1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: June 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Surfing for dollars...

Motorbike in DR....fine until the brake handle fell off!
Cave offshore on DR coast
What a ride. The sail from Luperon to Long Island in the Bahamas, and on through the islands, has been some of the best sailing I have ever experienced. 
First of all, there were the ‘fresh’ breezes out of Luperon that rocketed us towards Matthew Town on Great Inagua at an easy 8 knots until we were well out to sea. The winds then went behind us, making it more difficult to hold our course. Our speed fluctuated between 6 and 8 knots the entire night. 
The next day, we found the boat surfing frequently to speeds well into the 9 - 10 knot range. It became a contest to see who could hit the highest speed as we roared along. First there was my 9.1 knots, quickly followed by a 9.3. Then, on his shift, Bruce nailed 9.4 and that held for quite a while. It took some time for me to best that with a 9.5, and that mark held into the next day. 
Mattie wasn’t participating at this point, but then suddenly we hear: 9.3! Well, it wasn’t the top speed but Mattie was surely in the game now.
Arriving at Great Inagua approaching midnight, we searched in vain for the lighthouse that was supposed to be there, and at last found it. It wasn’t working, normal for this part of the Caribbean, but at least it looked pretty in the nearly full moon we had. 
We took a considerable offing around the tip of Great Inagua, bringing the boat onto a close reach and then close hauled position as we came around. Up until now, we’d done nothing but running, the winds constantly being from behind.
Elbereth continued to rush along at over 7 knots in the 15 - 20 knot winds, even with the genoa half furled. Since we were now in the lee of the island, it was flat water, and very exhilarating. We made our way up to Matthew Town and crept to within 100 yards of the shore, anchoring in 12 feet of beautiful sand bottom.
And then we slept!
The following day, our destination was Hogsty Reef, a patch of coral halfway between Acklins Island and Great Inagua. The plan was to do a short day (37nm), get in some snorkeling, rest up, then continue to Long Island. The weather however, started to look questionable for an overnight on an exposed reef, so we changed our course and headed for South Point at the bottom end of Long Island - an additional 54 miles, to anchor out at Galloway Bay on the opposite side of the island from Clarence Town.
Offshore sunset.....ahhhhhh
The contest continued, with Bruce nailing a 9.6, and then, 9.7 - with a reef in the main and a partially furled headsail. Were we having fun or what? Then, with a double reef in the main, Mattie hit 10 knots. However, because the engine was running at the time to charge the batteries, we couldn’t count it as official. Even on a small sailboat, there have to be some rules!
One of the highlights of this part of the trip was the night sailing in the strong winds we were experiencing. I could tell you about how fabulous it was, but perhaps this video of one part of our night sail will tell the tale far better...
Leaving Galloway Bay, our next destination was Long Island Breezes Resort (website here), at Salt Pond on Long Island. We wanted to get some coffee, or a grinder, a few other grocery items, and enjoy a swim in the fresh water pool here, and make use of the internet. The resort was closed for the season, but Mike, who owns the resort with business partner Jackie, set me up with the internet, thus providing you with my last post.
It had been a few years since I last visited Long Island, so we crept slowly and carefully into the bay, carefully monitoring the depth sounder. In part, this was because we were unsure of what, if any, offset was programmed into it. We might be reading six feet with only five feet, our draft, under the boat. That, as you can imagine, could cause a problem.
We anchored off the resort at sunset at high tide in about 9 feet of water, which was more than adequate allowance for the three foot tide. The full moon riding high in the sky, obscured by the occasional cloud, was gorgeous - and I thought of all of you, back home, hard at work....

What on earth are you thinking people? It’s a paradise out here, and life is wayyyyy too short.

(currently in Bimini, heading for the US tomorrow morning, back at my boat Monday sometime...will upload many photos and video then with a good connection...forecast is for 15 - 20 S, waves to max of 1 meter out of the south - this is gonna be another great ride on the Gulf Stream!)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Disaster strikes!

