Monday, March 28, 2011

Puerto Rico Continued

Monday 21 March – Monday 28 March

Monday we spend the day calling and talking to people trying to see about getting work done on the boat. Our Spanish is POOR to say the least so trying to communicate what we need over the phone is very difficult. We do manage to talk to a couple of guys, and have someone come out and talk to us and look at the boat. After all the conversations we decide the best course of action is to get the work done at Puerto Del Rey Marina on the east coast. Which frees us up to explore the south coast as we make our way around the Island. Tuesday we head over to Caja de Muertos, a state park home of an old lighthouse from 1829. The small little Island has a good path covering the 2 miles from the west side to the east and a good trail up 270 ft. to the lighthouse. We enjoy the day walking and having the place almost to ourselves. Wednesday we head over to Salinas, a small little cruiser friendly village with a nice protected harbor to anchor in. We meet back up with Tammera Sue who arrived the day before, and make plans to get a rental car on Thursday to drive to Ponce to tour the city. We are on our way in the rental car shortly after 9, entering the city from the highway passing 2 bronze lion sculptures at the entrance. We are in downtown Ponce by 10, parked and walking around the historic part of the city. The Plaza Las Delicias (Central Plaza) is a beautiful square with trees and fountains. This is surrounded with several blocks of businesses, stores and shopping markets, all in different pastel colored buildings of Caribbean and colonial architecture. The plaza is also home of a Victorian firehouse built in 1883 the Parque de Bombas, painted the city's colors in red and black stripes it's hard not to miss. The Cathedral of Our Lady de Guadalupe is also located in the plaza. We take a little trolly ride around viewing more of the very old and different styles of homes and buildings, many in disrepair but many also beautifully maintained. Getting a small sense of the history of this the 2nd largest city in Puerto Rico. Of course a day with a rental car is not complete without a stop at the mall and Wall-Mart, between the 4 of us the trunk is full when we return to the dock. We load up the dinghies and make it back to the boats just before dark, unloading and putting everything away before going back in to go to Drakes located just outside the marina in the village. STRONG cheap drinks, good food and the owners Luis & Nancy use to live in Seabrook ! Friday, easy day ending with making mango margaritas from the free mango’s we got from the restaurant we had lunch at on Wednesday. We brought the pitcher over to Tammera Sue before going into the marina bar for BBQ night. Another great deal with cheap strong drinks and huge portions of good food for a great price. No wonder this is such a popular place for cruisers. Saturday morning Tammey & Joe bring Bloody Mary’s over to start the day then we take the dinghies to go exploring, noticing the increase in boat traffic as the weekend starts up. This anchorage is still much quieter than the other ones we've been at during weekends. We're talking relative here. There's a racetrack a couple of miles away that runs races all weekend, and you can clearly hear the cars, motorcycles and assorted other vehicles revving up . But that's a lot less noisy than the boom boxes from the beaches we've experienced at some of the anchorages here in PR where they like to party on the weekends. Sunday we are under way by 6:30, shortly behind Tammera Sue. In the usual Island weather patterns it is very calm in the morning and then the east winds and waves kick up in the afternoon causing your easterly sail to get very uncomfortable. So even though there are 2 anchorages between Salinas and our next destination of Palmas Del Mar, we plan to only stop at the 2nd one at about the ½ way point. Leaving Salinas motor sailing behind some keys for the 1st hour in calm conditions. Once out in the open out past the 1st anchorage at Boca De Infierno we have strong winds and 5-6 swells that we are beating into. It is a rough go and once again we get water in thru the front hatches. NOT as bad as before, but have to work on that problem !. It is too rough for Tammera Sue being a smaller boat with a smaller engine she can not make any easting progress. They turn around and go back to anchor at Boca hoping it will be calmer the next morning. We are able to tack out so we have the waves more at an angle and pick up speed. By 11 we are by the 2nd anchorage but by this time the wind & waves have actually calmed down (opposite of how it usually is) so we decide to just keep going to Palmas Del Mar. Tacking back in we make really good time as the wind & waves are both smaller and at a better angle. We are tied up in our slip by 1:30, checked in & have lunch before tackling the job of cleaning the salt off of and out of the boat. This area is very scenic as the yacht club is part of a 2600 acre resort & residential community, with beautiful landscaping surrounding the Mediterranean style homes and condos. There are several restaurants and shops near by, but after Salinas with inexpensive food & drink options this place is no bargain except the marina rate is a decent $1.50 ft (for a 50' boat). Sunday evening we just relax by the pool before going back to the boat for dinner. Monday I have to gather all the laundry as they do not have a laundromat on premises so all the wet salty towels have to be sent out. First & last time I hope to have to do that as it was VERY expensive to wash our towels and sheets, should have waited until the next marina but I just wanted it to be cleaned up. We take a walk up to the shopping center but no great bargains there either. Tuesday we will head up to Puerto Del Rey Marina to see about getting the arch made for the boat. While there we will meet back up with Tammy & Joe to do more inner Island touring.

