Thursday, February 28, 2013

Puerto Real

We had such  good memories from our stay last year at the  Marina Pescaderia, near Cabo Rojo, that we were looking forward very much to spending a couple  of weeks here. And we were already up the learning curve as far as knowing our way round.
Clearing customs and immigration was done by phone through a very pleasant Border Protection agent and we did not have to go to Mayaguez to do  that, as we did last time.
The first thing we did, upon arrival, was dinner at the Vaiven Tasca, the restaurant of the marina, which had next to the best food we tasted everywhere on our last stay. That first evening, the "churrasco" kept its promises and we had a wonderful dinner.
Next morning, we went to rent a car in Cabo Rojo and drove Scott to Rincon where we met Art at the MacDonalds there before returning to Puerto Real.
Then, I had to start working on my list of chores, replacing the  water heater, cause of the loss of coolant, get the Lazy Bag fixed by a wonderful man named Ray Colon, who has his shop in San German. If ever you are in this part of PR and need work on your sails or canvas, this is the  right man. He is thorough, inexpensive and very pleasant.
The aft toilet had kind of disintegrated and I ordered parts to rebuild it. I also ordered the  new water heater.
Next was have the  propane bottle refilled. And every day saw one more item added to the list.
We also took advantage of the car to visit the surrounding more thoroughly that we had done last year.
And we had a few trips to San Juan. On the 14th, we went up to meet Bill Butler, John Simpson, Gary Johnson, Julio Rivera, Kevin . . ., Manuel, Lirio. John, Gary and Kevin were leaving the next morning and I would certainly  did not want to miss them. Like  last year, Bill put us up in the same building where he lives, which made it very convenient for Karen and me.
We returned to Puerto Real on the 15, but drove back up on the 16th, picking Scott up in Rincon on our way to a brotherhood get together in Puerto del Rey after a big regatta. Nice evening, a little noisy at the beginning, but very pleasant, with Graham Albert, Julio de Cardena, Julio Rivera, Jose Maria, Mariano, Nelson, Annie, Bettie and the wife of Mariano, and of course us, Scott, Karen and myself. We had to  drive back to San Juan quite late at night, fortunately having Nelson showing us the way.
Graham had invited us to come back to San Juan and stay with him so that he could show us the old San Juan. So we drove back to San Juan on the 20th, spent the evening with Graham and Elizabeth, on the 21st, went sight seeing with Graham as a wonderful guide, spent the night at his place and drove back to Puerto Real on the 22nd.
And in between, we drove one day to Guanica and Guayanilla, next to Salinas and in between drove to the lighthouse of Cabo Rojo.
And did shopping, provisionning and getting parts for the  boat.
After the water heater was replaced. I started the engine to make sure the tubing for the coolant got filled up. That is when the fan belt broke. I was thinking "no big deal, I have two spare belts" that were supplied with the engine. But when I put it on, I found out that it was too big and I could not tighten it. After a brief moment of panic, I went to the local Autozone, and found a belt just a wee bit shorter than the original and I was able to put it in place. And I felt lucky that this happened while in port and not at sea.
We are now ready to leave tomorrow March 1st. First stop will be Gilligan Island, near Guanica, then Salinas, then  Palmas del Mar.  Then, we will watch the weather to continue on to Martinique.

Zipping thru Dom Rep

We arrived in Boca Chica on the 10th at daybreak, after suffering again a dirty fuel episode. This time though, all that was required was to change the Racor filters to be able to continue on.
The only goal in Boca Chica was to allow Robert to fly back home in time so as not to upset his boss too much, but also having a little time to visit family in the vicinity. Mission accomplished. We took time to have a nice meal on the 11th with him before he flew off (so to speak) to the airport.
The plan was to leave on the 12th early morning so that we would arrive in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico on the afternoon of the 13th, as Scott wanted to be able to join his friend Art who lives in Rincon.
This was forgetting the formalities in Dominican Republic. This time, they decided that since we were going to Puerto Rico, the  boat has to be searched by a sniffing dog, and the dog had to come from Santo Domingo. So, instead of an early start, we left at 10:40, making arrival early afternoon a challenge.
While sailing along the island of Mona, we got a call on the  radio from the Coast Guard, calling us by the name of the boat, although we had not seen any boat, helicopter or aircraft. Stange !
And one hour before arriving in Puerto Real, we were boarded by the US Coast Guard, nice and polilte as always, checking mostly  the safety equipment on the  boat. All they found was that the flares were slightly out of date and they insisted that we should get fresh ones in PR.
So we only arrived at 6:45 p.m., in time for drinks and dinner at the Marina Pescaderia, too late for Scott to join Art, but he could talk to him and agreed to meet him the next day in Rincon.

