Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Mona passage crossing, plan B and the Dominican Republic

Mona passage crossing, plan B and the Dominican Republic extended stay.

31-03-15 Time to leave Puerto Rico and head for the Bahamas.
Some plans go well others not so.
Departed Ponce yacht club well provisioned, fuel, plenty of water and meals prepared for the passage underway.
So off we go to an anchorage along the south coast, named Punta Jacinto close to a place “nicknamed” Gilligan's Island another reef protected place bordered by what looks like a resort, on the other side is a restaurant but we didn’t have plans to go ashore so we had an early night ready for our next longish crossing roughly 80 plus miles.

17º 57N 66º36W.

Mona Passage to the Dominican Republic, its plan B
Its the 1st April 17º 57 N 66º 52 W behind the reefs and Gilligan's Island, Pta Jacinto, Puerto Rico.

Had a peaceful night before the next leg into the Mona Passage one of the most dreaded places with a pretty bad reputation, its here some of the deepest waters are which suddenly change to shallow water making the sea very lumpy to say the least. Puerto Rico on one side and the Dominican Republic on the West side. Roughly 80 miles wide with variable currents, both sides with shoals a small rock to avoid Mona Island, the Atlantic and the Caribbean sea meet, and should spit us out at the top, planning the transit here is done very carefully, neither of us were looking forward to this one.

1st April 09:30 we were going to Boqueron anchorage a little more West but decided to go for it from here, hopefully this timing should be ok for the tides winds and all should be good, enough wind to sail with not too big a sea.

Well the big wobbly stuff certainly made us roll about, the first 9 hours we had between 11 - 20 knots at times and we tried our best with the main up and jenny out the other side but as we don't have a pole to keep the sail out it was very messy.  Its now almost 19:00 and the wind changes direction and the sky changed into dark patches and on the radar we could see squalls ahead so the rain accompanied the winds oh well at least the boat had a wash luckily the squalls didn’t stay too long.Then the wind changed to the north and a squall appeared in front and on our starboard side it was pretty big not a nice thing to bring us.
On we plod through the night the wind dropping us still rolling side to side eventually having to resort to using the engine.

This was before the sea went to a 3 + metres
2nd April we are still out here over the Semana Bank 19º 11 N 68º 54 W its 13:29 and Don sees a big spout coming from a whale. A few minutes later there are more together with the whales breaching the surface, its a shame they are so far away so we couldn't take any pics but on the other hand much much safer the last thing we need is for us to be is nudged by any of them. The Semana Bank is a breeding ground for whales.

The sea state was getting bigger now 3 metre plus on our starboard quarter and the rolling is awful, trying to make a drink or a visit to the bathroom is more than a challenge to say the least. When Don mentioned a vertical wave we decided enough was enough.

3rd April 08:45 19º 51 70º 17 W Its time for a plan, we are tired the seas still building so our bolt hole for a rest,  Luperon in the Dominican Republic, the stories from other cruisers are not the best.  Still as they say “any port in a storm” So in we head and by 13:30 we have picked up a mooring ball after a hairy entrance in very shallow water. At times we ran out of water and had to reverse other times gingerly with .5 of a metre under us, sand shifts and markers in the wrong place or even missing ones don’t help. This is certainly one of this places that you would NOT enter in the dark.

A local guy by the name of Papo runs the moorings and we paid our 2 US a day for its use. As its now Good Friday the officials are on the beach and in town for the parties we were not disturbed so it was a much needed rest a bite to eat and an early night for us. Saturday bought us the start of the officials visit before we are allowed ashore there are huge fines for not obeying the rules. The Comandeante from the navy with someone that looks for guns, the agriculture guy, and someone that takes our and the boat details. Next we have to go ashore for customs and immigration, we pay our fees and have our passports stamped.
Oh forgot  to mention the trip to the bank and exchange money for the 4,000 pesos fees. So far so good, next day a visit from the agriculture guy again who checks we have fruit and vegetables, asks where we had bought them from and asks for 10 US out of earshot of the guys in the cockpit, we could have said we bought them here I wondered if he would have still asked for the money. Next another trip ashore to the port authority where we were relieved of another 10 US for use of the anchorage.
The wobbly town dinghy dock but we have used much worse that this
Local fishing boats
Anyway we wandered up into town after a beer in what looks like the place for both locals and cruisers. A little wander led us to a French restaurant where we ate lunch, at least its cheap here Don had lobster, me Grouper a few drinks and it came to a very reasonable equivalent of 16. 50 GDP. There is a wifi place where we paid our 500 pesos for the internet in the anchorage, the bullet antenna picks up a pretty good signal so we can even skype our family.

