Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Adventures in Medicine

About 4 weeks ago I slammed my elbow down pretty hard on the deck trying to uncleat a line. Ouch. It hurt for awhile and then it didn't but in the meantime I got a bulge on my elbow the size of an egg. Didn't really hurt but looked bad and was uncomfortable. So, we strolled down to the local hospital/emergency room. For any of you who play Silent Hill . . . 'nuff said. We waited for nearly an hour in a hallway. Whatever process there was seemed completely at random. I made eye contact with the guy who I assumed was the doctor a few times but he just smiled and walked on in his surgical head gear, jeans and sandals. I was about to stand up and say, "Quierno vera un doctor!" when he waved me into an 'office' that had random people wandering about. I showed him my elbow and tried to tell him that it happend about a month ago. Apparently I don't know the word for 'month' and was probably telling him that his mother did this to me.

Well, he got over that and speaking a little English asked me if I was Americano or Canadian. How did he suspect I wasn't from Luperon? I signed my name into a ledger he had and then he motioned me to the examining section of the office which was an exam table and a little moveable partition. (We figured the operating room was outside where the light was better.) At this point he went for the biggest needle in his arsenal (has the US ever invaded the Dominican Republic? I really have to get my history done up front.) Well, with the needle nicely inserted into my elbow he then extracted an alarming amount of red fluid. Nice. All fixed! Looks like a normal elbow again.

Price? Zero! And no forms to fill out. Imagine how long I would have been filling stuff out in America. Of course there they wouldn't have been mopping the floor with a dead rat but there's always tradeoffs!

The doctor was actually very good and everyone was very patient with the non-spanish speaking patient. I suppose if I needed open heart surgery they would have moved me to somewhere outside!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shopping in Puerto Plata

We were all set! We made arrangements with Jiamie on Sunday and reserved him and his van for a Monday morning trip into Puerto Plata - just over an hour drive from Luperon. Bellagio (Kerry and Kathy) and us agreed to meet ashore at 8:30 and Jiamie said he would be waiting for us. Looking forward to this trip to a new bigger city with a local who also speaks English.

Once ashore on Monday though things changed. No Jiamie. No van. A gentleman who I think said his name is Joe who no habla ingles started explaining the situation. We understood ‘Puerto Plata’ - no Jiamie (obvious) - and Jiamie bambino infermo (Jiamie’s baby is sick). So Joe with a regular sedan car was to be our driver for the day. Hmmmmm.

He found a nice guy at the marina who was working on a huge catamaran to interpret. After lots of back and forth we finally relayed the message that we could not go on the trip without a van since we were buying lots and lots of groceries and maybe an outboard or Honda generator or two (just kidding about the two). Joe said ok and asked us to wait a couple minutes. Sure enough in less than 10 minutes he returned with a guagua driver - Jentzy, with his van.

Jentzy also didn’t speak any ingles but what the hey we had our english/spanish dictionaries with us. Jentzy agreed to the same price as Jiamie (1500 pesos or about $45) for the day. How tough could it be? We all piled in and off we went toward Luperon from the marina. Jentzy drove around a couple of side streets, said - un minuto, walked into a store, then back to the van. We drove around a bit more until coming to our friend at the Marina Store. This guy - Joy - fast talked us the other day about all Americanos are his friends, just look at his store, don’t need to buy, etc. Scott bought a box of 25 cigars for $15 and a bottle of rum for $6. Now we were friends forever. Joy quickly interpreted for Jenzty.

Joy said that Jentzy asks if he could have 500 up front for gas. No problem. We told Joy all the places we wanted to get to - computer store, grocery store, outboard motor store, etc. Jentzy said, no problem. After a quick stop at the gas station in town, off we go to Puerto Plata!

Although we never really had a conversation with Jentzy he knew how to show us around town and get us where we wanted to go. First stop was the computer store (needing printer cartridges, cds, etc) and he drove right to it. Puerto Plata is a bustling town compared to Luperon with narrow winding streets and lots of traffic, not necessarily always going in the same direction. Having a driver already seemed like a good idea.

This photo is of the 'highway' between Lupero and Imbert- a road we traveled last week. It looks amazingly like the roads we took on this trip!

Next stop - some coffee and breakfast for Kerry and Kathy who hadn’t eaten yet. Kathy said to Jentzy - ahhhh cafe? Somehow we stopped at a store that was a paper store with cards and wrapping paper and such. Hmm. It was actually a bookstore with very few books. I should have been suspicious when the sign said ‘libreria’ which I thought meant library. Starbucks at Barnes and Nobles it was not. So this time Kathy said - CAFE (louder) and Jentzy said, ‘Ah - ok.’ and took us to a cafe. I wondered if this bookstore was on the tour whether we wanted it or not since Jentzy handed Kathy a business card of the place.

The cafe was very nice where the proprietor spoke english very well and again helped with interpretations and insights into town. Jentzy had a large meal (part of the deal is to also pay for the driver’s meals) of which he gave me a taste of the ‘carne’ - still not sure what meat it was but the proprietor said something about Jentzy ordering a big meal then asked if I wanted goat also. HMM. No gracia! Although my taste was very tasty.

We asked if there was any baseball (beisbol) happening in the summer and found out no professional teams are playing until October. Makes sense. We are determined to find some kind of game to go to. Apparently there was someone playing a game in Luperon last week.

Trying to include Jentzy in the conversation Scott asked him if he was married and if he had any kids. Our cafe friend (can’t remember his name) interpreted and said that Jentzy has two children. Scott asked, and how many wives. Everybody laughed and the answer was one, but the cafe friend said -’but it’s different here’ and dropped the subject. I was tempted to ask - and how many girlfriends? - but chickened out. We still had lots of shopping to do.