link to pictures;

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Samana, DR TO Puerto Rico

Monday 7 March – Sunday 20 March

Wow 2 weeks of catching up to do !!! We left Ocean World Puerto Plata at 11 am for an overnight trip down around the coast to Samana. We had the wind almost right on the nose and confused 6 foot swells making for a long bouncy night. We have been in worse conditions but this time for some reason when a wave would bury the bow water would leak thru the 4 front hatches into the forward head & state room!!! What a mess !!! We arrived at the entrance to Samana Bay just before sunrise so circled around for about 30 minutes so we could have better lighting going in. It is a pretty open, deep, and easy entrance BUT having light to be able to see is always preferred, especially with the LITTLE unlit fishing boats reported to be in the area. We are at the fuel dock of Puerto Bahia marina by 8 am. After getting into our slip, with water at a flat rate of $3.50 a day Steve scrubs down the the deck and I tackle cleaning the salt water mess from down below. Spend the afternoon checking out the beautiful grounds of the marina and residential property, what a place - we had a hard time deciding which pool to relax by. Later we get cleaned up & “dressed” up and enjoy a wonderful dinner at the Cafe Del Mar restaurant with Tammey & Joe. Tuesday we get a ride out of the complex to the main road and walk the 30 min. into Samana. Seeing the sights along the way, and seeing the 2 sides of the town – the local side and the tourist section where they bring cruise ship passengers to. Get a taxi ride back to the marina making plans to go spend a couple of days at the national park Los Haitises across the bay. One thing we have become used to is that plans change VERY fast. As Steve & Joe are listening to Chris Parker's weather report and getting weather updates, it is looking like a weather window to cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico is right then, or we would have to wait 10 to 14 days before it calms down again. Tammey & Joe are on a smaller boat and Tammey gets sea sick so they are looking for as calm a crossing as possible. There are places we all want to see in the DR but we decide to forgo them and take the weather window to go to Puerto Rico. We tell the marina we will be leaving and start to get ready as we wait for the navy to come give us our departure papers. In the DR you have to have departure papers from each port $10 per person from the navy (just one time check in fee for the boat). By noon we are underway heading east out of Samana Bay. As we are leaving we see one of the whale watching boats so slow down and we finally get to see a whale up close. He / she ?? did not jump out of the water like I was hoping for but we did get to see them break the surface several times. Just a small glimpse at these magnificent creatures made me feel a little better at leaving the DR so soon. That and the fact that we had beautiful calm weather and seas, motor sailing out of the bay, by 5 as the sun starts to set we are able to just sail at 8 to 9 knots until 2 in the morning when the light winds die altogether. We are anchored in Mayaguez harbor, dinghy out and ready to check in by 8, they are not set up for boaters to anchor there to check in, they prefer you go straight to Boqueron & get a taxi to go to the customs office in town. But this is right on our way to Boqueron and easier for us to stop & check in. They provide a phone # to expedite the check in process but we had trouble connecting, then there is no dinghy dock near by without paying a $25 docking fee. But Steve finds a place to land the dinghy (dirty beach) and walks the ¾ mile to the gated complex finds someone to let him in and then finds someone to check him in. It takes a while but he gets it done by 11 just as Tammera Sue comes into the harbor. Passing along the check in info as we leave, they have better luck with the phone # and their check in went much quicker. We are on our way down to Boqueron with Tammera Sue shortly behind us.
Boqueron is a neat little beach community with a great protected bay for anchoring in. Glad to be settled in relaxing for the evening to get a good nights rest, the LOUD music from shore did not even keep us awake . We also see a familiar boat Toucan Dream, Chris & Robin Blair fellow members of our boating club TMCA from the Kemah area. We had met them briefly in Ft. Pierce Fl after crossing paths in the Abacos and had been following their blog along very similar routes so we were glad to be able to meet up with them again. Saturday we spend the day with Tammey & Joe checking out the town, meeting Chris & Robin and Charlene & Bill from S/V RSVP for happy hour drinks at Shamar one of the more popular of the many watering holes in town. The beautiful beach next to town brings people from all over PR to spend the weekend starting on Wednesday night. Mornings all you can hear are the roosters but later in the day until 2-3 in the morning everyone on the beach and all the different bars & restaurants are trying to compete with music. Monday we rent a car with Tammey & Joe and go to the mountains. Rte 119 and 120 leading to and away from the town of Maricao are two of the most narrow and curvy roads we have ever been on. In true cruiser fashion we scavenge a bamboo stick from one of the many bamboo groves we drive by to become a walking stick for Alice. Joe's leather-man sawtooth blade cuts through the bamboo with a bit of elbow grease to fit it into the trunk of the car. The beautiful views and trees along the way make this a great side trip and a way to see more than our usual