed and it was contagious.

The NE wind didn't last but we are on the same port tack as was when we left Rum Key 260nm ago. Now only 30nm from the shore and 60 from our destination, the wind is veering, pushing us slightly away from our harbour. But we are still on time and a land breeze may yet drag us home on the one tack. 6-8 knots in 15 knots of breeze. Perfect.

I can feel the land...there is an unmistakable warmth and the sea dampness is reduced. The winds are becoming flukey. We have left the low lying Cays, shallow banks and deep trenches of the Bahamas to an island with mountains as high as any in Australia and oceans just as deep. Everything will be different. The people, language, smell, sailing, politics, environment and the price of Rum.

I love the feeling of apprehension caused when you are about to discover something new. You either feel excited or fearful. And it's the choice of each traveler which of these journeys they take.

I'm about to pass over to Oli for the final watch. He has to deal with the winds now. They have dropped, I'm motor sailing and we are heading into a slight chop. The glow of land is viable.

So we motor the last 35nm. The wind doesn't exist but to create a ripple on the water. The land looms, green mountains are book marked by the blue of the sea and the blue of the distant haze around even higher mountains.

The serenity was interrupted 10nm from Luperon we thought we were heading into a huge net. A collection of rubbish and weed 10m wide, stretched as far as we could see. It was a barrier between the blue ocean and the muddier waters of nation of many millions of polluting people. There is clearly more rain here than the Bahamas. The rivers clean the country but dirty the sea. It's still a beautiful landfall.

As is the Harbour. We anchored to be told we should take a mooring for $2 a day...they guy that collects the money livers beer etc to the boat...very civilized. Within 10 minutes we had advise on customs from two yachts who had gone through the process in the hour before...this is how it went,

1- Rafael, A local guy introduced us to the Navy Commandant who was on the dock when we arrived. Mark and I took him and two others to the boat so they could inspect her. Oli, Charlotte and Dakota waited in the was suggested they stay put. They opened cupboards, looked in draws and bags and hatches...they checked the bilge randomly. I was asked if I had a gun. They recorded passport numbers and boat registration details and questioned why I overstayed my Bahamian entry and a layover at Rum Cay was the answer. Very acceptable.
2 - Back on shore we went to the tourism registration office...paid $10 each. Lovely guy there.
3 - Then to Customs right next door. The guys wasn't there so someone yelled and he arrived...It was like a sea container converted into an office. We filled out more forms, had our passports stamped. This guy also had no uniform. I paid $43 for the boat and $10 each as our entry fee. I sat in his air conditioned office and sweated while the others sat outside in the cool breeze.
4 - We met Gladys. It's Sunday so she had her curlers in and looked at Dakota and said "Grande". He is a very tall dude. The curlers were as big as beer bottles.....She was the agriculture controller. No we don't have a pet. We paid her $20 for not having one. Goodness knows how much it would have costed with a pet. Mark impressed Gladys with some Spanish....thank goodness someone knows something.

Rafael also recommended Wendy's for Internet and the coldest beer. It's $1.75 a long that's speaking my language.

335 nm in 52 hrs, we have now covered about 1200nm in Ooroo and still haven't used a tank of fuel. The sails did flog lightly as we motored...but so starboard tack was required.

Mayday Mayday
05/01/2012, Rum Cay - Conception Island

No mum, it wasn't me that broadcasted a Mayday. But one was called never the less. Sitting in the Rum Cay Marina for yet another day, I was a little bored. I was hoping to sail the next day but the weather is unusually bad. In fact it's Monday and we won't depart the Rum until Wednesday at the earliest.

Bobbie got a phone call from a woman at Cat Island. She received a mayday and knowing that Bobbie has all the toys including a Cessna, he was the one to start the search and rescue mission. This very iPad I'm typing on now was was our first tool to launch the rescue. I typed in the longitude and latitude and discovered that they had hit a reef that stretched 4km north from Conception Island...about 20nm away from Rum. I grabbed my hand held VHF and with that, the iPad and Mark we headed to the nearby airstrips to start the search.

