(Click on the photo above to view a short album)
Samana has been given a bad rap about being a bad place. We heard that it was a place where your dingy motor gets stolen and cut-throat people take your money at every turn. In fact a cruiser who recently left Luperon did have his dingy motor stolen. So we cautiously went ashore to find dinner and a telephone and not knowing what else might happen to us along the way.
We did secure the dingy to the dingy dock ladder with our cable and lock. Plus the Navy was on guard watching over us. And Chico (can’t remember his real name so he will be Chico for now) who used his boat to escort the Navy and crew out to our boats earlier was now on the dock reassuring us that our dingy would be safe here. Ok. We were so hungry it was worth the cost of a new dingy motor. Plus we were building trust with Chico since he delivered us 15 gallons of diesel. It cost $70 us dollars; Scott gave him $100; Chico went ashore and he came back with $30 change. So we had that going for us.
We started our walk into town and along the way we met Samuel Jones - a born and raised Samanaian (say that fast a few times) who somehow picked us out from the Dominicans on the street. ‘Hey my friend’ he says. ‘How are you today? Want to go see the waterfalls?’ Not today but we are looking for a telephone to call the states. So Samuel walked us the 1/2 mile or so to the Codetel then walked us back to a cheeseburger in paradise place where we bought him a beer in thanks for the help. A very friendly guy trying to make a living off of the tourists. We didn’t ever go to the waterfall or rent one of his motorcycles but each time we saw him during the next few days he came up to say hi and ask how we were doing. Just an honest guy trying to make an honest living from cruisers big and small.
Samana does get big cruise ships in their harbor on a regular basis. In fact the quaint buildings I saw on shore as we arrived, which caused me to say that we’re not in Luperon anymore, are buildings built by the cruise ship companies. Surprise....surprise. Local merchants run the businesses but the cruise ship companies get a cut. We wonder how many cruise ship travelers ever see the real Samana.
In addition to Samuel Jones (who also is a sailor btw and crewed with an elderly couple to Puerto Rico and St. Martin) here are a few other highlights of Samana:
Preparing for the Mona Passage:
We arrived in Samana on Monday morning and indeed were able to leave on Wednesday - at midnight! A huge part of preparation for crossing the Mona is having the right weather forecast. Scott talked with Chris Parker every morning while in Samana and we consistently had a great forecast for the trip. The last thing you want is to have a low pressure trough or ridge or tropical wave or whatever swoop down on you while traveling the 140 nautical miles. Chris said we were good to go although a few thunderstorms and squalls might find us. This is like saying there might be thunderstorms on Lake Michigan during the summer. If you waited for a no thunderstorm prediction you would never go sailing.
We were ready to go but first had to check out with the Commandante. Chico was onshore waiting as members of our 4 boat fleet dingyied in. Chico assisted in the entire checkout process which included running to make more copies of the Dominican form that they ran out of. Of course the cost of 40 pesos was on us gringos. He also assisted the lady typist who plunked out the information onto the newly copied forms (including carbon paper) with her (smith-corona) manual. Finally all information was collected for all boats and the Commandante added his official signature to each of the dispacio forms from the bed of a pick up truck where he was supervising the filling of his gas tank. We(4 boats together) tipped Chico $20 for his services. He also is an entrepreneur working on his own.
An aside on Americans. . . In the islands, we encounter various ‘officials’ in uniforms that want you to pay some sort of fee or another or they come right out and tell you that a ‘gift’ would not be inappropriate. I find that many Americans (and Canadians too although there reaction is metric) have a bit of an ugly reaction to such encounters. Americans are used to ‘getting their money’s worth’. A very American idea indeed. With these various ‘fees’ you are never getting your money’s worth. You’re being ripped off and brazenly at that! The typical American reaction is one of outrage, anger and maybe even a loud argument! We and some other cruisers just take this in stride. I’m not looking to get robbed but, hey, I’m in their country. To the Dominicans, for example, I look like a billionaire. When I get charged $20 for a despacio that I don’t really need I get that this is just them getting their last $20 from a departing American. For all I know it is a way for the commandante to keep his job and jobs are damn scarce in these here parts. The $20 is not going to make or break me and I don’t like uncomfortable encounters anyway. Makes for a much more pleasant trip.
The only thing left for us boaters to do in celebration of a great stay in Samana and in preparation for our Mona crossing was to have a few Presidente’s. After lunch it was back to the boat for long naps in anticipation of our midnight anchor weighing.
