Friday, February 29, 2008


Puerto Real, Puerto Rico
18 04.3N 67 11.5W

Not the greatest start to our time in Puerto Rico, we arrived here in company with L'Aventura, yesterday after a short and pleasant sail down from Mayaguez, and managed to work our way in through the gap in the shoals to anchor in the well protected bay off Puerto Real.

We got in at 3pm, and went ashore for a walk round meeting lots of friendly locals all interested in who we were, which boat we were off, how many of us there were on board etc etc. They all helpfully gave us directions to some restaurants on the edge of town, but finally we decided on sundowners on the boats instead.

When we got back to Matsu we discovered that one of the many "helpful" locals had been on board our boat in our absence and stolen our lap top! All this despite it being broad daylight and having to hang his own boat off the back of ours in a small harbour in full view of the shore while doing it, amazingly none of the other "helpful" locals noticed him doing this!

We put it down to experience (a bad one) and went to bed early as we were still exhausted from the trip across from the Turks and Caicos. I woke with a start at midnight when there was a big thud and the boat shook, I knew straight way what it was, either the same or other "Bandidos" had come back and had cut the harness we use to lift the dinghy out of the water at night. I rushed out of the back companionway shouting profanities and they sped away, leaving our locked dinghy still partially suspended by the harness and us rather shocked at their audacity.

We were a little unsure then what to do, after 9 hours in Puerto Real we had been robbed twice, but it was the middle of the night and there was no way we could get back out over the shoals in the dark so we had to stay put. The next thought was that having had the cheek to rob us in broad daylight and then try to steal a dinghy suspended 6ft in the air while we were on board, whether they may come back a 3rd time, possibly armed and just force their way onto the boat.

We rang the police who were unable to send a boat as it was busy on a training exercise, so we were left on our own. Our solution in conjunction with L'Aventura was to stay up all night in the cockpit with a bright spot light, our flare gun and a machete at the ready should they choose to return! Not the most relaxing night for us, or the many fishing boats that we shone our spot light on as they went out to fish, finally dawn arrived and we relaxed slightly.

We upped anchor after a brief visit from the police to take our report and then moved round to Boqueron, a lovely anchorage with another 15-20 cruising boats there for company and security and a less creepy population of locals! If anything even more tired than we had been when arriving in Mayaguez after the long passage!

Any other cruisers reading this, miss Puerto Real and go straight to Boqueron, at the moment this is not a safe place to anchor, with some strange locals!
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Safely Arrived In Puerto Rico

Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
18 13.0N 67 09.7W

We left Turks and Caicos on Sunday morning and 350 miles and 58 hours later we dropped anchor just before sunset in the harbour here at Mayaguez.

We got quite a good sail to start off with down to the Dominican Republic coast, but then it was on with the motor for a long motor sail to windward to get here. The photograph shows us heading along the north coast of the DR.

As we are pushing against the trade winds the best we can hope for is a relative calm, which we had, so we motored into calm seas, past the whole of the DR without stopping sadly and then across the "treacherous" Mona passage in yet more flat calm for a safe arrival.

We saw quite a few hump back whales on the trip and can only guess they ate all the fish as we certainly didn't catch any!

We are now back in cruising mode after 3 weeks of passage planning, weather monitoring and bashing into the wind. We will cruise slowly along the south coast before we head out to the Virgin Islands.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Bashing To Windward

South Caicos, Turks & Caicos
21 29.5N 71 32.2W

Well my predictions of the DR were a bit optimistic, after a week in the lagoon at Mayaguana with 20-30 knots of wind blowing over us from directly where we wanted to go, we finally got a weather window to go to the Turks & Caicos last Saturday.

We left in company with a few other boats and after a promising start, bashing into some large seas but at least pointing the right way, a succession of squalls came to get us, meaning we had 25 knots of wind from right in front and rain! After an hour we turned around sailed back and licked our wounds, our friends on L'Aventura did likewise. Three others continued, two arriving 20 hours later (it should take 10 hours in good conditions) and one of them running onto a reef on the north side of the Turks & Caicos in the dark the following morning - so we felt we made a good decision!

The next day we tried again, leaving at 0400 in the dark, the wind was still on the nose and the seas still a bit lumpy but it was lighter than yesterday. We sailed all day, banging off waves, with streams of water pouring all over the deck and occasionally slamming into the dodger, and finally arrived at West Caicos island at 1530, very relieved nothing had broken but covered from head to toe in salt! Going to windward in the ocean is never fun, and for 60 odd miles it is even less so. Heeled hard over it is like gravity has doubled, and everything takes 5 times as long - just making a cup of tea becomes an endurance contest. It again showed how lucky we were on the leg to Mayaguana.

