A capsule of our last leg, from Panama to here in Rio Dulce, produced by Bryan is here on youtube.
The Final Leg:
Sun., Mar. 3, '13 Up at four for the early taxi to Charleston Airport. Quick flight to Miami and a nice, tight connection for the flight to Guatemala City - too tight, in fact, to get my duty free stuff on board. "But I'm headed to the gate right now". "No, señor, you can't carry it". "Okay, then walk with me". "No, we are sorry, we can't". Now, where the hell am I going to get Black Bush for the voyage, let alone for 27 bucks? As the last person to board, I nonchalantly slid into one of the many open first class seats. The plug door was closed and the pilot was giving final instructions to the attendants. Thought I had it made, but no..."Sir, can I see your boarding pass?" "Oh (with innocent smile), isn't this 27D?" "Nice try, sir". Feeling like I was being sent to the principal's office, I did the perp walk only to find someone in my assigned seat. Rather than bother them I took a nice, roomy exit seat and enjoyed the flight. Steve and son Grant were due a half hour after me but they were already there when I arrived. No bag-checking by customs (?) and we were out hailing a cab in minutes. Steve is sick as a dog so once we were checked into Mariana's quaint "Petit Hotel" we put him to bed with an antibiotic and a shot of whisky. Grant and I and a Canadian fellow we ran into hopped a cab to snoop around town for a few hours, had some good Italian food and came back to Mariana's to crash.
My room was at the very top of Mariana's...
...so I had the view.
Mon., Mar. 4, '13
Brrr, it's freezing here. Mid-40s, busted window and no extra blanket so I didn't sleep very well. Now I'm up before 5:00 with nothing to do, hoping the folks will make coffee soon. Today, if Steve's up to it, we'll take a bus down to Monkey Bay Marina on the Rio Dulce where the boat awaits.
Yep, after a nice big breakfast of fruit & juice, eggs & potatoes, beans & bread we packed up and took a cab to the bus station. Just after 10:00 we're bouncing through the narrow streets of Guatemala City. This bus is big and several times we were just inches from other vehicles and buildings. It reminded me of a Panamax ship squeezing through the canal with barely any clearance.
After a few hours climbing through the Sierra de las Minas, little brother of Sierra Madre, it was downhill from there. We took a brief rest break east of Gualan...
Off the bus, stretching our legs en route to Rio Dulce
...then watched the flora turn more and more lush as we descended towards the water. Arrived in Rio Dulce/Fronteras around 4:00, made the short walk to Bruno's Marina and called Jen to come collect us.
The aptly-named bar at Bruno's - a stone's throw from the foot of the Rio Dulce Bridge
Steve took the opportunity to find a bus schedule to Livingston where we hope he can arrange a visitor visa extension. Funny thing about Livingston - no buses go there. Why? There is no road to there. Anything and everything - food, building supplies, even the vehicles - arrives by boat.
In our slip at Monkey Bay
Ah, so good to see the handsome Lady Lib, with her new blue bimini and freshly covered cockpit cushions - white with blue piping, ooh la la! The interior and exterior had been thoroughly cleaned, windows inside and out too, and the fiberglass was waxed and shone pearly white. When I cracked open the companionway I expected the usual moldy, stale smell. But, no, she had been aired out. How nice to come back to this instead of mildew and facing days of work just to make her habitable.
Snacks, a beer and we're out for the night.
Tue., Mar. 5, '13
Up before the sun to walk the docks and play with Lupe and Spice, the dock dogs.
I can hear a troupe of Howler Monkeys swing past in the forest canopy; can't see them but I can follow them by the waves of howls. Lots of exotic bird calls, too.
After sunrise long pangas full of children sped by on their way in to school; longer ones headed out to fish; still longer and low ones, like skinny barges, passed carrying what looked like sand.
Now the sun is up and this is more like it: pushing 90 degrees and the teak deck is too hot for bare feet. Frequent hosing down to lower my body temperature. This is the Caribbean weather I remember and missed.
Grant and I got the dinghy down and inflated then, with Steve, retrieved the heavy outboard from the workshop. It took the three of us, and we could have used another hand, to lower it into place without the pulley. Steve and Grant dinghied into town for some provisioning and to snoop around for a way to Livingston. I stayed behind to organize the boat and my familiar li'l berth.
Wed., Mar. 6, '13
Boarding the water-bus
Just after morning coffee the daily water-bus picked up the Caseys for the 90-minute trip down the Dulce to Livingston - to try to finagle a visa extension. Our original three-month visitor's visa expires today and there is a $500 fine if caught over-staying, so I hope they meet with success.
Fish jerky(?) in Livingston
Meanwhile I hitched a ride with some friendly slip neighbors up the river to Tienda Reed for provisions. Good news - Raoul, the Customs and Immigration guy in Livingston, gave us a two-week freebie to get the boat work done. There’s a little breathing room now, but can we get it done in time? Thu., Mar. 7, '13 Más nada.
Grant and Lupe
cleaning Mojarra, probably for ceviche
Fri., Mar. 8, '13
Ram Marina has a simple drainage system for their paved painting area: a gulley 150 yards long, 8 inches deep and exactly the width of a man’s shoe, size medium. On our first visit, while gawking at all the big boats on stilts, I stepped straight in. Straight, fortunately, because it’s the perfect device to break not an ankle, but the bones above it, should one topple over putting the entire body weight on those small bones against a crisp concrete edge. It cements, so to speak, the foot in the most ideally cruel position...I was lucky and only ripped a bit of skin.
Looking for lodging while on the hard, we found a few nasty little rooms and I thought to myself, “Gawd, do I really wanna spend a week in these dirty, flea-bitten digs? We could catch polio or something. Where's the Hilton?" We stumbled on a really good traditional almuerzo at Sol y Luna, barely recognizable as a restaurant.
The guy with the bike had just arrived - from L.A.!
Back aboard, we started what we thought would be a straight-forward and productive project: washing the curtains. Not so: first off, there are hundreds of plastic clips to disconnect, many of which fell off in the washer. Once dry, we had to reattach them to the curtains then clip the curtains onto the hundreds of corresponding cars above and below the port holes. At worst, we thought, this would be a mindless, stoner type of exercise, but no...each curtain is a different length and height and further, the distance between car tracks is not constant; they're farther apart on one end than on the other and, stupidly, we didn't mark which curtain went where. Over the course of three days we finally got it sort of right.
Sat., Mar. 9, '13 Haul-out day. We got up early enough to make the ten minute motor to Ram Marina by 0730. Steve and I drove Lib and Grant followed in the dinghy. No one had told us to come in stern-first, but there was just enough room in the entry channel for the line handlers to spin her around.
It took a bit of free-diving to fine tune the placement of the cradles and up she goes. We walked along with the boat on the lift to the location in the yard where they do the sandblasting...
...it's in a separate area and the sand and paint just blow in the wind. They're building a huge new hangar to contain all the waste product from sandblasting.
cost breakdown for all this is $450 for haul-out, $800 for total labor,
$150/gallon for primer (4 gal of Interlux 2000e) and $340/gallon for
anti-fouling (6 gal of Pettit Trinidad Pro). Will also have to buy a new
battery for the house 12 volt system and pay an electrician to get the damn
wind generator going...so will be a very expensive month for Lib II">.
We spent an hour or so taping plastic sheets around the cockpit to minimize the inevitable sand and paint particles that’ll be raining down on every surface.
Over to Bruno’s, Grant and I befriended Angela, a street merchant, and bought meself a shirt & necklace and him some bracelets.
Angela, our favorite street merchant
Steve got the too-small-for-me shirt
Our good luck continues! Not at all sold on the crappy rooms in Fronteras we’d seen, Steve, in one of his rare moments of genius, thought we might camp in the rec. area which has hammocks and several soft couches. To this Jen agreed. Wee-hoo! But then it got better, way better: manager Jen spoke with the marina's owner and scored us a charming guest cabin on the premises for $15 per night. Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah.
