Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday 30th January - Sunrise




sun rise over Boqueron

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Tuesday 30th January

Ponce,
Puerto Rico


17 57.0 N
66 37.7 W

It beats me how I get talked into early morning starts – I am not a morning person and Gerry wanted to begin the day at 06.00hrs – I mean is that even a time???? Whining aside we got up at the allotted time – how I hate the alarm clock – and did the last few essential things required before hoisting the hook and making our way out of the harbour – in the dark! Jim followed us out and another boat followed him – what is it with these people, can’t they sleep or something? We watched the sun rise just as we cleared the harbour entrance and yes it was very pretty. Rounding the point and passing Cabot Rojo lighthouse, we were glad to see that the forecast was holding true – very light winds and only a 2 to 3 foot swell, unfortunately the wind was on the nose, I’m beginning to think that it never blows in any other direction, so we had no choice but to motor. As the morning wore on the wind clocked around just enough for us to be able to fly the jib which helped increase our speed by at least a knot. Our destination for the day was to be Ponce (ponsay) – 40 miles away. It doesn’t sound far but it took us almost 8 hours to cover that much ground. We arrived at the entrance to Ponce Harbour / marina and decided to go into a slip for the night. Try as we might we could not raise anyone from the marina on the radio so in the end we motored to the fuel dock and asked them for a slip, they gave us very flexible directions and left us to find our own way in, tie ourselves up and then let the office know we had done it!. Tying ourselves up was a trial as the finger piers are very small and there was no one to help catch lines. It would have been better if we hadn’t been driven into the dock by the wind at the time – it would have made quite a funny TV skit if someone had recorded us but it didn’t seem like much fun to us at the time. Once we had tied ourselves up to the dock Gerry went ahead and booked us into the place whilst I got out the power cords, water hoses and took “stuff” from the cockpit down below. Gerry hosed down the boat whilst I prepared a late lunch then we logged on to the internet to retrieve and answer email that was waiting. Later in the evening we went into the Yacht club and had a light dinner before coming back to the boat and falling into bed.

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Monday 29th January





Boqueron,
Puerto Rico.


18 01.406 N
67 10.638 W

Gerry was up at the crack of dawn whilst I stayed in bed – laying low and keeping out of the way. He managed to reach the impeller without having to take the gen set apart entirely – a bonus for sure! It turned out that the impeller was indeed the culprit of our latest disaster, Gerry says that the glue holding the impeller to the bush had come unstuck, causing the shaft to turn but no water to be pumped and then the impeller drive pin split the impeller. With no water circulating through the engine the temperature rose causing the problem. Happily we have spare impellers so Gerry changed it out and then began the job of reassembling the gen set and the nav station. He also reset the temperature shut down lower, as he considered the original setting to be too high. By 09.15hrs the job was completed, with no cursing (or at least none that I heard) and we could run the gen set again. Gerry encountered one other little problem during the fixing, as many of you know he wears a gold neck chain and as he was leaning in behind the gen set he forgot to isolate the power supply and the chain hanging down touched across the 2 terminals on the starter and shorted out momentarily, causing a spark and fusing a couple of links on his chain, he was lucky it was no worse than that and his chain now bears the reminder to isolate power supplies!
We had arranged for a driver to take us into Mayaguez so that we could clear in with customs and immigration today. The driver had told us to leave it until after midday as there was a ferry/ cruise ship docking in the morning and they would keep the immigration office busy for most of the morning. At just after midday we met up with the driver and along with our friend Jim plus a family off of a boat that had just turned up an hour or so before we piled into the taxi van and were driven into Mayaguez and dropped at the US immigration office there. We filled out forms handed over passports and boat documents and $19 and in return received a cruising permit – we were now legally in Puerto Rico. One thing struck us funny about it though, we were asked if we had any trash on board, we truthfully said that we had a little only to be told that we could not bring it ashore to dispose of it. We wonder what we should do with the packaging, bottles and cans that we have actually bought in Puerto Rico – surely that qualifies as their own trash? Anyway we smiled and nodded our agreement and climbed back into the taxi van. Our next stop was THE mall, apparently the only one in Mayaguez, it was very American with a Sears, JCPenny, Walmart and a few other stores that we know and love! We had 2 hours there – long enough to eat lunch, browse a bit and do some grocery shopping, to be honest we could have spent a bit longer as there were things I would have liked to buy but we didn’t have time – much to Gerry’s relief! We were back in the taxi van all too soon and by 16.30hrs we were back in Boqueron, loading our purchases into our dinghies. We went straight out to our boat and prepared it for an early morning departure as the weather looked good for a trip along the coast and both Jim and ourselves planned to take the opportunity to leave.

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Sunday 28th January

Boqueron,
Puerto Rico.


18 01.406 N
67 10.638 W

After a good night sleep we woke to a nice sunny day. Gerry cooked us a late breakfast before emptying the last of our jerry can fuel into the tank. He then loaded all 4 of the jerry cans into the dink and took off to the nearby marina to see if he could get them filled whilst I cleaned up the mess that was left from allowing him to cook in the galley. A short while later Gerry returned to the boat, yelling for me to come and help him get the jerry cans back on board. We got the first 2 on board with no problem but as we went to transfer the 3rd one Gerry knocked the last jerry can over in the dink, managing to knock the filled cap off and of course diesel gushed out into the dink. Quickly righting the fallen can, the foul language and shouted instructions commenced. I had immediately ducked down below to grab kitchen roll, mopping up pads, detergent and a trash bag, knowing that we were going to need all of them plus turning on the cockpit water breaker. Back out in the dink Gerry was still shouting instructions for me do various things – most of which I’d already done, whilst trying to plug the can that now had no cap and gather up the “stuff” that we keep in the dink out of the way of the spilt diesel. Handing over the clean up gear I dragged the last of the jerry cans on board and wiped it down, meanwhile Gerry began mopping up the spilt diesel, it was probably less than half a gallon that spilt but it sure looks like a lot when it’s sitting in the bottom of the dink. Gerry managed to mop up all of it and then cleaned the bottom of the dink with detergent, mopping that up and depositing all the pads and kitchen roll into the trash bag. Then he climbed back on board the boat and began cursing again as the fuel filler cap had come apart and appeared to be impossible to put back together, we fiddled with it for a while and eventually with the aid of a wrench managed to pop the two pieces back together – it wasn’t easy! Finally I had to wash out the cover for the jerry can then we were able to clean ourselves up, the smell of diesel took a lot to get rid of but at least we didn’t get a drop of fuel in the harbour – a minor miracle! Once we were under control again I spent some time typing up the blog and transferring some photos to the computer whilst Gerry read his book, then it was time to go ashore to find an internet café and have some late lunch – very late as it was now 15.00hrs. We dinked into the dock and walked the short distance into the internet café only to find that you needed to bring your own computer to use – they had no computers for customers, we had bought our memory stick with everything on it with us, thinking there would be computers to use. Gerry decided to go back out to the dink and fetch our laptop to use, I wandered up the street looking at the various street stalls whilst waiting for him to return. There was nothing that I had to buy, it was all beads and food and I didn’t need either. Once Gerry reappeared we went back to the internet café and tried to log into the WIFI there, after trying for half an hour we gave up, for an unknown reason our computer just didn’t want to do it, and we don’t have a clue why it wouldn’t. We ordered some food and had what turned out to be dinner then made our way back to the boat. Our nieghbours, Ann and John, had invited us over to their boat for a drink so we mixed up a batch of frozen daquiries and went across to spend a very pleasant couple of hours having a drink, chatting and watching the sun set. We returned to our boat and had a snack for supper and then at around 20.30 hrs. Gerry decided to run the gen set for an hour so that we could run the fridge to keep it cold. Isn’t it amazing how just when you think everything is finally going to plan an elephant comes along and crushes you beneath its foot? The gen set has earnt its place in history as Gerry’s nemesis, it ran for a while and then it popped the cap off of the expansion tank, at the same time Gerry noticed steam coming out of the expansion tank and a high water temperature on the gauge – what could possibly be wrong with it now? A quick inspection revealed that it had overheated – another first! We stuck the portable fans on and blew cool air at the engine until it began to cool down then it was time to try and discover why it had overheated. Gerry looked, poked and prodded whilst I followed instructions to see if there was water coming out of the exhaust out on deck, handed him plastic containers, torches and tools. He concluded that it must be a problem with the impeller, which is locater at the back of the gen set where he couldn’t see – of course it was, where else would it be?! By now it was 21.30 hrs and I could see it was going to be a very long night if the fix was going to be done now so I suggested that we dismantle as much of the nav station and gen set as we could and then finish the fixing early in the morning when we had better light. To my surprise Gerry agreed and we dismantled what we could before going to bed. Of course the salon took on a state of chaos with bits of equipment and tools everywhere – it’s becoming the normal state I’m afraid, but as I couldn’t see it with my eyes closed I wasn’t going to worry about it. The morning would come around quickly and we could reassemble it all again, I have to say we are becoming quite expert and efficient at dismantling and reassembling the nav station and gen set it due to the amount of practice we seem to be getting.