Todd (also stranded here due to weather) went back to his boat to act as a VHF relay for any communications that couldn't reach the coast guard.

I got the back seat of the Cessna because its quite there for communicating on the if half a meter makes a difference in a little 4 seater. I was there to try and contact "Tell Tail", the distressed yacht. I have a bad voice for radio....but a great face for it.

We flew over the island that have become our home. Watching the land depart we turned sharply with the 20 knot easterly almost on our tail.

"Tell Tail, Tell you copy". I got a response .." .what?". That was Charlotte also listening in on board Ooroo. Oli told me latter ... "what was Charlotte thinking interrupting the emergency frequency during a rescue". She apparently heard my voice and thought I wanted to speak to her. She is lovely.

We could see the ocean swell below. I was glad to be in an aircraft and not sailing. Two meter waves rolled into Conception Island. We flew directly there seeing no sign of trouble....remembering that at this stage, all we had to go on was a call from a person on another island with a message...Long, Lat and the name Tell Tail?

Bobbie changed course to avoid a huge rain cloud and then once over the island he flew up the clearly viable and onerous reef.

We saw it. In the distance with a partially mast furled main and genoa was a yacht...sitting proud on the reef.

"Tell Tail Tell Tail, do you copy". "This is Tell Tail". We have contact...and not of the Charlotte kind.

I advised them we where in the air and heading their way. Another voice came on the VHF. It turned out to be a Yacht under motor who had also heard the Mayday call and was heading toward the stranded yacht. We can only assume that yacht had taken refuge on Conception in this weather and had been listening to the radio. That was the second piece of luck these ship wrecked sailers had...the first being the person who Bobbie called only 30 minutes earlier.

Tell Tail and I conversed. They were glad to know an aircraft was heading there way. They repeated there Longitude and Latitude but at this stage we didn't need it due to seeing the yacht. Booby then....and I don't know how, spotted a life raft a mile from the stranded yacht. We flew to it.

I spoke to the rescue boat advising them that the yacht was abandoned and the cruisers (an ironic term I must say) were in a life raft. For the record the rescue yacht, we think was Joix e Deux (latter interpreted by Marianne as "happiness of two" or in Aussie speak "two peas in a pod" as it looked like from the air).

They had been communicating with Tell Tail but didn't, like us know that they had abandoned ship. Bobby asked me to relay that Joix e Deux should turn 15 degrees to port. Through this process, as an inexperienced radio operator we had a lot of "please repeat" "say again" and the obligatory "over, copy and out". We also had a lot of engine noise.

We circled very close to all three vessels only 100 or so meters above the waves. I will post the GPS track from my iPad on Facebook looks like we did loop the loops and had a wonderful time.

I communicated as we passed over Joix e Deux that we where on a direct heading to the raft. Once over raft we advised them " it's below know". We got a relieved wave from the two occupants inside. The rescue yacht now had an almost exact position. It took half an hour for the raft and rescuers came together.

We circled the beautiful stranded yacht on a pristine wave swept reef. Tell Tail and it's 50 foot of fun and dreams was now a nightmare. It looked like it should be sailing. From the air it appeared that they misjudged the reef by about 100 meters. But the strange thing was that the yacht was 30 meters into the middle of the reef. It's like it either caught a wave that dropped it there or hit the reef, was laid flat and then washed into its resting place.

Being laid flat is the assumption I have...otherwise why launch a raft from a yacht that didn't appear to be sinking? One day I would like to know? But right now, the call from Cat Island, the rescue yacht and Bobbies + Cessna may have very well saved two lives.

We circled watching as the two craft come together in an awkward dance. We could see life lines being thrown, retrieved and eventually a reunion of the unknown sailers was complete.

The life raft was set adrift to carry on a journey void of human cargo.