Next stop was to the outboard store. Jentzy only had to stop once to clarify directions. We were surprised when we pulled up to a pescaderia (a fish market). Sure enough after a few minuto we were invited into the back room where Jose does his Yamaha outboard business. Kerry was doing the shopping this time so sat in the chair opposite the desk opposite Jose. Other furniture in the room included a single beg (nobody sat down there) and a refrigerator. Kerry looked over the price list and Jose made a couple phone calls. Kerry could have the 15 horse 2-cycle outboard in 20 Dominican days. HMMM! We each took Jose’s card which has pictures of fish on it and Kerry told him he was going to think about it. Ok. Although the price was the best he’d seen.

Well the solar panel place was next to the supermarket so that was the next stop. Kathy and I began filling our baskets while Scott and Kerry walked over to the solar panel store. The store had solar panels in the window but the store had one or two of everything that could have fallen off an electronics truck. The wattage of the panels was too small (only 50) for too much ($600). So no luck there. More research to be done on panels, although on our drive to Puerto Plata Kathy and I saw a billboard advertising them in Santo Domingo.

We grocery shopped at two of the larger stores and got almost everything on our lists. It was about 1:30 p.m. and Jentzy asks, ‘to Luperon?’ No, we say, to lunch - pizza! He took us to the best pizza in town and I believe it. Then adios Puerto Plata and back to Luperon. It had been pouring rain while eating pizza and the streets were swimming with streams of muddy water. By the time we got back to the marina it was almost 4 p.m. After paying Jentzy and saying thank you and goodbye, we had a quick beer at the marina then back to the mother ship with all our purchases.

What a day. I was exhausted from shopping and touring and hadn’t taken one photo! Go figure. It was fun to travel with Bellagio but also work to try to accomplish buying those needed things in a town you don’t know. Next time we just might rent a car and take several days to explore. Santiago and Santo Domingo are on our list and maybe Sammy Sosa’s home town of San Pedro De Marcoris.

Today is a boat day. Lots of rain water collected from the past 2 days so laundry is definitely on the list. The sun has even come out this morning so after breakfast (we got bacon yesterday-we think) I’ll be lining our lifelines with clean clothes.

Until the next ‘adventure’ here’s hoping you’re enjoying your shopping and laundry days.

Scott Observes-
This is the first time I’ve had an intense shot of homesickness. Not the missing of friends and family. . . that’s pretty constant and I deal with it some days better than others. This was just homesick for sweet home Chicago where the buildings are straight and true and the politicians are not. The building trades here depress me. None of the buildings we’ve seen so far in either Luperon or Puerto Plata could have EVER looked good even on the day they were completed. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too fussy but crooked shingles, drooping roofs, and haphazard brickwork is just getting to me! Maybe it’s because it all looks like I would have built it! All part of the charm I’m sure. Maybe the haphazard building goes back to the fact that you never have to heat these things. As long as you keep the rain out it’s as good as it gets. Good news is that the people are mellow and friendly and mostly eager to help those of us who are language challenged.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some sights of Luperon

Going to the Dentist

Going to the dentist seems like a pretty mundane thing. But, when you are thousands of miles from home in a basically third world country it gives one pause. I popped one of my crowns off the other day and this needed fixing. I found the local dentist's office and went in. The place was fine. A little rougher looking than the architecture we are used to in the states but clean and friendly. The dentist himself seemed to have a bit of German accent and seemed a little too interested in my fillings but that's probably just me. The tower of tools thay we are used to seeing next to the chair looked familiar and then I realized that it looked familiar because it was very much like the one my dentist had. . . when I was a kid in the 50's!

The dentist was able to clean up the crown and glue it back on. He checked my other teeth and recommened replacing a couple of filings (see?). Cost? 300 pesos which is a little under $10. I think I will get more work done here. He said in general dental work is about 40% what it is in the states. Makes me wonder if dental care in the states is expensive BECAUSE so many people have dental insurance.

We'll probably learn more about health care as we travel about. I think there is a false conception out there that quality health care only exists in the states but it may be more true that that is where the expensive quality health care lives but there is simple quality elsewhere.

I met and talked with Bruce Van Sant yesterday. He is the author of The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South which is THE bible for making your way to windward through the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. He lives in Luperon now after years and uncountable miles cruising these very waters. He gave me a pretty stern reprimand for coming in on the day we did but I'm still not sure what I did wrong. I'm giving him a proof copy of my book soon for him to review now that he is hopefully done hollering at me.

This is how they serve the cervasa down here. 22 oz bottles of El Presidente. They're cold and they bring you either a bamboo or clay carafe to put it in much like one would do with a chilled bottle of wine. 22 oz for 80 pesos. . . that's almost two beers for about $2.60. Beats the hell out of the $4 Bahamian beer.

Later today we are going to take a gwagwa which is a local bus to the next little town where there lives a cash machine. We'll see.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Living Large in Luperon

It was a very difficult decision but today we decided to stay in Luperon for hurricane season. We both are eager to see more of the Caribbean islands now that we are this far. But we would have to hi-tail it all the way down to Trinidad to feel safe during the season. We would zip through the islands so fast (baring any breakdowns!) there wouldn’t be time to enjoy them. So staying in the safest hurricane hole in the world is where we’ll be. Having made the decision opens up many possibilities: renting a car and touring the island, taking local busses to nearby towns, Scott working on his ‘dog and pony show’ for his book, Sue redoing the teak which is screaming for attention, having visitors (like my sister Andrea) since it will be easier to schedule a flight to a place that we know we will be at...... and so on.

