Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hola, Cofresi!

Based on our grossly inaccurate calculations we expected about a 20 hour trip from Big Sand Cay (Turks & Caicos) to the Dominican Republic. But we started out motoring faster than usual in flat calm and then, as the wind picked up, sailing faster than we expected. Why does this never happen when we want it to happen?!? After a lot of frustrating adjustments attempting to de-power throughout the night we just put the sails away and motored very slowly and uncomfortably in choppy, disorganized seas until the sun came up and we could hail the marina. We drowsily cleared customs and met our dock neighbors on Morpheus of London. They gave us the scoop on everything, including how to sneak into the off-limits pool. We enjoyed a day of rest and sneaky pool time then quickly dove into two much-anticipated land adventures and a truly nasty case of Taino Revenge. Thankfully no photos of that will be included. Have you ever seen a cascade of second time around ramen noodles running down a stairway? Try getting THAT image out of your head.  

Mountains! Mist! Odors! About 15 miles offshore the wind shifted slightly and we were suddenly overwhelmed by a warm, smoky, earthy, livestocky smell. The Bahamas were flat and  virtually odorless. This olfactory onslaught was the first thing to hit us, followed by a view of lush mountains at sunrise. Beautiful! 

The best and only free wifi we've had in months! I think we spent hours in this position.

On day two we visited the Damajagua Falls (aka 27 waterfalls) in Puerto Plata. This is a popular thing to do when visiting this area and is probably where we picked up the cholera, um, I mean, traveler's disease. 

The hike to the top took about an hour. There was a lot of heavy breathing on the uphill parts. We are so out of shape and these young guys who do this every day were laughing at us. We kept stopping to look at everything because it was so jungle-y. 

We made it! There were a lot of big groups but we were lucky to have two guides, Kevin and Lenny, to ourselves. They were really cool and it gave us a chance to get to know each other and dive right into speaking (terrible) Spanish. Lenny and I both have sisters who live in Boston! 

So first you hike up and then you get back down by jumping and sliding down 27 waterfalls. We lost count. This is the very first waterfall. The cool water felt great after the long hike. The helmets look silly but there were a couple moments they seemed like a really good idea.  

The first warm up jump. Kevin took over camera duties so we could just enjoy it. 

Wide, uncertain eyes quickly turned into huge smiling faces.

The whole thing was very pretty. This is one of the slides we all went down. There were some slides that were pretty daunting but there's no other way to get down! So you cross your arms, plug your nose, sit your butt where they tell you (or yell at you when you hesitate and say you don't want to because you think you're going to slip and they say they have a hold of you but you say you don't feel like they do and then somebody picks you up by the back of the lifejacket and says see I told you I have you so you do what they say and sit your butt down) and go for it! I think it was the most times I've heard the phrase, "you go first." 

This picture was added as a public service. For those of you dreading the annual stuffing of your pale, chubby, hairy bodies into a bathing suit after a long, cold winter, just look at this humiliating photo and you'll feel better about yourself. You're welcome. 

There was a lot of clambering. Towards the end Evelyn got really cold so Kevin took her quickly through the last of the slides and put her in the sun. Upon reflection she was probably on the small side for this outing but she loved it and the guides took great care with all of us. 

The rock looks like a face. 

Artsy clambering.

We were so pooped at the end but it was a lot of fun.

We stopped for lunch in an area called Maimon which is known for its seafood. There are so many of these open air restaurants. Come to think of it we haven't see any enclosed ones. That's an English/Spanish book on the table. We're kind of glad the Dominicans here don't launch right into English. It makes us feel less like tourist jerks. A lot of times there's no choice and other times it just seems like they're being nice letting us figure it out and helping with forgotten words or correct phrases. 

A dream come true! Evelyn has been dying to go horseback riding since we moved on to the boat. Unfortunately Andy had to miss out on this outing due to his tourist tummy. Evelyn's steed is named Caramelo. He was very sleepy and slow.

We rode through the peaceful countryside of an area called Munoz. Our main guide was really proud of the beauty and tranquility of his surroundings. To him, this is happiness. It really was pretty. 