waterfront vistas. The Stone tower located at an altitude of 2900 ft gives us a great panoramic view of the area all the way to the southern coast line. A stop at San German, the 2nd oldest town in Puerto Rico, on the way back down to check out a couple of old churches. Then to wind down the day a stop at the mall with a Wall Mart then the grocery store loading up the car on the way back to Boqueron. We learned a lot of places are closed on Monday & Tuesday which was not so great sight seeing but we were sure glad when we could pull right up in front of the dinghy dock to unload the car. Tuesday we left to sail down to one of 3 different anchorages we had read about a short distance down around the coast. We had a great sail but with the onshore winds none of them looked very settled so we sailed back to Boqueron and re-anchored there for another night. With the right conditions the southern coast of PR is full of anchorages just a short trip away. Wednesday we leave early to head out all the way to La Parguera, a whole 20 miles away skipping the 3 anchorages in between that we looked at the day before, arriving by 11 am. Go into town for lunch and Steve & I stop by a dive shop where we sign up to do a dive on the famous reef wall on Thursday morning. Wednesday night we get our hamburger fix satisfied on board Tammera Sue for dinner. Thursday we do our dives in the am, Steve has not had anyone question his level of certification since Emerald Bay. 1st dive was a good one with great visibility but the 2nd location visibility was not the best, and since I went down 1st to have time to equalize I started to get low on air first. Steve came back up with me thru the safety stop just in case but I still had a couple breaths of air left after surfacing. Back to shore and one of the dive masters shows us where Phosphorescent Bay is, too far to go by dinghy at night, so look into one of the many tour boats that go over there. Phosphorescent Bay has millions of luminescent microscopic plankton that light up when the water is disturbed. On the way back to the boat we see that Charlene and Bill on S/V RSVP have come into the inner harbor and anchored so we stop by to visit. Tammey & Joe on their way into town stop by also and we all decide it would be worth the $6 boat ride over to check it out later at 8 in the evening. We were going to go into town early with Tammey & Joe for dinner but the evening shower lasted a lot longer than usual and we all dined on our our boats. Thought we were going to get rained out but at 7:30 it finally stopped raining so we dingy-ed in. It was a cool boat ride over but we were disappointed with the phosphorescence -- we had seen better on some of our moonless overnight passages. Friday morning Tammera Sue heads out early as we defrost the freezer, and Steve smooths down a bamboo walking stick he scavenged for me along our mountain drive where there were lots of bamboo thickets. We finish up a few things around the boat and head out after lunch. Another short motor sail and we are anchored just east of Guanica near a small chain of Islands, one is nicknamed Gilligan’s Island. Some locals who used the Island thought it looked like the 1970's TV show Island, and a fisherman looked like the Gilligan actor so the nickname has stuck. It is now a state park and we fail to see the resemblance but it is another great anchorage to enjoy as we hop along the southern coast of PR. Dinner on board Ocean Star with Tammey & Joe after watching the sun setting in the west as the moon is rising in the east. Saturday we have a lazy morning, then an inside boat project and next thing we know it's almost noon. Joe has been busy cleaning the bottom of their boat and RSVP has arrived at the anchorage so we make plans to go into “town” for lunch around 1 which gives Steve a little time to start cleaning the bottom of our boat. We all go in to the little San Jacinto restaurant by the dinghy dock & ferry dock, as it is 1 of 2 choices in the area. Have a nice lunch hanging out and talking. Next go for a little walk to work off lunch. Not much in this area by the anchorage, just a residential neighborhood and a resort, so we take a walk to the hotel & walk along the beach. Back to the boats, Steve finishes cleaning the bottom while I clean out one of the Lazarettes and the swim platform locker. Watch another beautiful sunset followed by a beautiful full moon rise, life is good in Paradise. Sunday we leave the anchorage at 8 just behind RSVP, Tammera Sue is already underway we are all heading to Ponce (PONE-say) another short 3 hour hop down the coast. The anchorage is a little tricky as the harbor is 25-30 feet deep so we have to let out a lot of scope on the anchor rode, so we need a lot of swing room which between the boats already there and the mooring balls proves to be challenging. We find a place a little further out, passing a dock that we are not sure if it is commercial or what, just hoping if it is we will not be in any ones way. We find out later it is an OLD commercial dock that is now free for boaters to use. After finally getting the anchor set we meet Tammey & Joe in at the marina to ask about their facilities, turns out the office is closed so we could have done like RSVP and just pulled into a slip. Talk to Chris from Toucan Dream who has been here a couple of days to find out that the marina and area are not as convenient to things as we thought. Walk over to the Boardwalk to stretch our legs stopping for a few drinks. Monday we will make a few phone calls to see about getting some boat work done then decide whether to stay here or go to Salinas and rent a car and do some more Island touring.

