Jan 15

When visitors come to visit

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One of the greatest joys we have while travelling the Caribbean is to have family and friends aboard. We have had very special guests for the last two weeks aboard Mistress. This gave us a chance to spend time together while visiting some of the attractions on the island. Some times home sickness can be very real, especially when you are so far away from everyone you love. You can say to your self you have waited so long to do this, and you have made a lot of wonderful friends, but only a familiar face takes away the ache.

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The wind here has been quite strong everyday,known as the Christmas Winds, so we chose to do land based activities. First we visited, El Yunque National forest, a brief stop in Fajardo, then onto San Juan, the capital. Since big cities seem to be all the same, we only focused on the Old section. What a fantastic city it is.

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San Juan

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Old San Juan

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And of course, we had to visit the beach………

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Caving

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Jan 05

Puerto Rico

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By the time Christopher Columbus landed in 1493, the Taino Indians were well established on the island they called Borinquen, or “Land of the Lords”. Realizing its strategic location, the Spanish quickly took over and established it as their key military port in the Caribbean, a status it held for more than 200 years.

After the Spanish-American war, it was ceded to the United States and remained a U.S. territory since 1898.

El Yunque National Forest

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Lush and cool, the highlight of any trip to Puerto Rico is the rainforest of El Yunque, the only tropical forest in the U.S. National Forest System. Situated on the eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains, less than a hours drive from San Juan, this 28,000 acre topical rainforest is named after the Indian spirit Yuquiye, or Forest of Clouds, it receives an incredible 240 inches of rain each year and is home to hundreds of species of plants, including 26 not found anywhere else in the world. The indigenous Coqui tree frog serenade in the evening hours and you may even spot a rare endangered Puerto Rican parrot amid the abundance of Sierra Palms or in the magical “ Dwarf Forest” at the top forest levels. Marked trails meander through the stunning greenery and waterfalls.

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We also had a difficult hike to a waterfall, after swimming across a pool known as Hippy Hole. A man lived here for many years, squatted on the land and built a home. It is said that he had hair down to his waist, so this is where the place got its name.

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Dec 26

Salinas

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Early Christmas eve day, leaving Gilligans Island around midnight we had a enjoyable sail to Salinas. It was almost perfect except for the squall that came out to greet us just as we were entering the bay. We thought we were going to reach the anchorage before it hit but we were still 3 nm out when it hit. We lost sight of the land, the wind increased to around 30 knots., and the rain started pelting us. Almost the same as when we arrived in PR. Hope this don’t happen every time we get to a new port. With no sails up, just running under bare poles we were moving along at close to 5 kn., a bit scary considering that I couldn’t see I couldn’t see other boats. I turned and sailed large circles in the bay hoping for the rain to pass. It lasted for approximately 15 minutes, then continued west over the island.

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We have arrived in Salinas, after having a celebratory drink we got to work cleaning up the mess that Mother Nature caused us. It being Christmas Eve we had to hurry to the stores, which were closing early.

Christmas Day, we joined the other cruisers at Sal Pa’ Dentro Waterfront Bar, for a Potluck dinner, each boat bringing their favourite dish, where we had a great great time, but we miss everyone back home.

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Christmas Tree made out of driftwood

 

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Dec 26

Guanica

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   It is just a few days til Christmas, and we are near the town of Guanica, anchored behind Cayo Aurora, better known as Gilligan’s Island. The locals who used this place to hold pig roasts named it after the 1970’s TV show. The island looked like the one on the show, and one of the fishermen looked like Bob Denver, the lead actor. Today it is a state park.

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   This small island was originally inhabited by a extraordinary woman, who at the age of 40,escaped misery and mistreatment in the workers barracks of the nearby La Ballena Farm, and swam to this Island. She then lived like Robinson Crusoe for many years.

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Along with the rest of the flotilla, known as the Los Gringos that left Luperon, we are anchored behind the small cay. As a celebration, to the full moon and to catch up on stories with friends that we haven’t seen in awhile, we arranged a potluck on the beach. Each one of us brought a dish, and we had dinner watching the sun go down, and the moon rising.