We stopped for a refreshment and the kids taste tested the pepsi and 7up. Everything is so rustic. Which is not to say intentionally charming but frankly, totally poor. Besides the over the top artwork this is not a place for tourists but rather a gathering spot for the people living in the area. It's just there and seems so normal that the sink is outside and the toilet is an outhouse you flush by pouring in a bucket of blue "water." Our visit drew a smattering of men and boys curious to look at and talk about us. They were absolutely flabbergasted that we live on a boat. And I always wonder why I never see women hanging about.

Bunny ears on a horse.  

This is one of the houses we went past. Pretty basic, pretty wide open. The weather is tropical but really pleasant. Warm and breezy during the day, cool at night and enough rain and clouds to keep it dynamic. 

Drew's horse was very easygoing and sweet.

My horse was a pain in the butt who always wanted to run and to be first in line. 

This monstrosity is part of the Ocean World complex. We're staying in the marina, this building is the site of the casino and vegas style show and there's also a park with a dolphin experience and sea lion show. We can't figure out the original vision for this place and how it all ties together. No matter: it's all being re-vamped anyway.  Clearing into customs is easy and we feel like the boat is safe when we leave it, frequently, unattended for many hours on end. 

Yummy Mexican food right near the marina and across from the Playa Cofresi. Andy had recovered enough to join us for lunch.

After lunch Andy and the kids swam at the beach. We were really spoiled by the clear blue waters of the Bahamas and this was kind of disappointing. Well, it was actually pretty gross. I got out of it. Hey, someone has to stay with the bag. Not long after lunch and the swim, Andy relapsed and the kids weren't far behind. Looking back on our first 48 hours we'll never be able to pinpoint the source of the stomach ailments. But we had a great couple days and we're probably stronger for it!  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Breaking out of the Bahamas

After four months of sun and sand we were really looking forward to a new adventure and our weather opportunity opened up in a big way. Our goal was simple: move as far and as often as we could based on the weather. We knew this part of the trip was going to be more about traveling than cruising. But we made the most of it as we went and ended up having a great ten days even though it was all a blur. We traveled and planned our route independently but were always criss-crossing with a group of boats that departed the Bahamas at the same time. Eavesdropping on all their VHF conversations kept us from feeling too isolated. Everybody does it. They'd eavesdrop on us if we ever talked to anyone! This part of our route took us from Long Island (Hog Cay) to Rum Cay (the rolliest anchorage in the world), to Mayaguana and then Turks & Caicos. One of the highlights was seeing so many whales on their annual migration from the breeding grounds of the Silver Banks to the feeding grounds in the North.

Not long after we left Long Island, we saw a school of mahi and headed right for it. About two seconds after our lines were in the water we had a double hook up. Here is Drew reeling in the bigger of the two and Andy using the gaff to bring it in. This one fell back in a couple times. At the same time Evelyn was reeling in another on the port side. Exciting!

Everyone stayed in their undies that morning for good luck. It worked!

This is the anchorage at Mayaguana. We sailed a little over 24 hours straight to get here after a miserable night at Rum Cay. All of these boats converged on this anchorage around the same time. Once a window opens, everyone jumps through it. Most of them headed out the next day but we decided to stay so Drew and Andy could get their last fill of fishing before leaving the Bahamas. Our VHF buddies, Dirk and Nancy on Renegade, decided to stick around also.

This is the one that almost got away and the "three sharks were circling us" story no mother wants to hear.  A little team effort and some quick action brought in this large grouper with everyone's limbs still attached.  

The kids went over to Renegade to watch Dirk clean the fish and meet their cat, Captain Butters. These vacuum cleaners always show up when there's a fish carcass in the water. 

More goodies. We had a fish and lobster feast with Dirk and Nancy.

A pain to cook but absolutely delicious!

There are so many pristine beaches in the Bahamas. Unfortunately, though, most of the beaches on the windward side of the islands look like this. It's horrifying how much plastic shit and fishing netting washes ashore. Just sayin'

Always catching stuff. This crab was so annoyed it was waving a stick at us! Evelyn often rides her cardboard tube horse, Stormy, around since she can't get the real thing. 

