Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 264- Samana, Dominican Republic

We arrived at Puerto Bahia Marina in Samana, DR early this morning.  The winds were higher than predicted for the entire passage so we kept having to reef to slow down to insure we arrived in day light.  So far what we've seen of the Dominican Republic is beautiful.  The island is mountainous and lush with vegetation.  We heard about a new marina that is inexpensive (Puerto Bahia Marina)  and allows access to a very nice resort.  The kids are in heaven, there are two infinity pools, a fully stocked game room and a playground.  At $35/night we may not be going anywhere for a while. 

Fishermen in Bahia de Samana

Local boaters





Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fajardo, Puerto Rico to Samana, Dominican Republic

We're under way on a 240 nm passage from Puerto Rico to Dominican Republic. We took a route along the northern coast of Puerto Rico to catch what little wind might be blowing. Not too surprisingly, the conditions are not quite as forecast. The winds were 20-25k instead of 15k, and have not dissipated as expected today. The only problem we have with this is that we're cruising too fast. We aimed our departure from PR such that we would enter the marina in Samana, DR during daylight hours. Now we'll either have to slow down to wait for daylight or find an alternate anchorage.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 262- Fajardo, PR

We really enjoyed the Spanish Virgins and explored more of the islands (Luis Pena and Isla Palominos) on the way over to mainland Puerto Rico.  We spent more time than planned in Culebra.  Even though the town is not a place that  would necessarily be a draw for us, the beaches and surrounding anchorages were. We met some really wonderful people while there.  There was Johnny from Iowa, who brought his mother to a nursing home in the area, she loves it as she thinks she is in Florida where she always wanted to go; and Lawrence from Conneticut who sailed on his 25' boat down to Venezuela and back and decided to stay for a bit.  Both volunteer at the library even though they are only temporary residents.

Our package of charts and flags (which we've been trying to get every where for months) arrived at the marina in Fajardo, on schedule! We were also able to fill our propane and fuel tanks without delays or problems.  Smooth city.

The highlight of our stay in the marina in Fajardo were the manatees we spotted.  (This is saying a lot since all of us were really looking forward to real showers after almost 2 months.) The mother manatee and calf swam around for quite a while so we were able to check them out carefully. Remi was especially intrigued and decided to do a research project on them. Here is what she found out..


Manatees

A manatee is a herdibor marine mammal, meaning that it eats plants.  A manatee has live birth.  A baby manatee stays with their mom a year and a half.  The manatees here are West Indies Manatees.  The oldest manatee in captivity was born in 1948.  Manatees here are attracted to fresh water so if you put a hose in the water, you may see them come look.   You need to be very careful when you are on a boat because you can cut them up with the propeller.  And they could also get caught in fishing nets.   We need to be careful to protect them.  -by Remi Hopman

video 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 258- Culebra, PR... still

We came back to Culebra to explore more of the anchorages with sv Arwen.   The pace is nice and slow in most anchorages with few transient boats, and not much local boat traffic either.  This allows us to freely swim to shore from the boat without worrying about getting run over.  In fact, it is wonderful to let the kids swim around the anchorage and between boats on their own, without worry.  The waters off Tamarindo and Carlos Rosario beaches were great for snorkeling; with lots of rays, turtles and an assortment of fish.  You would think that after a while watching turtles would get less interesting but I still get a thrill every time a turtle surfaces near us or the boat.  We decided to take the local ferry to mainland Puerto Rico even though we heard that it was less than reliable.  Good provisioning and the opportunity to explore the mainland a little bit was too much to pass up.  I stocked up on enough non-perishables to last us until we get back to the States...hopefully.  We searched the marine stores for courtesy flags, and charts of the Exumas and Bahamas with no luck.  We ended up having to order them from Florida and now are waiting for them to arrive.  The shipping services arn't as reliable here as at home even though it is still technically within the US.  We did actually see a UPS truck driving around so we know that they operate here to some extent.  While on the mainland we visited El Yunque Natl Park, a rainforest with jungle like foliage, waterfalls and many species of coqui.  Unfortunately we didn't get to stay long since we had to rush back to catch the ferry.  The ferry ended up being 3.5 hours late.  From the reaction of the locals this didn't seem too unusual.  The delay was partially due to a high tide that made loading cars almost impossible.  The entertainment value was high as the cars and trucks tried to drive up a ridiculously steep and wet ramp.  Almost good enough to make us forget about the delay. 


