What a Difference a Year Makes!
16 December 2014 | Salinas, PR
One year ago (Dec 10th, 2013) we cast off from our Kemah, Texas home port having waited through two bitter cold storms for a weather window. That winter went on to be the coldest winter on record for most parts of the US and boy did we echo that assessment as we â€śpushedâ€ť the water through the ICW from Houston to Mobile before breaking free and heading across the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs, FL. Eventually making our way to the Florida Keys where we finally thawed out. The entire way we were plagued by Garmin navigation instruction gremlins. Fast forward to today (Dec. 2014). We are anchored just barely into the warm Caribbean Sea (not a minor feat) at Salinas, Puerto Rico. We donâ€™t even acknowledge cold any more. Yeah, we know it exists in Kemah and so many other parts of the US but we live in a world of T-shirts, shorts, and flip flops. What a difference a year makes. The Garmin gremlins have been rooted out and put to bed.
One major change that has just happened in the last few days is that we finally are able to â€śSlowdown.â€ť We say that in more ways than one. When we were working in Houston in late 2012 and throughout our cast off date in Dec. 2013, we worked our butts off to go cruising. We had to tie up our jobs and pass the reigns over to our replacements. Our employer (Puffer-Sweiven) had been good to us so we felt a special need to do our dead level best to see to it that we gave it 100% to the very end to achieve a bumpless transfer to our replacements. In Edâ€™s case, itâ€™s quitting time on the last day of his 30 year career at Puffer. At times when most long term employees would be hitting the door early to escape into retirement, he is there until 7 P.M. trying to distill 30 years into a nice package to pass off. Cheryl tried to leave but her immediate supervisorâ€™s heart attack near her leave date meant that Puffer asked her to stay on a few more weeks to help the company out. In both cases, we showed the dedication our careersâ€™ were made of. From doing double duty tying up our careers and turning a great boat (a Caliber LRC40) into our cruising home, we stayed very busy. Then there was the moving out of the house which also happened to occur the same day we left our jobs, obviously a bad timing decision in retrospect.
As we cast off from Kemah, it was all about getting South. We motored long distances through the ICW and to the Keys. If you had good weather, we went. As it turned out, the Garmin gremlins kept us from leaving in time for the Caribbean last year. Sure, we spent a couple of months in the Bahamas but that a consolation prize. We had meant to make Grenada by hurricane season. As you know, we hurricaned (a new verb that cruisers use) in Jacksonville, Fl. at a nice marina. But, unlike most of the cruisers who spent their time reading, sitting around the pool, and otherwise slowing down, we woke up every day to Edâ€™s massive To Do List. You see Ed had been creating a To Do List ever since we bought the boat (maybe even before). It because so voluminous that he put it in Excel, refined the To Doâ€™s into To Buy and To Do, then prioritized each (yes, you know Ed pretty well). But, in the end that prioritized To Do List gave us the discipline to knock out so many project in the 5 months spent in Jacksonville that we would never have gotten around to otherwise.
Well, if you are still with me, we have that list but we donâ€™t look at it very often. Actually most of it is completed. So, we didnâ€™t slowdown in Jacksonville. We left the US again in early November for the Bahamas, which we raced through having seen most of it in the spring. We broke away from â€śchicken harborâ€ť in Georgetown, Bahamas when most cruisers think of a reason to turn back to the States and go to the Caribbean â€śnext year.â€ť We stopped in Turks & Caicos only as a stepping stone to get to the Caribbean. We got stuck in the Dominican Republic waiting out large NE swells. Then we pushed 215 nm from the DR across the Mona Passage, every sailorâ€™s dreaded passage, into Puerto Rico. We turned the corner and FINALLY arrived at the Caribbean Sea! We have arrived. And like an Energizer Bunny that finally ran out of steam, we have Slowdown[ed]. Wow, what a ride! We are about 90 nm from the Virgin Islands and as a crow flies, we are 450 nm from Grenada, where we will hurricane this year. We could be in Grenada in 5 days, we have over 5 months. We can finally slowdown. And, I can finally take the time to write this blog post.
Interesting observation up to now is that we have seen all kinds of sailboats along the way. But everywhere we went we saw fewer â€ścruisersâ€ť than we expected. When we asked why we were always told â€śOh, they are coming. Youâ€™re just a few weeks ahead of the pack.â€ť Regardless of why, when we arrived here (PR), we finally began to see the true cruisers. You can spot them. They look like they are in it for the long haul. Their boats donâ€™t look like showroom models. They have wind generators, solar panels, davits/dinghy, jerry cans tied to the life lines, sun cover over their boats, massive anchors, and their boats look like a â€śhomeâ€ťâ€¦you know a place where souls can rest.
Adios Dominican Republic
12 December 2014 | Ocean World Marina, DR
A quick update. We arrived at Ocean World Marina on Monday 12/8. The marina is nice but with the NE swells, our boat gets beat to hell against concrete docks. No so much fun. My BBQ pit has some new dings. We toured Puerto Plata with our friends on HighHeeled with the intention of riding the cable car up to the second highest mountain peak. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it) the cable car was not operational. It was a long way up so not disappointed we didn't get to do this. We went to a rum factory which was cool with good cheap rum to buy. We did the supermercado excursion and re-provisioned. We were going to do a waterfall excursion but after reading the reviews on tripadvisor, decided against it. Our friends went anyway and though they enjoyed it, they said it was very physical.
We are leaving today, Friday 12/12, shooting for BoquerĂłn, PR by Sunday or Monday afternoon, depending on what the actual winds/waves due compared to the forecast of light & variable with seas subsiding. It is never as good as they predict.
There are a few new pics in the gallery with our approach from offshore below.
2014-Bahamas in the rear view mirror
05 December 2014 | Turks & Caicos
We left Conception Thursday 11/27/14 with the promise of winds and seas laying down mid day. We rounded on Rum Cay with strong winds and short choppy seas, not very comfortable. Ed was almost ready to stop off at Rum Cay and wait for better weather. We forged on and within an hour, the wind and the seas calmed down and we had a decent passage. We arrived at the entrance to Mayaguana early afternoon and since we still had a good weather window, we decided to head out before dark and make an overnight passage to Provo in the Turks & Caicos (TCI). It wasn't a long passage but we didn't want to pick our way out of the channel entrance at night so we left before it got dark and slowly sailed (yes we actually got to sail a good part of the way). We arrived in TCI early. The officials can see you coming from a long way away. We were still 10-12 miles out and they were hailing us on the radio, wanting to know all sorts of things about the boat and crew. Once we set the anchor, we took the dinghy to South Dock where we had to beach the dinghy to clear customs. Not even a dinghy dock and this is no third world country either. We anchored for 2 nights, then made our way to South Side Marina so we could enjoy the town. South Side Marina should not be missed. Great cruiser marina and now they have Bob's Bar at the top of the hill. We met up with Bob and Stacy on High Heeled (met them in Georgetown) and together we rented a car for a few days. The north coast was spectacular. There are a lot of resorts with great restaurants. We went to a Tex/Mex place called "Somewhere". It was fun hanging out at the bar upstairs and when the rain came, we took our food and drinks and went downstairs to the bar.
We did some reprovisioning in Provo at AGI (a large grocery store). And I thought the Bahamas was expensive. A box of cereal was $10 as was a 12 pack of coke. We got the cereal but not the coke.
We have another good weather window opening up on Saturday 12/6 that we will take advantage of and motor thru TCI and stage at Big Sandy Cay for our crossing to the DR. If the weather forecast is correct, we will be in the DR Monday.