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Saturday 27th January




Boqueron,
Puerto Rico.

18 01.406 N
67 10.638 W

I took the first and third watch, nothing exciting happened until about 04.00hrs when suddenly I could see a huge land mass dead ahead of us, it rose out of the water like Ularu ( Ayres rock) does out of the desert. Checking out our chart showed that our way point was close to Desecheo Island and this was what was looming ahead of us – in the dark it was very difficult to tell how far away it was, I checked the chart, and radar both said it was still 12 miles away (about 3 hours away) but it looked so much nearer that I kept checking. To say the least I was relieved when 06.00hrs came around and I woke Gerry up to face the larger than life island, it apparently is 218meters / 700 feet high and has no lights anywhere on it, is uninhabited and was used for target practice by the US military for years, leaving it full of unexploded bombs – not a place to bump into by accident! By the time I came out on deck again we were on the outskirts of Puerto Rico, Gerry had watched the sunrise over Mayaguez – even taking photos, unfortunately the wind was getting stronger, slowing us down to 5 knots and sometimes less, we had to make a decision as to where we were going to stop. Our original plan was to try to get as far as Ponce but that was a good 40 miles further on and would take us far too long at the speed we were managing so we elected to duck into Boqueron instead which was just an hour and a half ahead of us. We managed to talk with Jim, our weather guru from Luperon, he was in Mayaguez and heading into Boqueron, by the time we had our anchor set he was just coming around the point into the harbour. We took down our Dominican Republic flag and hoisted our Q flag, then we had a couple of dinks come over to say hello, one of them offered us the use of their cell phone to call the immigration office to see about clearing in. There is no office in Boqueron, it would require us to take a taxi into Mayaguez but when we called them they said the office was shut until Monday so we would have to wait to clear in until then. Happy to not have to go anywhere else we tidied up the cockpit, had showers and a siesta. At about 18.00hrs we set off with Jim, John and Ann (the other Luperon boat owners) into town to have a drink and try the Mexican restaurant that everyone seemed to be raving about. The town was quite busy with lots of families out wandering around, eating and drinking from street stalls which sold fresh oysters, scallops, tacos etc. We enjoyed a drink watching the sun set over the harbour and then went for some good fajitas in what seemed to be a popular local restaurant. By the time we had finished diner Gerry and I were ready for bed so we said goodnight to the others and headed back to our boat – one of only 2 with an anchor light on again!

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Friday 26th January

At sea
HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY!
TO EVERYONE THAT WAS IN KATHERINE 9 YEARS AGO TODAY, WE ARE THINKING OF YOU!

Gerry was up early – couldn’t sleep or something, of course if he was up we all have to be awake! He took the dink off the deck, fixed the outboard and fuel supply to it, emptied the last of our jerry can fuel into the tank and then announced he was going to see if the fuel station was open. I dragged myself out of bed and made coffee, sausage, biscuits and a batch of muffins. Gerry returned with full jerry cans – we now had enough fuel to get us to Puerto Rico even if we motor all the way. The next job on the list was going to see the comandancia to make sure we could leave with no problems, Gerry left me onboard with instructions to listen to the weather report at 08.30 hrs if he wasn’t back by then. I got out all the gear we would need for the day and waited for the weather report – which as it turned out we couldn’t pick up in the harbour. Gerry returned at 09.45 hrs with our paperwork, $11 harbour fee, $20 interpreter fee and his coffee mug lighter (the interpreter took a fancy to it so it was handed over as a “Gift”) We repeated our packing up of the dink etc. ready to head out and hauled our anchor up just as another boat from Luperon made its way into the harbour, we exchanged greetings and info and off we headed. There were quite a few passenger day trip boats going out of the harbour as we left and Gerry told me that the interpreter said they were going out whale watching as the hump backs come here to mate from December to March, he ( the interpreter) was also quite scathing about Bruce Van Sant – saying he has put cruisers off of visiting Samana with his book which is very pro Luperon. The interpreter told Gerry that Samana has lots to see – a national park, waterfalls, whale watching, beaches, resorts, mountains and a civilized township. I have to say we regret not stopping here as it looks to be a good spot from what we could see. As we made our way out of the harbour yet another boat from Luperon was heading in, we chatted with him and heard about the night passage then said goodbye and continued on our way. As we cleared the harbour Gerry suddenly told me to look out to the port side – there in the near distance was a pair of hump back whales. I grabbed the camera and snapped off a few shots, we weren’t really close enough for good pictures but at least I got a couple. They were amazing to see and we were the only boat anywhere in sight so their show was a very personal one. We hoisted the sails and managed to motor sail for the next couple of hours – avoiding the hundreds of fishing pots, floats and lines that were in the water. The water was like glass – flat and clear, such a contrast to the previous day. We managed to make at least 6 knots for a good while. We had the sails up until we had to make a slight change of direction which put the wind right back on our bow. As the day progressed the winds increased slightly but our entire trip was quite pleasant for a change. We ate dinner and then began the night watches at 21.00hrs, taking it in turn to do 3 hours on watch and then 3 hours sleeping.

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Thursday 25th January

At Sea to
Samana,
Dominican Republic

19 12.077 N
69 19.879 W

The motoring continued and we watched the sun rise which was quite breath taking. I forced myself to go below and cook up some breakfast which went down well as we hadn’t eaten anything substantial since yesterday’s lunch. The beginning of the day was fairly pleasant, nothing too untoward happening but as the day progressed the winds and waves began increasing and we were beating into the weather again, making only 4 knots an hour by the time we reached Cabot Samana. It was crunch time for us – either to continue or to run into Samana and the shelter of a harbour. We checked how much fuel we had left and worked out that we could probably just make it to Puerto Rico if we could maintain the 4 knots speed, so we agreed to go for it and review it if things got worse. Gerry went for an hour’s sleep and when he came back up on deck I had to tell him that we were loosing ground, our speed was down to 3.5 knots and sometimes less, we were bashing into the waves even more regularly. We did a re calculation and came to the decision that it would be touch and go for us to reach Puerto Rico if we continued at the same rate and were unable to do anything except motor. The wind didn’t look like clocking around for us to be able to sail so with some reluctance we turned back and headed into Samana. It was 3 hours out of our way but at least we would be able to fill our now empty jerry cans, have a hot meal and a good night sleep before setting out again in the morning. Of course as soon as we turned we had the wind behind us, we popped the jib and flew down to Samana doing 7 knots, in fact we saw 7.9 knots at one point – why couldn’t it be doing that in the direction we want to go?! We watched the sun disappear behind the mountains and the sky turn red – it was awesome and of course the camera was down below stowed away. Then we had to find our way into the harbour in the dark. I can almost hear you asking what the problem is, well the problem was that we were tired and there were hundreds of lights everywhere making it very difficult to pick out which ones were the harbour marker lights and which were shore lights behind them. Of course there was also the added problem of the anchored boats which had no anchoring lights on what so ever – all sent to confuse and worry us! We navigated our way into the harbour both watching out for the obstacles, which we managed to avoid, and found ourselves a spot to anchor – in 17 feet of water. The anchor dug in and I was immediately down below in the galley preparing a hot meal whilst Gerry tidied up the cockpit stuff and turned things off and on (navigation and motoring equipment off and lights (including our anchor light!) and fans on. One drink each, a hot meal and showers and we dropped into bed.

