Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ile A Vache

Ile A Vache, Haiti
Saturday 13 April – Tuesday 16 April

Saturday we have the morning free to do internet as we wait for our departure times. We were making water when our water maker gave us a trouble warning message. Turned out to be a blown fuse & melted fuse holder. We had an extra fuse and VERY LUCKY for us Ultra had a fuse holder so Steve was able to quickly fix that problem. Although it is still a mystery as to what caused the fuse to blow in the first place.

We will be sailing almost dead down wind 116 miles which will take about 15 to 16 hours depending on estimated travel speeds, we will be entering a new harbor so want to arrive with good light. The winds have been blowing strong from 8 AM to 8 PM, but die out during the evening. Ultra departed around 12:30 and us at 5:30 since Steve was downloading an update on his computer. IF we make good time it is easy to slow down but real hard to speed up without using the engine, and we will be in fuel conservation mode for our travels west where fuel stations are not so easily accessible.

We make great time to start with just the genoa out and calm seas. Once the sun sets the wind dies, and even though the seas are only 2 foot swells, every few minutes a 4-5 ft. wave comes along sending the boat into a spiral motion. We average about 6 knots and arrive in Port Morgan, Ile A Vache by 1 Sunday afternoon. Ultra had arrived about an hour earlier and called to warn us first about the barely visible fish traps and then about the boat boys.

As we are approaching the anchorage the boat boys start coming out in their wooden dug out canoes or surfboards looking for work. A little overwhelming as we are just 1 boat, hard to have 15-20 small jobs for these young men & kids to do. We explain that we have been sailing for 19 hours and are too tired and for them to come back. We get settled in and cleaned up but once we pop up into the cockpit they all start approaching again.

One older bigger stronger man, Karma, who seems to know more about boat jobs, we get to wax the side of the boat, another we had get a bucket of freshwater (saving our water-maker water) to wash down the boat to clean the salt off before waxing. Hand out some cookies and candy and to one an old snorkel mask and to the others we just have to say sorry no. They are all very polite and speak very good English as well as French saying they need money to help with their schooling. A beautiful place but very poor so the people are struggling to make the best life they can. Most live in the little village Caille Coq by our anchorage and they have no electricity or running water, there are NO cars on this island. There are 3 resorts near by, but not a lot of business so don't know how many people they employee. Later that day we go over to the hotel to take a walk and stretch our legs then by Ultra for a toast to end the day. After our long passage it is an early night for all of us.

Bill & JoAnne had talked to one of the boat boys about taking us to the market the following day. This is a big event that takes place on Mondays & Tuesdays at a village called Madame Bernard a couple of miles east of us. People from Les Cayes on the mainland come over on “boats” to sell their stuff, as well as locals from other villages on Ile A Vache. It is a sight to be seen, and several options to get there and back. We had first talked about walking, about 1 ½ hours then getting a water taxi back but no one could tell us how much the taxi would cost. Then we decided to take the dinghies, BUT Steve wanted to leave our dinghy here so the Karma could finish polishing the side of the boat AND Steve thought we were just going back to the hotel dock and walking. He missed the part where we were taking the dinghy ALL the way to the market. So we climb into Bill & JoAnne's dinghy with Ashley the guide and the 5 of us get soaked on the way to the market. Bill did a great job trying to keep us out of the waves but we got splashed pretty good, we even had water come in from the stern so JoAnne got a workout bailing the water out. Always an adventure. We got to the market area and were amazed at the scene. First a little detour to a nearby orphanage, run by Sister Flora a Franciscan nun, to drop off a few things then back to the market where we stepped back in time experiencing this marketplace. It was an amazing experience. Our trip back downwind was much drier and we were all grateful for that. Karma is still busy waxing the boat and doing a wonderful job. We have several others come up asking for work, but have to decline for now. Bill & JoAnne have several working cleaning their boat. Karma had also taken two 5 gallon fuel tanks to fill for us so we add 5 gallons of diesel. After Karma was done with the wax, another young man, Widlin, stopped by so Steve gave him the job of waxing the top deck. Several people stopped by to see about doing laundry for us and we do have some that needs to be done, but something about handing my laundry over to someone in a dug out canoe with salt water on the floor to take to a village with no electricity or running water did not sit well with me. I did some of my own hand wash items and glad we have plenty of sheets and towels so the dirty ones can wait. All afternoon people stop by trying to sell things or offer service. We understand but also just have to say no. We can not give out work or things to everyone.

