A Travellerspoint blog

Iron men in Plastic Ships

Provo to Boqueron, Puerto Rico

With plans to meet Sean's sister, Jackie, in Boqueron on sunday, we left provo on Monday.

We set out in beautiful weather and no wind. Blue skies, aquamarine water and nothing to move us forward. Reluctantly, we motored for a few hours and eventually the wind started to fill in putting us on a beat. There we would remain. At least the weather was nice for the time being.

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Dolphins on the Caicos Bank

During the winter months, the cold fronts that come off the mainland push down through the Bahamas and cause the wind to slowly change directions in a clockwise direction as the front moves overhead. Every few days, another front rolls through bringing wind of any direction your heart desires. Now, in winter, these fronts can continue deep into the caribbean. This year in particular, they were making it all the way to Puerto Rico and causing the ultra-persistent trade winds to calm and change direction. The week before we left, a front had caused NW winds as for down as we needed to go. With winter coming to an end as we shoved off, we hoped to catch the next front.

As it turns out, the one we watched from Provo would be the last of the year. The bearing from Provo to Boqueron is 135degrees. The wind we had was directly out of the SE, 135 degrees. Fun.

So...

Day 1
No wind. Motoring. Wind filling in in later hours. 5-10knots SE.

Day 2
Leave the Caicos Bank. The breeze had filled in nicely and it was another nice day so it was easy sailing. Then suddenly...
LAND HO! I couldn't believe it. Land! Were we moving that fast? Incredible. I felt like we were getting there already. Hours passed. Land was still in view and rising on the horizon but we were still nowhere close. More hours. Still, we weren't approaching the coast. As the sun began to set, it was clear. We were nowhere close to land. The Dominican Republic is replete with high mountain ranges. Seeing land in the Bahamas means you're 7 miles off. You could see those mountains 50 miles away.

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The DR Coast

After 2 days and a night, we were settling in. With the mountains on the right and the ocean on the left, we began the eastward slog in 15 knots and 6 foot seas. As darkness fell, I noticed a rip in the mainsail just ahead of the second batten pocket. Trouble. We pulled the sail down. As it came down in the now-significant breeze, it flogged hard and the entire batten pocket ripped out. Great. We tried to tape it. Instant failure. What could we do? It was night, we were in the middle of nowhere. We just kept sailing.

Day 3
The tear had grown. We pulled it down again and Sean sewed over a new batch of tape. High hopes but it didn't last long. We sailed that main for all it was worth. By the afternoon, it was ripped right through. We pulled it down. The genny was our only hope now. We had been making decent time and hadn't needed to do too much tacking but now things were a little tougher. 170nm to go. Onward.

Day 4
With just the headsail, it was tough to keep the boat heading to windward. There was a good amount of wind, 15-20 knots, and every ounce of it was needed to keep the boat heading upwind. In the lulls, the boat was impossible to keep high against the waves. The wind had shifted some and was now more out of the east which helped some. Our tacking angle was 120 degrees. We passed Samana. Only the Mona Passage to go.

Day 5
Had to tack a few more times to clear the shoal that extends off the eastern coast of the DR. Could practically taste our arrival. Surprising how well we were doing on just the genny. 4 knots average. Days blurr together.

Day 6
We make landfall. Finally!! But no, it's just mountains again. Worse yet, the mountains aren't even on Puerto Rico. It's taking so long. The wind dies. Completely. We fire up the engine. I just want to get there. 20 miles out, we turn the motor off to refuel. No problem, grab the tanks off the rail and dump 'em in. Close the gas cap. Hit the ignition. Nothing. Nothing!....!!!!......NOTHING!!!!!!!!

The motor was dead. We messed around with it as much as we could and drained the starter battery with our attempts. No wind. No motor. We had no way of controlling the boat. We sat there and waited. What else could we do?

Nightfall brought wind. No batteries so no lights. Just enough juice for the GPS. We were running south along the west coast of PR. I finish my shift and hand the tiller off to Sean around midnight. A few hours later, a spotlight flicks on; pointed at us. A boat had been following us. It's the cops. No excuses, no lies. We were running without lights. They rafted up with us. Documentation, ships papers, passports, over to them. Luckily, they didn't give us a ticket. The one guy that spoke english was nice enough. They ran a criminal check on us. What could they want with a couple of clean cut.....nevermind. We looked like we just spent 6 days at sea. 2 hours later, we were on our way.

At 5am, with light beginning to fill the sky, we tossed the hook in Boqueron. Finally. Finally, I went to sleep.

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Sunset from Boqueron

We were to meet Jackie the next day. So.. Sean stayed up all night and cleaned the boat. Sometimes I don't understand that guy....

Posted by jmered2 11:54 Comments (0)

Thumbin' it.

