“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


2 Comments

Dominican Republic

DR1

As the sun was rising, we began to see the breathtaking views of the Dominican Republic (DR or DomRep).  Our first stop was Luperon.  The bay here is stunning – picture the mountains of New England with a line of mangroves at the foothills that roll right into the water.  Everything here is so lush and green.  The bay is an ideal hurricane hole for boats of all sizes and the food and beverages are shockingly cheap.  I can see why so many people end up moving here permanently.  If it wasn’t for the poor water-quality (definitely no swimming!), we would have spent much longer here.

DR2

Luperon – Puerto Plata

I cannot say that it is easy to check in at this port of call.  First of all, my Spanish es no bueno, or shall I say my Spanglish, so dealing with several different officials (whom speak/understand very little or no english) was a bit of a challenge. 

Step one:  The Marina Guerra (Coast Guard) will board your boat as soon as you are anchored or moored. No $ is required to give to them but be ready with copies of passports, vessel documentation, departure form from last port of call, and ice cold beers (yes, they absolutely will ask for beer!)

Step two:  The Captain goes to shore with all of the same documents and tries to figure out which of the three rooms in a very hot, not air-conditioned trailer to go to first and what fees are actually due.  The fees that are required to be paid are not clearly documented, so when you go to check-in by boat be sure to bring lots of pesos or USD.  The cost for our 31-foot vessel with two adults and one dog was as follows (amounts in USD):    Cruising Permit/Other Fee $60,  Tourist Card- $10 per person,  Harbor Charge $25 (for a 10-day stay)

Step Three: When you are ready to leave, you play a similar game in order to get your despacho (exit permit).  However, no fees are required to leave.

DR3

We decided to make a day-trip to Damajaqua Cascades (27 waterfalls) with the crews of sv Sea Frog and sv Party of Five.  So, trying to figure out how to get nine people there was a bit of a challenge.  Travel choices in the DR are as follows:  car rental, guagua*, donkey/horse, or motoconchos**.

*Guagua is a small car or van that is overstuffed with people (you will literally see people overflowing from the vehicle), far exceeding their recommended (safe) capacity.

**Motoconcho is a motorbike that is used for public transportation.  You will see as many as four adults + children on one bike.  You will also see furniture and other large items being moved on these bikes.

DR TRAVEL

As we had a former local resident in our mix (thank you Darren!), he hooked us up with a rental….which turned out to be someone’s personal SUV (not the van that we were expecting)…thank god we were traveling with three skinny kids!

DR WATERALLS

We spent another day touring Puerto Plata.  We took in the sites,  made & smoked cigars at the Cigar Factory, drank rum on the Brugal Rum Factory tour, ate chocolate on the tour at the Del Oro Chocolate Factory, and of course had beers on the beach.

DR PUERTO PLATA

DR RUM

DR FORT

DR CIGARS

After leaving Luperon, we stayed a couple nights in Samana in order to wait out weather before making our way across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.

SAMANA

DSC SUNSET


5 Comments

Turks & Caicos

 

DSC_5098

Turtle Rock

DSC_5094

Water color changes:  darker blue (close) is the deep water; the beautiful turquoise is the more shallow water

DSC_5096

After a 36-hour passage from Long Island, Bahamas, we arrived in Providenciales (Provo) in the country Turks & Caicos.  Our plan was to have a 7-day or less stopover here in order to provision, take on water and fuel and wait for a weather window to head to the Dominican Republic.  Staying any later then 7-days in this country would mean that we would have to pay an additional hefty fee – No Thanks! 

This island was full of resorts and a fee is required by each resort in order to enter and go to their beaches and restaurants.  All of the nice beaches are privately owned (residences or resorts) and nothing is within walking distance.  The marina owner was nice enough to drive the cruisers to the grocery store each day; other than that, we did not spend any time outside of the marina.

DSC_5101

Several boats that are headed to the Caribbean had come into this marina in Provo within a day or so of each other.  We quickly made friends with Kendra (Owner/Captain) & Darren (Crew) on sv Sea Frog; you can follow her travels on Where is Kendra – My Adventures on Sea Frog. And, thanks to Barbara Hart on sv La Luna (published author and blogger – check out Harts at Sea)  for the introductions, we met up with Rhonda & Travis and their three kids (Quincy, Jonah, Daphnie) on sv Party of Five. This family is on a plan to sail the world! You can follow them at Party of Five.