For me, I was relieved that this meant the end of a long rush, with constant pressure on time, and a not too nice crossing from the  west end of Haiti to PR, against wind and seas. Looking forward to two weeks of relaxation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Grand Goave, Pestel at Anse d'Hainault

We had left Mole St Nicolas on February 2nd at 9:00 p.m. with 49,961 nautical miles on Papy Jovial since I took over on January 24, 2008. We arrived in Grand Goave at 2:40 p.m. with 50,064 nautical miles and there was still enough rhum in the bar to celebrate.
Someone told me that you are qualified to wear a golden ear ring after 10,000 miles. I would need five ears, so I gave up the  idea.
We took a mooring at Richard's home while "Dove" (Joe's boat) anchored almost on the beach.
In the afternoon, we had a good party on Papy Jovial, with Bertold and a german journalist who wanted to talk to me about "pirates" in Haiti. He did not realize that he was talking to the  wrong man and was disappointed that I could not confirm what he had been told.
That evening, we had a party at Richard's home and performed the ceremony to accept Richard in our brotherhood. As always, plenty of food, plenty of drinks, and no need to drive since our boats were just right there in front of the house.
The next day, we topped up our fuel tank from a disparate collection of plastic cans (35 gallons in all), before having again dinner ashore, leaving for Pestel at sunset.
We went through Pestel like a rocket, spending only one night there, having arrived early in the morning. But we had again a memorable dinner at Madame Jacques, with lots of excellent haitian food, lobsters, fish, fried plantains, rice and beans, yams, etc. . .
The next stop, in our express visit through Haiti was Anse d'Hainault where we were welcome by the mayor. Actually, when we arrived, he was at home, having installed a viewing facility for people to watch a soccer game between Brazil and England. In Haiti, when the Brazil soccer team pays, the  country is put on hold.

And we left early again, rushing to get Robert in time in Dominican Republic to visit a future relative (don't ask for details) before flying back home.

Further South, this time to Haiti

Finally on January 31st, the weather calmed down a little bit and we were able to leave Clarence Town at 8:00. The joy ride did not last very long. As soon as we reached the  southern tip of Long Island, the  wind dropped and we found ourselves motoring against 3 knots of current. I usually sail on the west side of Long Island and I had not idea where this was coming from. After a couple of hours, the current eased up and we could motor to Matthew Town, Great Inagua and get some wind once we turned the south west corner of the  island. At that point, I tried to make as much east as I could, knowing that the wind was going to freshen up but remain from the ENE, so that I would have a good angle towards Mole St Nicolas and the windward passage. We finally got into the bay in the early morning, not without getting a fishing line either in the  prop or the rudder. We will never know, the line was very small and the fishermen were able to recover their line. They also asked for compensation, which we promise to give them once ashore.
We then proceeded to my usual anchorage where I could find the same small spot of sand in the middle of an area of grassy sand. Two local fishermen were there to  dive and make sure that the anchor was properly set.
We then went ashore to the "Boukan Guinguette", very nice unit owned and managed by a group of young french people. It has a bar-restaurant, showers and toilets, space to set your tent, tents to rent if you wanted, and they are building a few bungalows for the less adventurous tourists. Mole St Nicolas is a paradise for kite surfing, with flat water but 15 to 25 knots of wind from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At the  "Boukan Guinguette", we had breakfast, then we met with the policeman who was going to inspect the boat and give us some kind of official paper to acknowledge our entry into Haiti. We took the  policeman to our boat in the dinghy. This was a musician of a policeman, and he carried with him a small portable music player on which he played for us this music. Unforgettable moment.
We then had lunch and went for a tour in their jeep, with a guide speaking creole and french (no english) and visiting few of the forts that had been set to protect the french colons against the english.
For entertainment during dinner, we had a concert. Joe who had preceded us on his catamaran and Scott played the  same guitar, Joe with blues, and Scott with Country music. After that, the policeman and his bank sang of their songs.
We left Mole St Nicolas around 9 p.m., en route to cross my 50,000 nautical miles on Papy Jovial and towards Grand Goave to meet Max, Lee, Michel  and Richard.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

South of the Abacos

I had so much fun in the Abacos, that getting south of it seemed to me like leaving the Bahamas. Far from that !