link to pictures;

These pictures from Samana were posted to FB, so to some they may be duplicates;

Monday, March 7, 2011

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Tuesday 1 March – Monday 7 March

We have a nice send off from South Side Marina as Simon, Charlyn, Deb, and Ed all come out early to help us and Tammera Sue off with our lines. Tammey & Joe on their 31 foot Island Packet are traveling as far as the Virgin Islands before they turn around to go back to the states, so we will be traveling to the same ports for a little while. With the bigger high tide we have no problems getting out the channel at 6:30 AM, heading south a ways on the banks to clear some shallow areas that have even more coral heads. We get to sail for a full 30 minutes before we have to turn east / southeast and can't hold the jib anymore, motor sailing again. The coral heads are easy to spot as we cross the Caicos Bank and anchor off Ambergris Cay by 1:45. A couple of hours later Tammera Sue comes into the anchorage and we have a relaxing afternoon. Joe & Tammey come over for cocktails as we watch the sun set all of us seeing our FIRST green flash !! A green flash happens just as the sun dips below the horizon, it is only for a second so not easy to see. Dinner on board Ocean Star. Wednesday morning we wait for the sun to be high enough to read the water and are under way by 9, in calm winds and waves. By 10 we turn east into the sun to approach the Fish Cays, glad we are in 36' of water not known for coral heads as the glare of the sun prevents us from reading the water. By 10:30 we are in thousands of feet of water crossing the Turks Passage (AKA Columbus Passage) that goes between the Turks & Caicos chains of Islands. We arrive at Big Sand Cay by 3 disappointed we only saw a whale off in the distance. This passage is a known migrating route for the hump back whale so we were hoping to see some a little closer. There are 5 other boats anchored near by, Big Sand is one of the stop overs to time your departure or arrival from the Dominican Republic. We rest a little and pull up anchor at 6 to head out the open channel into the Atlantic for our overnight passage to the DR. We had heard Tammera Sue (TS) talking to a couple of other boats when they left earlier in the evening so we know we will see some lights out there belonging to other boats. Around 11 we hail TS on the VFH and say Hi as we pass by also talking to another boat out in front of us, always nice to know there is someone around.