Sun., Mar. 10, '13 A trip over to the Lib showed some sandblasting had been done the previous afternoon. Progress?
John and Grant work on the bow thruster
A tip from our German slip-neighbors led us to Casa Perico (House of Parakeets) for lunch. It’s directly across the Dulce from Monkey Bay and up a narrow, winding, somewhat spooky rivulet.
After lunch we threw some darts, had a cocktail then Steve dropped Grant and me off at Monkey Bay and dinghied on down to Ram Marina to check on and supervise the blasted blasting project; you really do need to be there to crack the whip. Meanwhile Grant and I took our daily dip off Monkey Bay’s dock, knocked down and carved what we learned to be an unripe coconut, bounced a bit on the backyard trampoline until I thought I might hurt myself and be abandoned as useless by the captain so we finally resorted to a safe game of double sol. Nap-time for Johnny in the breezy rec. area. <grant sez> playing double sol with john til the flies come spider monkeys talking every morning In the evening, reputed to have killer pizzas, we dinghied into town to eat at Sundog.
Yeah, it was okay. Mon., Mar 11, '13 Last night I finally gave in to employing the mosquito screen canopy over my bed. Despite having no lights on, they come and despite having window screens, somehow the li’l bastards find a way in...perhaps through the thatched roof.
Skeeters be damned, I’m falling in love with this place; getting to know the children of the workers who live on the grounds, sharing food with and becoming best buddies with Spice and Lupe, the dock-dogs.
3-year old Thomas helps his Dad with the raking
Thomas & Abby
Anything you really need, besides a grocery and restaurant, is here.
Flora on the grounds:
I’ve gotten into the habit, when not at the boat or elsewhere, of taking a siesta on a soft couch in the rec. area. The 50' x 50' structure is on pilings, resting a few feet above the Rio Dulce's water. It has a very high thatched roof and no walls so nothing stops the cooling wind from blowing clear through. With rare human noise it makes for perfect relaxation. More than once I’ve woken not knowing where I was but not at all alarmed. The recreation area:
In the afternoon we took another ride over to Ram Marina to discover yet more slow sandblasting progress. Some delay is to be expected since, after all, we are in Central America, but the three to four day estimate could easily double. Aargh, there’s not much we can do here so over to Bruno’s we go. Steve and Grant went for Quetzales cambio while I discussed possibly fabricating a dinghy cover w/Eddie at Hector’s shop, where the new bimini and cushion covers were made. A dinghy cover would serve several purposes: UV protection, ass-traction when sitting on the pontoons, side pockets to keep stuff dry and, most importantly, the swag of cool new blue threads. Since we’re there at Bruno’s and have minimal food stores on the Lib, we ate. Mmm, my big ol’ sea bass hit the spot. As usual, in mid-day, Grant and I jumped into the marina’s water to cool down and stretch our limbs.
But tonight we got back well into the dark of night, all sticky, and leaped into the dark water and, oh yeah, it was good. Tue., Mar 12, '13 The rec. area has most of what any kitchen has and s.o.p. is to get a kettle of water to boil for coffee first thing.
Mid-morning, after our java and listening to the cruiser’s net, we’re off the check on the Lib. No progress whatsoever. I hitched a ride back with Uli and left the boys to their own devices. Fateful dinner at Mario's. So sorry for Grant. Thu., Mar 14, '13 Yay, sandblasting complete. Fri., Mar 15, '13 Grant volunteered his services to Allan, the dock boy, and they worked on cleaning this boat:
Allan later taught us to fish off the dock with a simple line and dog food. He caught five sizable fish for his family's dinner.
Grant and I fill in the quiet hours in the rec. area; I teach him card games and he schools me on rap slang.
No longer a poker virgin; note his winning hand!
On Fridays Casa Perico has a big buffet. They sent a launch across the river to collect us and a few of our German slip neighbors.
up the rivulet to Casa Perico
Ladies preparing the buffet.
Sat., Mar 16, '13
A slip neighbor needed some dental work done in Morales, so Grant and I and a few others tagged along in the van driven the 45 minutes by Jen. En route we passed scores of roadside fruit and vegetable stands, manned by the folks who lived behind the stands. Nearly every one had a massive stack of pineapples - 50 or 60. Once in town we wandered about for a few hours, capturing some street scenes:
en route to the mini van
John & Jen
Back to Monkey Bay in the early afternoon. Dinner and pool shooting with Brad. Sun., Mar 17, '13
Early morning boaters' swap meet at Bruno's. Steve picked up a fender and a carabiner and we were sorely tempted by a three-man hookah. With the sandblasting complete, they've started applying the first coat of primer - looking good. The fenders are now in the shop for covers and Tuesday they will do the final measurements for the dinghy cover. Steve had lunch with Patrick, a French sailor, and Brad to discuss possibly buddy-boating across to Jamaica or the Caymans. We had initially planned to day trip up the Belize and Mexican coasts and head east from Isla Mujeres. With Cap'n Casey one only knows the course on the day of departure, so we may still do that. ETD? If with Patrick & Brad, Friday the 29th; if on our own, this Friday the 22nd at high tide. Mon., Mar 18, '13
Bottom painting 101: Remove old paint, apply primer and anti-fouling paint (two coats of each in our case). I've painted my share of rooms and the main thing I've learned is not to rush; let each coat dry thoroughly. The hulls I've painted can be counted on one hand if that hand had no fingers, so when I heard something about needing to apply successive coats while the previous coat is still tacky, it stuck in my craw but I had to accept it. So today the second coat of primer goes on as well as the first coat of anti-fouling paint. [From what I gather anti-fouling paint has a certain copper content that disagrees with the little marine plants and animals that tend to glom on to and "foul" the hull] The second anti-foul coat is planned for tomorrow morning and we "splash" in the afternoon. [People ask, "When's yer Splash Day?" which I always regarded as the day Daryl Hannah finally returned my calls, but now take it to mean the opposite of hauling-out] So splashing tomorrow seems premature to me 'cuz humidity, of which we have lots, has got to affect all paints. Tue., Mar 19, '13 Splash Day came and went; they did put on the final anti-foul coat, but not until past noon and there still remained the bow-thruster blades to be painted and reinstalled, the propeller polished and anti-fouled, several zincs to be attached and a couple other items. Some of these were accomplished, but still we weren't ready to splash. Mañana, 9 am, we're told. Wed., Mar 20, '13 We're there early, L2 is lookin' pretty good and hopes are high. But as the giant cradle machine lifts her up and those Dali-like stick legs they use to balance boats on the hard are removed, along with them comes, as I feared, paint - in some places down to the primer. Easy touch-up, yeah, but then where the cradle supporting the boat was slackened, off comes more. It jus' wharn't dry. We insisted at least another day before splashing. Had we not made repeated trips (Steve made most of them) to inspect the work I have no doubt L2 would have been launched with several problems. We watched most of the various steps and, besides the haul-out, none of the work was a big deal for the average guy to do. Other concurrent projects...one of the two solar panel banks hasn't been working and it turns out the barely year-old regulator had fried. Found a new one in Fronteras and plugged 'er in to no avail, dinghied back again and swapped for a new one, this time testing it before leaving the store. Steve hooked it up and it seems fine. That doggone wind-genny hasn't produced juice since Mexico; the local "electrician" here strikes me as a slacker with more bark than bite and although Steve has met with him several times and he says wind-gennies are simple machines, it ain't working. The dinghy was re-measured today, its new duds due tomorrow as well as Lib's fender covers. Although all this covering has practical purposes (UV and abrasive protection), we'll be stylin' big time, oh yeah.
