Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Maiden Voyage Complete - Now what?

We have now been home over a month and I must admit, I am scratching my head and saying "now what?"  I thought it might be an interesting and worthwhile conclusion to this "episode in life" to recap the trip - the good, the not so good, and lessons learned.  Wow - there were quite a lot of those and I am sure I will miss the most important ones!  and for anyone who has stumbled on my blog and not read the last 6 months.....well this will be a quick summary.  I won't go into all the details of the trip - but if you are interested, look back over the past 6 months of posts on this blog and you will see the full story.

Reason Why we Did it

First sight of the Boat
We had decided to buy a new boat.  We had researched the used market extensively looking at other monohulls and catamarans.  For a number of reasons - largely comfort, our own agility, and at some point potentially a growing family (maybe grandkids), we decided that a catamaran was the next boat for us.  After looking at 2-3 year old boats, I found I could potentially buy a new boat for a similar price if I did it right.  For example, the delivery price component of a new boat is between $16,000 and $89,000 depending on where its going, and how its being delivered (on its own  hull or on a ship).  This in itself was a big motivation to "self deliver".......and it was a bucket list item for me to sail across the Atlantic on my own boat.  So it just seemed a no-brainer. We will sail it home.  We had actually decided to place the boat in charter for a year with Dream Yacht Charters in the BVI.  But for various reasons, we decided against this once we got to the BVI.  If you want that complete story, you will have to read a bit deeper in the blog, or contact me  by email.  So, our plan changed significantly adding about 1,500 miles to the journey and a new plan for the boat.  But that's how boat plans go - while its important to have a plan, you must have flexibility.

Recap of the Trip - Geography

We selected a Lagoon based on a combination of build quality,  sailing/handling, physical dimensions, reputation, and price.  I would perhaps say that those criteria were also weighted in about that order of priority.  The next issue was that Lagoon is part of Beneteau Group and are built in France - so logically, that was the starting point of our trip.  Actually, La Rochelle, France which is located on the Atlantic coast (Bay of Biscay).  I did a lot of research on cats in our price range and to me, the Lagoon was the clear winner.  Having now owned the boat  for 7 months and sailed it 7,100 miles, I am happy to say we made a great  choice!


Our Route from France to the US

While I did a lot of thinking, planning and research on our route, the basic idea was to follow the Trade Wind Route to cross the Atlantic.  Some sailors chose to depart for the Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands; others go farther south to Cape Verde.  We elected the latter - a little longer trip, but based on my research, a better chance of seeing consistent trade winds for the Atlantic crossing.  I had studied the wind data and statistics and January was looking like an optimal time for this leg.  Coincidentally, this ended up aligning great with our actual dates.

We experienced the worst weather in the early part of the trip - the Bay of Biscay from France to northern Span.   See https://midnightsunii.blogspot.com/2018/12/off-dock-on-to-spain.html  Things started to improve in the upper part of Portugal.

A quick recap of our route and the countries visited is below:

  • France (Atlantic coast/Bay of Biscay)
  • Northern Spain (a Coruna)
  • Portugal
  • Madeira (Portuguese island)
  • Canary Islands
  • Cape Verde
  • Antigua
  • St. Marten
  • British Virgin Islands (BVI)
  • USVI
  • Puerto Rico
  • Dominican Republic
  • Bahamas
  • USA
We made one major change to our original plan.  We had originally planned to go from Cascais (Portugal) to Morocco, and then Cape Verde.  But we fell in love with Portugal and were encouraged to go to Madeira by many people that we met.  So we elected to go to Madeira in place of Morocco - and very glad we did so as Madeira was perhaps the favourite place for me and most of the crew.

Our total trip distance ended up being 7,100 miles from La Rochelle, France to the inlet at Pensacola, Florida.

So, as stated in the intro to this post, i am not going to recap the entire trip - if you are interested in that, please simply search down this blag as that has been the topic for the last 6 months.  What i am going to recap is the good, the not so good and some lessons learned.  Here goes,

Seas never look very big in a photo!

