Triplog

FEBRUARY: Georgetown, Bahamas to Caleta Salinas, Puerto Rico

One day I am getting into the social scene in Georgetown and then next day getting ready for our journey to Trinidad!! It all started when George and Lynn on SUNSPOT BABY organized a meeting for cruisers who were continuing south from the Bahamas. Carl and I attended just to "listen" or so I thought as I sat off to the side half listening to the discussion. Two days after the meeting Carl said, "It is almost as far to sail to Trinidad as it is to sail back to Deltaville, VA. Why not continue sailing south this year?"  My response, "It is is ok with me but it is up to you to get the required charts and to make arrangements for hurricane season". Away Carl flew to get the necessary stuff and share the good news with our cruising friends.

The following picture was taken at the first meeting for southbound cruisers. It was taken before the meeting started. By the time the meeting was underway the size of the group increased significantly.

    

Attended Rockin Ron and Karen's dance on the deck of Chat and Chill on Friday night (02/01). Ron and Karen on SEA DANCER sponsor a couple dances every year at Chat and Chill. The dance is well attended and lots of fun. I consider myself to be a very lucky girl---Carl danced with me several times. I also want to thank Reg on PEA SOUP for dancing with me. Reg can "really cut the deck" so to speak.

The pictures below were taken at the Saturday Night Beach Cocktail Party--the food and the band.

Saturday morning, Chris Parker's long range weather forecast was promising--a cold front would move north and west of the Bahamas on Wednesday. This cold front would not be strong enough to move the ridge resulting in light head winds for boats leaving Georgetown heading for the Turks and Caicos. Wow, we had a weather window in sight.  Saturday night we attended a cocktail party on Monument (aka Hamburger) Beach with music--an outstanding jam session.

After the weekend, we continued to get ready to leave Georgetown. A trip to town for laundry, diesel, US dollars and a few provisions. Carl found some paper charts for the Turks and Caicos (T&C). Both of us attended one more meeting for cruisers heading south---this time I paid more attention, taking notes and asking questions! Bought a used cruising guide for the T&C and a second one for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We also have an older version of "The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" by Bruce Van Sant. This guide book provides directions for cruising against the wind telling how and when to go.

Continued to listen to Chris's weather forecast. Monday, the cold front started to weaken which means the winds southeast of Georgetown to the T&C would be stronger than what was forecasted earlier.  The weather window was still open but it was not as good as it appeared to be this past Saturday.  The biggest problem with the "new" weather window---you had to motor into 4 foot waves that were directly on the nose.

Meanwhile,  a group of Bahamas Cruisers planned a race from Georgetown to Long Island on Thursday, February 7. Our friends--Ron and Karen (SEA DANCER), Rose and Keith (CAMELOT) and Kris and Craig (TILT) planned to participate in this race. Keith tried his best to talk us into racing with them and leaving for the T&C after the cold front rather than before. We knew our trip would be challenging enough without throwing a race into the mix so we declined the invitation to race. Post race news--TI:T took first in their class (Passport 47).

Kris and Craig (TILT) invited us over for dinner Wednesday night. As we left, we wished Kris and Craig good luck on the race and told them we would see them in Michigan---no good byes just see you later! We still planned to leave Thursday morning (02/07). While the forecast was for southeast winds, we knew that we could always divert to Conception or Rum Island if the seas were too high. Thursday morning, we were underway by 7:15 AM.  Behind us were at least 12 boats that we also heading south and then the race fleet. It looked like a mass evacuation of Georgetown! Our sail from Georgetown to the northern tip of Long Island was fantastic--a close reach, making great time. When we passed the tip of  Long Island--the seas were around 6 feet and very close together. We looked at each other and asked each other "Do we really want to bash into those waves for 24 hours?" The answer was no so off to Conception Island as did the other southbound cruisers behind us.

Conception has to be the most beautiful island in the entire Bahama chain. It is under the protection of the Bahamas National Trust but is only a land park. Therefore, you can't disturb or remove anything from the island BUT you can fish on the surrounding reefs. We anchored at West Bay where you don't even have to leave the anchorage to snorkel! Friday morning listened to Chris (weather) again--it looked like the weather window was closing so we might as well enjoy Conception. One of the major attractions at Conception is to take your dinghy into the creeks at high tide where you see dozens of sea turtles. Starting getting ready for an excursion to see the turtles when we heard a couple boats discussing a plan for heading to Mayaguez on the VHF Radio. Chris did mention that the winds would be southeast during the day and then back to the east Saturday.  Their plan---go as far east as you can today and then go south when the winds back to the east during the evening and Saturday. Carl and I looked at each other, discussed this possibility and decided to go for it. So much for the turtles.