Bobby did a fly by. He tilting his wings in acknowledgment and received waves of thanks from the sailers below.

My radio work had a allot to be desired. Joix e Deux asked me at one stage how they should get the guys on board. My suggestion of using a halyard and bosuns chair...and approaching them down wind so they could drift alongside was a complicated one.
Maybe only necessary if one of the sailers was injured. In the end it was as simple as just noising into the wind, allowing the rescued to clamber on board the rescuers yacht.

Bobbie took us home to and for Rum.

I saw a whale breach in the wild waters below.

PS. In the light of day, I reviewed the GPS track from my iPad as we flow over the stranded Yacht. To my surprise the yacht should have been in 13 to 20 meters of water and half a nautical mile north of the reef. Yet the reef was all around the yacht. Unless my GPS was off by half a mile (very unlikely) these sailers would have thought they had plenty of room. With the wind and waves they just wouldnt have seen what was really there. My heart goes out to them....and I have also learnt a valuable lesson.

Tycoons, Crooks and Dreamers
04/28/2012, Rum Cay, Bahamas

Rum Cay has seen better days. Years of wanna be resort tycoons, crooks and dreamers has left a big question mark on the island. A lot of land is in dispute having been sold more than once by a person who didn't own it in the first instance.

We tired up to the dock yesterday along side a 70 foot yacht and a 42 foot ketch.The yacht is the 4 bedroom home of young business man and parter,Chris and Sara. It's has all the bells and whistles. The ketch has Todd and Gay on board. Todd's a sailing journalist and long time sailer type.

We took Todd's advise and decided to hang around here until the weather improves. Rather than been smashed by on the noise and unpredictably strong winds, we are here to get to know these guys and the eccentric marina owner Bobby allot more over allot of Rum.

The marina is a funky place. Ramshackle docks, broken and twisted by last years Hurricane, a scattering of colorful beach shacks and homes and the BYO restaurant and bar make for a unique setting.

Sara came around to introduce herself and invite all to a bring what you have communal dinner at the bar. I made my fresh chilly and pineapple ceviche and added goats cheese and crackers for starters, Bobby contributed "to die for" Conch fritters and Sara and Chris had fresh Mahi in sesame seed marinade, BBQed with our fresh asparagus. Salads and fried rice topped off the meal thanks to Todd and Gay

It's was a fantastic feast. At midnight we assisted Todd to power his ketch further into the marina, partially closed off due to the shifting sands created by the Hurricane. It was high tide at midnight and Todd's ketch had to plow its own entrance thru the sand. He made it after what seemed like an eternity with engines at full thrust and the kiel in the sand. He tucked in for the night.

Today was going to be a day of collecting water from a nearby fresh water pond. The ever generous Bobby was going to drive in his jeep to supervise the pump out...."bring soap and towels for your freshwater bath" he said. But Chris has offered freshwater from his own watermarked to fill our exchange for a bottle of gin. It's a deal. The bath can wait.

So with no water to collect it looks like we will invade the local bar this afternoon. Stay tuned for how that turns out. Oli and I will resume our first to 100 pool comp (dad 68 son 58).

Marianne was advised to make a plan B for flying home to Belgium. We possibly won't get her to the Dominica Republic for her flight out on the 4th. The weather is set to blow for 5 days. The plan right now consists of hitching a ride with Bobby to Nassau in his light plane. Not a bad option indeed. Bobby also surfs, dives, parachutes, etc etc. He has the toys and we are just the people to help him play with them.

We also have the mailboat coming in tomorrow. It's like a party day when that happens apparently. Bars and shops are restocked to keep the 70 odd residence and 10 sailing tourists happy. It's great place to be stranded....I just wish Jules could be here as well.

Boobs and Rum
04/25/2012, Rum Cay

Nestled between Booby Cay and Conception Island, you can't help but feel mother nature at her nurturing best.