When our goal is to make tracks we spend many hours and days on the boat. Sometimes it's too bumpy or hot or loud to be inside playing or watching a movie. And reading would cause instant barfing. So these two come up with all kinds of weird stuff to do. We sit at the helm and watch wondering what the heck they talk about all day. Apparently this topic was hilarious. Some people have wondered if the kids get bored. I'm sure we all suffer from some version of boredom at times but the word is rarely used and they prefer it to being in school all day and a jam-packed schedule so they never complain. 

Yup, we're watching you!

Getting busted added to the hilarity. We don't even want to know.

Arriving in Turks & Caicos after a night sail. It was kind of sad taking down our ratty Bahamas flag and hoisting the yellow quarantine flag. We cleared in and out of the Turks & Caicos at the same time knowing we weren't going to linger. We did get to fly the flag for a couple days, though. 

How could you possibly be bored when you can do THIS in Provo T&C? The excitement never stops.  

Snorkeling and collecting stinky stuff in the buff at Long Cay, Turks & Caicos where we spent one night after crossing the Caicos Bank.

A long dinghy ride into South Caicos got us dinner at a restaurant in what seemed like a defunct hotel just up this road lined with more of da funk.  

Sunset dinghy ride back to Tangent waaaaayyy in the distance. 

A quick visit to the beach in the AM before heading to our next anchorage. The kids were sad to come across this pile of cleaned conch shells that were mostly smaller than legal size. 

On our way to Big Sand Cay we saw many whales breaching. We were never close enough to get a good picture. There's one out of the water if you look closely enough. 

Big Sand Cay: The last of our turquoise water and white sand beach anchorages for a while.  Dominican Republic, here we come!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Waiting for a Window

The trade winds that had settled in for the first time all season were still blowing hard when we returned to Long Island so we weren't going anywhere. But since we can kill time like nobody's business, we made the most of it by doing some more sightseeing. As soon as the forecast showed potential for us to make a move we knocked off some items on the to do list. We even spent a couple nights in a marina so Andy could tackle some power issues. With the cost of the marina we had full access to the resort which was a real treat. The staff was super nice, the grounds had awesome nooks and crannies for chilling out and the food was great. But it was eerily empty. The marina facilities were basically shut down. Everywhere we went in the Bahamas we saw so many unfinished projects and closed down places. We can't figure it out. Maybe it's the no-see-ums which will drive you bat shit crazy at dusk and dawn. So even though we loved livin' it up resort style we couldn't wait to get back to anchor with a breeze and no bugs! So it appears our weather window is opening. Another season on board closes and a new one opens...

One of many great spots to just chill at the Stella Maris Resort.

The kids really want to go back to Conception.

Caribbean here we come! But first, a pina colada.

At some point someone watched a scary movie and now these two can't sleep alone. 

A monument to Columbus and the Lucayan Indians. Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492. But exactly where he landed first is disputed. It wasn't here. 

Over there is where we're headed. But not that day. It looks so calm in the picture but the water was rough! 

This looked like a primo spot for another failed Bahamian venture. A natural cut into a totally sheltered harbor. We were blown away by how beautiful this was.

A hearth still stands at the ruins of a former plantation house.

Ugh. Too much to explain. Just read this. 

More ruins. The rooms must have been totally claustrophobic.

Thick stone walls.

This shallow bay goes on forever. Andy is in the background daydreaming about his water sports resort. Kiteboarding and windsurfing. Who's in? 

Maybe the Dingo ate your baby.

It's been a long time since we've been in fresh water. It was so windy there were white caps in the pool. 

A new game is discovered! 

This induced a sudden flashback to JFK airport circa 1974. A row of wall mounted payphones, bubble enclosures, phonebooks hanging by wires. 

Our spot at the marina. 

Happy to be back at anchor where we can swim, fish and not get eaten alive by bugs.

Our last bit of exploration around Hog Cay before setting out.

Shelter from the sun and time to contemplate what lies ahead. 

Evelyn brought her own toy fish to play with because the real ones don't cooperate.

First steps along the thorny path.