The Not So Good

A Coruna, Spain
Crossing the Bay of Biscay in December was certainly the not so good!  We left in 25 knot headwinds and 20-25 ft seas.  Why - because the delivery crews we had met told us that's about as good as it gets at that time of year.  Sure there were a few days better, but they were rare; and there were certainly days that were even worse.  That first leg to La Coruna, Spain was perhaps the worst.  In fact we cut it a little short and went in to Ribadeo, Spain.  We loved Spain and the people.  We were told things would get much better once we headed south along the cost of Portugal - past Finistere.  Well eventually, that was true, but rounding Finistere was awful.
At midnight we heard distress calls
from a 100 ft fishing boat, and saw helicopters and search rescue services.  Their deployment and efforts were impressive, but unfortunately, two men were lost overboard.  It was a very sobering thought that will stay with me forever - how easy it is to loose someone overboard.  it reinforced our rule that after dusk or in any bad weather, anyone out of the salon wears a lifejacket and tether.





Viana do Costello

The weather resulted in some short hops in northern Portugal, and a memorable stay in Viena do Costello.  A town I would love to revisit some time.  Red carpets on the streets for Christmas, and just a gorgeous and friendly small town.

The Good

We actually made it to Porto, Portugal for Christmas and this was a wonderful place to spend a quiet Christmas holiday.  Needless to say we took in several tours of port wine cellars and enjoyed the superb hospitality of the locals in the traditional fishing village called Afurada which is actually a very small suburb of Porto, located nearby the marina.  What wonderful people!.....and very cheap drink prices.  Porto was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip.

We also enjoyed Cascais and Lisbon.  We spent New Year in Cascais and added additional crew - Ron, Julie and me son Austin.  Mike left us in La Coruna.  And since I am talking about :the good", I must say that great crew made the trip both a joy and way easier.  I should also put this as a "Lesson Learned", i.e., only take crew that can get along, and that you trust implicitly to handle the boat.  Our crew did exactly that, with Larry and Tracy being our "core crew" and best friends that completed the entire trip with us.  So crew selection - each one, was the best decision I made.  Thank you everyone!

Our other favorite places included the Canary Islands, Funchal, Madeira (I think overall, the crew voted this our best stopover); Antigua; Puerto Rico, and the southern Bahamas.  I am not going to go into detail on these, as I have separate posts on each that are not too far back down from the blog from this one.  So scroll back for more information on any of these.

Favorite Equipment

Under the general category of "The Good" I think its appropriate to mention some of our favorite items of equipment that we had on the voyage.  Notable items, with a brief statement as to why are as follows:
Rainman - coolest thing ever!
  1. Rainman Watermaker - for its simplicity and reliability.  We made water every day, especially when we had a crew of 7.  It was a vital piece of equipment and worked flawlessly.
  2. inReach Explorer +Satellite Communicator - we sued it every day as our preferred means of text communication and tracking.  We preferred this over our Sat phone, an Iridium Go.  We figured out how to "one way post" to Facebook.  Yes, I hate FB, but the rest of the world seems to need it.  One day I hope it will follow in the steps of bell-bottom jeans and just go out of style!
  3. Tool kit provided by DYC - a small compact tool kit that had 99% of the tools we needed in one location.
  4. Code Zero Sail - made for us by Schurr Sails of Pensacola.  It fit perfectly and worked well with the Lagoon supplied bowsprit and Facnor continuous line furler.
Fortunately, we had very few equipment failures, and those that we did have were manageable.  The biggest issues we had to address were:
  • Leaking window resulting from poor installation
  • Failed AIS resulting from incorrect factory installation
  • Chafing reef lines - we have addressed this through a  rigging modification
We love the boat.  The best attributes are: comfort, safety, visibility in bad weather (huge salon windows), general quality of build.

