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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

DR to St.Thomas USVI

Hi All...Ben here...a little bleary eyed from the night at sea with these two yahoo's. 

Apparently the engines were perfectly fine and they could have turned them off if they wanted to, and I could have had a nice walk and happy hour. But they're excited about a good "weather window" that will get us to St.Thomas in time to meet Sandy and Dimitry for their vacation next week.  I'm happy about that, so what's a little loss of sleep?

 As the sun came up and I went up to the Poop Deck for my morning constitution, I got my first  view of the Dominican Republic.  It has a lot more mountains than the previous islands we've been passing, and they're covered with tropical trees and steep rock that comes straight down to meet the ocean. 

Every once in a while we pass a really beautiful complex.  I wonder if Rin-Tin-Tin or Lassie used to have vacation home there. 
 We can travel much closer to these islands because the water is real deep all the way up to the land. Izzy doesn't get that "hair on fire" thing that Jeff always laughs about when we get into shallow water. 

Sometimes she's downright relaxed.

We passed some guys in a row boat way out from the shore who were fishing.  They waved at me,  and I waved back.  I tossed them some bottled water as our boat got closer.  I think they were hoping for a beer. 
It seems to be a common thing for these men to be way far from the shore in the hot sun trying to catch fish in their little boats without any motors.  Makes me think Jeff and Izzy are pretty wimpy fishermen when we have all the tools to make it easy to fish, yet they hardly ever get a bite!  I bet the Dominican Republic fishermen would like to fish from our boat ...with the shady cockpit, the engines and the full beer fridge.

After lunch time we came to the Samana Bay

There's a town and a bay with moorings and anchored boats, but we were looking for the new Puerto Bahia Marina that our guide books talked about. 
Since it wasn't on the charts, we had to get some directions from some French boaters who were relaxing naked as a jaybird in their boat in the harbor. 
We put up our Quarantine flag that signals that we are visiting and have not yet gotten permission from Customs and Immigration to go ashore and continued farther into the bay to find the marina.  

It wasn't hard to recognize, with all the fishing and sailboats docked inside the inlet. 
This is Puerto Bahia Marina - Samana, Dominican Republic.
It's a beautiful place with lots of activity. 

and a fuel dock! 

Oh no...not fuel day again!

Jeff's bound to be in a grouchy mood after this!
When we got to our slip, the customs people came to check us in to the country, check our papers and collect the fees.  This time were were four of them...each with a different fee and different forms.  It took a long time and it was getting hot, so when they left
Izzy decided to cheer Jeff up with a walk around the beautiful marina.

This is the open lobby with comfy sofas and chairs, smooth shiny floors and a nice breeze blowing through to cool us off.  I wasn't allowed to test out the sofa. 

Up those winding stairs, there was a roof top party room and
an infinity pool. 
Jeff and Izzy took a dip to ease the painful wallet that Jeff had developed from the fuel purchase.
They were thinking that was the cat's meow (so to speak) until they looked over the edge and spied the ocean side infinity pool!  Of course they had to try that out too, frolicking in the warm clear water while sipping on a rum punch. 
I, on the other hand, got a milk bone and a hosing in the cockpit....a dog's life... 
No time to stay in the Dominican Republic since we're on a mission to get to St.Thomas in a few days, so we took off early in the morning for our last stop in the Dominican Republic - Punta Cano, on the far east side of this big island.  It was a long day on flat seas and the heat and humidity are starting to kick in.  We arrived at 6 pm - too late for customs.  Just as well, it was too hard to get off the boat in this marina- lots of rocks and quite a jump to the shore.  So the only logical thing to do was to begin  Happy Hour!
I wonder if I only get that bowl of water again ...Where's the RUM?