Luperon, a cruisers’ hangout in the Dominican Republic, was an education for Mattie, the boat’s owner, as he’d never spent time in a third world country. Unlike the resort at Samana, Luperon has no huge properties, no luxury tourists - just lots and lots of frugal sailors hanging out at Wendy’s Bar, JRs Tropical Bistro (it’s on Facebook, here) and various other dens of iniquity. We had planned to overnight in Luperon and head out the next day, but a problem with the boat’s rudder necessitated getting a mechanic onboard. For those mechanically minded, we had to replace a bushing, which meant lowering the rudder - IN THE WATER! That, as you can imagine, could be a recipe for disaster should the rudder fall off. We’d then have a large hole inside the boat, with water pouring in. Not good at all. Pedro, the mechanic’s assistant, dove under and took a strap around the rudder to support it in the water and we tied it off to the cleats. The rudder was then lowered a few inches, giving clearance to remove and then replace the bushing. Done, and we were good to go - after a slice of homemade apple pie at JR’s. Special thanks to Gil, the owner of JR’s, for his hospitality. Gil hails from Medicine Hat, Alberta and really, who can blame him for leaving that freezing cold backwater for a third world backwater that is, at least, warm year round? The weather forecast was leaving me somewhat concerned - there was some rough looking stuff east of Puerto Rico, several hundred miles away. I contacted a FB friend, Paul Moran (no relation) in Culebra, PR. Paul is a charter captain there - he advised that they were getting lots of rain, little wind, but that he felt this system might turn into a tropical storm shortly. The satellite view confirmed some rotation too. Paul suggested that we’d have no problem reaching Great Inagua if we left shortly, and I concurred, but with some trepidation. Once outside Luperon Harbour, we set our course and raised sail. Elbereth took off like a scalded kitten, racing up to 8 knots in the fresh breeze (note: ‘fresh’ breeze is what sailors like to call just a bit too much wind), and surfing on the waves to over 10. Quite the ride, and we had 160 miles of this to look forward to. Well, we rocked and we rolled, and we surfed and slid, riding over the Puerto Rican Trench with over 17,000 feet of water under us - or more than three miles! Night turned into day, and then night again, with a near full moon - spectacular, as you can see from the video. Finally, 31 hours after leaving Luperon, we dropped anchor at Great Inagua, Bahamas and collapsed into our bunks - completely unaware that disaster awaited us in the morning. Awakening far too early, our very tired crew of three looked forward to a reviving cup of superb Santo Domingo coffee from the DR. Bruce opened a fresh bag - and found - beans! Not ground coffee, but beans, and no grinder aboard the boat. This was terrible, as any coffee drinking sailor (hello Doc!) will tell you. Three tired sailors and no coffee. Opinions were divided on what to do - lower the dinghy, clear in with Customs and find a restaurant? What if there wasn’t one? Dinghy over to the ketch anchored a quarter mile over and beg for coffee like shipwrecked sailors (pride has no place here). What if he had no coffee? Tough it out, sail on to Long Island and BUY a grinder...tempers flared, voices were raised...all to a background of the captain (me) whining and whimpering. Then, inspiration struck the captain. His eyes lit up, a smile returned to his worried face - we can grind coffee with a hammer. The crew thought this was ridiculous, but I pointed out - desperate times need desperate measures. No hammer being available, we grabbed the next best thing - a screwdriver with a heavy end, put beans in a bag, and proceeded to pound them into powder - well, ok, grinds about the size of bb shot. Into the percolator they went. Anxious faces looked at one another....would this work, or were we doomed to a morning with no coffee and too little sleep? The pot bubbled away. Finally, it looked ready. A cup was poured. With shaking hands, I lifted it to my parched, thirsting lips. A sip. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Life is good.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A little 'tease' for you...

Had a few spare moments at hand while some boat repairs are being finished up, so I thought I would 'tease' you imps out there with a bit of video - this is the teaser, not the trailer, for what will be a super video of this sailboat delivery...some great shots of the BVIs, Puerto Rico, Isla Palominos, San Juan, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas....a whirlwind tour of some of the prettiest cruising waters in the world... Stay tuned to LiveBloggin' for more great sailing video, coming soon! And in the meantime....lol....enjoy being teased!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From the sublime to the...well, to Luperon!