Lessons Learned

This really is a hard one because one of the things I love about sailing is that every day is a learning day - the weather, the boat, the crew dynamics to mention a few.  I will stress again that crew selection is the key to success, and this was one that I definitely got right.  I had the best crew for this trip.  In addition to being great sailors: 2 engineers, registered nurse, precision fabricator, adn great cooks. Very briefly, here are a few things that I would put down to "lessons learned" based on this trip:
  1. Spend as much time as needed to "learn the boat" before setting off.  What systems does it have; where are they physically located; where are the thru-hulls and points where water can enter or leave the boat; understand the electronics and have multiple back-ups.  Another vital thing we learned on a catamaran was to "learn the numbers", i.e., what wind speeds and points of sail do I need to reef at?  Without the feel of a monohull, it is very important to know when to reef sails to avoid becoming overpowered.  And practice reefing in good conditions first......make sure the crew can do it at night.  Find any chafe points and watch them very closely.  The loads on a cat can be far greater than a monohull and lines can chafe very quickly with small movements and friction.
  2. Communications  - have multiple communication systems.  In our case: VHF, Iridium Go Sat phone, inReach satellite tracker/text (2); EPIRB; multiple cell phones and iPads.  Of course each one has limitations, especially range for cell and VHF.
  3. Weather - we had multiple weather options: windy.com; a PredictWind subscription; local weather services (check marinas); and we used WRI Weather Routing for the atlantic portion of our trip.  WRI were excellent with daily check-ins via satellite email (Iridium Go).  Moreover, take time to teach yourself as much about the weather as possible.  I am not an expert, but i know a whole lot more now as a result of this trip.  
  4. Tools and spares - you can never carry too many, and if you do you won't need them.
    Packing the Pallet
    We carried lots of tools, spare filters, oil, impellers for critical pumps, line, shackles, blocks of various sizes etc.storm sail, without really knowing what would be provided with the baot, i did actually ship a pallet of "stuff" from the US.  As it turned out, the charter package from our broker was very well stocked.  The experience of shipping a pallet had its own issues from delays by the shipper to clearing customs in France.  I could write an entire article on this.
    Camping Gaz
    The other option would be simply to budget enough money to buy everything needed locally. However, this may not be a viable option for some things.  For example, the boat was built to US electrical standards, so we shipped a small TV and microwave (110v as europe is 220-240v).  Also, european "Camping Gaz"is a substitute for propane, but uses different canisters and fittings; so you have to be prepared with the correct adaptors.  Camping Gaz is also a mixture of propane and butane, so does burn differently, especially at low temperatures.                                                                                                                                                                                               
  5. Patience - this also goes hand in hand with weather.  Don't be in a rush.  No schedule should mean no schedule.  Wait for the right weather, or at least the best weather.  We did jump the gun by leaving a day or so early on a couple of legs, and paid the price either by having an uncomfortable passage, or more motoring than anticipated.  There were a couple of times when we thought we could "catch up to better weather" ....this simply didn't happen, you must wait for a  good window.  I will say that patience is probably the hardest lesson to truly embrace.  Someone is always ready and wanting to get going and its hard for the Captain to say no we will wait a couple of days.  Also, patience when waiting on services such as mechanics, technicians etc.  Europe has a different schedule and philosophy to schedule than the US, and there's no point in trying to change it - embrace it and enjoy the time. 
  6. Plan the Route - this may sound obvious, but when going to ports and countries that you are not familiar with, plan the route, but include flexibility.  Study charts and read guidebooks.  Reeds Almanac was an excellent resource.  Always look for bail-out options for bad weather, changed conditions, boat issues, crew issues.  What if a port entrance or marina is closed?  It happens quite a bit in europe in bad weather.  Also, on many parts of our route, anchoring was simply not an option due to depth, no safe anchorages etc.  Marina availability was only an issue in the Canary Islands - but that can be a big issue.  We did use a reservation service in the Canaries because every marina we called was full.  We carried basic paper chart coverage, and multiple versions of electronic charts, on multiple devices.
  7. Carry a cash reserve - there will be glitches with credit cards.  Countries that don't accept them, or banking systems that shut down for no apparent reason (e.g., Cape Verde).
  8. Internet - oh boy, don't rely on it being available or reliable  If you are a person that needs to be constantly connected - just stay home.  This isn't for you.  Internet frustration is something you just need to get over, and watch out for the charges.  Its far better to just accept that you're connections will be limited and sparse otherwise you will drive yourself crazy chasing electrons.
I know I have missed some obvious ones.....but hopefully these will give food for thought.  I am sure there are many more thoughts embedded in my previous posts on the trip, but I will end this article for now. by simply saying - yes, it was an amazing trip and experience of a lifetime.  Truly one checked off the bucket list!  But it does leave one thinking...."what next?"

