“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
Located just 50 miles southwest of St.Maarten is the volcanic island of Saba. Although this little island is only five square miles it rises to an amazing height of about 3,100 feet, making it the highest elevation in all of the Netherlands Kingdom. The entire island is steep and you will not find a flat road or sandy beach. But the views are just breathtaking!
The Ladder Before the harbor was build the only way to get cargo to and from shore was via “The Ladder” which consists of 800 steps that were cut into the steep rock wall.
The best way to see this island is to take a tour and hike. So we hopped a cab and headed up the steep island to The Bottom, the island’s capital.
Looking down to see the airport runway.
However, the most spectacular views on the island have to be earned by climbing to the top of Mt.Scenery. The hike includes 1,064 steps and then climbing over some large boulders. The climb feels like you are in a fairy tale as you ascend into the clouds/mist, when a cloud passes under you get the sensation that you are walking on clouds.
Peggy hiked the trail in flip flops.
Pictures from around the town called The Windwardside:
Clogs of the Netherlands
All buildings on Saba must have a red roof per the law.
We ended our island tour with some sundowners and a nice sunset back on Smitty.
The factory 20 gallon water heater was rusting out and leaking.
To remove the tank there were a couple of obstacles. The factory had the aluminum L bracket on the port side of the heater. But the starboard side was in a slot cut in the fiberglass that makes up the shelf the refer compressor sits on. So we started with removing the L bracket and the pressure relief valve. It then took 3 people to move it over to port enough to get the bracket out of the slot. Then I had to cut some of the fiberglass from the opening. We were able to turn the heater and get it out but it took a fair amount of effort.
Once the heater was out it was easy to put the 6-gallon heater in its place. It was shorter and narrower. We used the same L bracket on the port side. Then secured the starboard side down on the platform that was made for the heater.
This left an approximately 10-inch wide area between the back of the water heater and the fiberglass shelf for compressor. We did some searching at a couple of local chandleries and found a 6 gallon water tank that was 8 inches wide and the same height as the water heater. We secured the tank down with padeyes and nylon straps.
I plumbed the tank to a small, 1 gallon per minute, 12 volt pump that I mounted on the shelf next to the compressor.
The fill for the tank is just capped off in the starboard rear laz for now. I have the tank vent and effluent hose from the pump loosely installed for now at the opening of that laz, just above the cockpit shower head. Both are capped when not filling a use bottle, the Angels already got their share they don’t get seconds. The pump is controlled by a momentary switch that is also mounted by the cockpit shower.
Now I will say that I want to install a tap at the sink labeled “RUM”. But my Bride is afraid we will drink more if it’s that easy. Probably rightly so. So instead we have a two plastic 1.75 liter bottles (one Mount Gay and one Captain Morgan. We fill the bottle from the tank and then keep them on the shelf behind the settee.
We left St. Thomas with just under two cases of Cruzan Dark Rum in the tank. It’s our go to rum and in the USVI you can get if for under $8 a liter.
Now if I could only find a deck fill labeled RUM I could really finish the installation.
Over the past couple years, while we were working to refill our cruising kitty by working in the Virgin Islands, we were also working to improve our boat to better fit the type of cruising we enjoy and to make her more seaworthy. During this time we even considered if we wanted to sell our beloved boat and get something larger. We looked at a couple of storm damaged boats from Irma and Maria but ultimately concluded we didn’t want to trade a cruising ready boat for a project that would require time and money that we could instead put into Smitty to make her better suited for us.
These improvements included:
Adding a 12 volt water maker
Installing solar wings to give us more power generation
Changing from a single solar controller, that was damaged by corrosion from sea spray thanks to Hurricane Maria, to two controllers that give us better feedback
Installing a high output alternator with an external regulator
Replacing our old and hurricane damaged electronics with new
Replacing our worn-out vee berth mattress
Removed the main hatch, bedded with butyl tape and through bolted instead of screws
Changing our mainsail handling from the Dutchman system to a stack pack
Ordering a new headsail better suited to sailing in the trade winds
Replacing the “Berry” our hurricane damaged stolen kayak and making a rack for it
Adding more chain to our anchor rhode
Installing an arch to hold additional solar and lift the dinghy out of the water
Replace our leaking water heater and install a rum tank
Refinishing the cockpit cushions
Installing a lithium ion primary battery bank and AGM reserve bank
Replacing fuel lines and switching to the Racor 500 filter
Replacing the leaking cockpit bimini and improving the connector for better shade and rain protection
Giving the dinghy a refit too with chaps and nonslip floor
Rebedding and potting all of the stanchions and rails
Inspecting and rebedding the chainplates
Laptop stand and set it up for use as a backup navigation
Replace the interior cushions (Soon Come)
Shedding extra weight to improve Smitty’s sailing characteristics
Tweaking the sail handling to make single handing easier
It will take us some time to get caught up on posts for all of these improvements while also posting about the places we are visiting. We won’t be putting them up in any particular order. If there is an improvement you are considering or want to know more about, please let us know. We will work on those first. We already have a request for the writeup on the stack pack conversion, so that one will be coming soon.
