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Friday, April 26, 2013

Full Moon Passage ~ Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic



Leaving San Juan Harbor @ 0630
I simultaneously look forward to, and dread, our overnight passages....if all goes well, it can be a pleasure.  A time to just sit and contemplate; no thoughts necessary, nowhere to be, no work to do.  Just sea and sky, with the waves swooshing gently past the hull. Of course, the opposite of that is the dread part!  Heavy weather, high seas, shifty winds...all conspire to keep you on your toes.  Exhilarating, but exhausting.  Also, occasionally frightening...
 
Our Last View of Old San Juan
Our  most recent passage from San Juan, Puerto Rico, fell into the "enjoy" category.  We left San Juan at 0630 in light winds, with mostly clear skies.  The forecast was for the winds to increase in the early part of the day, then dwindle down to almost nothing later in the day.  The morning light lit up Old San Juan beautifully as we motored out of the harbor. Harbor traffic was heavy at this hour: we passed a Disney cruise ship on its way in, several smaller vessels going in different directions, and were hailed by an incoming tug.  The captain of the tug asked us to hug the port channel marker, and in a good-ole-boy Southern accent, said "I got a big barge on a short leash".  Indeed, he did! 

Big Barge on a Sort Leash!
It would take us the better of the day to clear Puerto Rico, and head off into the Mona Passage.  We saw a heavy squall behind us and wondered if it might overtake us, making for a wet trip, but as we watched it over the next few hours, it slowly passed off to starboard, dissipating as it went.

You can't see them, but there are 3 large Navy ships hiding in there!
Moonrise found us well into the Mona Passage.  The sun hadn't set yet, making for a perfect photo op. 
 
Moon Rise
We discovered a stowaway aboard just after sunset-a sea bird decided the dinghy made a nice spot for a rest.  He (she?) stayed with us all night, flying off around 0500. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo, as I didn't want to scare him away. A full moon sail is almost always a pleasure, and this one was no exception-it was almost bright enough to read by! We followed the reflection on the water all the way to the Dominican Republic, where we rewarded by a gorgeous sunrise.  We were able to watch the moon set as the sun rose...

Sun Rise
We worked our way into the massive Bahia Samaná into Puerto Bahia Marina.  We docked in (fortunately) light winds, and were soon boarded by Customs, Immigration, Navy, Intelligence (Drugs) and the Tourism Board.  Most required a fee, and as Bill said, they all gave us a nice piece of paper in exchange....our Marina Concierge (I know, right?) translated for us for the most part, and after the Navy & Intelligence gents finished poking through the boat, we were free to have our traditional "clearing-in" Bloody Mary.

Puerto Bahia Aerial Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Images
Puerto Bahia Marina has everything the weary traveler could possibly ask for:  Palm trees, multiple pools, restaurants, bars, a mini market, gym, and laundry facilities.  Easy to spend a week here, exploring the Island, and resting up for our next, much longer passage from here to the Bahamas...no full moon on this one, but we'll have an extra body to share the watches; "Mi hermano" Kevin will be joining us next week.  Hope he's ready for whatever this next passage may bring :)
 
PBM with Caya Leventado in the background


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ahhh...Dock Life!


 
Full Moon Sail, St. Maarten
Our last time at a dock was in St. Lucia, almost 2 months ago.  Since then, we have either been on a mooring ball, or at anchor.  In that time, we moved up island from St. Lucia to Dominica to Martinique to Guadeloupe, past Monserrat, to Antigua.  Whew! Then from Antigua to Nevis to St. Kitts, to St. Maarten.  In St. Maarten, we had a well deserved rest, enjoyed chatting with some friends we'd made on our last visit, and even ran into a friend from the West Coast who happened to be on a cruise ship visiting the island!  Small world. The West Coast was well represented, as we also had some friends from CA fly in to join us on the boat for week or so, precipitating another series of island hops: We left St. Maarten at 1800 hrs, for a beautiful, if somewhat "rolly", almost full moon sail to BVI.  Destination?  Spanishtown, Virgin Gorda, for clearing in, and a quick sail over to Trellis Bay, Tortola to secure a mooring ball for the Full Moon Party, only to discover that there were none to be had :( so we set off across the channel to Marina Cay, where we were able to pull up a nice spot in the back of the pack....we  visited the world famous Pusser's for Painkillers while there, waiting for evening to arrive.  We also had some inspirational moments (induced by Painkillers, perhaps?) and created no less than three signature cocktails to enjoy:

