Wednesday, April 17, 2013


March 31st 2013

Position 19° 19.474’ N
                69° 35.516’ W

Samaná, Dominican Republic

We entered Marina Puerto Bahia by 10:00. We were again met by the officials and the dock master with his staff who helped us to dock and tie up. Our slip was on the main dock right in front of the marina and hotel building. Marina Puerto Bahia is again, like Ocean World, a resort, it is either owned or was financed by the Don Q rum distilling family we aren’t quite sure, either way it is impressive. The complex is stunning and is run under the Bannister Hotel banner. The Dominican Republic is an emerging nation and the contrast between the life in the interior and the small coastal enclaves where development has taken place is dramatic. The country has obviously recognized the tourist dollar and further development will continue. Please visit this beautiful country and see it, meet the warm friendly people and sample their life before it is gone. Hispaniola is big with one third of the landmass occupied by Haiti to the west with the eastern two thirds being the Dominican Republic. Everywhere is lush and fertile, the country produces much of its own food and everything is available at very affordable prices. We took advantage to do some re-provisioning while there. The check-in process was a little complicated as we, wrongly, had obtained a despacho to Puerto Rico when leaving Ocean World on the north coast and therefore had officially left the Dominican Republic and here we were back again, actually having never left, The officials were sympathetic when I explained the shelter we decided to seek due to weather and only charged us the minimum they could to re-enter. So here we are still in the Dominican Republic, life is good, we are in a beautiful marina having arrived here without a single ‘cough’ from Stonewall Jackson so we are figuring that the fuel problems that were so crippling when coming from the Bahamas have finally be resolved. 

This five star facility exudes a relaxing atmosphere, the aura created by the linen drapes is all but hypnotizing, they hang from the foyer openings throughout the reception area flowing in the breeze, luxury sofas with their over abundance of cushions adorned the space and are scattered throughout the area opulently. An accompanying well stocked cocktail bar provides gourmet coffees and libations. The whole setup is just plain fabulous. The bonus to this gem is that all the facilities are available to us as marina guests all for the outrageously low cost of .90c per foot of boat length, in our case $37.80 per day! 

Another Kadey Krogen trawler, a 48’ model, was in the marina; while I was up in the Pilot house of ‘Partner’ a lady walking on the dock spotted me and walked to our finger dock. She introduced herself “Ann Miller from ‘Ann Louise’, she was from the other Kadey Krogen. Her husband Bill was, not uncommon on boats, in the engine room doing jobs! Ann invited Lavinia and me to stop by their boat, just a little farther up the same dock, to meet Bill and see ‘Ann Louise’. When we travel many things have to be stowed in order that they don’t become missiles or crash and burn in the pitching and rolling conditions a small boat encounters deep sea; they all have to be unpacked and made usable again so, we tidied up ‘Partner’ after her 18 hours at sea and later in the day after we had done the chores and explored the area a bit, we walked over to ‘Ann Louise’ and asked “permission to board”, it was granted and there began a good friendship. Bill and Ann are mid fifties retirees who built their boat in 2007 so she is bright white and sparkling new, beautiful. The 48’ is just like our 42’ to look at just bigger in all areas. We talked and talked and found that they were heading for Trinidad the same as us. It didn’t take long for us to agree to buddy up for the crossing of the Mona; a little company is always comforting on a long passage. We enjoyed a drink with them and super, Bill cooked up a quick but very tasty bowl of quinoa, a little hot sauce and vegetables; it was great! When we said “good night” we had already set up a date for the following evening for us to return the complement and have them over to ‘Partners’.  

The next morning the dock master Pedro asked if we would mind moving to another slip in the marina, on the same dock but on the other side, the owner of our slip was returning. By mid morning we were ready and began the move. Oh no! The engine failed again as we were moving within the marina, always a scary event, I managed to restart and after two more failures managed to enter our new slip without hitting anything! The marina staff gave a sigh of relief, they were running from dock to dock as we were drifting, in readiness to fend us off and avert the impending collision. The rest of the day was spent going over and over the fuel system trying to find the cause of the engine stopping…I couldn’t find anything wrong, this is the worst scenario as it is always better to find something! I continued to start and run the engine each day to see if it would stop again, it didn’t!

Las Terrenas, DR
During our stay the four of us hired a car and one day drove to a small town on the north coast of the Samaná peninsula which was settle by mainly French and some Italians in the late 70’s and early 80’s…Las Terrenas developed into a tourist destination for Europeans. What a great destination, once there one begins to experience a little piece of Europe in the Caribbean but all at DR prices! We encountered a great French restaurant where we enjoyed a fabulous, perfectly prepared lunch which cost us under $4 per head and the restaurant was right on the beach facing a coral reef protected lagoon with the open Atlantic Ocean beyond…a tough life right? The town has now become a hotspot for the more affluent people of Santo Domingo, the Capital, who can drive to the town in 2 hours on the new recently constructed highway. An international Airport also serves the area now. As I said before please visit DR soon before everything changes too much. The scenery on our way was breathtaking, Hispaniola is a mountainous island with towering peaks and fertile vales and valleys, population is sparse and although there are cars now there are still many horses and mules used for transportation…life is slow. 