After spending the last couple of years working in the Virgin Islands, surviving two Category 5 hurricanes (known as Irmaria in the Virgin Islands), and having added many upgrades to Smitty, we said see ya and headed south from St.Thomas in order to explore the rest of the Eastern Caribbean!
We sailed to St.Croix, hoping this would give us a better angle to sail to St.Martin. But alas, it was not in the cards. As usual for us, there was no sailing to be had, just choppy, confused seas. Unfortunately, due to the boat bouncing around, we had issues with our fuel filters getting plugged-up with the gunk that had gotten stirred up from the bottom of the diesel tank. The good news is, Jesse has become a pro at quickly changing the filters and we have many spares because we have run into this particular challenge in the past.He changed out to a new filter, we bleed the fuel, started the engine, and away we go. This issue happened a couple times on what should have been a 24-hour passage. About ten miles outside St.Martin (French side), when we went to restart the engine there was a pop noise and then she wouldn’t restart! After several hours and still no resolution, we made the decision to sail into the port (note: we were sailing, well trying, while Jesse was down below trying to figure out the problem).The wind was not in our favor (very slow sailing with long tacks back and forth to make any progress forward) and it was dark by the time we entered the port, which we had never been into before and there are unlit buoys and boats to keep an eye out for. Thankfully, this bay is very large with a nice sandy bottom, we dropped the anchor and hooked right away.
It took a couple of days of tracing wires, checking batteries, testing all engine components, to finally find a loose ground wire!Yes, after all that, the issue really was that simple and didn’t cost anything to fix!As you can imagine, we went out and celebrated after that! Time for good French wine, cheese, and baguettes!
We spent about a week or so checking out this half French (St.Martin) and half Dutch Island (St.Maarten). You can take a dinghy or car (we did both) from one country to the other without having to check in or out of either country.
entry to Fort Louis
cannon – Fort Louis
Jesse on the receiving end of a cannon!
Random Scenes from Marigot Bay: Local Art and a Horse “parked” outside the grocery store.
local art made from repurposed materials
horse parked outside a grocery store
And no trip to St.Martin is complete without a stop at Maho Beach to watch the planes fly very low overhead to land at the Princess Juliana International Airport in St.Maarten.
We were recently asked to share our experiences and a bit of our background for the blog Newly Salted. Our interview is below, but please also check out the experiences that many other cruisers have shared on their site: http://newlysalted.blogspot.com/
Stacey was born & raised in Milford, CT and grew up power-boating on Long Island Sound and the Housatonic River.
Jesse was born & raised on the South Shore of Massachusetts and grew up sailing on Buzzards Bay and fishing the Cape Cod Canal.
Summer, our dog, is an Australian Cattle dog-mix. She is now about 10 years old. We adopted her as a pup and she has been sailing with us since we got her.
Being typical “Type A” personalities, we spent most of our adult life dedicated to our careers. Jesse was a geologist and worked in the consulting industry cleaning up petroleum and chemical spills. Stacey was an accountant and worked in public accounting firms and private investment companies. The two of us had become disenfranchised with the idea of defining ourselves by our jobs and didn’t want to wait until retirement to live life. So, we sold everything (house, cars, etc), quit the jobs, and, in September 2015, a couple days before Stacey’s 40th birthday, we sailed away. Now we are trying to fill our lives with experiences and fun.
Our sailing vessel is Smitty, our Catalina 310. We have owned her for almost seven years now, mostly cruising the coast of New England and living aboard her prior to our departure (yes – we lived aboard in Boston during the snowiest winter on record! See Blizzard of 2015 as a Liveabord ). In September 2015, we untied the lines and set sail south from Hingham, MA (Smitty’s home port – just south of Boston). We sailed all down the US East Coast (primarily via the ICW), Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spanish Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands.