Big brother Allan takes Abby & Bertilda to school
Thomas, Abby & Bertilda to school
final anti-fouling coat
GutStix sighting, Rio Dulce
Monkey Bay seagull perches
Thu., Mar 21, '13 The arrangement with Raoul for a two-week visa extension expires today. Our morning trip to Ram Marina finds L2 still needing touchup paint and, of course, another day to dry. Splash Day is now set for tomorrow. A further complication is that el Jefe, the owner of Monkey Bay, is arriving a week earlier than expected making tonight our last in the cozy guest cabin. If we have the boat tomorrow, no problem. If not, Jen told me we could crash in the rec. area which would be fine with me and probably with Steve & Grant. Disclaimer: With no sailing adventures or lost limbs to report you can see I'm struggling to make the mundane interesting. Thanks, readers, for slogging through this far...
Thomas got a haircut
room for one more?
Fri., Mar. 22, '13 Splash Day!But for a bit of trouble
backing into Monkey Bay it went smoothly…and just in time forwe now have a place to
sleep. Again to Casa Perico’s Friday buffet, this time wienerschnitzel und kartoffeln with several sides.I rarely finish a
normal-sized meal but this was really good and I went back for seconds on the
A fellow there had adopted a pet kinkajou. The dear thing liked to be handled, hung upside-down and would gently gnaw on fingers.
Can I have one, Mom?
Sat., Mar. 23, '13 Really hot today, even for Guatemala. Finally got the dinghy and fender covers.
Did some provisioning, topped off the boat water, replaced the shackles & cars at the five batten points and did a couple loads of laundry; gearing up to leave for Livingston Monday morning.
Sun., Mar. 24, '13
Tooling around town and lunch at Backpacker's.
Bridge from Backpacker's Restaurant (Note spiffy new dinghy cover)
A rental cabin at Backpacker's
Steve went into town for dinner with Brad. Monkey Bay’s owner was in for the Easter week and after his party broke up I had a comfortably long conversation and beers with him and a few stragglers. Very nice folks.
They left me a 6-pack of wicked-serious 8.9% German beer, a Monkey Bay t-shirt and good wishes.
Mon., Mar. 25, '13
The early morning was really windy and drizzling rain; no good for guiding the Lib out between the closely-spaced pilings at Monkey Bay nor to belly up to the diesel pumps. Still, we made ready knowing that if this weather kept up we might stay another day. We’re pressing our luck with Raoul, the C&I guy, having overstayed three weeks already. Around 9:00 the wind went dead calm and the rain stopped. Man the dock lines, boys, we’re outta here.
Goodbye to friends Uli & Imke
slideshow of our 3 weeks in and around Fronteras
50 gal. + 10 in jerrys @ Q38/gallon. 2568 engine hours. At 1040 after topping off the fuel we head for Livingston. I enjoyed the winding Dulce just as much as when we came up it four months ago. Anchored off Livingston at 1340. 15.49.229 x 88.44.895.
Buga Mama para el almuerzo.
Call me Ishmael and stick a feather in it ‘cause we’re going
the hard way. The original plan to
hop-skip north along Belize & the Yucatan then east from Isla Mujeres, as
the winds would favor, has been officially scrapped for a due east slog to
St.Croix, the white whale. This’ll
surely test Grant, if not all three of us.
Tue., Mar. 26, '13 80F/69% Under way at 0700 with one of the month’s highest tides. Armed with a plan to get over “the bank”, we headed right for the buoy indicated in our sailor’s guide and got stuck harder and deeper than when going up four months ago. 15.49.683 x 88.44.311. Before we had a chance to radio for help our old panganeer was speeding toward us. This time, instead of tipping us by the mast, he tied to the bow and tugged - this way, that way, for half an hour. Our motor started smoking but eventually we broke free.
It’s a gray, windy, very choppy day, gusting in the mid-20s. Grant immediately feels the effects. You’ve got to take the Dramamine or whatever before you get seasick, so all he can do is suffer through it. Because we again discovered the 24V system wasn’t charging, the remarkably rough sea, and Grant’s condition, we decided to head for the closest land, anchor and reassess the idea of continuing the 24 hour passage to Roatan. At least we could give the engine a rest in hopefully calmer seas for Grant’s sake. We cut due east toward Cabo de Tres Puntas, a sparsely populated spit at the northernmost tip of Guatemala's Bahia de Amatique.
As we approached land, the depth decreased quickly; 70, 50, 25, 14, 10! Back off, turn out! Phew, we dropped anchor in 12’ and in the still high winds and rocking waves luck gave me a strong hold on the first try, evidenced by the GPS: over the next several hours we didn’t drift an inch. 15.54.848 x 88.34.559.
The twice-rebuilt alternator seems to be the charging problem because running the gen-set charges properly. Having looked for obvious problems, like a loose wire, all we could do was tighten the squeaky belts, which didn’t help. But hurrah, huzzah and hallelujah, Steve got the wind genny working and it’s spinning out enough juice to keep us even-steven with what we’re burning at anchor.
Around 1600, while reading, I heard a motor buzzing nearby. Anywhere else this wouldn’t have caught my attention, but we had anchored out maybe a mile from a very sparsely populated spit at the edge of Guatemala, so I popped out to investigate. It was a guy and gal on a jet-ski checking us out - understandable, as we’re a big ol’ sailboat, the only one in sight. (They seemed just as out of place). We exchanged waves and, as they came closer, holas.
I explained our situation and they very kindly went back to shore to ask around. Nope, no shops, and certainly no electricians, anywhere for many miles. They suggested we head for Puerto Barrios, the closest town - and the largest on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala.
My last drift-check before sleep read that we still had a solid purchase on the sea bed...but now, as I write, the skies have opened with pounding rain and huge waves to match, so I might check again. In these conditions it wouldn’t take long for us to be washed ashore.
As I’ve said, being in the business end of the boat, the bow, is being on the 'front lines'; I get the initial smacks and the big roller coasters but so long as it’s not side-to-side I’m okay and prefer this berth. Tonight I’ll be testing that testimony as we are getting squall after angry squall w/accompanying waves.
Wed., Mar. 27, '13
Depart 0710 for Puerto Barrios. Arrived around 0900, 15.43.773 x 88.36.267.
Easter week is the biggest holy-week of the year here. It was morning and the town was gearing up for the next four days of celebration - banners, music, flowers and flags; cars and scooters, kids, cats & dogs.
Continued good luck and serendipity, I think, are still with us: discovering problems before we’re way out to sea, running into the jet-ski girl with her good advice, arriving in Puerto Barrios before Semana Santa began, finding JR’s specialty motor shop and his acquaintance to rebuild the alternator.
Initially, while Steve took the electrician to the Lib, Grant & I wandered. We lost track of time and where we were.
Flora & ferocious dog
Not wanting to delay the issue at hand we asked directions to our rendezvous point and found we were pretty far away. The man we had asked drove up in his pickup and said, “Hop in, I’ll take you.” Good thing; we were a ten minute walk away. Steve laughed as we hopped out the back like locals.
Lots of waiting at JR's, most of the afternoon in fact.
JR has more carbs than Carter has pills
Old Dodge at JR's
While the Casey boys were in search of an open bank I wandered around and found Pasteles de Tropical, a coffee & sweet roll place, to pass some time. They have a nice adjoining bakery.
Today--was a bit more productive on my part, I was feeling much better
On the way to Puerto Barrios, I drove behind the wheel the last 20 minutes, through the red and green buoys
After anchoring we pumped up the dinghy so we could get to a pier and find an electrician.. luckily this short guy there spoke english and knew a friend that could drive us around to find the right electrician
After getting to 19 calle and 6 avenida we met JR the son of the owner of this shop, he spoke good english and was able to translate everything for dad. JR hooked us up with this other guy Julio who was a mechanical engineer and was willing to come to the boat multiple times to check out the problem.. after many trips and a lot of tips to taxi drivers, dock dudes, etc julio was able to put us in right place make it to roatan hopefully... xxx fingers
while julio was working, we had to wait a couple hours, we decided to walk around town.. we found a traditional eating spot, owned by a couple moms and a boy who catered us with carne asada, rice, and macaroni with mayonnaise on top..
