Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting, waiting, and more waiting

The travel bug in me is buzzing saying in its squeaky, tiny voice, “Let’s get the move on senorita.” But alas, we are still in Provo waiting for our boat parts. Before we could receive the new shrouds, we had to send in the fittings off the old ones to the company making the shrouds. This entailed removing the rods, cutting off the fittings, motoring through the mangroves to land the dinghy near UPS, and getting picked up by Commissioner Gordon and Inspector Gadget. Ok so obviously those aren’t their real last names but I’m horrible with names so I don’t remember them (but their titles are correct). As we anchored the dinghy near a road, we see a police SUV pull to the side of the road with their lights on and see two policemen staring at us. I thought, “Oh crap. They are going to arrest us for trespassing.” But turns out they were making sure we weren’t stranded and even offered us a ride to UPS since the store was closing in fifteen minutes. Such nice guys! We walk in just before closing time, and we're told we’d have to come back another day since we didn’t bring a box to pack the parts in. In my head I’m thinking, “Oh hell no. I didn’t go through a 20 minute wet dinghy ride and walk in ooey gooey mud in my brand new flip flops for nothing.” Luckily she produced an envelope that we could use after we explained our situation. Thank you for making an exception UPS lady!! Shipping was a killer though. It cost $66 for something that would have cost $10 if we had been in the States. Plus we added in a few bucks as a tip (or whatever you want to call it) since they didn’t have change or a working credit card machine.
With that taken care of, we just have to sit back and wait for the parts. We really thought we would receive them early this week at the latest, but we were told today that the machine that puts the heads on the rods isn’t working so who knows when we’ll get them.
To pass the time, I’ve been reading, watching movies and TV shows that we downloaded, exercising and going to the beach. On Sunday we had spent a few hours on the beach at Sapodilla Bay, and when we had got back to the boat, a guy on a kayak came by saying that his friends were behind him and didn’t know if they could make it back to the shore. It was really windy that day, and they were pretty far out after going after a kayak on the loose. We offered to go out on the dinghy to help, and we towed his two friends most of the way back to their beach house. They asked if we wanted to stop by for a couple of drinks, and of course we said yes. All of the cruisers left the island a couple of weeks ago so we wouldn’t pass up the opportunity for some company. Here again I wish I could remember names, but I only can recall Courtney. They were from Virginia and had rented a beach house for 10 days. They were really nice and funny, and I enjoyed talking to them about their scuba diving excursions and other islands that they had visited. We said goodbye after a couple of bevies but weren’t ready to call it a day so we headed to Las Brisas, which is within walking distance of Sapodilla Bay. We shared delicious appetizers of brie with honey and nachos. David is not one to initiate getting on the dance floor so I was surprised when he led me to the pool area where a guy on a keyboard was playing and singing. He was definitely feeling happy from those vodka/pineapple drinks! We were the only ones dancing, but we had so much fun. We even got a compliment from another couple, although I’m sure they were just being nice. After walking back to the beach, we sat on the sand in the cool evening breeze and listened to the gentle lapping of the waves. These are the types of days I never want to forget.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Best Birthday Ever

For a beach bum like me, celebrating my birthday on a beach that has powdery white sand and crystal clear water is about as good as it gets. Add in a sweet husband who made my favorite meals, gave me a massage, and catered to my every whim and I couldn’t ask for anything better. Yesterday we spent my 33rd birthday soaking up the sun at Taylors Bay followed by a pizza and movie back on the boat. Being out here on the water every day I sometimes take the view and surroundings for granted, but yesterday I was reminded of how incredibly lucky we are to be on this journey and to be able to spend my b-day in the Turks and Caicos islands. I also felt very grateful for my all family and friends who wished me a happy birthday through calls, texts, and messages – they are the best!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Delayed in Provo

Well we haven’t made it to the DR yet. We left Sapodilla Bay at 6 a.m. on the 11th and were about 6 miles out when we heard this loud bang. Assuming something had fallen on the floor in the cabin, I went down the companionway stairs to check but didn’t see anything. Then David noticed that one of the shrouds had broken off near the deck. We quickly had to douse the sails to take pressure off the mast. The mast is held up by 6 shrouds, the backstay, and forestay (basically 8 rods going from the mast to the deck) so if one or more break the mast could potentially snap off. We’ve read about other boats that lost their entire rig (sails, ropes, mast, everything) due to failed shrouds so we were quite lucky.
We motored back to Sapodilla Bay, and our first step was to contact Customs since we had cleared out the day before and were supposed to have left TCI territorial water within 24 hours. We hopped in the dinghy, rowed ¼ mile to shore (we hadn’t ordered the parts needed to put the propeller back on the outboard motor), walked 15 minutes to the government dock, checked in with security, and walked to the Customs office. We explained our issue and were checked back in without having to pay $300 for a cruisers permit that is required if staying longer than seven days. They didn’t charge us since we were having a mechanical issue and it was beyond our control. The immigration lady wasn’t in the office so we were told to come back the next day before 4:30 p.m. to talk to her. The next day we did the same routine: row, walk, check in with security, only to find out that she had already left for the day. He said to come back the next day between 10 and 12. So once again we made the trek to Customs. And guess what? She wasn’t there. By then we were both frustrated and irritated, but of course we didn’t want to give them any attitude because they could kick us out of the country. We were told to come back later that day at 2pm, and I said we’d be there…at exactly that time. Off we went back to the boat to get some things done and returned just before 2. Thankfully she was there and told us we’d have 90 days before we had to clear out. We would have plenty have time to come up with an action plan and get things fixed.