Q & A
As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Both of our jobs required us to manage various projects at the same time and still meet all deadlines. For us, the most difficult transition was to learn to slow down and enjoy life.
Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?
When we bought our boat our initial intent wasn’t to cruise on her full-time; we bought a boat that worked for what we wanted at that time. That being said, the Catalina 310 was produced to be a coastal cruiser and does not have capacity to hold a lot of water. We were ok with this fact and set sail anyway, we assumed we could get water in most locations we were going. This was correct, until we wanted to cruise in more remote areas in other countries. We have since installed a water maker.
What pieces of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Our Catalina 310 came with a microwave. We would often have microwave popcorn or heat up leftovers. Once we left our homeport dock, we very rarely stayed at marinas, therefore, we very rarely used our microwave. We learned how to make popcorn the “old-school” way (stove top) and gave away the microwave while in Puerto Rico.
What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?
I’m not sure if it was necessarily a mistake, but we spent way more money then we anticipated. We were in “vacation mode” and did not stick to a budget. Our thought was that we would likely only see some of these places only once. I am glad we enjoyed them to their fullest, but I do wish we had more of a spending plan or budget in place.
What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
To describe it in one word: Beauty
The locations, the people, the sailing (well, except all the “Easting” of the Mona Passage), the wild life (we still get excited when we see dolphins – especially swimming off our bow while under sail!), the color changes of the waters we have sailed, and of course the sunsets! It’s been an amazingly beautiful experience.
What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
I have been very surprised to see some cruisers (both US & foreign flagged vessels) having a complete disregard for the environment and ecosystems. We have seen them anchor on reefs, fishing and taking conch and lobster out of season or from no-take zones, and keeping undersized fish, conch and lobster. Even when we have gone over to let them know the rules they did not care!
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?
We were told that when you slipped away from the dock you were leaving behind so many of the hassles of land life. Often we heard the term “Stuff being left to dirt dwellers”. Unfortunately, we often found that we would be on a beautiful beach, sitting around a fire with other cruisers and there would be talks of politics.; too much talk of politics. We thought that would be left on land but there seems to be lots of talk of politics at sundowners and pot lucks.
What is something that you read or head about cruising, that you found to be particularly accurate?
“Just Go – Don’t Wait!” We read and heard this often. I can tell you from experience, this is a very true statement. If you don’t set a date and just go then you won’t do it. The boat is never going to be 100% ready, there will always be more projects to complete or things that break that need to be fixed. If you wait until retirement or until the boat is done then who knows what your health or life circumstances will be in the future.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
I wish someone had told us that it is ok to live “outside the box of normal society”; that it is ok to live life and you don’t have to do things that are “expected of you” . We regret investing our hard-earned money into things like a house and cars – we wish we had invested those funds into cruising at an earlier age (like in our 20’s).
What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why?
Prior to leaving to cruise, both of us got our Captains license, with the expectation that we would need to pick up some work at some point, doing something, so why not do something we love! We are currently anchored in Elephant Bay next to Water Island and St.Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where we live on our boat and go out sailing as much as possible. Jesse is a Captain – taking guests out sailing and snorkeling daily. Stacey has been both Crew and Captain on various vessels but has most recently transitioned to an accounting-financial management position. Our current plan is to continue to enjoy this beautiful paradise, build up the cruising kitty, complete more projects, and contemplate getting a bigger boat. We are not done cruising, just on a break for a bit. But we continue to live on Smitty in the Caribbean as we explore these options.
Wow – we are now three months into 2017 and I haven’t written a blog post yet this year! Well, let’s fix that…
I feel like we have been on a bit of a roller coaster over the past couple months. In January, we were supposed to go to St. Maarten to see family, but the winds were honkin’ with sporadic gusts that churned up the seas during the exact time we had arranged to take off from our work obligations. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the trip. We were really bummed since we were looking forward to seeing our family for so long. I know it’s pretty far out, but we are already planning to make the trip next January when they are in St. Maarten again. Since we were already off from work, we decided to play tourist on St.Thomas. We rented a car and hit the popular tourist spots and went to all the beaches that you cannot get to by public transportation, including Magen’s Bay (where we got married 15 years ago).
Also in January, the pilot for Flying Fish Seaplane Tour quit and the company could not find a replacement. Unfortunately, since there were no more seaplane tours happening, there was no longer a need for a captain to bring guests to the seaplane, so Stacey no longer has a Captain job. And, now that it is high-season, all of the Captain-Crew jobs are filled; Stacey is currently working at a jewelry store. Jesse, on the other hand, has been busy sailing the 42-foot trimaran, Tribal, just about everyday.
