Wednesday, March 29, 2017

DR to PR Puerto Rico

...Goodbye DR, hello PR...
With a serious low pressure storm north of us, the normal east trade winds have been pulled to south flowing into this storm giving us a nice motor sail 150 nm from Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico where we planned to enter the USA at Puerto Real. This crossing of the Mona Passage is well known in the cruising circles to be difficult and always rough, with confused seas and unpredictable currents. Lucky for us, this passage turned out to be relatively calm with a 5 foot swell of 9 seconds with a wind blown chop of 2-3 feet.

motor sailing out of the DR for PR
The beginning of the trip was flat calm with main and jib and 2500 rpms motor sailing at 7 knots out of Samana harbor and past the capes. By midnight, we reached our point in the 1,000 to 2,000 meter waters well off the "hourglass shoals" which is known to have confused seas and crazy currents. We found the seas were a bit confused and the current was not too strong. We had a NE swell, and NW wind blown chop, and a S current, all making for a strange sea state. But overall, it was a relatively calm passage. We then turned SE for the Puerto Rican coast, aiming for the SW corner where we could check into Puerto Real harbor.

Docked in Puerto Rico
We had made reservations for all three boats at Marina Pescarderia in Puerto Real, where the the fee is $1.20/foot. This marina is in a fishing village and the people are extremely friendly and helpful, though most do not speak English. From here, we plan to make small, easy, short, early morning hops along the south shore of the Puerto Rican coast, discovering all the great towns and harbors this island has to offer. It is GREAT to back in the USA after sailing out of Florida on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb 5.

Here are some photos of this passage and arrival.

Our last days in Samana, Marina Bahia were filled with pool swims, movies and playing Mexican train. What a fantastic place to hang out, and all for $1/foot!

Our lobby where we enjoyed relaxing

Island Spirit in the shade, Radeen heading for a walk
When in the DR, drink the local and smoke the local

Departing Samana,, we motor sailed out the bay into the open North Atlantic where we found a nice 5 foot ocean swell of 9 seconds

Heading to sea with Cape Samana in the distance

The DR coast line falling away on starboard

Along the DR coastline there were many floating fish nets and traps!

As the sun came up, after our overnite run, we were looking at the west coast of Puerto Rico, what a beautiful sunrise to great us as we motor sailed into the USA.

Sunrise over Puerto Rico, welcome to USA

Our B&G Zeus as we motor sailed in to Puerto Real

First item, call into USA Customs and check into the country 

Next, raise the Puerto Rico courtesy lag on the starboard spreader

We walked around town and of course had to find the local bakery where we bought FLAN for Radeen and ice cream for Hayden. 

A short walk up to town we found the bakery

Flan for Radeen, WOW was that good!

The local waterfront houses and fishing boats

Our local store with fresh MILK and EGGS! yahoo

When in PR, you drink the local beer
Not bad for a light beer

Our local dock neighbor lights up his boat with this very coolio blue LEDs, and lots of underwater lights, add in the loud very fun Puerto Rican music and we have a P A R T fun fun

P A R T Y on

Here are the Charts showing the run from DR to PR directly without going into Luperon or Ocean World or any of the normal stops along the way. We were lucky to have the correct weather for this run and would do it again.

This is the Overview of the course from DR to PR

You have to go out 25 NM off the DR to clear the Hourglass Shoal where waves and currents are bad

The turn around the reefs and then into the coast of PR where we made Puerto Real

Hear are some great photos as we leave the DR and head for Cabo Engano

Crazy Fish traps all along our course
Our buddy boat FEZYWIG a Lagoon 38

Lagoon 38 FEZYWIG in the ocean waves

Island Spirit in the Mona Passage heading to Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: Meloney on sv/FEZYWIG

 Here is our first sunset from Puerto Real harbour where pelican are plentiful and the harbor is calm and protected. We think we will really enjoy exploring all the harbors and towns on the south side of Puerto Rico.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mona Passage plan

...Another Large Storm helps us...
We are checked out of the Dominican Republic and we have our exit paper work called a "Despacho" which will allow us to legally leave the country. This all took about 4 hours with customs, marina office and the navy officer to check out our boat. Once all was signed, stamped and approved, we were given the proper paperwork. Next task was predict wind app which we now spend an hour a day on as we study the winds and the swells. As it looks tonight at 1900 Sunday, with a planned departure at 0700 Monday, it all looks good to cross the Mona Passage. This is a 150 nm run all into the east and with the current storm up north of us, once again we have the winds pulled from east to southeast and then flipping to northwest. The storm has the ocean really kicked up into a 10 foot to 15 foot swell but that is north up in the Bahamas. For us the swell is predicted to be 5 feet out of the north east which will put the swell on our port beam. The winds are to be on our stern at 10 knots. We plan to check into Puerto Rico at Marina Pescaderia in the town of Port Real Tuesday at 1200-1400. Here are the captures of the predict wind app.


Samana 0700 when we depart port

Monday Midnight as we push onward

Tuesday 0800 as we approach the coast of Puerto Rico

Tuesday 1400 we should be docked at the marina, ready to check into the country

You can see the large storm up north of us. This is causing the swells

5 foot swells on our port beam. Not a bad ride, we hope

This shows the ocean swells for the entire 24 hour trip
This being our first crossing of the Mona Passage, of course we are looking at all data we can access. While here at the DR marina, we have had intermittent internet access making it difficult to get our weather information, let alone blog.  We do feel that we have a good weather window to cross the Mona Passage, once again, a strong storm far away from us has pulled the trade winds south and then north and has given us a passage opportunity. Sometimes cruisers wait for weeks to cross this passage, we waited 4 days! OK. We will see you in Puerto Rico.....

