Martinique

Fort De France Anchorage at Night

Fort De France Anchorage at Night

 

Here is the Fishmonster article that I wrote about Martinique.  We were in Martinique in the month of June.  It was another beautiful island and wonderful experience anchoring in all the different harbors.  We will have to go back to reload our bilge with more French wine!

http://issuu.com/fishmonster/docs/sept2012/36

Here are more pictures of Martinique – we hope you enjoy them, we sure did enjoy taking them!

 

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Cooking with the locals in Grenada

Chicken Curry

~ Chicken Curry – Lemongrass is just one ingredient ~

Before we set sail in January our friends Bob and Steph (m/y September Song – http://septembersong-bobandstephanie.blogspot.com) gave me a book titled An Embarrassment of Mangoes. I absolutely love this book! It is written by a Canadian “newbie” sailor/cruiser, Ann Vanderhoof, about their first year of sailing to the Caribbean. Along the way Ann gets to know the locals, especially the women, and they share their recipes with her (which she shares in the book). I highly recommend the book – I keep it in the galley with my cookbooks. Anyway, when they sailed into Grenada Ann met a wonderful lady named Dingis. Dingis shared so much of her local knowledge, her family and her cooking skills with Ann, they became very dear friends. They have a wonderful story and Ann comes back every year to visit Dingis and her family.

 

Beautiful Island of Grenada

~ Beautiful Island of Grenada ~

Since we have been in Grenada we met a lot of other cruisers that have been here a while, here for the first time (like us), and some who return year after year. One evening about 9:30 I received a call from one of my new friends Diana. She offered an invitation that I couldn’t refuse! She said several cruisers were heading to Dingis’ house to learn how to make Chicken Roti – one of the ladies that had committed was not able to attend and would I like to join them. “Absolutely!” was my reply. Since we were at Grenada Marine on the hard and miles away from the location (not within reach by dinghy, walking or riding our bikes) I wasn’t sure how I would get there, but by all means I would! Jon was also invited. The men of the group were “jamming” while we were going to cook. Most of the other women’s husbands play the guitar and sing, Jon went along to listen.

 

Beausoleil - Getting a new bottom job!

 

~ Beausoleil – Getting a new bottom job – Not to worry, we didn’t paint her bottom yellow ~

We got up early and hiked up the hill to catch a local bus. We got off as close to the bay where we were to meet the other cruisers as possible. Still a long walk from the bus stop to where we were to meet and running a few mintues late I began to panic. All of the sudden this woman comes out of her house waving her arms and asking if I was one of the cruiser ladies that was going to learn to cook chicken roti. It was Dingis. She kissed me on both cheeks and gave me a big hug. My heart warmed to her immediately, I could see why Ann fell in love with her and her family as soon as they met. I looked up to see the rest of the group ascending upon the house. So glad the timing all worked out…

 

"The Ladies" - aka "The Roti Queens

 

~ The Ladies – aka “Roti Queens” ~

We had a wonderful day chopping vegetables, playing in the dough, cooking, eating, jamming, cleaning the mess we made and making new friends with Dingis, Carvelle (her niece), Gennel (her daughter), her beautiful grand daughter Belicia and their neighbor Raymond. I took notes and lot’s of pictures. I hope you enjoy them. If you come to visit us in the Caribbean I will try to make Chicken Roti for you…

For the full Chicken Roti recipe click here chicken-roti-grenada-west-indies-style.

The cruisers we shared this wonderful day with:
Barb and Stew (E.W.) from s/v La Luna:  http://hartsatsea.typepad.com/hartsatsea/
Donna and Kirk from s/v Ainulindale:  http://lifeontherode.blogspot.com
Diana and Ross from s/v One White Tree

Cooking with Dingis

Grenada - Cooking with the locals

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St Martin/Sainte Maarten/St Barts:

creperie-st-martin

 

We left the BVI’s on May 14th around 4:00 in the afternoon, we planned to sail overnight to the French side of St Martin. We were really looking forward to ending the “thorny” portion of our cruising path in the Caribbean. Winds were predicted to be from the ENE, that would have made a great sail to St Martin, unfortunately the wind had a Southern component in it, so here we go again, another overnight motor sail. Good thing we fueled up in Virgin Gorda before heading out.

marigot-bay-st-martin

I fell in love with St Martin immediately, the markets, the sidewalk cafes, the mussels and thin crusted pizza, the french cheese and baguettes, the pastries, and let’s not forget the inexpensive French wine! I felt like I was in Paris except with a view of the beautiful blue sea and access to white sandy beaches. Other than using pesos in the Dominican Republic (DR) we had been dealing with $US currency, now it was time to get out the Euros (we keep a tin full of foreign currency that we have “collected” over the years from our travels). Even though the exchange rate was $1.25 US to 1.00 EUR, some of the restaurants were allowing you to pay the amount shown on the check with either, now that was a good deal.   We walked all over Marigot taking in the sights, colors, smells, tastes and sounds.