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Wednesday 24th January




At sea



As we were leaving in the afternoon we spent most of the day doing last minute things. Gerry decided to tighten the gen set belt which meant taking the nav station apart again to be able to get to the belt, it also meant that the whole salon was covered with bits of equipment and tools – what a mess. I stayed out of the way and cooked up some food for the trip. Once the belt was tightened and all the gear stowed away again we decided to go into the marina one last time and have lunch there - at just over a dollar for the lunchtime special it’s cheaper than I could make it and less trouble for me! The special on Wednesdays was lasagna with garlic bread and salad – it was worth the money and could possibly have been the last hot meal for a couple of days. We had planned on collecting our last load of washing and trying to go online after having lunch but the internet office was closed until 14.00hrs. We finished lunch collected a couple more bottles of water and then dinked across to the yacht club dock where Gerry waited in the dink whilst I climbed the million and one steps to the top to take a couple of photos of the harbour, and us at anchor there. Once I’d taken the photos we returned to the boat emptied the water into the tanks and stashed the laundry away by which time it was almost 14.00hrs so we went back to the marina and checked out our email, loaded the blog and said goodbye to the barflies there. Then it was back out to the boat where we hauled the outboard motor onto its storage plate, locked it in place and covered it up, stowed the petrol can away and emptied the dink of the other things we keep in it – bailer, chain and locks, shoes. We then hauled the dink up onto the foredeck, washed it off as much as possible and lashed it down ready for the trip. By now it was going on for 16.30hrs and 2 boats were making their way out of the harbour, obviously we weren’t going to be alone on this trip! We did a final check of the equipment, making sure we had all the safety gear to hand, donned our life jackets and head sets started the motor and let go the mooring buoy. I steered out of the harbour whilst Gerry unhelpfully gave advice. Once clear of the harbour the sea became very lumpy, as predicted, we pounded away through the waves for the next couple of hours and Gerry began to get antsy about how long it was going to continue like this. The boats that had left in front of us were a good 6 miles ahead of us and we could hear on the radio that the weather wasn’t quite what they expected either, however we were certain that it would calm down as we got further around the coast and sure enough as night began to close in around us the wind dropped and the waves gradually became less vicious. We began to take turns in trying to sleep, neither of us seem to do this very well but we managed to cat nap enough to get us through the night. At one point Gerry even managed to have the jib flying for half an hour, it was short lived though as the wind was on our nose. So we motored for most of the night.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday 23rd January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILLY,WE WILL HAVE A DRINK FOR YOU SO DON"T GET TOO DRUNK!
BEST OF LUCK ABIGAIL, WILL BE THINKING ABOUT YOU WITH FINGERS CROSSED.
Our last day of patiently waiting for a weather window, according to the forecast it will be here tomorrow. It turned into a day of going backwards and forwards in the dink- filling the water tank with drinking water, though we will have some last minute filling to do before we leave, going into town to fill up the fuel containers at the garage and buying some cool drinks. Whilst Gerry did the running around in the dink I did a general clean up and stowed things away ready for the trip, opened up the boat to air it out, vacuumed the floors and polished the woodwork. By the time we had both finished out respective tasks it was time to go ashore and log on to the internet and answer email and upload the blog. Having done that we stopped by a boat in the harbour as the woman had offered us a bagful of books that they had finished with – we never say no to books. Anyway we sat on their boat for a hour or so chatting before we eventually left with the bag of books and a case of MREs (meals ready to eat) that they were going to throw away as they didn’t like them. We think that they are OK for emergency meals when we just can’t spend time cooking in the not so good weather that we seem to be encountering too often so we gratefully accepted them. We dinked back to our boat and about 5 minutes later we had a visitor – a German lady who had a book we wanted to buy off her about transiting the Panama Canal, a brand new book for less than the shop price – always a bargain! We spent half an hour or so having a drink and chatting and then she left, it was fast approaching snore o’clock and Gerry spent the next couple of hours examining the backs of his eyelids whilst I read my book. By the time he woke up it was too late to go and take some photos of our boat in the harbour from the yacht club as we had planned but we went to the marina instead for pizza and a couple drinks. Finally we fell into bed with thoughts of last minute things to do before leaving Luperon.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Monday 22nd January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUCY, WE HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT DAY.

We set out at 07.30hrs, dinking into the marina where we met up with Jim and Harvey, 2 guys from boats in the harbour, the 4 of us were hiring a driver for the day and going to Santiago for the price of $36. The driver was a Dominican who spoke no English and none of us speak understandable Spanish so it was going to be an interesting day on all accounts. I guess the first thing to reassure us was that the driver was actually on time with his car – a very beat up camry sport. It was the sort of car that you wouldn’t let your teenage child get into under any circumstances but being invincible adults we all piled into it and began the 50 mile (or there about) trip. The second reassuring thing was that Jim had a map of sorts with all the shops marked on it. The roads quite surprised us, they were a lot better than the ones we traveled on in Guinea – at least they were paved here. The traffic was spasmodic to begin with but became heavier and more regular as we got nearer to the city. Most of the traffic consisted of worn out cars and trucks, hundreds of motorcycles of every description, horses being ridden bareback and donkeys – what a mixture! The drivers of the motorized vehicles seem to have a great fondness for using the horn – they constantly toot for every reason imaginable, it’s quite scary to be next to a horse when someone toots the horn, the rider doesn’t always have control!. The road rules, if there are in fact any, seem not to be important for example the double yellow lines in the center of the road appear to be there for decoration only as all drivers cross them when ever they feel the need. I have to say though that they do see to stop at traffic lights – this became apparent when we got to the city where there were traffic lights. The 4 way stop thing would never work here – junctions which have no lights are just a free for all – it’s a case of close your eyes, put your foot on the accelerator and hope for the best. The scenery on the way was lovely, very mountainous, very lush vegetation, the occasional small village – all of which appeared to be quite impoverished. There were crops growing, we assumed that they were proper farms but they didn’t seem to be as well organised or regimented as those we are used to, we saw bananas, tobacco and sugar cane. The climate is very similar to that in North Queensland, hence the same sort of crops. The trip into Santiago took us an hour and a half to our first stop which was the bank – we all needed some pesos to spend, as the bank wasn’t open yet everyone used the ATM – don’t leave home without your cards! Once the money was sorted out the boys began working their way down the lists that they had – things which we had to get, mostly bits for the boats. We scored first finding a cogged drive belt for the gen set alternator, we had to get one as we had used our spare when we took the gen set apart in Provo. It proved to be quite expensive, about $60 but at least we got one. Harvey needed some seals for his water pump and we spent a fair amount of time chasing from one shop to another hunting them down, eventually we were successful with that too. Our next stop was a hardware store called Ochoa, it was similar to Home depot and as well stocked, Gerry purchased 2 new buckets to replace the one that we lost and the one that got destroyed by the chain in the anchor locker. Then it was on to the computer store for discs, an easy task but whilst we were there Jim had the buy of the day, he bought a mini tower with keyboard but no screen for $363.00 (Yes Bob exactly the same as your OBC). We loaded that into the car and then headed to Price Smart, the equivalent of Sam’s club, to do some grocery shopping. Jim had borrowed a membership card from a lady at the marina so I had to be "Nancy" for the shopping trip. We had pizza in the cafeteria there and then loaded a cart with the essentials that we needed. Ours didn’t amount to very much but we did get the all important chocolate cake to keep the chocoholic happy. Once we had done the wholesale shopping stuff we headed to a large department store which had a grocery floor, a house wears floor, a food court and ice cream parlour and across the road from it was a radio shack. We split up and walked around the store buying just a couple of things we needed then had ice cream prior to setting off back to Luperon. The traffic was heavier on the return trip and there were a couple of times when it was best not to be looking as we overtook or went around a corner, I have to say that we didn’t see a single fender bender but I really can’t understand why we didn’t. Our driver managed to get us back to the marina by 16.00hrs, all in one piece with our shopping. It was a great day out and it would have been a good place to re provision but we really didn’t need very much as we have kept our stores pretty constant as we have gone along. Back on our boat we put away our purchases, read for a while and then took our dink into the marina for a couple of drinks and a quick dinner. As we were both quite tired from the knuckle clenching trip we decided to make it an early night.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday 21st January