It all started with Spanish Wells where I had never been. We only stayed one day but we made the  most of it. The first night, dinner at Eagles Landing, the  only restaurant open that night. Next morning, after breakfast, we rented a golf cart and drove around the whole island, covering probably every inch of paved road that there is. Lunch was again at Eagles Landing after which we found the golf cart refusing to go. We had to get help  from the renter who changed the battery, and off we went again, going around Russell Island before returning to our boats and deciding to have dinner at the only restaurant open on Sunday night, the Anchor bar, right there on the harbour. We had a nice lobster dinner, since Spanish Wells is the  number one exporter of lobster in the Bahamas.
Spanish Wells is a very nice and clean island. It is almost only devoted to fishing, and although there are facilities to cater to cruising boats, it is obvious that tourism is not their priority and it kind of make the  island very special and different from the other Bahamas islands.
Then on Monday  morning, we were off to Governor Harbor in Eleuthera and we were planning to go through  the Current Cut since the current was favorable. Still, it is a very impressive cut and as you go through it, you sometimes feel that you are taken away and that you are no longer controlling the situation. It is very safe though.
We got to Governor Harbor early in the afternoon and found Rob, on  Hamshire Rose, waiting for us. We were planning to spend the whole of Tuesday with him and we had a very good and quality time. We took the opportunity that immigration was available to get an extension, as I had not been planning to stay that long in the  Bahamas.
After Governor Harbor, we went to Cape Eleuthera marina, mostly in hope of a good internet connection, but it was not working. Blue Moon instead went to Rock Sound and had a good time there.
We met again the next morning and together we went to Staniel Cay, but taking slightly different routes. We anchored in Staniel Cay off Big Major Spot and spent the evening together on Papy Jovial.
Next morning, I went briefly to the "Grotto" where the James Bond movie "Thunderbird" was partly shot, so that Robert could go and snorkeled in it. After that, we sailed to Little Farmer Cay where we took a mooring and went ashore, in tow behing the  dinghy of Blue Moon. There we had a beer at the Yacht Club, and another beer at the Ocean Cabin, where we met the crew of a Catamaran anchored across the moorings from us.
After Little Farmer Cay, we had to go to Georgetown where we were to meet Scott who  was flying from Norfolk. We got there in good time, anchored in front of the marina (Exumas Dock and Services) for  the  night and  then took a berth  at the marina the next morning. That  is where Scott found us, while Blue Moon came to the fuel dock. We went out to have a very nice lunch at the Peace and Plenty hotel after we had done our shopping and visiting of Georgetown.
Next day, we left, staying close to Great Exuma and taking the Hog Cay channel while  Blue Moon went to the outside to meet us at Simms, a very small settlement with one bar-restaurant, the Blue Chip. We had a couple  of beers there, before retiring to our boats on a sea totally calm with  no wind at all.
Next morning, we were on to Rum Cay. The crew of the cat that we met in Little Farmers Cay had told us a lot of good about Rum Cay, including an excellent internet connection and we were looking forward to visiting it. It all started with a overheating engine right at the entrance of the  channel that zig zags through coral heads. We dropped the hook in a hurry, found nothing wrong at first sight except low level of coolant, started the engine again and went in, not without running aground right at the entrance.
The marina is not really a functionning one and the owner does not charge for dockage but only for services like shower, garbage, etc...separately as you use them. There is no internet, unless you go sit under the Batelco tower or go inside their office, during office hours, and connect with an ethernet cable.
After we arrived, the  weather started deteriorating, and we got stuck there for four days. Not unpleasant though, as there were quite a few other boats as wells, and we were having events every night.
After four days, we finally got a very small window which allowed us to cross over to Clarence Town in Long Island, while  Blue Moon decided to wait for a window that would allow them to go back north.
In Clarence Town, similar scenario, we got  stuck there for  four days, but in a marina where all services are provided and with an excellent Internet connection.
 So, we rented a car and made the  best of the  situation, visiting the  island from Clarence Town to Salt Pond. We finally left Clarence Town on January 31st, after almost two months in the Bahamas. I had never stayed that long, but I have no regrets, having met new very good friends in Marsh Harbor, and having discovered with Long Island and Rum Cay places that I had never visited before.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Catching up !

More than a month since I made my last posting. It has been a very hectic month and I do not know  how to catch up.  I guess, I will go day by day, since we never stayed put anywhere and each posting will be about a new location.
We left Marsh Harbor on the 11th of January, after Big Hopper had had a chance to settle down. We left around 9 in the morning and had an easy and pleasant sail to Lanyard Cay where we anchored. In fact, it took us more than four tries before we could get the anchor to set, not very strongly.
Blue Moon was sailing with us and anchored just behind us. Sherry and Preston joined us after we were both anchored, and we agreed to leave early morning and go throuth the Little Harbor cut.
Which we did, leaving the anchorage at 6:45. We went through the cut without any problem at all and had a very pleasant day sailing into Spanish Wells, motoring only once we sailed past Egg island.

Truthful to my name (Brise Galets), I ran aground hard just inside the harbor of Spanish Wells but managed to wiggle myself out of it before tying up at the local marina, just after they  had closed.
But this was not going to prevent us from having a real good time in Spanish Wells, where I had never been previously.