Saturday, April 30, 2011

Challenging passages

Sailing east bound on the north coast of Dominican Republic is slightly challenging. The trade winds never stop blowing here and on the windy days the squalls make it seem crazy to go out sailing. I would not like to make a passage if it blows more than 20 knots in this area. The seas get so choppy and it's almost impossible to not hurt yourself or your vessel. It is what it is; I look at it as training for more difficult passages in the future.

We  were ready and happy to leave Luperon. It's very easy to get stock in places like Luperon. The anchorage was so calm and pleasant that we almost forgot the real deal anchorages.
When we left Luperon it was blowing 18 knots. The boat got washed a few times by big waves. We were motorsailing and for the first time the Yanmar inboard engine overheated. In the middle of all these waves we are engine-less. We had to depend on sailing only and I knew that would put us in anchorage in Sosua after sunset. I DON'T like to anchor in a new place when it's dark. I have done it many times but would always prefer to get to anchorage during daylight. We arrived to Sosua at 8pm and anchored  500ft from a reef. Luckily we knew where the reef was! It always feels good to be anchored after an exausting passage. And ashore it seems like there is lots of life. But we were too tired to go ashore right away, maybe maƱana.
With swells still coming in, a swell bridle makes the sleep at night more pleasant. A swell bridle is a type of anchoring technique that puts the noise of your boat into the wave so instead of moving side to side you move up and down.

One beautiful thing with anchoring at night is that when you wake up in the morning you are in a new world. We realized shortly after we woke up that Sosua is a tourist destination. A couple of Tip Top catamarans anchored next to us and people were getting in the water to snorkel and ride the banana boat and do other water sports.
Soon I noticed that the main anchor line was loose; I tried to tie it up and the whole line was detached from the chain. Luckily, there is always a safety line connected to the chain in case one line breaks. The bolt to the shackle connected to the chain unscrewed and the line got disconnected. I put a new shackle in there and I dove to find the old bolt but no luck.

The best time to make passages in this area is at night when the night lee kicks in and reduces the trade winds. But you have to stay close to shore for an enjoyable sail.

Demonstration of inflated PF
Last night we made a passage to Rio San Juan.
The swells were moderate and wind was 8 to 10 knots.
So we had the jib and main sail out and had a good sail.
However, the jib would not fly right and it couldn't adjust.
After an hour of sailing I discovered that the seam that
holds the ring connected to the jib halyard on the top
was coming loose.  By the time we furled in the jib
the top was totally disconnected from the halyard. It's
dark and you can't see much and while we are furling
in the jib, the pull tab to my PFD gets caught on
something and suddenly the life vest blew up. Talk
about when it rains it pours! As I always say, things
break but as long as nobody gets hurt and the vessel
is operable, it's ok!
Today we worked on the jib and had a quick fix for it till we find a sail maker that can sew the seam.
We are staying put here in Rio San Juan till the weather comes down some and then we are going to sail toward Samana.
Love from Rio San Juan

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dominican Republic

It feels surreal to be in a country so different from the last one. When you get close to Luperon, you see tall mountains far away, and the closer you get the bigger the mountains are. And we had the opportunity to explore some of these beautiful tall mountains with our Swedish friends during the last few days! Birgitta and Mats on Tarsia III offered to drive us with them in their rental car to explore part of Hispaniola. We drove more than 200 miles on gravel roads up to 8000 ft above sea level. Nature in the Dominican Republic is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking because it rains often enough here to keep every thing green. DR has many resources and looks wealthy, but the population is poor. I'm looking forward to seeing the natives of DR get more access to their country's resources. I believe there are enough resources on our planet for all earthlings. Unfortunately, today we don't have an intelligent management system of the resources on our home planet. Let's look forward to the day where we can have the right management!
Yesterday we were in the capital of DR, Santo Domingo to pick up our friend Dee from Chicago. Now we are three people aboard, it's always nice to have visitors and night passages will be easier. 
Luperon has been our home for almost a week now. And soon we will leave to another port.
Love from Republica Dominicana

Friday, April 15, 2011

Turks and Caicos

Happy Hour at South Side Marina
The Turks and Caicos islands are another piece of paradise. The nature is similar to the Bahamas. There are lots of reefs and coral heads and this is a great place for diving and snorkeling. The biggest difference we have realized is that these islands are more commercialized. There are many high end resorts and tourist activity on the major islands, Providenciales & Grand Turks. "Provo" is too pricy for our taste, but we got to meet very nice people at South Side Marina. Happy Hour at Bob's South Side Marina was certainly a highlight. The cruisers we met there will be our friends for ever.