Luperon
Dominican Republic

19 54.4 N
70 50.5 W

One day closer to the weather window which seems to be holding for us! We started the day by going to the Flea market / swap meet at the marina. We didn't buy anything but we had a round of chatting with just about everyone who is in the harbour at the moment. We did get a container of water and then headed back out to our boat. We had decided that we were going to take the boat out of the harbour to a small bay just ouside where we have been told everyone goes to clean off their prop shaft prior to leaving Luperon. Despite my earlier protestations about not cleaning the prop shaft because of the state of the water here we had been talked into doing it by just about everyone who has been in this harbour before. So a little after 10.00 we hoisted the anchor - what a sorry state that was, it was covered in a clay like mud which seemed to be everywhere and got on everything. I feel sure that some health farm would love it for mud baths! We headed out of the harbour and turned right into a small bay, we knew we were in the right place as there was another boat there doing exactly what we were about to do. We anchored, Gerry tried to clean the anchor off by throwing a bucket overboard - literally, as the rope attached to it undid and the bucket made it's bid for freedom, I hurridly handed him the boat hook in the hope of saving it but alas it sunk, never to be seen again. Gerry then donned his snorkelling gear and jumped into the water, I remained on board as some one had to make sure we didn't drift off - great reason isn't it! I acted as the "gofer" - collecting all the things and handing them to Gerry as needed, I also cleaned the mud off the anchor and chain - with buckets of water (I had another bucket thank goodness),but oh for a hose in the anchor locker! Meanwhile Gerry was scrapping the barnacles off the prop shaft, rudder and anywhere else he found them. We were amazed at the growth considering it was clean in the Turks and Caicos Islands - it must be the yucky water here that encourages them to attach themselves to boats in the hope that they will be taken along as passengers to the next port of call! I felt a little sorry for Gerry in the water, fighting the current and trying not to swallow the water as it made it's way down his snorkel, enough to make a quick batch of muffins so there was something warm to eat when he finally got out of the water. At last the boat was barnacle free and Gerry came back on board, showered and changed and we headed back into the harbour and made our way to the mooring ball, Gerry was navigating from the charts below as our C map chip has no details of the harbour on it and there are some VERY shallow spots - we almost managed to ground on one but I was quick off the mark and steered us away from it. Gerry picked up the moring ball and tied us on to it without a problem. Once settled we thought we would try the internet to see if we could pick up a signal here and yeah we managed to find a signal so we checked our emails and I loaded a blog picture or two whilst Gerry went into the marina and bought another container of water. We dinked ashore in the evening to the marina and had dinner and a few drinks there with the harbour rabble.

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Saturday 20th January


Luperon

Dominican Republic

19 54.09 N
70 57.03 W

Well another lazy day waiting for the weather to arrive. We spent the entire day doing next to nothing. Our only outing for the day was late in the afternoon when we went into the Marina for a couple of drinks and some dinner. It was much quieter than Friday night, we suspect a lot of people had a hangover!. We managed to find the owners of the moooring that is vacant and have booked to take it from Sunday to Wednesday - this means that we will be going to clean the prop shaft and the anchor and it's chain off ready for the trip out of here. I have attached a picture that I named "catch of the the day" I'll leave it up to you to decide if I'm refering to the one on the right or the left of the picture!

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Friday 19th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W


Still here waiting, the weather report is looking really good for us the middle of next week so we are planning to leave here then and do the trip all the way through to Puerto Rico in one hit. Jim – our neighbour here who is a weather guru is also looking at going at the same time so we should have some company. We began the day by Gerry taking off into town to pick up the laundry we left there on Monday – finally it was done. Whilst he was gone I hung pillows, cushions, mattresses, towels out in the sun to air – they just get so sticky on the boat it becomes essential to get the sun on them. Then I swept the floor and tided up the mess from yesterday – I find it impossible to understand how 2 people can create so much mess in such a short period of time, it seems like we are always cleaning up. Gerry arrived back with the laundry and a bit if good news, he had managed to buy a replacement diesel booster pump that supplies fuel to the raycor filter supplying the main engine and the generator (I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that it stopped working when we arrived here in Luperon – mostly because we can run the generator without it). Purchased the pump the next step obviously was to install it. It was relatively painless and now it’s all working as it should again. Whilst Gerry was working on the installation I stitched up our new sun shade. Once that was finished I enlisted Gerry’s help to finish off my project by putting in grommets and snaps so we could attach it outside to the bimini. It took both of us to do this as we had to get the snaps in the right place on both sides of the boat – we only had enough canvas for one shade so it needed to be reversible. Anyway it is now attached and working well. We had a visit from Jim whilst we were putting on the snaps, he wanted to know if we would like to go to Santiago with him on Monday to do some provisioning etc. we of course said yes – a trip to look forward to. Gerry made a run into the marina in the early afternoon to pick up the bedding etc. that we dropped off yesterday, drop off yet another load and to pick up a 5 gallon container of drinking water to top up our tank. He came back saying that he had put our names down for the Fillet mignon special dinner tonight. Gerry began complaining of not feeling too well – had aches and pains everywhere so he took a painkiller and went to bed for the rest of the afternoon, I spent the time reading. When he got up again he went out on deck and in a panic struck voice announced that we had a problem, our dink had gone. I shot out on deck and we scanned the harbour, sighting our dink on the back end of the boat that had anchored close to us early that morning, it seemed strange as the wind and current would have taken our dink in totally the opposite direction. Anyway there was no one on that boat or any of the other boats around us so we were without assistance to retrieve our dink. With many mutters and curses Gerry jumped into the water and swam the short distance between the 2 boats and retrieved our dink. We then got ourselves cleaned up and went ashore to the marina. We met a couple at the marina that we had previously met in Fort Pierce and sat with them, they knew that the owners of the boat next to us had found our dink afloat heading towards the mangroves and had rescued it, announcing on the radio that if anyone had lost a dink it was tied up to their boat. Of course we immediately began blaming each other for not tying the dink up securely but I know it was Gerry who did it as I wasn’t even with him the last time he went ashore! We hadn’t heard the announcement as we don’t keep our radio on all the time and the owners of the boat weren’t there to thank so we will make a point of going across and seeing them. As we chatted more and more people joined our table and we spent a very pleasant evening telling and listening to stories, jokes and lies. The food was very good and we drank far too much rum – well I did anyway. It would appear that after being here for 2 weeks we have finally been accepted into the cruising community. I have even been invited on a clothes shopping excursion with the women – not necessarily my favourite thing but it might be fun. We were amongst the first to leave so I doubt that anyone will be feeling on top of the world in the morning.

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Thursday 18th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

A very quiet day today. I stayed on board and did some boat tidying up, started in the V berth by clearing everything off the bunk only to find that the sheets and mattress were wet – oh joy! So I stripped everything off the bunk and bundled them into a laundry bag and sent Gerry into the marina laundry to get them washed and dried. I then dragged the mattress and pillows out into the sun to dry it out. That left all the stuff that was sitting on top of the bunk – we had to find a home for them as we are keeping our fingers crossed that our friends Rose and Mark are going to be able to join us for a couple of weeks in the Virgin Islands and they will need to sleep somewhere! Between us Gerry and I managed to rearrange stuff in other places and squash some of the stuff from on top of the bunk into the resulting space. We then had another look at the things that still needed a home and began to shift things around again. We hung a second hammock in the saloon for the lightweight stuff and Gerry finally fixed the bolt on the V berth door –it’s only needed doing for 4 years! Eventually we found enough space in all sorts of other places for the stuff that was sitting on the top of the bunk. Whilst we had the V berth lockers open I decided to get out the industrial sewing machine and make up a sun shade for the side of the boat as the afternoon sun is a killer and a bit of shade was called for. Of course we had a heated discussion as to how it should be made but as I’m the one making it I’m afraid it will be however I decide in the end! After cutting the canvas for the shade I decided to leave it until tomorrow to stitch up incase I wanted to make further adjustments. Rose and Mark – we have the bunk cleaned off, a hanging locker ready for you to fill, the bathroom cabinet cleaned out, the sheets, pillow cases etc. washed and the drinks already poured – hurry up and come!
Gerry then decided that he had to "pickle" our water maker, just so you know – if you don’t use it for 14 days the manufacturer recommends that you do this to prevent bacteria from growing on the membrane and we were at the 14 days of not using it mark. The process involves flushing the whole system with an antibacterial solution and leaving the solution in the system until the next time you make water, in our case this won’t be until after we leave Luperon as the harbour water here isn’t anything that we would consider putting into our tanks. The process was fairly quick and simple although the hose we had to use wasn’t quite the right size – can anyone explain to me why you always have a million bits of equipment but never quite the right one for the job you are doing? – We know we are not alone in this phenomenon, our conversations with other sailors have verified this.
We spent a quiet evening on the boat wondering how we managed to squash all our junk into even tighter places.

