Time to Go
01/21/2011, Dominican Republic
The seaweed will always be a bit greener on the other side of the passage to me... I love traveling and no matter how great it is here, I need to get underway. Our passports are stamped and we will get underway for Puerto Rico at 0830 tomorrow - after Vicarious is inspected... no Haitians onboard!!
Our walk in Samana was short as we were being called back to the infinity pool at the marina.
Dinghy to town
We had a choice of paying $65 for a driver to take us from the hotel to town and back or zip in on the dinghy - easy choice!
Cruise Ship tourists invade Samana
Kathleen and I dinghied a mile over to downtown Samana today for lunch. The place was hoppin' with two cruise ships anchored out. All the bars and restaurants were very busy and the sidewalks were full of folks selling their art and jewelry.
We had a tasty meal of Caribbean pizza and Presidente beer.
01/20/2011, Puerto Bahia, Dominican Republic
We have been enjoying our time here - spending every afternoon at this beautiful pool. The hotel opened just a month ago, so the place is mostly empty - we have had the pool, bar and tapas bar all to ourselves! Not bad for $39/day!
Notes on Leaving Luperon II
01/18/2011, Puerto Bahia, Samaná
So the crazy captain downplayed the rough seas a bit! Yes, there were moments during the night lees where the seas were just 6 feet but for most of the passage after about 2 hours after leaving Luperon the seas were about 10 ft and they were confused well west of any of the 4 capes we passed. The prevailing swell was ESE and the wrap around was NE so that made it quite lumpy. Wnds around capes pick up, not dramatically, but 10 knots I guess is enough to increase the swell 4 ft. Green water was definitely pouring over the pilothouse. Even in the Gulf of Maine that didn't happen! We also were airborn twice, but maybe three times when I was napping. Because of the dousing we were getting my mattress (we have three parts to the mattress in the V-berth.) got wet! This is when salty sailor girl lost her salinity and I went into top whine mode. As many rough passages as we have had I have never had a wet mattress! The captain has but not me and it has been very important for crew moral that that was the way it was. It is dry right now, but since salt water has the annoying tendency to collect any moisture in the air and make things wet again I am sure the whining about it will continue!
I do think Crazy Captain will slow down and take it easy once we find out about my job!
I know it sounds like I am not having the time of my life. I am, but the getting there is a little rough and I have always espoused that it is the journey that you must enjoy, not the getting there, but now it is all about the getting there - screw the journey! I do hope that will change as we fill the kitty with my job and the further Spencer gets from his career as a military jet pilot will help him breath take a pill and sit still and wait for the weather window everybody else waits for and they have a lovey journey!
01/18/2011, Puerto Bahia Marina
Leaving Luperon Part II
I will make a few comments on Part I of this expedition east then get on to the passage to Samana.
I just read Kathleen's blog entry, and she made it sound like I am a crazy Captain, risking our lives and Vicarious in order to keep going when I want to go regardless of the conditions or her input... that actually sounds pretty accurate!
The thing is - we are going around the world. In the past 9 months and 4000 miles, we have met a lot of cruisers. Most have more experience than us and not one is going around the world! The farthest that anyone is going that we met was back to California. Most were going no further than Georgetown, Bahamas or Luperon, DR or the British Virgin Islands. A few may go to Trinidad. I believe that Kathleen and I need to get all the experience that we can, as quickly as we can - the further away from civilization/the US that we go. We are also in a hurry to get to the US Virgin Islands to try to get Kathleen a job at a hospital (she is a Registered Nurse) for 3-9 months to pay off some debts that are growing. I would work too - perhaps as a bar tender - I have some experience in that field! I would also use the time to complete volume III of our DVD series - covering our trip from North Carolina to Maine to the Virgin Islands - including the entire ICW from Norfolk to Miami.
If there is no nursing job then we will continue cruising towards Trinidad - enjoying several months in the Caribbean before hurricane season begins in June. Kathleen would then look into getting a nursing job somewhere back in the States for 13 weeks, and I would stay with Vicarious and Mauri in either Grenada or Trinidad for the summer.