New friend Diego
dad and i split from mr guthrie to go to citi bank and get cash to pay the julio.. on the way the two of us we’re lost because of walking to the other side of town, we spent about a hour walking until we we’re able to check on the dinghy.>
Thu., Mar. 28, '13
0650 depart Puerto Barrios
Winds mostly punching us in the nose and ill-defined seas made for a rocky passage; none of us could catch our balance, let alone catch many zees. And, oy, at night we'd stagger through the salon like drunken sailors lurching for a bar rail. Now I see an advantage, besides the worship, to be Durga or having opposable toes. Fortunately, I don’t think anyone actually fell. Damn! The 24V system quit charging again! Probably the now thrice-cursed alternator. Now, way out to sea, I began recording our lat/long, course, time and speed at frequent intervals, something Chris suggested during a conversation about systems failure. If we lost power and had only a paper chart and compass, these records would allow an approximation of our location.
Fri., Mar. 29, '13
1200 Not even on the salon sofa, where sleeping is easiest, could we get much rest. Finally, by opening a table leaf and wedging a pillow between it and me, was I able to cram myself into a nearly immobile position and relax a little, no longer worried to be tossed to the floor...until the books and charts came toppling down on my head. Oh, mon Dieu!
Steve roused me at 0300 for my watch and climbing bleary-eyed up to the cockpit, I saw bright yellow lights scattered on the horizon, but too high to be a ship unless it was right on top of us. It was the nearly full moon peeking through broken clouds and it must have been close to the earth ‘cause it was huge. All night it offered a gentle glow so I could at least see the horizon and yellow flickers on the water, advantageous when sailing at night.
As my caffeine-fueled watch wore on, the seas finally began to calm and by 0700, rolling in past old familiar Roatan, they'd gone to glass under a gorgeous Impressionist sunrise.
We snuck back in to the tricky Little French Harbor and I was over the side quick as I could. 16.21.218 x 86.26.565. Poked around, slept and finally got online. (Sorry folks for the effects of my recent email hackage. The very week I had no access someone hijacked my account and I couldn’t stop it until just today. In future remember that I’ll never send an email w/links that aren’t referenced in the subject or described in the body).
I spoke a bit with Mike, whose wife owns Lilu’s dock and whose big blue boat burned up when we were here last, about our voyage and where we might find a new alternator. We three visited the Iguana Farm...
Grant feeding iguanas
The Lizard King
...after which I was dropped, zombified from lack of sleep, at the boat while Steve & son ventured forth into town. This is Good Friday, so many shops are closed. I learned that in Honduras as well as in Guatemala, and likely most of Central America with its heavy Roman Catholic influence, they acknowledge Thursday through Easter Sunday as official holy days.
Sat., Mar. 30, '13
Sometime after Tuesday the gen-set quit charging and this morning Steve found the cause - the belt is torn to shreds. We later learned the impeller was shot as well.
Sun., Mar. 31, '13 Another swim at the reef in our "backyard".
It's only 4-5 feet deep, so easy to explore the many types of coral. Scores of lobsters tucked into their little hideouts; a few colorful fish, too. All this is thanks in large part to Sherman Arch of the Iguana Farm. I had the pleasure of a relaxed conversation with that gentleman who told me the story of the near demise of not only the sea life but the reef itself. It's thriving now. He invited me to feed the lobsters with him Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm anxious to see how that works...maybe snorkel down with bits of fish? Sure wish I had Bryan's underwater camera.
After cooling down we spent a while on Frenchy's Island.
Lib II from Frenchy's Island
Mon., Apr. 1, '13 The first half of the day was spent searching for boat parts and pieces; we three and Brad and Patrick squeezed into cabs to visit a half dozen marine and electrical shops scattered along the south coast between French Harbor and Coxen Hole...with some success. After shopping we found little Bromac's Cafe and each selected the pollo dish as it was the only thing on the menu. It was great and only 80 limperas. (20 limps=$1).
Tue., Apr. 2, '13
Brad spent hours this evening w/Steve working on the alternator, gen-set & fresh water system. Pasta dinner.
MAINTENANCE: New water filter=big flow. LPG-1 tank empty.
Wed., Apr. 3, '13
Still anchored at L'il French Harbor, it has been 72 hours now of constant winds over 20k; several times I saw it gust over 30. It’s hard, even, to maneuver the dinghy into the wind to get to shore. Grant, in the dinghy, was trapped by these conditions but fortunately got back to the Lib in reverse, which nearly filled the dinghy with water splashed over the transom. Great winds for sailing, not for anchoring.
Thu., Apr. 4, '13
Finally the wind & sea are still - too still in this heat. Lots of swims.
Salt is a desiccant, so clothes, especially towels, that have been used a number of times at sea stay salty and hold moisture so no matter how long they’re hung in the wind, they never quite dry. Alternator working - again, it was only the disconnected ground wire. Doh. Pizza night at Brooksy - Grant ordered Roatan Shrimp Pizza, surprisingly good. Fri., Apr. 5, '13 Depart Little French Harbor. Motored long enough to hoist the main and get on course with Yakapati. And as the sun set, a dolphin escort. Softly rolling seas grew choppy and erratic. Beginning watch w/continued high wind and seas. Sat., Apr. 6, '13 Middle of the night, pot of Joe nearly kaput, I see the faint red glow of Yakapati’s mast two miles out. What sailing conditions! Although very rough, we have a north wind and if we wanted to go east, we surely are and at breakneck speed. Even with the main reefed and the jib reduced, I struggle to stay under 9k. I’ll bet we could approach 10k - faster than the theoretical algorithm seemingly allows. What sails respond to is apparent wind and we've got it in spades. "Apparent wind is what you feel while the ship's moving -- a combination
of the true wind and the wind that the boat's motion creates. This is
the wind that powers the ship."
Quantitative Easing: 1000. Sea a little calmer, now five miles between boats. The wind barely shifts from north and rarely has fallen into the teens. It’s a shame in these speedy sailing conditions we have to slow down, but we’ve let out cloth and come more into the wind to allow our buddy boat to close the gap. Noon. Now a 3-mile gap. We’ve come 140nm. Ah, but we could be flying. I really want to reach over and tug the sails tight, but as a true-blue buddy-boater, I’ll try to reign her in at 6k. This consideration, we will learn, will not be reciprocated. 1615 165nm, course 72º. Kept lower boat speed till Yakapati passed about two miles off starboard and maybe a mile ahead. Decent seas, high teens wind, full sun. Yaka converged, crossing our path, and took a course nearly parallel to ours, just slightly more north. As the night progressed, to keep a full sail, I gradually veered south as far as 90º but back north when possible. That and Yaka’s diverging course separated us by 4-5 miles. By the end of Steve’s night watch we were at 98º with Yaka a couple miles back and four miles off our port, but with a heading more south, toward us.
So, I’ve got this bum shoulder, had it for several years - the pain, that is; I've had the shoulder much longer. The rolfer sez, “Do this stretch”; the chiro, as he adjusts me <pop!>, “You spend too much time leaning forward”; the MD, “Yer just getting old” and Steve, characteristically, “Just work through it”. Anyway, there are only a few sleeping positions the shoulder can tolerate and none are compatible in the bow berth while avoiding the cold drips following each of the many waves that wash across my hatch. Move to salon. Whining over...for now.
Yakapati from Lib2
Sun., Apr. 7, '13
0530 16.59 x 82.48, course 98º, 260nm trip. Light gray overcast, sea state getting messier. Wind just under 20, bps 7-8.5, both sails full.
0630. Perfection - NNE winds in the high teens, heading due east, holding bsp in the mid-8s. Way out in the middle of the big blue sea, we haven’t heard the engine whine for more than 36 hours.