Tuesday we were going to leave but the weather prediction was for less then 10 knots of wind, with a long way to go we want to sail and NOT motor, so we decide to wait until Wednesday to leave. We got approached as soon as we came up to the cockpit asking for work. I was doing another load of hand wash laundry, and Steve was replacing a broken light fitting in the guest quarters. One young man suggested he could clean the bottom of the dinghy, which was a good idea so we let him, we also gave him another old snorkel mask. After that we had to get off the boats for a walk and to not be solicited for more jobs.

Bill & JoAnne come by to pick us up just as Widlin came back to finish waxing the top decks, another great worker. We beach the dinghy by the village picking up three 13 year old boys to act as guides. Not that we really needed them but it was just easier to have them tag along and show us the way. Walk thru the village and over to another bay with a fancy hotel, the Abaka Bay Resort, has two helicopter pads to bring in guests. We have a drink and buy the boys a coke. Come back another way and the views are spectacular from up on the hill. Back around to see more of the village and to another hotel, this one not so fancy but a nice local place Steve & Bill have another beer and the boys another coke. Hope they didn't get sick as these are the big 20 oz bottles and I am sure they do not usually drink 2 in an afternoon.

Back at the boat Widlin is just finishing up, he even cleaned the rags he used with some left over water from my laundry. We give him one of our boat cards with a note on the back saying what a good worker he is. Karma also stopped by the boat to get a gallon of gas and we gave him a boat card also recommending his services. It is a hard road for them here, hope some of them can make a good life for themselves. I guess word got out about getting recommendations next thing we knew Ultra was surrounded by boat boys asking for them.

It has been a lovely time here and we were surprised to have internet. One side of the bay has a hotel with internet the other side homes with no electricity. A strange world. I know I keep saying we might not be having updates for a while and then we find internet, so not sure when the next update will be as we leave Ile A Vache Wednesday morning. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

DR West Con't

DR Heading West
Saturday 6 April – Saturday 13 April
We depart our anchorage in Salinas at 10 Saturday morning, Ultra had already left at 8:30. We have a slow rolly sail, winds are light and seas have good long rollers but we are able to sail. By 2 we finally put the motor on for the last hour and are anchored by 3 next to Ultra in the small basin at Barahona. As we are anchoring we hear a guy yelling over at Ultra, who are doing their best to ignore him. We are pretty sure he is one of the “officials” we need to check in with but he just needs to wait a few minutes to let us get anchored, settled in and put the dinghies down. At one point he looks like he is telling us to bring the big boats up to this “dock” which neither of us would fit into. By 3:30 Bill & JoAnne come by to pick up Steve and they go over to check in. The guy in the red pants that had been yelling to us is with immigration and he and 2 other officials along with a local that speaks better English all go over to Ultra. Yes it was a full dinghy. Ultra gets cleared in then they come to our boat to clear us in. We let them know we need our international despacho to leave the country, as this is the last port to do that at. We need to go to the main office to get our passports stamped. Bill drops off all 3 customs guys at the nearby dock, and comes back to our boat with JoAnne & the the interpreter to pick up Steve & I. We go over to the government dock, which is a big concrete dock NOT made for dinghies. The locals are looking at us like it's OK to leave your dinghy here, but they don't understand that it would shred the dinghy. So we climb out using a fishing boat and Bill takes the dinghy down to another vessel tied up to ask the captain if we could tie to his boat. It is a research vessel exploring sunken ships and he kindly says yes. Next we pile 6 people into a tiny car to go to the immigration office. Get our passports stamped and will have our despacho the following morning. Car ride back towards the docks we see some stores are open so get out and stock up on a few more provisions. Dinner on Ocean Star that evening.