Kelly attracts Donkeys

Salt Fields

Right now we are anchored off Salt Cay. This island use to be the world's largest producer of salt. Now the little town has almost no activity. We met a few Haitians on the south end and found a nice restaurant/bar ran by Porter on the north side. Here on the Salt Cay you see more cows, bulls, and donkeys than humans.

Every time we step a foot on a new island, we don't know what's there or what to expect.
Guest house on Ambergris
A few days ago we were anchored off Big Ambergris Cay. From a distance it looked like there were some very nice houses. We couldn't find any info in the guide books about the island so we had to explore it for ourselves. Within a short time after stepping ashore, we realized the island was private. Our path crossed 1 of the 2 firefighters on the island. Tristan offered to give us a tour on his golf cart. The island is managed by Turks & Caicos Sporting Club.  It definitely had the highest level of infrastructure we've seen on any of these small islands. They had their own water making system, diesel generator that created electricity, sewer system and trash compost system, fire hydrants, a small and a big marina, a private landing strip with 2 fire trucks, tennis courts, and so forth. There were around 350 lots for private vacation homes and maybe 20 were finished. All the homes had their own private swimming pool or jacuzzi. Each lot had a placard in front with the owner's name and where they were from. There were signs from all over the world but mostly Americans. However, the sad news is that the company went under and since June nothing really happens on this beautiful island. The 25 staff on the island are maintaining it for now until further notice. And we were lucky to meet Tristan, whom was so kind to show us around the whole island.

Big Sand Cay is our last stop in Turks & Caicos. It is uninhabited and it's 77 miles away from Luperon, Dominican Republic. We were supposed to sail yesterday but a tropical storm was on the way and it was not a good time to leave. We are planning to set sail toward DR/Hispaniola tomorrow evening for another night sail.
Thanks for reading,
Love from Turks & Caicos

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Star show

Last night we did an overnight passage from Mayaguana in the Bahamas to Turks & Caicos. Nightpassages can be easy and fun specially if you have the right equipments, such as radar, autopilot, & AIS. I would say autopilot is the most important and unfortunately our autopilot is out of order. Someone has to be behind helm at all time. Kelly and I have been taking 3 hours shifts at the time. However, if you are sailing close haul or on a reach, you can just lock the wheel, adjust sails and she will keep the course. And I have been napping few minutes at the time this way during many passages, it might sound crazy but that's how it works. The key is to get up every 10-18 min and look around for other vessels. Night sailing is thrilling. Imagine being in the middle of the ocean where there is no sight of any land, no lights and all you see is dark water and stars. The whole sky is lit by stars, you can identify each constellation in detail. Folks, you might watch television on land at night but we have nothing else but the sky full of stars. You can't really choose what commercials to watch and we can't choose to not see the shooting stars. Lets put it this way, the night-show starts with a Sunset, which is different every night. The other night, as bonus we got a Mahi Mahi on the hook right at sunset. After sunset-show, the sky changes colors slowly and all the stars show up. During the star-show if you are lucky the Moon rises and lids up the dark ocean. And before you get tired of the moon, slowly the sky brightens up and our mother star rises. this is a unique experience and I hope all of you can go through it sometimes during your life time.
Love from the star show

Monday, April 4, 2011

Farwell Bahamas

The time for Bahamas just came to an end. Our last anchorage was in Abrahams bay, Mayaguana. We left Bahamas and are sailing overnight to Turks and Caicos. Bahamas was the first country outside the U.S, it made us more prepared for passages to other beautiful countries in the world. Even though I have not been cruising in other countries yet but I believe Bahamas is a safe haven for sailors. If you are ever sailing in these waters you are safe. You don't have to lock your dinghy or watch for intruders. Bahamians are not that wealthy but they are welcoming and hospitable and would not take advantage of visitors. They help you with anything you need and make sure you have a good time on their islands. In Mayaguana we were again greeted by gracious natives. For example, we asked this nice guy named Scully which coconuts would have the most fruit and water in them. He was more than happy to show us to the right palms he had actually planted 15 years ago. He show us how to break them open with our bare hands. It's hard work getting those open without a machete, but doable. Earlier on that day Scully passed by the boat with his brother returning from diving for conch and we got 6 of them freshly shelled. Conch fritters were on the menu tonight. We love Bahamas and will return here in the near future.
Love From The Atlantic Ocean