chicken-on-the-grill-st-martin

We took a bus over to the Dutch side and spent the day shopping and sight seeing in Philipsburg. I have never seen so many jewelry stores in one place. Everything was duty free so we took advantage of replacing some of the liquid spirits aboard Beausoleil that had been consumed since we left the US.   We spent more time than expected in St Martin due to issues with our outboard engine. We had been having issues with it since the Mercury mechanic in Key West tuned it up before we left. Our dinghy is our method of transportation to and from the boat, we use it for everything and it must be reliable. It ran fine in the Bahamas however we began to have issues with it in the DR, everything from stalling out to the prop slipping when put into gear. We paid someone to work on it in Samana, DR, we replaced the prop in the USVI’s, it ran ok but it still wasn’t reliable. In St Thomas we continued to have issues, Jon cleaned the carburetor and polished the fuel, that worked for a bit, we crossed our fingers and toes, held our breath and said a small prayer every time we went to start the dinghy. Even under way, it would run fine for a while, die, then take her time getting started again. We ended up getting stranded in the lagoon entrance with a rushing current and had to throw out the dinghy anchor. We got a tow into a nearby working marina where a “mechanic” jumped on board and worked on it all day and made an appointment for the following day with another Mercury mechanic. Even after the local Mercury mechanic worked on it several times, it continued to leave us stranded.   Finally Jon had had enough. He happened to get stranded, again, near the Budget Marine dock on the French side of St. Martin on his way back from the Mercury mechanic that had spent the better part of two days working on the outboard. He called me on the VHF, totally frustrated, and although it wasn’t in the budget, we discussed and agreed on the purchase of a new Tohatsu 18 hp two stroke outboard. They were so nice and helpful at Budget Marine. They didn’t have it in stock, so one of their employees dinghied over to the other Budget Marine branch on the Dutch side of the island to pick up the new outboard and brought it back to him within a few hours (normally a three day delivery timeframe). Besides a 10% discount, we were even able to purchase it duty free (which saved quite a bit of $). You can read my column in Fishmonster to learn more about our experience in St Martin and “Hottsie Tahtsie”.

beausoleil-2-st-barts

Once we had a working outboard we zoomed across the lagoon to the Dutch side to visit Island Water World (another large chandelry) and Le Grand Marche (a large grocery store) to refurbish our provisions and find any boat parts we might need. It was great getting on plane on that first dinghy ride with our new outboard, she is fast! Anyone in the market for a used Mercury 9.9 four stroke outboard?   We left the rolly anchorage of Marigot Bay and sailed to Cane Garden Bay. Even though we had less than 10 knots of wind it was from the right direction to allow us to sail for a few hours, we weren’t in a hurry and it was pure bliss. What a beautiful place! Bright caribbean colors, a long sandy beach, clear blue water, blooming trees and flowers everywhere you look.

colorful-umbrellas-2-st-martin

We spent a few days resting up, enjoying the beach and exploring here. It was the first time I felt like I was really “on vacation” since we left the U.S., the boat projects could wait.

roche-creole-st-martin

We snorkeled Roche Creole before we left the anchorage, we saw a few colorful fish and some coral trying to make a comeback but nothing like we experienced in the BVI’s.

Digital Camera

We headed to St. Barts on May 27th to the protected anchorage of Anse Du Colombier. This is a marine park where the moorings provided are free of charge for boats 60′ or under. It was quite crowded but we were able to grab a mooring ball and relax for a few more days.

beach-2-st-barts

We took the dinghy into Gustavia to clear in/out (even though St Martin and St Barts are French countries you must clear in and out of each one separately). Gustavia is beautiful, rich with color and lot’s of $ and beautiful people, makes us “boat rats” feel a bit frumpy. We spent the day walking the streets of the town, everything was closed except a few restaurants so we had a very “French” lunch at The Wall House restaurant that included beautiful petit fours (bite sized sweets that included crème brulee, a creamy cholocate cake, a lemon bar and a small pastry with a creamy strawberry filling) for dessert and espresso.

gustavia-harbor-st-barts

Back to the boat to do some hiking and work off this lunch! We enjoyed our time in St Barts and like several of the other islands it didn’t seem like we spent enough time here, we must come back.   Now, time to sail – really sail, without the engine since we turned the corner and begin to head South, next destination – St Kitts…

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The Virgin Islands

 

Virgin Gorda - Beausoleil at Anchor

Virgin Gorda – Beausoleil at Anchor

 

My how time flies when you are having fun! We left Puerto Rico on Easter Sunday to complete an overnight motor sail to St. Thomas.  Much to my dismay we decided to skip the south coast of PR and the Spanish VI’s (Vieques and Culebra), we were in a hurry, we had a schedule to keep.  Turns out that the schedule we had planned on, hauling the boat and having a bottom job done, wouldn’t work out in St. Thomas.  We hung out in the bay and waited for our friends to arrive from Indiana, our first visitors since we left the U.S.

Colorful Buildings in St Thomas

Colorful Buildings in St Thomas

 

So happy to have Carol and LaWayne with us!

So happy to have Carol and LaWayne with us!!!

 

It was interesting being in a “U.S.” country in the Caribbean. There were large grocery stores, a K-Mart and many other luxuries imported from the mainland all intermingled in a very diverse culture. This was the first island we stopped at where you could really see and feel the impact of the cruise ship industry. What I don’t understand is why the industry feels it has to build a “fake town” at every port with all the name brand shops as a front for those stepping off the cruise ships. These “towns” have the same shops on each island, and from what I hear the same shops are aboard the actual cruise ships themselves. If visitors from the cruise ships step off and wander only through these fancy shops and chain restaurants they are not really seeing the islands or the local flare. I truly encourage anyone who is taking a cruise through the Caribbean to venture beyond the safe confinement of the jewelry stores, t-shirt shops, sunglass huts and other typical cruise ship stop stores into the true depths of the islands. See how the locals live, experience how the locals shop, and eat what the locals eat – then you can say you have been to the Caribbean! OK, enough of that, I will get off my soap box now…

Beausoleil Heading into USVI's

Beausoleil Heading into USVI’s

 

Where do we go next?  (LaWayne and Shawna checking the charts)

Where do we go next? (LaWayne and Shawna checking the charts)

 

We didn’t do a lot of cruising in St. Thomas. We picked up our company from the dock, enjoyed a sundowner, watched a beautiful sunset, and set out the next day to load the boat with fresh provisions, pick up some alternator belts (to replace the ones we wore through on the south side of PR), and begin our fun island hopping adventure – first stop, St. John. You could spend months exploring St. John, it has so many nooks and crannies, we only had time to drop the hook in a few. We did enjoy the beauty above and below the surface, the coral and reef fish are colorful and abundant here, the beaches are sandy and white, the water is crystal clear and blue. Most of the island is a marine park and protected from any hunting, fishing or gathering so we put away the fishing rods and left the conch and lobster alone.