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Last Leg of the Maiden Voyage - Home!

South Florida to Alabama

Well all good things come to an end, but its more important to think of them as just the start of a new chapter I think.  I am going to group our last legs as one since we have made this trip numerous times now, and this one was perhaps the quickest Gulf Crossing, at least in terms of time.

We were ona  schedule - yes, something we try never to do - but it was a schedule with some float in it.  Nonetheless, we were trying to get back in time to surprise oldest daughter Helen on her 30th birthday (May 2).  Helen has done so much for us on this and other trip - she truly is "land support".  If we need anything doing while at sea - an inReach message goes to Helen and we get an immediate response.  She pays critical bills for us, dog sits when needed......the list is  just too long to recount.  So being there on her special day was an important consideration.

Than in mind, we were planning a quick crossing of the gulf missing out a number of the yacht club stops that we typically make.  Our route ended up being:

  1. Rodriguez Key to Marathon YC - 2 nights at Marathon because of a front coming through the area.
  2. Marathon YC to Little Shark River in the Everglades
  3. Little Shark River to Naples YC
  4. Naples to Destin Harbor
  5. Destin to Pensacola
All of these were "day sails" with the exception of #3 which included two nights at sea.  Unfortunately, this longer leg was almost void of favourable wind, so we did a lot of motoring.  But here are some notes on a couple of places from this leg relative to places we have not stayed previously.

Little Shark River

We have often thought about making a stop here, but have been put off as we had our dog Salty with us and were told there is no place to land with a dog.  Well, I can confirm this to be true - it is certainly up there in the mangroves, but a beautiful stop - located just north of Cape Sable.

We were anchored by mid afternoon and this gave time for some dinghy exploring.  We went several miles back into the everglades adn it was truly beautiful.

We did however, make an exit back to the boat before sunset for fear of the reported bugs!  Thankfully, they were not too bad.  Except that the following morning I had to sweep hundreds of love-bug type insects off the underside of the cockpit roof -they were very lethargic and not up for moving.  The good thing was they didn't really get into the boat through the screens.  No-see-ems were thankfully not a problem (April 2019).

I can confirm for any pet owners that we did not see a place where it would be possible to land Fido.  In the past, we have only been able to do this at Cape Sable on the beach - but watch out for the saltwater crocodiles!  (see a previous post of mine on that!)

Destin

We had not planned on a stop in Destin, but a line of storms was accompanying a front seemed due to hit Pensacola about the time of our arrival.  We had a choice to make - St. Andrews or Destin.  I really didn't want to have a bad storm experience on the way in to our home port, Pensacola!  We picked Destin - on our last trip in there, the entrance had been vastly improved and this was the deciding factor.  Destin is not easy in bad weather - the entrance is in my mind confusing and often the inlet shoals and moves around.  But as stated, last time about a year ago, this had been dredged and improved.  

We came in as the storm started to hit.  Thankfully the winds died but the rain came on.  We made it in no problem, an dropped the hook in the harbor as 20 kt winds hit - just in time!  We stayed aboard and did not leave the boat that night, ready for a reasonably early departure the next day.

Destin to Pensacola

What a wonderful sail home!  We had about 188 kts on the beam, and MS3 liked it!  We were making in the high 7s most of the way to Pensacola pass.
It was glorious!

