History Log: Season 2004
Amida travels from Toronto to Trinidad.
Our first years adventure.
Log 10: Turks & Caicos to Salinas, Puerto Rico
May 5th, Salinas, Puerto Rico
The Wind Gods are not our friends as we have either 25-20 knots, or next to nothing. It’s been a real feast or famine situation.
A window for leaving Sapadillo Bay finally arrived and we set off to the Ambergris Cays on March 30th, knowing the 8 hour trip
over the Turks and Caicos Banks would have to be done under engine power. Drat! The Van Sant Bible tells you to leave early
as the approach to the Ambergris anchorage is littered with coral heads. Indeed, throughout the day we kept watch on the bow
to discern differences in water depth and the dark patches that signified there was something other than sand on the sea bottom.
Other than those patches, the clarity and colour of the sea was unbelievable… many times, we passed by starfish lying on the
sand 10 to 14 feet below the surface, but looking as though they were just a few inches away. We also came across a couple of
dolphins lazily ‘dolphining’ around. Their path took them right across Amida’s bow but, suddenly, they took off like torpedoes… I
would have never thought they could move so fast, with little apparent body movement, had I not seen this with my own eyes.
So how come my flippers don’t work as well??? Maybe I should have purchased the “Dolphin” model…
We encountered some darker than dark patches and decided to steer around these, not knowing if they were dangerous or not,
but not wanting to find out the hard way. Carylar caught a fish but it was, unfortunately, a barracuda, which are apparently
edible, but marginally so. Arriving at Ambergris around 2:30pm we encountered some corals that were definitely of the bad
news type, tall and ugly looking monsters, just below the surface of the sea, but it was easy to get around them and reach the
safety of the anchorage. Here, it was a little rolly, but not uncomfortably so. The swell did, however, elicit all kinds of boat
“noises” during the night. The V-berth acts like a drum, amplifying the slightest sounds. Trouble is, you hear them while they
keep you from sleeping, but when you go outside, they disappear and thus are frustratingly difficult to identify, never mind fix.
We knew the origin of one of noises, cables rattling inside the mast, but we can’t do anything about those until the mast is
unstepped. We’ve become acclimatized to that noise and it rarely bothers us now, but the others are annoying. I was actually
able to figure out the source of one of them, it was the shank of the secondary anchor, the Bruce, as it occasionally knocked
against the anchor roller fitting. A temporary (for the next few months) fix was to wrap a piece of rubber, cut from a piece of
truck tire inner tube that I just happened to have on board, around the offending section.
Next day was to be another of the ‘dodge the Caribbean icebergs’ type, from Ambergris to Big Sand Cay, but we were getting
comfortable with the thought of razor sharp coral edges lying in wait under the surface of a benign looking sea, and of steering
around them. That exercise took about 45 minutes and then we were finally off the Bank and into deep water… with sails out, no
less! The water colour changed dramatically and now became deep, deep, indigo, reminding me of the Quink Ink that I had used
a few decades ago when fountain pens were popular, having just taken over from goose quills.
Big Sand Cay is amazing! The island is about a mile long and maybe two hundred yards wide, and is completely uninhabited.
There is a large anchorage on its western side, with 15 – 20 feet above sand, and the water is clear as a bell. There are two
beaches, separated by a knoll of cliffs. Getting onto these beaches is quite a challenge because of their 45 degree slope and the
swells that break on them. Actually, getting on is the easy part, and getting off is far more difficult! You have to resort to
Baywatch tactics of timing the swell and running the dinghy down the sand as a wave recedes, jumping in and pushing it away,
and hoping the next one doesn’t knock you back onto the sand with the outboard prop spinning…
We took a packed lunch the next day with the intention of walking across to the other side of the Cay, the Atlantic Ocean side…
the one that had nothing between it and Africa! Marilyn had forgotten to bring her Teva’s and this proved a real impediment as,
just off the beach, the vegetation consisted of cactus and tufts of a grass-like plant that had spread its burrs all around. Agile
minds quickly found a solution… Marilyn would wait while the other five would walk across, then I would return with Caryl’s
sandals, which M would then wear… except in the meantime, she had managed to do a little exploring away from the burrs and
had found a pair, albeit mismatched, of footwear that had been washed up on shore as flotsam (or is it jetsam?). Actually, it was
sad just how much garbage had been washed ashore. Lots of plastic containers of all kinds, glass bottles, timbers of all kinds,
fishing nets… made it look like a giant dump on the seaward side. We were able to find a relatively clean spot and then watched
with amazement as Caryl proceeded to make Mimosas to celebrate our safe arrival. After lunch we walked the length of the
beach and found a little protected bay in which were lazily swimming a school of some twelve barracuda… and a shark. Needless
to say, we kept out of that particular water!