Ok, back to Captain Crazy... I also believe that we need to make our own decisions about when and where to go. We left about 8 cruising boats behind in Luperon. These are all great folks and we have quickly become good friends - it's easy, when we are all very similar people, living a similar life. I wish we could all stay together as we cruise along, but with so many people, there are going to be so many plans. I think that they will have a very hard time staying together in the next few weeks. A few of them seem to only be able to GO when a majority says it's a good time to GO. I just can't wait around for that and I am not about to be a follower. They are also not going around the world, so most have less need to "push" forward, and are happy to spend several weeks in a place like Luperon - waiting for the perfect weather window to continue east.
Vicarious has sustained some minor damage due to the rough conditions that we have been going through during the past few weeks, and this has caused me to throttle back a bit. I must say that I enjoy the rough conditions that Kathleen and Mauri hate - it may be my jet pilot background, but it can be a real thrill - especially surfing down 10 foot seas with 25 knots of wind behind you!! I am no fan of bashing into those seas or winds. Also, I believe that Kathleen and Mauri are getting a bit tougher with each rough passage. I hope that we never have a catastrophic incident like losing our masts or colliding with a shipping container in the sea or encountering a gale in open water, but if we do - we need to be able to keep our cool and deal with it... we are not there yet.
130 miles to Samana
On Sunday morning at about 0900 I was about to go to the swap meet in the dinghy when I had a thought... go check the conditions in the ocean... I jumped in the dinghy and zoomed out to the open water that handed us our butts a couple days earlier. The waves were still breaking around the entrance. I went past these out into the swell beyond. The seas were only 2-6 feet and nicely spaced... we've gotta go - I thought!
I zoomed over to Magic Inspiration, who was now anchored next to us and told Jeff that we were leaving - Now! Jeff replied that he could be ready in 30 minutes - good man - let's get the hell out of here before we are stuck here for weeks!
I zoomed over to tell Kathleen that the sea conditions were much better than two nights ago and that we needed to go... plus it was 0900, not 1800. We'd have a full day underway to get into the groove... something that we had lost during the past week in a placid anchorage, before darkness envelops us.
I am not a fan of travelling at night - I may have said that before. We have very poor visibility out of our pilot house at night. I am lucky to still have my 20/20 vision, but it is worthless when trying to look out the tinted windows of the pilot house. This means that I have to go outside to look around constantly during a night passage. This sounds like no big deal, and it is not when the seas are smooth or nearly smooth. But when the seas are 6 feet or more, our ride is like a roller coaster and it would be easy to get thrown overboard into the pitch black water... something that is on my mind every time I go outside the pilot house in rough conditions. Plus we cannot see things in the water like fish traps, trash, trees, small fishing boats, etc - all that we have encountered in recent nights! On top of that, we hug the rocky coast at night as recommended by Van Sant, to get some relief from the trade winds via the air rolling down the mountains due to the cooling of the ground at night. Believe me - it is very nerve wracking - moving along at 6.5 knots in rough water, half a mile from the rocks in the pitch black night - you can hear, but not see the huge waves breaking on those rocks!
Ok, back to the trip. We led Magic Inspiration out of Luperon - using our tracks on the Garmin GPS to help us out of the tricky, unmarked harbor entrance. The seas were as I saw in the dinghy - much smaller and nicely spaced. We each raised our staysails to some stability and a little help from the wind that was about 25 degrees off the nose, blowing at 10-15. Our plan was to go 130 miles to Samana and reset there for the run to Puerto Rico later... trying to get all the way to Puerto Rico was just too daunting in these conditions.
I reluctantly decided not to fish, since we didn't have the time to spare - if we caught a big one. Jeff agreed and we moved along at 6.5 knots - motoring into the waves and wind. We had been in these conditions many times and it was a beautiful sunny day to make the run along the north coast of tropical Dominican Republic. We experienced higher winds and waves as we rounded a couple of the capes and were on track to make Samana by early morning the next day.