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Wednesday 17th January

Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

Another day of "hurry up and wait", have you noticed how time drags when you are desperate to get somewhere? We are trying to be patient but the type "A" personality traits are definitely coming to the fore. If we are here much longer I fear we will have read every book in Luperon. We took a leisurely stroll into town with the intention of collecting our laundry. This meant we had to stop at Steve’s place for a couple of drinks and lunch. We got chatting to a family who had just arrived in Luperon, they had followed the same course we did and it made us happy to hear that they had a rough time of it from Provo all the way to here, in fact they had a worse time than we did at Big Sandy Cay as the swell was up and they didn’t put out a bridle – at least we had a decent night’s sleep there before we hit the high winds and waves to get across to here. We managed to read our emails but the connection was so slow that we didn’t try to reply to them as it would have had us there for the rest of the day and as there are only 2 computers we didn’t think it was fair to hog them for too long. I also only managed to load the text for the blog – a couple of pictures will be added when I have a better connection. We were out of luck – our laundry still wasn’t finished drying so we will have to return again – any excuse! We took a short walk further into town as we had run out of eggs, on the way to the supermarket I noticed that one of the small stores had eggs and vegetables so we went there instead. Inside the store sat a little old man – he must have been a hundred or he’s led a hard life, he didn’t speak a word of English but we managed to buy eggs with the help of a young man’s mobile phone to tell us the price. I had taken my own egg carton with me so it was easy to indicate what I needed, besides which I knew the Spanish word for eggs (well who doesn’t- it’s on almost every breakfast menu in Florida!) – Huevos and you can only fit a certain amount in the carton so that bit was easy. The difficulty came with understanding the cost that the man muttered, we tried to get him to write it down – didn’t have a pen, then to indicate the numbers on the scales – he couldn’t do that so he took us 2 stores down where he explained to a young man the price and he dialed it into his phone – how complicated! Any way the 18 eggs cost $2 – pretty fair. I noticed he also had some decent looking vegetables and some lemons, I didn’t like to upset him by asking for them as well so I think that I will put it on my "to do" list for next time but I’ll be certain to carry a calculator and pen with me so we can understand each other when it comes to the cost!
Back on the boat Gerry had to have a siesta whilst I messed about reading and playing cards.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tuesday 16th January

Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

At last the sun shone all day – it made a pleasant change although it also made everything very sticky inside the boat. We spent the morning being very lazy and doing nothing at all, then around lunchtime we took the dink into town. We walked to Steve’s place which was fairly quiet and ordered lunch by then a couple of the other yachties had arrived so Gerry sat chatting with them whilst I logged onto the internet and answered emails and loaded the blog.
Tom White (I know you just wanted to see your name in my blog!)– To answer your question on the blog from a few days ago:- the upper bearing was unable to rotate mainly because of hose clamps that had been used as a temporary repair to the top track bearing (not by us!). When we tried to furl the jib, the track and the upper bearing rotated together wrapping the jib halyard around the forestay against the wrap stop. The wrap stop, being bolted to the forestay, started to unravel the forestay wire (like a basket). The jib halyard broke as it had been wrapped against the wrap stop, causing the jib to descend. It was only after going to Fort Pierce to replace the jib halyard that we found the problem with the forestay. Although none of the forestay wires were broken it’s likely that if repairs hadn’t been made to the furling system the forestay would have broken and I would have been on a plane going home 1st class whilst Gerry fought with insurance for a new mast! I hope this makes some sort of sense to you.
Anyway after finishing with the internet, which was painfully slow, we had lunch and sat chatting with a couple of older guys who have almost taken root here, they’ve been here so long. I’ve finally found out the day that the fruit and vegetable truck visits the square near the statue of General Luperon on his horse, at the end of the main street near the ban with the ATM . Bob and Karen take note – its Tuesday mornings fairly early. Of course by the time I found this out it was mid afternoon and too late! – Oh well we will still be here next week so I can go then. I bought the bare essential fruit and vegetables, some hamburger meat and some beer from Steve – he always has things for sale but they are often more expensive than elsewhere, you just have to be in the right place at the right time for good prices. Oh and by the way if any of you are looking at cruising for any length of time invest in the Evert fresh green bags available from West Marine (or similar green sacks available from camping stores) to store your fruits and vegetable in. They are not cheap but they certainly keep the fruits and vegetables in good condition for a long time, I still have had some root vegetables (carrots and parsnips) that I bought in Jacksonville and they are in excellent condition still. I wish I had bought an extra packet of them – don’t make the same mistake! We hung around Steve’s place for a good part of the afternoon, I even had some chocolate chip ice cream there which was a great treat. Our laundry wasn’t done so we will have to make another trip back there to collect it.
Eventually we headed back to the boat, Gerry tied to scrub some rust stains off the fiberglass – caused by bungee strap hooks, but wasn’t too successful whilst I fiddled around below deck with housekeeping tasks. We watched a movie - “Bad Eggs” in the evening to relieve the boredom of a quiet night on board, thanks Gaz, I’m not too sure it would have been appreciated by our American friends as is was definitely an Ozzie sense of humour movie – we enjoyed it!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Monday 15th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

The sun shone for a moment or two and then we got out of bed and it started to rain. Gerry did his hours worth of downloading weather fax whilst I pretended to be sleeping still. The weather forecast for the next 48hrs is showing a very small drop in the wind and waves, we don’t think it is enough for us to be taking off out of here but we plan to be ready just incase it is better than it looks at present. To this way of thinking we decided to take our laundry into Steve’s place to have clean sheets, towels and clothing for the trip, and also to visit the supermarket to buy a few items that we are running low on. We loaded up the dink, made the trip across the harbour and tied up at the town dock, walked the short distance to Steve’s place only to find it closed. Luckily a couple of his employees were hanging around the place so we left our laundry with them – hopefully it will be ready for tomorrow when we return. We then headed off towards the bank to draw out a few more pesos but on the way we passed the supermarket so I went into there whilst Gerry continued on to the bank. The market was clean inside and had a fair variety of foods on the shelves, I particularly wanted some cold meats and cheese as we were running low on these, as I looked around I couldn’t find any but a helpful shop assistant asked what I needed and as I explained in my worst “Spanglish” he nodded and took me towards a counter at the back of the shop where the chest style fridges are. He told me that he hadn’t got any bacon – it had run out but he had ham, I asked to see it and the cheese – he produced 3 blocks of cheese, one for frying(?) one for cooking and one for eating and 2 blocks of sandwich ham. At this point Gerry arrived back and we sampled the eating cheese – it wasn’t the best cheese I’ve ever eaten but it would suffice, I bought a pound of it – if nothing else I can cook with it. I also bought a pound of the “better” sandwich ham – yet to be proved! I asked what else he had hidden in the fridge as it has no glass and I couldn’t see into it, he told me “Chops”- not being certain that the chops were what I expected them to be I asked to see them, he produced a muslin wrapped piece of meat which turned out to be cooked ham on the bone so I bought a pound of that also. Thinking we were set I looked around for Gerry, he was in the booze isle picking up 4 small bottles of rum – to use as “gifts” for any more officials that we need to grease the palms of – take note if you are coming this way bring bottles of beer or alcohol with you to had out as gifts, they don’t like the stuff that is produced in their own country! We paid for our purchases, then headed to the commandancia’s to find out what we needed to do about our delayed departure as we had already got our clearing out papers – dated for last Tuesday. Despite no common language we managed to get the papers changed, well the date scribbled out and rewritten as the 25th, and the comment of “no problemo”. With much hand shaking and gracias pouring from our lips we hit the road and returned to our dink. We decided to drop the shopping off at the boat and then continue on to the marina to see if the computer internet was working today. First stop was lunch at the marina – you can’t beat the prices there and whilst we were there Jim (the weather guru) arrived and sat chatting with us – I’m sure we will now be leaving next week and not this week as Jim thinks the window is a bit small and we will get stuck along the coast a bit further where the harbours aren’t so sheltered. We spent the next 2 hours on the computer loading the last couple of blogs and – yes, check it out – I managed to upload a few pictures! It took nearly 10 minutes for each picture to load so it was a slow and painful session; I hope you think it was worth it. If you are wondering why I take so many pictures of sun sets –it’s because one of these days I WILL catch the green flash on film and besides which my sister might do me a painting of one of them – ever hopeful on both counts!
I feel the need to tell you about the state of the harbour, as you have read it has been almost constant rain since we’ve been here. The harbour is like a very large lake, surrounded by mangroves, mostly flat calm and quite pretty however the weather has stirred up the harbour and the water is the colour of something nasty that I’m certain I’ve seen in a specimen bottle waiting for lab testing, add to this a light chop with foam on top – it’s not pretty any more. Then you have to add further to the mix – the floating debris of coconut husks, plastic bottles, dead fish, bloated dead dog, tree branches and the insides of a refrigerator, we had wondered where the rubbish tip was – I think we have found it right here! Our friend Dale has advised us to dive our prop shaft before leaving here as the barnacles tend to think it’s their new home, given the state of the harbour I don’t think that is going to happen as we don’t have wet suits with us and although our shots are all up to date neither of us wants to chance fate – barnacles or not!. At night we can hear the waves hitting the blow holes just outside the harbour, the waves are so loud that it sounds like cannon fire. I’m quite glad we are tucked away inside the harbour when I hear the blows.
Our afternoon was spent back on board, reading and making ice – one of the best purchases ever that ice maker!

