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January 2007

Livin the Dream has been on the move in January.  We left Staniel Cay on January 2, 2007, traveled through the southern Exumas, Turks and Caicos, and the Dominican Republic and have arrived in Puerto Rico covering 816 nautical miles in 25 days.  We wanted to travel as quickly east and south as the weather allowed, trying to make progress against the prevailing southeast trade winds. 

Volleyball in Georgetown

After watching the New Year’s Day Cruising Regatta in Staniel Cay, we traveled south to Georgetown, Exuma.  In early afternoon, we anchored off Volleyball beach in Georgetown and within 30 minutes of anchoring, John was on the beach playing volleyball.  We were in Georgetown for five days and John played volleyball for at least three hours each day.  Hundreds of cruisers spend the winter months in Georgetown and it is filled with numerous organized activities if cruisers want to join in.  In addition to volleyball, we enjoyed dominoes on the beach, Beach Church, and a beach sunset potluck during the five days.

 

Volleyball in Georgetown

It was difficult to leave the fun of Georgetown behind after such a short time, but we had a good weather opportunity to make progress further south.  Several other boats were making the same plans and we began to travel with Sea Loco from Punta Gorda Isles and Kardia from Collingswood, Ontario, Canada .   Within two days of leaving Georgetown, we anchored in Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana Island, Bahamas.  We were stuck there through several days of strong winds and we stayed on the boat most of the time because a trip anywhere in the dinghy was a wet experience.  We hosted Kardia and Sea Loco for a dominoes game on Livin the Dream one afternoon, and Sea Loco and Kardia hosted dinner during our stay.


Turks & Caicos real estate

We said goodbye to the Bahamas the evening of January 16 sailing from Mayaguana to Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos, arriving by mid-morning on the following day.  Customs and Immigration requirements were quick and easy and the officials were very friendly.  Provo is booming with construction and real estate development.  For sale signs are everywhere and it seems like all land is up for sale.  So when we saw the “For Sale” sign next to a small cave, we had to take the photograph.  The restaurants and stores are similar to an upscale resort development in the U.S.

 



Interested in buying a small cave on a beautiful Caribbean island?


Big Sand Cay In fact Provo was so similar to the U.S. we felt like we didn’t need to stay very long and headed for the more undeveloped islands of the Turks and Caicos across the Caicos bank.  The Turks and Caicos took steps in the early 1990’s to protect their natural resources by designating more than 325 square miles as protected areas.  At Great Sand Cay (a protected sanctuary), we anchored in beautiful aquamarine waters off a white sand beach and enjoyed a great afternoon swim.  It was a wonderful ending to our short stay in the Turks and Caicos.

Big Sand Cay, Turks and Caicos 

Disassembled windlass motor:  Step #3 of 5

Windlass motorSince our arrival in Georgetown, we had been having problems with our windlass.  It is the electric winch that raises the anchor (75 pounds) and the chain (1.7 pounds per foot).  We also use it to put the dinghy on deck for long passages.  The circuit breaker would trip as soon as the windlass had even a small load on it and John had to pull up the anchor by hand.  He went through all of the components of the system, cleaning connections and protecting them with corrosion inhibiter, testing for resistance in the cables and the solenoid with the multimeter and could find nothing wrong.  The only thing that remained, (he thought) was to take the 12 volt motor out, take it apart and see what was wrong inside.  That took most of two days to check it out and clean it up inside with the help of a book (Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder) that we have on board.  The motor looked fine when John took it apart but he cleaned and tested it and reassembled it anyway and miraculously it worked when he put it back in, but the same problem (tripping breaker) persisted.  John also replaced one of the cables to the windlass where he noticed a portion of the insulation looked worn but there was no improvement.  The only component that hadn’t been checked was the circuit breaker itself.  He temporarily wired around the circuit breaker as a test and lo and behold the windlass worked perfectly.  In Provo he found a new 120 amp circuit breaker and retrofitted it to the panel and everything worked perfectly.  A very satisfying accomplishment after much frustration.

We estimated our trip to Luperon, Dominican Republic to take about 14 hours, so we left Great Sand Cay at 5:00 pm to arrive in Luperon around sunrise as recommended.  We had a wonderful trip with 13 – 18 knots of wind on our beam, allowing us to sail without the motor for most of the trip.  As we approached the Dominican Republic coast, we could smell the dirt and see the mountains in the distance.  As the sun rose we could see that the entire island was high, green and lush, a big contrast to the flat and dry Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. 

