We left Viequez at dusk. There was no wind. With everything up we were making about 2 kts away from Green Beach. All afternoon, in the straight between Viequez Island and the Puerto Rican mainland we saw Homeland Security go-fast boats patrolling. They would just sit out there for an hour or so the zoom to a spot a mile or so away and sit there for awhile before moving again. They were center-cockpit, about 32-feet long, and each had a set of 4 250hp outboards hanging on the stern. When I said they would zoom, I mean ZOOM.
We drifted out past the patrol boats and into the darkening evening. Once away from the island, however, things picked up. We were going over 6 kts and showing an arrival time of 0400. That's too soon. I wanted to get there at dawn, so I had to slow down. There's a lesson here: I should plan on getting there in daylight if I go too fast, not just if I go too slow. Instead of leaving at dusk for a 50-mile run, I should have slept till about 0100 then headed out. Then if I get there sooner than planned it will be daylight.
After we rounded the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico, the wind died. I dropped the sails and motored. We were 5 miles out and it was 0430; two hours till dawn. I slowed to an idle. So there we are, rolling in the swells, making about 2 kts, waiting for daylight to enter a strange harbor. Bad planning on my part.
As we headed in the sky was just starting to glow. As we turned into the harbor the sun was just coming up. We found a nice place to anchor right next to s/v Jealuanan (W32) who we met at Jost Van Dyke (see 26 Dec). He's not here, but he keeps his boat here. Since I had been up all night I went to bed and slept. Dave (s/v Fideles) stopped by. He sold us some leftover DR pesos. He knew Wondering Albatross and asked about them. He also gave us some info about the town.
We spent a week here and could have spent a month. Salinas is a wonderful little harbor. Plenty of room for a bunch of boats, some services, and a very relaxed village. And for the price of a rental car ($40) you can drive to the north side of the island and visit San Juan which is just like any good-sized american town.
When we arrived Jane's back was really killing her. It was preventing her from doing much of anything. But we decided to walk around town a little anyway. I went to the marine store and found an anchor chock that would let me mount the stern Danforth anchor to the boom gallows. We had been using a length of PVC pipe but it was loose and not a good way to store the anchor. This is much better.
We walked the mile to the center of town and found the bank, grocery store, hardware store. We got some cash from the ATM. Bought some coffee and bread at the grocery store. We had lunch at the “Cruiser's Galley” and met Margie one of the servers. She was practicing her English and trying to teach us Spanish.Chris and MaryLiz (s/v Wandering Albatross> had spent several weeks here waiting for weather to continue east. They had made quite a fine impression on the cruisers who call this place home. Judy (s/v Quest) was at the Cruiser's Galley and introduced us around as “friends of Chris and Mary Liz.”
Jane would spend the next few days resting onboard to see if her back will recover. I had chores to do so so the next couple of days were spent just relaxing.
We rented a car ($40/day) and made a grocery run. Driving in PR is a trip. It seems that the people here drive with very little regard to rules of the road. For example to make a left hand turn onto a roadway, they will just inch out little by little until they are blocking the lane going to the right and then wait to slide into the traffic lane going to the left. And the kicker is that cars in the lane going to the right that is blocked will just sit there; no honking of horns or anything. Try that in DC and there will be gunfire!
We drove to the hospital to have a doctor look at Jane's back. It's still killing her. We walked around trying to find the emergency room and the procedures for seeing a doctor. As usual we would ask someone if they spoke English and they would say “no.” Then we would use the Spanish-English dictionary and try to ask our questions. Finally they would get frustrated with us and say in perfect English, “Just go down that hallway and turn left.” Very frustrating.
The doctor took x-rays and did his doctor thing. He said it was just a muscle spasm pinching the nerve and it would get better. He prescribed some muscle relaxers and pain killers and we headed back to the boat.
Rob and Jo (s/v Maatkare, a Westsail 32) said they wanted a ride to Cosco so we took them. The Cosco was about an hour's drive north; almost to San Juan. We got to see the other side of the island during the drive. While the South side is arid the north side is green and lush. It's almost like a different island when you cross the mountain range.