We stayed at Big Sand for three days, swimming in the clear waters, exploring and walking the beaches. Those on the western
side were clean and pristine. Then, unfortunately, it was time to leave this little paradise and head across the ocean to the
Dominican Republic. Arrival in Luperon should be timed for early morning, before wind and ocean swells build, so we weighed
anchors at late afternoon. We’d gone just a mile when we suddenly spotted a humpback whale, with her calf, cavorting in the
warm water right ahead of our little convoy of three sailboats. We veered off course to give them room and watched with
breathless awe at this unexpected gift from Mother Nature.
Guess what kind of wind we had for this sixteen hour passage? Yup… practically none! We managed to sail for a couple of hours
only, but were able to successfully test the mended batten pocket. Luckily, before we left Toronto, Phil (Southern Comfort) had
mentioned to M that she should get a supply of sail mending material and I had scrounged a length of batten that had been
discarded into the waste bin at NYC and we were able to both repair the damaged pocket and make a new batten. This material
is wonderful… it is strong and has an adhesive surface, from which is peeled off a protective paper once the appropriately
shaped piece has been cut, and it sticks to the sail amazingly well. Thanks for this tip, Phil!
The passage was uneventful except for a couple of rather close encounters with ships, both during my watch. Until that night, all
the ones I had seen were easily spotted and their course determined to be of no consequence. These two were different! The
first seemed intent of steering what appeared to be a collision course! Its lights were not terribly helpful (we’ve seen ships with
what was definitely a red on their starboard, at the stern, with nothing at the bow). I turned the engine on so we could have
better maneuverability than just under sail power, and changed course… and we still seemed to be on a collision course. I yelled
for M, who was sleeping, to come up and help, and we decided to change course by 90 degrees, which was just as well as the
vessel then proceeded to pass us to stbd… and it was only then that we identified it as a barge, towing a container! The container
had not a single light… I can tell you, it took a while for my pulse to settle down, and the knees to stop shaking.
The second incident was a cruise ship that was also going south, likely to San Juan. Its course took it across our bow and while
we were never in danger, it came uncomfortably close. This is the first time that having had working radar would have been a
real benefit. One piece of equipment which we do not have, having decided it was a frill rather than a necessity, is a remote
cockpit mike for the VHF as I had thought that a remote speaker would be sufficient. Not so! Using this speaker is fine to listen to
vessels but then, if we need to talk, we have to come down to the nav station where the mike of the main set is located. We
tried using our handheld for the talking, but the feedback between it and the main set causes huge interference. Keeping the
handheld powered up all night is not an option as its batteries do not last that long… Guess what is top of the “things to buy” list!
This prolonged trip while under engine power turned up another “problem”… the alternator did not fully charge up the batteries…
not good news. Also, I had a little mishap in that I lost my balance as I was entering the cockpit and Amida hit and errant wave
and I ended up hitting by back on the edge of one of the winches. It was quite painful and I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t
broken a rib as a result.
We arrived at Luperon just after daybreak and were greeted with a VHF call asking if we’d like an escort into the harbour… and
two dinghies showed up shortly after and guided us in past the shoal and into the anchorage, where there were already over 100
boats. We found an empty spot and dropped the hook, though it did take a couple of attempts to get it set properly. A couple of
hours later, we were boarded by the local “officials”, each charging us a fee. There was Immigration ($25 for the boat and $10
each for us), the Dept of Agriculture ($10), Dept of Food ($10… and they wanted to confiscate our steaks because of Mad Cow,
but we were able to persuade them that we’d eat them asap), the Navy (no actual fee, but a request for a “tip”), the Harbour
Authority ($11 for the first 7 days then an additional $15)…all of them very courteous and pleasant to deal with.
