Wednesday, 24 April 2013

April 13th to April 19th Gran Turk

April 13th to April 19th
We have been moving up from Puerto Rico into the Bahamas passing through Turks and Caicos.
Most stops have been short but the crossings have been quite tiring at times especially the overnighters.
I can't believe some people ask why don't you just pull into a harbour for the night! Distances sometimes over 100 nm, Puerto Rico to Gran Turk was 380 nm 3 nights and 2 days but we were making so much speed we had to stay out for the sunrise so we can arrive with good light.

Some of the anchorages now can be very shallow and others we had to abort because the wind or swell makes a very uncomfortable stay to say dangerous at the least. However the ones we choose to stay in not only for the rest but are good when we do manage to go ashore.

So far after Puerto Rico, Gran Turk, a challenging place to land the dinghy and a very different customs building.

Position Gran Turk 21°26N 71° 09W
We tied up to a high concrete dock and had to climb a rusty vertical ladder, if anyone goes there FORGET THE 3RD STEP FROM THE TOP! At the end of the dock it looks like some private commercial yard but the gates missing, we cautiously approached the security gate but noticed 2 guys walking through and noticed one with a uniform, it turned out he was a customs officer who then took us to the office.

Customs and immigration office where is the sign?

Customs office from the rear look it has air con, they leave the windows open

Well we paid the 50 $ to check in and a further 50 $ to cruise Turks and Caicos for 7 days. We walked along the road to Jacks Shack beach bar and the dive center. Jack is quite a helpful guy we even used the wifi there. Not too far along from there is a cruise ship dock which has its own little village for the tourists but some do venture out to the dive centres and go for organised trips, we moved back to the boat when they came in for the free rum samples at Jacks shack.

It looks like the only activity is when the cruise ships come in and even then its when they escape from the custom made village for the ship. We watched people go onto dive boats and go on the water sports boats to be dragged along on silly rides.
Pretty quiet when no ships are in

There are more people on these ships than are on the whole island
Overall we didn't explore the island, no busses no taxis, we didn't mind though we enjoyed bobbing about at anchor.

The plan when we left Gran Turk was to go to Great Inagua but the wind wasn't playing our game so onwards to Acklins island, the south, which was quiet to say the least we didn't see anyone for 2 days however we did stay onboard.
April 17th Position 22°12 N 74° 17W

After 2 days we did manage to do a make the boat a little more comfortable and did dry out big red and tidy up the foreword cabin and catch up on the usual chores.

Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Puerto Rico Love it 4th –9th April

Puerto Rico  Love it 4th –9th April

We left St Thomas at 6 in the morning with a full main and headsail bound for Isla de Vieqes an island that belongs to Puerto Rico, the reason being we need a cruising licence to be in the area we were heading to later. So after carefully passing hundreds of fishing markers and reefs we found our way into an anchorage in daylight. 
Don had called the customs which was frustrating at times being told to call another number, the number didn't exist so call the first one again he then gave us another number that number was passed on again and the girl said we shouldn't really be speaking to her but she would input our information  so the licence would be ready for collection.
Well that sounds fine but Don somehow had to get to the airport to collect the license, hmm the anchorage was very roly and it was quite a struggle to get the engine on the dinghy, a lady from the boat behind us gave us the information how to get to the airport but it meant getting a taxi there if there were any available, its a very quiet place. 
While Don was putting the documents together the lady returned with a local guy who was running a charter business and he very kindly offered a lift.

So off Don went to the airport, he was gone for hours, when he went to collect the licence the details entered before were wrong so it had to be done all over again and after 2 and a half hours they were ready,  he returned with the licence I was beginning to worry . We left that anchorage and went to another a little distance away and manage to drop the anchor just as it was getting dark. Wonderful another night of rocking and rolling about lets just say its very difficult to sleep, it wasn't the lack of wind or too much it was just the swell.