We haven’t been out sailing much, my dad is in the hospital, and we have been busy working, in other words, we really needed a change. We did manage to sneak in a short trip to Christmas Cove to have pizza from the pizza boat, Pizza Pi. While there, we bumped into Lauren & Brian from Nightengale Tune – we had not seen them since the Bahamas. The next day, when we got back to our mooring after the night at Christmas Cove, I thought I heard a hail on the VHF calling Smitty. Odd, since we never have our VHF on when we are home (aka on our mooring), so who would try to hail us? ”Smitty, Smitty, Smitty, this is sailing vessel Wrightaway”. I was so excited to hear Deb’s voice! We had missed Deb, Keith, & Kai since we last saw them in the Bahamas. We knew they were making their way south but we didn’t expect them to be here so soon. Their timing was the real pick-me-up that we needed!
Over the past three months we have made new friends, but we have also watched as friends sailed away. We have recently learned that Jamie & Keith on Kookaburra are leaving St.Thomas to head to Long Island Sound. We wish them all the best but we will surely miss them! And lastly, Stacey said goodbye to her phone as it dove into the deep blue sea (a new one is on it’s way). 😦
And so, the boat projects continue on (we just completed the installation of a water maker!-WooHoo!) and we try to fit in sailing and fun. We are looking forward to a fun next couple of weeks: our friend Tim will be visiting, the St.Thomas Sailing Regatta, Carnival (think Mardi Gras) and Stacey’s family visiting in May.
Arriving in Puerto Rico marked our first time clearing into an American controlled area. Since we left for the Bahamas in January we have been outside of the US. Prior to leaving for the Bahamas, I researched what would be needed for our entry into Puerto Rico. The prime thing that is needed is a US Customs Decal.
To get the US Customs Decal you visit the website for US Customs and Border Protection [https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/main/#].Its a relatively simple process to register as a user and then apply for a decal online.Within 5 days our decal number was issued and it could be viewed online. The actual physical decal showed up at my farther’s house several weeks later. But all you really need is the decal number. The fee is $27.50 for a year for a private vessel and there was an online user fee of $5 as well.
When we arrived in Puerto Rico we flew the yellow Q flag, as you do when ever you enter a new country. But since this was an American controlled area and we already had our US Customs Decal the process got considerably easier for us.We simply called into the local US Customs and Immigration office (the number was on Active Captain and in information the marina gave us when we arrived). We were able to check in over the phone following a 10 minute conversation that mostly covered spots not to miss while in Puerto Rico. Sea Frog and Last Tango didn’t have a US Customs Decal and had to rent a car the next day to go to the US Customs and Immigration office to get their decal. Party of Five are Canadians so all five of them had to go to the office to present and show valid passports.
The marina we choose to make our initial base for clearing in and provision was Marina Pescaderia in Port Real (Mayaguez) .It was a medium sized marina with decent facilities. The best part of the marina was the little restaurant at the end of the dock. The people that worked there were great! Nelly, the young women who is the chef is great and creative. She even played dominos with us one night. The bar was cool and had great fresh cocktails. They introduced me to one of my favorite new island drinks: Scotch with coconut water and coconut water ice cubes.
The marina also offered reasonable car rentals.You could get a compact car for around $30 a day right there. Which was great because within a short drive there were all kinds of great options for provisions and supplies.We hit a Home Depot, Walmart, Sam’s Club and a decent grocery store. The prices were really close to what we had in the States and that was a great break for the budget from the expensive Bahamas. We had a car with Travis and Daph from Party of Five.We filled it to capacity twice!
Totally restocked and having our fill of marinas over the past week, it was time to head out on the hook again. We thought a short jump down to Boqueron would be a good way to get acclimated to being on the hook again. It was only 6 nm from the marina. One at a time we took turns moving from our slips to the fuel dock and then off towards the anchorage.Party of Five was first, followed by Sea Frog and then us. Last Tango and Sea Squirrel would go last.
About halfway to the anchorage we started seeing some really dark clouds and hearing thunder. We called ahead to Party of Five. They were just about to anchor and thought the clouds would push south of the anchorage from their vantage point. We decided to speedup and try to anchor before any potential storm hit. We also called back to the other boats that they may want to wait at the marina for this storm to pass. We anchored just as it started to down pour, however, our anchor set didn’t feel right. We decided to set the anchor alarm and watch the GPS. We could reset after the storm passed if we still didn’t like our set.