Rob's had his boat for a couple of years now. They got it for $21K and it needed a lot of work. They bought it in Venezuela and had to work on it there for about 6-months before they could sail it. They are from British Columbia and live on an island just south of the Alaskan panhandle. While we exchanged sea-stories they casually mentioned that they “were pirated on Margarita Island.” What?!? There's a conversational speed bump. It seems they were at anchor in a harbor with a few other boats when, about midnight, they heard something on deck. Rob started up the companionway and found a 9mm at his temple. Four men with guns and knives held them at gunpoint in the cockpit while they stole everything of value on board; even clothing. There were other boats anchored all around them but everyone was asleep and no one saw anything. What really pissed them off was that the pirates took all their cigarettes! When they had gone, Rob swam to a neighbor's boat and woke them up. The police said there was not much that could be done.
I spent a lot of time on Maatkare looking at the improvements Rob has made. He has moved the traveler to the bridge-deck. He said it was a good place for it but he does stub his toe on it occasionally. He has the one from Guahauser (sp?) and it's about 2” tall. That and he has it on a 1” spacer to take up the curve of the deck. I like the location but not the high-mount he has. I need to be able to step over it without stubbing my toe. I'll look for a lower-profile track, one that might be able to flex over the arch of the bridge-deck without binding the traveler car. I took a lot of pictures of things like his watermaker installation. The next day they came over to Galena and did the same.
We also met Joe and Diane (s/v Moon Goddess). They are on their way to Trinidad. A lot of cruisers say that. I suppose many of them make it. But I've found that for many that's a direction more than an actual destination.
On most evenings we would go to the Cruiser's Galley for dinner. We really like that place. Disha, who runs the place, likes the idea that cruisers feel comfortable just dropping in to watch TV, use the Internet, or just sit around and chat. Margie like to practice her English and to try to teach us gringos some Spanish. Of course, we feel guilty just taking up a table there, so we always buy something to eat or drink.
The days passed with Jane's doing laundry and cleaning out lockers and me doing small tasks like mending a small tear in the jib and replacing the 130% with the Yankee. I also jerry-canned 40 gallons of water to fill-up our tanks. I took it from the laundry room at the marina. That's sort of stealing it.
Fuel stands at 21/34 (+15 on deck) at the engine meter is at 985 hrs.
Right up to the time we left we were debating on where we would stop next. We have two choices: We go all the way to Luperon, DR or stop at La Parguara. It all depends on when we pass by La Parguara. If we get there before dark, we'll stop. Otherwise we go all the way to Luperon (about 275 nm).
All winter we've said we wanted to get to George Town in the Exumas for the Cruiser's Regatta in March. But we spent too much time in the BVI to make it there without skipping a lot of other places we want to see. So we're now resigned to not making it there until the regatta is over. Oh, well.
Daniel (s/v Hadar) said he might also go to the Bahamas, but that he can't go to Luperon. It seems when he was there last he left without clearing out. So he still owes about $30 for harbor and exit fees. I would think that that would be too small a savings to never be able to go back.
We left Salinas at 0830 and got here at 1800. The winds were light all day. They started out very light. Then they went to E at 8kts. Then SE at 4 kts. Then it suddenly (and I mean in no time at all) veered 180° to the NW and jumped to about 10 kts. We went from a broad run to a close reach.
The whole south coast of PR was covered with rain and clouds during our sail here. But Galena, being about 2 miles off shore, was sailing in sunshine. Finally, just as we were turning in toward land the rain caught up with us and we got a nice downpour.
As we came into the channel for La Parguara the rain stopped and the wind died. We followed the sailing instructions for entering the anchorage and noted that the GPS charts (Garmin) showed we were sailing over land. So much for accurate electronic charts.
We'll wait until tomorrow to go to town. It's a very quiet night. I hope it stays that way.
19 February 2006
La Parguara, PR
We went to town in the dink and looked for the “town dock” as described in the cruising guides. We couldn't find it. The only thing we found that was close was a dock that was encased in piping and locked. We tied the dink to it and shuffled along the outside off the dock to land. This place is not at all cruiser friendly. It was a weekend and the locals were out enjoying themselves. The center of town was crowded but we found a nice place to have sandwiches and beer. Jane liked the place. She said it was “cute as hell.” Cute it may be but they could at least designate a place to park the dink.
Galena's route west from Puerto Rico to Luperon, Dominican Republic.
We left La Parguara, PR at 0730 for Luperon, DR; 275 miles NW of here.
There was absolutely no wind as we motored out of the anchorage. We turned west in 30-feet of clear water and followed the outside of the reef to Cabo Rojo. The gentle swells breaking on the reef only 100 yards off our starboard beam was a little disconcerting. I raised the staysail to counter some of the rolling we're experiencing but the only wind is the 5-kt breeze that Galena is creating by motoring.