Jon and LaWayne SUP Yolo Yak Boarding

Jon and LaWayne SUP Yolo Yak Boarding in St John

 

After several wonderful nights in USVI’s mixing a different type of sundowner each evening and a special home-cooked galley meal each night, one being cracked conch with mango salsa, we headed to the BVI’s to try to show our friends as much of the island life as we possibly could during the ten days we had with them. The wind was just right for a great sail from St. John to Road Town. The anchorage in Road Town was deep and crowded and the only space available was too close to the ferry channel. We didn’t want to stay the night here so we ended up dropping the dinghy in the water to send Captain Jon ashore to clear us into the country while we slowly cruised back and forth in and out of the harbor. Too bad I didn’t have my fishing permit at that time, we saw several schools of fish and flocks of birds in a feeding frenzy just outside the bay. Once he checked us in and returned to the boat we hauled the dinghy up, pulled him aboard and headed to Brandywine Bay for the night. We were the only boat in the bay, it was peaceful, beautiful and very well protected from the NNE wind. We had a wonderful dinner with a spectacular view on top of Brandywine Hill.

The next morning we took a cab into Road Town for a little shopping, a digicel SIM card for my phone and to book a dive trip. You can read all about the dive trip and the accident in the article I wrote for Fishmonster. We were so thrilled to have our friends aboard, alive and healthy – we cherished each and every moment we had left of their visit.

Our dear friends - Carol and LaWayne

Our dear friends – Carol and LaWayne

 

The last day they were with us we visited The Baths. A spectacular formation of boulders where nature allows the sea to merge peacefully into the caves to form ponds and pools, a few are even deep enough to swim in. Our last night aboard Beausoleil with our friends was a special one, I cooked steak au poivre with truffled mashed potatoes and of course some very nice red wine. We gazed at the stars and made promises of meeting up in far away places in the not so distant future. What a great visit!

Boy are they strong!

Boy are they strong! (Jon and Shawna holding up rock in The Baths)

Shawna in The Baths

Shawna in The Baths

Best Friends (Shawna and Carol) in The Baths

Best Friends (Shawna and Carol) in The Baths

 

Feeling a little lonely after our friends left it was really nice to meet up with our buddy boat, Just Drifting, again in Norman Island. We celebrated the birth of Maureen’s grandson, and Jon’s “50th birthday year” with a bottle of champagne. We snorkeled the magnificent caves several times and even had a drink aboard the Willie T. After a stop in Sopers Hole for a few provisions and a visit to Pusser’s Landing we headed to Jost Van Dyke. Here we checked out Foxy’s, and met a local guy named Leslie who taught us how to hand line fish off the reef. We brought in a bucket full of all kinds of fish! Fish Tacos, yummy…

Wade and Maureen "Liming"

Wade and Maureen “Liming”

 

We stopped at Sandy Cay where we paddled to shore on our SUP YOLO boards, hiked, snorkeled and enjoyed a bottle of crisp, dry white wine on the beach with our friends, Wade and Maureen, and then spent a rolly night anchored in Sandy Spit. We headed for Cane Garden Bay where we anchored for a few fun filled nights and separated ways with our buddy boat again. Jon and I headed to Gorda Sound on the northern tip of Virgin Gorda to clear out of the BVI’s and take on fuel. After a wonderful six weeks in the Virgin Islands it was time to continue on. French islands, here we come, “ooh la la”…

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Getting to the Virgin Islands…

The Virgin Islands – I think we could stay here forever! We have been here before on charter boats and loved it, however being here on our own boat without a “schedule” is so much better!

One of the many hiking trails in Georgetown Bahamas - Nev's Trail
One of the many hiking trails in Georgetown Bahamas – Nev’s Trail

 

I guess I should back up and catch everyone up from our last detailed post that was in Farmers Cay, Bahamas. We spent several weeks in Georgetown, Bahamas, making new friends and participating in the festivities of the Annual Cruisers Regatta (I learned the proper way to toss coconuts!). We were introduced to another couple that had the same plan of heading South to Grenada/Trinidad for the summer and decided to buddy boat with Wade and Maureen on Just Drifting, a Beneteau 473. While Maureen took leave of the boat to be in attendance for her first grandchild’s birth, Wade’s mom Marge joined the party from Georgetown to the Dominican Republic. While in Georgetown we were lucky enough to find a cruiser who was heading back to the US and didn’t have any use for his copy of Bruce Van Sant’s “Gentlemen’s Guide to Passages South”. We accepted it graciously, read it cover to cover and decided we would try to follow it as much as possible, however we just don’t have the patience or time it takes to have a completely “thornless” passage.

We met Bruce Van Sant in Luperon, DR - He is a real character!
We met Bruce Van Sant in Luperon, DR – He is a real character!

 

Team "Beau-Drifters" ready to gather and toss some coconuts
Team “Beau-Drifters” ready to gather and toss some coconuts.

 

Where to next? Sign on Chat-N-Chill beach Georgetown, Bahamas
Where to next? Sign on Chat-N-Chill beach Georgetown, Bahamas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first stop out of Georgetown was a peaceful night on the tip of Long Island. The next day we headed for Rum Cay (hoping to sample some rum) to meet up with our buddy boat and return their jerry cans. Because of our draft we couldn’t get to the fuel docks in Georgetown, so we borrowed Just Drifting’s jerry cans to fuel up before we left (poor Jon had to dinghy back and forth across the bay in heavy chop at least four times with 6 gerry cans full of diesel). When we got to Rum Cay the wind was out of the South and blowing 26 knots. The anchorage faces the South and the reef isn’t really big enough to offer any protection from the waves. Not the best night on the hook we have had and it was Jon’s 50th birthday! I tried to make it special by cooking steak au poivre over creamy truffle butter mashed potatoes while Wade made a key lime pie. We decided we would celebrate Jon’s birthday month, even a full year instead of just one day, especially since we didn’t get much sleep. So much for sampling any rum, we didn’t even get to go ashore.