Party of Five’s thoughts that the storm would pass south of us were wrong. We got a full brunt of the storm. We had winds around 35 knots with driving rain and lots of thunder and lightening.The other two boats made it into the harbor and anchored before the storm really picked up.
We started to drag from high winds. I sat in the cockpit with the engine running ready to take action if we dragged too close to any other boats.We were only slowly dragging, so our thoughts were to wait it out if possible and re-anchor after the storm passed.While I was sitting in the cockpit, I was watching lightening strike all around us on land and out near the mouth of the harbor. The storm really resembled the “charging like bulls” description from the Thornless Path.
After about 30 minutes, the storm was starting to slow and it looked like the end was coming. Just then there was the loudest crack of thunder & lightening I have ever heard. The hair on my arms stood up from the electricity being so close. I immediately picked up the VHF and asked if everyone was ok.Party of Five responded, “we were hit!” and then nothing…..
It took a few seconds for that to register and about a minute later they came back on their handheld VHF. Everyone was ok. Most of their electronics appeared to have been fried by the hit, including their primary VHF. They were beginning the analysis of what was damaged and what still worked.
With the storm subsiding we re-anchored. When we brought up the anchor we had a 10 foot piece of pipe and some old anchor chain caught under our anchor that prevented us from setting well.We moved over to a better sand patch and set the anchor again.Feeling more confident in our holding, I packed up all my electrical tools and supplies and headed over to Party of Five. Travis and I worked for several hours to figure out what was still operational.Unfortunately, we didn’t find any of the electronics to still be working. After a few hours we called it for the night and planned to resume the next morning.
The next morning Stacey, Summer and I went over to Party of Five to resume working on the boat. Sea Frog offered to come over but they were both sick and didn’t want to expose us to their illness. Last Tango had offered to come over for moral support but didn’t have much in the way of technical skills to help.Sea Squirrel had left at first light to maintain their schedule. Travis, Rhonda and I spent the day going through the boat while Stacey and Summer kept the kids entertained. Rhonda went up the mast to do an inspection for damage and to diagnose what was damaged by the strike. We also setup some backup navigation options (lap top running Open CPN, Navionics on a phone, etc.). Using Stacey’s cellphone as a hot spot, Travis was able to order new items to replace the damaged ones. We picked a marina on the southern coast of PR as base to stay at while repairs would be made and the parts were shipped there from Defender. (Side note on Defender, when they found out what happened Defender upgraded the shipping at no charge so that the parts would get to Party of Five sooner. Great people at Defender!)
You can read all about Party of Five’s experience with the lightening strike on their blog post, Shocking!
We left at dawn to head to the next anchorage.To get on the southern coast of PR, we first had to round a cape. The Thornless Path recommends a technique for attacking the southern coast.You leave at dawn, sail as far as your can before noon and then tuck into a harbor before the afternoon breeze kicks up.The trades are still going from east to west so heading east means heading into the wind. You can sail a little more here though.You would sail southeast until around 10 am and then tack and head back towards land.
Once we rounded Cape Rojo we were official in the Caribbean Sea! Our little 31 foot sailboat has now traveled as far north as Maine and as far south as the Caribbean. 🙂
With a pieced together Party of Five, we decided to motor sail due east and stay as close to the coast as we could rather than sail following the directions in the Thornless Path.This let us stay within the protection of some of the points of land and islands along the coast.Using this coverage we were able to make good progress well into the early afternoon.We made it to our chosen anchorage by Gunica, also known as Gilligan’s Island by the locals.
Gilligan’s Island had a great lagoon in the middle of the island.It was where two channels through the mostly mangrove island cut through the islands and form a wide, shallow lagoon.The current runs from the ocean side to the lagoon.Using the mangroves to assist, you make your way against the current to the southern end of the island to where the two channels join on that side of the islands.Then you can float back down either channel like a lazy river. You can also climb up the mangroves and jump off into the channels. We stayed a couple of nights until we had confirmation that Party of Five’s new electronics had been delivered to Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club.
We made our way to Ponce.The Yacht and Fishing Club was expensive for a night but had a great weekly rate. At first Party of Five took a slip while the rest of us anchored. But after a couple of nights in the rolly anchorage, we moved into a slip as well.We all took advantage of being at the club. There were a couple of pools, showers, a grill, tables for socializing, and an address where we could have packages shipped from Amazon. We played dominos and Cards Against Humanity and had a pot luck dinner with some other cruisers that were staying at the club.