Yakapati from Lib II
Mid-day we had a couple wayward visitors. They had probably been blown off course as we were hundreds of miles from any land.
These birds had no fear of humans - landing near us, walking on us, even letting me pet them. This made it quite easy to grab them l'il avionic critters. Not candidates for sashimi and us without a small-bird recipe, they were only good for fish-bait. Now, with dwindling protein provisions, we may go all Donner Party on Grant. Mon., Apr. 8, '13
0100 my shift. Holding 1.5 miles off Yaka’s port stern; gradually turning east. Wed., Apr. 10, '13
In the wee hours we’re timing our Jamaican arrival for just after sunrise. I’m keeping Yaka a few miles up and a mile to starboard. Suddenly she executes an extreme turn to port, crosses our path and continues beyond due north for several miles...so I follow. Oddly, she then slows to a halt for twenty minutes while I circle and radio with no response. Abruptly she’s off and running again and we’re rhumblining to Lucea. I followed them into the little bay for reconnoitering.
Yay, we’ve completed the meaty, beaty, big and bouncy slog across the first chunk of the Caribbean.
Yakapati in Lucea
It bothers me what Steve is looking at.
0700 Anchored in 18’ in the bay of Lucea (pron. Lucy). 18.26.701 x 78.09.548; trip 712 nm. Dead calm wind and sea. It is so ghostly still - I’d like to say peacefully so - that now, even before 8:00, the sweating begins. Not much appears to be around this bay. The water is not at all clear - we suspect it is yet another bay-cum-waste dump for the surrounding communities. Much as I’d like to, and as is my custom, I won’t be jumping in. The town proper, we’ve read, is a mile away.
Only other boat in Lucea Bay - The Canova - 112'
Now anchored in Lucea, Grant was clearly not having a good
time and decided he would head home asap. From what I’ve heard (and now seen) about mal de mer, between the nausea and
vertigo it can be so bad you literally can’t function. I’d’a jumped ship, too. So, a plan was quickly hatched - get to
shore, walk/thumb/somehow get to Montego Bay, check in to the country, find an
So I dinghied
the Caseys to the nearest land - no docks anywhere - they climbed out, wading on the
rocky seabed, said bye, and walked on down the little road. This is probably for the best; Grant was
never more bright-eyed and animated than when packing to leave. A few days later, as it turned out, we were
to begin a passage that was easily as grueling as the rollercoaster from Roatán.
Back to L2, I swung by Yaka to pick up Brad on the way. Under intermittent rain storms, over a number of rums, we chatted about art and music and, as the rum did its work, parallel universes.
Brad raced boats as a youngster and taught sailing to get through college. <Note: get his remarkable 2013 itinerary> Between rains, as we walked around the deck he scanned the various riggings and the times he spotted something amiss he’d tell me why and how to correct it or, more often, correct it on the spot. The man of 101 boat tips & tricks.
Hours later I picked up Steve at the same rocky shore I’d dropped him. He waded back to the dinghy with horror stories of the Customs and Immigration bullshit he and Grant suffered, but also of the interesting characters they met on the way.
So C&I said they’d have to send the Lucea police out to verify our boat. Patrick didn't like the sound of that and Yaka immediately left for Port Antonio. Steve and I slept over - way over - 13 hours and still kinda tired. The cops never did come. Thu., Apr. 11, '13 The windicator has been off some ten degrees so per the owner’s manual we executed a 720º loop, putting the mechanism in ‘adjust’ mode, found dead wind and called it home. Since we're all anchored up and running...hey, let's go. 0815 depart Lucea for Montego Bay. 18.27.750 x 77.56.441. A nice couple hours' sail. We found Montego Bay Yacht Club a comfortable, well-appointed marina. Completing the remainder of yesterday’s Customs and Immigration’s tedious and copious forms, our passports were returned and we were free to go. There is always waiting time; Steve and I filled it shooting pool on the marina’s beautiful table. The best and flattest we’ve seen on the entire voyage, and we’ve seen a quite a few.
Curiously, the floor under the table seemed to be rolling. Was it the psilocybin of my misspent youth flashing back to haunt me?
I just had to take my shirt off.
Once we’d jumped through the bureaucratic hoops, off to the market we go. It would have been 3-4 mile walk so it was fortunate that just after we’d started a fellow [Floyd, who has a story] stopped and drove us. First a light lunch at Ritual's Coffee House, then MegaMart provisioning, a Jamaican sim card and a cab back to MoBay Marina.
Lib II from Montego Bay Marina
Quickly whipped the boat into taxi mode and at ~1700 depart MoBay and slowly approach open water. Todo tranquilo - so far. But in minutes Poseidon made his presence known and it became nearly impossible to move about above or below deck without collecting new bruises, and it was that way for the next 24 hours. Fri., Apr. 12, '13
1940 18.10.025 x 76.27.21 Arrive Port Antonio just after dark.
Greeted by Brad, Patrick, Paul the dock master and a few friendly hands. We are BEAT, having endured huge, pounding waves no matter the tack, wind & current against us the entire way. This is probably the worst beating, and certainly the longest, we've taken since San Francisco. First order of business is a shower and clean, dry clothes; the first in over a week. With a moderate amount of temporary energy we four ventured into Porty, the adjoining town, accompanied, out of nowhere, by Chao, a diminutive, mandana’ed, gregarious, self-described tour guide, quick with a broad smile revealing that big space where a tooth once grew. He was essential to our Jamaican experience, he told us.
He stayed with us, usually in the background, all night - to the local’s street conch stand, to a club or three, to a bar with pool tables and back to the marina. In the end I think someone gave him a few bucks.
All evening the ground was still moving under my feet.
Sat., Apr. 13, '13
Clive lives in 'the bush'. He fishes from his handmade bamboo raft...
...and can be seen exercising his ten dogs mornings on the west beach. <Pool, Marybell’s bar, showers, laundry, security> We’d been to so many Spanish-speaking countries I was surprised that nearly no one speaks it here in Jamaica, rather it’s Patois - a fun, efficient broken English: "Mon, c'myáh". Most everyone we met was very friendly and welcoming and knew just how far to push before taking 'no' for an answer.
I spent a lot of time with Devon, Roots and Chef, often retiring, and not very surreptitiously, to the "Happy Tree" behind Marybell's bar/cafe. They were all interesting and interested.
Hype or Bait ‘n Switch? We’re in Jamaica,
mon, and as a dyed-in-the-wool java junkie, of course I had to try the renowned
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. The Blue Mountains are between here in Port
Antonio and Kingston, so just a short drive away. I regret not making that trip. I would have enjoyed seeing the harvesting
processes and buying some right from the source. I balked at the marina’s gift shop price of
$25/lb. and bought from a local guy for $15.
My discerning palate was not impressed with its flavor or body, so either
it doesn’t measure up to the hype or the guy hustled me a bag o’ schwag. Until I get back to Jamaica or order some online,
I won’t know.
The slip charge is $50/day
and, arriving in the dark, it was the safe, expeditious thing to do. We enjoyed the convenience of stepping right
from boat to the dock to lug laundry & accumulated trash, but anchoring only cost $15 and it’s a mere
two-minute dinghy ride away. We gathered
up a few new friends and made a party of the hundred-yard voyage. I’m sure Steve, who drank almost no alcohol since Rio D, was tacitly thankful
I maintained a full supply of rum and beer.
But…while Brad (thankfully
him, lest I be blamed) was dropping the anchor, the windlass
locked up. Some poking and prodding with
screwdrivers allowed us to anchor, but the prospect of possibly weighing it by
hand weighed on our minds. But, for now,
it’s party time – crack open the rum and turn up the tunes...Mraz and that "untrimmed chest" band ... again. Sun., Apr. 14, '13 We worked on the windlass, removed the jib that
seems to be stretched causing it to shiver and replaced it with the 20% bigger one
stashed in a lazarette since Seattle.