The harbour is very, very pretty, with hills on the western side and mangroves all around. Very safe… very green and lush… a
huge difference from the Bahamas and the T&C. There are boats which have been here for many, many months, in some cases,
years. Some are now so decrepit that I don’t think they could leave safely, as they are in such a state of disrepair. There’s a
marina with seven slips and a restaurant, which is the focal point for the boating community. Every Sunday, it hosts a Flea
Market, and Fridays are Karaoke night! VHF 68 is the hailing channel and also hosts the Wednesday & Sunday “Cruisers Net”,
with Mike, a wannabe disk jockey being the MC and going a great job. Mike is a diesel mechanic, David an electrician, and there
is even a fellow who does fiberglass work! All of them are available for work at $20 - $25 an hour, a far cry from the fees
charged in Toronto and the USA. One of the ladies offers reflexology, one haircuts, and another bread baking… a couple does
canvas work and sells courtesy flags for $10 each. Mr Van Sant himself is a live aboard here, though he and his wife also own an
apartment close by which they rent for a paltry $150 a week. BTW, anyone planning on coming this way MUST buy the Van Sant
book, “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South”, which is the bible I have referred to a couple of times already. It is full of
info about how to sail in these waters and also includes a guide to the DR and some of its inland towns. It also contains details of
anchorages in the DR that cannot be found on the charts.
The village of Luperon is quite a revelation. It is cheap, as I’ve mentioned before, because it is third world. This means chickens
roaming the streets, donkeys and mules as a mode of transportation, and kids running about barefooted. Alas, while cheap, the
days of the $1 dinner are gone… they cost $3 - $5! The local beer, Presidente, is exceedingly drinkable, at $1.50 for a grande
size. It is cheaper to eat out than to use our boat stores, so we have been doing so. There’s an internet café that charges $1 an
hour, a far cry from the $20+ we paid in the T&C. The down side is that things we take for granted, like a steady supply of water
and electricity and the availability of propane, are not a fact of life here.
We’d taken a couple of bags of laundry to the Marina, where they provide a wash & fold service and when we went back to
collect it the next day we were told it had not been done because they’d had no water, so it would be ready “manana”… Propane
has, apparently, been in short supply for a couple of months and we see empty gas containers sitting, waiting, at the marina, for
the situation to be rectified. There was a shipment to the next town, but the lineups were 100 yards long. One of the restaurants
in town has only another 10 days of gas left for its cooking… Another called on the VHF to say they were closing early that day,
as they’d run out of food!
The people here are very, very friendly and, frankly, the place grows on you, so we are not at all surprised cruisers spend a
long time here. Of course, then there’s the “Carwash”… we first heard this mentioned accompanied by the Monty Pythonesque
“nudge, nudge, wink, wink…”. The phrase, “Honey, I’m going to the carwash” takes on an entirely different meaning, especially
as there are not that many cars around, given motorbikes and scooters are the preferred form of transportation. What would
boaters care about a carwash anyway??? This has yet to be verified, but we understand that a carwash is a place of
entertainment, involving female hostesses, if you get my drift. They will, apparently, teach you how to merengue (a dance that
originated in the DR), drink a President with you, teach you rudimentary Spanish words, and provide warmth and solace to
lonely sailors (M told me I do NOT fall into the last category)… for a small fee…
We frequent a bar called Capt Steve’s for the odd beverage and have noticed a blue house across the street outside of which sit
young (20-ish) ladies who seem to have nothing to do, as they sit there every day… except they seem very, very friendly…
Joking apart about carwashes, I guess other side of the “cheap, cheap, cheap” coin is that the people are poor, and some resort
to earning money in ways which are not pleasant. It is sad, really, and brings up thoughts about how inequitably the world’s
wealth is divided. I’ll turn into a Socialist if I don’t turn to a different topic!
Just up the road from the anchorage is a hotel resort which offers day passes for the reasonable price of $17. We decided to go
there so we could swim in their pool, have access to the beach, eat the buffet lunch, and imbibe as many drinks as our stomachs
would take. M found they offered an hour long massage for a mere $20. During lunch, which was very good, we noticed that a
lot of people were picking up bananas to take with them back to their rooms, or the beach. I told M that we should not only grab
a few bananas but also a pineapple, a couple of tomatoes, and a green pepper! This would make the “deal” even sweeter and
save us going to the village grocery. So this we did and took our loot back to the poolside. An hour or so later, M discovered that
our digital camera was not in the bag and realized she’d left it on the restaurant table. Of course, it was no longer there… it was
gonzo! We ended up with the most expensive lunch, swim, drinks, and produce on the entire planet, and M’s digital camera woes
continue. This means that there will not be any picture updates on the web site, unless we get to scrounge them from fellow
travelers, or get a new camera (number three in twelve months!).