The marina proved to be a great location to get Party of Five repaired. Once the packages were in we were able to get almost all of the broken electronics replaced within the first couple of days of repairs. Unfortunately, one of the things we discovered about lightening strikes is that more things will break after time.Alternators caught fire, computers were found to be broken, plastic bushings were melted from the heat, ignition switches broke. There was little rhyme or reason to what had broke and what didn’t.
A happy coincidence of our little armada was that three of us had birthdays within a week of each other.Not just a birthday but we were all born within days of each other. Kendra, Rhonda and myself were all the exact same age.So for a week we were celebrating a birthday every other day. I just wanted a beer and some steak. Kendra wanted sushi. Rhonda wanted a girls day at the mall. We had a lot of fun.
We also took a cab ride into Ponce and hung out in the city for the day. We toured the old fire station. We also did a walking tour of the historic parts of the city. Ponce was a great place with lots of history. Unfortunately, we timed it wrong and the art museum wasn’t open. We still got to see a lot of great things in Ponce.
Ponce is actually named after Ponce de Leon and his family crest, the Lion, can be seen everywhere.
We kept hearing that the must do attraction for the area was Coffin Island. It was only about 5 nautical miles off the coast of Ponce. We thought this would make a perfect shakedown trip for Party of Five. So all of us, including Summer, piled onto Party of Five and headed out to the island. The wind was about 20 knots on the nose with some steep chop.It was a good test for the repaired boat. It was also our first time being on a cruising catamaran. I have to say we were shocked by how loud the banging on the hulls was from the waves as we powered into it. Travis said this wasn’t bad and they had far worse on some of the crossings we had recently. I can tell you Summer didn’t like it and has been a little shy on visiting catamarans since.
After a few weeks in Ponce Party of Five was mostly repaired and it was time to start heading east again. We intended to leave at first light.At 6 AM, I was up and walking Summer when the rising sun illuminated large, dark gray thunderheads. A quick check of the radar confirmed the ominous clouds had some squalls heading our way. After a quick conversation on the VHF we all decided not to leave. By 9 AM, the squalls seemed to have passed us by and we were off for Salinas. It was a short, uneventful motor sail into the wind. Shortly after lunch time we had our anchor down in an anchorage surrounded by mangroves.
Salinas was chock full of manatees. We haven’t seen so many of these sea cows in one spot since we left Florida. We had lots of fun watching them surface for air while feeding on the marine vegetation. True to form these guys were not spooked by engines or boats and we could get pretty close to them in dinghies or kayaks. Of course we never got any good photos or videos of them.
Salinas has a great cruisers bar named Sal Pa’Dentro run by Janus and his wife. In November 2015, they had suffered a fire that destroyed their bar. However, you would never know it by their great attitude and the current condition of the bar. They have worked hard to reopen the bar as quick as possible.The one thing they lost that they couldn’t replace were all the gifts from passing cruisers. We helped add to the rebuilding by leaving a burgee from our home port marina.
Sea Frog rented a car for the day and we tagged along on a trip to Old San Juan. We walked all around the island and checked out the historic fortifications and buildings. The architecture in this area is truly unique. Old world with some Caribbean flare.
After several days exploring Salinas we were anxious to get to the Spanish Virgin Islands. Going on advice from Janus and other locals, we chose to skip Vieques. Unfortunately, they are having an issue with crime right now with stolen dinghies and anchored boats being broken into.Instead we chose to follow some local knowledge from Janus and head out at midnight with the intent of making it all the way to Culebra.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
May marks the month we finally left the Bahamas;so our costs for this month includes entry fees for Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic.We also got a bit overzealous when we went to a ‘real’ grocery store – we definitely bought some pricey items and treated ourselves.
May 2016TOTAL $ 2,413.27
$245.00 CUSTOMS – ENTRY FEES
$491.24 ENTERTAINMENT (eating out, alcohol, and excursions)
Water color changes: darker blue (close) is the deep water; the beautiful turquoise is the more shallow water
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.
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.
sv Sea Frog sv Party of Five
Left to Right adults: Darren, Kendra, Rhonda, Travis, Fabio (sv Odoya), Stacey Kids of sv Party of Five: Jonah, Quincy, and Daphnie
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!
Great name for a boat: RUM DRINKER 1
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.