Turks and Caicos

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En Route to Provo

We set out from Rum Cay and had a beautiful crossing. The Caicos bank is treacherous at night and pretty straight forward in daylight so we staged our approach from Mayaguana; stopping for a few hours to time our arrival for daylight.

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Mayaguana

Miles offshore, surrounding the western part of the bank, there is breaking reef for miles with a single, obvious (in daylight) entrance to go through. We made it without issue and approached the island of Providenciales. Now we had to check in to customs. After several attempts on the radio, and a reluctance to go to shore without any kind of official notification, we paddled to a nearby dock and walked over to the check-in office at the commercial pier.

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The anchorage in Sapodilla Bay

I don't think I'm ever going to forget what the security officer said to us. "Well, everyone's gone home for the day here so you won't be able to check in today. Someone should be around tomorrow morning. The road to downtown is that way." .......Ok. So, no need to get too official, or check in at all before entering the country!!!

She mentionned the walk was far so, in our usual style of not paying for anything, we threw out the thumb. The first vehicle to pull by stopped and we hopped in. So far, so good. Super chill island guy, blasting the raggae and driving like a manic. He got us there in no time.

Downtown, as it turns out, is a bunch of box stores. Who knew? Anyway, it didn't take long for us to be looking to greener pastures. We caught another lift out to the resorts to check out the beach. We hit up the club Med but no bracelets-no service. Word to the wise--a bag full of coloured bracelets can go a long way. So we hung around the beach and talked to the sailing instructors. Their job consists mainly of laughing at the "sailors" who run the rental catamarans up one the beach. So we did that for a while then headed back towards town. We needed a few supplies (mostly bread for PB&J) so we scoped out some of the grocery stores and headed back.

Thumbin' it again, we got picked up quick. Friendly people.

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I love pick-ups

One thing to look out for hitch hiking that we lerned quick is that almost all of those ratty-lookin unmarked cars are actually cabs and they are not too fond of people who don't want to pay to go places.

The next day we headed back to the resorts and lounged around the loby of one of them grabbing their WiFi signal. Soon after, we got our bread and headed back. Dan was set to leave the next day and so were we. The plan was to leave Provo and head for Boqueron in Puerto Rico. 300nm. The only problem was our electronic charts ended with the Bahamas. We came into Provo on paper charts and were hoping to find some electronic charts for further on. No luck. So it's paper to Boqueron.

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Peanut Butter Jelly Time

The sun came up the next day and Dan parted ways with the O Canada. It was great to have him along. What an awesome ride. I hope it's been a good intro to cruising for him. Can't wait to see him again back home.

He headed for the airport. We headed to sea.

Posted by jmered2 11:32 Comments (0)

Future Work

I MIghT get distracted

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So, if you've been checking the blog you may have noticed that I've gotten a little lazy these days. Sorry for the delay. I have a good excuse, I swear. While sitting outside the grocery store in Georgetown (stealing their WiFi signal), I got an acceptace letter to grad school. Looks like I'm heading to MIT!!! I can't explain how excitted I am. But, as you can imagine, I've got a few things to take care of now, like getting a huge (HUGE) loan, a study visa, finding an appartment, etc. But fear not. I'll be updating again over the next few days and weeks.

Hope all is well, wherever you are.

Jamie

Posted by jmered2 12:09 Comments (0)

Rum

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Dan on Rum Cay.

Rum Cay brought the worst night and the best night of the whole trip. The worst night first.

As we pulled in to the anchorage, the sun was going down and we did our best to get well in to the "harbour" before it was dark. The 20 knot wind was supposed to swing north, leaving us in the perfect protection of the island. It did not! This may seem like a small matter but it's the difference between sleeping like a baby and practically being tossed out of your bunk by the relentless waves. And that is what we faced. Too dark now to make it out of the reefs again. We were stuck there for the night so we accepted our fate and tried to bed down.

At 11pm, I awoke from a frightening dream to the sound of the anchor line being cracked tight like a whip by the weight of the boat. Again and again, every few waves you could feel the boat jerk forward violently. I thought about the line we had tying our anchor chain to the boat (all chain rode)...It was time to throw the secondary anchor. I got up, pulled it our of the locker and tossed it as far as I could in front of the boat. I let off 120 feet of line. It was only 6 feet deep but that anchor is pretty small.

Oh, did I mention the water was only 6 feet deep? Anyway, I went back to bed and, sure enough, by 2am (when all boat malfunctions occur) the primary anchor line snapped and the remaining chain was ripped out of the anchor locker as the boat was taken by the wind. I was in the vee-berth and when I heard it go, I jumped on deck through the hatch to see the last of the chain disappear over the edge. I looked at he bow cleat and the secondary anchor line had come undone. From the bouncing? Who knows. We were moving fast now on the breeze with nothing holding us. I cleated the secondary off again and seconds later it pulled tight. At least we were off the rocks!