As we arrived - we of course had arrival champagne, and watched our trip counter turn over mile 7,100 as we lined up in the Pensacola inlet for the entrance to the ICW.


Our timing was great - we were greeted on the VHF by friends from Pensacola YC that had spotted us on AIS.

So we joined the raft-up in Ft. McRee - one of our favorite anchorages.
MS 3 at anchor - Ft. McRee, Pensacola

Isn't that What Moitessier said?

It was tempting not to go home......almost there.  I could not help thinking about the story of Bernard Moitessier, a famous French sailor that should have won the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race - the first non-stop, single handed around the world yacht race. Instead of finishing the race in England, he elected to continue on to Tahiti.  Now, I'm not saying I had the urge to continue on several thousand more miles, but there was a strange call of the seas to continue on rather than end this voyage.  I must say, its a strange feeling.   

Arriving Home

But still, arriving home is still a good feeling!  And yes, the,new boat did fit in the entrance of the canal and in its slip - phew.......that would have been a long trip to find I could not get it home!

What's next?  I don't know.  Some local things for sure, but after that......still considering.  Watch this space!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Back to the USA!

Bell Island/Pastue Cay

Our last stop in the Exumas was Highbourne Cay - again, a favourite stop for us.  But before Highbourne, we had one last anchorage stop at  at what turned out to be a great little spot between Bell Island, Pastue Cay, and O'brien Cay. 


We anchored right by a snorkeling spot shown as "aircraft".  We left Emerald Bay and sailed north, entering the Exuma Bank at Dotham Cut, just north of Black Point.  I had never used this cut before, but it seemed wide open on the chart, settled conditions and we would arrive about a half hour after low tide - this should be a good time and good conditions.  While the passage was uneventful, I was however surprised at the turbulence in the cut.  I think we have had easier passages through Little Farmers Cut, Galliot Cut, and Cave Cay Cut (all located south) under worse sea and tide conditions - so just a note for future reference.  Even though it looks good on the chart, I don't think I would chose Dotham Cut under anything other than good conditions.

Dotham Cut

Highbourne Cay

Its hard not to love a view like this!  Beautiful beach at Highbourne Cay, just outside Xuma restaurant.

Like most places in the Bahamas, prices continue to rise.  Does this mean I am just becoming a curmudgeon on a fixed income......or are the mega-yachts in the Bahamas that have "no budget" just driving the prices up?  I think its the latter.  I can't believe the number of mega-yachts we have seen this year -  filling up with 4,000 gal of diesel at $5 per gallon.  Crew of 5 or 6 with the unlimited "boat card" account at the bars and restaurants.  Yes, the tourism industry had figured that out and put prices up accordingly!  Anyway, Highbourne is still a special spot in the Bahamas, albeit expensive.

Bimini

Sunrise on the Banks
From Highbourne, we did an overnight across the Bahama Bank to Bimini.  it was a combination of sailing and motor-sailing.  With calm weather, we came across a number of boats that had elected to simply anchor part way across the bank.  No problem in 12 ft of water!  We elected too just continue on and arrived in Bimini by about 10 am the following morning.  We stayed at Bluewater marina - one of the most cost-effective stops at $1/ft.  It works out great as long as you don't need water - which is 75 cents/gal.

Instrument screenshot - note 4.9 kt current!



We have stayed in Bimini several times now - so this was just a brief stop over before leaving the next day on a NW wind.  Most people wont leave if the wind has a north component to it and several frowned at us w hen they heard our plan.  But at 12 kts and if the plan is to head south, with care and a watch on the weather, its ok.  Wee were making for Marathon and this means fighting the Gulf Stream to get south.  North winds (wind against current) can give rise to square waves which are uncomfortable at best - but at 12 kts, the saw no issues.  Fighting the current was an issue, causing us to run both headsails downwind and motors to make reasonable progress.  4.9 kts of current - really?  well this is way higher than the charts show, but I think it was real given our speed.

Arrival in the USA!