So at 8:15 AM on Friday (02/08), DISCOVERY was underway. Leaving at the same time---The "Details Group" which consisted of ALLERGIC TO CITIES, KEESJIE II, NEBULA, OFFLINE, IVORY STAR, ESPERANZA and CATALYST.  When Carl and I left Conception, we were not part of this group but "joined" the group as we continued south. When someone in the group had information they wanted to share they would get on the VHF and announce their boat name and say "Details, details switch to 18". Any interested party would go to channel 18 to listen. Our major contribution to the group was information regarding ship traffic that we had through AIS(automatic information system). Whenever a large ship within 30 miles popped up on our screen we would let everyone know the name of  the ship, its speed and course. We also would read our e-mail weather reports from Chris Parker over. Sailed an easterly course until 2:30 PM when we started to head southerly almost straight to Mayaguana.  The rest of this leg we bashed into 5 foot seas. DISCOVERY was doing a great job getting through and over the waves but the waves were just too close together so the boat would fall off a wave every couple of minutes (bam, bam, bam all night long). Could not see the other boats in our group but could hear them on the radio (a very chatty group). Took turns on watch---3 hours on and 3 hours off.

Arrived at Mayaguana at 9 AM on Saturday and anchored off Betsy Bay Settlement where we had protection from the southeast wind and waves but the holding was not good. I made a big breakfast and then we both took a nap. The next boat in from the Details Group arrived around 2 PM. I don't think we are that much faster than the group---we just selected a better route to Mayaguana (most of the Details Group went directly south while we stayed southeast). Left Mayaguez at 6:30 PM Saturday for an overnight to Provo (Providenciales, Turks & Caicos).  Underway we met up with NEBULA and IVORY STAR both of them did not stop in Mayaguana for a rest--they just kept going.

Anchored at Sapodilla Bay by 8:45 AM Sunday. Planned to stay here awhile so Sunday we remained on the boat and went to bed early hoping to catch up on our sleep. The Turks & Caicos (T&C) is a British crown colony--rocky, semi barren islands(8) and small cays (41) that are covered with catci and thorny acacia trees WITH 200 miles of powder sugar beaches! It is a bird and whale watcher paradise. Local lore--in 1962 John Glenn sighted the beaches and maneuvered his Mercury Spacecraft to splash down in paradise (a myth that was endorsed by The T&C Tourism Office).  Just a bit of history: 1678 Bermudans arrived to harvest salt and timber; 1710 the Spanish arrived along with pirates; 1778 the French arrived; 1779 became part of the Bahamas (American Loyalist came to establish plantations); 1848 self governing under supervision of Jamaica; and finally 1973 became a separate crown colony of Great Britain.

Monday morning woke up early and observed a T&C Marine Patrol boat towing in a sailboat full of Haitian refugees. Easy to understand why the government needs to control the immigration but it is sad to see such desperate people. Carl went to Customs and Immigration to clear into the T&C. Only the Customs people were available--told to return the next day but in the meantime it was ok to walk around Provo. OFFLINE in the Details Group announced on the radio a plan to get a taxi into town and anyone who wanted to go should meet on the beach. This was the first opportunity to "put a face" to a voice heard over the VHF radio. The taxi driver wanted $25 per person to ride about 5 miles (there were 10 of us). We decided to walk and try to catch one of the unofficial ghost taxis along the way. Started walking when a pickup truck stopped and let all ten of us hop into pickup bed for a thrilling ride into Provo. The Details Group decided to meet for lunch and drinks at a bar called Hole in the Wall. It was at Hole in the Wall that we got to know the cruisers we were traveling with! Left Hole in the Wall with Bob and Margo on IVORY STAR--the four of us caught one of the ghost taxis for a ride back to Sapodilla for $4/person.