We finally had Charlotte and Dakota board on Sunday the 22nd. It felt so natural to have them on Ooroo. Ollie and Charlotte wasted no time in reconnecting as brother and sister as did I with my daughter. Celebrations at the Exuma Cay Yacht Club went late into the night. Knowing we had a weather window the next day didn't curb our rum intake.

The next morning Mark, picked up his friend, Maryanne from the airport. We now have six on board. We aren't expecting too many supermarkets for the next while and so topped up our food, rum and beer and set sail for Conception Island at 10.30am.

We knew the wind was a perfect 15 knots from the SW. Perfect because with 3 sailing virgins and I wanted the introduction to sailing be a good be. Once we cleared Elizabeth Harbour across the shallow banks we tacked onto a direct line to our destination. 7 hours latter after speeds of 7 to 10 knots we arrived and what's is described as a paradise within a paradise. It was.

We crossed a turquoise 6m deep bank to the lee of the island. We anchored in 5 meters with corral reefs to port and starboard, the whitest of white sandy beach ahead and Booby Cay just behind. We dinned on the last of the Mahi, Cevichi style again prepared by Mark. It was delicious. Maryanne who had flown from Belgium fitted right into the conversations and of course general frolicking that is a feature of the Voyage.....amplified by the fact that all the crew are aged from 18 to 27. Yep, I'm the old man at Oli reminds me daily.

We all slept like angels and woke to a glass ocean. Mark, Oli and I collected 4 large Lobsters for dinner that evening and Mark speared a Snapper for lunch.

Cleaning the fish attracted a 2 meter Bronze Whaler (it least that's my best guess of what shark it was), so we all jumped overboard for a frolicking with the awesome creature. I could feel Charlotte hiding behind my taking photos over my shoulder. Dakota swam around the shark like its an everyday thing. We Christen him Bruce.

After lunch Bruce was still hanging around below us and so we tied what was left of lunch and to a rope and watched in amazement as he devoured it.....teeth bared and menace pulsating in the water. I think we all gained a massive respect after seeing such power and grace.

Oli and Mark went spear fishing again while the rest of us beach combed. Man and mother nature are at odds. The beauty was littered with plastic. Thongs, for some reason mostly left foot, fishing buoys, nets and ropes were everywhere. We even found a baby capsule, a hard hat, a trashed almost new dingy and American football.

But we looked pass that. Although only 10 meters high ,the peak showed us a panorama of small islands, coral reefs, clear, clear water, mangroves and creeks. I couldn't help imagining what Maryanne, Dakota and Charlotte made of all this beauty when fresh off a plane from the Big Smoke. I have now been sailing these waters for a month and still pinch myself.

We collected drift wood for the mandatory beach bonfire, planned post the Lobster dinner and headed back to Ooroo.

Bruce was still home and so we decided, albeit not overly responsible to feed him a couple more fish. We filmed him under water. Unbelievable.

The bonfires stated with swarms of "No-see-ems" (sand flys/midgies) attacking us all. The smoke of the fire didn't help. But no sooner had they come, they disappeared leaving us to the sunset, guitar music, tall stories and laughter around the blazing fire. Oli and I stayed by the fire until gazing, chatting and also sleeping.

We left the beach as we found it. It would have been nice to have taken everyone else's
rubbish with us as well. That would be a major project for a small army and a little fruitless.. More plastic would have arrived at the shores as soon the job was finished.

Now for a short sail to Rum Cay. It's an easy 4 hour sail in light winds. Once again no tacking is required. We are getting quite good at sailing, not motoring and picking our weather windows. We will probably stay here until the next window opens or we get sick of Rum.

So we are here.....and not much more is here. It's beautiful and we a in a marina bar with no beer....but Internet. The owner has lent us his car to go by beers at his competing pub...."no issue, bring your own beers, hell bring your own food and use my problems". I'm liking it already.

Mother nature and man are both kind to us.