Fighting the stream, we did finally make landfall at Rodriguez Key, just off Key Largo, FL.  Home....well almost!  Again, a quick overnight stop before sailing on to Marathon.  Sailing in the Hawk's Channel keeps one out of the Gulf Stream, so progress was far better.  We refueled and managed to get a slip at Marathon YC for a couple of nights - good move as we sat out some weather there.  
Salty Crew celebrates US arrival with Champagne!



Friday, April 19, 2019

Love the Southern Bahamas!

Matthew Town

After leaving the DR with a bad taste, we sailed across to Great Inagua, Bahamas.  What a contrast!  Although the marina is very basic (no power or water on the dock), dockmaster George and ll of the officials were so friendly and welcoming.  We were welcomed to the marina and the Bahamas.

Haitian Sailboats
We only spend a night in Great Inagua (Matthew Town), as there was not a lot to do or see.  However, we saw the spectacular sight of some traditional Haitian sailboats coming into port.

According to George, the sailors come from an island just off Haiti to trade and to deliver passengers to Inagua.  We saw them unloading Bananas and other produce - all by hand.  These boats have no machinery or engines.  If you look closely, you will see that the masts are actually palm tree trunks.

They also deliver passengers traveling overseas via air.  Apparently, people chose to come through Inagua rather than the airport in Haiti because of the violence and turmoil in their country - at least that is what George told us.  If that truly is the case, what a awful state Haiti must be in.  It sounds almost as bad as traveling through Atlanta or Miami airport! :)

Haitian Traders








Anyway, what a pleasant stay we had albeit short.  And talk about "rags to riches" - this was our dock neighbor - 160 ft sailing yacht Alejandra, apparently owned by a Greek millionaire, and the former boat of the King of Spain.
SV Alejandra

Hogsty Reef

Our next overnight stop was another spectacular one.  We made the 40 or so mile sail from Matthew Town to Hogsty Reef - a natural atol in the middle of the Atlantic, measuring about 3 miles long by 1.5 miles across - here's a screenshot of the chart to hopefully clarify what it looks like:


We anchored right behind Northwest cay - it is a small sand island , maybe 3-4 acres in size.  It was just amazing to be anchored in 12 ft of water in the mid Atlantic.

What an amazing place this is  - I wish we could have stayed longer and explored the underwater treasures here - apparently it is spectacular.  So we will have to return!

Acklins Island and Crooked Island

Moving right along - our next stop was an overnight anchorage off Acklins Island.  I must admit, I was already really loving the remoteness of the southern Bahamas - even more than the Exumas.  We dinghied ashore and did a little beachcoming before dark  This was just an overnight stop.  We then sailed on to Crooked Island.  We had been in touch with our good friend Nandra who has a house on Crooked Island near Pitts Town Point. 


Unfortunately, Nandra was not here - but ......in true Nandra style, she set up dinner reservations for is at "Willlie's", also known as Gibson's No. 2.  OMG, what a delight!  Nothing fancy, but homestyle cooking at a family table with some other visitors and fishermen.  The food was exceptional.  We all agreed this was the best conch and grouper we had ever had.  So five stars for Wille!  and a big thank you to Nandra for setting this up




It was a long dinghy ride to get to Willies and the boat was anchored on a lee shore - never the best of things, but the weather was very settled and the overnight forecast for 4-6 kts.  So I felt comfortable with our spot under these conditions.  However - you can't rely on forecasts 100% - as we learned.  In the middle of the night,  a rain storm came through bringing 20 kt winds and some big waves/swells.  We were all awake and it seemed like we had moved some on the anchor.  We elected to pull up anchor and motor on through the storm across to Long Island.

This turned into all night and the next day....but we made it safely to Emerald Bay Marina near Georgetown, Great Exuma.  A familiar spot to us and nice marina.

We were ready for a couple nights of R&R!