At 1030 we rounded Cabo Rojo, PR.
(This picture was taken by holding the camera up to the eyepiece of the binoculars. Not bad.)
We're now in the Mona Passage. There is still no wind but the tide is helping us motor at 6.5 kts. I raised the mainsail to catch whatever wind we might be experiencing. The sea has a 1-ft swell but otherwise has that smooth undappled look.
1200 hrs. I was heading toward the bow when the starboard lower aft shroud turnbuckle exploded with a sound like a rifle shot!
I tacked away to take the load off the starboard side but didn't react as fast as I would like to say I did. I sat there staring at it thinking “Shit! That thing just broke!” for about 10 seconds before I thought “Unload it, you dummy!”
Jane came up and took the helm while I went to my spares and got another turnbuckle. It took 20 minutes to get the thing changed and then back on course. During that time I was glad that Westsails have 11 wires holding up the mast.
By 1330 the wind was blowing 25-30 kts out of the NNE. The seas are also out of the NNE. We're pounding into it with more spray than I've seen the whole trip.
At 2100 we had made the turn at the top of the Hourglass Shoals and were heading almost due West. That really helped the ride as now we had quartering seas and wind. But the development of the night-lee caused the winds to diminish and Galena to slow to about 2kts. So on comes the engine and we motorsail into the night. I really want to make Luperon in 2.5, not 3 days.
At dawn we secure the engine and sail NNW along the coast of the Dominican Republic. The wind is right on the stern and light. Keeping Galena over 5 kts is tough in these conditions.
We're called on the radio by someone who asked, “This your first time here, Captain?” Yes it is, I say. “Do you have Bruce's book?” he asks. Yes, I do, I say. “I ask,” he says, “because I noticed that you didn't make a sharp corner at his waypoint for the entrance.” I explain that I took that waypoint as a guide. “Do you want someone to come out and guide you in?” No, I'll just try it myself. If I have trouble, I'll call. “Well, Mike on Sea Comber will be happy to guide you in for free. Call him on 68 if you need help.” Thanks.
I get inside the reef and to the place where I think I should be able to turn right into the western harbor. But it get's shallow fast and as I turn back to the left I notice a couple of local fishermen waving at me to keep going south. So I do. I try to turn west again and again see the bottom come up fast. Again I note the fishermen waving at me to not turn yet. So again I turn south and go a little further. The fishermen wave that I can turn now. I do. The depth goes to 7-feet as I cross the bar then quickly down to 18 feet. We're in.
We pick a spot amidst the 70 or so boats there and drop the hook.
After reading about this place for years, and after saying for years “…yeah, we'll be heading over to Luperon…” we're actually here.
Representatives from Customs and the Navy are supposed to come out to the boat and the cruising guides advise visitors to wait for them. So we waited. But after waiting for a few hours we decide to go to them.
Navy HQ on the hill in town
We loaded ourselves and our documentation into the dinghy and headed for the town dock. We found the dinghy dock there and tied up. At the foot of the dock we found a construction trailer that had some offices in it and we walked up to the door. We had our Spanish dictionary out and asked about clearing in for Customs and Immigrations. The people inside took our papers and asked us some questions. They knew more English that we did Spanish, but still it was slow going. We soon learned that we had skipped an important step. The Port Captain (Navy) had not given us his OK to be in the harbor. So off we went to find him.
His office is in a building across the street and up on a hill. In the foyer of the building we found a Navy sailor in uniform at a folding desk. We made it known that we needed to clear in. Seated in folding chairs around the foyer were a few other cruisers waiting their turn to see the port captain. When it was our turn we were escorted down the hall and into (are you ready for this?) the port captain's bedroom. In the corner of the room was a small desk. In the middle was his bed. The sailor motioned for us to be seated on the bed. In a moment, the port captain (actually a Navy Lieutenant) came out of the bathroom, evidently just finishing his shower. As he toweled off he started asking us the standard questions (in passable English) about who we were, where we were coming from, where we were going, how long would we be in town, etc. Once dressed he sat at the little desk and started looking through our paperwork and making notations in his book. He paused and asked for our clearance papers from Puerto Rico. I explained that as Americans, we don't need to get permission to leave the US and PR was actually the US. He thought a moment and then nodded his head. It was an inconvenience for him since he had no paper to add to his stack but he understood. We got everything stamped and we were good to go. I casually mentioned that I was retired Army. He asked, "Really?" I showed him my ID card. He asked my rank and I said Captain. He jumped up and snapped to attention and threw me a salute. From that moment on he call me Sir and was very deferential toward me. Even days later when I happened upon him walking down the street in town he smiled and saluted.