We’ve had our first encounter with bugs here in Luperon. This is surprising as we’d expected hordes of mosquitoes and
no-seeums in the Bahamas but maybe the high winds we’d been encountering had kept them at bay. Here, they show up at
dusk, for about an hour, in small numbers, and the odd mossie or no-seem comes by in the morning. Worse are the flies, of the
household variety, but even these are not bad. We did, however, resort to unleashing the ‘weapon’. This is the best toy we have
on Amida and is an electronic fly swatter. It’s the size of a ping-pong paddle and contains a couple of batteries in the handle
which power a high voltage mesh strung into the head. When the mesh comes into contact with a fly, it fries it, accompanied by
a sizzling sound and the occasional wisp of smoke… very satisfying!
We finally pulled out the awning to shelter the cockpit from both sun and rain and also the cockpit cushions which we lay out like
pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to form a mattress so we can sleep outside, where it is much cooler.
We played tourist a couple of times, once taking an organized tour to the capital, Santo Domingo, and then a trip to the local
waterfalls. We had to delay the trips because we were told it was the Easter weekend and much would be closed down in this
Catholic country. Easter… already… time really has little meaning for us and it’s a struggle to even know what day of the week it
Santo Domingo is some 4 hours drive away from Luperon, on the south side of the island. Eight of us were packed into a
smallish van which drove us there, with Jose, the guide. The day long trip managed to squeeze in all the important sights and
gave us a flavour for the city. There is an impressive monument to Christopher Columbus, which contains his tomb (though
several other locations also claim they have his bones) and a museum containing many maps of his voyages and various
harbours in the West Indies. Many, many countries contributed artifacts to the museum galleries. Some seemed a little off topic..
ie what does a Japanese Samurai have to do with Columbus? The US and Canadian exhibits are worth mentioning. Guess what
the US has adorning its booth? Front pages of newspapers with Sept 11th news and pictures!!! Again, the link to Columbus is
exactly what???? There were some US citizens among our group and they were quite embarrassed that the Bush Administration
would stoop to this level. Mind you, we were embarrassed with Canada’s contribution. It was a framed copy of the letter sent by
the Gov General and a flag, yes, that’s it folks, nothing else, nada! Not even a picture of a Mountie!
After the Monument we were taken to the Fort and Museum, the Cathedral, and three subterranean lakes, where once lived the
indigenous people… add breakfast and lunch as well as a visit to the supermarket on the way back and it was a long, long day…
all for $50 per person.
A couple of days later we went to the waterfalls with the same tour guide, Jose, and the same van. This was a spectacular day!
About an hour’s drive away we stopped to pick up a local waterfall guide, Moreno, and bounced our way down a narrow lane to
the river. The first task was to get across this river. It had been raining for a couple of days and water levels had risen. There
was no bridge, and as we were getting organized, I noticed a donkey and its rider fording the river… and that’s what we also did,
except without a donkey! We held hands and stumbled across. The water came over our waists and the current was surprisingly
strong so our feet would get swept off the rocky, sometimes muddy, river bottom. One of Marilyn’s Teva’s broke loose and was
swept downriver, but luckily at this stage we were nearly across and Moreno took off after it, swimming to retrieve it
successfully. We reached the other side with adrenalin levels bursting and in a state of some shock. I mean, this was supposed
to be the easy part!
From the river bank it was a 20 -30 minute walk through the forest to the waterfalls. The path meandered across streams, some
shallow, some also with rushing waters. Then we reached the first of the 28, waterfalls though the tour normally went up only as
far as the seventh. The next hour or two, during which time went by like a blur, were amazing! We jumped into the pool at the
base of the first waterfall, swam up to the rocks and clambered up a conveniently placed ladder (made of tree branches), then
approached the next level, where the water was absolutely gushing, as it had rained for a few days. By now our group had been
joined by a couple of others, so we had four of five waterfall guides working at trying to get us further upstream. We got back
into the river and swam upstream to a rocky outcrop, a few yards away. From there, we needed to get through a “white water”
section, to a rock just to the side of where the next waterfall was cascading down. To get there, the guides had floated down a
liana which we gripped and pulled ourselves up on, with water cascading down our faces and entering all our orifices. We
huddled under the rock as more and more joined the group, like sardines… and despite the pleasant water temperature, we
started to shiver. I looked up at the raging torrent cascading down a meter away from our sheltered spot and wondered how the
hell we would get up that section… and then, how it would be possible to get back down again! A guide told me, no problem, you
ride the chute to get back down… and I soon discovered how we’d get up. A couple of the guides climbed up the rocky sides and
straddled the running water while another two gave a leg up from the bottom, till one of those above us caught our outstretched
hand and pulled us up! At this stage, a couple from our party decided to call it quits! The rest of us somehow made it up to the
next level, which was waterfall #4… another three levels to go... that was only the theory, as it practice, we were not able to get
any higher because the current was too strong and the volume of water cascading down was too high.
