Left Rose Island yesterday around 11:00am when the wind started to sound promising. Leaving Nassau off our stern we were enjoying the kind of sailing conditions that people fantasize about; enough wind to move us through the water at a good pace but not enough wind to create any seas. As Terra from Maja has described, “sunning on the deck and margarita on the rail sailing”.
We passed Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands at 8pm and kept on going. The winds continued to fill our sails and the full moon was ready to light our way into the night. The winds did decrease in the night, slowing us to 3 knots at many times, but the spinnaker is now up so we’re making good time again.
We will be crossing the Gulf Stream today and sometime around midnight, or into the night, we should be off the coast of the U.S. near West Palm Beach.
Rose Island, Bahamas
N 25 05.0
W 77 12.5
We enjoyed a great sail from Highborne Cay to Rose Island yesterday. The boat got a much needed freshwater rinse in a light rain early in the day and once the threat of any squall activity had passed we put up the spinnaker and relaxed in the light winds. We weren’t breaking any speed records but since we didn’t have far to go we enjoyed the peaceful, easy motion. Motor yachts of all sizes would occassionally pass in the distance at speeds we guessed to be 15 knots or more. They would burn more fuel in an hour than we had burned since leaving Luperon a week ago. Al Gore would be proud of us.
From Rose Island we can easily see the tall buildings of Nassau, including the mega casino Atlantis on Paradise Island. We’re skipping a tour of Nassau and Atlantis, even though they are just a few miles away, and plan to move on to the Berries today. At this point we are not drawn to the big city lights and congestion that those destinations offer. Even the possibility of hitting the big jackpot at Atlantis is outweighed by the option of savoring our remaining island time.
The Berry Islands will be our last island stop before crossing the Gulf Stream and returning to the U.S.
Highborne Cay, Exumas
N 24 43.1
W 076 49.9
We left Rum Cay on Thursday April 26th around 1pm. The weather forecast was for east winds 15-17 knots on Thursday and 15 knots on Friday. Perfect for a run straight across the Exuma Sound to Highborne Cay in the northern Exumas, 125 miles. The annoying thing about weather forecasts is that they are never exact and they are often wrong. We kept hoping that the light winds would build; maybe the 4-8 knots of wind was a temporary lull. We flew the spinnaker and started making better time and determined to keep it up into the moon-lit night, especially when the winds did pick up to 11-14 knots apparent around midnight. We were flying then! 6… 7… 8… 9 knots of speed! Hmmmm…. was it now blowing too hard to get the spinnaker down??? Crew meeting determined that the higher winds were just temporary gusts and there was a pattern of moderation in between that warrented keeping the spinnaker up through the night. 3:30am: Foreguy (control line for spinnaker pole) chafed through and POW! Broken line. Fortunately, Capt’n Rod had the foresight to rig a backup tack line to the bow so at least the spinnaker didn’t fly free at this moment. But the lighter duty backup line wouldn’t last long so we decided to get the spinnaker down in the last hour of moonlight.
By 7am Friday morning all gusts, puffs, gentle breezes, and whispers of winds had completely dissapeared. Sails flogging, optimism waning. Where were the 15 knots of wind? To our dismay, we had to call on Forrest.
At 4pm (Friday) we were entering the Highborne Cut to cross through from the Exuma Sound to the Exuma Bank on the west side of Highborne Cay in the northern Exumas. By 4:30 we were dropping the hook in almost exactly the same spot we had anchored just over a year ago. This is where we had our first happy hour with Greg and Cindy on Day Dreamer and started a great friendship!
Since leaving the Bahamas a year ago we have often reflected back on the beauty of its waters; the clarity, the amazing turquoise color, the wonderful sandy anchorages and beaches. You know how sometimes memories become more favorable as time passes and our minds eye can paint a more pleasant picture than reality? Well, this was a case of the opposite. It was more breathtaking than either of us had recalled. 24 feet of water under us and it looked like a wading pool. Blades of grass, rocks, barracuda, all perfectly visible.
From here we plan to travel 30 miles to Rose Island which is a neighbor to the more well-known island of New Providence (home of Nassau). Conditions today (Saturday, April 28) are cloudy and we will probably encounter a bit of rain from a passing front. We hope it will at least provide enough wind to get us to our destination. Forecast is for light winds from the southeast to south. Will today’s forecast be accurate?