Marina at Emerald Bay



Emerald Bay

Monday, April 8, 2019

Dominican Republic Leaves a Sour Taste

As a quick post script to my last post - we left the DR the  day before yesterday and sailed to the Bahamas.  Leaving Luperon was an awful process.  First - Luperon has some additional fees that we were not informed about or asked for in other ports.  This amounted to $10/person and $10 for the boat.  Not a big deal, but I suspect these were not "required".

Arrival Bahamas
Then, when we came to check out we were helped by an official ( I think he was plain clothed police).  He was with the Navy (Armada), had a badge, adn spoke good english.  He asked if I would do him a favor and take him on the dinghy to get a photo of a new boat that had arrived in the harbor.  After checking out with all the agencies, I did this.  He arrived with 2 DEA officers (with guns and badges).  We went by dinghy to the boat he needed a photo of, then he said the the DEA needed to see my boat.  They boarder the boat, asked to see any guns or drugs.  We had prescription drugs.  Then one guy asked to look around.  As he was looking the police guy said "I can see you are good people and don't want any hassle.  How about you give this guy a tip and I will make sure they leave.  Otherwise, I think they will want to go through everything...."  $20 later and a dinghy ride to the dock, they were happy and gone.....and we left post haste.  I don't think we will be in a rush to return to the DR.

Matthew Town - Bahamas...so glad to be here!
We sailed on to the Bahamas - Matthew Town.  What a difference!  George was happy to see us (dockmaster).  And the officials extremely friendly and polite!  We are glad to be in the Bahamas!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Puerto Rico to Dominican Republic

Mona Passage

The Mona Passage is the narrow piece of the Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and has a reputation for being a treacherous piece of the ocean. We were fortunate to find ourselves ready to cross on a benign day.  We had light winds of 10-15, but still a 5 ft swell.  I could see how this area could become nasty in bad weather.  The wind was dead behind us, so we motor-sailed the entire 72 miles.  Not the most fun, but we did get across in daylight - which is always a good thing!

Marina Cap Cana 

We hailed the marina and were given a slip assignment.  As we arrived, the DR Navy representatives were already waiting for us to check in.  Soon the other myriad of officials arrived - department or sanitation, department of agriculture, immigration, etc.  We had heard stories about this - very much like our trips to Cuba.  And often the officials expect a "gift" or "donation".  However, none was mentioned and everything went smoothly.  Soon papers were stamped, we shook hands and politely thanked them all - oh they did confiscate our oranges and a pineapple.  We forgot we had some fruit on board.
The marina was not quite what I was expecting - kind of a large development of condos around a series of canals and basins that for the marina.  The place has something of a Venetian feel, with an area of restaurants, condos, and a hotel.  We decided to stay a couple of nights and relax a little.  We did not venture outside of the development here as we were told that it was a $30 taxi ride each way with not much to see.  However there were numerous nice restaurants within the development, pools, bars etc.

After 2 nights, we ventured on to Samana.

Samana

Samana is a town and a very large deep bay, knows as a breeding ground (or was it birthing ground) for whales.  The season being January to March 30.  It was March 31 - would they have al been give their despachio and left? :)

We got a brief glimpse of one large humpback whale on the way into Samana Bay - but too quick for the camera.  It was large!!  and about 100 yds from the boat.  Yikes!  hope they know whats around them.

We arrived late in Samana - just after dark and could not raise the marina, so we anchored in a small bay off the town of Samana.  Hmmm......sketchy place, it took 5 tries to get the anchor to catch.  Seems like a rock base to the anchorage and many small tour boats on moorings.  Finally we got a hold and stayed the night but decided to move on to the marina the next morning.

The marina was nice - a little pricey for the DR, but that was ok.  We stayed 2 nights and enjoyed their pool.  Also took a car rental and visited El Limon (waterfall) and Las Terrenas - a touristy beach town of ex-pats.  


The marina staff were very helpful..  The check-in process is a bit like Cuba - you need a despachio for each stop in the DR, which is a bit laborious.

But nonetheless, the marina was very nice!


The next morning we moved on to the National Park known as Los Haitises.  Now that was beautiful and worth a visit!