Tuesday, Carl caught a ride into town where he filled the diesel jerry cans and went to the airport to Immigration. Later in the afternoon some of the Details Group were meeting on the beach for drinks. We took the dinghy in for just a little while--it was so windy that sand was blowing into the peoples' faces and in some cases drinks.  On the beach we met Dave and Vickie on WIND FREAK who now joined the Details Group. It was getting dark so we returned to the boat. Meantime OFFLINE (Jake and Carol), NEBULA (Leila and Richard) , ALLERGIC TO CITIES (Rick and Suz) and WIND FREAK continued to party eventually moving to one of the boats--ALLERGIC TO CITIES. Around 2 AM we heard voices and saw a light flashing around--initial thoughts either we were dragging our anchor or someone else was dragging. Not the case at all but rather Richard and Leila on NEBULA trying to find their boat. The VHF radio was on--we heard Rick on ALLERGIC TO CITIES checking to make sure everyone who partied on his boat made it back safely to their own boat. NEBULA kept running around the anchorage looking for their boat so Carl answered on the radio that we had NEBULA's dinghy in sight but they were not on the boat yet. Carl went back to bed---I told Rick I would continue to watch until Richard and Leila were on board. It took a long time---Richard fell in the water! Eventually I saw both of them in the cockpit, reported back to Rick on ALLERGIC TO CITIES that all was well and went back to bed.

Wednesday was another windy day in Sapodilla Bay. Spent some time on the beach. Went to a nice outdoor bar and restaurant for drinks. ALLERGIC TO CITIES, NEBULA and OFFLINE joined us at the bar. At the bar, we met Mark, a single handler on DOWN ISLAND. By this time, it was clear to us that we could not keep up with ALLERGIC TO CITIES, NEBULA and OFFLINE---they had partied two nights in a row until around 2 AM. After two beers (MKT) and two diet cokes (CWT) we walked with Mark back to the anchorage while the rest of the group continued to party.

The next 5 pictures were taken in Provo. The first night I watched the Turks and Caicos Marine Patrol drop anchor not too far from DISCOVERY. Wondered what they were up to--snapped their picture. The next morning it was evident what the patrol boat was there for--a sailboat stacked full of refugees from Haiti. The third picture was taken at Hole in the Wall where the Details Cruising Group was getting to know one another. It is Rick and Suz. Rick bought a local Turks and Caicos brew and he was certain it was "bad" because there was no fizz to it. He was trying his best to describe the problem to the barmaid who was from the Dominican Republic. The fourth picture of Carl and I was taken at the Le Brisas Bar. The last picture was also taken at the bar--Leila in the background and Jane next to Carl.

Based on the previous day's weather report, I wanted to move to South Caicos on Thursday. Woke up around 5 AM, winds blowing 13-15 knots. Carl decided we should leave tomorrow so he went back to bed. Talked to IVORY STAR who decided not to go and then I talked to DOWN ISLAND who was leaving--Mark said he'd call back with conditions in one hour. Chris's weather came on--based on the new forecast Carl changed his mind--we were underway for South Caicos by 7 AM.  Noticed IVORY STAR was also pulling their anchor (Margo said as soon as Chris gave the weather they were off). Meanwhile, the rest of the Details Group noticed we were moving so NEBULA, OFFLINE and ALLERGIC TO CITIES decided to go too.  According to the Gentlemen's Guide, to cross the shallow Caicos Banks you leave at daybreak on a day the winds are 15 knots or less. The reason everyone was waffling about whether to leave or not was the wind forecast was 130 degrees at 15 knots Thursday and 90 degrees at 20 knots on Friday.  Go with lighter winds on the nose or wait for a better wind angle but stronger winds?? For me, the guidebook made it clear---less than 15 knots because the waves get steep and choppy on the shallow banks!

It was a good day for crossing the banks. I watched for coral heads---big dark spots in the water. We altered course for two of them. Early on, the skies were clear so it was easy to see the coral. Later in the afternoon, it became partly cloudy. Tricked by a few clouds that made dark spots in the water but quickly learned how to distinguish dark cloud spots from real coral---real coral has a bruised, black and blue tone while the clouds are just dark spots. Saw a few dolphins. Made it to South Caicos by 3:30 PM right behind Mark on DOWN ISLAND who left 2 hours before us. It was Valentine's Day so I made a special dinner on board--steak, salad, mashed potatoes and horseradish sauce.