For the next 4 hours, we waited for daylight. As the tide dropped just a few more inches, and because of our movement, every fifth wave sent our keel into the sand. At least it was only sand but it sounded aweful hearing the weight of the boat shift on to the keel. Ugh!

Day finally came and the search for our anchor began. Sean swam around for a while with no luck. We decided to move back to where we were and try again. Using the GPS, we maneuvered back to where we were and when I jumped in to look, miraculously, it was right under the boat. We pulled it back up and got out of that "anchorage" as fast as we could.

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O Canada at a dock! What??

For the first time in the whole trip, we decided to dock at a marina. Now here comes the best night. We pulled in to the marina on Rum Cay with the VHF guidance of the dockmaster and dock up. Being on land never felt so good. Even within a few minutes of being on land, someone from another boat came by giving out cookies. Now I could get used to that!

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Lunch! A special treat, deviating from rice and beans.

The other boaters in the marina were super-friendly. From the cookies onward. As evening rolled around, we headed out into "town" to see what kind of trouble we could get ourselves into. The only place around was a bar that was closed. Bust. Back to the marina. As we arrived back, we could hear something going on at the marina bar. We headed on in and the couple on the boat beside us, along with a few others, were right at home with the owner, who was doling out drinks for free. We joined in and before we knew it, someone was talking about food and half an hour later, a gourmet meal of fresh fish (Mahi and Wahoo...) and pasta was served, with a wahoo tar-tar as an apetizer. With wine of course. And no one paid; "we're all friends here".

Feeling very satisfied, we got to bed late. The next day we set sail for Providenciales (aka Provo), in the Turks and Caicos.

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En Route to Provo

Posted by jmered2 11:43 Comments (0)

Dan's Initiation to the Sea and other Adventure

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Dan TKO after the sail to San Salvador

In dying light and mounting breeze, we set sail from San Salvador. The anchorage was shuffling arond as everyone else was preparing for the blow. We headed to sea. It's only supposed to get to 25 knots, and from right behind us, it should be a great over-nighter. It was Dan's first time sailing in the ocean.

By midnight, it was picking up. We were making good time even with just the double-reefed main up. Dark clouds were all around. Sean and I were both on deck. The breeze was fairly warm but suddenly, instantly, it was cold. That gave me a bad feeling. The strength of the breeze didn't change but the temperature changed so suddenly it was clear that serious forces were at play.

The wind picked up steadily and the waves followed suit. Pretty soon we were in gusts up to 30 knots. The waves rolled by like mountains eventually getting up to 15 feet. It was a little disconcerting seeing those waves toss the boat around like it was a dinghy. We sailed through the night without a problem despite the what seemed like a very delicate situation.

In the daylight, the wind calmed a little to a constant 25 knots and the waves had had the time to fully develop. They seemed like monsters, thousands of tons on water, each one allowing our passage as if on a whim. But pass we did and we made landfall around mid-morning. When we approached Cockburn Town, it was obvious we weren't getting in there. The town shoreline was completely unprotected and was getting pounded by the waves. After a bit of a debate and a granola bar, we headed for an anchorage around the south of the island. It was the only other anchorage on the island and to our extreme relief was perfectly protected from the massive waves. As we pulled around the point into the lee of the island, the transformation was astounding. All of a sudden, it was a nice sunny day and we were in the tropics. Without the roller-coaster waves, you actually notice things like the secluded beaches and snorkeling spots!

To say the least, we all took naps as soon as the hook was down. Those were the worst conditions we'd had.

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Beaches of San Salvador

Later in the day, I took a quick swim, we had dinner and went to bed early. It was a beautiful evening. We were the only boat in sight and there were only two buildings visible on shore far behind the white sand beaches.

The next day we went snokelling and spear fishing. Dan tried his hand at the spear. It's pretty tricky, especially with the reef being over 10 feet down. We both took a few shots but the fish were wise to us and we came out empty handed. Sean, however, had more luck bagging two.

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Sean plus 2

We went back to the boat and loaded the dinghy for a beach BBQ. Hot dogs and fresh fish. This is the life.

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Another free meal in paradise

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Dan and I on San Salvador

In the afternoon, the wind was supposed to swing around leaving the south of the island exposed, so we weighed anchor and headed back up to Cockburn Town. The weather predictions were right after all but the swell from the days before was still up and made the anchorage very uncomfortable. We went ashore but the town was pretty dead. Between the bad coconut in the rice and the aweful sleep, I was ready to leave when we did. First thing the next morning. Down to Rum Cay.

It was a good sail but a long sail. It should have taken a half-day but since it was upwind, you multiply by two; it took a full day (it's a simple system). We threw the hook in dying light. The anchorage had no protection from the direction of the wind when we pulled in but we had predictions saying it would swing around, leaving us in full comfort for the evening. Suffice it to say, the wind did not swing.

Posted by jmered2 15:22 Comments (0)

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