Sunday Bill, JoAnne & Steve go over to the nearby dock to get our despacho but learn via the translator they have to go to the main office. They go back over to the government dock and tie up to the research vessel again and this time walk to the immigration office. Some how the walk up was shorter than the car ride the day before. Back to the boats and we are cleared to leave the DR even though we have several more stops to make. We all go over to Ultra and spend the afternoon planing and making routes for our upcoming passages, then finish with dinner on Ultra. Bill brings us back to our boat (our dinghy is still raised up on the arch) and we climb aboard, as Steve is unlocking the companion way I hear some one talking. It is in Spanish so I am looking around in the water for either someone swimming or in a boat. Then I see a young man sitting down behind our starboard side steering wheel, and yell to Steve that someone is on our boat. He yells at the guy, asking what are you doing. I yell for Bill to come back with the dinghy. Not sure what he wanted, he was NOT threatening if anything he was afraid of us and rightly so. The boat had been locked up and it did not appear that he even tried to get in, all the items in the cockpit (shoes, cushions, towels) were not moved. You could see the blue paint from the bottom of our boat that had come off on his feet and the paint was just by the aft section where he was crouched down. Think that is why he started talking, to let us know he was there. He tried to say something in Spanish about home but we did not understand and did not want any part of whatever he thought he was doing. Bill took him to the near by shore even though he wanted to go a little further, but Bill was not going for that. Guess we will now also keep a look out for stowaways.

Monday we are underway to Isla Beata by 7:30, Ultra having departed earlier, we both have great sails over. Anchored by 3 off a beautiful beach in turquoise water with a little fishing camp and a Marina de Guerra outpost. Just relax on the boats that evening and enjoy the quiet, and a sky full of stars at night. Tuesday after lunch we go “check in” just stop by the guard house to let him know we have our papers. They are making soup with an enormous lobster, easily 5 lbs, and allow us to take some photos. We walk the beach in both directions when it ends it goes to jagged iron rock, which we walk along for a while also. The NE end being a lot more jagged. Back to the boats to get our snorkeling gear and head over to the headland to snorkel and explore some caves. After the hot walk the cool clear water feels wonderful. Back to the boats to clean off and watch another beautiful sunset followed by dinner on Ocean Star.

Wednesday underway by 11:30, Ultra left at 10, to head over to Bahia de las Aguilas (Bay of eagles). We have a great sail over with full sails doing 8.5 to 9.5 knots downwind. With a lunch stop along the way in a bay that looked like it might be good for snorkeling BUT was NOT good anchoring as holding was terrible. On to Bahia de las Aguilas where at 4 PM we find GREAT holding in sand & turtle grass (no turtles or conch) and a BEAUTIFUL ISLOLATED beach ! One of those extraordinary rare spots that you just imagine what sailing is all about. Breath taking even to us after 3+ years of sailing and anchoring in many beautiful spots. Sunset and dinner on Ultra as we admire our surroundings.

Thursday late morning JoAnne & I go in to walk the beach. Run into a couple of locals who speak English and are so friendly and happy and surprised to see us. This is even a remote spot for locals, who come from Barahona about 70 miles away by land. Back to boats at 1:30 for a swim & lunch. Bill & JoAnne go out in the dinghy to see if there is any good snorkeling, but just grass. Stop back at our boat for an afternoon drink then a boat of fishermen come by to sell us lobster. The negotiation on price went on for some time with some pretty funny interpretation before we finally settled on an agreed price. We had them break off the heads so they could keep them and they cleaned the tails for us also. Dinner on Ultra of grilled lobster tails & Steve made carrots & rice & a cucumber salad to go with it. 
Friday underway at 8:30 to go 5 miles to Cabo Rojo to see if we can get last minute internet, NOT a very pretty anchorage, an Alcoa mine creating a lot of dirt in the air. We worked our way in to anchor up wind of this and the beach is supposed to be pretty but with the industry around it no longer is. That and as I was up on the bow coming in watching for sand to anchor in I saw a LOT of jelly fish !!!!! We are anchored by 10:30 and YES we have internet.