South Caicos is the smallest of the Caicos Islands. The big attraction here is diving and whale watching . The town itself is rough edged. There are corrugated tin and driftwood shacks interspersed amid modern bungalows and weathered colonial-era wooden houses left from the salt days (19th century salt raking made this area quite prosperous).  Met OFFLINE and IVORY STAR in town one afternoon at the gas station (Diesel $5.40/gallon and Gas $5.50/gallon). OFFLINE and IVORY STAR purchased several jerry cans of diesel. After helping them load the cans into the dinghies we all walked to the Trench Club for $2.50 beers which were a bargain compared to what we were paying for beer in Georgetown. Went into town on Friday night with NEBULA, OFFLINE and ALLERGIC TO CITIES. Stopped at the Chicken Bar which was packed with locals. We left after a couple beers while the rest of the group hit all 4 of the town's bars.

The following pictures were taken in South Caicos. Margo is waiting to buy $5.40/gallon fuel in the first picture. In the background is Jake, Carol and Carl. The second picture shows Jake, Carol, Margo, Bob and I enjoying our $2.50 beers at the Trench Club. The third picture is an outside wall of one of the four bars/clubs in town--I wonder what they sell?

Saturday morning we checked out--getting the needed despacho for getting into the Dominican Republic. The initial thought was to move to Big Sand Cay Saturday and then go on to Luperon on Sunday.  However, the current weather forecast: 14-15 knots at 110 degrees for Saturday and 100 degrees at 18-22 knot on Sunday indicated we should go directly to Luperon.

We motorsailed on a close reach until we passed Big Sand Cay when we were able to sail until 5 PM when we started to motorsail. Around 2 AM, a cruise ship LYCRA popped up on our AIS. We called to let IVORY STAR know about the cruise ship because it appeared to be heading their way. Suddenly, LYCRA altered its course to head our way. AIS gave a "CPA-closed point of approach" of less than 100 yards. Carl tried to hail the cruise ship  but no response. I then took over and continued to hail them. The Italian Officer finally answered---we asked him if he saw us on his radar and if he would pass in front of us or behind us. He told us he saw us on his port side (we were on his starboard side) --no problem. It was getting hairy--we were too close (I could see people on that ship). Carl kept asking about the course and finally we quickly changed course to avoid a collision. About 4 AM we started to run into squalls so it was time to roll in the headsail. Tried, tried and tried to roll in the sail but something was caught. Carl had to go up to the bow in 6 foot seas to roll in the sail by hand. As I kept an eye on him, I noticed that shreds of material were flying from the leech of the sail---it had torn somehow! The squalls continued to roll by. Around 6 AM is was getting light enough for us to see the outline of the DR coast. Slowed down so we had good light to enter Luperon Harbor.

The anchor was down Sunday morning at 8:45 AM Atlantic time.The trip was less than 24 hours but with its challenges neither one of us had any sleep. Raised our Q Flag to wait for the Commandante to arrive. Went down below and fell asleep only to wake up to a "bang". Both of us hurry up to the cockpit---we had dragged our anchor, our stern was butted up to the port bow of a sailboat with our dinghy wrapped around their anchor line. Carl shouted for me to get a knife to cut the dinghy line. Next he ran to the bow of our boat to get our anchor chain up while I drove the boat. I also got on the VHF Radio and asked if anyone could pick up our dinghy for us which was done immediately. Man we were tired. Tried to anchor at least 8-10 more times driving from one end of the harbor to the other! Finally, we dropped the anchor and let it settle with success. It was a humbling experience for us.

The Commandate arrived shortly after our anchor was set. His assistant completed the necessary paperwork and he took our despacho from the T&C--we would need to get another one from him when we were ready to leave Luperon. Next we took the dinghy into town to see Immigration. Found the Immigration guy where we completed more paperwork, he reviewed our passports and stamped them. I was told to show up Monday to obtain a tourist visa (the Captain of the vessel doesn't need one) and that later in the day the Department of Agriculture would show up. We went back to the boat to get some sleep. About mid-day, two guys from the Department of Agriculture showed up---one to inspect for animals and the other to inspect for food. The guy for the animal part asked if there were any pets on board--the answer was no so we paid the $10 fee. The guy for food asked to see our trash--the container was empty because we got rid of all trash in South Caicos. He asked to see the dairy products. I started to dig them out of the bottom of the refrigerator when he quickly said it was ok. Paid him the $10 fee. Two days later, I finally found the guy from the Department of Tourism to pay $20 for my tourist visa!