 From here we can get an early start on the passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico...over the dreaded Mona Passage.  Boaters have described this passage as like being in a washing machine...even on a sunny day if the wind and tides are just right.  The Customs people didn't come at 8 AM to check us out of the country as we were told, so we had to wait until 9:30 to leave for our long passage.  Fortunatly, the ASPCA must have been looking out for me on the "Izzy R" that day, and calmed the seas so we could take a more direct route to Puerto Rico, going a little north of the Mona Passage, but south of the hour glass shape on the charts that designates that infamous Maytag effect.   
It got dark again that night before we arrived in Puerto Rico.  Lucky for us that we spotted the lighted marker at our destination at the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse at dusk.  Jeff kept our slow boat aimed at the flashing light, and guided us into the bay at Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico in the dark.  We anchored for the night and breathed a sigh of relief that we hadn't hit anything on the way in.   Good that there were no other boats in the bay!  In the morning when we lifted the anchor at 7 AM, we found a mooring ball floating next to our bow.  Another disaster magically avoided. 
We headed to Ponce - arriving in time for check into Puerto Rican Customs and a quick walk around the town to a get a bite to eat, and to the marine store - Jeff's favorite place.  It's only two days before Sandy and Dimitry arrive in St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands, so we don't have time to stay and sight see or go to PetsMart .  That can wait until we return on our trip back north next season. 
We pushed on the next day at dawn,  still rubbing the sand men out of my eyes, on our way to our last Puerto Rican stop before the Virgin Islands.   There were some tense moments at the helm when we realized that our chartplotter wasn't working to show us the way out of the harbor and on up to our next stop!   Jeff and Izzy had to rely on the skills they learned in their Navigation class back in Newport Beach four years ago to plot our course on the paper charts.  Izzy was a bit flustered, but Jeff, being an old sailor, said it was kind of like riding a bike...not sure what that means, but anyway together they figured out where to go without hitting anything.  In about an hour the instruments magically came back on and confirmed that their calculations were good.   Whew! 
That after noon we arrived  at the beautiful Palmas del Mar Yacht Club.   
It has something for everyone...ocean views,
swimming pool

Tiki Bar 
Places to rest 
and critters to chase!
In the evening, Jeff and Izzy got a ride from the marina guy in the golf cart up to the Palmia Nova Plaza, where there were shops and restaurants and a big fountain in the middle.  A dog would have liked to go, but he wasn't invited.  I guess someone had to guard the boat.
They had dinner at a place called the C Bar, and made friends with the owner and his four sons who run it.  He gave them some tips on the places to go in the British Virgin Islands when Sandy and Dimitry arrive. 
After dinner the bartender offered them some Moonshine to top off the meal!  She's pouring it out of a jug that she keeps under the counter. 
We'll have to come back here, too.  Nice place with nice people!

Our early morning departure was picture perfect!
Until the chartplotter decided to take a nap again!  More calculating and plotting...hair on fire...a few cuss words...
I decided to lay low in case they were looking for someone to blame it on.  If you've been reading these blogs of our trip, you know Jeff's propensity for using me as the scape goat for anything that goes wrong.  Case in point, the oyster bed dinghy disaster of 2009 in my first blog.
( Click on this link to see my account of this fiasco at:
  http://www.jeff-izzy.blogspot.com/2009/03/merry-christmas-from-jeff-izzy-and-ben.html )

Luckily the instruments came back on in an hour or so, and we could all relax a little heading into St.Thomas this afternoon. 
We pulled into a slip at a little marina in Frenchtown and watched the hillside turn into a magical twinkling wonderland as the sun went down.
Sandy and Dimitry will be here tomorrow! Jeff and Izzy are busy cleaning the boat and preparing the V-berth for them.  My job is just entertainment, so I'd better get some sleep so I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed (dog talk!) when they arrive.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ships in the Night

Hi All,
Ben here in the Turks and Caicos.

We made it to the Turks and Caicos all in one piece and we've been hanging out with some old friends,  and making some new ones.  When we arrived at the South Side Marina in Providenciales, Caicos, along with Pollie and Mo on "Motivator", I saw another boat just like ours at the dock.  Sure enough it was Sharon and Andy on "Finally Fun".

So there we were - three De Fever trawlers in one small harbor in the Turks and Caicos...not something you see every day.  In fact trawlers are rare down this far into the islands.  Mostly we see sailboats. 