The swell was just making things miserable so Puerto Rico it was and by 13:00 we were tied up in  Marina del Rey, we needed to rest and thought  we would hire a car to see the island.

On the breakwater wall is the Black Pearl which was used in Pirates of the Caribbean I asked aboout it and was told it will be used in another film soon, so remember I said it first Prates of the Caribbean 4 or is it 5?
It does look a little silly with a raymarine radar scanner and modern pilot house I guess they remove it while they are filming.

What a marina, huge its the largest in the Caribbean over 1100 slips plus a haul out area, its so big they employ people full time to drive golf buggies to take you from the boat into the office area. We were moored almost at the entrance in the marina which meant we could see everything entering including dolphins and BIG Barracuda  in fact so big they are bigger than me, I think I have gone off diving.
The facilities in the marina are great a do it yourself laundry which I took advantage of, a great restaurant with fantastic food we both treated ourselves to steaks.

Kids having fun in the fountains
Add caption

Government building 
Young and old flying kites

We drove to the capital San Juan, the old part which has stone walls to protect it, the Forts (2) are quite high up, so it was a heck of a walk to them and the museums. The museums, sore point, one was closed for refurbishing and by the time we walked to the other it was too late.
The area near the Fort reminds me of Plymouth Hoe, whole families picnicking and hundreds of adults and kids flying kites.
As we had walked for so long we took advantage of the free open air bus to take us back to the car park but as the bus did a circuit around the old town we stayed on for another circuit to keep cool and see a little more of the town.
The old town has lots to see, it was quite busy traffic jams, they are the first since being in the Canaries.

This place is very American in places

Can you see the grey with feathers thats what Beaky used to look like 

I always wanted a pic with a policeman and his Harley

School bus

We loved the music Salsa and lots of Spanish too, a few places we saw had tapas menus others with local food which we ate a typical Puerto Rican dish beef with rice and beans and a lovely sauce.

One of the forts it has two
Fort entrance
A Spanish tall ship it must be hard work on that it had just arrived from Spain
Fancy having your back scratched with those nails, don't think so
Very Dali ish 

The following day we drove to the customs office in Fajado to check out, so we then had 48 hours grace before leaving.

So onto El Yunque rain forrest, there is one road up and back, its a very winding road steep in places and the forrest canopy covers the road so it gets a little dark in places. There are parking places close to viewpoints and by the waterfalls. We climbed a tower (98 steps up and 98 down. But what a view!

This was taken from the top of the tower, there is a tiny shop selling plastic ponchos, I almost bought one

Another waterfall
we didn't expect to see so many people there 

We stopped when we found a track which pointed the way deep inside the forrest and a waterfall, it said it was a 40 minute walk there and back, its very well done with concrete paths and steps most of the way and signs explaining about the trees and wildlife that make it their home. The sounds were so nice, the little Coqui a tiny tree frog the biggest being under an inch which sounds like a bird there must be thousands of them, we saw lots of iguanas too and a few birds.

well did they go for it?

Thankfully we made it to the waterfall but I suppose with it being Saturday there were lots of kids making lots of noise, then the walk back or should I say climb back not in 40 minutes though, it was a relief to get back to the car, some local guy was selling cold drinks which we bought but he did giggle when I asked for oxygen.

Fresh mushrooms anybody?

Bird of Paradise 

Sign mentioning the birds and tiny frogs

Its so dense in some places there is a miniature forrest as no light gets in only rain 
On the return journey we went to "Ralph's" a big supermarket selling fresh meat and vegetables so this was our chance to provision again and had the freezer defrosted and managed to pack and freeze the meat we bought.

Its such a shame we have to leave now there is so much to see "we will have to return"! 

Next Stop Gran Turk a non stop down wind sail with good winds, hopefully not too much swell (I can dream) it is the Atlantic which is not our favourite place, estimated 3 days.

Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys

Friday, 5 April 2013

St Thomas US Virgin Isles

28th March to -3rd April Position roughly 18° 20N 64°55W
St Thomas
After a good crossing from St John we approached St Thomas into Redhook Bay, the whole area is surrounded by coral reefs so thankfully the chart plotter works very well. This place is busy over easter as the Puerto Ricans have a week to come and play with their motor boats, maybe we should have gone to Puerto Rico while they were away on holiday.

I'm afraid the exploring here just didn't happen due to the weather being very wet and trips ashore were curtailed.

We decided to stay in a marina for a couple of nights which allowed us to catch up on a few chores. The marina is surrounded by lots of bars and good places to eat.
Took a trip by one of the open busses into the main town Charlotte Amalie to find the customs and immigration department ready for out check out of ST Thomas ready for the crossing to Puerto Rico and afterwards we walked around the town, more on that later.

One of the alleyways lined with small shops, quite pretty
I took this from the balcony in the VIP lounge
We moved to the anchorage Charlotte Amalie
The main town was busy with tourists from the cruise ships,  we saw 3 in dock on one day and others over a few days, again only staying a few hours so those people can't see much while ashore. We did walk through the park and street market and saw a few monuments but nothing grabbed our attention to stay for too long with clouds overhead and a long walk back to the dinghy dock.

The anchorage is quite big but within an hour we watched another yacht dragging his anchor right in front of us thankfully the owner was onboard and someone went to help.
We were just getting settled when another yacht drifted so fast without the owners aboard  somehow it missed other boats at anchor it was quite scary, thankfully 3 other people on dinghies went to help.
It was a while before the owners returned which must have been a shock to see their boat drifting off with strangers onboard. Later that night 2 in the morning as we rocked and rolled I checked outside to see another yacht just in front of us which wasn't there earlier, that too had dragged so they had to move and shift. Sometime later another dragged so 4 yachts dragged within hours, thankfully we seem to lay enough scope to keep us holding strong but when the wind changes the alarm goes off when we have swung to face another direction. Lets just say its not the best feeling when winds blew up to 30 knots and during the night we had rain and more rain.

These monsters that spew tourists to be fed into the jaws of the shops

Oh no the poor tender about to be run over!
The original plan was to stay for 3 days max but the weather was not only windy but wet so at least we managed to go ashore for coffee a little shopping and internet.

It could be a little noisy at times and even scary when the sea planes headed right for us.
At least this time he was heading away from us
Charlotte Amalie is a shoppers paradise for every designer watches, jewellery clothes, perfumes, Breitling Omega,  every make, Gucci, Tiffanys, Chopard, a very rare sight, in fact so many invitations into almost every shop it was very tedious if you didn't answer the "tout" on the doorstep. 
However to get out of the sun for a few minutes we did go into one, the biggest I think, we spoke to one lady who asked us where we were from and she said her brother worked in London but said he was returning to St Thomas. Then she gave us a VIP ticket to go upstairs to their complimentary lounge, there was coffee, cold drinks including wine, free WiFi and 4 PC's with touch screens and the use of the telephones to call anywhere we wanted. 

Comfy chairs and TV, pc's what more could you want?
I think we were there for 2 hours, the concierge called 2 restaurants to check out the menu, even printed them out for us so that we could go armed with the order when we arrived.

Don hard at work, surfing
While we were at anchor I woke up and looked outside the hatch to see a huge private yacht with all its lights on, I say huge well we found out it belongs to David Geffen, of Geffen records and its called Rising Sun, he always likes to board from his tender at sea. Although it has a helicopter landing pad, only 82 rooms plus crew accommodation.  Rising sun then pulled into the marina, it has its own pontoon, I think its the largest private yacht we have ever seen at 453 feet long. 
Rising Sun 453 feet long 
So back to our puny by comparison yacht to rock and roll for another night, oh were we glad to leave after checking out with customs, so off we go to Puerto Rico.

Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys