Friday, March 30, 2012

Puerto Rico March 2012

We sailed from Boquaron to ponce where we anchored in the harbour and took a taxi Ponce is a lovely town with lots of greenery and shops. We had lots of rain in the afternoon so we ate and ate again which was quite pleasant. From ponce we went to caja muertos and from there to salinas. This is a big bay where many people leave their boat for months. We hired a car and drove to San Juan. We visited the ford and the old town with gorgeous steep streets with cobble stones and beautiful architecture. Most of the time we spend in West Marine shop spending lots of money for the boat.
From salinas we had a rough sail to las palmas de mar. This is we're we are now in the marina. This area is very upmarket and it is like a compound where you are locked in. It has beautiful homes and all shopping centre with many expensive restaurants. The people at the marina are very friendly and there is a lovely pool.

Update on cruise so far

The story so far
Both Rocky and I arrived in Jacksonville Florida on the same day one hour apart.This was 4 November 2011.

I came from Holland where I had visited my family for 3 weeks and Rocky came from Australia. It seemed strange to me to think that Rockys would come around the corner at the airport while I sat there waiting in an almost deserted hall at the airport. Soon he actually did come and we were on our way to a hotel for the night. The next morning we went on the Greyhound bus to Brunswick Georgia. The station was not far from the marina so we dragged our luggage there. We left the luggage in the office and walked to where our boat was still on the hard. The mechanic explained to Rocky how he had all sorts of difficulties with the propeller to prepare him for a big bill. It all took a long time and a lot of money but finally we were on our boat in the pen (slip they call this in America). We stayed a day to get groceries and left the morning after that.

Our trip took us to St Augustine on the first day and we got there when it was dark. The last bit of the trip we had to negotiate the ICW (Intercoastal waterways) without lit up markers so we had to shine our big torch to find the markers. This is very scairy as it is very shallow on both sides of the channel. We spend a day in St Augustine a beautiful old city and left the next morning. That day I kept saying to Rocky that the fridge got too warm so when he looked we had problems with the batteries not charging. We spend 3 days in Daytona getting a new altenator.

Daytona seemed in need of a lot of care everything seemed in bad state of repair. We had an overnight sail on the Atlantic where we were both seasick all night because of the rolling of Island Girl on the waves. We went back into the ICW at Lake worth and spend a good night anchoring out there.

The next day we followed the ICW to Ft. Lauderdale. We passed many bridges and had a yacht called Auzziemendez in front of us hailing the bridge operator most of the time for us as well. The bridges open often on half hour or quarter of an hour and are more geared to accommodate motor boats so we often had to wait which difficult with a yacht that does not reverse well in a narrow channel. We saw some amazing sights on the banks.  

We went through canals with fantastic houses with even more fantastic huge boast on their private jetties. Terraces with huge pillars with curtains draped just like some sort of roman mansions. Swimming pools with huge grassed areas with sun lounges. Private jetties with hoists for their boats and skijets with more entertainment area on the jetty with bbq and outdoor kitchens. I hope you get the idea but it is even better when you see it. We moored near a bridge in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. In the morning a tourist boat came past and we heard the tour guide explain that us poor people with our yachts on the mooring had to pay $ 30 per night to pick up the ball and the people on the other side in the marina paid $ 7 dollars per night. He then explained that this was per foot and you had to have a boat of at least 100 feet to stay at that marina. We heard all the people laugh at this man’s joke. From Ft Lauderdale we went past Miami to No Name harbour in Biscayne Bay.
We followed the chart plotter in a huge circle around the bay for hours before dropping anchor in this little protected bay. We dropped our dinghy and went on shore where we had a drink and a great hamburger in a little cafe. We met some people who later came to our boat to tell us the best way to go around the keys to St Petersburg. We spend the next night at Rodriquez caye where we saw lots of flying fish and then had a pleasant sail to Marathon where we send a week waiting for the right wind to cross to the mainland of Florida. We left Marathon in the morning and did another overnight sail. We knew that we were not going to get to St Petersburg by my birthday on 23 so we took up Bil’s (our friends from St Petersburg who own the boatyard where we had the boat after we bought it and where we were going to have more work done and to see them) suggestion to hire a car and drive to St Pete. We left our boat in Fort Myers Beach and drove to St Peter where we arrived the day before my 60th. Had a lovely day with our friends Bill and Suzanne who took us out for dinner to a great seafood restaurant.

We stayed with them through Thanksgiving and it felt like being with family. We went back to our boat and sailed into St Pete. Stayed with Bill and Suzanne where we visited their children, went out for many breakfasts and dinners, listened to music, exchanged music and sat outside near the fire. Just lovely. Rocky and I hired a car and went for a week to New Orleans. Thoroughly enjoyed it except for the cold there. We both hated to leave Bill and Suzanne’s place but needed to get back on the boat to get it ready for Paul and Leticia to join us.Bill and Suzanne had breakfast on our boat on the Sunday before Paul and Tish were to arrive on the Monday. Bill and Suzanne gave us a car to drive around while in St Pete so we could pick up Paul and TIsh from the Greyhound station. We stayed 2 more days at the marina in St Petersburg and then started our trip with our friends but not after Bill and Suzanne promised to come and spend some time with us in June.

So we are on our adventure with Paul and Leticia. And an adventure it is. We spend Christmas in Fort Meyer Beach. A lovely place very touristy and Leticia made a lovely Xmas diner turkey and all. Then we went on the gulf of Mexico to Marathon where we provisioned (for days and days turning into weeks) before sailing to the Bahamas. We spend New Year in Key West. This is the most amazing place and I am so glad we did this with Paul and Leticia. We saw the last sunset of the year there and were part of a mardigras new year. Fantastic.
Then we left for Bimini crossing the gulfstream. You have to get the right wind and anything with north in it is absolutely no go. Anyway we finally left and sailed through the night to Bimini. When we arrived we saw a few other boats wanting to go in. We stayed a couple of days at this beautiful island saw the house made from anything in and around the island, had our first conch and visited a boat maker who helped free Nelson Mandela and also inspired Martin Luther King Jr to write his workers speech.
From here we had a fantastic sail over the banks to Nassau. Full moon still water and lots of music and dancing during the night. Nassau was very nice We went to the local fish fry, the fortress, the straw markets and Atlantis where all the big cruize ships go. It is a huge pleasure park with casino. Very over the top especially if you see the rest of the islands in the bahamas.
From Nassau we visited Norman Caye where we snorkelled on a plane that had missed the runway. It was a drug running island and cruising boats used to often get shot at when they came to close. We walked on the runway and a plane took off over our heads. In the afternoon we went by dinghy to find conch because we were told that there were lots in a trail. We did find them and took about 12 to our boat where Rocky had a hard time getting them out of the shell and Paul cleaning them. I do not think Leticia had a difficult time cooking them. She made them in rice with coconut, as fritters and a salad. All just beautiful. It may sound like I do not cook but I do it is just not worth mentioning. We are eating very different since they left.
From Norman Caye we went to Little Farmers Caye where we had a hard time getting into the harbour with the strange directions we got from the harbour master. We only stayed the night but it was memorable. We walked around the island and found little shed which were actually houses with all had beautiful fancy front doors. Looked really strange and it seems that they got a good deal on them or they might have washed ashore. Tish talked to the local celebraty for a long time. He had all kinds of political opinions. By the way he was also the harbour master who gave us the directions. They had benches on the beach where you can sit either facing the beach or the land. Very clever.
Then on we went to Georgetown. This is where most cruisers stop and stay for a while before going back to the US. Lots of boats there and it made me feel like we were all those grey nomads overwintering. There is an island across from Georgetown where everybody hangs out and goes by dinghy into Georgetown. Georgetown itself is a lovely little place with wifi and free water at the dock and 2 supermarkets. You get fresh vegies and fruit when the mail boat comes in once a week. Very expesive though. We hired a car and toured around the island. Went to a restaurant on the beach where the crew from pirates of the Caribbean often went. We were shown the photos. I wanted to take a photo and as I walked off to do this this old lady smiled at me which made me show her a photo of Havana. She had a good look and I said something like that I did not know why I was here with all strangers while I had such a lovely family at home. She then said that she was my family now and gave me this great hug that never ended. Just lovely.
There was a beautiful hotel on the water where we often went for lunch and a swim. After having waited there for about a week we decided to try and hit straight for the Dominican Republic as time went on Paul and Leticia only had 2.5 more weeks before they would have to leave from Puerto RIco.