Unfortunately, when we left there was a new Port Captain. Who was not so nice.
Then we went over to immigrations (the little blue building on the left of the road from the dock). They took $25 plus $10 per passport and filled out more papers. We had to take an agriculture inspector to the boat where he looked around, asked a few questions and took $10 for the inspection. He mentioned that there was usually a veterinarian inspector with him and that he usually got $10, too. But, rather than take the hint and give him another ten for his buddy (who was off that day) se just said, "Lucky for us, huh?" We took him back to shore and then had to pay harbor dues of $15 per month. So the total was $70 to clear in. It would later cost an additional $20 to clear out.
Looking North down the Government dock
and into the anchorage
Along the government dock are the local boats
We walked around the few blocks of town nearest the harbor and found pretty much what we expected. We went to Steve's Place for the (now ritual) first beer. The lady asked “Do you want one to share?” Jane said, “No, I'll have my own.” We had just come from PR where they sell 10-oz beers. We didn't know that that here in Luperon they sell 30-oz beers. So we had a lot of beer to drink. Bummer ;-)
Then we dinghied over to the Luperon Yacht Club where we would end up spending too many evenings. We met Bill and Sandra (s/v Rose) and swapped stories. They are headed for PR like most everyone else here. We're the odd-balls since we're going North.
23 February – 2 March 2006
Luperon, Dominican Republic
Trip: 267nm / 1486 Total.
On the 23rd I readjusted all the rigging. Something I had been meaning to do for some time. But with that rigging failure on the Mona passage it was critical that I do it now. As with most tasks that I procrastinate over this one only took about 40-minutes and was no big deal once I started. The side shrouds were only at 500-pounds tension and they are supposed to be at 1000#. So after everything got put right I felt better about how the loads were distributed.
We went to town looking for Larimar jewelry and Cuban cigars. We found both. We also discovered Gina's restaurant.
Gina is a fantastic cook and I recommend the Chicken Carib to anyone who stops in Luperon. Just great!
Gina is a 29-yearold Hollander who came here a few years ago and just decided to stay. She started off working in another restaurant down the road but owns her own place now.
Back at the Yacht Club we talked with Janet and Chuck. They're sort-of running the place for now.
We also met Graham and Maria; a couple of Englanders here on holiday. Actually they are at the Luperon Beach Resort over the hill on the ocean side. It's an all-inclusive resort that I had planned on taking Jane to. They were a trip. We told them we were planning on checking in there and that we would look them up.
We got into the resort, but they only had vacancies for a single day. So for less than $100 we got 24-hrs of baths, food, booze, and good company. We hung with Graham and Maria most of the day/night. We got very, very drunk on all the free booze.
The next couple days were quiet (recovery) days on Galena. We did go over to the Puerto Blanco Marina and met Bruce Van Sant and his wife, Rosa. He was a very nice guy. Not at all the ass that most people said he was. He is quite opinionated but so are most boaters.
We really like this place. The people are great and truly friendly. We talked with a local guy that Rosa recommended about buying a lot here and building a house. They sell lots by the square meter and 620 sq m of choice land would run $40K. With another $50K to build a nice home. Something to consider.
We went to Gina's a few more times. We went to the marina to drink with Mike and Bruce.
We went to the Yacht Club to drink with everyone. We generally had a good time. But after a few days it was time to go.
Clearing out took us back to the Port Captain's office. But there was a new Commondancia in town and we had heard that he was a bastard. So we planned on treading lightly. After waiting in the foyer again for a few minutes we were escorted back to the bedroom/office. There we met Major Castro. He was a Hollywood casting agent's idea of what a Commondancia in a poor country should look like. He was fat, obnoxious, and overly officious. Again there was the issue of the lack of dispatchio from Puerto Rico. But just as I was thumbing through our trusty Spanish-English dictionary (he spoke absolutely no English) our friend the Lieutenant showed up. He explained the situation to the Major (while the Major kept him standing at attention!). Soon the Major was stamping papers and asking for the $20 fee. As I handed it over I pointed at the Colt .45 on his hip and said, in spanish, "That's pretty." He had gaudy engraved silver grips on the pistol. I thought is was a shame to put something like that on a fine pistol like the Colt. But I was trying to be nice. He smiled and said, "Oh, yes. Very beautiful, no?" He took our money, gave us our dispatchio and we were off. Well, off back down the hill and over to the little construction trailer across the street were we showed them the papers the Nave had just given us. We paid them a few more bucks and we were off.