We visited the town of Samaná which was about three kilometers from the marina, we thought it looked a rough town, it bustled but it was broken down and in need of much infrastructural renovation. The Dominican Republic is an immerging third world country but the people are among the happiest, engaging and proud we have encountered so far, we loved them.  

Our visit to DR was coming to an end it was time to prepare to go to sea and cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico. Both Bill and I use a weather service provided by Chris Parker, as do many other cruisers in this part of the world. We had been listening to his forecasts and studying his daily e-mails, we saw a weather widow approaching on the 3rd and 4th of March which would give us the best shot at a crossing. It seems there are few if no smooth crossings of the Mona, even HT remarked “maybe a 4’- 6’ sea is the best we can expect”. Bill and I made the decision to go but with a plan to fall off to Punta Cana, another resort marina complex on the southeast coast of the DR, if the weather window closed on us. The distance to Punta Cana was approximately 80 nm with another 80 nm from there to PR. We set off from Marina Puerto Bahia in the late afternoon intending to hug the coastline of the SE DR over night rounding the infamously notorious Cap Engano until we were off Punta Cana and then we would make the decision to either continue to cross Mona or fall off to the marina. The first 80 nm leg started at 16:00 hours and as the night progressed all went to plan until, yes, Stonewall Jackson quit again. What could it be…I first went to the fuel filter on the engine as the Racors all looked perfect, sure enough there was air in the filter, in its self not a problem as it is easy enough to bleed the air out, but where was it getting in? I bled the air and tightened all hose clamps and fittings I could see in the hope I would eliminate the culprit. When we stop the boat she always lies in the troughs of the seas and we were experiencing 7’ – 10’ swells with 4’ -6’ seas on top which are fine while underway but not when one is wallowing at a dead stop in their troughs. It would be too bravado of me to say it is not frightening, it is! The intermittent stopping continued about every 10 – 15 minutes and was becoming impossible, Lavinia was becoming distraught and me just plain tired and whipped. We decided to abort and go to Cap Cana and like our wounds. Bill came on the radio, all was well with them, I told him what we had decided, his reply was to reconfirm his companionship and that he would stay with us if we wanted to try to cross to Isla de Mona, which is a small island half way across the passage, where we could anchor in comfort and effect some repairs. After another talk HT and I decided to go for it…we did have some more stoppages but each time I torqued the central filter bolt a little more in the hope that was the source of allowing the air into the filter, it worked! We were able to continue to Isla de Mona without further stoppage.  

Inside the reef
Our friend's boat 'Ann Louise' a 48' Kadey Krogen
The approach to the Island is straight forward but then one must transit a reef entrance to gain access to one of the prettiest reef protected anchorages we could imagine. The places we are experiencing are breathtaking and of course can only be accessed, in a lot of cases, by boat, this is one of them. We feel privileged that we can experience this place with its gin clear water and spectacular cliffs…enjoy the pictures. 

 There were three mooring buoys in the small lagoon provided by the Department of Natural Resources who maintain a base on the island; it is part of Puerto Rico. We rested, ate and took a nap, after 4 hours in this most idyllic spot it was time to leave. We had timed our departure so we could arrive in Salinas, our port of choice on the south coast of PR, in daylight. Good practices always say enter an unfamiliar area in good light. We are becoming pretty good at reading the water now and know the depths just by the colour and shades of the water. Our two little

white ships headed towards the SW tip of PR on a course of 141° M. During overnight runs HT and I keep watch and it has now become established that she mans the 19:00 – 22:00 and 01:00 – 04:00 and I do the 22:00 – 01:00 and 04:00 – 07:00. Lavinia is getting the hang of using the radio now and seems much more confident in effecting a course change. She is also comfortable with using the radar and depth finders…she’s getting it! She was very worried at the beginning but I told her it would all unfold and the practicality of actually doing it would soon give her proficiency. Being only two months into our cruising adventure she is doing just fine.

Isla de Caja de Muertos
As we approached the Puerto Rican coast we received protection from the ENE wind and the seas calmed dramatically we also started to pick up some east flowing current along the south coast of PR which enabled us to slow the rpm’s a little so as to adjust our arrival time. We rounded the islands Isla de Caja de Muertos just off the coast of our entrance course to Salinas right at sunrise. The approach to Salinas was easy and uneventful. Wow! As we worked our way along the channel towards the anchorage, what a lot of boats; Salinas is a popular destination for cruisers and has grown to have most of the facilities we boaters are looking for including an amazing number of restaurants and ‘watering holes’. It is a small town but is close to the metropolis of Ponce and only an hour’s drive from San Juan. Once anchored we called the customs and immigration office to report our arrival, we have what is known as the Local Boaters Option, theoretically allowing US Citizens and registered boats a hassle free entry into any US territory; almost right! We found out that apparently Salinas is not an official port of entry, Ponce is. The immigration officer, customs and agriculture officials wanted to inspect the boat. After two phone conversations they agreed to come from Ponce to us and at 13:00 it was agreed they would meet us in the Salinas Marina office. After a little officialdom everyone relaxed and our entry to PR was completed by the Immigration official saying “Welcome to Puerto Rico, this is your home”, I said to Lavinia how nice it was that he said that as it set the scene for us to feel comfortable in this a separate island but just as American as the US mainland…  
More to come from Puerto Rico...

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Cruisers Terminus

March 24th 2013 

Position N 23° 51.402’.
               W 75° 74.717’.  

Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas

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After saying our goodbye’s to ‘Cocoon Two’ and ‘Moon River’ we sailed south from Big Major toward Galliot Cut and the deep water Exuma Sound where we would cruise down to Georgetown. The trip to Galliot was a short 18 nm run; the weather was in full cooperation which made the journey a leisurely and pleasant event. We arrived at Galliot Cut to find two other boats anchored there a 56’ Hatteras and a 36’ Monk trawler. It is always nice to find someone else safely anchored in the area as it is confirmation that the holding is good and that one’s anchor is not likely to drag. As we approached the lee of Big Galliot Cay the Hatteras called us on the VHF and said “move a little closer in towards the island and you will find a clear sand bottom and ten feet of water”, I thanked him for the advice and preceded...sure enough the dark weed bottom changed to the light associated with an unobstructed sand covered sea bed. All boaters prefer a sandy bottom to anchor on as it provides good holding and a clean anchor and chain when the time comes to weigh the anchor and move on. The people from the Monk trawler had dinghied over to the Hatteras and were obviously enjoying sundowners, it was 17:00. We got our SGT’s and sat on the back deck enjoying the calm conditions and the sunset. On their way back Jeff & Sally from ‘Adirondack’ the Monk trawler stopped by in their dinghy to introduce themselves and say hello. Cruisers, as I have said before, have to make friends quickly before the company passes in the night! Both the Hatteras and the Monk were not going south to Georgetown so we would part company in the morning when we upped anchor and headed east through the Cut to Exuma Sound and they headed south on the Banks side of the island chain.

The pass through Galliot was uneventful and we entered the Sound; the North Atlantic rollers could be felt immediately, spaced well apart they gently lifted us up and at 10 – 12 second intervals, set us down again. This was the Ocean, nothing between us and Africa! The motion soon became unnoticed as we travelled the 40 nm to Conch Cut which is the western entrance to Elizabeth Harbour and the huge area of protected water that is Georgetown. As our cruise proceeded down towards Conch Cut the sea built to a point that the waves on top of the swell began to break heavily on the island shores. When we approached the Cut there were breakers and apprehension consumed us! HT became very nervous with visions of us broaching, surfing down waves and crashing into the reef! The swells were still long so as we got closer I saw that we would be able to time our entry between the waves; all went well...we were in; the seas calmed and we became excited that we had arrived in yet another new destination. Georgetown is a terminus and is known as ‘Chicken Harbour’. So many cruisers get this far making short ‘hops’ down the Bahamian Islands but due to the longer passages that have to be negotiated in order to go farther south from here many turn back. We are determined and will go south!

Chat 'N Chill Beach
Stocking Island
Georgetown, the fabled home of so many boaters, we were here! The town really caters to the cruisers and it is obvious that the economy relies on the annual migration. The actual town was smaller than we had imagined and, in fact, did not have as many boat related stores as we had thought there would be. From all we had read we got the impression that Georgetown had everything, it doesn’t! We thought that we would be spending a while here so we ordered a mail drop from our service, big mistake! We chose DHL as the shipper and ‘Top to Bottom’ as the store to receive it. We were told by ‘Top to Bottom’ that it would take three business days, well, it didn’t it ended up taking 6 days...all of this is typical in the islands, a sense of urgency is something which is none existent here! “Island time mon, just chill...” We had fun in Georgetown but would not spend as much time here if we were to visit again.