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We took a dinghy ride to the resort that is on the north side of the bay to use the internet, to check weather, and to call a taxi to visit the town of Guanica. We usually walk, but the road to town is full of S- turns, hills, and, fast cars , so a having a driver is safer.

Dec 15

Road Trip

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We for a road trip today, put on by Henry and his wife Jessica, owners of the Seaside Bar and Grill Restaurant. All the Los Gringo’s, The boats that were part of our flotilla and the ones that left Luperon the week before also joined us.

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We were transported in Personal cars to the lighthouse, on the S/W corner of Puerto Rico, called Cabo Rojo.

All together there were 16 of us, who were given this first rate guided tour.

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We stopped at  a site that they have been harvesting salt since 700 AD., but was really put into production when Juan Ponce de Leon put the Taino  Indians to work as slaves.

Today the fields produce salt used for livestock and for roads during winter.

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We carried on to the lighthouse, close to our next anchorage once we leave here from Boquerón. Sometimes it’s nice to see things from a different perspective.

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We toured the headland, swam in the bay, then chilled out on Playa Sucia ( Dirty Beach), named for the seaweed that litters the sand.

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At the end of the day, we then went back to the restaurant to have a fantastic meal, and toasted our day with a Chachaito ( shooter), Puerto Rican specialty.

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Dec 13

On to Mainland Puerto Rico

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At first light we raised the anchor and motored through the narrow channel to start our 43 Nm trip to the mainland. The seas were like glass, but the coolness in the air meant something was about to change. We didn’t have long to wait. We had set our course around the south coast of the island, and had put out our fishing line, to see if we could catch dinner.

The predicted wind for today called for 12-15knots with a 2ft. sea. The actual conditions …..19- 25knts with 4ft seas with the 10 footer. After an hour in these conditions Mistress slowed down to 3.5knots, caused by the wind right on the nose.

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We radioed Jacasso and agreed to change our destination to Boquerón, which was 4 miles closer than our original harbour of Mayaguez. It meant  that we would shave 1 hour off our running time. We were hoping to arrive before darkness fell. To report into the country we would have to take a taxi, which was at our original destination.

The wind increased to 20, gusting over 25, we decided to reef main sail. Once it was done and I returned to take the wheel from Muriel who was starting to turn green, there was a strong gust and we heard the horrible sound of sails ripping. All 4 reef points were torn about 10 inches straight down.. I was able to reduce sail further.

The wind and the swells continued to toss us around for about 8 hours, till we were about 10 miles from land. Muriel was unable to take the wheel due to seasickness. Just goes to show that everyone is susceptible. I felt so sorry for her, all the time we have spent on the boat and this is the happens with land in sight. Our Voyager wind vane and myself kept the us on course.

When the sea and wind calmed to a comfortable 15 knots, we could see the harbour, but in front of it was a huge black wall of rain coming towards us.   I quickly put down the sails, and just in time before it hit us. Almost immediately we lost sight of Jacasso, who we were following, being pelted by torrential rain. We turned towards the wind and came to an idle. The rain lasted for about twenty minutes, just enough time for the sun to disappear.

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We entered Boquerón anchorage in the dark. All our friends who were already here greeted us on the radio. All of them, flashed their lights so we could see where they were anchored. Ebin, from Neccesse came out in his dinghy to guide us in.

We’re here , we’ve made it to Puerto Rico. We have completed the longest, toughest passage so far.

Dec 10

2013 Hurricane season is over

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Early Sunday morning, we untied from the mooring ball at first light, then  followed Jacasso, and Mezzaluna, and leading Necesse and Margi out of the bay, which has been our home for the last almost 8 months. The previous day was spent playing our last baseball game, followed by drinks at Pichichi’s bar for post game celebrations. We almost won. Muriel and I gave our baseball glove to our runners, to boys who showed up each week.  After making our rounds to say goodbye to everyone we returned to the boat to do last minute chores and to wait for the goverment officials to come and issue us our despacho to leave the Dominican Republic.