Turks & Caicos-001

sv Sea Frog                                                                        sv Party of Five

DSC_5127

Left to Right adults:  Darren, Kendra, Rhonda, Travis, Fabio (sv Odoya), Stacey                                                                                                                                      Kids of sv Party of Five:  Jonah, Quincy, and Daphnie

DSC_5128

In order to stage to jump to Luperon, Dominican Republic, we headed to South Caicos.  We anchored in Cockburn Harbor.  We were surprised that this sleepy little town was having a huge party – their Annual Regatta.  This regatta included sail and power boat races, junkanoo, face painting, games, bands, food & beverages.  A few of the more daring guys in our group ate turtle and did not feel so well later that night!

Collages

Turks & Caicos

DSC_5143

Great name for a boat:  RUM DRINKER 1

DSC_5268

Junkanoo performers

Finally, we paid an extra fee to the government official in order to check-out over the weekend, and we were off to Luperon the next day.


4 Comments

Chapter 7: Lee Stocking Island

Lee Stocking Island may be our favorite stop that we made in the Bahamas.  There is enough to do that we could stay for weeks, which we did! But, we had to pile Smitty up with 30 gallons of extra water in a bladder and as much extra gas as we could, because there are no stores or other means of getting water or fuel on this island.

Garbage-002

The island marker and the cut (entry/exit) for Lee Stocking

The Abandoned Institute

Garbage-001

In order to pursue his interest in marine research and renewable energy, the 600-acre Lee Stocking Island was purchased for $70,000 by John Perry in 1957. He developed the island as a scientific field station and tried to make it self-supporting by incorporating working models of new technologies.

Garbage-009

Wind Turbine – the cables were used to pull the blades to the top of the post (which looks like a mast of a boat on land)

The Perry Institute for Marine Science included laboratories, housing, an airstrip, a dock, boats, and dive support facilities.  Up until SCUBA technology became more advanced, the field station featured shallow-depth submersibles.

From the institute’s website: 

The Perry Institute for Marine Science is dedicated to making a difference by protecting our oceans. We do this through ocean research and education that informs the public and encourages action. We operate a tropical marine laboratory on Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas. Scientists, students and educational groups visit our facility from around the world to conduct ocean research in this remote, pristine stretch of the Caribbean. In the areas on and around our island, we study things like coral reefs, fisheries, ecosystems and the biodiversity of undersea life.”

After the death of Perry in 2006, research funding dried up and the institute was closed. However, the Institute was not cleaned up; tons of garbage (including hazardous materials), buildings and equipment remain on the island. 

DSC_4401

A couple of the many abandoned buildings and a pick-up truck

Lee Stocking Island-001

Live-wells used for research

DSC_4382

Airstrip

Garbage-010

Hazardous chemicals and the remnants of a decompression chamber

Garbage-011

Garbage-008

The tanker trucks were used to hold fuel for the generators that supported the island

Hunting

DCIM100GOPRO

Where the conch live

Garbage-004

Garbage-005

Conch:  Before                                      Conch:  After

Beautiful Beaches and clear water in every shade of blue

DCIM100GOPRO

Garbage-007

Hiking

Garbage-006

Lee Stocking Island-002

Summer leads the way on the trail hike

Lee Stocking Island

Snorkeling

Garbage-013

Garbage-012

GOPR0775

Anchorage with spectacular sunset

Garbage-014

Farewell & Following Seas

One of the saddest days of of our trip so far was parting ways with Deborah & Keith and their pup, Kai on sv Wrightaway.  Thank you so much for the pleasure of your company, sharing the hunting and snorkeling spots with us, showing Jesse how to clean conch, and especially for sharing all of the super yummy fish & conch meals. 🙂

IMG_3325

As I suspect that this island (or at least a portion) will be sold and developed into some sort of luxury resort over the next couple of years,  I am glad that we had the opportunity to explore this island now, especially in its current state (which, we found to be quite interesting and fun).