Late in the day Jeff talked about possibly stopping for a break at one of the anchorages along the way. I told him that we should continue on, as those anchorages are exposed to the north and that the winds are forecast to increase by 10 knots in 24 hours.... He agreed, but I know he was getting very tired, like we all were and wanted to stop for the night. Travelling in a boat at night in flat water is quite nice, but bashing up and down - non-stop for 24 hours is exhausting on the body and mind. We had to make Samana by 0900 to avoid the increased winds.
We pressed on through the night and had a great, almost full moon most of the night to light up those rocks and some of the debris in the water. Kathleen and I tried to get some sleep on the floor of the salon, but it was mostly just a chance to rest our eyes, as the boat was pitching pretty hard most of the night.
To add to the fun, we had a fuel filter issue. I had been checking our Racor fuel filter collection bowl every hour as I transferred fuel to the polishing tank and as expected, it started to get nasty in there just before dark. We motored close to the lee of a cliff as it got dark and I changed out the big Napa fuel filter that catches most of the crap in the fuel before it reaches the Racor... when the Racor starts to get nasty - the Napa is basically full of crud. We would have never made it this far without the polishing fuel system, that I installed back in North Carolina... our 35 year old fuel tanks are filthy!! I highly recommend this set up to anyone taking an old boat off shore.
I changed out the filter while underway - doing my best not to get burned by the hot motor that I was laying across! I wanted to shut down the engine for this maneuver, but could not, as I didn't want us to flounder in the seas. The filter was changed and we were back to normal speed within five minutes - practice makes perfect!
The rest of the night was a bit more stressful as the moon had set and we had to round one last rocky cape. This was done in the pitch dark and we had traffic coming at us on the nose. A sailboat out of Puerto Rico was heading to the Bahamas, and he also wanted to round the cape as close as HE could. At this point, Jeff was in front of us and coordinated our night-time passing with this boat - but I could not see the boat with my eyes, AIS or radar!! I pushed the throttles up to tuck in closer to Magic Inspiration for this close, blind passing. Visibility was made much worse by the seas that were now spraying over the bow and onto the pilot house window as we rounded the cape. As I approached Magic's stern at about 7 knots, I was looking at just his stern light through our wet window... I was so tired that I had major starburst vision and the rough motion of Vicarious didn't help either. All of a sudden I had a bad feeling and went outside to take a better look.
As soon as I got outside in the ocean spray I saw that we were only a couple boat lengths behind Magic and closing very fast! I jumped back inside and threw the throttle into neutral and quickly called Magic to tell Jeff that I was in neutral and slowing through 5 knots!!! I could not veer right because of the rocks to our right! I could not veer left because of the sailboat passing us on our left! I expected Jeff to call me at any second in a panic - that's why I made the call on the vhf. He never called or responded - I can only guess that he slowed way down for the passing as I was speeding up to get close. I learned a doozy of a lesson that night and it reinforced the need for a vigilant lookout at night, especially when visibility is limited by the ocean spray on the window as night in high winds and seas!
Later as we rounded the cape and the sky started to lighten from an approaching sun rise, I took the lead and Magic followed Vicarious into Samana harbor. The scenery along the coast is a beautiful, undeveloped masterpiece of high mountains covered in lush trees and palms with a mix of rock and white sand beaches! I tried but was unable to capture it in a photograph - look for it on our next DVD.
We motored around the small harbor looking for the Marina that we had planned to stay at - no marina was to be found! Vicarious dropped and set the hook while Magic picked up a mooring nearby. Jeff said that we could raft up with them at the mooring, but I declined - I don't trust moorings anywhere - especially in a third-world country. As we put up our sun shades in a state of complete exhaustion a small motor boat pulled up and tied up to us. Four men climbed aboard - one in a military uniform. Only one spoke some English - I handed them our dispatchio and passports. They wrote down our info and kept our dispatchio. We would have to pay for another one when we left. The English speaker told me to come with them to shore to pay an anchor fee. I made the mistake of going along... without my own ride!