Sunset in Mayaguana, Bahamas
Sunset in Mayaguana, Bahamas

We left the next day and headed to Mayaguana, Bahamas. Although this anchorage was a little rolly we decided that we would wait here for the next weather window. Jon and Wade went spear fishing along the reef that protects the anchorage and caught several lobster. We also had a lot of luck finding conch in this area – I made cracked conch, poor man’s lobster (made from conch) and a baked conch dish. All were delicious! We went ashore one day and met a local guide Scully. What a nice guy! He sold me a couple of lures that I named “the greenie meanies”, he assured me these would help catch “the big Mahi Mahi”. So far the only thing I have caught with them has been sea weed… After about the fifth day rocking and rolling in this anchorage we had an opening in the weather to cross over to the Turks and Caicos (T&C’s) bank and make our way to the Dominican Republic (DR).

Jon speared a big lobster - Mayaguana, Bahamas
Jon speared a big lobster – Mayaguana, Bahamas

 

 

Scully - Local guide in Mayaguana, Bahamas
Scully – Local guide in Mayaguana, Bahamas

Sunset from Turks & Caicos anchorageSunset from Turks & Caicos anchorage

We left late one afternoon and motor sailed the entire night to make the T&C’s bank just after sunrise the next morning. What a beautiful country, it would have been nice to stop here for a night or two however they have just changed the cruising fee to $150 to clear in even for a few days (you used to be able to pay $15 for a permit for one week). We did stop and drop the hook to rest up at Ambergris Cay and then again at Big Sand Cay. Jon and Wade found many more conch under the boats at Ambergris Cay so we had enough to put a few in the freezer.

Entering the Turks & Caicos Bank
Entering the Turks & Caicos Bank

 

 

T&C’s Big Sand Cay is a small island in the Atlantic Ocean with the only inhabitants being sand crabs, birds, lizards and lot’s of no-see-um’s. It is a great staging place to rest up and prepare for the overnight trip to the DR. We put our Yolo paddle boards in and went ashore to stretch our legs. I had never actually paddled to a beach with a surf before and I got rolled as I hit the shore and ended up swimming in the surf with sand getting into every crevice (my mouth, ears, nose, in my hair – it took weeks to get all the sand out of my bathing suit), not a graceful landing! Jon’s dismount was much better. It was amazing to stand on the hill and compare both sides of the island – one facing the north east with its hard pounding surf and rocky shore and the other with a sandy beach and smooth crystal clear blue water rolling peacefully ashore. Proof of what the consistent wind from one direction can do to a shoreline.

Beausoleil at Anchor in Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos
Beausoleil at Anchor in Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos

 

Both sides of Big Sand Cay Turks & Caicos
Both sides of Big Sand Cay Turks & Caicos

 

Our Yolo SUP boards lonely on Big Sand Cay, T&C's
Our Yolo SUP boards lonely on Big Sand Cay, T&C’s

 

We had a magical sail the first half of the night to the DR. We were under full sail enjoying a reach making 6.5 – 7 knots. The sky was clear and I just knew I was going to get to see the Southern Cross. Well, not tonight… About half way across the sky began to fill with clouds and the radar showed clusters of thunderstorms all over. We tried to maneuver around the storms but they seemed to follow us and converge just ahead of us. The wind went from 15 knots to 30 in just seconds and the steep choppy waves begin to build. We reefed the main and mizzen and furled in part of the jib, still under sail alone we continued forward in the squalls. About 4:00 in the morning I began to smell earth as the outline of the mountains of the DR rose out of the horizon and by 7:30 we saw the entrance to Luperon. As we entered the foreign port we were amazed at how dirty the water was; we had been warned ahead of time and made sure we had full water tanks before arriving – no making water in there. We were guided to a “mooring” (which was a plastic bottle hanging on a small line that disappeared into the water) by Poppo (Pop Oh) acting as the local harbor guru – moorings, water, fuel, tour guide, taxi services, you need it he’s got it. The “mooring” was $2 per day, you can’t beat that!

Beausoleil under sail from T&C's to DR
“Magical Sail” Beausoleil under sail from T&C’s to DR

 

We had a great time in Luperon – the food, beer, rum, and fresh veggies sold from the back of a pick up truck were all very inexpensive. The local people were very friendly and you could see how they treasure their family and friends. There were also a lot of cruisers that landed there and have never left. A very relaxed atmosphere, I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be cruising the northern part of the DR.

Entrance into Luperon Dominican Republic
Entrance into Luperon Dominican Republic

 

One of the colorful parks in Luperon, DR
One of the colorful parks in Luperon, DR

 

Laundry day in Luperon, DR
Laundry day in Luperon, DR

 

Luperon goats finding a shady spot
Luperon goats finding a shady spot

 

Team "Beau-Drifters" won the golden coconut trivia award while in Luperon, too bad we didn't get to take it with us!
Team “Beau-Drifters” won the golden coconut trivia award while in Luperon, too bad we didn’t get to take it with us!

 

We took a day trip up to the 27 Falls – this is a natural set of water falls that begins at the top of a mountain and traverses down through 27 different water falls. You hike up the mountain on a man made trail and then get into the water. The only way down is to jump into the deep pools, slide down the smooth rocks, float in the clear, cold water and hike the wet, muddy trails and slick ladders that line the water way until you are down to the bottom. It is certainly something you should do if you ever get the chance! It was thrilling, scary and fun all at the same time – better than any Six Flags ride I have ever been on.

Jon and Shawna chilling after the first jump - 27 Falls, DR
Jon and Shawna chilling after the first jump – 27 Falls, DR

 

 

At the end of the falls, still in one piece!
At the end of the falls, still in one piece!