We were glad to see Sharon and Andy and catch up with them.  The last time we saw them was a year ago in George Town, Bahamas when they were about to make the same trip to Grenada that we are making this year.  They've already been the whole way down to Grenada and are now on their way back to the US.

They had lots of good advice for Jeff and Izzy, and as you must know by now, these two can use all they can possibly get!

The marina has a cozy gathering place with a barbecue and tables and chairs for the cruisers, and every night at 5 o'clock Charlyn, the Marina Manager, rang a loud bell to gather the cruisers there for Happy Hour!

Here's Charlyn with Sharon at the barbecue that the marina hosted for the cruisers one night.

Now that we are farther south, there are boaters from all over the world joining us.  Many are from Europe, having traveled across the Atlantic in their sailboats...not seeing land for sixteen to twenty days, or more.  John and Alejandro on the left, are from Portugal. 

There's John flippin' some good steaks.

Everyone had a good time and shared stories of their travels.  I met the marina dogs, Jemma and  Effie and told them some of my stories, too.  They rolled over and laughed uproarously at the antics of Jeff and Izzy. 

Or at least I thought they were laughing...
Hmm...I guess they must have heard them before.

Maybe they don't understand my English....Effie actually started snooring.

On our last day there, Charlyn arranged for us to have lunch at Da Conch Shack and Rum Bar. 
Here are all the De Fever owners in front of the restaurant.  Looks like the only one missing is ME!

Here they are waiting for the conch fritters at the table.  You'd think they would have brought one home for me, but NOOOOO!

It appears that they washed them down with a little Rum Punch to start off the afternoon!  I think they're getting to like this.

Izzy and Jeff had a good time.

Izzy liked the conch shells that the vendors were selling on the beach in front of the restaurant.  This guy had all different types that we haven't seen before.  They all have a hole cut in the end so you can blow it like a horn to make the sun go down here in the islands.  Apparently that's the only way to make it dark down here.  Hank used to take care of that when we traveled with Queen Ann's Revenge, and Pollie has been taking care of that chore for us here in Provo.  Jeff hasn't learned how to blow his conch shell yet, so I hope we don't get stuck somewhere by  ourselves with no way to get the sun to go down! 

On the day that we were leaving, Jeff filled up our water tanks, and the hose somehow got a wild hair and started dancing around the boat by itself, squirting Jeff and flipping the deck cover to the water tank overboard into the harbor.  It looked like this one from the other side tank.
Our neighbor, Mark -from Belgium - is an excellent Scuba diver, and he volunteered to dive down and look for the cap along with our other neighbor, John - from Portugal.  Here is Mark with the hookah trying to locate the cap in the sand under the boat.  Much like looking for a buried dog bone in the back yard.  No luck.  We'll have to order another one. 
Thanks for trying, Mark and John.

We finally got a good weather report for traveling, so we exchanged emails and said goodbye to our new friends and moved on to South Caicos, traveling in  more shallow water, landing at Sea View Marina that afternoon.  The "marina" part is a bit of an exaggeration, but there was a concrete pier to tie up to with a couple of giant truck tires tied to the side as bumpers.  The only other boats around were small fishing skiffs

and a conch boat full of shells.

There was evidence of some serious lobster trapping with these hand made traps, made of the mangrove "legs" that grow from the trunk of the mangrove trees and hang down into the water.   

As the sun started to set, the "marina" came to life as two big fishing boats arrived next to us with their catch, and the towns people began gathering at the end of the pier to make their purchases directly from the boats. 
From the deck of the Izzy R, we could watch the separating and unloading of the fish, with the local restaurant operators and housewives negotiating their purchases.  It seemed that a cardboard "box" of fish was about $10.00 - uncleaned, depending on the type of fish. 
When the fish had all been dispensed, the fifty gallon drums of lobster were dumped onto the deck for sorting. 

The locals didn't buy these for some reason, (probably too expensive) but they were taken to a building in the harbor, presumably for shipment elsewhere, or processing or freezing.  Jeff and Izzy wanted a few though, so Jeff got the captain to keep some out for us to buy before they were taken away. 