We were just going to stop for a few hours and rest before doing our overnight to Ile A Vache. Ultra left at 2:30 then an hour later they called and said they were coming back. A wind gust of 35 K broke their main sail baton, and when they got in discovered the main sail was pulling away from the sail slugs. These downwind runs can be hard on a rig also. They got things repaired and we all had a restful night changing plans to depart the following day on Saturday.

Link to Pictures:  https://plus.google.com/photos/103931849054358791487/albums/5866349813606982849?authkey=CIO16o2zgdyjiAE

Friday, April 5, 2013

South Coast of DR Continued

South Coast of DR continued
Saturday 30 March – Friday 5 April
Saturday the skies have cleared and after a hectic early morning JoAnne & Bill & Steve & I catch a ride with the marine staff to first go by a auto part store. Bill needs some spare parts for his hydraulic steering system, and knows they will be hard to find. No luck at the auto store, so we get dropped off at the “bus station” to get the bus to town. We are going in to see the Zona Colonial, the historic section of the capital city Santo Domingo. The area is on the river and mixed in with all the buildings from the 1500's is a living neighborhood, with great architecture along with homes and cafe's and parks. We are on the bus by 11 and 30 minutes later get dropped off, just a word about the “bus stations” there is NOT just one like back in the states. Depending on where you want to go and whether you want the express bus makes a big difference where you get on & off the bus. Luckily Raul from the marina dropped us off at the right spot and told the guy which bus we wanted. He also explained how to find the bus station (alley) for the trip back. We have a fun time exploring the old neighborhood and wind up hiring a guide for a few hours to do a walking tour & point out and explain some of the historic buildings. We wind up taking a taxi to the bus station and are glad we did as it was very hard to find the one going to Boca Chica. We get on the almost full bus and a few minutes later after loading on a few more people to standing room only we get underway back to the marina. We had explained to the conductor as he came by to collect our $70 Pecos ($1.75 US) that we wanted to go to the marina next to Boca Chica. As we got close we told him we wanted to get off but he kept hand signaling to us to wait. Well we passed the marina and got left off at the beach, not very far as we had walked this same area with Sean & Carrie the week before. I guess he thought he was doing us a favor by bringing us to the beach where the BIG party was. It was a fun thing to see as we walked back to the marina, the place was a mad house, just full of people in & out of the water here to enjoy the Easter holiday weekend. 
Easter Sunday we have rain almost all day long. JoAnne & Bill come to our boat for dinner, even though they made most of the food as they were out on a mooring and we still had our dinghy tied off from the trip up. Even with the bad weather there were still people down on the beach, can't imagine what it would have been like if weather was good. We have a nice Easter dinner and start making plans for our journey west.
Monday, first priority is to find a place where Bill can get his parts for his steering system, so back into town to a place called Tony Rodamentos and they have the parts and are able to make the ones they did not have. A few other errands in town then stop at the grocery store on the way back. They have an Ole store (like a WalMart) and they give you a free ride back to the marina. Don't think they have ever seen 4 people buy so much. We tried to explain that we lived on a boat and would not have access to a store like that for a while, but I think they just thought we were having a big party. Back to the boats to find room to put things away. Tell the marina that we will need our despacho for the following morning as early as they can get it.

Tuesday morning, Steve washes down the deck of the boat while I wash some clothes, taking advantage of the free water. We get our despacho a little later than what we wanted and are underway by 9:30 to make the 60+ mile journey. Winds are on the beam BUT very light so we have to motor sail the whole way. We read that diesel was available in Salinas but did not think there was a place to pull the big boat up to a fuel dock so were concerned about getting fuel. So we decided to keep the motor running for 8 ½ hours as opposed to sailing for 16 to 17 hours and arriving at 3-4 AM and figure out the fuel situation when we got there. As we pass the point to turn into the bay at 5:30 there are still a few fishermen out with big long nets. There is also a huge fish farm in the middle of the entrance to the bay visible to us and also GPS coordinates listed in guide. The channel has markers that lead you further into the bay and towards the anchorage. We are anchored in front of the Salinas Hotel, although we did not realize it was the hotel at the time by 6 PM. Talk to Ultra who is about 1 ½ hours behind and will be arriving after dark to let them know about the fishermen and their nets, and to let them know we will have dinner waiting when they arrive. They have a slow ride into the bay and once thru the channel markers we guide them in with our spot light. Veggie pasta on Ocean Star once they are settled in.

