Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beyond Bahamas

Travel day!  We cleared out of the Bahamas the previous day and are heading to the Dominican Republic.  We leave Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana around 7am the 29th of March.  After an hour of motor sailing, we shut down the engine and sail 3-4 knots.  The wind begins to shift and we pick up speed to 5-6-7 knots.  Smooth seas, sun out, music on, what more can I say, it’s a great day out on the water.  We’re comfortable and cruising fast towards our destination, French Cay, located in the Turks and Caicos.  We plan to spend the night there and then continue on to the Dominican Republic the next morning.

Sara at Luperon bay
By 6pm, we arrive at the south-end of West Caicos, only 16-miles to go.  We turn the corner and beat (this is when the wind is on the nose of the boat, a hard point of sail) across the banks the last 16-miles, elongating our trip another 6 hours.  Navigating into the anchorage by midnight, we drop the anchor and crash out.  Tomorrow will be longer yet.
Lind sighted - West Caicos
West Caicos sailing by
Nelly wedge against the starboard side
Six hours of sleep, if that, we wake up to the weather forecast.  Not sounding good for our original plan to cross the banks to east Turks and cross to the Dominican Republic from there.  Mike hails the other sailboats in the anchorage to see if anyone is heading to the DR.  Lucky us, two are heading straight there and two are heading across the banks.  We leave shortly with Wayward Wind and Spray, both heading in the same direction.  This is great news, to have other sailors within radio contact for a long crossing, one of the toughest in the Caribbean chain.  We head southeast to the Dominican Republic. 
Food along the way
Mike at the helm
The wind direction starts in the northeast, shifting to the east later in the day.  We start out flying, sailing 7 knots, close to our maximum hull speed, but eventually slow down as the wind shifts more out of the east.  In total, we sailed 35 hours from French Cay to reach our destination of Luperon, Dominican Republic by 6pm the following day.

Nelly learned to switch bunks for each tack
By nightfall, our progress slowed and we reefed in the sails to feel more comfortable while traveling in the dark.  We motor sailed on and off as needed for speed and battery charging, a total of 14 hours with the engine on.  By 9pm, we were ready to begin actual shifts at the helm (steering the boat).  I took the first shift from 9pm to midnight, while Mike napped below.  Mike took over from 12am - 3:30am and then I picked up from 3:30am-sunrise (6:30am).  At sunrise, I spotted LAND!   The beautiful green, jutting mountains of the Dominican Republic were a drastic difference from the flat and barren islands of the Bahamas, which don’t peak above 300 feet.
Sunrise at sea
Land sighted
We were so close to somewhere new and exciting!  I go down below and nap until 9:30am at which time I go into the aft cabin to get some drinking water before heading up to the cockpit with Mike.  To my unpleasant surprise, I see a couple inches of water on the floor and the water jugs floating.  For those that have a hard time waking up in the mornings, this will do it – the rush of adrenaline that the boat may be sinking is not a good one.  I call up to Mike that there is water in the back room and he says, “Of course there is, that’s where the water is kept”.  I relay, not that type of water and he comes jumping down below.
To our good fortune it was a simple fix.  We could see land, but were still 9 miles north of getting there and 23 miles from Luperon further east.  Mike identifies the problem, a leak in the cooling line to the engine.  I shut off the engine, while Mike goes below to repair the leak. 

Entering Luperon harbor
During this time, there is not the slightest breeze, so the Tanqueray is left bouncing around in the sea, getting closer and closer to Haiti than the DR.  Once the engine is fixed, we turn it on and start to make some headway towards our destination, very slowly.

Nelly at anchorage in Luperon
Luperon harbor - boats at anchor
Egrets at anchorage
Tack in, tack out, we work our way up the coast trying to lay the Luperon entrance with the wind on our nose.  Finally we get close enough to lay the entrance with the engine on.  We’re heading in.  It’s the most beautiful, calmest entrance we have seen, and maybe we are biased after being at sea for 35 hours, but we already love it here.  Granted the water is not crystal clear, as in the Bahamas, but the tall green mountains and cliffs dropping into the sea are a stark contrast to the sandy, flat Bahamas. 