Rafael tuned out to be a business man, trying to earn a buck by taking me anywhere I wanted to go. I quickly realized that I better play along and expect to pay... I had no way of getting back to Vicarious. The three military guys walked away from me once we were ashore and Rafael told me to go with him. Kathleen mentioned that we were looking for a marina back when they were going through our papers, so Rafael wanted to get a cab for me to see the marina and make a reservation. He said $30 for the cab... I told him I only had 20, he said ok, 20. He made a call and up pulled a very nice minivan - I would later learn that Santo the driver is his cousin. We climbed in and off we went... the van soon stopped unexpectedly - we were in front of a bank... hhmm - very smart Rafael, very smart indeed. I went inside and got $100 worth of pesos from the ATM and got back in the van. We drove out of town and high into the hills - I started to think about those safety briefs that I had many of in the Marine Corps about foreign countries that I had visited. I was alone and nobody knew where I was going.
My stress level soon dropped as we approached a gate with a guard and they waved us through. This was the entrance to the very nice marina/resort property - not a terrorism training camp! I would live to cruise again!
I got a tour of the huge resort that had opened just 30 days earlier. The rate was less than a dollar per foot and it was a five star, beautiful place with three pools, restaurants, bars, etc... everything that a tired cruiser needs!
To wrap this up, Santo took me back to the waterfront; I paid him 700 pesos ($21) for the ride. I gave Rafael 300(he was not happy with that), and I got stuck paying another 300 for a 2 minute speedboat ride back to Vicarious. I had enough of Samana and we were going to the resort marina around the other side of the mountain! I told Magic about it and they were in.... especially since their mooring had dragged and they were only a couple feet away from another sailboat!! I helped them get underway in the 20 knot wind and then Kathleen and I sped back to Vicarious in our dinghy and made a quick get-away from our anchorage.
We led Magic around to the marina and we went in first to our slip. I ended up taking the slip I wanted - into the wind, since Pedro at the marina was just not understanding me over the radio - he kept trying to get me into a down-wind slip. Not in 20 knots of wind buddy!
Once we were tied up we were approached by four officials about our arrival. We did our best to explain that we had checked in around the corner in Samana and they took our papers! They eventually got it and walked off - very friendly folks by the way, and they didn't search our boat for drugs like the guy did back in Samana!
We walked out to the only spot that Majic would fit - 24 foot wide catamaran, and I explained the slip and how to get into it to Jeff and Sandy. They soon squeezed in and we could all relax, we will be at Perto Bahia for a while... race you to the infinity pool!!!
Leaving Luperon: Take One
We are in Samaná...finally! So we tried to get out of Luperon on Friday and it looked like a good weather window at least for us since we are less picky than others about our weather windows. We were hearing from the weather guru 7 ft seas with a 9 second period which is pretty decent since the time between swells is more than the actual height, BUT he was saying that is was a no-go which means nothing to someone like Spencer. Especially since we had a buddy boat Magic Inspiration who is also on a timeframe to get to the VIs sooner rather than later for a chartering gig they have set up in Feb. and Jeff is as gung ho as Spencer. So he and Spencer just looked at the winds and isobars (the topographical map of the weather that shows what wind is doing in the area) and it seems they didn't really take into consideration the swells, but Chris Parker said what I said above and we all agreed we could handle those conditions. The winds were forecasted (Sirius weather and passageweather.com) at 5-10 south of east and we were going to leave at 5pm to get out there with some daylight left and so that soon we would experience the "night lee" that Bruce Van Sant talks about in his book about how to make the thorny passage thornless. I am too tired to explain it now but there is an effect that the hot land creates on the trade winds as it cools over night. So that was the plan.
Note: to decrease tension between the captain and me I have really been trying to be the salty sailor girl which means not pre whining about what I think a passage will be like when he decides to go when other people think it is a bad idea. We have had some rough ones since leaving Miami and the safety and security of the ICW, so I have become gun-shy but it annoys Spencer to no end so I am really trying to just suck it up. What's the worst that can happen? Well, to me death is the worst thing and I have realized that I have already lived more than most people do so I will try not to worry about that so much. I also fear the boat ripping apart in a particularly horrific wave and all of our belongings scattering to the sea, including Spencer and Mauri and I survive it. I am a resilient person and I will pick myself up again but that sure would suck! So I just really have to hand that worry over to a higher power greater than myself. This all means that when we do make the passage that I don't agree with I try my darndest to not say anything negative. Sometimes I succeed and other times I don't and the captain makes it quite clear his displeasure when I don't!
