Dominican Republic

I liked Boqueron, Puerto Rico, and if we didn’t have a tight schedule I would have stayed and let the messy weather pass. But off we went, motoring. Not unpleasant, initially. But as we got offshore the swells built, squalls came and went, and at times the wind blew…dead against us even though we are “supposed” to be in favorable trade winds. There was a major depression just north of us (close enough to see the lighting over the horizon). Not conditions for a happy crew!

All the motoring was raising a question as to whether we had sufficient fuel. I “answered” that question by forgetting to turn off a fuel transfer pump, resulting in our pumping maybe 10 gallons overboard through the tank vent! Crap!

Between needing a break and needing fuel, we headed for the Dominican Republic after all. We had heard that Ocean World Marina was a good destination — a modern marina (showers), easy customs clearance with no bribes, and fuel would be readily available. Those three pluses turned out to be accurate. But this place has some major minuses, too. It is a resort and theme park. Music plays constantly, occasionally nice most mostly bad. We get to hear the overly enthusiastic announcer for their dolphin and sea lion shows thrice daily. It is a playground for the wealthy, with a casino and a cigar lounge and a Las Vegas style night club show. Not much connection to the larger community (other than providing jobs, of course). And maybe if the place were busy and thriving I would get into the spirit; but it is nearly empty. Huge docks designed for superyachts are bare. The terrace lounge has seating for a hundred or more, four seats in use.

At least we got to take a run into the nearby town of Puerto Plata. The supermarket offers pickup/delivery for us to shop there. Of course they are thinking we will be doing major provisioning, but we did that in PR since we didn’t plan to stop here. Still, we bought more food. But the highlight was our driver taking us the scenic route through the historic district, past the oldest cathedral in the DR, and allowing us to stop at the local produce market (after we had already bought all we needed at the supermarket).

Oh well…the people are friendly, and it’s fun to speak a little Spanish again.

Our fuel tanks are full. Our water tanks are full. Our freezer is full. Our counters are full of the produce and other items that won’t fit in the full lockers. In the morning we set out once again for the Bahamas. The wind will still be against us initially, but it is predicted to veer favorably by nightfall. And it should be sunny and pleasant except for some lingering swell from the distant gale.

Besides a hot shower, there was another highlight yesterday. I got an email from a student at Yale who was preparing for mock treaty negotiations in a climate law class. She is representing Tuvalu against the industrialized powers, and her web search took her to my posts from Tuvalu, especially the last one where I wax philosophical about the conundrum of climate change and climate refugees. I went back and read my own post (, and it made me cry. That time was so long ago and far away…and that post was so close to my heart…and that was when sailing the Blue Planet Odyssey included a bigger purpose…

Puerto Rico

From Lameshure Bay on St John we sailed to Culebra, an island at the east end of Puerto Rico — one of what’s often called the Spanish Virgin Islands. I liked the harbor at Culebra. It was big, with boats from all over the world, and there was a nice bar/restaurant called the Dinghy Dock — what could be more welcoming than that! Steve has vacationed in Culebra several times, so he rented a car for us and played tour guide, taking us to see the beautiful beaches.

Then to “mainland” PR. We anchored off a cayo (cay; islet) with a marina, but the marina turned out to be for condo residents, offering no services for us. So we moved to Sunbay marina right on the mainland. Dinner ashore, showers, trash disposal, water and electricity. At Nora’s suggestion we rented a Jeep for a day and drove up to the El Yunque national rainforest. The visitor center alone was very impressive — a huge structure nestled peacefully into the forest. If this is our tax dollars at work, I think it is money well spent. We hiked in to a waterfall for a high pressure shower.

Leaving the forest we decided to drive to San Juan, and explore some of the old city. El Morro fort, that guards the harbor entrance. And a walk through some of the old/chic streets to a good restaurant. Fun day!

In the morning we had to get going because it was 40 miles to the next good anchorage. A lot of motoring in light winds to Puerto Patillo. Pleasant anchorage. Then another 30 miles under spinnaker to Caja Los Muertos, an island park which could be translated as “coffin” or “dead mans chest”… Pretty place with a nice walk to an old lighthouse at the summit. We met a ranger ashore, and I tried to connect with some humor that was not well received. But Steve brought up the subject of baseball, and suddenly we were all good buddies.

In the morning another 30 mile spinnaker run to Mata La Gata, which might be translated as “kill the cat.” Nora had a recommendation for this little cayo as a quiet place. But when we arrived there were many powerboats parked there and lots of partying going on. Turns out it was a holiday (Emancipation Day). We anchored away from the crowd, which was all gone by dusk. We had a blustery but peaceful night.

Next day we had a pleasant sail around the SW corner of Puerto Rico, and up the west coast a little to Boqueron. Beautiful big calm bay, with room for hundreds of boats; not more than a dozen anchored when we arrived. We headed ashore and connected with a taxi driver (Steve made another baseball buddy), who took us to Mayaguez to the customs office to clear out. Puerto Rico doesn’t require that we clear out, but the Bahamas will want to see a clearance when we arrive. So we requested a “courtesy clearance.” The officer asked when we were leaving, wrote the date/time on an empty form, stamped it, and said, “Fill it out before you get there!”