On approach to Mayaguana yesterday we made the decision to not stop and take advantage of the winds to continue on to Rum Cay, another 130 miles. An easy decision to make considering we were in the lee of Mayaguana, where the calm seas were possibly clouding our judgment. But we did openly acknowledge this and the appeal of sailing lickety-split to Rum Cay still won out.
Position at 12pm:
N 23 38.4
W 73 50.3
Currently anchored at Rum Cay. Traveled 180 miles in 28 hours! No discussion on whether or not to stop here — it was a restless night with the seas and brisk winds, and we needed to desalt ourselves after taking a few waves in the cockpit in the night. Lucky Peek did great and Montie, the Monitor windvane (self-steering device) continues to amaze us with his performance. We crossed paths with the brightly lit cruise ship “Mariner of the Seas” just east of Plana Cays after dark. The captain was cordial on the VHF and altered his course to starboard to give us more sea room to pass port to port. We were, after all, on a starboard tack!
Planning to stay here through tomorrow and let the seas calm down a bit before moving on.
Left West Caicos at 7:30am on Monday, April 23, 2007 heading to Mayaguana, 50 miles away.
Position at 4:00pm:
N 22 19.43
W 73 07.75
Heading: 320 degress magnetic
Speed: 6 – 7 knots
Wind: 18 knots with gusts to 25+
Seas: N swell building + 4 foot wind chop
Current Conditions: Winds are quite brisk and sea is lumpy. Double reef in main and genoa reefed with six wraps. Monitor windvane steering beautifully in the conditions. Crew in great shape after a good night’s sleep.
We left Luperon at 4pm on Saturday, April 21. A couple days before we anticipated leaving but the winds were in our favor and we were ready to go, so we rinsed the mangrove mud/muck off the anchor, bid the harbor farewell on the VHF, and headed out with a couple others, Hark and Sundance, who were traveling the same direction as us.
The basin that we are anchored in (google Molassas Reef Resort) is a construction site for a new resort/marina. We are the only boat anchored in here and a couple of friendly Aussies that just left the work site in a go-fast boat were nice enough to cruise past us and ask if everything was all right. Once we told them everything was fine, we just needed some rest, they told us to make ourselves at home. Not much here yet to “make ourselves at home” with, but it was a nice gesture!
Conditions yesterday/last night were rockin’. Winds were between 15-20 from the NE (up to 27 knots apparent speed). We made great time but the seas, with the combo of wind chop and N swell, were more lumpy than we would have preferred. This swell is not going to dissipate until later in the week and the winds are forecast to pick up more tonight so we decided to stop here at West Caicos and get a good night’s rest before continuing on tomorrow to Mayaguana.
We left Boqueron, Puerto Rico on Friday (Friday the 13th! Are we crazy?!) and we had an easy sail to Luperon, Dominican Republic — arriving here on Sunday afternoon (April 15th). The winds were actually too light for us most of the time and we had to motor more than we were hoping. But the seas were calm and as we passed south of Isla Desecheo in the Mona Passage on our first day out we caught a huge male Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi).
We didn’t have a scale to weigh him but he measured 56 inches in length. I didn’t cry this time but was amazed at the sight of his 10+ large, colorful companions swimming with him as Rod wheeled him in on our trusty caveman handline; their rainbow colors shining brightly just under the surface and some leaping from the water around us. It was beautiful and yes, emotional. I tried not to project meaning on this behavior but it was easy to think that they were rooting for his release, distracting us with their acrobatics, sticking with him to the end. We discussed letting him go because he was so big — without a freezer, we couldn’t eat that much fish! But Rod reasoned that we would be able to share the bounty with others along the way. His Mano a Fisho instinct had kicked into full gear and he wasn’t giving up. We ended up with 24 enormous fillets — many, many, many pounds of fish. We made delicious ceviche and grilled fillets for our dinner that night and the next. The rest of the fillets fed many happy cruisers and locals at a potluck dinner on Monday night.
When entering the Luperon harbor it felt like returning home to some degree. It was nice to know the minimally marked entrance, anticipate the many fish traps, and maneuver confidently around the shoals while looking for a spot to drop the hook for a week. Our old spot was taken by one of the MANY boats in the harbor — boats that we didn’t recognize. A new class. “Where were our friends?”, my heart tugged. We settled into a familiar spot and are now enjoying the great view that s/v Cobalt had last year.