We see fisherman at work, in wooden canoes, as we enter the harbor and then a multitude of sailboats, mostly blue water cruisers, while we enter in our 32-foot weekend warrior, as Mike calls her.

In town in Luperon

We have arrived, 193 miles from the Bahamas!  We have about 2 weeks to explore the Dominican Republic before we need to head back to Crooked Island to pick up our guests, Cindy and Matt.  The food is great here, fresh fruits and vegetables, the people are amazingly friendly, the scenery is beautiful and it is HOT.

Mike celebrating arrival to the DR

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Messages from Mayaguana

Long passage setup (on a calm day)

Calm seas and great wind direction made our sail to Mayaguana from South Acklins, approximately 75 miles, a pleasant crossing.  We left the anchorage at noon and arrived the next morning at 6am into Abraham’s harbor at the south side of Mayaguana. 

Mike testing the new spinnaker pole on our way to Mayaguana
Mayaguana dinghy dock
Abraham's harbor, Mayaguana
Dinghy stranded at low tide at Abraham Bay, Mayaguana
Low tide in Mayaguana
Some local fisherman greeted us, when we arrived on land later that afternoon.  We saw their catch of the day, which included the largest lobster that I have ever seen and about 400 conch.  It was quite the catch for a days work.  We were told that the lobster would be sold in Nassau for around $100! 
Town of Mayaguana 
Dalton with his lobster catch

Power lines in Mayaguana knocked down from Hurricane Irene
We left Mayaguana 2 days later with two messages to send to the Dominican Republic.  The first was from our new acquaintance, Scully.  Originally Mike invited him to join us on our sail to the Dominican Republic, not thinking that he’d be interested, but immediately Scully said he would love to have sailed over with us except that he just got a job yesterday to watch J.R.’s boat in the harbor. 

Town of Luperon
Land sighted
Instead, he told us to tell J.R. in Luperon that he was watching the ‘other’ J.R.’s boat in Mayaguana.  He assured us that J.R. would know who J.R. was.  I guess, living in the island world you can refer to people on a first name basis and find them from island to island.  We accepted unsure of our success in passing on the message, but he was pleased and did not seem to doubt our ability to find J.R. in Luperon. 
Entering Luperon harbor
Luperon, Dominican Republic harbor
Entering Luperon
Our next message was from the restaurant and bar owner Reggie.  Who, coincidentally, was the cousin of Willie, the restaurant owner on Crooked Island.  He wanted us to pass on the message to Steve to call him.  We said we’d try our best to find Steve and pass on the message.  He told us he owned a restaurant in Luperon.  Little did we know, at the time, that Luperon would be so easy to navigate and find both J.R. and Steve to pass on the messages.
Outside of Steve's restaurant in Luperon
Captain Steve's restaurant 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Faces of Crooked

After one weeks time, you really get to know the community in a place with a population of 350 people.  Plus we had already spent a week at Landrail Point a few weeks prior and had gotten acquainted with several locals.

Our first day in town on the return trip we went for a jog and ran into our friends Nappy and Trevor, who offered us an island tour and lunch across the island.  We gladly accepted and in return took them for a sunset sail out to the lighthouse and back.  Nappy even offered to pick up Cindy & Matt when they arrive to Crooked.
Trevor and Nappy aboard Tanqueray
That evening we ran into a couple and their two children who were vacationing at Landrail Point, Jackie and Brian.  They invited us on a snorkeling excursion for two days out, requiring a change of plans, no longer were we leaving the next day!