 

As part of our day trip we went into Puerto Plata for a few groceries, a side visit to the Amber Museum, and visit a “master” cigar maker. Jon and Wade were shown how to roll cigars by the master. We stopped for a bite to eat at one of the local places in a little town in between Puerto Plata and Luperon; we had grilled chicken, beans, rice and plantains or yucca and of course a grande La Bohemia cerveza – all five of us ate for 800 pesos. Time for a nap!

Puerto Plata, DR
Puerto Plata, DR

 

"The Master" showed Jon how to roll!
“The Master” showed Jon how to roll!

 

No really, he is "The Master" cigar maker!
No really, he is “The Master” cigar maker!

 

After ten days of having a wonderful time in Luperon it was time for us to move on. Clearing out of the country was quite interesting, fees for this, fees for that, no receipts available, we had heard stories about the customs and immigration fees for DR, I have to say most of what we heard seemed to be true.

Luperon Harbor, Dominican Republic
Luperon Harbor, Dominican Republic

 

The weather window was supposed to hold for a trip along the north coast of Puerto Rico and allow us to head directly to St Thomas, USVI. Well, so much for that – we were blown down along the eastern coast of the DR in rough seas with a northerly swell so we decided to tuck into Samana, DR and wait it out. Just before sunset we were escorted into the channel by a pod of dolphins, before it was completely dark we anchored off a Cayo Leventado, a beautiful island outside the Samana harbor. We headed into the port of Samana the next morning. As soon as we dropped our anchor in the port of Samana the customs officials were on their way to our boat, no hassles here, they seem to be very understanding and often get boats that had no intention of stopping here. We spent a couple of days in Samana waiting for the right weather window to head to the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, only two other cruising boats appeared while we were there. When you enter Samana it seems magical, until you hit the streets – everyone on the street wants to sell you something or are begging for a hand out, and they are very persistent. We also spoke to several people that warned us to watch our boat very carefully, never leave anything lying around, be on board before dark, and always lock up your dinghy (even if you have it raised in the davits on your boat). We spoke to one of the local guys that interprets for the customs officers and he said that Samana used to receive many cruising boats every day, but due to the theft issues they now only receive several a week. I was really looking forward to getting out of Samana.

 

Port of Samana, DR
Port of Samana, DR

 

Finally we had the window we were looking for to cross the Mona Passage. We followed Van Sant’s advice and motor sailed down the east DR coast in calm flat water. Our pod of dolphins were there to escort us out of the channel and play in our bow wake once again. We were looking for the night lee (the wind that is generated by the cooling of the land after the sun goes down – it gets sucked out over the warm water and overrides the trade winds if the trades are light). We were surprised to see little tiny spots on our radar off the coast and smell a strong cigar odor (we were in fairly deep water several miles off shore), turns out the radar spots were small fishing boats (boats being a generous term, they were more like little rowing skiffs) – we heard that the fishermen would go out in these for days at a time. We must have seen at least ten while under way, and those were the ones that would hold up their lantern when we would get near so we wouldn’t run into them. No motors on these things only a set of oars.

Peaceful crossing from DR to PR - Mona Passage
Peaceful crossing from DR to PR – Mona Passage

 

When we were off the point of Punta Macao, north of the treacherous hourglass shoals, we turned east, bound for Boqueron on the southwest side of PR. The wind shifted directions underway and was actually out of the South so we ended up sailing into Mayaguez, PR (where we would have had to take a bus or taxi to go into clear customs anyway). After two days in Mayaguez walking all over the place and meeting some very nice, helpful locals we headed down the coast to Boqueron. It was Easter weekend and boy do the Puerto Ricans love to celebrate their holidays!

 

Party in Boqueron, Puerto Rico!
Party in Boqueron, Puerto Rico!

 

 

 

Fresh mussels anyone?
Fresh mussels anyone?

 

Boqueron is a beautiful, colorful, lively little town with a very large protected harbor. They like to refer to themselves as “The Key West of PR”. Now we lived in Key West for over a year and there is no comparison, but I didn’t tell them that. On the port side of the boat is the town, off the bow is a very long, beautiful sandy beach, and off to starboard is a hurricane hole and hills spotted with just a few private residences. The people are so happy here in PR. We spent a few days walking around the town, the beach, and sampling the local cuisine. My favorite was the shrimp empanadillas.

 

Busy Boqueron Beach
Busy Boqueron Beach

We left Boqueron on Easter Sunday to motor sail all the way around the south side of PR, through the Spanish Virgin Islands and up to St. Thomas USVI’s. We had located a marina where we thought we would have our boat hauled out, an insurance inspection completed along with a bottom paint job (more on that in our next post). We also had friends who were meeting us in St. Thomas and we wanted to be there in plenty of time to get things ready for their visit. We will have to go back to PR one day, what a beautiful country and we didn’t even scratch the surface, plus I really want to experience the Spanish Virgin Islands. There is just so much to see in this beautiful world. That’s probably more than enough for now, I will post a separate blog for the Virgin Islands soon.

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Quick update!

Sorry for falling behind with our posts. Cruising can be a lot busier than one might think!!! We’re in the British Virgin Islands right now, after having visited Georgetown, Rum Cay and Mayaguana – all in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. We’ll get caught up and post details as soon as we can!

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Little Farmers Cay – Bahamas

View of Downtown Farmers Cay

 

First Friday in February Little Farmers Cay Festival – that is what the 5F’s stands for…

By far Little Farmers Cay became my favorite spot in the Bahamas. The island is small enough to walk from one end to the other in less than an hour. The locals get you involved in what is going on there and what they are passionate about.

Jon and I with Terry Bain

 

We met Terry Bain, leader and spokesperson of the Save The Exuma Park (STEP) committee in his restaurant/bar where his wife cooks amazing local cuisine (the rum punch isn’t bad either!). Terry is very passionate about the STEP program, he and other Bahamian residents are very upset that the government is allowing development inside the “protected” Exuma Park. Terry is also very involved in the activities that go on in town for the 5F’s Festival. A true leader, Terry had quite a gathering of cruisers volunteering to head up an activity or two during the festival. Before I knew it I was raising my hand to help head up the scavenger hunt. Well, I did get a free rum punch (and a lot of new friendships) out of the deal.