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday 14th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

Gerry has been getting the weather faxes every morning and the long range (72hr) forecast is showing an improvement in the weather around Wednesday so we are preparing ourselves for a departure then – fingers crossed! After getting the weather details and having breakfast we donned the wet weather gear, even though it wasn’t raining at the time, and took the dink into the marina. If you remember from last week there is a boater’s flea market at the marina on Sunday morning and this week we were going to be on time! It started to spit by the time we were tying the dink up, we just made it in time. The flea market was a bit dismal this week – not much being sold and definitely no anchors for sale. I saw that everyone seemed to have a branch of basil but no one seemed to be selling it so I asked the nearest man who directed me to Rosa a local lady selling jewelry. I asked the question and lovely lady that she was, she handed me the remains of her basil stash – for free – what a bargain! It wasn’t until a bit later that I found out that Rosa is the wife of Bruce van Sant – the author of the cruising guide that everyone including us uses to negotiate their way south, the man himself was having a few beers at a table near by. Rosa told me that she does tours of the place so we may take her up on that if we are here much longer. We found someone selling cruising guides and bought one for Venezuela and I bought a small gift for our daughter – can’t tell you what as it’s a surprise but you can guess – it’s something that is indigenous to the Dominican Republic! We chatted for a while with some of the cruisers until someone mentioned that the internet was up and running again at the marina office. We headed straight there and logged on for an hour, checking our email, paying bills and uploading the last few blogs. As always the photos weren’t loading, I need a lot longer on a computer to get them to load but I will try again soon. The marina had a lunch special of pizza so we shared one of those and then headed back out to our boat. The afternoon was spent relaxing, reading books, playing cards etc. I developed a migraine and ended up going to bed early leaving Gerry to fend for himself.

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Saturday 13th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

How long can this weather continue? It rained on and off all day. We amused ourselves by collecting rainwater in a bucket and funneling it into our water tanks. In fact it rained so much that we filled the tanks – I don’t think they were particularly empty anyway but at least I don’t feel too guilty when I have a shower and wash my hair now! We had planned on going ashore for lunch and trying to upload the last few days’ worth of blog but you guessed it, it poured with rain so we cancelled that plan. I spent most of the afternoon preparing food and then Gerry suggested that we go ashore for drinks and dinner as the rain stopped for half an hour or so, I declined and we ended up spending a quiet evening aboard.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Friday 12th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

Another wet, miserable day spent waiting for a weather window. We stayed on board all day reading and playing cards on the computer. Gerry went into the marina during a dry spell and put our names down for the taco and fajita special dinner that was being held in the evening. Handy Andy returned with our filled propane container – 10 pounds of propane cost us $10 which was reasonable. Then early on in the evening we put on our rain gear and dinked into the marina for a couple of drinks and dinner. The taco and fajita special was pretty good and very cheap at $5 a head. We were a bit surprised that it wasn’t as well attended as we would have expected though the bad weather may have had something to do with that. We made an early night of it, returning to our boat before it began raining again for the night.

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Thursday 11th January




Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

Wet and windy all morning. We called Handy Andy for some drinking water and to refill our propane tank which ran out yesterday. They arrived to fill the water tank in the middle of a downpour so it cost us extra because of a large tip. We stayed on board until after lunch and then the rain stopped so we took the dink and headed into town to find the bank. We had been told that the ATM works sometime and that the guard inside the bank would indicate to you if it was working by either holding his thumbs up or down. We walked the length of the main street and found the bank at the end of it, and yes the ATM was working so we put our card in the hole and low and behold the machine spat pesos at us along with a balance for our Australian bank account, and just so you know – we are millionaires in pesos! Having been successful in our banking endeavour we decided to go in search of the bakery which we’d been told about. Dodging the motor cycles and the odd truck which I’m certain was trying to mow us down, we crossed a couple of roads and sure enough found the bakery (mostly by the smell it gives off – much more pleasant than the street smell). The building looked like it was about to fall down but inside there were a couple of display cabinets with various bakery items for sale. It wasn’t exactly a Brumby’s but it was OK. We asked in halting "Spanglish" for the water rolls we had been told about, happily for us the lady behind the counter knew what we meant and we bought a dozen of them as they were fresh out of the oven whilst we stood there. They also had some multi grain rolls and some doughnuts which we bought to try. All in all we managed to spend a whopping $1.30 on 18 rolls and 2 doughnuts – better price than Brumby’s! We then made our way to Steve’s place to have a cold drink before heading back to our boat for the rest of the day. Luckily we made it back before the rain set in again. The rolls are delicious, the doughnuts are OK – nothing can compare with Krispy Kreme on that one! We spent a quiet evening onboard as we didn’t fancy going ashore in the rain.

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Wednesday 10th January




Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

The sun shone brilliantly all day making us wonder about the validity of the forecast weather front but the forecast in the morning confirmed that the front was bearing down on us. Gerry spent most of the morning going between us and Jim, chatting, sharing information and charts. Jim has a very keen interest in weather prediction and from what he says I suspect that his job at some time involved dealing with weather patterns – though this is just a guess. He told us that we would have got stuck at Samana and that we would have found the anchorage there very exposed to the front, in other words he thought we had made the right decision. Gerry and he obviously had a bit chat about our trip as Gerry came back with info sheets on traversing the Panama canal and the passage south through the pacific – all in all Jim was a very informative and helpful guy, we will be watching for when he leaves and we will be in his wake! At the moment it looks like the next weather window is about 11 days out, we hope it’s a bit sooner but at least we will be able to enjoy a bit more of the surrounding country whilst we wait. I spent almost the entire day with my nose stuck in a book. I forgot to mention that we have asked about the lack of use of the yacht club, a very sad tale unfolds. Apparently the very wealthy owner decided to get very greedy and began charging people to tie up at the dock, to park cars in the car park, raised prices for drinks and food and generally made the yachting community feel unwelcome, as a result the "long stay" yachties decided to boycott the place, so on any night it is almost always empty the only patrons are newcomers like us who haven’t had a problem. We made comments about what a great place it could be and why the swimming pools were empty and dirty, we were told that the pools were built in April and because the owner refused to pay the price of the water required to fill them they remained empty until October – and then one of them was filled as a couple wanting their wedding reception at the yacht club wanted pictures next to the pool so one pool was filled. It struck us as quite vindictive of the "long stay" yachties and very sad for the entire community - the club has a prime location and I’m sure that with the right management it could be a terrific spot for yachties to congregate. We have also heard that the place is up for sale so who knows; maybe it will achieve status again. We dinked into the marina for a couple of drinks and dinner – the bar was full of the "long stay" yachties socializing, which just highlighted what the yacht club is missing out on. As we returned to our boat the weather front began to close in around us, the rain began and the winds started to howl around us, finally we felt vindicated in our decision to delay our departure.

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Tuesday 9th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

We started our day with a tidy away of things that tend to move during a trip, as we planned on leaving late this evening. The weather forecast was a little more doubtful than it had been for the past 2 days – there was a front very close behind the weather window which could make our trip very uncomfortable however we proceeded with preparations on the premise that we were going. Around mid morning we took the dink into town so we could collect our laundry, pick up some bread, read our email and have a final lunch at Steve’s place. As the laundry wasn’t quite ready we spent a little time walking around the streets seeing what there was in the town. Most of the shops seemed to close at lunchtime and observe a siesta, if in fact they actually opened before mid afternoon. With a little patience I think we could have found most things that anyone needs to survive except a replacement for our lost anchor! Anyway we headed back to Steve’s place enjoyed lunch there, chatting with a cruiser who has been here for 7 or 8 months. The subject got around to the weather – as it always seems to, and she mentioned that the other cruisers who had planned to leave in the evening had cancelled their plans due to the front that we were a bit concerned about. It was suggested that we have a chat to a guy called Jim, one of the cruisers that had cancelled his plans, as he has done this trip many times and has a great deal of knowledge about weather in the area. We thanked her for the info, bought some fillet, a cooked chicken, a dozen 7ups, paid for our laundry and then made our way back to our dink with all our stuff being carted for us in a wheelbarrow by one of Steve’s employees. We loaded the dink up and motored back out to our boat. Jim has a boat fairly close to ours and we could see that his dink was missing so we assumed he was ashore somewhere, this left us to make our own decision without anyone else’s input. We reviewed the grib chart and the forecast from the morning and came to the conclusion that whilst we might make it to the next port we would be stuck there for at least a week waiting for the next window so with some regret we decided to stay put until the next weather window – when ever that might be! The rest of the evening we spent agonizing over whether we had made the right decision, eventually accepting the fact that what we had done seemed the most appropriate thing for us. We managed a phone call to our daughter at long last it was great to talk with her even if it was only a brief call.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Monday 8th January