The place reminds us a little of Dominica, open gutters, street venders with food, lads tearing about on small motorbikes so you had to watch your step everywhere you went. The buildings are mostly ramshackle wooden shacks painted in typical Caribbean pastel shades, the atmosphere is buzzing, men sit and play dominoes banging them down as hard and as loud as they can, it seems to be the thing to do in most of the Caribbean.

At the top of the town is a sort of bandstand, a statue of a general on horseback but whoever it was the charge went kind of wrong look at his sword lol
Oh and there is an old tree which has a few faces on it.
Also at the top of the town is where the road splits in 2 while we walk here we were approached by people offering us scooter rental for 10 US a day and cars for hire and local taxis, motor scooters and cars gather to take you to other places, we refused the scooter rides seeing the way they drive we declined. There is no public transport just cars that fill up when they are full and go who knows where. Taxis well we have asked other cruisers for the details of preferred drivers so we will take a look at that prospect.

Over the weekend the this place is very busy with so many noisy scooters and small motor cycles, one boy was knocked from his to the ground and had blood coming from his head, he was lifted onto another scooter and driven off at speed I have no idea if he even managed to stay on before reaching the hospital.

The streets have open gutters most with stagnant black water and lots of rubbish but the venders still manage to sell food cooked on an oil drum, we passed on that one.
Food yummy, gutter YUK!
It was the weekend, Saturday and there was a local baseball team playing and the excitement was on, we found a spot where folks were peering over a wall watching the game and I thought well if you can't beat em join em. I was welcomed and men parted to let me close to the wall so I could see, Don had to stay at the back lol

Look at this little dot peeking out the door 
Noisy or what?

There are some small shops with a few groceries but the vegetables looked old and not really up to much, a few had wines and spirits at reasonable prices.

Papo it turns out organises just about anything, fuel and water delivery to the boat, no way can we make water here its not very clean so we took advantage for water fuel and a very reasonably priced gas top up. His mother inlaw does a pretty good job with laundry too so we gave him a huge bag which was returned the following day clean and smelling fresh.

The town of Puerto Plata is he closest place which has a decent place to shop and look around but its over an hour in a taxi, that can wait till later.

One morning there was a knock on the hull and a lady introduced herself as Anne from the yacht Impressionist, we had seen the yacht in a few places on our travels and it runs out she knew some of our other cruising buddies. To cut a long story short we teamed up with Anne and Jim a few times eating ashore and mixing with other folks from other yachts. 

Dining out, the company was better than the food
A yellow fire engine, looks like its seen better days
Can't believe someone drives about in this, there are lots of trucks that look like this one 
All of us sat waiting for the “weather window” so we can leave, some boats have been stuck here for months trying to head south but just Impressionist and us heading North. 

Anne and Jim told us about a walk they had done with other cruisers, this is reached by a dinghy ride at the entrance of the bay, we pulled up the dinghy on a small beach and walked through an entrance and onto a shady path through to a rocky area with some blow holes and a great view. The place is a little weird, there are 3 patches of artificial grass and a hole in each, the distance between the patches is pretty far and right on the edge of the water so we presume this is set up for golfers who would certainly have a challenge, we didn’t see another sole all afternoon. There are some caves with huge vines drooping down it looks like a scene from Tarzan. 

We landed the dinghy here
You can see a patch of artificial grass for the golfers

Jim and me about to play golf
Look what I found
Hey guys wait for me!

A couple of times we ate ashore along with other cruisers mainly from the US or Canada sometimes making up tables for 10 or 12 we had had a great  time exchanging stories.

Don and I took a taxi into Puerto Plata to take a look around, a visit to the amber museum there is a guide inside explaining the details. There is an area for making cigars we were shown the huge tobacco leaves no doubt rolled on a ladies thigh. We were taken to the old fort which is or was in the strategic place on the coast to protect the town, the main town square with its cathedral, and as always to the modern supermarket for more fresh provisions. 

Taken at the fort

Amber with insects
Amber jewellery
Needless to say we didn't sample a cigar
The square with the cathedral
Sugar can by the barrow load trimmed ready to eat

Ok we have been here far too long, we have seen what looks like a break in the weather an escape plan is formed with Impressionist for company up into the south Bahamas however just where we can get to with fluky winds is anyones guess.

All of us check out with the customs and port authority the navy is a different matter but after a visit to the Commandants’ place we were told to expect another visit to the boat, we think they come to see that you are not leaving with any locals.

Overall our expectations were for us were so much better, the locals are very friendly, everyone says hello and are always willing to offer help or information. I know of several folks that have been here to resorts which is a totally different view from ours, I wonder just how may of them have seen just how and where the locals live, having said all that most of the Caribbean is the same. 

16th April 2015
This is the day to depart Luperon our next stop in the Bahamas, the next blog will tell you more.

Glenys and Don
Agua Therapy

Have to go now the battery is flat lol

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