Off to see Charlotte
04/18/2012, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas

The wind was supposed to back off to 15 knots but maintained 20 gusting to 25 on the first leg of our sail from Staniel Cay to pick up number one daughter and Dakota. The Atlantic was lumpy from the previous 3 day blow and so tacking into that gave Ooroo a nice old test. Waves crashed over the bow trying to intimidate our progress. Ooroo did well. We only covered 50nm in between 9 and 5...but a good days work never the less.

Our destination, George Town has a big sailing regatta this weekend and so anchorages may be rare. Coupled with the Harbour being shallow we decided to pull in behind Black Cay for the night to avoid the stress of an after dark arrival. We are just two hours away, so tomorrow will be very relaxed. We anchored comfortably, with no one in sight and after a meal of teriyaki chicken, cooked by Oli, I can write.

We have two unspoken rules now. ONE, when we anchor, we clean/tidy the boat before we go explore/party. This rule came about when I was accused of being a "kill joy" as we entered yet another exciting harbour? I knew if it wasn't done then it may not be done. TWO, If I start the engines in the means we are leaving. It's the alarm clock. Oli and Mark, then drag themselves out of bed, always happily i may add and help get us underway. I don't mind if they then drop back into bed. Im happy on deck alone. We have a few other spoken rules that I occasionally have to voice but it's less and less as our time together ebbs and flows....oh and THREE, Don't chill beers on the frozen meat. I don't want our lovely collection of Rib Eye to poison us.

Once the anchor and sails are up, Ooroo is sailed easily. With the auto helm you have the run of the boat...cups of coffee can be made, breakfast cooked and minor maintenance can occur while on deck alone. You can even write a blog.

A day sail like this works were one has the helm then another will take over. Oli and i shared he first 3-4 hours. And then a listless Mark took the a hangover cure I guess? He stayed in the drivers seat for the rest of the day, iPod in ear. This watch allowed me to read the most at sea so far. Thanks mate.

I'm right into "This Thing of Darkness" by Harry Thompson. It's a fictional account of the voyages of the Charles Darwin and the "Beagle". Its as thick as the voyages where long.

Forget Darwin's amazing discoveries, it's the guys that got him there and back that astound me. Was it leadership or blind faith that created such heroic humans. Never before had a voyage questioned the perception of God so rigorously. Charles Darwin was a pastor in the making and the Beagles, Captain FitzRoy was also a devout Christian. While one starts the see evidence that Noah was a fraud, the other fights a devil within himself.....but argues in Noah's defense. While one defends the indigenous people the other questions the intelligence of his fellow man. Two great men took the voyage and only one became famous? This is one for the Shaz and David Williams book club.....and I haven't even finished it yet.

FISH, at last. Oli had the line and was pulling in a big one. We furled the foresail and turned into the wind to watch the battle. 10 minutes latter a meter long Mahi Mahi hit the deck. That one fish will feed us for days. They are absolutely beautiful fish to catch, look at and eat. So after some sashimi we portioned the remainder up for good eating in George Town. We passed two large schools of Tuna...the water was bubbling with life. We tried to get close enough to hook on but to no avail. We a sailing

We set off at 9am (18th April) in 15 knots. We have been averaging 6 knots speed but tacking allot. After cutting around a large flotilla of yachts that appeared to be either racing or maybe one of those sailing groups that feel safer in numbers. They where heading the opposite direction. This bids well for getting a convenient anchorage in George Town. However we can see quite a few other yachts heading in our direction....the race is on.

George Town will be a party town this weekend. The regatta, promises to be huge. Coupled with the fact that this port is often the turning back point for season sailers heading back north. For us it's the jumping off point to further sail south and out of the Bahamas. It's a provisioning port...the last before Dominica Republic.

But more importantly, this is were Charlotte comes aboard. Man....I can't wait for that.

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Ooroo - see you latter
Who: Richard McLeod
Port: Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia
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