The weather is weird this week as two strong cold fronts are moving off the east coast and effecting the weather more south than typical. That is the reason we decided against going on to West Caicos and ducked in to this safe harbor for the week. If the forecast holds through this week then we plan to leave next Monday (the 23rd), heading north past the Turks and Caicos and into the Bahamas. There are many options of places to stop and rest along the way but if the winds are good and our stamina strong then we will go as long as it feels right.
A couple of other boats, Hark and Sundance, are traveling the same direction as us and the harbor is very full of other boats, that we’ve yet to meet, that are waiting for the same weather window. On Monday it’s going to look like a regatta as everyone takes off out of here.
Even though we were hoping to skip a stop in Luperon on our way home we’re happy to be here now. The beauty of the mountains, which seem so lush and green after the dry southern coast of Puerto Rico, and the opportunity to replenish our supplies of the delicious Dominican coffee and cheap Brugal rum now make us wonder why we ever planned to NOT stop here again. But, checking in/out with the officials and paying the unofficial fees provided the reminder. However, it’s a small price to pay for the comfort of this harbor and the chance to reconnect with our local friends.
The D.R. is indeed a hidden gem. The loud bachata music, the newly born baby goats wandering the roads with their mamas, the beautiful smiling people… the list goes on. I now suspect that there will be more “Luperon Revisited” chapters in our lives.
Holy Week, the week before Easter, is observed and celebrated by all Puerto Ricans – whether that is by participating in church activities or beach activities or in most cases, both. On Viernes Santo (Good Friday) we watched the empty Boqueron beach fill to overflowing with colorful beach umbrellas and families enjoying the day together. The streets of Boqueron were lined with stands selling fresh (?) oysters and other more appetizing snacks to a growing crowd ranging from young surfer types to grandparents. And the normally quiet harbor was unusually choppy from all the small boats and jet skis zipping about.
With a new heat exchanger on its way from St. Thomas and the long Easter weekend delaying its delivery we had some extra time on our hands. So we made plans to spend Saturday, April 7 with Ricardo Casiano and his family. Ricardo works at the Micron Puerto Rico facility in Aguadilla and lives just 15 miles away in Mayaguez. He and his wife Cathy, who both grew up in Mayaguez, were very gracious to spend their time showing us some of the area sites in Cabo Rojo, a Taino Indian ceremonial site in Tibes, and the malecon (waterfront) "La Guancha" in Ponce'. We especially enjoyed winding down that evening strolling through the downtown plaza of Mayaguez with its historic fountain and statues while eating freshly made ice cream (ice cream!). We had such a fun time with them and their wonderful two kids, Cristina and Ricardito. They all made us feel very welcome in their beautiful home and were endless in the help they extended and offered to us while we are in Boqueron. Another great example of the life-long friends we have made along our way. We can only hope to have the opportunity in the future to return the hospitality.
What we saw when we returned to Boqueron that night around 10pm is nearly indescribable. Cathy had warned us earlier in the day that it was going to be crazy with people that night as Boqueron was a prime destination for the holiday weekend AND there was a free concert in the beach park for the occasion along with many other live bands and DJ's playing throughout town. It was like a Puerto Rican Woodstock. People were parking a mile outside of town and walking in, in droves, because there was no parking at all, anywhere. Even though we were exhausted from our long day, the atmosphere was so contagious that we couldn't resist a $1 Medalla (Puerto Rican cerveza) as we moved through the solid mass of people. Our favorite band among the many playing throughout the small town was one that seemed to be playing more traditional Puerto Rican folk songs which would ignite the crowd to sing along enthusiastically. We couldn't always translate what they were saying but we tried to sing along the best we could. Who knows what we were really singing – at the top of our lungs!
As midnight approached a countdown began: Dies, nueve, ocho… tres, dos, uno! Happy Easter!!! Auld Lang Syne started to play and we took that as our cue to head back out to Lucky Peek. From there all of the music from shore was intermingling as it made its way across the water to us creating a cacophonous lullaby. However, before we could wager how long it would keep us awake we were out. Should old acquaintance be forgot… Zzzzz….. Sweet dreams of new friends….
One element of traveling by sailboat that we've had to accept is the adage of "hurry up and wait". We have found ourselves hurrying to wait for a variety of things along the way and most recently it was to due to a broken boat part. The irony in this is that in St. Thomas Rod held in his hands the very part we now needed, but because of the price tag we decided it could wait. Hindsight is so crystal clear.