The weather was exactly as predicted,  light winds, and calm seas but it took most of the first day to get used to the motion after so much time spent in our calm bay

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This coast is know as the rouchest part of the carribean,  but today as we motorsailed,  the seas were calm, with a 5ft swell. Getting around the capes, land that sticks out into the ocean it was a bit bouncy, we had some  8ft. rollers with the occasional 10.

We dodged at least 2 squalls and as nightfall came we were 60 miles down the coast. The night was very dark, no moonlight to guide us only the reflection of our running lights illuminating the foam caused by the wave crashing off our bow. We took 2 hour shifts each. When not steering we were napping.

By Monday night, after sailing 42 hours,  we were at the Mona Passage, part of the ocean that separates the two countries,  saying goodbye to the Dominican Republic. Early Tuesday morning, at around 5am the engine stopped caused by crud stirred up in the tank. We tried to fix the engine as we sailed slowly towards Mona Island.  We now know Murphy had joined us for a ride,…..He is the guy who says (  ” what can go wrong will go wrong” ).

The lack of wind which is very rare on the ocean caused us to tack over and over trying to grab even a whisper of wind just to keep moving, Murphy hiding somewhere snickering. Finally around 3 30 pm the motor started.  In 10 hours we had sailed 11 miles, our devious friend Murphy had either dicided to go for a swim or go bother someone else.

As we arrived at the small anchorage on the west side of Mona Island, Jacasso was waiting  for us with dinner ready, the only boat we were still with. They had prepared Mahi Mahi a large fish they had caught on the ride over. A very thoughtful gesture by our friends, we were exhausted.

Each crew makes their own choices of which way to go and this is a stop we wanted to make, at this nature reserve consisting of two Islands. After 59 hours on the water we were looking to relax.

After a easy check in with the park ranger who only wrote down our names and boat info we were given the OK to explore the beaches. Due to it being hunting season for wild goats and pigs we were not allowed in the interior and to only fish from the beach.

The next morning it was raining off and on, but as soon as it cleared we swam to shore and  took a long walk on the beach. In the afternoon we put the dinghy in the water and snorkeled around the anchorage. Since we were close to the reef, there were schools of fish around us. A group of sea turtles even came to visit.

This little piece of paradise is a great stop.

Nov 30

Leaving Luperon

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Leaving Luperon We are getting ready to leave Luperon, but I will leave with mixed emotions. I know, It’s time to go but, I will miss so many people. From our friend Claude who has been our Ami, from Georgetown, Bahamas and who has decided to make this his home for a year, our little runners from baseball, and our opposing team members, that have had mercy on us once and awhile and let us win. Wendy, who owns Wendy’s Bar, and all her family. Gil from, JR,s Bistro Tropical, where we enjoyed many night-out dinners, and Wednesday night trivia. Papo, the harbourmaster and his right-hand man/ brother-in-law, Pedro, who have made our stay here very comfortable. The cruisers who have settled here, and who have helped us in so many ways. One of them is Fran and her two daughters, Ceail and Skye, who suffered a horrible loss this year with the passing of her husband. They have been sailing for more than 20 years aboard their boat Rebel Razor, the girls only home. I will think of them often. I will always miss the shop owners who are always ready with a big smile or this little town, where everyone greets each other in the streets with “Hola” or “Buenos Dias”, the dogs that come and join you for your afternoon beer, the goats and cows that stroll by the bar and, where everyone moves out of the way for them. I will miss them all. This has been a great place to sit out hurricane season. I know some day we will return.

Adios amigos Muriel and Tutty

Nov 25

Waiting for Weather Window

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We are ready, all systems have been checked so all we need now is a favourable weather window. For the last week it looked like it was going to be this Wednesday.  That was til last night when we had atomic bomb thunder and lightning.  Now, as it looks we have a window on Friday.

Because we are on the north shore of Hispanola, any weather coming from the north hits the land then rebounds back out, to confuse the seas. For this reason we are looking for the most comfortable ride possible.