Brad & Steve replace jib
Steve and posse cabbed over to the Boston Jerk Centre, a stretch of open-air
stalls serving the famously-seasoned meat.
He brought back a bag for me, pork, and it was great. Mon., Apr. 15, '13 60 gal. diesel, engine hours 2684 1130 depart Port Antonio. The Jamaican waters are much friendlier today as we leave the harbor under a single reef and our newly-installed 120 genoa. Motor switched off right away. w14-18; bsp 6-7; course 55º. A light overcast above us, long, lazy swells below and only a few whitecaps. Yaka bringing up the rear. Throughout the day, as expected, the trades blew from the east, from our destination, the Dominican Republic, so we got in lots of tacktice. Wind speed was consistent in the high teens and we sailed 6-8k, sometimes opting for speed, sometimes course. Didn’t really need that reef in so at day’s end Steve yanked it out, buying us another knot. Well, golly, within a couple hours, conditions changed - imagine that! The winds built to the mid/high 20s, gusting over 30 and the sea grew an awful lot of nasty, disorganized lumps of water. Now we’re trying to stay under 9k and being tossed about like Neptune’s little punks. On it went through the night and into Tuesday morning. Tue., Apr. 16, '13 Things gradually eased off till by late afternoon we’re drifting along towards Haiti in an indigo rockabye sea at a comfortable 6-7k. Wed., Apr. 17, '13 I had been planning to spend a peaceful night at anchor off Ile a Vache, below Haiti, temporarily escaping the 24-hour vigilance and brutally monotonous circadian rhythm-busting night watches. Our morning SSB contact w/Yaka dashed that hope. Now we are to rendezvous at Isla Beata, DR, forty-some hours distant. I am promised a couple days’ shore leave. Meanwhile, we are catching some rare winds that allow us to sail with good speed along Haiti’s south coast at 84º - prit’near due east.
MAINTENANCE: KX Industries Flow-Max water filter replaced. Blue cap-20 microns.
Thu., Apr. 18, '13We’re going the distance, we’re going for speed.
Heavy, 30+ winds and punishing waves, but making good time, zooming along over 8k. But it was truly rough; cups, books and fruit that, before this, never considered jumping the fiddle rail leapt with abandon to where...they didn’t know or care, so long as it was out for even a little while. Though they departed their assigned shelves, none escaped the ship.
When we finally made contact with Yaka, they were anchored off Isla Beata. Brad said, “Well, we’re just about to head out.” Huh? In the dinghy to explore the island? NO - they’re weighing anchor, circling south of the island and heading farther east. Well, dammit, I need a break somewhere, if only for a day. Unlike Steve, I don’t have an instant
sleep/wake switch but I rest my eyes when off watch. The cumulative effect of erratic sleep
patterns are getting to me; sometimes so bleary-eyed I can’t even make out
the inch-high numbers on the readouts for speed, depth, etc. Coffee only takes you so far and too much gets
you twitchy & nervous; not ideal traits for making sailing decisions.
Stretching helps get the blood moving a little but sometimes I’ve had to resort
to the old slap-yerself-in-the-face method.
So we plug on towards our next tack point - right on the southern border between Haiti and DR. But for the better part of a day we’ve been in sustained winds between 28 and 31, several times topping 35 and are beat. Exhausted and sleep-deprived, we decide to anchor for the night. No way - even just two miles off the coast the winds never diminished. Screw it - we double reefed, cut the jib cloth in half and plugged on down the coast toward Isle Beata. It seemed to take an age to cover those 27 miles. Both of us were struggling to stay not just alert, but actually awake.
Finally, sometime past midnight, we are close enough to the Island’s shore to
consider anchoring, continued high winds be damned. Dark as the inside of a cow
and blustery as a squall,
the wind and current governed our movement, not the rudder. Try as we might the boat
would not cooperate. It was the oddest
thing, like a force-field blocking our approach. All we could do was circle, bouncing off to port
or starboard whenever we got close. At wits' end, I suggested we go out a half mile, aim straight toward shore
and put the pedal to the metal under autopilot.
We broke through to anchoring depth.
I'm no more superstitious than the next guy, but in hindsight it seems something was
trying to keep us away from this place; aye, t'was an ill wind blew that day.
The next 72 hours would see us held in this island’s toxic eddy.
Steve generally handles deck tasks like switching out running backstays, adjusting fairleads, raising and dropping the main, while I man the helm, usually to hold into the wind. But this night, as anchorman, I got my share of salty slaps trying to do what are usually simple tasks, like tying knots or, well, standing.
0115 anchor finally down off Isla Beata. 17.36.414x71.31.884; trip 545nm; engine hours 2727.
I must'a caught something hard on the bed because messing with the sail in 20+ winds jerked the boat hard, this way & that, and she hain’t moved but an inch or three all night. That sure gave the anchorage the seal of approval. Fri., Apr. 19, '13 I awoke to the Chris Parker Show crackling over the SSB, not nearly as achy as I thought I’d be after these days of hard sailing. Big winds are still blowing but now, safely at anchor, they’re cooling zephyrs wafting through the hatches and portholes that haven’t seen fresh air for many days. The sun is out as we bob a half mile off Isla Beata with its handful of palapas but otherwise apparently uninhabited. And, ah, doesn’t coffee taste much better when not drunk from a sippy cup! Nothing’s tipping over today.
We’re on the northwest tip of the island and the morning illuminates rocky cliffs to starboard, a sandy shore with a few palapas to port and between, thick vegetation.
I haven’t had a steady job for decades but I still remember looking forward to Saturdays, and this sure feels like one, doing only some light maintenance and organization.
That black and threatening water just hours ago is now an inviting blue-green and, yeah, I jumped in. Looking around under the Lib, what I saw didn’t enhance this happy “day off”: a cord, probably from a fishing trap, was wrapped around the propeller shaft. Installing new zincs at Rio Dulce, there was no room behind the prop for the ShaftShark,
a wicked sharp serrated spinning disk designed to slice up seaweed and trap lines before they met
the screw; had we had it on it might’ve prevented this mess.
Steve dove down, knife in hand, and sawed off some of the cord. Let's hope that's the end of that.
When my v-berth hatch is open the boat becomes a wind tunnel, airing and drying out everything below. So let’s make it laundry day, well laundry drying day anyway. Even that’s not accurate since salty clothes never really dry. But I’ve got ‘em strung up everywhere there’s a hook or a handle. Salt water applied to skin, cloth, boat - you or it will get saturated by the mist and mini-tsunamis that regularly sweep the deck. Look out, here comes another and once again yer soaked in salt water, but it don’t worsh away the old salt, only applies yet another fresh layer and so on until a fine white crust forms a Vesuvial cast around you and everything else. My cargo shorts, for example, now as dry as they’ll ever get, stand on their own. I’m training them to walk and eventually fetch beers. So it was a good day, a chance to take stock, relax a bit and red up the cabin and our berths. Sat., Apr. 20, '13: Leave Isla Beata, the first time. Here begins The ShaftShark Hostage Fleecing perpetrated by The Dastardly Denizens of the Deep Dominican. Lovely morning, all tidied and (apparently) ship-shape, no sooner was the key turned than the smoke began. Big smoke from the engine compartment. Motor off with no choice but to sail, we left via the long, southern route around the island's three sides, probably costing an extra 3-4 hours. We might have tried cutting through the shallows between the island and mainland but decided not to chance a grounding. Big seas as expected. The bow was always awash, midship nearly so and even the cockpit, 35’ back from the bow, got its share of water coming clear across the bimini. At every tack there was that island; I’m sick of seeing it. Finally we move up to the mainland going northward. There were no calm areas to be found for many miles and Steve wanted to inspect the prop shaft. We anchored in a very choppy thirty feet and down he went. What wasn’t removed of the entangled line had worked it’s way up and tightly wound round the shaft where it entered the boat, now much more difficult to deal with. We figured that hindered the torque causing the engine to cease and smoke. Down he went with knife and goggles under the rocky boat. Most of his oxygen was expended just finding a handhold so his dives were brief. Meanwhile a panga pulled up - from nowhere, it seemed, because there were scant signs of life on shore for a couple miles in either direction. As much by hand signs as our broken Spanish were we able to communicate our problem. In seconds one of the three panganeers stripped down to his skivvies, dove in and swam over. In these waves that was no mean feat. This guy was a strapping young black stud right out of a Harry Belefonte song. Immediately sussing out the situation, that there wasn’t enough visibility, to which Steve concurred, and that we needed to go deeper where there was less frothing sand, he danced across our rocking deck like he was on land, expertly lashed together several deck lines and tossed them to the panga that proceeded to tow us out.