For this particular passage I was a model salty sailor girl. I just quietly prepared and accepted my fate whatever it was to be on this passage across the notoriously dangerous, uncomfortable and fearful north coast of the Dominican Republic and the Mona passage. So early that morning our two boats went to the Navy to check out of the country who told us to come back at 4 for our paperwork to leave the country which we didn't know what a red ass that was going to cause. We then went to immigration and got the passports stamped salida which means exit and we went about the business of wrapping up loose ends, saying goodbye to a whole group of cruisers I was hoping to stay with at least until PR. Several of whom said that they were concerned abut us leaving and that there wasn't really a weather window, but I just said, "I will be going with the captain and he feels like we can make it." Spencer had a lot to do on shore and so I made ready down below. The time ticked away and 4 came and went and I finally texted him using up precious texts and he said they were being jerked around and being told every 15 minutes it would just be 5 more minutes. Apparently, it took all day plus an hour and a half for the Commendante to type up a half page document and THEN they wanted to come aboard both of our boats! We wanted to leave at 5 and it was near 6!!!! They then extorted $20 more US dollars from us "for the Commendante" and we couldn't say no to a guy with a handgun stuffed in his jeans pocket!! Glad we bought 10 guys a beer from both our boats that Friday night with our "donation!"
So as soon as those guys were on shore and Spencer was back it was quick work of getting out of the harbor. We followed our tracks we laid down coming in and luckily it was still light. With the time change here it is dark at 7 am, but light until about 7pm. I didn't really have time to be nervous. But as we rounded the first sandbar both boats saw the breakers rolling in and we all just told ourselves that it always looks that way and once we were clear of the shallows it will be the 7 ft 9 second period waves and all would be fine. At least that is what I told myself. We felt good and it seems that we were indeed seeing what had been forecasted. About a long 7 ft swell. Rough but tolerable for a 250 mile run to Puerto Rico! Whew, so as soon as we made the turn east it was like someone turned the wave machine on full blast! We were climbing 12 footers and slamming back down in about a 3 second period between. I was DETERMINED to not say a word or cry or sigh, but after everything ended up on the floor in one violent slam like we had hit ground, but it was just water I clawed my way up the companionway stairs to say something, but Spencer and Jeff were already talking about turning around! Yay it wasn't me. I went below to make sure that as we went 90 degrees to these elephants that nothing was damaged in my galley. Luckily there was still some daylight and I am so glad the captains made the smart decision to get back to safe harbor immediately.
We still weren't out of the woods yet. Anchoring in near dark next to two stupid boats without anchor lights made for more excitement! After Vicarious finally was hook down Magic came up alongside and rafted to us. They made fabulous margaritas and we brought food and chocolate I had made for the passage and talked about what we were going to do.
To be con't...
Papo and his partner Andy will do just about anything that you need done for your boat, including cleaning the bottom. Nobody wants to get in this water; so if we were to spend several weeks here, we'd need that service.
I plan to clean the bottom in the beautiful waters of Culebra, Puerto Rico in about a week or so.
Getting ready to go
Last night was a fun night of Team Trivial Pursuit at Puerta Blanca. We joined with Southern Bella and Magic Inspiration over tasty grilled pork chops and way too many - Presidente beers! We came in last place among a half dozen teams, but had a lot of fun.
Today we are researching the weather and looking for a window to make the 250 mile trip to Boqueron, Puerto Rico. It looks like we may be able to head out tomorrow around 1700 with another boat or two. If the winds are strong and from the wrong direction, the trip across the Mona Passage (the second deepest water on the planet between Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic) can get very dangerous.
I took on about 32 gallons of diesel fuel from Papo's fuel barge! The only requirement left for us to leave is to check out and get our dispachio - we will get that tomorrow if the weather still looks good.