Luperon
Dominican Republic

19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

Time –around 03.00hrs,
Gerry gets up to go to the toilet,
“here Nick, have you seen this?”
“what?”
“when you flush the toilet it’s like fireworks going off in the bowl”
“oh, yeah, I’ve seen it”
We have a habit of trying not to turn the lights on during the night if we get up to go to the toilet and as we pump the sea water into the toilet bowl to flush it there is a series of sparkles from the phosphorescence - it is quite fascinating to see. Gerry also tells me that as you urinate into the water it gives off sparkles too – not that I can confirm this! (It’s a boy thing like writing your name in snow!) I just needed to share this insight with you.
The day dawned wet and overcast, Gerry fiddled around filling the fuel tank from our jerry cans, trying to find 2 screws to put into a hinge that seemed to be missing them (who knows where they went!) He then radioed Handy Andy for some diesel and some drinking water to be bought out to the boat. We had breakfast and then Gerry then decided to change the oil and filter and the transmission oil on the main engine. As he was doing this Andy arrived with the fuel barge so I organized the filling of the jerry cans, payment and was enquiring about getting our laundry done at the marina today when another barge pulled up alongside us and an official looking man climbed aboard our boat, he was from the agricultural office – here to clear us in from the fruit and vegetable point of view! He asked if we had any fruit and vegetables, I told him yes, he asked where we bought them, I told him Bahamas, he scribbled a couple of things on a form, asked if we had any trash, I said a little, he said he had 2 special blue bins at the dock for “foreign rubbish (not sure about the implications there!) charged us $10 for the privilege of his visit and left us with a piece of paper and a smile. We have been warned by our neighbours in the harbour that a second agricultural officer may appear – this one to fill out forms about meat and fish and to relieve us of a further $10. Then the man with the drinking water arrived so Gerry had to stop what he was doing and empty the water into our tank, and treat it, as I couldn’t lift the containers. Back to Andy – the lady who does the laundry wasn’t here today so we would have to take it into Steve’s place if we needed it before tomorrow, which we did. Once Gerry had completed the oil change we loaded our laundry into the dink, picked up our documentation and headed towards town, thinking we would get out clearing out documentation done today as we plan to leave tomorrow. We hit Steve’s place first, depositing our laundry, checking our emails and having lunch then we headed to the “office block” of the authorities. We firstly had to get our Tourist Cards stamped and then dropped them into a box in the office. Then we crossed the road and climbed a hill to the Commandancia‘s office to get our departing authority. The man we saw there was very pleasant, asked for a piece of paper that we hadn’t got, charged us $17 for a departure document and sent us back to the “Office block” for the missing piece of paper. A lady there filled out more forms with the same information, charged us $11 and gave us the bit of paper – we still aren’t sure what it’s for! Having exhausted ourselves with the backwards and forwards of trying to get leaving documents we headed back to our boat for an afternoon siesta. It continued to rain on and off into the evening but we decided to take the dink into the marina and go to the yacht club for dinner. The yacht club is a fantastic building, which sits on a hill overlooking the harbour, It has an open terrace, straw thatched top floor which is the main socializing area, then there is a large room underneath that which looks like a function room, there are 2 swimming pools, one is empty and the other looks in need of a good cleaning. The view from the terrace area is one not to be missed, it encompasses all of the harbour. Anyway we tied our dink up and climbed the million steps to the club, when we got there we were surprised to find it almost empty, there was maybe 4 people in the entire place. We asked about dinner only to find the cook was having the day off! Anyway we stayed for a drink and to enjoy the view as the sun set and then we took off to the marina where we had diner. The marina had what appears to be a few “regulars”, people who have arrived here and never left the place. As the evening progressed the rain got heavier and heavier becoming almost monsoonal and the thatched roof of the marina restaurant began to leak. This got worse and all the patrons retreated further and further inwards until we were all packed into the narrow area around the bar. Everyone was very chatty and we had a couple of interesting conversations with these people that seem to have adopted Luperon as their home. Eventually we decided to brave the wet and got in the dink to return to our boat – good job we had taken our wet weather jackets with us or we would have been soaked. Finding our boat in the dark was very easy as we were the only boat that had put an anchor light on! It looks like we will be leaving here tomorrow evening after picking up our laundry plus a few bits of provisions as there seems to be a small weather window which will make a pleasant change for us if it is what the prediction says.

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Sunday 7th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic


19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

Our day started out with trying to find the cruisers net which we had been told operates on Sunday and Wednesday mornings at 08.00hrs on channel 68/ 72. we tried for ages but had no luck finding it, eventually giving up. We then loaded our dink up with charts and cruising guides that we no longer needed and headed into the marina as one of the yachties from last night had told us that there was a flea market at 10.00hrs in the marina bar. We arrived to a small throng of people standing around chatting and passing the time of day looking at items for sale. We dumped our stuff on one of the tables and then had a look around the place ourselves. There didn’t seem to be too much there for sale and nothing that we wanted. I had expected a few more people as the harbour is pretty full. As we began to chat with a few “local” yachties we discovered why – the time here is an hour ahead – they don’t have daylight saving and we were still working on Florida time so we were an hour behind! It explained why we couldn’t get the cruisers net too. Apparently there were a few more vendors around earlier who had since packed up and gone home. Obviously we are in cruising time mode! We stayed for about an hour and then packed up our stuff and headed back to our boat with plans to go in the opposite direction, towards town, once we had dropped our charts and books back on our boat. After making it back to the our boat, dropping off stuff and picking up the camera and the computer stick which had the blog saved on it, I locked up the boat and then went to climb back into the dink only to have Gerry laugh at me and ask if I was actually going to lock the boat up. I had put the padlock in place without actually lacing it through the latch – I had truly lost the plot! It took a moment or two longer to lock up properly, compose myself and climb back into the dink and head to the town dock. The dinghy dock was a very unsafe looking floating wooden dock which we secured our dink to prior to walking the short distance into the “Town”. Our initial impression of it was that it was like the docks around Brazil – dirty, smelly, loud music, busy, full of small children in varying degrees dress, skeletal dogs roaming around everywhere, the odd pig (2 actually), horse, ducks, cow and chicken roaming wild, motor scooters everywhere with the riders blasting away on their horns for you to get out of their way, small dwellings which were open onto the street and which you could see straight into, small openings in the walls which seemed to be cafes or store fronts, lots of locals hanging around doing nothing in particular and a few official looking men in various bits of uniform – possibly customs, immigration, police – who would know! The immigration, customs & agricultural office is located immediately at the end of the dock path – it is a beat up looking blue demountable shed containing a couple of desks and a few chairs, most of the staff however are to be found outside under the shade of the nearest tree as the building has no fans or air conditioning and could be likened to a furnace in the heat of the midday sun. The road forked and we took the right hand fork in the hope of finding “Steve’s Place” and yes just a short way down this street we found the sign for Steve’s place which advertises itself as being a restaurant, bar, wholesaler, internet cafe and Laundromat. It reminded us of a typical open air cantina similar to the ones in South America. We went in and ordered a drink and lunch, enquired about the internet – it’s free if you eat here. Whilst we waited for lunch to appear we checked our email and I uploaded the last few days blogs, try as I did I couldn’t get the photos to load so I’ll have to try that somewhere else and you’ll have to check back later if you want to see them! Lunch was excellent and very cheap; a lot of the yachties from the harbour seem to come here regularly from what we could tell. We bought a dozen bottles of coke from them, listened to Steve telling us what other things he sells (hamburger meat, chickens – cooked and fresh, fruit and vegetables –as displayed, beer, rum and other things if you ask in advance and he can get it) and we then headed back to our dink and motored back out to the boat. A short while later we had a visitor – an official from the “tourist board” who hadn’t been here to see us yesterday but needed $10 each to issue us with tourist cards which we had to then take into the “authorities office”, have stamped and then place in the box marked for them in that same office – we could do that tomorrow but we had to part with the cash now. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing a bit of personal laundry in the Margarita mixer bucket – it’s a portable camping washing machine, literally a bucket with a motor for those of you who haven’t seen it, we think it would make a perfect margarita mixer! As it rained a bit we decided not to go back ashore in the evening, we just stayed onboard and read books.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saturday 6th January