Hermit Crab Racing

 

Ali runs a “bar”, I use that term loosely – it looks more like a small liquor store with a cooler full of mixers. When you order a rum and coke you get a can of cold coke, a 1/5th of rum and a cup of ice for about $6.00. We carry our own mixer in the back pack and continue to refill the cup all day. You can’t beat that for the best deal in town! Ali has several sets of twins who have several children each. They all live with Ali so I brought him a bag full of hard candy to share with the little ones.

The Sky is on Fire

 

Outside Ali’s bar there is a table and stools set up for the local guys to play dominoes. While making their play they slap their domino as hard as they can on the table, “click, click, click” and they play the game really fast. They insisted Jon play with them, he had a lot of fun and did pretty well. Every time we walked by you would hear Kurt yelling “Jon, Jon, come on mon, come play!”.

Spectator Stands - New Airport Bar

 

I had my first order of cracked conch complete with Bahamian mac and cheese and peas and rice, it was amazing! I have been hunting for conch ever since to try my hand at cooking it myself.

All Lined Up for the Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A large part of the 5F’s Festival is the Bahamian Class C Sloop races. The sloops come from all over the Bahamas to participate in this regatta. In all my years of racing in Marblehead I never saw so much “bling” on the trophy table! They are very serious about racing here, however they don’t seem to be too concerned about being punctual on the start time of the races. The finish line is the beach – first boat to anchor and drop their sails at the end of the course is the winner. It was a lot of fun to watch!

The Start (they don't raise the sails until the start gun goes off)

 

Go Team Thunderball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing Sloops Passing Beausoleil

 

Pick Up Crew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Place

 

Regatta Bling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the races the Bahamian Marching Band (made up from high school kids from many of the islands) marched to the beach airport bar where the spectators were and put on a show – complex formations and excellent music, you could tell they had been practicing this for a while.

Bahama Marching Band Show

 

Best Seats in the House

 

Back down town in the harbor we came across a local making the freshest conch salad you could ever imagine. The conch are at his feet in the water, he cuts the shell open, pulls out the meaty conch and cleans it, chops it up along with onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, and a lot of fresh lime juice squeezed over the top. The sting rays circle his feet waiting for the conch bit scraps he feeds them. Quite a sight to watch.

 

Preparing Really Fresh Conch Salad

 

The last night we were there we watched the Super Bowl from the Farmers Cay Yacht Club (FCYC). I wore my “lucky” Patriots tee shirt to no avail, maybe I shouldn’t have… It wasn’t a total loss, Jon won one of the quarters of the football square, almost enough to pay our tab for the evening!

A Lot of Sting Rays Here in the Bahamas

 

We hugged Terry, Ali and several of the other locals as we went into town to say “so long”. We will definitely go back to this island at some point and spend more time.

Close Race

 

A Plane Takes Off While the Marching Band is on the "Tarmac"

 

 

 

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Black Point Settlement, Bahamas

Jon Checking the Anchor

 

Only a few miles away from Staniel Cay, yet a whole different world. Black Point Settlement is a true Bahamian community. The harbor is very protected from a north to east wind.  There is an “all age” school where the students wear matching uniforms, several churches of different denominations, at least three restaurants and bars, a grocery store and a very nice laundromat (one of the nicest I have ever been in).  Ida, the owner of the laundromat and marine store, will even cut your hair – men $10 and women $15. Unfortunately, I found out about Ida and the opportunity for a hair cut in the back yard overlooking the beautiful harbor the day before we were leaving. It seems I am always “a day late and a dollar short”. Maybe it was that, maybe it was that I don’t quite have the nerve (yet) to let someone I don’t know, and that I haven’t seen the outcome of their work, cut my hair.

Another Cave on the Beach

 

We met a lot of nice people here, two women who are single handing their own boats from Florida, many Canadian cruisers, and other cruisers who we were anchored near in Staniel Cay but did not get a chance to chat with. We even met a couple that shipped their folding kayak from Idaho who are completing a circumnavigation of the Exuma Islands, camping on the beaches – they had completed more than half their trip and were making their way back to Georgetown, as you can imagine – they were in great shape!

Bahama Class C Sloop Sailing Upwind

 

Sailing Downwind

The topic of conversation seemed to be centered around Farmers Cay and the 5F Festival coming up the following weekend. We watched the local Black Point Settlement men in their Class C Bahamian Sloops practicing for the races. It was fun to hear the banter among the local guys regarding the races, who has the best mast, who can hike the furthest on the prie (the board that sticks out over the water on the windward side of the boat), which is the fastest boat in all the Bahamas.  

This is one of the biggest festivals of the year for the racers on all the islands, Jon and I decided we couldn’t miss it.

 

Hiking the Prie

 

While waiting out yet another front we paddle boarded through the harbor on our new Yolo Yaks (YOLO stands for You Only Live Once) and hiked the better part of the island. The chart mentioned a well marked hiking trail to get to the White Horses, a Blow Hole, and several other interesting places to see. The first day we made it to the Blow Hole, however the rocks and cliffs are very sharp and we were wearing flip flops. We agreed to set out earlier and with the correct shoes on the following day. We didn’t get out as early as we would have liked and it was a good thing I took extra water and several granola bars with us in the backpack, visions of the show “I shouldn’t be alive” kept coming to mind as we were forcing our way through bushes and growth where there was obviously no “well marked” path. Determined to see the White Horses from land we carried on, finally we were as far as we could go, we were on top of the White Horses cliff looking down at Dotham Cut. I am not sure, but I believe we were supposed to be looking up at the cliffs? It was an adventure. We kept trying to decide if we should find the real trail or just go back the way we came. With sunlight waning and the water rising with the tide over the path that we crossed to get up to the cliffs, we opted for the devil we knew and went back the way we came. It was a beautiful walk/hike along the Exuma Sound side of the island. We found a lot of shells, coral and other items that had washed up from the deep blue sea.  There are so many caves and cubby holes carved into the rocky beaches from years and years of waves pounding into the shore. We even saw a few local reptiles and an interesting spider. Good thing one of those didn’t end up on me while we were making our way through the brush!  Tired, hungry and sweaty as we made our way back to where we left our paddle boards, we paddled out to the boat and climbed aboard Beausoleil just before another beautiful sunset.