It took a lot of pound-feet to twist this
Now anchored in 40-some even choppier feet, choppy enough to twist the 75-pound anchor into a pretzel, the two divers descended again. With the improved visibility, confident they had removed all the nylon rope and successfully running the engine with no smoke, seemingly, we’re good to go...nope! Steve did some electrical investigation and discovered the - c’mon everybody - what’s busted? Yes, the alternator. Upon hearing this the panga driver, named Negro, somehow convinced Steve to return to the cursed, barely-inhabited Isla Beata and that there was indeed an electrician to be found. Groundhog Déjá vu. Back to the island I’ve now grown to hate. It was two hours away and Negro drove the Lib. He drove it alright, right aground, hard aground. Ugh, that gut-wrenching scrape and the sudden jerk to a stop. What ensued was a monkeyfist of pangas pulling this way, swimmers pushing that way, trying any dumb idea to break her free. It was just a freak chance we found enough water to float free and we anchored out in 20-some feet. We were immediately descended upon by everyone involved in the clusterfock and a few who weren’t. Like vermin they crawled aboard from bow, port, starboard and swim deck. At one count we had 16 'brothers' on board. As curious children would do, they peered through the portholes and hatches, crawled into the salon, played with and asked for our headlamps and binoculars. I was more than a little freaked. Speak in Secret Alphabets. There was much discussion but, as far as we could tell, nothing of consequence. Negro could speak some English, no one else enough worth mentioning. Please just leave, leave us alone and we’ll talk in the morning. We were exhausted but thankful the boarding party had left. Surprisingly, the only thing we could determine missing was the old flip-flops I should have discarded months ago. Sun., Apr. 21, '13 The morning came and wow - we had drifted a mile or so out, anchor swinging free. Are we in the friggin' Twilight Zone? We got a very early call from the so-called C&I agent on the population-90 Isle from hell: "I’ll be there in five minutes." Wha? We just woke up. Having drifted so far it took them more than five minutes, but out came the agent, Negro and a few unknowns. A little later more boats with more stray unknowns, again boarding like ants swarming on candy. An added element of disgust was their habit of grabbing the nose, snotting a slimy oyster into the fist and, in a stroke, sloughing off the mess on their pant legs. This was the price-negotiating session. We made it clear we were done with their services and furthermore did not want to check into DR at this location. The greedy extortionist Negro wanted $1000 US. Whadda ya nuts? He should pay us. After an hour or so they took Steve onshore for gawd-knows-what, maybe ransom? We had already given a half-dozen of them $20 or more. By the end of this ridiculous waiting game we ended up being fleeced for $200-something and finally got out, got away, maybe before noon, this time choosing the shorter route through the dire straits separating mainland DR and Isla Beata. They really did us dirt, taking money for nothing and wasting over a day of our time which is why we missed Brad and Patrick in Boca Chica. <Looking back, though "the Unwelcomes" were capable of it, I think most of them meant us no real harm but just took the opportunity to hang out on the Lib, luxurious compared to their huts and an interesting break from their dreary lives. Except for that asshole Negro.> Mon., Apr. 22, '13 After a rough night, it’s a rough morning...still being relentlessly pounded every which way but at last at 1440 as we motor-sail past the sprawling skyline of Santo Domingo, capitol of DR, the winds favor us - we’re doing 8k on a course of 78º! The sky is clear and sunny, and we’ve an easy, rolling sea. Well, we didn’t quite make Boca Chica because it was cutting it close to sunset. So at 1800 we arrived and moored at La Caleta, just round the corner from Boca Chica. We had a hell of a time snagging that mooring line - I caught hold of it with the push-pole but there was no give and the pole was yanked from my grip. Good thing it floats. Steve’s turn; same outcome. He dove in to retrieve his lost pole and to just hand-tie our dock line to the damn ball. Phew. 18.26.576 x 069.41.282; 86F/55%; engine hours 2747; 29.7 trip hours and 210 nm from Isla Beata. Tue., Apr. 23, '13 Up early with little to make ready, we motored into the sunrise, around La Caleta on the cape with the airport and into Boca Chica. Arr. 0800; 10.4 nm; 1hr, 50 min. 18.26.708 x 69.37.428
Before being permitted to wander far from the boat there was, of course, paperwork...and this time a dog search. Sniffing for guns ‘n rose buds, we suspect... then more paperwork. By 1330, the boat cleaned up and somewhat organized, we went for lunch on the Marina Zar Par. Friendly Rubio, the proprietor, forced my Spanish. ¡Oh, Dios mio! Of the several people we met, one, Sebastian, a young Norwegian-American rock climber, told us of his travails repairing a small boat for an Atlantic crossing.
He and we had many misgivings about the wisdom of that passage. He later asked if he could crew with us to Puerto Rico or St. Croix. We said sure, we could use the help.
I don’t remember a more international mix of sailors in one place: the Danish live-aboard with his Dominican wife
who gave me a ride downtown, two fun French guys arriving from Martinique with whom
I shared beers and long conversations, Sebastian from Norway and his Italian
captain, a guy & girl from South America, the Canadian on his HR-38 (on
which he made four single-handed Atlantic crossings), a Dutch guy and his wife
from whom Steve bought a VHF mic and, I’m sure, more folks from more countries scattered round the docks.