Below is a picture of the Immigrationn Office. The second picture shows the Commandante who wears a military uniform representing the navy. He stepped onboard DISCOVERY in combat boots. On the far left is the Immigration Office.

The Dominican Republic (DR) occupies the eastern part of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Antilles. It shares the island with Haiti (1/3 of Hispaniola belongs to Haiti and 2/3 of Hispaniola belongs to the DR). The DR is very rugged with 4 major mountain chains that enclose 3 large fruitful valleys where they grown bananas, cacao, tobacco, rice, fruits and vegetables and sugar cane. The people are known for their hospitality, graciousness and dignity. The population has an 85% literacy rate and a life expectancy over 70 years of age. As far as race--20% white, 75% mixed African/European/Indian and 10% black. The Roman Catholic Church is state supported. This is home to Sammy Sosa and A-Rod so baseball is very popular. Cockfighting is the national sport. The economy is 1/3 agriculture, 1/3 tourism and 1/3 industry. Agriculture utilizes half of the workforce and is supplemented by Haitians.

Monday morning we took down the headsail when it was calm. In the DR, the wind dies down around 10 PM and by morning it is dead calm. Used to VHF radio to inquire about sail repair. Found a couple, Brian and Margie, who do canvas work under the name PENNY WHISTLE. Carl described the problem to Brian over the radio. Brian did not think they could do it but he was willing to contact a sailmaker on the south coast of the DR to see if she could do it. Carl studied the rip and called Brian again giving more information. Brian and Margie agreed to come out and look at it. After looking it over, Margie thought she could do it. We delivered the sail to the yacht club by noon and received a call that afternoon that it was repaired. In the morning when it was calm, we put the headsail back on the furling. It was at this point that Carl noticed a small tear in another location. I told Carl if he could get me thread, needle, wax and leather device to wear over my palm so could push the needle through. Two days later,  took the sail down and I stitched up the tear.

Below is a picture of the ripped leech line for the headsail. We were so lucky to find PENNY WHISTLE with their quick turnaround time. Plan to have the sail inspected again in Trinidad. The second picture is Luperon Harbor with the mountains in the background.

Luperon wasn't all about sail repair and re-anchoring. Usually went to town for lunch or late breakfast at Captain Steve's where you get a 650ml, 22 oz. beer for $0.90! Captain Steve and his wife, Annie, cater to cruisers. If you eat a meal there you have access to his pool and shower all day. He also has internet. The food is pretty good and very cheap.

The next two pictures were taken in Luperon. The first picture shows just a few of the goats that were walking the street one morning while we had breakfast. The second picture is a shot of the buildings and vehicles on the street.

Leila and Richard (NEBULA) arranged a tour to Puerto Plata which is the second oldest town in the New World. First stop was at the rum factory (Bruga).  Our tour guide greeted us with a tray of  frozen rum drinks. Watched them bottle rum--looked like Fluid Packaging Lines in my former work life! The DR has the world's largest source of clear amber so we next visited the Amber Museum. Many museum pieces contain prehistoric plant and insect life. For JURASSIC PARK fanatics, they will recognize the area as the setting for the movie. After learning about amber we were swamped by salespeople trying to sell us amber jewelry. The jewelry was lovely but quite pricey for a spur of the moment purchase. Next we toured Fort San Felipe, the oldest European fort in the New World with its moats and battlements. The highlight of the trip was TO BE the cable car ride to the top of Isabel de Torres mountain--the cable was broke! I was most entertained by the motoconcho (motorcycle) traffic. The motochoncho function as taxis--a family of 3 to 4 hop  on behind the driver and off they go. Tiny babies and children are wedged between parents or ride in front of the driver. This would never happen in the USA!!!

The following wheretaken on our trip to Puerto Plata. One of the first things you notice when you get into the city is the number of motorcycles (motochoncos) which serve as the family car and taxi cabs. Two pictures were taken at the Bruga Rum Factory---one of the filling machine and the other picture is of employees packing cases of rum. The third and fourth picture was taken at Fort San Felipe. The fifth picture was taken at the restaurant where we had lunch--Are you wondering what was on the menu? The last picture is a family riding a motochonco--Where at the seatbelts and helmuts?