The Shallow Water
so-called because it matched the waters of the shallow reef near us

Laurie, with The Latitude Adjustment
As soon as you see water this color, it's hard not feel pretty happy! 
Barbara has the Shallow Water
Unfortunately, I failed epically in getting a picture of The Mangrove Swamp. If you have ever seen water near one, you'll know why we chose the name. Suffice to say, it was lovely dark purple that from a distance looked a tad, well, swampy....
    
Sky Dancers at Full Moon Party, Trellis Bay, Tortola
Evening arrived, and so did the Full Moon Party!  A fun time was had by all, and our late night dinghy ride back across the channel was most enjoyable, a nice surprise after our somewhat damp crossing earlier in the evening.  But we had places to go & things to see, so we were up and out early, on our way to The Baths at Virgin Gorda.  The Baths are amazingly beautiful, and I not only jumped into deep water for the swim in and out, but I actually went through the caves....two of my more anxiety producing activities!  *patting self on back*  That may not seem much to you, but I was proud :) 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda
Norman Island and Willie T's were calling, though, so off we went!  Another lovely sail (did I mention how nice it is to be sailing downwind??  Such a pleasure after a year of beating upwind!) Willie T's is quite the entertaining place, and if you haven't been there, I don't want to ruin the fun by telling you what it is like.  I would, however, strongly recommend not bringing your children (or young teens) there.  I might even go so far as to say you may want to avoid that bay altogether.  Just saying.

Willie T's, Norman Island, BVI
After a not so relaxing day at Willie T's, we sailed off across the sound to Jost Van Dyke and the world famous Soggy Dollar Bar.  Bill spent many a day checking out the webcam there, in anticipation of our first visit!  Soggy Dollar lived up to the hype, and it was great to introduce another set of friends to the fun.  (You can view the webcam here: http://www.soggydollar.com/webcam.aspx)

Eager to show our guests more of BVI, we sailed off to Sandy Cay and spent an hour or so hiking around the little island.  A diverse little paradise, Sandy Cay was a nice surprise.
 
Top of Sandy Cay
Our next stop was Soper's Hole, where we provisioned, and cleared out of BVI, so that we could move on to Christmas Cove, USVI.  We flew our Spinnaker for the first time ever on the way over, something we have been wanting to do since our adventure began!  The conditions were right, so we gave it a go...what an awesome sight :)   
First Time Using the Asymmetric Spinnaker
This was our first visit to Christmas Cove, and it didn't disappoint: the snorkeling was good, but I admit to a rather hasty hop back into the dinghy after a bit of a scare: I could handle (sort of) the three foot Barracuda following us about (though I was basically attached to Bill's hip underwater) but when the large Ray came up from underneath me for a closer look, I just about walked on water :)  Laugh all you want, but when something that big wants to get close to me, I am not feeling the love....I did however, manage not to have hysterics underwater, and to not make my exit so frantic that I attracted everything else in the cove that may have wanted a look-see, so there!

Laurie's Ray, photographed by Bill!
Alas, all good things must come to an end, at least for some us, so off we went: St. Thomas was calling, and our guests needed to prepare for their departure. We are now sitting at the dock at Crown Bay Marina, waiting for (what else?) a repair.  While here, I get to enjoy unlimited power and water (for a fee), which means I can take a longer shower, blow dry my hair, and step off the boat to provision.....a luxury!  Off to enjoy...

More soon!