Abraham's Bay
The itch to move on arrived on the 21st; we weighed anchor just after lunch time and headed east toward the SE exit cut near Fowl Cay, soon we were in open water again with the Atlantic swells we were introduced to in the Exuma Sound. Our course would take us round the northern tip of Long Island down its east coast the across the east coast of Crooked and Acklins Islands. We decided to pass to the west of the Plana Cays hoping to gain some lee from the swells and wind; we did. After a benign day and night of cruising we approached Mayaguana and Abraham’s bay. We had allowed ourselves just enough daylight to negotiate the tricky entrance through and behind the reef. There were already four other sailing boats at anchor. After a good night we continued our journey south retracing our course through the reef and out of the bay setting a course for the Turks and Caicos Islands. We were not sure if we would stop at the Turks; if the weather was good enough we would continue south and cruise directly to the Dominican Republic, if the weather didn’t allow we would anchor at French Cay to wait for a weather window to continue. Some decisions are hard, when we were near French Cay the weather was not perfect but not bad enough to invoke the decision to stop there. We decided to continue... 

Our decision to continue was a bad one, the condition deteriorated rapidly the seas built continually reaching up to 15’ with winds gusting to 30 mph. None of this was forecast by the way! In addition to the weather all of a sudden our engine stopped! When this happens a boat will always settle in the trough of the waves so the rolling becomes violent and very frightening, HT was very frightened. I immediately suspected a fuel problem as most diesel engine failures can be attributed to fuel starvation or some other fuel related malady. I turned on the fuel polishing system I have on board to clean the fuel. We had taken on some diesel in Miami from a fuel truck and I suspected it may have either had water or sludge in it and was the cause of our engine shut down. It was not long before the evidence began to show up in the fuel polishing filter...water and sludge! I was able to clean enough of the fuel to restart the engine and get under way again. I then began to change the Racor filters for the polisher and the engine; the engine has twin filters so one can change one while using the other and vice versa. The engine stopped again! In total the engine had failed half a dozen times. We were now approaching the coast of the Dominican Republic and due to the problems we had had I wanted to be in a safe marina to effect proper repairs. On the north coast of DR there is only one marina Ocean World and we didn’t know anything about it. Our arrival couldn’t come soon enough...I was continually worried that the engine would fail again and now we were not in open water we were only a mile or two off the coast of the DR and the reefs that skirt the coastline. We arrived in Ocean World at midnight on the 23rd after a hair raising 40 hour ordeal, the entry was straight forward, a buoyed channel led us in and we were met by some officials and marina staff who beckoned us to the fuel dock and helped us tie up for the night. With a sigh of relief we welcomed sleep...

At 08:00 sharp the entourage arrived, Navy, immigration, customs and Agriculture. The advantage of entering the DR in somewhere such as Ocean World is that one of the marina staff is present to assist with the check –in procedure and to ensure that all the correct fees are charged, they actually have a menu of the charges. It cost us $43 for our 42’ boat and $10 for each person on board, in addition it is customary to tip the other officials which we did, a total of about $20. We were in and the next thing was to check in to the marina and get to a slip. In our reading we were advised to seek a slip in the northern part where the surge effect was less, we did. All the staff in the marina were superb, in particular Eddie, one of the dock masters, he helped us with a trusted diesel mechanic Arturo who not only helped me clean and change all my fuel and fuel management filters but also fabricated a new fuel return hose for ‘Faraday’ as well as fit a new oil pressure alarm sending unit both of which were leaking. Puerto Plata just 3 miles east seems to have everything one needs. Arturo was only gone for a couple of hours to get the hose and the Westerbeke sensor, I was surprised! With the boat now serviced it was time to enjoy our stay here. Ocean World is quite a complex with a water park casino several restaurants a discothèque and all facilities a cruiser could want. It is actually a five star resort. Our stay was for only two days as a weather window gave us the opportunity to continue to cruise the north coast and possibly an opportunity to cross the Mona Passage and get to Boquerón in Puerto Rico. We checked out, bought 100 gallons of fuel and sailed out into the Atlantic once more. It was a beautiful day with calm seas. By the time we had reached the Cape’s that define the NE corner of the Dominican Republic the weather had turned and we were experiencing 8’ seas and winds in the 20’s. Yet another decision needed to be made. With another 24 hours ahead of us to cross the Mona Passage the Admiral and I conferred and it was decided that we would abort and divert to Samaná to await a better weather window to make the crossing. As soon as we turned south in fact a little west of south towards Samaná bay the seas abated and the worst was over for this night. We rounded in toward the town of Samaná at 03:00. I had looked on the chart to find a protected anchorage so we could drop the hook and get some sleep. I spotted a headland that would shield us from the swell and wind that had 12’ of water, this was our spot. At the time we anchored we had no idea what we would awaken to. After only two hours sleep daylight came and what surrounded our anchorage was revealed...we were anchored by a small settlement of fishermen some were already out in their brightly painted boats fishing in the protected area. The pictures here are worth a thousand words. We both thought that we were somewhere in the South Pacific instead of the Caribbean. After a quick cup of tea and in HT’s case a coffee we raised the anchor and proceeded to the Marina Puerto Bahia...