4 Comments

Chapter 6 – Cat Island

Cat Island is located on the outer reaches of the Eastern Bahamas (also known as the Far Bahamas); a well-worth sail from the Exumas.  We anchored in Old Bight, off of a 3-mile long, perfect sand beach, that we shared with two other buddy-boats:  sv Wrightway and sv The Lucky One.  This area has one small bar to the north and a large creek that is the home of lots of turtles to the south.

We traveled to North Bight in order to check out the local shops and the Hermitage.  Father Jerome (John Cecil Hawes), an architect and Catholic Priest, known throughout the Bahamas for his work, built the Hermitage (along with many other churches on various Bahamian islands). The Hermitage, located on Mt. Alvernia, the highest hill in the Bahamas, is amazing.  When you first see it from the water, you would think that you are about to embark on an epic journey to get to the top of the mountain where it is located.  In reality, nothing is very tall in the Bahamas. Having hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail; the tallest point in the Bahamas would be comparative to hiking to the base of any of New England’s mountains.  The trail begins as you walk through the archway at the Hermitage’s entrance at the base of the hill.  As you ascend the hill you will see the Stations of the Cross and the replica of Jesus’ tomb.  Once at the top of the hill, you arrive at the beautiful, yet humble Hermitage. The tallest part of the building, the bell tower, is only about 15 feet tall.  This is where Father Jerome prayed and lived in his retirement years.  On the back side of the hermitage, you can see the cave that Father Jerome lived in for several years while he was building the Hermitage.

DSC_4256

DSC_4253-002

View of the Hermitage from the town below

DSC_4266

Debbie & Keith (sv Wrightaway) and Stacey (sv Smitty) hiking up the hill to the Hermitage

Cat Island2

Cat Island-003

DSC_4313

Left to right:  Crews of sv Wrightawy and sv Smitty

Cat Island-004

New Bight area – snack & beer shacks

DCIM100GOPRO

Fire & weenie roast on Old Bight Beach.  The L Dock koozie is enjoying the Bahamas as well

Cat Island-002

Great sail  to Cat Island with our buddy-boat sv Wrightaway


1 Comment

Bahamas Chapter 4: Swimming Pigs and James Bond!?

For the past several years, we have obsessively read blogs by other cruisers and followed their travels as we planned our own itinerary.   At some point, we came across a video of people swimming with pigs on some island in the Bahamas…well, heck yeah I wanted to do that too!!

DCIM100GOPRO

Pirate Beach…RRRRRR!

Staniel Cay is a pretty little resort island with a small yacht club, swimming pigs, and a famous grotto.  Yes, you read correctly SWIMMING PIGS! The small island next to Staniel has pigs cruising around on the beach and SWIMMING!  These suckers are huge!  There were also little piglets.  The tourists feed the pigs, as soon as the pigs see people they come running right over looking for food.  We had heard stories of people getting their butts bit as they ran away from the pigs due to lack of food and still hungry pigs. We also saw these very large creature’s getting into at least one inflatable boat to try and get food.  Overall, the pigs are relatively harmless and are somewhat trained.  We witnessed one pig that sat on-command (yes, like a dog!) for water.  There are lots of theories as to where these pigs originated from, but no one is really quite sure.

DSC_4005

Staniel for blog

DSC_3995

The Three Little Piggys

Just across the channel from the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is Thunderball Grotto – where scenes of the James Bond movie of the same name were filmed.  We waited until low-tide in order to snorkel into this cave-like spot and check out all of the reefs and colorful fish.

At the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, we witnessed a feeding frenzy of rays, sharks and turtles as the local fishermen cleaned their catch and threw the scraps into the water. 

Bahamas Part 3: Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park

8 Comments

Continuing on south through the Exumas, we made stops at some of the islands & cays in the Exuma Land & Sea Park.  Warderick Cay was one of our favorite stops.  We anchored at Emerald Rock and had a very quiet spot with several beautiful beaches virtually to ourselves.  We hiked around the island and, as is customary for passing cruisers, we left our driftwood sign on BooBoo Hill.