Absolutely gorgeous scenery, with a shorelines of caves and riverlets to explore in mangroves an with steep rock faces.  I understand parts of Jurassic Park were filmed here.........and I was waiting for the velociraptors to appear!

This was worth the stop in the DR......I would love to come back and explore some more!

Luperon

Our next stop was Luperon.  I have heard cruisers rave about Luperon, but some reviews on Active Captain were not too great.  I am not sure what we were expecting.......but, hmmm.  There are some places that cruisers seem to congregate for differing reasons.  Cheap prices - always a bonus, and tht is Luperon for sure!  $2 mooring fee; you can get a meal for $3-5.  Poverty here is high, but the people are friendly.  Quite a few semi-derelict boats in the mooring field - some look abandonned.

I will not pass judgement, but we decided it was not a place we wanted to stay too long.  To me, its a bit of a "Boot Key" feel, with much cheaper prices.
Main Street - Luperon


Papo and Handy Andy seem to run the mooring field and will do anything for you - from boat work to grocery delivery.  In fact, handy Andy brought beer for us!








Mooring Field - Luperon

Mooring Field - Luperon









Thursday, March 28, 2019

Vieques and Puerto Rico - And Turtle Rescue!

After checking out of the BVI, we  made a short hop to Christmas Island where we anchored before setting off on the next leg of our trip - starting the trek home! It was a nice feeling.......while we love the BVI, it feels good to be getting back to "real cruising" rather than the morning rush for mooring balls at the better bars and playing "dodgem" with the Credit Card Captains - which for the record, seem to be getting worse!....I can't believe some of the charter companies entrust boats to people that:  can't dock the boat; raise sails correctly; and anchor with running lights and every other light know to man turned on!.......but they obviously do!  OMG we saw some near disasters - especially with boats attempting to dock at Leverick Bay on a breezy day.  It was very eye-opening.  Now I am not knocking credit card captains - having been there myself  (well maybe I am) - just seems the charter companies are keen for business and letting the standards of seamanship needed suffer.

But back to the trip.  We had excellent pizza from the famous "Pizza Pi" in Christmas Cove.  I am not sure how they make such great pizza on a boat - but hats off to them, it was excellent!  https://www.pizza-pi.com/

Ensenada Sun Bay
The next morning we headed out to Vieques.  A short 30-35 mile sail, but the winds died and we ended up motor-sailing.  Still it was a nice easy passage.  We anchored in a nice wide bay with 2 other boats in Ensenada Sun Bay.  The bottom was grassy but we held well.  One boat next to us drug anchor.....but it turned out they had hardly any chain out.  This seemed to be in a state park area, but being Sunday most things seemed closed, so we stayed on the boat.




Turtle Rescue

On the way, we were able to help a turtle in distress.   I have some video of the adventure and will try to put it together and insert - it was a very satisfying little addition to the trip to help out one of these wonderful sea creatures.



Puerto Patillas - sleepy seaside town on Monday

Puerto Rico

The next morning we had a brisk sail to Puerto Rico - winds 18-25, with pretty healthy swells  made for a fast sail.  We again anchored for the night at Puerto Patillas and this time we checked in using the CBP Roam app, which made immigration and customs clearance a breeze.......but I am still not sure why you need to check in from the USVI to the US Puerto Rico?  Even the government weren't sure if we needed to!

The following day - light wind, so we motor-sailed to Ponce going though the mangrove islands at Boca del Inferno, with a stop at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club.  This turned out to be a nice place, but we could only get an overnight spot on the fuel dock.......which was a bit rolly due to swell.

We then moved on to Ponce - where, yes!  there's a Walmart....back to , oh no, US "civilization" - or not!

Then on to Gilligan's Island - a wonderful anchorage, that we thoroughly enjoyed........but it gets better, we then moved on to Puerto Real and found what has to be one o the most friendly towns and marinas we have visited so far.  Marina Pescaria has to be the best!!  Quaint fishing town marina, friendly staff, helpful CBP personnel......and a great bar.  What more could you ask for?