Cayo Levintado, where we anchored on leaving Samana
Hola mes amigos y amigas - no, I'm not going native, just practicing my espagnol, which is needed here in the DR. English is not spoken here, and when it is, it's not spoken well.
Two nights ago, I was on my way for a nighttime swim in the infinity pool at Bahia Puerto Samana - a truly swish resort (member of a group known as the top 50 Exclusive Small Resorts of the World) where we stopped to visit with my friend Jeff, who moved here from Cleveland - and who can blame him? This place is spectacular, as you can see from the attached video, and is popular with whale watchers in season, and tourists throughout Canada's winters, the beaches are magnificent.
To get here required a 38 hour sail from San Juan PR...we had excellent conditions crossing the Mona Passage, which has a terrible reputation for late day thunderstorms - so we sailed across it in the early morning through the afternoon - it's about 60 miles between PR and DR.
Leaving Samana, we sailed for 26 hours, to Luperon and a totally different world. This area is very much third world - I don't have the cables to download my photos here, but believe me when I say - half naked children in the streets, lots of beaten up motorcycles and old clunkers that wouldn't qualify for a junkyard back home, lots of boats in the harbour even now in the off season (it's a hurricane hole) - essentially a fascinating place.
Below, a few photos - me on Junga's (Jeff's local friend) motorbike, in Samana - we went 'native', which is always fun and went up to Jeff's place here. On the return, Junga let me ride his bike so I could take photos....not quite my Gold Wing back home and I started to get concerned when the front brake handle fell off - but Junga told me not to worry, the front brakes didn't work anyway....well, THAT'S good news!
No Front Brake
No Clutch
No Starter
Am I crazy?

Sipping champagne at the resort....
ahhh, THIS is the life....

Stay tuned....dinner tonight at Wendy's - if anyone wants to
Google Hangout, I'll arrange it and you can watch the
movie tonight with us! Or just chat....email me here.
Like the sign says, Gringo's Welcome!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SO MUCH to tell y'all...

Hola! Sorry everyone for being out of touch, but internet towers are really really tough to put up in 17,000 feet of water, the depth of the Puerto Rica trench between the DR and PR. I'm now in Samana, DR, after having spent time in Cruz Bay, St. Johns; a short stop in St. Thomas USVI - very brief, that gunfire thing you know...then los Palominos Island in Puerto Rico (super pretty), then San Juan, Puerto Rico and, after a 38 hour sail, Samana, Dominican Republic...
Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea of just how tough life has been these past few days - more later after I've downloaded them....and keep in mind, I do all this just for you! Honest...
DR coffee makes the BEST cappucino!!!
Going to buy some café Santo Domingo at the market tomorrow

President Clinton's favourite store in San Juan, PR

Sail Rock, between - ah heck, in the Caribbean, heading for PR
AHHHHHHH moment....

Checking the charts....

Life is tough out here, can you tell?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Road Town, Tortola.....ahhhhhhhhh!

Blue, blue, my world is blue - Blue is my world...
Arrived by fast ferry in Sopers Hole, West End, Tortola, yesterday around 5:30. Did the entire trip from St. Thomas on the bow of the ferry taking the most amazing photos, which I am putting together as a video for you to enjoy....this place is absolutely gorgeous. Had dinner at Pussers and yes, I had a Painkiller.....and yes, it was FABULOUS, beyond fabulous in fact - perhaps even better than Pussers in Annapolis, and God knows, the view was superb....all I need now to make life perfect is a beautiful woman who is free to travel, appreciates Painkillers, tropical sun, sailing and gorgeous beaches...any takers? I know one person who likes all of these....(impish smile here)...but her circumstances don't permit her to travel outside the country now...I'm sure there are others, lol.....remember, like my father used to tell me, you only live once, so enjoy it. Seriously, do you really want to work forever, or would you rather enjoy life?
Currently in Road Town, which is at the top of the bay
in the center of the bottom of the island
Tomorrow, the wife of a cruising friend is coming down to visit, I haven't seen these folks since we traveled down the ICW with them six or seven years ago. They now own a house here....how nice is that?
We (the crew and myself) hope to rent a car and do some exploring tomorrow, since the new mainsail won't arrive until Monday. We'll sail over to St. Thomas, about 25 miles, to pick it up, then leave from there for Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
Yes, life is good - especially when no one is shooting at you! Stay tuned for the video, coming soon...