As planned, we traveled quickly westward along the south coast of Puerto Rico. On April 1st we set speed records on Lucky Peek in the 25-30 knot ENE winds (force 6 on the Beaufort scale) as we sailed from the west coast of Vieques to the Boca de Infierno anchorage just outside Salinas, Puerto Rico. We were expecting 18-20 knots of wind that day so we prepared accordingly by setting the main sail with a double reef thereby reducing the sail area by approximately one-third. As the winds built and seas grew to 10+ feet that afternoon we were happy with our reefing decision and were very pleased with Lucky Peek's performance in those conditions. We gave our Monitor windvane (auto steering device that magically works with only the wind powering it) its first official work-out that day and "Monty" steered the boat like a pro. We were having great fun averaging 7+ knots to our destination with the instrument panel occasionally reporting speeds of 10.2 knots as we surfed down the waves! Woo-hooooo!!!
The Boca de Infierno anchorage is such an amazing place. It's comprised of a series of small mangrove islands and an extended reef that makes it a very protected and comfortable spot to stop even when the winds and seas are big. It was our own private paradise and we spent an extra day there to let the winds and seas calm down a bit before continuing on. We used our lay-over day preparing Lucky Peek for more speed-sailing, including lashing the dinghy down on the foredeck instead of towing it behind us. From Boca de Infierno we planned to sail on to Boqueron, 60some miles away, so we left at first light to try to make the distance before nightfall. What we didn't plan on was our engine overheating as we left the anchorage that morning. We had the option to sail into nearby Salinas to address the problem but we agreed to continue on to Boqueron, still feeling confident that we would make it there in the daylight since the winds were forecast to blow 11-17 knots that day. Hindsight is so crystal clear.
At 7pm, just off the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, we watched a beautiful sunset as we ghosted along at a whopping 1.7 knots. The winds were a no-show that day therefore we did not make the distance we had anticipated. However, we stayed our course as we were comfortable sailing into Bahia Boqueron in the dark because its entrance is wide and well marked. Shortly after nightfall we were encouraged by a doubling in wind speed – from 3 knots to 6 – and our boat speed increased to almost 3 knots in response. We excitedly set our sails in preparation for rounding the corner and heading northward to Boqueron. The full moon occasionally checked on us through the clouds and the nearby Cabo Rojo (El Faro) lighthouse provided a constant reminder of where the rocky shore breaks the water. Our optimism on the increase in wind was soon dashed by the change in wind direction – it was now blowing directly on our nose. From testing our engine earlier in the day we knew that it could run for 45 minute intervals before the temperature climbed to overheating. We were about 7 miles south of Boqueron which was farther than we could travel in 45 minutes under engine power alone so we had to either tack our way closer to Boqueron or alter our destination. We made two attempts at tacking upwind (well, if you can really call tacking 180 degrees going "upwind") before accepting that the latter option was the right answer. So at 9:30pm we drifted into the Cabo Rojo anchorage, under the beautiful Spanish "El Faro" Lighthouse, and called it a night.
The next morning we could fully appreciate the beauty of our location. Lucky Peek was the lone boat sitting on perfectly still, clear water beneath one of Puerto Rico's most picturesque settings – the Cabo Rojo lighthouse. It was a scene of tranquility except for our slight anxiety over what was causing Forrest to overheat. Rod suspected the heat exchanger was failing and through some highly technical troubleshooting (tasting the cooling water to see if it was salty) he determined that to be the case. Well, at least we knew where there was a new heat exchanger for a Perkins 4-108; in the shop in St. Thomas where Rod held it in his hands contemplating the purchase less than one month ago. (As a note in his defense, two mechanics had individually given the same advice that they did not think the early symptoms indicated a failing heat exchanger.) Rod's focus on a second round of self-flagellation was broken by a sudden sound… the wind generator had started turning. Wind! Time to move to Boqueron!
It wasn't a lot of wind but it was enough to move us through the water. We flew our festive orange and white striped asymmetrical spinnaker for a glorious down-wind sail to Boqueron in the light 5 knots of breeze. We were riding an emotional high and as a result Rod wasn't thinking clearly. He proposed that he put the camera in a Ziplock baggie and swim alongside Lucky Peek to take a picture of her flying her colorful kite. We spent some time discussing the logistics and debating just how fast a person could swim with fins on, etc. My position on the subject never wavered so my veto held.
Now finally anchored in Bahia Boqueron we are expecting the shipment of the new heat exchanger from St. Thomas. Once it is installed we'll be watching for the next weather window to leave Puerto Rico and cross the Mona Passage to the Turks and Caicos.