Day two, we met our neighbors in the anchorage, Don & Janice, on Plane to Sea, a Lancer 10.5 (34.5 foot sailing vessel).  They were a bundle of energy on their way down to the Dominican Republic.  Over a couple of pina coladas, they renewed our desire to make it to the DR and again we had a change in plans. 
Jackie and Brian at Landrail Point after the diving expedition
Brian, Jeffrey and Kim cleaning fish 
Cooler full of grouper and hogfish
Day three, we head out on our spearfishing expedition with Brian and his local friends, Jeffrey, Kim and Elliot.  We come back with a cooler packed of fish, specifically grouper and hogfish, the largest I’ve seen on this trip!  We were in the water for 4 straight hours, needless to say, Mike and I were exhausted.  So, for dinner, we stopped at Gibson’s Restaurant #2 (Willie’s).  We enjoyed a delicious meal of fried chicken on special request, since we’d been eating so much fish and now had a freezer stocked with even more fish.
Day four, we had brunch at Willie’s (a treat from her for all the fish we had brought over last time).  Getting ready to leave town again, we bumped into Nappy and he told us to jump in his car.  He gave us another island tour, this time stopping at some of the homes he built and introducing us to the owners. 
Dr. Bruce's house
View from Dr. Bruce's house
Here we met Dr. Bruce Ball.  What an outgoing and amiable character.  Even before introductions, he announced, “You must be in need of water, laundry, hot shower and a place to sleep!”   We were thrilled and said of course!  If things couldn’t get any wilder, he mentioned that he was from Yakima!  (Note: that’s were I grew up and my mom is a nurse and he recognized her name). 
Mike and Bruce outside of his house
Bruce came by the dock to pick us up later that afternoon and we enjoyed cocktails at his beautiful, hand built home overlooking the ocean, while doing the laundry.  Later that evening we were invited to his neighbors, Maury and Fritz’s house, for an ex-pat dinner party.  What a fun night, everyone was so friendly and all from the Northwest.  Fritz also has a book out “Ten Years Behind the Mast” which he wrote after traveling around the world on his sailboat.

Day five, we enjoy a coffee and crepe breakfast with Bruce and then head back to the boat.  Today we are heading out of town, for real this time!  We have exactly a month until Cindy & Matt’s arrival to Crooked Island and have places to get to that require some serious travel time and weather windows.

Sandbar at Fish Cay
That afternoon, we sail south and stop at Fish Cay, just south of Long Cay off Crooked Island.  It’s an interesting anchorage, located in a cut between two sandbars. 

Tanqueray anchored at southend of Acklins Island

At low tide the next morning, you can actually see the sandbars.  We enjoy the beach, which turns out to be an amazing spot for collecting BIG shells, much to Mike’s apprehension.  He seems to worry about how many shells I like to pack aboard the boat, fearing I may sink the vessel.   I relieve his stress by saying I’ll only take the top 5 back to the boat.  That afternoon, we continue south, stopping at the south tip of Acklins Island and reuniting with our friends on Plane to Sea. 

Beach at Castle Island
Lighthouse at Castle Island
Relaxing on land
Day six, our friends on Plane to Sea head out for Great Inagua, while we spend another day just 5-miles south at Castle Island.  The beach here ranks in the top 5 and is one of the widest we’ve seen in the Bahamas.  With a beautiful lighthouse protruding from the shrubbery, the rest of the island is deserted.  The anchorage is not desirable on the edge of the ocean with little protection.  We have a night of little sleep, the roll being ever present and punishing.  The next day after untangling the anchor chain, we move to the anchorage just 5-miles north.  We spend the day and evening lounging on land, solid land feels wonderful; it’s difficult to go back to the boat!

Our cove that we spent the day at on South Acklins
Sara and Tanqueray
Day seven, time to get moving, looks like the weather is better for a crossing, we decide to head to Mayaguana instead of Great Inagua.  After re-evaluating the charts, it looks like a better direction with the wind and mileage to head from there to Turks and Caicos and then continue on to the Dominican Republic if weather and time permits.