We took of beating into the wind and it took us 10 hours to go 20 miles. When we tried to go around the top of Long Island it got even worse so we turned anchored for the night and the next day went back to Georgetown in less then 4 hours with the wind behind us. This is when the difficult goodbye to Paul and Tish had to come. They could not wait any longer and booked a flight to Cuba and the to Puerto Rico. It was a sad day the day they left and I think we all felt deflated. That is when I decided to keep busy and took all the laundry to the laundromat where I met Miriam. She is from Dutch parents but lives in Canada. She and her husband Rick live on their catamaran. They introduced us to Claude and Celine also from Canada on a sail boat. We left Georgetown with them and went together as far as Rum Caye. They stayed there for a day and we went on because we were trying to get as close as possible to Puerto Rico to meet Trudie and her sister Ted who were going to join us. We anchored at some beautiful spots and met another couple we travelled with for a while to the Turks and Caicos. Graham and Gina from England. Graham is sponsered to climb the 7 mountains and sail the 7 seas and writes a book. We hired a car with them in the Turks and Caicos. The 2 other couples arrived there as well but we left again before anyone else to get to the Dominican Republic. This is where Trudie and Ted joined us. We had a great time going on a tour of the 27 waterfalls. Funny we were with 6 people and one couple thought we were going to look at waterfalls. No such thing we climbed up and were thrown down with the waterfalls. Great fun though. We hired a car and visited a few places around Luperon. Then we were on our way to Samana with them to leave the boat there and take Trudie and Ted to the airport in Santo Domingo. We got as far as Ocean World Marina (about 15 miles) and stayed there for the weekend because the weather did not permit us to go on. We spend the weekend there. Had a lovely diner and saw a Las Vegas style Caribbean show before sailing back to Luperon. We then hired a car and drove to Santo Domingo. The trip there was fantastic beautiful scenery. Mountains and very lush. The people here are very friendly. Santo Domingo is a big place and I have no idea how we eventually got to the hotel. We saw the slums which were I think worse then India. I have never seen such a lot of rubbish just heaped up. People were just emptying buckets of rubbish in the streets. We saw a man in the medium strip near a traffic light just take down his pants and have a big shit. Unfortunately everyone was too shocked to take a picture. We spend a day at the botanical gardens which was lovely and you get driven around in a little train. There was also a museum which showed clearly the different vegetation in the Dominican Rebublic. We had an unfortunate incident with Ted being attacked for her bag and pushed to the ground. The guy got away with her gold chain. Someone behind her started chasing the guy and shooting at him. All the people went flat against the wall. It was very scairy but in the end Ted got a paper from the police so she can report it to her insurance. We left Luperon the day after we came back from Santo Domingo with Miriam and Rick and Claude and Celine. First night anchored in Rio San Juan after an ok sail. The next night we started out at midnight and had the roughest trip ever before anchoring in the most beautiful spot called Escondido. We left there the next morning at 4 am and did not get far before our motor stopped. We were going along the cliffs so it was quite scairy again. We went back to Escondido and Rocky, Rick and Claude fixed the boat. It had rubbish in the hoses and petrol from the day before being tossed about. By about 10 am it was fixed and we left anyway. We had a beautiful sail around the coast into Samana Bay. We stayed in Puerto Bahia Marina which was just luxury plus. We had a night of free coctails and beautiful little tapas like things. So much of it we did not need to eat diner at all. All complementary of the marina. It was actually a big resort and we wonder how long this can survive with hardly anybody there. We crossed the bay to a national park where we stayed 2 night. This was just increadibly beautiful. Caves with early indian paintings, beautiful little rivers through mangroves and cliffs where we went by dinghy and a beautiful eco resort build into the cliffs with natural waterfalls all running into pools.
We left from there to a little island resort in the morning where we waited till about 5 pm to leave for Puerto Rico in the lee of the land. So we crossed the bay and followed the coast again very rough conditions and not what was forcasted at all to get to Punta Cana which is the last point to cross to Puerto Rico (it is also the shortest crossing but you have to motor across about 70 miles). We did not cross then because of the weather again and now we are in this lovely marina called Capcana which is like a modern Venice with all canals and bridges. It is waiting again for the weather. So now I can continue from here. Sorry about the long story this is more for me to remember how it went.

We left Capcana Marina  for Puerto Rico around 6 pm so we would get the lee crossing on both sides. This was the dreaded Mona crossing. Although it was from where we started only 72 miles it is known to be dangerous. We started quite choppy and it got to quite unpleasant for about 30 miles and after that it was smooth sailing. Not that I knew a lot about it. I was behind the wheel till about 11 pm and after that Rocky took over and I went to sleep down below. I woke up at 5 am on a calm sea and with a beautiful sunrise over Puerto Rico. Fantastic Puerto Rico. We sailed along the coast to Boquoron and anchored in the habour there. The immigration people came to the harbour and were very friendly. We still had to get our cruising permit for the us renewed so on the Monday I went by taxi to the next town to renew this. Me because I am listed as the owner of the boat. The taxi driver thought my spanish was good enough to talk to me all the time and I got very tired of this. We left as soon as I got back and spend 2 nights on anchorages at beautiful spots near islands. One was Muertos Island which is coffin island. We hiked and climbed up to the light house. Fantastic view but lots of rats on the island.