Friday, March 24, 2017

Santo Domingo DR least we had a car...
We rented a car for the six of us using Oliver at the marina excursion office and we received a mini van with a seriously cracked windshield and bald tires with a boom box and several amps. It also had a commercial taxi sign on the side door, so we could have offered rides as well. We are not sure where they got the car but no one asked questions. The rate was $90 US for the three couples to drive south to Santo Domingo to the colonial section of town. Meloney drove and did an unbelievable job weaving in and out of city traffic avoiding motorcylces, horses, broken down cars and trucks. We only were pulled over once for making a left turn like a pro at a 4 lane interesection where no lefts were allowed. She got out of the traffic ticket by showing Google Maps on the cell phone which had told her to make the turn. None of us could understand Spanish, he spoke no English, and so he shook his head and let us go with a stern look and a clear gesture to keep our eyes on the signs.

Fuel stop, look at the prices
Our first task leaving Samana was filling up the car which arrived on fumes. We stopped at the closet station 10 km away and we filled it up. That cost us $60 US and we ended up leaving about $20 of gas in the car at the end of the day. With wages averaging $10 per day here, this was a real win for the owner of this car. Notice the sign for the gas station prices. RD 210 per liter. The exchange rate is $1 to RD47. That works out to $4.46 per liter. One US gallon is 3.75 liters. So That means this is $4.46 x 3.75 equals $16.75 per US gallon! No wonder everyone is running around on small Honda Z3000 motorcycles. They must get 50-75 miles per gallon.
The next challenge was driving 3 hours from Samana to Santo Domingo and then finding our way around town. We crossed rice fields, rolling hills with cattle, river valleys, rugged mountain passes and finally into the metropolis of town. Once in Santo Domingo, it was C R A Z driving in NYC. Cars cutting us off, multiple lanes of traffic, signs in Spanish, treacherous culverts on the sides of the streets, children sprinting across the divided highways, few traffic lights and "Una Via" streets everywhere.

Thank goodness for Don's LTE chip on T-Mobile, so he was able to navigate for race car driver Meloney as we quickly threw ourselves into the crazy flow.

Once in the city, we stopped at a super market to secure funds from a Western Union where buddy boat Sea Star needed some serious cash to fix their bent prop and prop shaft damaged while we all crossed the Caicos Banks. They hit a coral head in the low angle morning light where none of us could see the massive coral heads as we powered at 6 knots into the sunrise. The Caicos banks are dangerous due to these large coral heads. You can not see them until it is nearly too late. Unfortunately, Sea Star caught one prop on the edge of coral and took damages. Lucky for them, here in the Dominican Republic, they hired divers to replace the shaft and prop while in the water! WOW, amazing workers like this are needed, since we have heard there are no haulouts anywhere in the DR.

After a quick stop at the very large store, we moved on to the colonial section of town. Here are some photos of the Carrefoure Store. It was a food store and a Walmart type store.

Radeen and Meloney had a funny exchange with a young employee as they tried to find a small cooler. They pantomimed "cold" by shivering, then drew a box in the air and pretended to put something in it, while saying "leche." He sent them to the aisle with jackets and sweaters! After wandering around, they found the coolers and brought one back so he could see it. They laughed together as he shook his head as if to say "Now I understand!" Part of the problem was probably the fact that milk here is all UHT milk in a box that does not need to be refrigerated until opened.

20 eggs shrink wrapped, unwashed and unrefrigerated. They will stay fresh for weeks.

Driving into the colonial section of Santo Domingo, we enjoyed seeing the street vendors' carts of coconut water drinks and fruit stands. The DR people are so hard working and everyone has a shop, a cart, a stand, or some crafts to sell. It is really a bustling city and it was very exciting. Especially when compared to the Bahamas or Exumas.
Coconut water drink cart

Typical fruit stand

We parked the car and walked into the colonial district where we bought a very valuable English audio tour of the Cathedral Primada de America Catholic Church, the first cathedral in the new world. Construction began with the consecration of the land in 1514. Over the next 200+ years, they continued to add twelve small chapels onto the sides of the main sanctuary. The church is in amazing shape and was very impressive.

In the plaza outside the church is the monument of Christopher Columbus who sailed into Santo Domingo on December 5, 1492. This is believed to be his third landfall in the New World after first landing at San Salvador in the Bahamas and next Rum Island/Long Island and then here.

After our tours, we were guided to a lovely local restaurant named Mimosa by one of the government tourist guides who keep you safe from the locals who try to walk you out of the safe zone to shake you down. We all enjoyed a very fine lunch of various pasta meals and chicken dishes along with a dozen beers. The total bill for all 6 of us was 4,740 RD including tax and tip. This comes out to $108 US divided by 3 equaled $36 per couple! We are finding the local prices to be very reasonable and with the beer costing 100 RD or $2.12 apiece we can see why so many people vacation here.

Here are a few photos of walking around Santo Domingo

We bumped into this local arts celebration with a band and marching girls. They all looked so cute and happy and proud.

 After a full day in town, it was time to hit the road and drive the 3+ hours back to Samana where we arrived around 2030 hrs. What a fun day of touring the countryside of the Dominican Republic and the city of Santo Domingo. This country has so much to offer and it seems like the people are very hard working and proud of their country, as well as very friendly. The DR is a must stop place on the sailing cruising tour.

The drive from Samana to Santo Domingo 
3+ hour drive