After lunch we bought groceries and diesel, and in the evening we went back ashore in search of dinner. We met the crews of two other boats on the dinghy dock, and we all dined together. Wayne is a singlehander from Texas, who had an amazing story to tell of losing his boat in a hurricane off Key West, and being rescued by helicopter. He says a screenplay has been written about the tale, and it may turn into a movie soon.

Lyndon and Lisa are sailing an old Hinkley 42 named Moon, and I found them both to be delightful. Lyndon is an ecology scientist/mathematician, team leader and expert witness, and conducts his business from the boat. He had a lot to tell us about fish feeding behavior, and how and where to catch mahi mahi. And even though Steve bought two fancy new lures today, Lyndon has offered to supply us with a “hoochie” (lure “squid” or skirt) in the morning that WILL work! Lisa is taking a 3 year sabbatical from her nursing career. I would love to meet with them again, but we are sailing in opposite directions. Maybe Hallie and I will visit them in Seattle in a year and a half, when they plan to return there.

So we go in the morning. The weather is messy, and it will probably be a lot of motoring initially. We may stop at Isla Mona tomorrow, half way to the Dominican Republic. But we are not planning to stop in the DR because we haven’t enough time to do everything. We need to get to the Bahamas!

All in all, Puerto Rico has provided some very nice cruising, and has exceeded my expectations.

Parked at the end of the street at Culebra
One of several great beaches on Culebra
El Yunque visited center
There was a tree frog in there!
View from the rainforest
Hiking to the falls

Nora is in!
Observation tower

Approaching El Morro fort

Where to next…?
I found this monument, well, unusual!
Old San Juan

Off to Puerto Patillo, rain squalls here and there
Steve likes to capture 360 degree photo sets, to post on Google Earth
Mr Moose is a traveling companion of Steve’s, and he likes to get in the pictures.
Caja Los Muertos

View from the top
Local fauna
Reminds me of the old Arizona Sunsets magazines my family used to have.

School of fish off the dock
Even more fish off the dock

Virgin Islands

We left St Maarten rather quickly, before Mardi Gras, because we discovered that Bill’s flight out from St Thomas left two days earlier than what we had remembered. Good thing he double-checked! We exited the lagoon at the last scheduled afternoon opening of the bridge. (You can arrange an unscheduled opening, for $1,000.) We anchored outside and went ashore for dinner, and got underway just as it got dark.

At daylight we were approaching Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands). We cleared in near Leverick Bay and then crossed Gorda Sound to the Bitter End marina/resort. Expensive, but very nice. Hot showers @ $4 for five minutes. Delicious “painkiller” drinks. Kite boarders showing off their amazing stuff nearby.

Bill had one more full day aboard, so he got to choose what was next. We sailed to Monkey Point for some good snorkeling, and then moored in Trellis Bay, where he could arrange a morning taxi to his ferry. Farewell to Bill. I’m glad that it worked out for him to sail with one of his daughters in the Caribbean. That was one of his dreams/goals at the outset of this adventure.

Hallie, Nora and I now had a couple days before Jesse (my son) and Chelsea (his girlfriend) were to arrive. We beat upwind to Spanish Town; we visited The Baths; we moored in The Bight of Norman Island; and we parked at Soper’s Hole where we met their ferry. Soper’s Hole was kind of fun, for a developed place. Voyage Catamaran Charters is based there, and I registered for their drawing for a week’s charter aboard their new 48 footer…

Then off to the US Virgin Islands. We cleared in at Cruz Bay on St John, and then motored around to Lameshure Bay on the south side of the island, to find shelter from the extremely strong NE winds. Luckily someone in Cruz Bay told me about the senior pass for US national parks, which includes a 50% discount on moorings in national parks, which includes most of St John.

We motored into serious wind and waves, but only for an hour or so, to Coral Bay, where we found a nice anchorage. Then to Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas, where J&C could easily get to the airport. Their Caribbean experience was unfortunate, in that the wind was howling during their entire visit. I think they still had a good time, but it wasn’t the relaxed and pleasant paradise that gets advertised!

Steve, my good friend and new crew, flew in with his wife Donna, and they stayed a few days in a fancy hotel. Hallie and Donna flew home on the same flight. After they were in their taxi to the airport, Nora and I went to Steve’s vacated room and took luxurious long hot showers!

With Hallie gone, I felt like our month of “charter operation” in the Caribbean was over, and Nora, Steve and I could focus on sailing on again. First a big provisioning run, and diesel and water, and we were ready. But we wanted to rendezvous with Tahawus, as they had just arrived in St Croix. I had planned to sail to St Croix, as I haven’t been there, but Norm/Klaudia were planning to move on to St John. So we sailed to Francis Bay on St John, and then the next day moved on to Lameshure Bay (again), where we arrived about ten minutes before Tahawus.

We just had a delightful time together, drinking too much wine, enjoying conch ceviche prepared by them (conch caught by the boys), and a key lime pie we made in honor of Veronica’s 21st birthday. I think we will stay here tomorrow, and doing nothing. Then probably sail to the Puerto Rican island of Culebra…on our way to the Bahamas.

St Maarten bridge out of the lagoon.
Approaching BVI
Bitter End marina/resort
Kite boarder
The Baths
Norman Island
Hiking on Norman Island
Norman Island

Soper’s Hole
Another catamaran named No Regrets! (Similar to the one on which I hope to win a free week’s charter…)
Motoring into the gale to Coral Bay did most of the crew in.
Coral Bay

With Steve and Donna at the hotel in St Thomas.