Over the last 18 months we have happily adjusted to a much different pace of life from when we first embarked on this journey. Leisurely exploring areas of interest without a rigid timeline and sometimes (okay, a lot of times) staying in the same anchorage doing nothing but reading a good book(s) for days at a time. However, one day in mid February while cleaning out the Nav desk we came across a distantly familiar item. A calendar. As we took notice of the date we determined that we had to shift gears to see some of the remaining islands on our wish list before heading back to the States in April. So over the next 28 days we visited 11 different islands from 16 different anchorages!
St. Thomas –> Water Island –> Great St. James –> St. John –> Tortola –> Norman's Island –> Peter Island –> Marina Cay –> Anegada –> Virgin Gorda –> Beef Island
At the beginning of March our tour of the British Virgin Islands was winding down as we were approaching our designated date to clear out of customs. Our longest stay during this period of rapid travel was on Virgin Gorda where we spent nine days in the beautiful protected waters of North Sound (also known as Gorda Sound) which is home to the Bitter End Yacht Club. How appropriate for us because, yes, we had reached the bitter end of our journey eastward. We only planned on spending three days exploring the area but as additional days came and went we realized that we were struggling with the emotions of touching that figurative pole and turning back west. We took unstructured turns at being reflective, contemplative, moody, anxious, and sad. This adventure has been an amazing, life-enriching experience for both of us and for as much as we look forward to returning to friends, family, and a life on land, we were quite gloomy that it was coming to an end. When quiet tears slipped out we would lighten the moment by laughing over our crazy adventures and acknowledging that the expedition is far from over – we still have to get back to Florida!
By the end of March we had traveled back to St. Thomas and were in the fine company of our old friends Cindy and Greg on Day Dreamer and our newest friends, Andrew and Elke on Hark. We made plans to rendezvous in the Spanish Virgin Islands and explore the south coast of Vieques together. After spending almost three months in the busy waters of the US and British Virgin Islands we were looking forward to the secluded anchorages that Vieques offers. Ensenada Honda was our first stop and it did indeed offer seclusion. Perfect. No houses, no bars, no charter boats. It was a huge anchorage which would have easily held a couple hundred boats by BVI standards and there were two boats there when we arrived: Day Dreamer and another cruising boat that had arrived just ahead of them. We each anchored about a .5 mile apart so there was plenty room for Hark when they arrived the followed day from St. Croix. The biggest disruption in the anchorage was the bombs going off in the distance. Yes, bombs. Vieques has a number of unexploded ordinances left over from its military training days and the Navy is now sweeping through cleaning up the pesky things. We had been warned that a number of anchorages were off limits due to this activity but were still a bit startled when the first explosion took us by surprise. Fortunately for us, the bombs weren't scaring the sea life away; Rod and Andrew returned from an afternoon of spear fishing with two very large lobsters in hand! Dinner aboard Hark that night was an entertaining and delicious feast with the boys retelling their stories of the big hunt in growing magnitude.
From Vieques we traveled with Day Dreamer to the east coast of Puerto Rico and treated ourselves to a stay in the Puerto del Rey Marina in Ceiba. With over 1000 slips it is the largest marina in the Caribbean! We enjoyed long, hot showers with unlimited water and did our fiscal duty of shopping at the local West Marine in Fajardo. We left the marina the same day (March 31) as Cindy and Greg but were headed different directions. They were bound for Culebra and we were going back to Vieques for one night before transiting the south coast of Puerto Rico. We took five weeks to travel east along Puerto Rico in November/December and we now planned on taking only a few days to travel west to Boqueron. With the wind and seas at our back (FINALLY!!!) our course back should be swift.
In Boqueron we will prepare Lucky Peek and wait for an appropriate weather window to head out across the Mona Passage. If all goes well we will travel non-stop for 3-4 days to arrive in West Caicos. Even though we're running low on Santo Domingo coffee and Brugal rum we don't intend on stopping in the Dominican Republic along the way. However, it will be close by if we need to pause for rest or address something on Lucky Peek. From West Caicos we plan to move steadily through the southern Bahamas up to the Nassau area where we will stage to cross the Gulf Stream. From there it will take 3-4 non-stop days to reach our final destination of D-dock in HarborTown Marina on Merritt Island in Cape Canaveral. Sounds so easy when I sum it up in a tidy little paragraph!
So much for our leisurely pace but with the easterly winds filling our sails as we make our way north we should have a fun ride home!