So, now we need to get back down and the guide told us that the chute option was too dangerous and we’d have to jump,
instead. I don’t know about you, but jumping 15 feet into an unknown pool is not exactly a thrilling prospect, especially as we’d
heard a member of a previous group had landed on rocks and had badly dislocated his ankle. They had to get a donkey to get
him back down to the river bed and the vehicles. Luckily, the shaking of his leg from the donkey’s motion actually loosened and
reset his ankle to the right position, and this beast is now known as Doctor Donkey. Anyway, we all managed to jump down,
clamber down the makeshift ladder to the next level and take another jump into the pool at the base of the falls… all quite, quite
exhilarating. All that was now left was to walk down to the river and do the ford thing to get back across to the van, which we did
relatively easily, now being totally drained of fear.
It was an amazing experience and one which we doubt would even be possible in North America given the physical dangers
involved and the prospects of insurance claims and litigation. Here in the DR, we weren’t even asked to sign a Waiver…
On the return trip, the tour took us for an excellent lunch, a visit to a ranch to visit the bulls, and also to see the locals carving,
and selling, figurines they carved out of the river rock. The bulls were a laugh and a half. One of them was brought out for the
exhibition of his sexual prowess, but only from the perspective that his gonads were on display. Now, I’m not a country boy, and
have not seen a breeding bull (Brahma?) before. Given that his “job” was to make lots and lots of little bulls and cows, his
equipment was very impressive! You could have fed most of the village of Luperon from his testicles (a delicacy, I’m told…
yuck!). Of course,
this was now the occasion for a photo op, of which details I will spare you.
The stone carving was interesting and the adjacent stalls gave us the opportunity to buy one. More interesting was that this was
also the place where we got to see our first cock fight, albeit a training session. There’s a cock fighting arena in Luperon
apparently, but the “season” was over. The fight we saw was just for a few minutes and both birds had their spurs covered, so
no damage was done… lots of feathers flew, however. I don’t think I’ll ever go to see the real thing.
The last stop on the way was to the botanical gardens which were very, very impressive. It was a little strange to see the plants
that you can buy at White Rose, for $12.99 a pot, growing so profusely in a natural state. We got to taste a raw cocoa bean,
which looks quite disgusting in its undried state and it tasted nothing like a Mars Bar.
We got back to Luperon in the early afternoon, quaffed a few Presidente beers at Steve’s, and went out for dinner. This meal
turned out to be the best we had eaten for quite a while, and cost the two of us $20…
So, here we are today… my back is quite, quite sore as the waterfall trip aggravated the existing damage I had sustained when I
landed on the winch, now almost two weeks ago. Also, I was in the head, shaving, this morning, when I heard M scream. I
jumped out to see what had happened and she pointed to this winged creature that had found its way into the cabin. It was quite
pretty… and large! I tried to shoo it away up the companionway, but I guess it my Spanish wasn’t good enough. When it landed
in the sink, I grabbed a plastic bag so I could snare it and return it to the outside, but somehow it managed to sting me in the
thumb during the process. Man did it ever hurt… and added to the physical pain came the panicky thoughts that it might have a
deadly toxin which would render me unconscious in a few seconds and I was experiencing the last moments of my life. OK, OK…
I heard you just say that that would be one way to stop me writing! Sorry, but it did not work, and I’m still at it, but my thumb is
still a little sore, some eight hours after the event.
It will be time to leave Luperon soon, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday, when the current weather conditions abate. It has been
cloudy for some four days now and the winds outside the shelter of the anchorage are quite strong. Inside, that’s a different
matter, and without either sun or wind power to replenish batteries, we’ve actually had to use the engine. I managed, a few days
ago, to fix the alternator charging problem, having pored over the user manual and received guidance from a number of people.