These lobster were crawling around on the deck as the fishermen picked out a few for us,

 then efficiently whacked off their tails, cleaned out the veins, and put them in our plastic bags...still wiggling! 
The heads, spindly legs and antennae went overboard to the waiting gaggle of fish who seem to know the routine by now. 
 So we had some for us to freeze, and some to eat that night!

Can't get any fresher than that!
This morning Jeff managed to rouse someone at customs to check us out of the country.  Not an easy chore on a Sunday morning in these small islands where everyone takes that day off.  We got some help from one of the local fishermen to help up untie from the concrete dock without Izzy having to jump over the tire bumpers and risk an embarrassing plunge into the ocean. 

We made our way out of the calm bay and into the much more agitated waters of the Caribbean Sea.  Izzy tied me up on the flybridge with my favorite rug so I couldn't fall off.  I was glad, because the waves were big and I have a problem holding on like they do since I have no thumbs.   Little did I know at the time that this was the beginning of a very long day!

By noon the waves had settled down a little bit, and I was able to get up occasionally and get a drink from my sliding water bowl.  First I have to catch it, then quickly get a drink before the water sloshes out over the sides onto the floor.  It requires some agility, speed and balance...all of which I am loosing at an alarming rate these days. 

Sometimes it just doesn't work the way I'd like. 
On the bright side, it's been getting hot down here, so the "butt cool" thing felt pretty good.  I hope I'll be able to duplicate that tricky move every now and then!

Later I got to stretch out on the sundeck as the seas calmed a bit.  This gives me a good view out to sea under the side panels while I rest in the breeze.  

I noticed a small cruise ship nearby that was making some odd turns and stops.   I overheard Jeff and Izzy saying that this area is popular with humpback whales during mating season, and that the nice captain of that cruise ship had stopped so his passengers could watch the whales frolic.  He'd turn the ship so the passengers on one side could watch, then he's turn it around so the other side had a good view.  Nice guy.  After a while a big puff of black smoke spewed out of the stack, and they took off into the distance.

We could only see some splashes from our boat, and couldn't make out the actual whales, so I looked them up on the internet and got a better picture for you.  I think this is what the cruise ship people were watching.
 This is a breaching humpback whale - probably showing off for some young female whale in hopes of getting lucky.  I guess some girls like that sort of thing....
By mid afternoon I thought it was about time to stop at some nice anchorage where it's Five O'clock Somewhere, but Jeff and Izzy showed no signs of stopping.  I got a bowl of Alpo followed by a quick run up to the "poop deck."  So much for the fun dinghy ride to shore and the long leisurely walk along the beach that I was thinking about.  I didn't know why they weren't stopping.  There was a perfectly fine looking island right over there!
I guess they must have had some trouble turning the engines off, because it's not like Jeff to miss a happy hour. 
Before long it got REAL DARK!  Even the moon went to bed, and we were left with just the lights from the bizillion stars in the sky!  I couldn't even see my paw in front of my face.   The engines kept running, and Jeff and Izzy took turns napping with me.  One time I heard Jeff talking on the radio to someeone about what course they were on.  When I looked up I saw a bunch of lights on a CARGO SHIP not far away!!  I guess they couldn't get their engines to turn off either!  The "Izzy R" was real tiny next to it, so I hoped they could see us!  I must have looked nervous, because I woke up Izzy and she reassured me that we have an AIS (Automated Identification System) and that big ships can see us on their instruments, just like we can see them. 
The cargo ship didn't run over us, so we are continuing to travel in the dark.  We have some special red and green lights on the sides of our boat, and a bright white one on the back.  After the cargo ship incident, I noticed that  Izzy turned on our "Vegas lights" too so we'd be more visible. 
Jeff brought me down to my real bed in the salon, so it looks like this is it for the night!  No stopping until they can get the engines to turn off, I guess.  They don't seem too stressed about it, though...so I might as well get a little shut-eye.
  I'll let you know how this whole overnight boondoggle turns out in my next post.