Luperon
Dominican Republic

19 54.4 N
70 56.5 W

We arrived at the entrance to Luperon at sunrise. After the low lying islands of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos it was nice to see some hilly landscape, which appears to be quite lush. Gerry went below to guide me through the channel into the harbour (more reef) using our secondary charts rather than the less detailed chart plotter one. Once we were in the harbour I had to get him to come back out into the cockpit as he kept trying to direct me to anchoring spots – what he hadn’t seen was the vast fleet of boats already anchored here. We found a spot to drop the anchor and donned our headsets, Gerry set off to the bow whilst I awaited his directions at the wheel. Before giving a single direction he returned to the cockpit and said those famous words –“Houston we have a problem”. Tired and cranky I asked what the problem was – “we have no anchor, it’s gone”. Now any other time it might seem funny but all we wanted to do was to stop, luckily we have 2 spare anchors (don’t leave home without the spares!) - a Bruce and the Fortress that I wrote about a couple of blogs back. Gerry grabbed the Fortress, a couple of shackles and headed back to the bow where he proceeded to attach and then drop the anchor. We flew our Q flag, tidied up the cockpit mess and were almost immediately accosted by “Handy Andy” – the local “fix everything guy” – Coke, water, ice, boat cleaning, laundry, fuel, tours and anything else you may desire he can get or supply. We asked for some water to wash the boat down with and for the customs officers to check us in. Andy returned with Customs first and we jumped the hoops to make them happy, they were polite and efficient required no money but were open to “Gifts” – beer, rum, cigars etc. We found out that we had to then go to immigration to clear there as well. Gerry did this whilst I waited for Andy to return with the water – there are 2 types of water – one suitable for drinking and one for washing boat / clothing etc. we got the right stuff for cleaning the boat. Immigration cost $45 which wasn’t too bad and the visas are for 90 days – not that we plan on being here that long. We cracked open a couple of cans of coke and had just taken the first sip when Gerry said he saw a boat moving out behind our boat, Oh no he didn’t – what he saw was us drifting as the wind had changed direction and clocked the boat around, lifting the anchor. In our “anchor confusion” we had done what the cruising guide Guru clearly states not to do – we had anchored in the direction that all the boats were pointing when we arrived instead of anchoring into the prevailing Easterly winds. The funny thing was we had talked about the anchoring direction just prior to our arrival so it was a stupid mistake, luckily it was one that was quickly and easily remedied. Once the anchor was reset Gerry headed off for a sleep whilst I made sure we didn’t drift again and played open and close the hatches as several rain showers went through. We have speculated what happened to the missing anchor and we think that the pin holding the swivel to which the anchor is attached came loose and the swivel and anchor just dropped off the bow into the water somewhere en route. We found the offending pin in the anchor locker. A second option is that we have caused the wrath of the weather gods to explode by facing down and progressing in all these rotten weather systems that keep being thrown our way and the Gods have exacted their price – 1 anchor! The third option is that Davey Jones needed it for his locker – we feel certain that it won’t be recovered from there as the depth of the water we were crossing was into the thousands of feet, Davey’s need is obviously greater than ours! When all is said and done we are going to have to buy a new anchor when we get somewhere that sells them because at the rate of 1 lost anchor every 2 months we are going to be anchorless by the time we get to Panama.We took the dink into shore in the evening, having a quick ride around the harbour to find where we could tie up, eventually finding the dinghy dock at the “marina”. We then walked the 100 feet to the closest bar/ restaurant, which happened to be be at the “marina” and enjoyed a couple of drinks and a fish meal there, it was a very pleasant end to the otherwise trial some day. We managed to have a chat with a couple of expats who seem to have made Luperon their home ( barflies!) and found out a few gems of important local knowledge about places to go and ones to avoid so tomorrow we will go off exploring and hopefully we will find the internet café and I can up load this blog..

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Friday 5th January

At Sea

We spent the day cleaning up the boat, both inside and out. Washing off all the salt in the cockpit and cleaning the glass enclosure, it certainly made for a less sticky environment. The weather forecast was telling us that the winds would be 15 knots in the late afternoon and dropping overnight for our passage, so based on this we decided to leave for Luperon (Dominican Republic) around 16.30hrs, hopefully arriving there at sunrise. To begin with the seas were very lumpy as we had to bash into them for the first 2 miles but the wind was fine. Then we turned onto our route and the winds grew and grew, and the seas whilst coming onto our beam managed to multiply and grow also. We put out a small amount of jib and motor sailed, holding on at times for grim death. We had the wind indicator showing up to 31 knots and at one point a wave hit us that was so huge it went over the top of the boat swamping us, thank goodness the “glass enclosure” held up even if everything, including the pair of us, inside were drenched. Not to put too fine a point on it I have to say it was a horrid night, not one we want to repeat –EVER

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Thursday 4th January



Big Sandy Cay,
Turks & Caicos Islands


21 11.7 N
71 15.5 W

We spent a very restless night, both of us worried that we might drift back onto one of the surrounding coral heads – it was a very nerve wracking experience, consequently both of us were up and dressed almost before the sun came up. The weather wasn’t looking too good for the day but we decided to go ahead with our plan for the day and set off for Big Sandy Cay – a short hop away of only 30 nautical miles. We began by picking our way out through the coral heads and then followed the cruising guide recommendation heading towards Fish Cays and then on to Big Sandy Cay. As it was overcast we had to be especially careful as the coral wasn’t showing up very well. Once clear of the anchorage we then had to thread our way through bars of elkhorn coral which run across the proposed route. We did this with great success and a whole lot more luck than we like to admit to. In the cruising guide the author makes mention of a mast that sticks up out of the reef, it was clearly visible and a heart stopping reminder that we too could be that unlucky. I should have taken a picture of it as it was a strange sight in the middle of nowhere but I was too terrified to take my eyes away from our own progress to take pictures. We were greatly relieved to clear the reef and finally hit an unrecordable water depth however at about the same time we had to make a turn for our next waypoint and it took us directly into the sea swell – there would be no sailing today! As we made the turn we began to wonder if we had made the right choice to leave the relative safety of the anchorage, we were pounding into the seas and being smashed into the troughs between the waves, a lot of the waves were higher than our boat and that isn’t a good thing. At this point it was a choice of whether to continue on or turn back. Knowing that we would have to negotiate the reef and coral heads if we turned back we elected to continue on and spent an extremely uncomfortable day bashing our way across to Big Sandy Cay arriving late afternoon. We did see a pod of very light colored dolphins playing in the waves and we bet that they were having more fun than we were. On arriving at Big Sandy Cay we found a nice spot to anchor, having our choice of anywhere as we were the only ones there and sat waiting to see how bad the documented “roll” was, after a while we decided that it was pretty mild and we didn’t even need a bridle out. We watched the sunset and discussed when the best time to leave for the Dominican Republic would be, our cruising guide recommends an overnight trip – we are holding judgment until we see what the weather is like in the morning.

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Wednesday 3rd January




Big Ambergris Cay
Turks & Caicos Islands


21 19.3 N
71 39.0 W

I think we were the only idiots awake in the anchorage this morning at 06.30 hrs when we hauled in the anchor and set out on our day sail to Big Ambergris Cay no one else in the bay seemed to be stirring. The sun was just rising as we headed out of the anchorage and I took pictures to prove that I was up – however they look just like the sun set pictures so you really wouldn’t know the difference. The day started out well we were able to fly our reefed jib and knock the motor back to almost nothing for the first 3 hours and then the wind clocked around within 30 degrees of our bow and we cannot point the boat that high so we had to put the jib away and crank the motor back up. Then to make matters worse we had to change course slightly which put the wind even further round on our bow so we definitely couldn’t sail, the wind also picked up and was howling around us at 24 knots. We then had to bash into the wind and sea for a further7 hours until we arrived at Big Ambergris Cay, our stopping point for the night. The cruising guide book tells you to arrive at this anchorage before 17.00hrs as you have to weave your way through “visible coral heads” to the anchorage point. Well we arrived just on 17.00hrs, the sun was on its way down as Gerry took up “spotter duty” on the bow and I took the helm and followed his directions using the 2 way head sets that we use for anchoring. We managed to hit one coral head briefly – a small bounce which registered no depth change on the depth sounder, thank goodness it was Gerry doing the spotting otherwise all hell would have erupted! Other than that we had no problem and set our anchor just as the sun was disappearing into the horizon behind the clouds. There is only one other boat here, anchored inshore of us so it was difficult to know exactly where the best anchorage space is – we hope it’s where we are! Anyway we have a heap of chain out and hopefully the wind will die down a bit tonight as the last thing we want is to drift amongst these coral heads. Everything in the cockpit managed to get sea spay on it today so we are hoping that it rains during the night to wash some of the salt off, it really is unpleasant having everything sticky with salt and we don’t want to use our precious fresh water supply to wash down the boat. Gerry is checking out the weather forecast for tomorrow as we are going to try and get to Big Sand Cay by early afternoon and then take off for an overnight sail toward Luperon in the Dominican Republic - let’s see what tomorrow brings as we first have to negotiate our way out through the coral heads to clear the Ambergris Cays.

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