We spend a lot of time reading and the Sunday Flea Market is a good opportunity to take in old books and replenish with new
ones. Luckily, I was able to pick up three Tami Hoag novels… great, great, great. Thanks, Cyndy, for the tip about her. Ashes to
Ashes ranks high on the scale, almost on a par with Elizabeth George. Guilty as Sin is suspenseful reading, while Cry Wolf is the
best ‘sophisticated’ bodice ripper I have ever read (mind you my sample size of that genre is less that the fingers on one hand).
We’ve replenished the diesel and water tanks (good water costs CDN$1 for a 5 gall jug!) and are almost ready to go. The next
segment is reputedly tough as we will be heading almost directly east, into the direction of the prevailing winds. Van Sant
advises to do a lot of night and early morning motor sailing and divide the 400 nm into small chunks, which means this segment
may take us some 12 – 14 days. That will get us to the Virgins, where the direction of travel turns us to head generally south,
and out of the bad wind direction. The Virgins is also the beginning of the real Caribbean.
We’ve met up with Jennifer and Drury who are traveling on a Lagoon 38 catamaran, Allways Sunday, with roughly the same
travel itinerary and timing as ourselves. They are from the Toronto area as well and are a gas to be with… we’ll enjoy their
company! We’ve encountered many coincidental meetings along the way, and here is another. We first met them in Georgetown
when they responded to our call asking if anyone wanted to share a cab with Lorraine for the trip to the airport. They had
company who was returning on the same flight as it happened. This gave us the opportunity to be briefly introduced but we left
Georgetown the next day while they had to stay a while longer. To our surprise, they suddenly showed up here in Luperon. Even
stranger was the fact that the electrician, David Anderson, in Toronto, who was working with me on Amida in August was also
working on their boat and had to take a couple of trips out of town to finish that job. At the time, this miffed me considerably as
it was delaying the completion of our work! Small world…
We have also met Larry and Bonnie on Radio Flyer, a 41 ft Catana catamaran. They, Allways Sunday and we will be traveling on
together. Imagine that, two fast catamarans and us… hope we don’t get left too far behind!
So, for now, goodbye again. Good luck with your boat prep and Launch. Hope the weather is good as you grind away at those
hulls and the arms don’t get too tired as you wash, paint, wax, and polish… We’ll miss Launch. Let me rephrase, we’ll miss seeing
you there and having a beer afterwards!
April 20th: Late news… the weather forecasts are gloomy and it looks like we’ll be here till Thursday or perhaps even Friday. It
has been raining a lot, on and off for four days now, and last night we had the first thunderstorms pass by. Not good weather to
be out in, with 10+ft swells on the nose…
Got me a haircut in Luperon! It wasn’t easy to tell the hairdresser exactly what I wanted done as our language skills did not
overlap, but sign language works wonders. First, I was led to a chair and had my hair washed (Angelo, in Toronto, does not do
this). The water however came from a bucket rather than a tap, as the electricity supply was off at the time. Then the hair came
off, pretty much as I had requested. Angelo’s final step is to shave the edges with a lethal looking straight edge razor. Here, the
lady didn’t possess one of these and used a rather well used disposable razor blade that had been snapped in half… When it was
time to pay, I wasn’t sure how much it would be, so offered RD$200 (US$5) as that was the amount M paid for her massage,
which took an hour. The money was taken with a look of surprise, so I figured I had perhaps overpaid.
The next day, we decided to spend our remaining Dominican currency on a final lunch in Luperon, where we met Larry and
Bonnie. Larry told me about is haircut “adventure”, in the same establishment as the one I’d gone to. He had been asked to pay
$US10 (twice what I paid) and while in the chair had been enticed with additional services that could also be performed, including
a massage for $35. This was strange as I had thought the only massage place in town was where M had been and had paid $5.
Well, as soon as Larry started giving details of what the massage would cover, I got the drift! I won’t go into details here, in case
my kids are reading. I was a little miffed, however, that I had not been even offered these services, which I would have
We finally left Luperon on April 22nd, at 5:30pm. The first challenge was to exit the mouth of the harbour safely, past the shoal
and the two reefs. Following two shallow catamaran’s was not a good idea as they could safely go over 4ft of water and we need
6ft. We got major assistance from a cruiser who happened to be passing by in her dinghy and helped to keep us in the channel.