 

 

The second tour to the waterfalls, soap stone carving factory, botanical garden and ranch was arranged by Jake and Carol (OFFLINE).  The waterfalls provided the most fun I have had in years and years. The waterfalls have 22 levels each with its own individual pools---we only completed 7 levels. Three guides helped haul our asses up the rocks and then nature's chutes gave us a free ride down. The botanical gardens were ok.  At the soap stone carving factory we were swamped by people tying to sell us stuff--I purchased a soapstone necklace.  Watched a cockfight--the two cocks had boxing gloves so no harm would be done. Most of the tour crowd did not care to see cocks fighting until one was dead!!! At the ranch we met Manuel the Bull who weighed 1000 kilos!

The next 8 pictures were taken at the waterfalls. We completed 7 levels. The group climbed up one ladder and then climbed up rocks with the assistance of 3 guides. Once we made it to level 7 we all celebrated and rode the chutes down to the first level. At the first level, we had to jump 30 feet to the bottom pool. The waterfalls were so much fun!!!

 

Click here for a short Video for the Water Chute

 

 

 

The next 6 pictures were taken on the second half of our second land tour. The first picture is at the restaurant waiting for food. Cruisers with time on their hands start planning for the next leg of the trip. Pictures 2 through 4 were taken at the Botannical Gardens and the next picture is Marilyn sitting on Manuel the One Ton Bull! The last picture in this group is of the cockfight--notice the boxing gloves on the back on the foot.

 

While anchored in Luperon, we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. Rick & Suz and Leila and Richard joined us for dinner. Leila and Richard speak fluent Spanish--for Leila it is her native tongue. The restaurant served only seafood--all was fresh and delicious. We were the only customers that night so the service was excellent. One evening we attended a jam session. Rick on ALLERGIC TO CITIES is a talented musican--he plays guitar, banjo and sings. Another night we went in for Karaoke (spelling). That evening, we were shown a taste of water the upcoming FESTIVAL that celebrates Independence from Haiti was like.

The first picture was taken at the restaurant where we celebrated our anniversary. The next picture was taken at the Luperon Marina--cruisers were given a taste of the Independence Day Festival held on February 27th.

A weather window for moving from Luperon to Puerto Rico was started to open up. Called Handy Andy and Pablo for a diesel fuel delivery and a bottom scrub. Went to see the Commandante for our despacho (exit papers). Left the main harbor and staged in the outer harbor to wait for the winds to diminish.  Hispaniola creates calm conditions at night that can reach as far as 30 miles off shore---katabatic winds create nocturnal winds which blows off shore. As a result, it is easiest to move east along the north coast of the DR at night. Our weather window--winds 12 knots or less Saturday through Tuesday morning. This potential window was of interest to many boats. I'd guess that a dozen boats left when we did (10 PM Saturday night). About 4 of the boats were 40-footers and about 6 of the boats were less than 32 feet. Bruce Van Sant (author of  "The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South") lives in Luperon. He saw all of us staged to leave so he reminded us of the checklist that we should follow. Basically he was suggesting to us that we were all jumping the gun--Bruce wanted us to wait awhile for the waves to go down but we were all anxious to go!

It was pretty rough when we left the harbor! Noticed we had moved quite a ways offshore so we headed in closer to take advantage of that that offshore breeze--things did improve. Pounded into 4 foot seas with the wind until 3 PM Sunday when we finally rounded the north coast of  DR and started a more southerly course. Started to sail and then motorsail to make sure we maintained 5.5 knots. Between Cabo (Cape) Cabron and Cabo Samana we were entertained by humpback whales. The whales were swimming close to the boat---one waved its huge fin at us. Carl was down below so he missed the greatest show--I saw 3 whales breach out of the water. Huge school buses go straight up and then over to the side as gravity took over.  Oh do I wish I could have captured the whales on my camera but no way---timing of the camera shot and the motion of the boat made it impossible. Once the sunset, we started our 3 hour watch cycle. It was easy to stay awake when on watch because there was lots of ship traffic to keep an eye on. It was also easy to fall asleep as soon as your watch was over because we both needed sleep. By Monday morning, we were in the center of the dreaded Mona Passage with its shoals, storms, currents, wind and waves. Chris Parker's weather forecast told us the best day for transiting the Mona Passage was Monday and we were there at that time. Saw more whales in the Mona Passage and the commercial ships were all over.