Cost of living here is very reasonable(~32 pesos to the dollar and a 22 oz EL Presidente is about 80 pesos) and we will actually save money. Maybe those solar panels are in our nearer future now. Learning spanish is high on the list and already we have negotiated successfully with local merchants. Of course this dialogue was half in spanish and half in english. We find that people are VERY anxious to help you with their language if you try and speaking english VERY LOUD does not count as trying! My most useful phrase is 'Como se dice. . .' ('How do you say' - and then I point or wave my arms about wildly) What was the big purchase? A drum!

Scott joined some other cruisers last night at the Puerto Blanco Marina for a 'jam session'. What types of songs do 50 and 60 year old cruising guitar and flute players play? A little Kumbya and Margaritaville all mixed into one and played at about 1/10 proper tempo. Quite an experience. Hopefully we’ll find some local musicians and be able to really jam, if we’re not too white.

We’re heading back to the boat after having lunch at Capt. Steve’s Place run by an American Ex. Pat. - a wonderful cheeseburger in paradise -plus a couple of El Presidente’s. Life is good - good and short. But we have much to learn about this country and all the others yet to explore. High on our list is to find a baseball game (and maybe some fresh infielders for the Cubs). Somebody’s got to do it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What’s it all about Alfie?

To quote a movie and song from the 60’s. It’s a question to ponder more than once, I think. And so as I sit here in Puerto Blanco Harbor in Luperon, Dominican Republic and I ask myself - What’s it all about?

I don’t have an answer but I still think it’s an important question.

I got an email from my sister Cindy today. It was great to hear from her. She was glad to know that we eventually got to the DR safely though our sail was more than she wanted to think about. I understand. She told me what was happening with her crew (family) and ended the message with - miss you.

Indeed. I miss her too. I miss my step-daughter and son-in-law. I miss my brother and both my sisters. I miss my nieces and nephews. Ultimately I miss all my friends and relatives. At the same time I don’t feel totally unattached. It’s true that there are times when we can’t communicate because Enee Marie is nowhere near civilization. An internet signal or telephone is nowhere to be found. Still I think about them and know they’re thinking about me/us.

So why in the hell are we out in the middle of no-man’s land or sea as the case may be? What’s it all about Alfie?

It’s about living a dream but still maintaining closeness with those you love. It’s about discovering something extraordinary about the world and yourself and still trying to stay as close as you can with those you love. It’s about still being curious and inquisitive and explorative (maybe a word) in a world that often makes itself out to be rather predictable, at least in the good ol’ USofA.

I know that Scott really misses Leah and that Leah really misses Scott. They are so close and this distance is very difficult for both of them.

How do you maintain a close relationship when you are many miles apart. No simple answer here. Daily communication is not possible at this time. Although if Leah and Jason get an ssb radio we could be in constant communication. Perhaps that is something for us to work on.

We began this journey not having all the answers up front. It would be impossible to do so. We knew there were going to be difficulties along the way. We hope that we can find ways to make it work. Maybe Scott and I are being rather selfish. We are interested in sailing, cruising, exploring while we can. We know this won’t last forever. Already we question how long we can physically do this. And everyday we miss those back home. But for whatever reason we both have this adventure bug that keeps us wanting to continue on. Life isn’t forever and I suppose it is what you make it.

So what’s it all about Alfie?

We’re still wonder. And we still want to explore the possibilities.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Anniversary!


Luperon 1954.02N 7056.92W

Last week when we sat in Provo - Turks and Caicos, we realized that our anniversary was coming up. Nineteen years on May 14th. My how time flies. So where would we be on our anniversary this year, we wondered. Maybe Luperon.........where we would go out to eat and have a nice dinner in celebration.

As we’ve all learned by now it’s impossible to know where we’ll be exactly until we get there. As cruisers like to say, ‘our plans are written in jello.’ It turned out that we sat in Provo an extra day waiting for squally weather to pass, got to 6 hills and then the next day to Big Sandy where we waited another day for better wind direction. It all made sense at the time and we were making good decisions based on the information we had.

So on May 14, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. we were heading south on the Atlantic Ocean to Luperon. What a gorgeous sail - calm seas and just enough wind to go about 5 knots. We would be in Luperon 16 hours later and would have our anniversary dinner on the 15th. Close enough. For the first 10 hours we were enjoying our travel on the big sea. The phosphorescence and millions of stars were our companions, as well as 2 other cruising boats.

I don’t like to discuss too much in detail what we are looking forward to doing in a place until we get there. I find it dangerous to say, ‘I can’t wait until we get there so we laundry, find the internet, have a beer, go to a restaurant, see how beautiful the mountains are, etc. I didn’t always think this way. In fact, part of the fun of travel is anticipating what your destination will be like and what you’ll do once there.

With cruising the danger lies in letting your expectations take over. That’s when you get narrow vision and start making decisions that get you into trouble like - ‘let’s not reef, we won’t get there in time’ -or- ‘we have to steer 1650 no matter what the waves are doing, otherwise we’ll never get there’ - and so on. We try not to have narrow vision and I think we’re getting better at thinking about the many options at hand.

And so as we dodged several squalls by reading them on the radar then sailing off course far enough to go around them in the late evening of May 14th going into May 15th, we felt pretty good about our ability to deal with the situation at hand. We were even learning a new skill of using radar to track rain and play the game of sailing in another direction. Kinda fun in a way.

We never expected to get the ridiculously sustained high winds and confused seas that we did. But then things happen that way in life sometimes or in other words, shit happens. Indeed. The good news is that we did make good decisions during the whole ordeal. We did double reef the main and rolled in about half the jib before the 30 to 40 to 50 knots came. (Thankfully we did rig this system where even I could reel in the jenny using the winch. No way either of us could have pulled that sucker in by hand with these strong winds.) We (Scott really) did steer into, around, and through the high seas the best way possible. It felt at times that Enee would roll 900 degrees but we never got knocked down.