The next two hours were brutal, with humongous waves coming at us seemingly from all directions, but eventually they, and the
wind, subsided and the motor sailing was more comfortable. Larry came on over the radio to tell us that he had a bad case of
stomach “flu” which had rendered him pretty much useless and we’d have to put in at Rio San Juan, where we arrived around
8:30 with a plan to leave again in the late afternoon, after we’d rested and slept. Of course, while asleep, the local Navy
Commandante showed up in a decrepit boat and asked for our papers. All was in order, but then he pulled out his wallet, showed
me his ID and an empty money compartment and asked for a “present”. I told him we’d already given a present when we
checked out in Luperon (US$5) but he seemed insistent that the owner of the boat on which he’d arrived needed gas money, so I
gave him US$2. Technically, he actually spoke the truth as, apparently, the Dominican Navy does not possess small launches or
dinghies, so the Commandantes have to borrow one from a local.
From Rio San Juan, our intent was to travel all the way to the eastern tip of the DR, across the Mona Passage to the SW of
Puerto Rico, to Boqueron. The Mona has a wicked reputation as being perhaps as rough as the Gulf Stream, so we were
naturally apprehensive… We started off motor sailing but eventually, in the middle of the night, the wind came up and Amida put
up the jib and turned the motor off! The next day gave us some good sailing weather, a shade off being close hauled. And here
came the surprise as we were faster than the two catamarans on this point of sail! They had neither our speed nor the ability to
point as high. When, however, the wind same more on the beam, they took off on us. Luckily, the wind shifted back to the nose
and we caught up again. The Mona Passage turned out to be very favourable for us and we had a combo for sailing and motor
sailing until we finally arrived in Boqueron at 730 the next morning, after a passage of some 38 hours, our longest so far. We did
watches of 3 hours and were not too tired when we arrived. There was a different story on Radio Flyer as just as Larry had
almost recovered from his stomach ailment, Bonnie came dawn with exactly the same…
Puerto Rico is a very pretty island, similar to the DR and the anchorage at Boqueron was pretty, though a little noisy during the
weekend as the beach here is the best in the area. The bad news was that Murphy paid us a visit and left us with a dinghy whose
engine was inoperable because the cooling system failed as result, I thought, of the barnacles and algae growth we’d picked up
in Luperon. I took it in to a mechanic and he spent an hour wrestling with the lower unit, trying to disconnect it so he could look
at the impeller. It turned out it was the culprit. Surprisingly, I could not find a replacement anywhere close by and had not
thought to bring a spare along.
Allways Sunday and we left Radio Flyer behind in Boqueron as they were still recovering their health and we sailed the last few
miles of the west of PR and turned “left” to go along its southern coast. The next few hours were pretty rough and we got “beat
up” by the wind and waves, which were very, very choppy. We picked up Chris and his boat, Colonel’s Lady, on this leg, and
have become a threesome. He has a 1975 Cal (40+ft) which he’s setup for single handing. In fact, having an 85HP engine, he
ends up being the lead boat as he just powers his way through the swells. Amida motor sails, always close hauled now, and
Allways Sunday has to take a wider angle to the wind. The next stop was a pretty little place known as Gilligan’s Island, where
there is a very nice resort and a single restaurant so we had drinks in the former and dinner in the latter and left at crack of
dawn then next day for Ponce.
The Van Sant bible says the best way to traverse the southern coast of PR is pretty much the same as the north of the DR, ie
wait for the winds to die overnight and motor sail / sail from dawn till 9:00am., ie lots of little hops. Our hops were a little longer
than those he recommends. We arrived in Ponce around 1100am, with Murphy back in residence, this time quite seriously so.
Just as we were about to drop anchor, M noticed smoke coming out of the engine compartment and the stern dorades.
Mercifully, there was no flame, but the smell of toasting resin indicated an electrical problem, likely the alternator. Taking the
alternator off our engine is not a pretty task, especially when it is hot. Eventually, I had it in my hands and got a ride to the
marina dock where I sought a marine electrician, preferably one who spoke English. Surprisingly, not many Puerto Ricans speak
English. I found a fellow called Jochi who said he’d get the alternator tested in Ponce and have it back on Monday. So far, so
good. I decided to install the Hitachi 80A alternator that I had as a spare as it had an integrated regulator which would bypass
the external one we used normally and which might be the culprit of the overheating situation.
There was a chandlery nearby which had an impellor for the dinghy engine which I was able to install myself, getting a great
sense of accomplishment from this little task. At least we were now independent and mobile again without needing rides to and
from the dinghy dock.