Having covered off the low points, the high point of the trip was seeing a huge male hump back whale, he crossed about 300 feet in front of us, putting on an impressive display of fin slapping as he went past.

The next day we motored round to Providenciales, cleared customs and sat down for a rest! We spent the next day exploring Provo, not a lot to see really, but we had a fun trip to town. We saw our first real fruit and veg for 2 months in the supermarket, so bought vast quantities to gorge on. The Bahamas are strange, nobody grows food, most people living on government hand outs, so what shops there are have a small selection of mouldy/over ripe tomatoes and bananas if you are lucky and the mail boat came in recently! We can't wait for the Caribbean and some markets!

The next day was a long motor across the Caicos bank, 3m deep if you are lucky and scattered with coral heads. As the boat draws 2.3m it was a stressful day, Keir from L'Aventura joined us as an extra pair of eyes and the 2 boats took turns being in front to relieve some of the stress, we still had to keep eyes open for coral standing on the bow getting soaked, but at least knew we wouldn't run aground on the sand. So 12 more hours of motoring into chop and covering us, the boat and everything we own in salt and then finally we were safely here.

We are waiting for an amazing weather window that starts tomorrow, which will hopefully mean we can go straight through to Puerto Rico, its around 350 miles and we will probably have to motor most of it, but hopefully not have to bash the boat to pieces getting there.
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Monday, February 11, 2008

Off On The "Thorny Path" South

Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas
22 19.7N 73 01.7W

We joined a convoy of boats leaving George Town on Thursday, about 20 having an informal race to Long Island and another 20 bound for the Dominican Republic. For many the trip to the DR is their first sail in the ocean, and this combined with the need to get a good weather window means everyone leaves at once.

The first leg for the cruisers was a great sail to Conception Island and as there were 20 boats going it also turned into a race. Matsu was in great form eating up the miles and we placed very respectably - first in our opinion!

The next morning most of the boats left for the DR, we chose a different approach based on our read of the weather forecast, so we stayed for the day snorkeling on the superb stag head coral formations and enjoying the beach and the water, before leaving on Saturday morning.

We had anticipated having to motor the whole way to Mayaguana, but the wind ended up doing us proud and we had excellent sailing for well over half the time. No events of great note except for hooking a marlin on our fishing gear! We heard the reel screaming and went back to put the brake on, which sent the fish into a frenzy and we were witness to the classic "Fishing Adventures" film clip of a marlin leaping out of the water doing back flips and tail dances as it gradually stripped all the line off the reel, before with a final jump it broke the line and left us relieved that we hadn't had to work out how to land a fish bigger than either of us!

Sadly the weather window has closed up quicker than the forecast so we will now be here for a few days to a week waiting for the next one to get further on, meanwhile the boats that left a day earlier are already there (but we got to eat lobster for dinner!). We have two options, hopping from here to the Turks and Caicos, or heading out to sea for a dog leg route into the trades and going directly to the DR, either way we hope to be in Luperon next week some time.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

"Chicken Harbour"

Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas
23 30.7N 75 44.6W

We are safely anchored in George Town at the southern end of the Exumas chain of islands. We have really enjoyed the Exumas, clear water, great fishing and white sand, plus we have been lucky with the weather and not had too many cold fronts sweeping down from the States so it has been warm and sunny and we have been able to find sheltered anchorages easily despite the 7'6" keel.

George Town is very different from the uninhabited Cays of the rest of the chain. With a great natural harbour, superb beaches and a small town, with by Bahamian standards good shops, it is the final destination for many cruisers. Many boats spend 4 months here playing volleyball on the beach, socialising etc and then returning north once the snow has melted to resume land based life. Others spend weeks here agonising about going further but never do - hence the moniker "Chicken Harbour" and hopefully we are part of the other group of cruisers, the ones that use it as a staging post prior to the big trip to the Virgin Islands.

At the moment there are well over 100 boats here, and by April that will have swelled to 300-400 boats, thankfully we will be gone by then! That said we are enjoying socialising with lots of boats we met earlier on in the islands and even in the USA earlier in the year, and it certainly beats renting a condo in Florida for winter like many other Americans and Canadians do.

I have said for a long time that Linda and I should live somewhere where they speak French so I can finally get fluent, the trouble is Canada is cold, so we have never done it. We have now found the place, the Bahamas! - about 40% of the boats are from Quebec so for the last 2 months I have spoken more French than English!

We hope to set off this week bound for the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic and then on to Puerto Rico, it's about 1,000 miles of sailing and sadly nearly all upwind, so there will be lots of waiting for weather before hopping on to the next place. This means we have ample excuse to sit in George Town sipping drinks with other cruisers discussing weather windows, routes and destinations, which when combined with games of volleyball, soft ball and getting the boat ready for the voyage leaves us very "busy".
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