Wednesday we all sleep in then we need to find the Marina de Guerra (Coast guard) to check in. We first dinghy over to one of 2 places that we thought could be the hotel to find out it was a private residence. YES it could have been a hotel, it had 3 boats tied to a dock with a bar on it, two more moored nearby, and a helicopter pad. But it was a private residence. Some people live large and well. Our 2nd stop was the right place and the Marina Guerra guy was on the dock waiting for us, along with a captain from another boat. JoAnne speaks a little Spanish and we learn that he wants to come out to our boats to check them. We also communicate that we need diesel fuel for our boats. We learn that we have to get a ride in someones truck to a gas station about 3 miles away. We do not have jerry cans on Ocean Star as we hold a lot of fuel and have always been able to get fuel at a dock. Guess things are changing as we move west ! Luckily Ultra as a lot of them :). We were all in our dinghy so the guard climbs in with us and we go first to Ultra. As JoAnne is showing the guard their boat Steve & Bill start emptying cans of fuel into their tank. Then we load up five 5 gallon cans into our dinghy and go to our boat to “fuel up”, with the guard to check out our boat. He just looked around, really just wants to see the boats. He even helped us fill our tanks, as five gallon cans are heavy. JoAnne & Bill come by in their dinghy with their 5 empty cans along with 2 for gas just as we are finishing up. We load our 5 empty cans, along with the guard back into our dinghy. He takes us down the shore to another dock where we unload all the cans and go meet Louie.

Louis is going to take us to get fuel so we load all the cans into the back of his little pick up, Steve, Joanne & Bill pile into the back, while I get in the front with all the back packs and Louis and off we go to the fuel station. Get all the cans refilled and back to the dock. The guard is still there & he and someone else come to help carry them all down the dock and reload the dinghies. The dock was also at a restaurant that Louis owns. By now it is 2 and we are all hungry so we go upstairs for lunch. We had noticed a strange looking “building” on the way in and on the cover of the menu is it's picture, it is the salt pond right down the road. So after lunch we walk down to check it out. It is still producing salt and we get to see this laborious process up close and personal, like a walk back in time. Back to Ultra to unload all the now full jerry cans. Then a trip into the hotel to buy a drink and get the wifi code. We tried to order rum punch, but even though the waiter spoke a little English he told us they only had Presidente light beer. We saw the bar with liquor bottles so not sure what that story was about, Steve & Bill got a beer, JoAnne a coke & me a water. Back to the boats for a quiet evening doing internet.

Thursday a beautiful sunny, windy day, too windy to go dinghy exploring. We relax on board using the internet connection while we still can. Downloading and Studying maps of the new places we will be heading to. Ultra served up a great Tex Mex dinner and we brought the margaritas. Followed by a fun game of hearts.

Friday the winds have calmed down a little so we take the dinghies over to the beach. Which is on a very narrow stretch of land with the bay on one side and the Caribbean sea on the other. The sand is is volcanic so not the pretty white sand we are use to, and not very good snorkeling, but it is always good to walk along the beach. We got to see some fishermen hauling in their nets and emptying out their catch before going back out to deploy the nets again. We are always dodging these boats and their nets but we have a lot of respect for them as it is another hard job that the locals do. We enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach before stopping at the Marina de Guerra to get our despacho to leave on Saturday.

Next stop Barahona, not sure if we will have internet there, and are very sure we will not have it at the next few stops along the south coast of DR. So it may be a few weeks before the next blog update. Wish for fair winds and calm seas.

link to pictures;  https://plus.google.com/photos/103931849054358791487/albums/5863076641429011825?authkey=CJqLraHFo_Gl5AE