Some Fun, Some Problems
17 February 2014 | Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, DR
As predicted in the last blog, this blog is coming to you from the Caribbean. Whoo hoo! We’ve had some adventures, some good and some bad, but have finally made it to Puerto Rico. We are in a small town called Boqueron on the West side of PR. It is the first stop after crossing the Mona Passage which is the gap between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It can be a very exciting place to sail as the depths in this whole area vary considerably. The Atlantic Ocean on the north is about 25,000 feet deep. The island chain that makes up all the Caribbean Islands (see picture)intersects the two seas bringing the depth of the water to about 300-600 feet. Then the tide moves from the Atlantic south through the passage to the Caribbean and vice versa twice each day. So, if your timing is off and you pass over the more shallow areas when the tide is running fast and if the wind blows and if…and if…Anyway, there is a great possibility that your passage could be eventful. Fortunately, we were able to get through at the right time, with soft winds and most of the trip was easy. Ten miles outside of Boqueron though, our fuel line plugged up and we had to hoist all sails while John went below (at 4am) to change all fuel filters. He was able to do a good enough job to get us into Boqueron, but once again, we have some repairs to do before we can move on.
Yes, but what have you been doing for the last 6 weeks, you ask?
We stayed on Long Island for another week with Carefree. Since they had the use of Linda and Neil’s car, we went to the bottom of the island to Dean’s Blue Hole. This is a 663 foot deep hole at the bottom of which is an exit out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is famous for “Free Diving” competitions (diving without the use of scuba gear) and attracts divers from all over the world. It was quite eerie to step off the edge of the sand and know that the water went down over 600 feet. But beautiful too!
We left Long Island with another boat from Quebec, Grand Pas 1, with Franciose & Michel. The goal was to follow Bruce Van Sandt’s course from “The Gentleman’s Guide to Sailing South.” This describes the pattern for constantly trying to get the boat EAST when the prevailing trade winds come from the east. Trying to get to the Caribbean from the Bahamas is a test of wills as it requires moving your boat in a south easterly direction, usually directly into the prevailing wind. Yes, you can motor there, but the winds generally blow 20 knots and they create huge waves that are not kind to the boat or its inhabitants. So, it is a process of waiting for weather windows, moving, and then waiting again. This process has taken us 6 weeks (with a few mishaps in between to slow us down).
We got to Rum Cay, our first stop after Long Island, and anchored in the bay on the south side of the island where we rocked and rolled in surge for 3 days while waiting for our weather window. We then decided that we were tired of rolling and made a move to the north side of the island. We found 5 other boats there and some great snorkeling. There were coral heads but we were able to avoid them and anchored in sand. However, at about 5am, when we were expecting 4-5 knot winds from the west, a gale came howling in at 44 knots from the north. We were totally exposed, our anchor dragged, caught under a coral head and smashed our rudder and keel onto the coral. In the process of getting the anchor uncaught (with 8-10 foot waves breaking over the bow), the anchor chain became airborne and sheared off most of the metal work on the bow of the boat. John worked like mad to get the forestay re-secured and to get the anchor up while I drove the boat. John got the anchor un-stuck and I drove us out of the anchorage, dodging coral heads that were now uncovering due to the 10 foot waves. We returned to the south side of the island to lick our wounds and assess the damage. We found that the stern rudder post, as a result of hitting the coral, had slammed up into the stern of the boat and cracked the fiberglass. We were leaking! John was able to use our “Hookah” gear (scuba) to get under the boat and apply an underwater epoxy to most of the cracks. That slowed our leaking down to an amount that the bilge pump could handle. We had a meeting of all the other skippers and decided that we could continue on (not that there was any choice as we were on a remote island with no repair facilities). The choice was made to continue on to the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), the closest place with a shipyard. Grand Pas 1 would accompany us to be there for us if we needed them. We made a nice uneventful 2 day trip down to the TCI and were able to get Mariah hauled out right away. The shipyard was very efficient and had the repairs all done in one week. We even had Mariah’s bottom painted. She is all nice and fixed up, no leaks and good to go.
The TCI was very pretty, beautiful clear water and quite upscale from the Bahamas. They are a possession of Great Britain and as a result, have a large population of Europeans who have created an appealing beachfront that attracts many visitors. Unlike the “Outer Islands” of the Bahamas, the economy is getting better with tourism as the main event.
On our way to the Dominican Republic, we stopped at South Caicos and anchored there for 2 days in the most beautiful waters. We were 200 feet from an “Underwater Aquarium”, a sanctuary of coral heads with thousands of fish swimming in and out. It was quite lovely and really resembled an aquarium with the sun backlit from the other side. Magical!
In the DR, we rented a car and driver who took us from the marina halfway across the island to Santiago. We stopped at a fruit stand and bought mangoes (yum), bananas and a couple of fruits I’ve never seen. I don’t even remember the names, but they were yummy. I do love fruit! The countryside is lovely, reminded us a lot of Kauai. And the city of Santiago was bustling, cramped and very exciting…small cobbled streets, small cars and trucks everywhere…small shops of all kinds (John got his watch fixed and I was able to get some prescriptions filled). It was a great day and a great idea to get a driver as the streets are filled with motorcycles that cut in and out of traffic.
But, we are finally in the Caribbean. We have been trying to get here since we first put Mariah in the water in Texas a year and a half ago. And we are both exhilarated and exhausted. We have a few more repairs to do here in Boqueron, then off we go around the south side of PR and over to the Virgin Islands. Can’t wait!!