So did I ever think I was going to die? one might ask. I can honestly say, NO. (Well, actually when I steered for about 10 minutes while Scott put on dry clothes and got warmed up a little I was a bit worried that one of these 12 footers was going to roll us over. I need to be braver and steer more in these conditions. Hopefully that opportunity won’t happen too soon.) I was so caught up in the moment (which lasted about 10 hours) that the thought of not making it didn’t come into play. If something major had broken, that would have been a different story.

I learned that our boat is sturdy, we can make good decisions under stress (if the seas ever got to where we couldn’t handle them we would have hove-to or altered course to head west), and we can depend on each other even during these crazy times. Scott steered for about 8 hours straight (with quick pee breaks) and I was communications lady climbing over the companionway board to the radio below as we were directed in by the friendly people of Luperon. We had to close up the companionway so that water didn’t go below as we took many crashing waves into the cockpit. The cabin was amazingly dry below except for my comings and goings.

One of my radio communications was to Chris Parker, our ssb weatherman. At the beginning of his show when he asks, “Are there any emergency or priority traffic, come now...” I immediately said, “Enee Marie.” Chris acknowledged me and I reported that we were currently in consistent 40 knot winds with very high seas, not at all what he predicted, and did he know how long this ‘squall’ was going to last. He said it would continue through Thursday. It was Tuesday. Not what I wanted to hear!

Is the boat for sale? one might ask. NO. Do we want to have that experience again? NO. Will we be ready if it does happen again? I hope so. It might not seem so horrible the second time. Maybe.....

I did very much enjoy our dinner last night with our cruising friends who also had the same crazy sail in. I especially enjoyed sitting in a comfy rocking chair where I was in control of the rocking! Happy 19th. What will happen for our 20th I wonder.

The above photo is of one of may swallows here in Bahai Blanco Harbor near Luperon where we are anchored. We are enjoying being in the friendly confines of this beautiful harbor. We especially like these birds because they eat bugs and mosquitos. We've been able to keep the hatches open for the breeze and no pests yet!!!

NOTE: Thanks Leah for helping me to be able to make my own posts. I love your father even after 19 years but I also like to keep my own identity. You are a wizard with computers!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On to Luperon!

We checked out of Provo on Wednesday 5/9 (another $15) intending to sail out across the Caicos Banks early the next morning. Well, the wind wouldn’t allow that so we stayed put another day. Light winds on Friday allowed us to motor/main all the way to a little anchorage called 6 hills at (21 27.7 N 71 38.1 W)

Now then, along the way we let out a hand line for fishing. This is simply fish line (~100 pound test) with a leader and cedar plug. At the end I wound the line around a bungy for some give and tied it to a cleat. At some point I realized that the bungy looked more stretched out and looking back there was something back there on my line! Holy crap! I didn’t expect this to work. Now what? We slowed down and I hauled in the line with gloves and what do I find at the end but a very toothy looking Barracuda! Luckily he jumped off the hook before I had to ask Sue to do something! Funny. I put the line back out and we continued on and sure enough. . . yes, I caught the very same stupid fish about 5 minutes later. This time I hauled him on board and held him down while removing the hook. That’s enough fishing for today!

This is my favorite kind of anchorage. Just a nice windward shore and nothing to run into behind me. Deep sand bottom. Nothing on these little islands except hundreds of chatty birds. They’re black with little white caps on their heads. The seem to nest among the many rocky crevices on the island. The 4 boat fleet of Bellagio, Puddle Jumper, GeWill and Enee Marie are still together. Tomorrow we will just make a little jump to Big Sand Cay which is about 25 miles to the south east. Wind is supposed to be less than 10 knots so no matter which direction we should be able to sail or motor that little hop.


WRONG. After going beyond the point of no return we were stuck with more like 17-20 knots and right out of the south east. I could motor sail 90 degrees and 180 degrees but nothing in between, Rough seas and a lot of pounding with speed being scrubbed down to less than 3 knots at times. Exactly the conditions where I typically stay put. Well, you go with the information you have at the time. What was going to be a pleasant 4-5 hour day turned into a 9 hour battaan death march! Our fleet mostly motored straight into it with bare poles. Not us! We had full main and reefed jib pulled in tight to get more speed and had the motor cranking as we tacked a mile or so on either side of our rumb line. Late in the afternoon we realized that the day was shot no matter what and we might as well conserve diesel. We turned off the iron beast, let out the jib full and had a pleasant final 2-3 hours slowly tacking back and forth to
Big Sandy Cay (21 11.6 N 71 15.1 W)

Again we had our hand line out all day but no hits. This time I hung the middle of the bungy on the lifeline with a close pin so that if I got a strike I’d see and maybe hear the close pin snap. Nothing. As we approached the shallower water near Big Sandy Sue said maybe we’ll get a fish as the depths decrease. Upon saying this the depth sounder finally started showing the bottom. I said, OK, come on fish! Swear to Newton, right then the close pin snapped! I hauled in the line but there was nothing there except some rather large bite marks on my cedar plug. Maybe best I didn’t hook what ever that was!

From Big Sandy the idea is to get a decent weather window to allow you to leave around late afternoon to arrive in Luperon in the Dominican Republic early the next morning. It is about 80 miles point to point. On Sunday the wind was still mostly south. We weren’t in for another 15 hour slog straight up wind so us, Bellagio, and GeWill decide to wait one more day while Puddle Jumper headed out. We’ll meet up with them in Luperon. The Off Shore Report is predicting some north east winds for Monday night into Tuesday and that would be perfect for the run to Luperon which bears about 170 degrees from Big Sandy.