It took me a few hours of poring over installation manuals and the Yanmar shop manual wiring diagram to figure out how to
attach to Hitachi unit but this was eventually accomplished successfully. I admit my pulse was racing when I was about to turn on
the engine to test it, fearing a bunch of sparks would be the only result. Mercifully, all seemed well with the unit... and this meant
that we were now ready to go.
M during all this time was cleaning all the inside surfaces of the boat, trying to get rid of the acrid smoke smell. She even
climbed into the rear lazarettes, which are close to the dorades through which the smoke had billowed out. While in the lazarette,
she noticed that a component of the KISS wind generator system had a huge burned out hole in it! Some techie talk: one of the
issues with a wind generator is what to do with the current that is created and has nowhere to go because the batteries are fully
charged. One option is to install a heating element into the hot water tank, so this surplus energy goes into heating up water.
Another is to install as resistive load, which absorbs the surplus charge. I had opted for the latter and had attached the 6” * 9”
component on a bulkhead between the two stern lazarettes. I had anticipated it would heat up so positioned it close to the stern
dorades. Unfortunately, I had not anticipated how much it would get hot, ie that it would not only burn a hole through its own
backing plate but also one through the ¾” thick bulkhead! I am about to write an irate email to the supplier and installer asking
how it is possible that their products can cause a boat to catch fire, which potentially could of happened to us… with dire
consequences, as we would have emptied the fire extinguishers into the engine compartment, never ever suspecting the
resistive load to be the culprit.
The good news is that we are back in shape as the KISS still works, though we are careful with it and turn it off when the
batteries are charged up… and the alternator works fine… and the dinghy is again useable…
Speaking of suppliers and installers, I received bad news in an email from E & C, with whom I had been in correspondence
about the ruined prop shaft and coupling way back in November of last year, close to Annapolis. Despite the opinions of the Boat
Yard that fixed the problem, a local Surveyor, an ex-Yanmar mechanic, and many other professionals along the way to whom I
had talked, that the problem was caused by the shaft alignment being done with the boat out of the water, before the hull
adjusted to water pressure, and before the shrouds were tightened up and again changed the boat geometry, E & C thought this
argument was invalid and took the position that Amida was fine when we left Toronto, ergo, the problem was not theirs.
Interestingly, they could not offer any logical scenario that might account for the misalignment… ie it happened by magic.
Frankly, I was disappointed by their attitude as they are plain wrong and are shirking their responsibilities. So, reluctantly, I’ll
have to proceed to legal action, as I have very strong feelings about the rights and wrongs involved.
The marina in Ponce is not really a marina but rather a Marine and Fishing Club, with wonderful facilities… a dinghy dock,
showers, bars, restaurant, pool, a few holes of Par 3 golf, tennis courts, a basket ball court, a weight room, and a small beach.
We, as visitors, for the price of $5 per person per day had access to the showers plus bars and restaurant only. The good news
was that this past weekend, the club hosted a fishing tournament which included nightly entertainment which we were able to
attend. Beer in the bar was a mere $1 and a rum cocktail $3, not bad prices compared to the Bahamas!
We left Ponce yesterday, May 4th, at crack of dawn and ignored the Bible’s advice to stop off at an intermediate staging place
and headed directly to Salinas. The trip was not too rocky, though we had squalls pass by with apparent wind speeds in the high
20s and even 30 knots. Motor sailing, close hauled, into the chop and wind with a single reefed main gave us reasonable comfort
and we arrived in Salinas at 1000am.
Apparently, there is an internet café in town where we can attach our own PC, so hopefully, this log will be ready for reading
later today… sorry it has been such a long one.
We’re not far from the real Caribbean now, ie the Virgins. Just another 90 – 100 miles left, which is just as well, as we have
visitors joining us on May 14th. Just to let you understand how poor the recent weather windows have been, had we not left
Luperon on April 22nd, we might be leaving only today… We heard, on the Ham Radio, of other boats who had been considering
leaving with us, but had changed their minds at the last moments… and were finally able to leave today, after being stuck there
for an additional 14 days… The next few days are supposed to be favourable, so we should make it in time. We’re contemplating
a night time passage just to get the miles under our belts and avoid the need for several small hops. My next task today is to try
and figure out the route and timings, plus contingency plans in case we need to put into port…
Hope you are all well… as always, we welcome your emails with news on what is happening.