Luperon harbor, Dominican RepublicChecking into the Dominican Republic is cumbersome, involving paperwork and payments to several different agencies over a two day period.  Most of these officials do not speak much English and we don’t speak much Spanish.  At times there may be an interpreter available, but not always.  The Naval Commandante did not require an official payment, but he did ask for a small donation through an interpreter (who we also tipped for assisting in the process).  A visit onshore was required for Immigration clearance, then back to the boat for a visit from two Agriculture representatives.  Agriculture asked about the origin of fruits, vegetables and meats on board and took away our “international trash” for a fee of $20.  On the following day, we visited the Port Authority onshore since they were closed on Sundays. 

Luperon harbor, Dominican Republic

  Cacti Fence

 

We rented a motorcycle so we could explore the beautiful countryside.  The area surrounding Luperon is agricultural.  Our beautiful drive to La Isabela took us by small villages and family farms.  Everyone shouted “Hola” as we passed by.  Most families had cattle, pigs, chickens, milk cows, horses, and donkeys and had small gardens to grow vegetables.  Cattle, horses, and donkeys were often tied along the roadside allowing them to graze on the roadside grass.  Fences were made from barbed wire and small tree trunks, supplemented by cacti, which appears to be a very good barrier.   


Cacti fence 

The city of La Isabela includes the ruins of El Castillo, the first settlement of Columbus in the New World .  The city was founded in 1493 and included over 5000 residents, a church, a fort, and a storehouse.  The capital city was relocated to Santo Domingo in 1502.  Giovanni began our tour of the ruins practicing his little English on us and allowing us to practice our limited Spanish with him.  We were later joined by Rene, a young Dominican Republic native who had lived in Belgium for several years and spoke excellent English.  His explanation of the ruins and translation of the museum information were very helpful.  Giovanni and Rene were not employed by the museum, just local people trying to help out and earn a little money.  

Cattle drive During lunch in La Isabela, we enjoyed watching the vendors travel through the town, announcing their offerings.  Pickup trucks are loaded with vegetables, fish, live caged chickens, or butchered meat.  They each have a loud speaker mounted on the cab of the truck and they advertise what they are selling as they cruise around town and throughout the countryside.  On our return to Luperon later that afternoon, we witnessed a cattle drive down the main street in the center of town.  Cars were stopped, horns were blaring, motorcycles were racing in and out of the cattle, and the cowboy on horseback with his whip was trying to keep all the cattle in line.

Cattle drive on the streets of downtown Luperon

The following day we joined cruising friends from Sea Loco, Kardia and Seaman’s Elixir in a tour of the 27 waterfalls of Rio Damajagua.  A taxi van took us from Luperon to Imbert, where we joined the tour group in an open-air bus.  We traveled across some very rugged roads where we saw limestone stone carving, a cockfight (with boxing gloves to protect the roosters), and a demonstration of native coffee roasting and grinding.  All of this was accompanied by Brugal rum beginning as early as 9:30. 

After lunch, we arrived at the falls where we were each given a life jacket and a protective helmet to wear.  There are 27 waterfalls available for climbing, but our tour would only cover the first seven.  Other trips are available for waterfalls 8 – 13 and 14 – 27.  Our guides took us through a beautiful green forest and across several small streams.  After a 15 minute hike, we arrived at the first fall.  Climbing up a fall required a swim across the pool at the bottom of the fall.  After staging at the bottom of the fall, the guides would assist you in a combination of placing your feet and hands in natural rock “steps”, grabbing your hand to pull you up the fall, and in one instance grabbing the shoulders of your life jacket to pull you up the fall.  Our guides were excellent and strong.  Once we completed our seven-fall climb, we started the fun of riding down the falls.  The falls we climbed were narrow, about two shoulder widths.  We were able to ride down each of the seven levels of the falls in a natural water slide, sitting down and twisting through a sluice carved into the rock by the flow of the water before dropping into the deep pools at the bottom of each fall.  You also had the option of jumping from a rock into the deep pool on a couple of the falls.  It was an exhilarating experience and a highlight of our cruise so far.   

Young Dominican 

The beauty of the Dominican Republic and the yet unseen sights were difficult to leave behind but the weather forecast promised a rare calm three-day window to cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.  The Mona Passage (like crossing the Gulf Stream ) is one of the trips where it is very important to have calm weather so we took advantage of the weather window we had and arrived in Boquerón Puerto Rico on Friday afternoon after leaving Luperon on Wednesday afternoon.  With the Mona behind us and mostly day-sails in front of us, we plan to slow down and enjoy more time on land. 



Young boy in Dominican Republic