Wed., Apr. 24, '13 I caught an early morning ride into Santo Domingo with a resident slip neighbor who was heading that way. Spent the large part of the day wandering the historic district. Toured Fortaleza Ozama, enjoyed a marching band with soldiers and officials, including the president of DR, dressed in their finest, celebrating fifty years of independence, treated myself to a fancy almuerzo at the very cool Hostal Nicolas De Ovando and before rush hour hired a cab for the 25-minute ride back to Zar-Par marina, somehow losing camera #4 along the way. Thu., Apr. 25, '13 Preparation day. Dinghy now strapped on deck, miscellaneous readiness tasks and, yes, paperwork. We motored to the adjacent fuel dock to top off the diesel. Steve did a hull inspection and found one last bit of the nylon cord still wrapped round the prop shaft that, from the heat generated by all the spinning, had melted into a single mass. It was brittle and popped right off. Later Steve went into Santo Domingo while Sebastian and I caught Zar-Par's free ride to the Ole supermarket for provisioning and, having spent over $50 each, earned a free ride back. Seb moved onto the Lib. Fri., Apr. 26, '13 Up early and anxious to leave, it was tortuous just killing time for our despacho, and the details of adding Sebastian to our crew list. So Steve’s milling around, I’m checking email and, in his third-person words..."Sebastian was out to the local tienda, one which he had been regularly visiting during his seven week stay in Andres, to spend his last pocket of pesos on a cup of coffee. As he was strolling back from his last visit to town he was startled by one of the most feared things travels consider while out and about, a mugger. Two locals sped up on a little two stroke motorcycle stopping mere feet away from Sebastian and his two ship mates. The hooligan on the back jumped off the motorcycle wielding an 9-inch bowie knife swinging and jabbing every which way. Stunned and disoriented Seb and his ship mate Clifton fell backwards through the drainage ditch onto the bare Dominican street. The knife wielding mugger pressed Sebastian, approaching closer and closer every swing of his blade. Already on the ground, he stumbled to regain his footing, crawling across the road to put as much distance between himself and the shimmering knife blade. The attacker had chosen Seb - he was the one with the satchel tucked in his shorts; the fruit ready to be plucked from the tree and this crazed assailant would not leave without it. The grimacing attacker delivered one last furious thrust of his blade while at the same time reaching in to snag the satchel from Sebastian and it was done. His Norwegian passport, credit cards and other various information was zipping along in the hands of some petty crook on the back of a two stroke motorcycle. All this within 30 seconds on a slow sunny Friday morning in a place that seemed all together trust worthy. Seb was bruised from his attempted but futile escape but brandished no knife wounds or serious injuries. Luckily for Sebastian he is a dual citizen American/Norwegian passport carrying traveler and instead of being confined to waiting out a emergency passport delivery he was able to us his American pass which Steve so fortunately was holding onto to join us onward with our sail. Lesson learned, no matter how comfortable you get in a new location always keep up with your cardio, just in case." Then after another dog search of the Lib... Depart around 1100 with gentle NE wind - an uncharacteristically favorable direction. We only had to motor a short time before the winds picked up to the high teens and later stayed in the twenties. We moved eastward at between seven and nine knots for the next ten hours. Nice! Into The Great Wide Open. My 8-to-midnight watch begins just as we pass under Isla Saona, the eastern edge of Dominican Republic. Winds are in the lower 20s and, heavens to Betsy, are coming straight south - poifect! In an hour or so I’ll be entering the notorious Mona Passage, the open water between DR and Puerto Rico. Just off the bow a full moon is peeking up over the horizon and will stay with me through my shift. As soon as I took the helm, the winds increased a half dozen knots, still northerly, pushing bsp up to between seven and nine and allowing me a rhumb line to St. Croix, still a hundred-some miles ahead. That’s how it was for my four hours and although once or twice I considered reducing the jib, the only adjustment I made was letting out a bit of main to knock off the heeling. Ah, it’s rare and really nice to have healthy wind and the bow both aiming where you want and with an agreeable sea-state. The cherry on top was the clear sky and that fat yellow moon illuminating the water all around me. About to wake Steve for his watch, a towering vessel with ominous red and white lights came up to within a half mile before I ever saw it coming. Lemme tell ya, way out here, especially in the dark, a half mile is damn close. While considering a replacement for my now soiled boxers, the vessel, U.S. Coast Guard they said, hailed me and began a series of inquiries - boat name, size, registration number, captain's birth date, last port, purpose - on and on. Luckily, I had all that memorized and was able to satisfy them and avoid a boarding, which they were just about to commence. Minutes later they were a dot on the horizon. Sat., Apr. 27, '13 Still good, speedy conditions as I start my sunrise shift but round about 0700 we finally lost our wind and flipped on the motor. Now it’s well past noon, the seas are smooth, the winds are still negligible and we’re still motoring around 6-7k. Sun., Apr. 28, '13 The first few hours were tough to stay alert, having discovered we’d run out of propane to boil my coffee water. Then it dawned on me that we had a microwave and I brewed one wicked 8-ounce espresso. I am the eye in the sky. As my 0300 watch begins I can finally see both the boat and the Promised Land on the same chart-plotter screen. Good tack, fair wind and decent sea-state for most of my shift. Then I hit a squally patch, the first rain at sea since Rio D. That shifted the wind dramatically to the east and our course south. Once through the squalls I thought the winds would revert, but no...and they lost strength. In comes the jib and with main centered we motor. Ah, Zephyrus is playing games with us on this final 60-mile stretch. Before noon we see the island in the distance and by late afternoon we’re skirting the northern coast. Good ol’ St. Croix; it’s nice to see it from an ocean perspective, trying to pick out places we know - Cane Bay Dive Shop, The Beast, the condo we used during Ironman. With plenty of light remaining we negotiated the tricky buoys into Gallows Bay and at... 1800 St. Croix anchor down. 86F/61% 17.44.896 x 64.42.034 Trip 350nm; 54.4 hours.
The last leg - stars indicate a sleepover
Steve is jazzed having completed our year-and-a-half trek, some 6000 boat miles since San Francisco.
Me too: what an adventure it's been. I have a new appreciation for sailors, especially
the old-schoolers without auto-pilot or chart-plotter. Cripes, just imagine Magellan circumcising the
whole earth with none of our sharp modern tools! We unstrap the dinghy, pump in some air and lower her over the side. Off we three motor into, for Steve and I, the familiar and friendly downtown Christiansted. Sunday night it’s pretty quiet so a drink and a casual stroll will have to do and it’s back to the Lib for a good night’s rest. Mon., Apr. 29, '13 Another quiet morning 'round town. We unlaxed, sipping rum, checking
potential flights homeand long-term layover options for the Lib.
Oddly, having been
anchored since yesterday, we were still pointing opposite of all the other
boats. We’re the closest to shore, so
maybe it’s that we’re in a current stronger than the wind. Smack in the middle of the Ironman swim
course, we knew we’d have to move in the next couple days.
Although the depth markers
indicate 17’ even right up close to shore, it seems we’re gradually drifting closer,
causing some concern. What say we
weigh anchor and move a bit farther out?
As the windlass dragged up chain, it was clear something was amiss: the
Lib was being pulled in the wrong direction!? Hold
on, let's send down the resident diver for a look.
Ah-hah! Steve discovered we were
snagged on sunken wreck.
Before we could make a plan a
patrol boat came zipping by – cripes, I hope they notice Steve’s little masked head
bobbing a hundred feet out. Luckily they pulled alongside
and I informed them of the wreck below, which was news to them. As they drove away I suggested they avoid motoring
over the still-treading Steve, of whom they were also unaware.
Now the plan is for Steve to
dive down to dislodge the chain while I assist by motoring this way or that. The anchor weighs 75# plus however much his
length of chain weighs. On my end
there is 80 or 90 feet of chain, swinging at each turn. He’d dive down and tug, pop up with new
instructions, repeating several times until finally she was free.
good, but as the windlass drags the anchor home it catches again, now bringing the boat toward it
and as I’m nearly on top of
Steve, I could either disengage and drift closer to shore or plug on forward. How fast can you swim, Steve? Well, evidently fast enough ‘cause he was
well clear by the time I found a new spot to anchor. You can keep your hip, modern computer "artists"; I prefer a loose representational style; drawing, acrylics, oil, watercolors - media you can touch, executed by hand, not mouse, and under real light like Marilyn Phillips May, a local whose work I just discovered.
Tue., Apr. 30, '13 Today we rented a car to tool round the east end, making stops
at our oldhaunts: The Buccaneer for a martini (where I discovered my new favorite Hendrick's Gin)...
I found a piano
...then on to Green Cay to check out their slips,
beautiful Chenay Bay, the Divi Casino, of course, then a swim and beach
chess at their resort.
Now refreshed, we head back to Christiansted, Steve doing all the driving and I must say he did well. Usually his Mr. Magoo
style of steering a car, especially in these left-hand lanes, can be a little...well,
let’s just say you want to pay attention.
Sun down on the Lib and it’s decided that we go back ashore to revisit
our pool tables; first to Chris’ Hideaway, then to the Chocolate Barbecue Place with
their open-air tables...
...and finally back to the boardwalk and Ft. Christian Brew Pub for nightcaps. Wed., May. 1, '13 A beautiful windy morning blows away our mini-hangovers and we
watch theIronman swim course buoys being anchored round the harbor. The
first practice swim is this morning. I’m a bit sad to be leaving before thisweekend’s Moko Jumbie jump-up and the triathlon I’m used to attending
every year. This voyage has been a challenge, an adventure. It gave me a late-in-life experience I would never have imagined. Thank you, Steve. Go eat some rice.