Back to the shroud issue. Shrouds are not supposed to break so it made David really nervous that the others ones might be in bad shape too. When we bought the boat, we were told that the previous owners had the rods re-coldheaded in 2012, which means they should have been good for another 5+ years. As of now, David has examined all of the shrouds and so far only two need to be replaced. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the backstay and forestay are in good condition because replacing them will be expensive and will require the mast to be unstepped.

David climbed the mast again to undo the top part of the shroud
The next steps will be examining the remaining rods, ordering replacements and having them shipped from the States, and installing them. Once all that is done and we get another weather window, we will finally be able to leave for Luperon.

The good news is we received the nut and pin for the outboard motor today so no more long rows to the beach, although I did like the workout. We had it shipped to South Side Marina and are staying for the night, which means A/C and WiFi (woohoo!!). Bob, the owner, is really great and took us to the grocery store today. He even came to our anchorage yesterday, picked us up, and drove us to the marina so we could enjoy the cruisers BBQ that is held every week. All of the cruisers that were staying at the marina left during the weather window last week, and there was only one boat that had come in since then. We talked to Thomas on s/v Oasis about his time in the DR, met some expats that live on the island, played Bocci ball, and had ice cream on the house.
After the BBQ, we were rowing our dinghy back to the boat and noticed some pretty awesome bioluminescence action. During our night sails, we've seen bioluminescent organisms, but it was like seeing lightning bugs in the water - a dot here and there. This time I would move my hand through the water and it would light up with bright green wherever my hand had been. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't capture this natural phenomenon very well so I can't post pics. Fajardo, Puerto Rico is a great place to experience something like this. I did a night kayaking trip there a few years ago, and it was amazing.

The marina "watchdog"

Relaxing at the BBQ

Our anchorage at the Cooper Jack annex

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Back in our Honeymoon Spot! (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)


On our way from Mayaguana to the Turks and Caicos, we experienced the largest waves of our sailing career, which made for an exhilarating ride. We had 20 knots of wind and 6-8 foot waves. Luckily the wind wasn’t blowing right on the nose so we were on a close reach the whole way, and we made it to Providenciales in under 8 hours.

We had spent an awesome week at the Seven Stars Resort located on Grace Bay for our honeymoon back in September and had done a lot during that time so we weren’t rushing to go out and explore. Instead, we rented a car and spent two days grocery shopping, doing laundry, and buying things for the boat. And we ate out….a lot. This was the first island we’d been to in a while that had a large number of restaurants to choose from. My #1 recommendation is Da Conch Shack, which is right on the beach with tables in the sand. The conch fritters, coconut curry chicken, and jerk chicken were so delicious! Everything here is on island time so we passed the time playing a game where you swing a washer hanging from a rope to a hook 8-10 feet away. It's not as easy as it looks, and the bartender gives you a free shot if you nail it.

When we got here, we indulged a little and stayed at Turtle Cove Marina for five days. Then we anchored in Sapodilla Bay to spend our remaining two days in the TCI. Cruisers are given seven days to stay, and if they want to extend their visit, they have to purchase a $300 90 day cruising permit. We are anxious to get to the Dominican Republic and didn’t want to spend the extra money so we are moving on in the morning. We should be in the DR by Saturday morning!
Also if you’re wondering about beaches here, the ones at Grace Bay and Sapodilla Bay are gorgeous. Grace Bay is where most of the big hotels are located, and the beach is a few miles long. There are a couple of good snorkeling spots too. The beach on Sapodilla Bay is much smaller and it isn’t really that close to town, but it’s more intimate and the water doesn’t get deep as quickly as it does in Grace Bay. We also found a great restaurant nearby at Neptune Villas as we were walking back from Customs. It has an awesome view of Chalk Sound.


Sapodilla Bay


Dinghy breakdown in Mayaguana

Before leaving Mayaguana, we had an “Oh Crap are We Going to Make it Back to the Boat” moment. We had moved from Abraham’s Bay to a staging spot on the isolated east part of the island. On our last day, we took the dinghy to look at the flamingos, check out a wrecked sailboat, and snorkel at a coral head (in that order).

We were about to leave the coral head and head back to the boat when David noticed that the propeller on the outboard motor was missing. He was able to find it pretty easily by jumping back in the water near the coral but the bad part was the nut that holds the propeller on to the motor was nowhere to be found. It could have fallen off anywhere from our last destination (the wrecked sailboat), which was ½ mile back near shore. He searched and searched (by snorkeling) for about an hour and had to stop because the sun was going down.

At this point, we were a mile away from the boat and our only option to get back to it was to row straight into wind that was gusting to 20 knots. We tried rowing but didn’t get anywhere because the wind was blowing too hard. I started to get a little worried. There were no other boats anchored on the island and the closest settlement was at least a 20 mile walk through trees and vegetation (no roads). And we only had half a bottle of water left.

Next we decided to row across the wind to the shore and walk upwind for a short distance pulling the dinghy behind us, which would make it easier to row back to the boat. One of the oar locks had broken a few weeks back so David used some paracord to temporarily fix before he started rowing again. Once we got back in the dinghy, the other oar lock broke. You can imagine the string of curses that came out of our mouths! We had to quickly drop the anchor to avoid being blown downwind into dangerous coral, which could have popped our inflatable dinghy. He fixed the oarlock, and we tried again. If these fixes didn’t hold, we were shit out of luck getting back to the boat, and my worry meter had climbed from orange to red. So there we are – David rowing and me using my two index fingers to keep the pins in the oarlocks - dodging coral, trying to keep the dinghy from being overturned by waves, and navigating by moonlight. Then he jokes about the dinghy popping and us getting eaten by sharks. If I could’ve smacked him, I would have (just kidding...but not jokes about dying please). It was a looong way and very hard row back to the boat (David is amazing!), but we made it back around 9pm. I’ve never been so glad to step onto our little floating home as I was in that moment.