Arrived at Mayaguez, Puerto Rico at 2:40 PM on Monday. We were at least two hours ahead of the next boat and 4 days ahead of the slowest. Called Customs and Immigration who told us we had to come in to clear--right at dockside (however, the seawall was too high for us to climb up). Found a beach where we could leave the dinghy. Hoofed it to the Customs and Immigration Building and then found out the people we needed for clearing already left. Instructed to go to the downtown Customs Building. Saw another cruiser, CATALYST (Rob and Sue), headed for the dockside facility so we waved them down to let them know we had to go to another building. The downtown building closed at 5 PM and it was 4:20 PM. Carl went to a service station to call a cab while I hoofed it down the road to met up with Rob and Sue. The 4 of us shared a taxi. Made it to Customs by 4:45 PM. Cleared Customs, Immigration and Department of Agriculture. The cabbie waited for us to clear so we had a ride back to the beach where our dinghies were. As you can imagine, we went to bed early--exhausted from the trip from Luperon. I did wake up at midnight (one of my shifts) but fell back to sleep after checking out the anchorage to make sure everyone was still in their place. Saw KEEJIE II arrive and anchor (they left Luperon with us but stopped in Escondido to rest for 6 hours.

A brief history regarding Puerto Rico. Columbus discovered the island on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Ponce de Leon founded Puerto Rico's first settlement and became its first governor. Spain eventually ceded Puerto Rico to the US in the 1898 Treaty of Paris--at the end of the Spanish-American War.. In 1917, Puerto Rico became a territory of the US. By 1951 the island had its own government with its own constitution. In 1952, Puerto Rico was declared a semi-autonomous commenwealth territory of the US--giving Puerto Rican's US citizenship and financial support.

Next morning we headed to Boqueron with light and variable winds. Anchor was down by 11:10 AM. Many Puerto Ricans vacation here during the summer so there are nice homes surrounding the town. Boqueron is a beach and beer getaway for university students and bohemians--weekends get very wild. Boqueron is the Latin version of Key West. We went to a cruiser-friendly bar, GALLOWAYS, for drinks and a bite to eat. Our friends, Bob and Margo, decided to stay in Boqueron for the weekend to experience the wild times. We decided to continue on. In reality, we are on a tight schedule. Need to continue south to Trinidad so I can fly back for my June appointments.

The two pictures below were taken at Galloways in Boqueron. Carl is posing for me outside the bar and the second picure shows a Kalamazoo t-shirt hanging in the bar!

Hopped over to Caleta Salinas (Playa Santa). Left Boqueron at COD (crack of dawn) in fairly mild winds (10-14 knots) but encountered a couple small squalls so the winds kicked up to 22 knots---all on our nose. Anchored in Playa Santa at 10:20 AM. This anchorage is very rolly but easy enough to tolerate for one night! Walked into town to find a place for lunch. It was a bit of a hike (all up hill) to a seafood restaurant where we had a fabulous lunch. I wish I would have had my camera with me. Carl ordered seafood stew--it was delicious and the presentation could have made the cover of Bon Appetit! I ordered hog fish and it was the best fish dish I have ever had. Great food sitting at the counter. Back to the boat to be entertained (???) by three personal watercraft--rentals.

Left Playa Santa at 4:20 AM to take advantage of the flatter seas. Winds were 5-8 knots when we left the anchorage. Quickly built to 22 knots because of small squalls rolling off the coast. By sunrise, the squalls were gone so the winds dropped to 15 knots. Fueled up at the Ponce Yacht Club and anchored. This is a very deep anchorage--dropped anchor in 30 feet of water. The winds piped up to 25 knots--DISCOVERY started to drag its anchor. Reanchored and stayed on the boat most of the day to make sure it held. Around sunset, things calmed down enough so that we were not worried about the anchor dragging. Neither of us liked Ponce because of this anchorage!

As so the month of February came to a close while anchored in Ponce. Carl had to remind me it was Leap Year so there was a February 29th! Had a great time this month. Getting used to the stronger winds and bigger seas. It would be nice if we didn't have to bash into them! When we get past the Virgin Islands, there is a much greater opportunity for sailing, we turn south and stop the easting!!

Submitted by:
Marilyn Thoreson
March 2, 2007