Friday, June 7, 2013

St. Thomas Shooting Update

I've had a chance to look further into last night's shooting. No one was killed, but two men were injured. According to a cab driver I spoke with who was familiar with what happened yesterday, a young man went hunting for the two men who were shot yesterday in retaliation for the shooting of his brother. The two men who were shot were 21 and 25; one was shot in the arm, the other in the leg. The two car collision apparently had nothing to do with the shooting, but occurred at the same time, probably a result of the drivers attempting to get clear of the gunplay.
The police have said they have no idea about who is involved, although it looks like the local community is quite aware of the circumstances. The local news article gives what few other details are available.
Now we return you to your regularly scheduled Friday afternoon. Next post will be from Tortola, BVI.

Crime Scene in Paradise!

I've been unable to discover any more about last night's shooting just outside the guest house in which I'm staying here in St. Thomas. Even the reporter with whom I spoke last night had no further information - her one comment was that this was the third shooting yesterday, that the police wouldn't discuss anything and "this is how it's done in our little banana republic".
Here is a video of the crime scene. One of the two victims was lying behind the beige Jeep in the picture. There has been comment that the shootings were retaliation in a drug gang scenario.

After this post, I will be heading out to explore St. Thomas, which really is a beautiful place, and then leaving by ferry this afternoon for Tortola to head for the boat. A friend there has invited me to a Captain's party this evening for a regatta being held tomorrow, sounds like it ought to be a great way to learn about Road Town, Tortola....
Details as they happen! Stay tuned to LiveBloggin' the ICW as we explore the Virgin Islands...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gunfire in Paradise!

Just as I was completing my last post, seven or eight loud bangs rang out in quick succession. I stepped to the lounge outside my room as someone said "are those firecrackers?", and another man said, simply, "No".
We went outside to the edge of the parking lot - the video here is what we are now watching. One of the bodies is behind the beige Jeep with its doors open.
I spoke with a local reporter who told me this was the third shooting today in St. Thomas. Another person said it was likely retaliation within the drug gangs.
More as I learn what has happened here - the Chief of Police refused to speak with me, stating he didn't have time for media. Shortly after that, myself and the other reporter were asked to move off the scene, and about 50 yards away, several officers were searching in some bushes, presumably for bullet shells.

Flying into St. Thomas, USVI - Heaven on Earth...

View on the drive in...
How to describe it? Gorgeous would be one word. It's a mixture of all the tropical places I've been to - Key West, South Africa, Tahiti, Philppines - everyplace but the Bahamas. It's mountainous, with gorgeous blue water, beautiful beaches, anchorages around every corner, and funky and tropical, all at the same time.
Wait - what was that?....something just happened outside - there were seven or eight gunshots, fast. One of the other guests asked if it was fireworks - someone said no, it was gunshots. We're all headed to the parking lot...details when I return.
One of the anchorages...

My room....

Patio to my room...

Local shrimp dinner, spiced to perfection...

Courtyard outside my room...

Random thoughts in Jax and Miami Airports...

Here I sit, in Jacksonville Airport, once more frustrated by an airport wireless setup that is not working. I strongly suspect the TSA is in charge of these systems - how else could this be so consistent across America? Think about it...when was the last time you found an airport internet wireless setup that actually worked, or that you didn’t need to take out a mortgage on your house to access? 
I’ve discovered a silver lining to the IRS hassle here in the US - there’s been so much attention paid to the IRS harassment of conservative groups, the attention is off the TSA people, who are actually paid to harass travelers...as a result, they’re smiling and happy and actually polite. Except for having to take my shoes off, empty my pockets of every piece of kleenex and the old cash register receipts I’ve been carrying for weeks, and opening my luggage, it was almost like old times. 
I always recall of my first flight, back in my 20s. I arrived late at the airport in Sudbury, ON, a very small regional airport, and boarded while the plane was warming up on the runway. The flight attendant - we called them stewardesses back then - smiled and welcomed me aboard. I was carrying a box of business documents, no one bothered looking at it. Try that today... 
 Once again, I’m leaving my boat in the path of an oncoming storm. Gypsy Wind has been through Isabel while at anchor, Irene while on the hard, Sandy tied to a dock in Lake Erie and now this one - Andrea is its name - tied to the dock in St. Simons. The first tropical storm of the season, is supposed to go right over the boat, and even now, it’s pouring rain here. Predicted winds are 55 - 60 later today - hopefully long after my flight leaves. 
The program for this delivery is to fly into St. Thomas, where I’ll stay tonight at Rhoda’s Guesthouse - I chose it because it’s inexpensive (hey, I’m a sailor, we have a reputation to uphold), is well regarded and it sounds pretty funky - check it out, Rhoda’s Guest House, St. Thomas. Tomorrow, before getting the ferry to Tortola in the afternoon, I’ll explore a bit and then pick up the new mainsail for the boat.
Tomorrow night I’ll be in Road Town, Tortola, on Elbereth, the 36 Beneteau I’m bringing back to the US. I expect we’ll be a day, perhaps two, getting the boat ready and taking her out for a quick shakedown cruise to check out the various repairs that have been done.