So, we have a day to explore Big Sand Cay. Again, there is nothing here except lots of birds and one of the oh so common non-working navigation lights. Beautiful long sand beach on the west side. On the east side, facing the ocean, you find all sorts of debris having washed up on shore. It’s kind of sad. It’s nearly all plastic stuff having either been tossed or fallen off of boats in the Atlantic. Plastic floats FOREVER. Plastic lasts FOREVER. This

side of the island looks like a junk yard. I found tires, a plastic
bumper off a car, nets, buckets, dish strainers, you name it. I suppose Miami beach would look just like this if there wasn’t somebody coming around and cleaning it up. We walked along for awhile and picked up a few shells. Some people collect sea glass. This is broken hunks of glass that has been constantly tumbled about in the shallows until the edges are nice and rounded. Apparently there is a market for this stuff for making jewelry and such. To me it looks like what it is. . . broken glass.

OK, tomorrow we hope for the north-east winds and a pleasant night run to Luperon.

The Night we Never Expected

One of the most common questions we get about our adventuring lifestyle is, “What sorts of horrible storms and seas have you been in”? We pride ourselves in not having any of these stories as we try very hard to just not be out there when the weather goes to hell. We are very conservative sailors. We can be because we have no particular time constraints on us. If we have to wait in a place for a week for a weather window, so be it. Yes, even Captain Snappy can wait!

That having been said we waited an extra day at Big Sand Cay to make the over night, 80 mile trip to Luperon in the Domincan Republic. The wind was to be easterly maybe switching to a little north easterly overnight. Seas 2-4 feet. This was according to Chris Parker Weather Net, NOAA off shore report, and Virtual Buoy. We are good to go and so around 4:00 pm Enee Marie, Bellagio, and GeWill weighed anchor and headed south. As night fell we could see lightning around the horizon but we had been seeing that every night for the past two weeks. No big deal. The wind came up enough for us to pure sail and we were mighty happy sailors. Around midnight we got a call from GeWill telling us that his motor had shut down. The three boats chatted back and forth for several hours discussing possible solutions. Around 2 AM we got into a bit of a squall. We had already put the second reef in the mainsail and rolled up about half the jib. As the wind piped up to over 30 knots we were pleased with how well Enee still handled. We were sailing on a close reach and not heeled very much. When the wind went over 40 knots she became hard to handle and I realized that I had too much jib out. It was right then that GeWill announced that there was a freighter coming down on us and we better keep an eye on him. Now I’m a little squeezed. I’d like to fall off the wind and run down hill for a little or even heave-to while I wait for the wind from this squall to pass but that would take me into the path of the freighter. I could tack and pass the freighter red to red but it’s going to be a violent one! We decide to ease through a tack with the engine on so there is no chance to get in irons. We accomplish the tack but at night with no landmarks it is very disorienting. Yeah, we went all the way around and backwinded the jib. Pushed the boat back through the wind with more engine and settled in on a new course with less pressure on the jib. All this time the wind is shrieking at over 40 knots. With the freighter gone we reeled in the jib and decided to just motor sail back to our original course of about 165 degrees. Certainly the wind is going to start to back down anytime now.

Let’s cut to the end. It didn’t. It built the rest of the night and into the next day. You know what effect that has on the seas. By daybreak the seas were very confused and consistently 8 feet with the occasional 10-12 footer. Wind was steady in the 40’s gusting into the 50’s. I could look right across at the top of some waves from standing in the cockpit. I tried to steer straight up the side of a coming big wave and then turn to go not straight down the back side so as to not bury the bow. The problem was that at the bottom of that wave here comes another one and now I’m nearly sideways to that one. Yeah, the seas were high AND closely spaced. Eight foot sea swell is not that bad you just sail up and down and gentle hills. Eight foot wind chop is another story.

The whole time we are waiting for something on the boat to break. All the gerry cans on deck have tipped over though still tied on, the dishes have sailed off of their shelves. All the three ring binders on one shelf are now on the deck. I’m at the wheel hoping that the batteries are not tumbling around the engine room like bingo balls.

It rained hard at times in the morning and with the wind this was a sideways face stinging rain. Some waves would break right at the hull and then you get the bonus bucket full of sea water in the face.


The wind had driven us about 2 miles to the west off of our original course. It is up wind to make up that loss and that is right into the seas. We start thinking maybe we could find another anchorage to the west of Luperon just to hole up and make Luperon the next day. Plus I have no idea how wild the actual pass into Luperon is libel to be in these conditions. Upon talking with a marina in Luperon on the VHF we are told that conditions are not that bad near the entrance and we should just keep coming. A pilot (Handy Andy - a really nice guy!) will come out to lead us through the shoals. We pounded along at about 3 knots or less when struck by a large wave over the last 3-4 hours. You hate to even look at the gps because it seems like you are standing still and you’re cold, wet, tired (zero sleep) and you want to go FAST and you are NOT.

We finally made the waypoint just outside the entrance to Luperon around 10 AM. I had been at the wheel since about 2 AM. Andy led us in just fine and showed us where to anchor. Andy does EVERYTHING. At our request he came back with ice and beer, another trip with the customs officials, and one more trip with our DR courtesy flag. He’ll also bring water, diesel, gas, watch your boat if you leave, arrange to have the bottom cleaned, arrange motorcycles, etc, etc. A different approach to visiting boaters than you find in the Bahamas or in Florida (except for Marathon.)! Another example is that we got a call on the VHF from the marina welcoming us and telling us of their services. Sure they are trying to sell something but that’s ok. . . boaters NEED something. If any Bahamian took this approach in Georgetown they’d be rich in two months.

We filled out some papers with customs and then we drank a couple of El Presidentes and dropped dead. Now we will go around the boat and reassess how we’ve stowed things and look for anything that may have come loose (the engine?) during our rocking and rolling.