3 - 6 March 2006
Luperon, DR to Rum Cay, Bahamas
We discovered that we would be getting to Mayaguana, BI on a Sunday. So we would not be able to clear in to customs there. So why stop there, we asked ourselves? No reason that we could come up with. So the plan when we left was to head to West Plana Cay and just pause there for a few hours. Then we would leave in time to ensure that we would get to Rum Cay in the daytime. After pausing at Rum Cay for a night we would make a run directly to George Town, Exumas.
So, it went like this:
0730 we departed Luperon. We had a little trouble getting out. Mike was out there before dawn helping some of the guys who had been there all summer head out of the harbor. They were heading toward Puerto Rico. By the time we left we were on our own. Jane drove. We did get out of the channel a little and saw 4.5 feet. But it's soft mud and we slid through it to deeper water.
The seas were East at 4-6 feet. But the winds were light and variable till about 0900. Then I put everything up and secured the engine. But that only lasted a few hours. The wind died to less than 5 kts and the seas went down to 2-feet. So we motorsailed.
As we left Luperon, we were passed by s/v Dyeveshka. That's a 60-foot Nordica(?) ketch. Owned by Jay, sailed by John and Cooper. Jane had met Cooper in Luperon and we would see them again at Rum Cay.
About 4 hrs out of West Caicos we made the final decision to go directly to West Plana Cay. So we did a little course correction. It didn't do much for our sailing state. The winds were out of the NNW and running about 10-kts.
The winds were supposed to go to the East but never did.
The wind chop was 3-4 feet and we had to tack into it to make any headway.
This was NOT supposed to be happening. We went all the way to the BVI so we could go downwind back to Miami. Here we are pounding into steep seas and head winds. Where's my East Winds??!!
05 March 2006
N22°35.8' W073° 37.6'
Trip 225nm/2815nm, Eng 1056 hrs
We made West Plana at 0900 and slept for a few hours. At 1630 we headed out for a morning arrival at Rum Cay.
Local Art on Rum Cay
We got in here in the morning and decided to go into the marina. We thought they would have showers, but no, they didn't . The weather forecast is calling for 30-kt winds tomorrow so we'll stay here for a couple days.
We met Jack Zeiggler on s/v Zeiggy. He invited us over to watch movies. He said the real reason was that he had to run his generator and thought that if we were on board we wouldn't be able to complain too much.
Jack had a radio setup not unlike my own. I told him of my problems with the SCS PTC-II (that's a terminal node controller with Pactor II firmware; sort of like a modem, but for radio instead of phones). I had not been able to make it work at all since I bought it over eBay. We pulled his SCS PTC-IIe out of his system and put mine in. It worked fine. That was a revelation. I thought for sure there was something wrong with the TNC. While it was connected to his system, he upgraded the unit's firmware for me and gave me a newer copy of the computer software to run it (Winlink 2000). We narrowed the problem down to a bad serial cable. Jack didn't have a spare and I will probably have to wait until Nassau to get a new one. But for doing all that work and giving me quite an education I bought him lunch. Lunch at the restaurant at the Summer Point Marina on Rum Cay is not cheap. For the three of us, 2-burgers and a conch salad and three beers, the tab was $70.
Jack, too was heading for George Town.
We spent a lot of time drinking with John and Cooper, too. They were taking that 60-foot ketch to Miami. Nice boat. Lots of goodies. Things like underwater cameras and forward-looking sonar and masthead cameras. But nothing worked. Jay bought the boat at auction for $150K. It had been seized by the Feds for something or another. But even the basic systems didn't work. Little things like the oil pressure gauge! [Later we would learn that as they left Rum Cay their water tanks sprung leaks and they lost all their fresh water.] Once he gets it fixed up it will be worth about $400K. In the meantime, I'll take Galena. Smaller, simpler, reliable.
We had to motorsail most of the way here. And, as usual, the wind and seas were just off the bow. The wind that was supposed to be from 40° was not. The seas were running 6-8 feet. But once we turned SW over the top of Long Island, the ride got better. Then the winds died down and we came into the harbor at about 1630. We anchored at Volleyball beach, almost in the same spot as last year.
Tomorrow we'll clear in and settle down for a couple of weeks of relaxation.