Ward 1

Ward10

Curly Tailed Lizard – only found here

Ward 6

Ward7

Ward 9

Ward13

Ward15

Ward14

Ward11

Ward12

Ward 8

Ward16

Ward 20

Ward21

At Cambridge Cay (Little Bells Cay), we checked out a submerged plane, snorkeled the Sea Aquarium Coral Garden (where Jesse got chased by a shark!), explored the Dungy Caves, kayaked, finally busted out the hammock and spent some time relaxing, oh, and we peeped on Johnny Depps’s private island – Pirate’s of the Caribbean money buys you a pretty nice place in the Bahamas!

DCIM100GOPRO

Ray

Cambridge plane

submerged plane

Cambridge Caves 1

Dungy Caves

Cambridge aquarium

Aquarium

Cambridge mountain

Sand mound at Cambridge

Cambridge Sunset

Sunset at Cambridge

This gallery contains 29 photos


3 Comments

Cost to Cruise the Bahamas – The First Two Months

After spending almost three months in the Bahamas, we have learned that we did not provision well enough for certain things.  For instance, we did not buy any sugar or flour before we left the States – big mistake! We have learned our lesson after having spent almost $7 for a small bag of hot dog rolls.  So, we have needed to spend more money than anticipated in order to properly provision for the cooking that we have been doing.  But the good news is I have actually learned how to bake bread, rolls, and pizza dough (anyone who knows me knows that I am not Ms. Suzy Homemaker – so this is a big deal for me!).

Also, we have had some success hunting.  We have gotten our fair share of conch and have made ceviche and cracked conch on several occasions.  We have also feasted on mutton snapper.  Unfortunately, we have had some epic fails as well: reeled in a large mahimahi and a bigeye tuna only to lose them trying to get them onto the boat, caught barracudas, and, lastly, we caught a puffer fish (which makes for great sushi if you know how to maneuver around their poisonous spines).  Needless to say, we have not saved as much $ by catching our dinner as we were hoping.

Lastly, included in our communication category is our Verizon plan that we continue to pay a monthly charge on (we anticipate we will be using our phones again in the USVI – if that is not the case then we will terminate our contracts and pay the early termination fees at that time).  In the Bahamas, we bought two SIM cards – one for our unlocked old-school phone (calls only) and the other for our MiFi devise (data).

February 2016  TOTAL $ 1,851.99

The first month we visited Bimini, Fraziers Hog Cay (Berry Islands), Nassau, Eleuthera (various ports), and the northern portion of the Exumas Islands.  Those costs break-down as follows:

$  356.07   MARINAS

$  314.82   COMMUNICATION

$  269.79   GROCERIES

$  241.85   ENTERTAINMENT (eating out and alcohol)

$  211.19   BOAT PARTS & OTHER

$  196.85   FUEL (Diesel & Gasoline)

$  150.00   BAHAMAS ENTRY FEE – I HIGHLY recommend immigrating through Bimini

$    40.05   WATER

$    24.95   TIPS, CHARITABLE DONATIONS, TRASH FEES

$    20.42   CREDIT CARD FEES (charged by some local stores)

$    14.00   PROPANE

$    12.00   LAUNDRY

March 2016  TOTAL $ 3,149.20* (I Know right – Holy Crap! – see Extraordinary items)

In month two we continued down the Exumas Islands.  Those costs break-down as follows:

$1,630.70*  BOAT PARTS & OTHER

$   532.95     GROCERIES

$   337.25     ENTERTAINMENT (eating out and alcohol)

$   261.00    COMMUNICATION

$   231.72     FUEL (Diesel & Gasoline)

$     56.08    WATER

$     52.50     LAUNDRY

$     25.00    TIPS, CHARITABLE DONATIONS, TRASH FEES

$     22.00   PROPANE

* Extraordinary Costs:

  • $   350   Generator that we bought from our new cruising friends on sv Wrightaway
  • $1,280  Various boat-related items including a Radio (music) & remote – our current one has decided to work when it feels like it, and a new Alternator, USCG documentation renewal, and US Decal (required in order to re-enter the USA), Fishing gear, etc.