When you logically SAY you have to be able to take care of yourself, have a well found boat and know how to sail it that’s one thing. To be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at night with worry about a freighter, 40+ knots of wind, too much sail up and lighting around the horizon you know in a very real way that you are on your own. If you dump the boat or something breaks there is NO immediate help if any ever! We were too intense with what ever we were doing at any time to be truly scared. What did we learn? We have to even better rig the boat for heavy weather. We’ll still try our darndest to not be in it but that’s, apparently, not good enough. I also learned what a beast this boat is! We roughed her up pretty good but the rig and the oil spewing old Perkins diesel brought us through alright.

We will explore Luperon for several days and make our next plan.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Big Jump

Rum Cay (23 37.8 N 74 51.9 W) to Provo in the Turks and Caicos (21 49.65 N 72 20.44 W) Friday 5/4 through Saturday 5/5

NOTE: Not a lot of pics due to time and computer connection restraints...more pics from Luperon!

Georgetown is called (by some) ‘Chicken Harbor’. There are a number of stories of people like us with every intention of sailing away to the Caribbean. They get as far as Georgetown and talk themselves out of it and head back north. Why?

I thought about this and it occurred to me that except for our dash to Portsmouth from Long Island, NY, nearly our entire trip so far had been in near coastal waters with the Coast Guard and NOAA weather close at hand. Even getting to the Bahamas only requires one 50 mile jump across the gulf stream and then you are again in water that is only 15 feet deep with if not the Coast Guard then BASRA (Bahamas Search and Rescue something or other. . . volunteers though) at the radio. You can sail in the protected waters of the Great Bahama Bank almost all the way to Georgetown down the west side of the Exumas. From Georgetown things get a little different. The islands to the south and east, Long, Rum, the Acklands, Mayaguana, are not on banks per se but sticking up in the middle of the kilometers deep ocean. No coast guard to save you. No BASRA. No NOAA weather any more. Plus, it is all to windward making the going typically slow. The big jump is to get from Georgetown to the Turks and Caicos. Now you have accomplished a ton of easting and are nearly due north of the Dominican Republic.

Well we didn’t chicken out. After waiting 3 weeks in Georgetown we then, as you have read perhaps, made it as far as Rum Cay. You could chicken out here as well as you are still only a day from Georgetown. In Rum Cay we waited 4-5 days for favorable weather. In that time a number of other boats showed up from Georgetown also waiting for a window south. On Friday we finally got that window. Wind was to be non-existent (usually it’s 20 knots from the south east) or turn and run a little light from the north. Perfect! We were the first ones out of the anchorage at first light. 5 more boats came spilling out in the next couple of hours and we all kept in communication occasionally on the VHF radio. This weather would make it possible to make a long run all the way to Mayaguana 120 miles to the south east.

The seas were still pretty rolly in the morning and we went at it with motor and main making around 4.5 knots. We raised the main once we were out away from the shoals and once again learned the same lesson. Raise the main in the flat water, not the rolling seas. We got the main halyard caught around the mast steps not once or twice but yes THREE times. Each time Scott had to undo the shackle from the sail, walk the halyard back through the lazy jack lines and whip the line free of the steps. Then rethread the line, climb back up the mast half way to the spreaders to put the halyard back on the sail. Hanging on for dear life as we rolled in the ocean swells. The third time Sue left the helm to hold the bitter end so that the halyard wouldn’t get caught again. Maybe this time we really learned our lesson. Maybe Sue should climb the mast (at a calm anchorage) and put lines through the outer edges of the steps to prevent this halyard hang up from happening. We finally got the sail up and back on course.

As the day wore on the seas settled down and the promised north wind came around. From mid afternoon into the late night we pure sailed the Atlantic Ocean. No land in sight. Nearly full moon came up around 9:00 p.m. We ended up being very close with Puddle Jumper and GeWill for most of the night. Not much talk but it is a comfort to look over and see a friendly set of running lights. What can I say. . . I’m sailing my own boat in kilometer deep water heading for another country. Making good speed and just the sound of the water slipping under the hull. Life is sometimes extra good. Wind pooped out around midnight and the sails needed a little mechanical help which we gave them.

We arrived at the southwest tip of Mayaguana around sun up. Well, that makes sense. . . 120 miles and we try to maintain 5 knots makes it 24 hours. Weather still looks good so why stop? We and others decide to press on and make the 50+ miles more south and east to Turks and Caicos. Hey...That’s a new country! Turks and Caicos is run by Great Britain. Once in those waters and after we check in we can fly our Union Jack courtesy flag. Just like Hornblower!

We can just maybe motorsail in today’s wind but it is pretty close to the nose. The bigger question is whether to enter the Sandbore Channel once we reach Providenciales (the big island of the Caicos usually called ‘Provo’ for obvious pronunciation reasons) or to anchor out along the western shore and wait until tomorrow to go inside. After discussions with others on our trail we decide to anchor out. We’ll do nothing once we arrive wherever today. The Sandbore Channel is not a huge challenge but there are shallows and coral heads to pay attention to. AND it is another 9 miles before you get to the anchorage at Sapodilla Bay. I don’t want to negotiate all that at the tail end of a 36 hour sail with no more than 2 hours sleep at any one time. Did I mention that we have to hand steer? Yeah, auto pilot went out and I sold if for parts months ago.

On our way to Provo we hear GeWill get on the VHF to announce that he had just caught a 9 foot Blue Marlin on his sailboat! He was still really excited. They took some pictures and then released it. That was on the tail end of HIS 36 hour sail as well! Wow.

We made the anchorage by what used to be called ‘The Tiki Huts’. These were left over from now defunct British TV game show (no kidding). Now in their place there seems to be a beautiful and what looks to be very exclusive resort. Oh well, no one owns the water. We anchor right in front after finding a sandy patch for the anchor amongst the rock and coral. Bellagio, a 42 foot Endeavour, followed us in about an hour later.