Salt Pond on Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Scary Spider!

Colorful Spider

 

Still a Ways to Go - Hiking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems each island we visit now becomes my favorite! The last time we were in the Bahamas it was Shroud Cay then Staniel Cay, this trip it was Cat Island, now it happens to be Black Point Settlement. I guess we will see if Farmers Cay or any of the other islands in the Bahamas will win us over even more.

 

Looking Down from Cliff

 

Next stop – Farmers Cay and the 5F’s festival…

 

Shawna Creates a "Shell Being"

 

 

A Hole in the Rock

 

 

Years of Wave Action

 

 

Cave from Inside

 

 

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Staniel Cay, Bahamas

Cave in Staniel Cay

Cave in Staniel Cay

 

We left Cat Island in the early morning hours while it was still dark. Although we were following the same line on the chart plotter as when we came into the harbor I was on the bow with the spot light, wanting to make sure we could see a coral head if there was one anywhere near our path. We needed to make good time to get across the Exuma Sound and enter Dotham Cut on a rising tide so we would have the best steerage and complete control of the boat while heading into the current (instead of the current pushing us through the cut). We had a beautiful motor sail through the Exuma Sound, I put out the fishing rods with a cedar plug and a mahi jet determined to catch a fish. Unfortunately I didn’t get a single bite! I guess it will be steak, pork or chicken again for dinner unless Bellissimo (who is meeting us in Staniel Cay) has had better luck…

Dotham Cut - White Horses

Dotham Cut - White Horses

 

Dotham Cut is gorgeous, huge white cliffs on the Great Guana Cay side of the cut, they call them “White Horses” because they resemble a herd of running white horses. It is a big wide cut with plenty of water depth, once through the cut you do have to follow the route south, into an S curve to get around the shifting shallow sand bars. The change in water color helps with this navigation in addition to just looking at the charts. VPR (visual piloting rules) are always a requirement when you are making your way through the Bahamian waters, you get to know how to read the color of the water pretty quick, or suffer the consequences in the shallow depths. We make our way around the point of Harvey Cay and head to Big Majors Spot. This will be our home until it’s time to move again.

Thunderball Grotto Opening

Thunderball Grotto Opening

 

We were invited to have dinner on board Bellissimo and watch the sunset from the back deck. It’s nice to be with our friends again. We checked the tides and the weather for the following day to see if it would be a good day to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto. This is an underwater cave that has been used as several settings for Hollywood films, the most famous of which was the 007 / James Bond movie “Thunderball”. You want to be sure to snorkel near low slack tide due to the current and the level of the water that covers the entrance to the cave. If the water is too high, you have to free dive to get into the cave opening, if the current is not slack it can be very strong and carry you off in a hurry. We picked the best day and time to snorkel the grotto. Paula packed us each a little baggie full of chip crumbs to feed the schools of expectant fish. The sergeant majors line up as soon as a dinghy picks up the mooring near the grotto, they are certainly not shy. There are so many different types of fish gathered here, it is pretty amazing. Both the inside of the cave and the area surrounding the grotto is beautiful, scattered with colorful fish and coral, it is the highlight of the snorkeling we have done this season so far. I eye a big yellow tail snapper and think “lunch!”, but since this is a protected no-take zone that fish is safe…

Feeding Sergeant Majors

Feeding Sergeant Majors

 

After our snorkel we head into downtown Staniel Cay for lunch. The special at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC) is a grilled mahi mahi sandwich, since I couldn’t spear and cook the snapper this is the next best thing. We walk off our lunch by exploring the island, the cliffs, the beaches, all the grocery stores, we order coconut bread from the bread lady and pull off our sandals and walk in the water at Pirate Trap Beach. We walk up the hill to check out Club Thunderball, it is still empty, weathered and even more worn than the last time we were here. The docks are in shambles, results of neglect and the hurricane that touched the Bahamas last season.

Beausoleil at Anchor

Beausoleil at Anchor

 

Speaking of the hurricane last season, there is a lot of construction going on here on the island. Roof repairs, new houses, a new restaurant, busy busy. We also noticed several trucks with local construction company names emblazoned on them. It looks as if there is a job for all who want to work. Another discovery – the bread lady not only makes the bread for the visitors, the grocery stores and the restaurants, she is also on the wait staff at the SCYC. Berkie, the owner of Isles General, one of the grocery stores that is also a hardware/rental property/laundry/docks facilities, is also the minister at the local church and the dock master at the SCYC. We also met Chubby working on a roof at the pink grocery, we were looking for fresh fish – he promised to hook us up if the fishermen went out that day. We didn’t have any luck in getting the fresh fish from the fishermen so we tried our luck fishing off the stern of Bellissimo. Dave caught a shark, threw that back, then he caught another fish we didn’t recognize. While we were trying to find the picture that matched the fish, he decided to throw it back in the water before it died. Turns out it was a Jack Crevalle, good looking fish, great size too, good thing we threw it back in because the chart says the food value is “poor”.

We were approached by a local fisherman with the option to buy fresh lobster or conch (pronounced Konk). We ended up buying three large lobster tails for dinner that night so I made broiled lobster truffle/butter with creamy truffle butter mashed potatoes and green apple blue cheese salad (all of these recipes I learned from the amazing chef Martin Liz in Key West). The tails were so large that I ended up having to cut them in half to cook them all the way through! Delicious dinner and great times with our friends on Bellissimo.