From Tortola, it’s off to Puerto Rico. I’m seriously debating clearing in at the island of Culebra, reason being that the customs and immigration folk on the big island have a really bad rep for harassing boaters. One friend of mine had his boat seized, the customs people claiming he had Cuban cigars, illegal for an American. Four months later, they decided they were wrong and now will give him back his boat - sight unseen - provided he signs a hold harmless waiver. In other words, they may have trashed his boat but there’s nothing he can do about it. Oh - if he doesn’t sign the waiver? They’ll take his boat. Do you see something wrong with this picture? It’s another case of ‘we’re from your government and we’re here to help you’.
From Puerto Rico on, our route depends on the weather. If it’s too rough on the north side of PR, we’ll travel the south coast, adding about 50 miles or so to our run to Samana, DR. From Samana, it’s on to Luperon, then northwest to the Turks and Caicos, then on into the Bahamas. The longest leg is about 185 miles, from either San Juan or Ponce PR to Samana.
Just now got in to Miami - I swear, my pup Aduana is better behaved than 90% of the children here. And, when Aduana is along, the kids are so fascinated by her, they quiet down and come over to pet her. Unfortunately, for this trip, she’s staying back in Georgia - and yes, I miss her already.
Just received an invitation to join a small regatta on Saturday in Tortola from a friend who lives there, in Road Town. Don’t know if I’ll join in the race, but for sure I’m going to get to the captain’s meeting - that will be a party! Ah - boarding call. God willing, you’ll next hear from me from St. Thomas, USVI.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gangnam Style, the Sailing Edition...

Last winter, during the Toronto Boat Show, a friend of mine, Adrienne, and I had dinner with my friend Gord and his ladyfriend at her townhouse. A quantity of wine was imbibed - ok, in the interests of accuracy, a large quantity of wine was imbibed - and we got talking about Gangnam Style, by Psy.
Yeah, it's about as hokey a video as I've ever seen, but we thought - wouldn't it be fun to do a version based on sailing? (told you there was a lot of wine involved, didn't I?)
So I'm asking everyone here to help out with this project. Get your friends together, get your smart phone or video camera out, and do a Gangnam style clip involving sailing, your sailboat, boats on the dock, whatever, as long as it's sailing themed. Try to do this in hd if you can. Send that clip to me as an attachment and I'll put them together as the video "Gangnam Style, the Sailing Edition".
Keep in mind the following points - corny is good. Cheesy is better. Weird costumes are great. Tiny bikinis are superb. Tacky is excellent. 
Let's do it folks - Opa GANGNAM STYLE - the Sailing Edition.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Heading for the BVIs...

Most of you are aware I'm heading out on a delivery, from Tortola to Georgia, later this week. Don't be too panicked when you don't see or hear from me after the 6th, for about two weeks. I'll try to get online as I can - best place to follow me will be right here, and I'll try to update on Facebook as well.
The chartlet above shows the first couple of stops as we head west from Tortola. After we leave this area, there's the Mona Passage (always a FUN ride, lol), then Samana and the joys of a Latin American country, complete with corrupt officials seeking a 'mordita' - little bite, or a bribe for you gringoes....
The Turks will likely just be a fast stop and go, then up into the Bahamas and it's beautiful turquoise blue water.
The boat is a Beneteau 362, and we'll have an epirb as well as all the required safety equipment. Weather, so far, looks good....but we're technically into hurricane season, so, folks, cross your fingers for me...total distance is over 1000 miles - San Juan PR to Nassau is 800 give or take, Nassau to Bimini is 115, Bimini to St. Augustine is 265, then another 75 miles to here. From here, the owner and I will buddy boat, with me back on Gypsy Wind up to the Chesapeake.So the itinerary is Road Town, Tortola, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico (Fajardo, then the south coast), Dominican Republic (Samana, Luperon), Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Georgia....colour me happy!