We’re very happy and excited. We sailed a total of 180 miles in about 36 hours. Sue and I take turns steering in two hour shifts and then switch to 3 hour shifts from 6 pm to 6 am. We’re tired but not totally beat. We had some left overs for dinner and a glass (or two) of rum to celebrate our crossing and the very nice sun set. Tomorrow we’ll go into Sapodillo Bay late morning and re-join Puddle Jumper and GeWill.

On Sunday, 5/6, we did just that and rejoined the fleet. Much celebrating ensued. . . ok too much maybe but we’re all so happy and excited. We all met on Puddle Jumper as they have the huge deck being a catamaran. We had us, Llyod & Val (Puddle Jumper), Kerry & Kathy (Bellagio), Bob and Bobby (Callisto), and Gene & Wilma (GeWill). What at silly bunch of people! I commented that we’re like a bunch of kids left home alone for the weekend. We stay up late if we want, we eat brownies for dinner if we want, wash them down with rum if we want, we shower if we want and sleep in . . . always!

On Monday we checked in with Customs. Only the captain can go ashore for this. Kerry, Gene, Llyod, and I all went in together in Gene’s dingy. Checking in was no problem and only $15. You can stay for a week without contacting immigration and we won’t be here that long we don’t think. There’s nothing around here. Town is about 7 miles from here to get anything. So, tomorrow we plan to rent a van and split it 4 ways. Then we can use the van to tote water and diesel to prepare the fleet for a Thursday or Friday departure. This is easier than trying to get the big boats into a marina for fuel here. The route from here to Luperon, Dominican Republic, is done in three hops. From Sapodilla Bay we cross the banks to either Long Island off of the coast of East Caicos, or a pair of little islands called 6 hills (three each). Next day we leave the banks and get back into the ocean for a run to Sand Cay. This is supposed to have a very nice long beach that we’ll anchor off of. From there we will be staged for about an 80 mile run to Luperon nearly due south. We hope that the easterly trades can be our friend for a change for this run.

Haircut Day:
Well, when I (Sue) found out that Kerry cuts Kathy’s hair I immediately asked if he would cut mine. Sure, he about tomorrow? I slept on the idea for a couple of days and then on Monday finally agreed to the deed. Not sure why my hair has decided to get curly at this old age (perhaps the climate) but it has and I was kind of getting used to them. However, the longer it gets, the hotter it is and I have no patience to wait until it’s long enough to put up it comes. And I am sooooooo very happy. People may not recognize me but my head is much lighter AND I think I’ve developed some superpowers. By the way, the hair on my back vanished once I jumped into the ocean. Whew!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Leaving Georgetown

Saturday 4/28 Georgetown to Calabash Bay, Long Island. (23 38.0 75 20.5)

Before leaving George Town we walked through the festivities and had some beers and checked out the scene. Many many little booths like this one were set up one against the other along the street. Kind of like Taste of Chicago but Bahamian style, mon.

FINALLY! Our shipment via our mail service people who can place orders from West Marine arrived in Georgetown on Friday. We were expecting it on Tuesday. Big note to future cruisers. Buy your stuff in the states before you go. I had this idea that places like Georgetown were more or less civilized and we’d find things along the way. No. So we place a West Marine order via our mail service people in Green Cove Springs, FL. They get us a discount. But then they have to ship it UPS or FED Ex. Regular mail takes MONTHS if you ever get it at all. Our particular package was waylaid by customs in Nassau. We finally found this out more or less by accident or we’d still be waiting for it to arrive. We had to pay a couple of additional taxes AND if we wanted it to go on a plane rather than a slow boat it would be another $25. All together the ransom came to $75. What can you do. You pay. When we looked at the invoice we see that we spent around $350 in boat parts and with the shipping and the ransom another $275!!! Forget about getting stuff shipped to you out here. If you can’t fix it with what you got or find it in some god forsaken hardware store it’s going to stay broke!

Almost, but this is not our boat! Crossroads - another Endeavour 40- belongs to Glenn and Michelle. They've sailed for 2 years going all the way to Trinidad. We met them in George Town and really enjoyed their company. They're heading back north and will resume normal jobs and lives back in the states.

One of the things we bought was some new line for the roller furling and for properly rigging a second reef for the main. These two projects came out perfect and, to our surprise, we got to test them out more than we wanted to today!

There is no way around easterly winds this time of year you just look for light winds and expect to motor sail into them. The path from here to the Caribbean is mostly east and some south. The winds on this day were to be around 14 knots from nearly due east. Maybe a little south. Still that could be ok for the first part of the trip from Georgetown to the northern tip of Long Island. From there we’d see if we could motor sail to Rum Cay which would be directly up wind or stay on our course and go to Conception Cay. We can sail about 50 degrees on this run and maybe have enough angle to pure sail. We pure sailed ok! The 14 knots was more like 24 and building. We had the main reefed down and then the front sail as well. Rail is in the water occasionally and the crew is not happy. Luckily the seas were not high at all so we had good speed. In talking with a catamaran that was a few miles ahead of us we learn that the wind around the point had built to 25-28 knots with higher gusts. We’ve just finished sitting on our butts for three weeks in Georgetown and not really looking for this much adventure. The plan mutates again. We decide to tack and tuck in to Calabash Bay on the northwest side of Long Island. Our overall plan was to make Rum and then the next day go overnight the 100+ miles to Mayaguana. That plan is now on hold as we expect some nasty weather in the south east bahamas starting Tuesday and that’s cutting it a little too close.

So, seems like the wind has dropped off considerably in the evening. We’ll try to have an early start tomorrow and once again see if we can make either Conception or Rum.