Quiet uneventful night and in the predawn hours the mountainous coast line of the DR starts to appear with the city lights hugging the coastline. The rugged beauty takes our breath away, as we get closer and closer and the sun rises shining more light on this incredible sight. The excitement builds as we can start to smell the difference in the air. By 7 we are approaching the marked channel leading into Ocean World Marina, near Puerto Plata DR. We stop at the fuel dock to check in and top off. Two Navy guards come on board with the young lady from the marina to help with translation. Things go very smoothly and professional, we top off with fuel but customs has not come in yet so we go to our slip to wait. Have time to tie & re tie lines, wash the boat down, and talk to neighbor boats. One boat leaving for the Bahamas so we trade our Bahamian courtesy flag for his DR flag, he also has a few other countries we are going to so get 4 more for $10. This marina gets a good surge along with it's 2 foot tide, so the boats tend to move around a lot in their slips. We were shown a different way to tie our lines keeping the line running back to the boat up over the cleat so it does not rub on the concrete NON floating docks and chafe through. One boat learned this the hard way as his lines were cut in two and did some damage to his bowsprit. After clearing customs we are free to roam about , TS as also arrived and cleared in. After lunch we go walk around to see what is close by, there are several resorts up the road so several restaurants and a few gift shops along the way. As we pass by one resort Jeff #1 says Hi to Steve like he knows him. Turns out he thought Steve was Joe who had passed by earlier. He is a “guide” and is offering his service to show us around, one of the ways the marina tells us is a good way to sight see. We get his card and tell him we will talk it over with Tammey & Joe to see if we want to split the cost to hire him as our guide. Walk back along the beach to the marina. Check with Tammey & Joe & decide the way to tour the city is to hire Jeff #1, so I call him up and arrange to be picked up at the marina on Friday. Thursday night we had learned from Cindy & Ed on the trawler next to us that there was a good Mexican restaurant just a 10 minute walk up the road. Been a while since any of us as had good Mexican food so that is where we go for dinner, and have a great meal. Jeff #1 meets us at the marina office Friday morning, along with Modesto as the driver so Jeff can talk to us and explain what we are seeing, stopping at places he goes with us to show us around and take pictures while Modesto stays with the car. One of our first stops is the Brugal Rum Factory, just a year ago getting partially automatized, but still doing many things by hand. The end of the tour, ends with little taster shots of the different rums. I noticed they also had 2 fruit juices to mix in, so I asked about mixing one of our shots. Well Tammey & I liked that much better. After a minute or two of communication we learned we could pay the cashier and get to go cups. They add a shot or 2 of which ever rum you want in the drink, but we decided they needed more rum, and they did not object to us adding more. I figured they would stay stop if they wanted us to,which they didn't, so we had some pretty stiff breakfast juice. Seeing the city as we travel up & down the city streets, glad not to be driving in the maze of people, cars, and motor bikes all trying to occupy the same spot. Next we go to Mount Isabel de Torres to ride the cable car up 2500+ feet, to see the spectacular views and the beautiful botanical gardens with a replica of Christ the Redeemer statue. The views and the gardens are just so beautiful, pictures do not even come close to showing the amazing beauty of this area, wish we could stay all day and walk around up in the cool mountain air through the garden. The lush green mountain side is so dense with plants you can barely see any ground. They used this mountain to film some of the scenes in the movie Jurassic Park. Back down the mountain and it is time for lunch, so Jeff stops at a local restaurant so we can try some Dominican food, very tasty. Back to the marina after a 6 hour tour of the city and surrounding area, we had wanted to visit the waterfalls we had heard so much about, so Jeff makes us a deal to give us a tour of the country side and take us to the waterfalls on Saturday. Pick up at 9:30 and we talk about seeing the country side to give the water a little time to warm up. As with many places you have the very beautiful homes and resorts with the very poor local areas in between. The locals know tourists are close by and there is a good chance they will stop by so even on these little back roads you can find people doing their best to make a living. Setting up shops as part of or in front of their homes. We have a very insightful tour through the country. Waterfall time !!! We arrive get changed and fitted for life jackets and helmets, we have 2 guides Bruco & Salvador for our group of 4. There is about a 20 minute hike over and through some small rivers and creeks to get to the falls. There are 27, but tourists only go up to 7. We are told it would take all day to get to # 27 and back as our guide has done, and you would have to be much better at climbing rocks than we are. It is a fantastic experience that only the pictures can give an idea of what it was like. Back down change into dry clothes and to a BBQ buffet lunch which is included and just what we needed as we sure worked up an appetite. Can't say enough about what a great time this was. Heading back to the marina we stop at a local bar to enjoy one more drink with Jeff, he has made touring the area very enjoyable and informative. Sunday is a planning day as Steve maps out our routes for the next couple of stops. Tammey makes a wonderful chicken enchilada dinner on board Tammera Sue along with John & Cyndi from S/V Glass Slipper who we exchange information with as they are heading to the Bahamas from the southeastern Caribbean and Puerto Rico where we are heading to. That is what is so wonderful with this life style meeting new people and exchanging information, maps, guide books, and local knowledge of places, and best of all just friendship. We have a wonderful evening returning to our boats just in time for a firework show from a party by the resorts going on down the beach. Monday morning we help cast off the lines for Tammera Sue who is leaving early to head for Samana further east down the DR shoreline. We will be leaving later in the day to meet them down in Samana for a few days to explore that region of the country.

link to pictures;