Playing "sharks and minnows" between the boats

Spotted Eagle Ray under our rudder

Black Urchins

Mia getting up close

Arwen and Borealis moored off Tamarindo Beach

El Yunque Natl Park with friends

View of south coast of PR from the mts of El Yunque

El Yunque rainforest

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 254-Culebra, Puerto Rico ...again

More on our exploration of the British Virgin Islands…

We found a great secluded beach on Prickly Pear island, off the northern end of Virgin Gorda, with a view of Necker Island (one of Richard Branson's private islands).  The beach had just enough space for a couple of families to play.  Even though there was a bit of a swell the snorkeling was very nice.

Next we headed to explore The Baths, an area of gigantic smooth boulders that form pools and caves, on the southern shore of Virgin Gorda.  We dingied over and swam to shore from the dingy tie up, about a 100 yards off the beach.  This place is very popular; visited by many charter and tour boats but that did little to dampen the experience, as the place is very impressive with a wonderful mix of cool geologic formations, narrow water-filled passages and nice beaches interspersed amongst the boulders.  See video below for a sample.  The Baths are so popular that we weren't able to find a mooring close and thus ended up anchored off Spanish Town. The anchorage in Spanish Town was rolly, with lots of wind shifts and currents to boot.  Boats were lying in all directions, and almost colliding.  After one night we were ready to move on.  We found Banera's Bay on Norman Island to be a respite from the crowds, a nice quiet place to snorkel and a great place to swim and play off the boat.  We finished our tour of the BVIs on Jost Van Dyke, known mainly for rowdy beach parties.  The scenery was classic Caribbean (white sand, gradients of blue water) with cool swings, hammocks and hang out spots on the scenic beach.  The locals seemed very burnt though, too much partying? 
In general the Virgin Islands weren’t as crowded with boats as we originally thought.  We tried to see the highlights and know that much more time could be spent exploring the many nooks and crannies.  Even though the charter population was high, the density was much lower than in the Grenadines where it caused more frenzied anchorages.

We enjoyed a nice downwind sail from Jost Van Dyke to Culebra, Puerto Rico.  Pablo was very excited to use the spinnaker pole successfully as a whisker pole as we expect a lot of down-wind sailing for the next few months.  The spinnaker pole had been a piece of equipment that we've been carrying for 4000 miles that hasn’t seen much use.  We plan to further explore the anchorages of Culebra with the crew of sv Arwen.


Sealife off Prickley Pear Island


video
Pablo "testing" the new launching system


Our friend, Kai, relaxing in Jost Van Dyke




A local relaxing in Jost Van Dyke; looks like he has a little more practice



Jost Van Dyke

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 244- Virgin Gorda, BVI

We've spent the last week traveling through the Virgin Islands (St. John, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda).  The scenery is spectacular.  The vertical height of the numerous islands in close proximity is stunning.  The water is very clear and water life plentiful.  But that said, I've found it harder to blog lately.  I think part of this is due to the cultural familiarity of our environment and thus fewer new experiences.  I feel the British Virgins are almost more American than the US ones.  The resorts we've seen are lovely but don't provide much of a new cultural experience. (Unless you count the slight variability of the Painkillers that we've sampled at each of them.) Christmas Cove in St. Thomas was a nice anchorage where we saw the biggest turtle of the trip.  It looked like a leatherback about 5+ ft in length.  In fact, we mistook it for a person snorkeling at first. We caught up with our good friends on sv Arwen just in time to celebrate Mia's 11th birthday in Marina Cay, Tortola. The Bitter End Yacht Club, in Virgin Gorda Sound, was a very nice place to have a drink with friends and watch the Celtics beat the Nicks (even though we didn't realize it was a rebroadcast until the final few minutes of the game).  Jeff and Larry, is this the game you went to? If so you lucked out!
 
Working against the Trades


Francis Bay, St. John

Soper's Hole, Tortola

The Birthday Girl


Checking out a big ray swimming by the boat

Bitter End YC

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 238- Honeymoon Bay, St. Thomas

Our expectations for St. Thomas were fairly low to begin with but we liked it even less than we thought.  We aimed to be here when no cruise ships were in port, it didn't seem to help.  (Seven cruise ships can be in the harbor at once, significantly increasing the population.)  We were on a mission to aquire some charts, courtesy flags, and flip flops.  There were a ton of stores but mainly they sold over priced liquor and gaudy jewelry.  There was a big deal made about low Duty Free prices everywhere.  We found many of these prices to be higher than normal prices in Puerto Rico and St. Croix. 
Surprisingly, many cruising boats here have more than one dingy, and often one is a big center console model.  Can't figure out where you store these while on passage.  Hmm, maybe they don't go anywhere....
On a brighter note, the girls really enjoyed the beach we are anchored off, which had a cool rope swing.