Sunday, April 29, 2007 Calabash Bay, Long Island to......????

The alarm went off at 5:30 am - enough time to make ready to sail and maybe listen to Chris (the weatherman) as we get underway. Scott gets up first, of course, and as he looks out the companionway I hear him say, “Uh oh.” WHAT? “There’s lightening on the horizon.” Okay, for sure we’ll wait to hear Chris’ weather report before heading out. Time for coffee and some of Mom’s raisin bread. Reception was horrible for the 6:30 weather report. We couldn’t hear Chris at all. The skies are brightening but what we see is not very promising. Dark clouds continue to roll all around us. No rain though, yet. Well now what to do. Haven’t seen lightening since earlier but we decide to wait a little longer. Might as well wait until Chris’ 8:00 am report.

In the meantime Scott hails Puddle Jumper, the catamaran traveling ahead of us yesterday. They sailed to Conception Island and were making a plan for the day as well. Scott asked if they heard Chris today. Val said their ssb isn’t working but their satellite weather fax says that today will be about the same as yesterday. Hmmm....

Okay. The wind is down significantly from yesterday and the storm clouds seem to be moving away from us so let’s just go and see how it is out there. If we miss Chris’ 8:00 am report he’s on again at 9:30 am and then..........WAIT A MINUTE. TODAY IS SUNDAY. CHRIS IS OFF ON SUNDAYS. We looked at each other and said, “LOOSERS.” And we felt even stupider to have gotten up at 5:30 only to wait around 2 1/5 hours for nothing to happen. Now we know - Chris’ reception sucks on Sundays - because he’s not on!!!

As it turned out we motor sailed the 25 miles to Rum Cay with moderate wind and waves although pretty much in our face. It sprinkled on us for about half an hour but the high cumulus clouds that were building all around us never came over us. We had the main reefed and the front sail pulled out only to the side stays and hauled in tight with both jib sheets. This let us point into the wind pretty well and only had to tack a couple times to make our mark at Rum Cay. We maneuvered our way into the marina (lots of coral heads here though the channel is actually marked with buoy sticks) where we took on fuel then found a spot to anchor near Puddle Jumper - they had just arrived from Conception Island.

The anchorage area here is large and shallow. Fair protection from east winds but the waves tend to wrap around the eastern shore creating an uncomfortable swell. That is, the boat on anchor will point into the east winds but there is a swell entering the anchorage from the south east making the boat roll uncomfortably. The solution is to rig a swell bridle. Tie a long line (2 boat lengths) with a rolling hitch to the anchor chain. Let out several feet of chain and take the line back to the stern of the boat and then to a winch. Now you can crank on the winch and pull the stern around until the boat points into the swell. Now we pitch a little but the rolling has been greatly reduced. Sweet!

We are anchored right next to Puddle Jumper, a 42 foot catamaran. They hail us over for drinks and we have a nice visit.
This photo shows both Puddle Jumper and Enee Marie in our anchorage.

Monday, April 30, 2007 Rum Cay (23 37.8N 74 51.9W)

About 2 AM (isn’t it always) the rain and lightning arrived. Lots of rain but not much wind which is unusual. We made a v-shape with one of the side panels on the Bimini that Sue constructed and collected 5 gallons of rainwater in a couple of hours. It rained the rest of the night and we slept little. Now we’re sort of hoping that Chris’ weather report doesn’t suggest we leave today for the overnighter to Mayaguana as we are pretty beat. We get our wish. Weather for the next several days is going to be squally and whatever wind is going to be right on our nose and too heavy to motor into. Looks like we’ll get to know all about Rum Cay.

After naps we went ashore and explored. I’m hoping for some sort of communication device to call my daughter. We found two phone booths...but no phones inside. There is a little store but no phone there but the lady said we could walk to the Batelco (Bahama’s ma Bell) office and use a phone there. Always easy to find the Batelco office. You just walk toward the big tower. There was a locked building there and another empty phone booth but that’s it. We start walking back. Along the way, a nurse who had been in the store with us stops her car and says she saw the phone lady and told her that we were on our way and we should head back to the Batelco Office. Rum Cay people are really friendly! More so than Georgetown. Inside the telephone equipment office Jennifer, the phone lady, put through a call to Leah for me ($4.50 for 3 min). Worth it to be able to check in and talk to my daughter. The settlement here on Rum Cay is very small, easy going and friendly. We stopped into the Ocean View restaurant and bar (Kaliks only $3.00!!!) and met Ruby the owner/cook. Also very friendly and we found out about their Wednesday night buffet which we may attend.

While walking back toward the dingy we see another obvious cruising couple coming toward us. At about 20 yards the guy stops and points at us and hollers, “Scott and Sue from Enee Marie!” I’m thinking, uh oh, I”m supposed to know this guy and I don’t. . . yet. When we got together we found out that they knew OF us because they have been following this very blog for about a year! What a strange thing the internet can be. Right now Kerry and Kathy are reading about themselves on this blog as they have ‘caught up’! (I guess this is ‘then’ becoming ‘now’ as in Spaceballs!) We had them and Val and Lloyd from Puddle Jumper over to Enee for drinks and the six of us talked and laughed a lot into the night. We’re all heading south and we all have sold everything on shore and all have grown children. We’ll probably all head out on the next weather window as well (friday?) so it will be fun to have someone to talk to during the long night sails. Yes, we may get light air on friday followed by building wind and seas from the north east late on Saturday into Sunday. Not a huge window but if we can maintain our 5 knot goal or better we’ll need 24 hours to make Mayaguana. In the meantime there’s always something you can improve or fix or clean on the boat. Then there’s naps and reading too!

This blog comes to you from Sumner Point Marina on Rum Cay. And the restaurant had nice and cold Kaliks!