Events along the Mona way:
I didn’t get much sleep during the afternoon and early evening since the meringue music coming from shore (a nightly event) was loud enough to wake the dead. But I was still ready when midnight arrived and we were on our way. The fleet kept in close contact during the entire trip and it was reassuring that we had each others assistance and company for the trek.
The idea of a late night departure is to allow the seas to settle down and to use some of the remaining night lee from the Dominican Republic. Then you jump off the shore and sail nearly east and maybe even a little north to avoid hour glass shoals. This route also has the potential of allowing the storms rolling off the shore of Puerto Rico to pass safely to your south. We did get close to a couple of squalls. One evaporated before it got to us and the other passed by a few miles to the east. All we got was some better wind to sail with! Thanks.
Enterprise, a very nice ketch with a mom, dad and two very cute little girls on board found that they were making oil. This is a new term for me that I just learned from James aboard Pegasus who is also part of our fleet. You check your oil and it’s fine. The next day you check it again and you have MORE oil. That ain’t right and it means that water is getting into the oil from somewhere. At this point we are 40-50 miles of the coast of DR. We all slowed down and more or less waited to hear more from Enterprise. James suggested that he keep going and that perhaps shutting the engine down would be worse than keeping it running. So, a bit of a nervous motor/sail for Enterprise but another good reason for crossing the Mona passage in a fleet.
Overall the seas were calm, no threatening northern swells, and the wind most kind. We even had a chance to raise all sails and sail/motor sail. Sweet! Some events that happened along the way:
|Crossing the Mona Passage to Boqueron Puerto Rico|
I rather like leaving at midnight for a long passage. Makes that “first night” short. When the sun starts to come up then you can legitimately think, “I’ll be there in less than a day now”. And a beautiful sunrise it was! What’s better than sailing your own boat across the ocean to a new harbor?
Two of the boats in our fleet fished during the crossing. Walkabout hooked a 20 pound tuna! They were very excited. We would have fished but then it always seems to me the work of killing and cleaning the fish out weighs my desire for a fish dinner. Maybe it will seem like a better idea if we ever have refrigeration again. By the way, living without refrigeration is OK. I enjoy not worrying about battery life and I enjoy NOT idling my engine twice a day when we are at anchor. I don’t think we’ll go down that refrigeration road again unless we can (1) REALLY get it fixed (if there even is such a thing) and (2) also get solar panels and a little honda generator. We don’t carry beer or canned drinks. Use powdered milk to cook. Sometimes buy some meat and then eat it that day. Make sure we don’t have leftovers. Buy eggs that haven’t been refrigerated. Eat pasta! So, we’re not starving and enjoying the quietness of an un-refrigerated boat.
About 3 in the morning we passed to the south of a little island near Puerto Rico, Isla Desecheo, which is completely unlit. At night it looks like a big mound of dirt about 100 yards away. Checking the chart we find that it is more like 7 miles away! More evidence of how hard it is to judge distance at night. Just before dawn we picked up the range lights into Mayaguez and slowly motored in. As the sun came up we spotted a boat that had left Samana about 8 hours before us and anchored nearby. The idea now is to get cleared in by customs before the ferry boat arrives around 8 AM. No problem. It is only 6:30 now.
Customs is easy as we are basically in America now and we are Americans with a US coast guard documented boat. They gave us a Local Boater card which makes clearing in and out of the ports of Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands quick and easy.
We rested for an hour or so and then once again raised anchor. Mayaguez is an industrial port (and stinky!) and not suited for a stay for cruising sailors. So, we are bound for Boqueron about 16 miles to the south. Sixteen miles? HA! We just completed 140 in 29 hours! Nothing to it and there wasn’t except for our impatience for a good meal and a cool beer.
Boqueron anchorage is quite large and well protected from all sides except the west and since the wind never blows from the west who cares? It is advertised as Key West on Steroids. We went ashore with Lou on Indigo who is an old Luperon acquaintance. Ashore there certainly are no shortage of watering holes but all was pretty calm on a Friday afternoon. We had a couple of cold beers with Lou in a little joint and then went in search of a real dinner. Boy did we find it too! Great steaks, mashed potatoes, and veggies. YUM! We don’t starve on Enee when making a passage but tend to just snack on apples, candy, cheese, and what have you. Full dinner is SUCH a treat! Needless to say once back aboard Enee, sleep was no problemo! We plan to stay here a few days, clean up the decks, recharge ourselves and make a little plan for coasting the south coast of Puerto Rico. We can be in Puerto Rican waters 60 days max so if you’re coming to visit us. . . now would be a good time!