Exploring the islands

Exploration of islands

 

One day we packed a lunch and went for a long dinghy ride. We took the cut between Big Majors and Fowl Cay Resort, around North Gaulin Cay and into Pipe Creek. Beautiful scenery, lot’s of boats anchored throughout the creek, we noticed a lot of development in the area as well as more “Private” signs on some of the cays. We were told that the beaches of all the cays in the Bahamas are public, even if the island says private. We found our own little private island with a beautiful protected beach and had our lunch. After throwing the stick for Angel for hours we jumped back in the dinghy to continue our tour.

Swimming Pigs - Big Majors

Swimming Pigs - Big Majors

New Pirates Lair

Jon leaving "Beausoleil" signature at the new pirates lair

 

After Bellissimo took off to head back to the States, Jon and I continued to explore the islands, feed the swimming pigs, check out the natural caves along the island, and even discovered a new pirates lair on one of the secluded beaches on Big Majors. It looks as if everything is very new and well thought out, there is a bar for the cruisers to bring their pot luck dishes, a sharpie pen to sign your boat name, a pit with benches around for beach bon fires, several lawn chairs and mini side tables, and a pick nick table complete with an umbrella that says “enjoy, m/y Pirate”. Too bad we found this the day we were taking off, it would have been fun to participate in one of these organized pot luck dinners. Oh well, I am sure there will be many pot luck opportunities in our future. Onward to Black Point Settlement and the 5F’s festival…

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Cat Island, Bahamas

 

Beausoleil - Private Anchorage

Beausoleil - All alone at anchor in Cat Island

Our first stop in our “around the world adventure” was Cat Island in the Bahamas. We arrived after a 53 hour motor sail from Marathon, FL on January 10th, 2012. It was exciting to finally drop the anchor and hit our SPOT (a device that sends out our current position and a preset message over satellite). We anchored off of Hawk’s Nest Point at the southern end of the island as we had made plans to meet up with our friends Dave and Paula on m/y Bellissimo the next day. Our friend Captain Graham, who we crewed for on the Cynthia Aguilar world record paddle board trip from Cuba to Key West, was there as well on the boat he now captains, this is their winter home. He answered our call on the VHF and came out to greet us with a big bag of fresh frozen Wahoo (see the recipe section of our blog – I made ceviche, fish tacos and prepared it as in the yellow tail snapper recipe – it was a big bag of fish!), given our luck wasn’t so great at catching any fish on the way over we were thrilled with this gift. We had to wait until the next day to check into the country and we had to pay an extra $100 due to the customs agents wanting to come aboard Beausoleil to complete the paperwork (this was a “travel fee”, even though our friend Graham brought them out to the boat). I guess we should have anchored near Smith Bay Harbor and went directly into the customs office, which is in the middle of the island, instead of heading to Hawk’s Nest Point. I had to wait on Beausoleil alone quite a long time while Jon was ashore waiting for the customs agents so I made fresh carrot cake – the customs agents each took a baggie full home.

Now that I could finally go ashore for the first time in three days, Jon and I dinghy’d into Hawk’s Nest Marina to meet up with Dave, Paula and Angel. I had made ceviche and brought that as a pre dinner snack. It was great to see our friends again and my favorite play pal Angel. We walked around the marina, watched the sun go down (again, we saw the green flash!) and watched the local fishermen feed the hungry sharks off the marina dock. (Note to self, “don’t, whatever you do, fall out of the dinghy on the way home in this channel!”). We had dinner at the Hawks’ Nest Marina, they have a beautiful big “living room” and the folks at the bar are very nice, if you are in the area have one of the local Cat Island Bahamian drinks (I think he put a little something from every bottle in the bar in this drink). After a late night toast to good friends onboard Bellissimo Jon and I safely made our way home to Beausoleil. Before we turned in we looked up at the stars, it was a beautiful night with a full moon, waters were calm and we were the only boat in the anchorage. Pretty amazing.

Full Moon Over Cat Island

The next day Bellissimo and Beausoleil sailed to the New Bight anchorage. Yes, Beausoleil actually sailed, without the engine, with the main, mizzen, staysail and the jib at 6.5 – 7 knots when we had a 12 knot breeze – we were on a reach with the wind out of the East – it was awesome!

Sailing at last!

Beausoleil under sail

The Bight is the “down town” area of Cat Island (if you could call it that) where the police station, the Blue Bird restaurant, and the BaTelCo (phone company) are located. There is also a grocery store (actually one of the largest I have seen in the Bahamas) and a liquor store up the hill and a bit of a walk, but we didn’t have to walk – a friendly man driving a bus named Dan (from the local town council) gave us a ride and waited until we picked up what we needed at the grocery. He also brought us to the base of Mount Alvernia and the Hermitage, a must see, the biggest attraction in Cat Island. From the base we hiked up to the highest point in the Bahamas – 206 feet, this is a beautiful stone chapel/retirement home built by Father Jerome, the architect/priest, John Cecil Hawes, sent over by the Anglican Bishop to restore hurricane damaged churches in the Bahamas. Beautiful 360 degree view from the top of the hill, you can see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Exuma Sound.

Base at Mount Alvernia

The base of Mount Alvernia

After our hike we had a nice cold Kalik and a Bahamian plate of pork or chicken with peas and rice, and potato salad at the Blue Bird Cafe. Time for a nap!

We spent time in the dinghy exploring the island, the nooks and crannies and trying to find the snorkeling spots. We SUP boarded (stand up paddle) in the flat, calm waters to see what we could see. We enjoyed walking the beautiful sandy beaches and rocky shores and took our time trying to get into the relaxed way of life. It is truly a beautiful island, we felt like we were the only cruisers there.

Exploring Cat Island

Exploring Cat Island

Next stop, Staniel Cay…

(NOTE:  There are more pictures of Cat Island on the “Photo Gallery” page of our blog)

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