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ARGO under sail with main and jib
Sapodilla Bay, Provo, Caicos:
Seanote, ARGO, Wally World anchored (L to
The boys loading jerry cans of diesel into
the dinghies, as this was the only way to get fuel here
Walt, Diane, Jim, Debbie, Steve at a
TURKS & CAICOS (T&Cs) - April 23 - May
3, 2003: Having left the Bahamas from
Mayaguana around midnight, we arrived at Sapodilla Bay, Providenciales
(Provo), Caicos by mid morning. The T&Cs are similar to the Bahamas
in that the water is quite shallow and the sand very white which produces
the magnificent light blue and turquoise waters for which they are famous.
Just as striking, literally, are the reefs and coral heads looming just
below the surface. Fortunately, we have learned how to "read the
water" in proper sunlight and never had a mishap. We stayed here for
almost a week, renting a car to see the north coast studded with resorts.
With the weather calm, we motor sailed across the very shallow Caicos Banks
to Big Ambergris, Caicos for the night. This was probably the
most harrowing experience picking our way through massive coral heads on
either side. We then had a "robust" motoring across the deep Turks
Passage to Big Sand Cay, Turks. The robust part is attributed
partly to the deep, voluminous waters being blown by the easterly trade
winds and piling up onto the shallow Caicos Banks to the west,
creating high seas. At Big Sand we found the most unbelievable blue
water we have ever seen. Unfortunately, it was a rolly anchorage and
winds remained high, so we did not launch the dinghy nor venture ashore,
except for Wally World who had gone stir-crazy by then. We waited here
for good weather before crossing the old Bahamas Channel to the Dominican
Republic. The crossing was rougher than advertised by the
weather reports (we have learned to add 5 - 10 knots on to their
forecasts!) and by Herb*. We had 25 - 30 knots of wind on the nose and 5 - 8 ft.
seas. Not a ladies' day on the bay. We arrived at
Luperon, Dominican Republic around 4:00 a.m. and motor sailed offshore
waiting for sunrise before entering Luperon Harbor.
* Cruisers will get a laugh out of this. Herb
(Southbound II) had been helping us with weather forecasts via SSB, and even in the middle of all
this he still couldn't see what we were in - he kept insisting that we should be
in 15 knot winds - we must have been in some "hole" that nobody could see!
A "foreign" vessel bringing in "cheap"
supplies; notice the mast and boom made crudely from trees
Taking advantage of a lay day to clean the
Big Sand Cay, Turks:
Incredible white sand & blue water
Anchorage at Luperon
At the waterfalls:
At base of waterfalls
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (D.R.)
- May 4 - 20: As the sun rose and we pulled into Luperon,
our eyes were treated to the lush mountains of the D.R. After the very
flat Bahamas, I realized what I had been missing: topography and
trees. As we navigated our way through the Luperon channel, we were
met by our friend David from Houston (David & Sandy, s/v WindDancer, have been living there
for 2 years) in his dinghy who led us to the anchorage. Located on the
north coast of the D.R., Luperon is a popular cruiser hangout, especially
during hurricane season. Several cruisers we met had inadvertently
arrived here (e.g., due to engine problems) and ended up staying for years.
We found the D.R. to be very scenic, lush, friendly, safe and cheap, cheap,
cheap. This was the place to stock up on $14/case beer and
$2/bottle red wine (not bad stuff for the price!), and so we did. We
varied our time between the local town on one side of the anchorage and the
"marina" (bar) on the other side where the cruisers hang out. This
included haircuts on Sunday along with BBQ and a cruisers swap market.
We quickly made many good friends, some of whom we later traveled with to
Puerto Rico. As we were waiting for a part for our water maker to be
shipped to our next stop in Puerto Rico, we had to jerry can drinking water
($.24/gal) to the boat every few days. A local boat came out to our
boats with diesel ($1.75/gal), so we did not have to jerry can it here.
Being used to the clear, blue waters of the nearby Bahamas
and T&Cs, Luperon was strikingly different in having dark green waters full
of live stuff. We had to have our bottom cleaned the day before we
left Luperon due to the rapid growth. Debbie, during an evening of
partying (Luperon had their 2 week festival going on while we were there)
managed to do an unintentional, yet graceful, split between the dinghy and
ARGO, resulting in a midnight dunk (yuck) - with boat papers/passports
(sealed in a ziplock) and the digital camera (in a non-sealed ziplock
- duh, learned my lesson there - camera did survive it, though) - she came
up laughing. A
thorough shower was in order after that.
While in the D.R., we did road trips including a
trip to the well known waterfalls, consisting of about 28 waterfalls, shoots and
ponds. Tourists typically go up to #7, and we went to #8.
Halfway expecting ADA approved bamboo handrails and cute wooden bridges, we
were impressed with the awesome beauty and hardcore naturalism of it all.
Our required guide, although small in build was VERY strong, and while he
wedged himself between the rocks, he literally pulled Steve and Debbie up
the waterfalls and watershoots. We swam through clear, cool ponds to
the next fall/shoot, and again up we climbed. Debbie even took the
optional mountain climb up a rope, then the 75 ft. jump into the pond below.
Debbie, being reluctant of heights, saw her whole life flash before her; the
second jump only half of it flashed. Perhaps she's now almost
ready to go up the mast!
1: Climbing up a
waterfall 2: Continuing climb 3: Success 4: Preparing for the half-my-life jump
We also toured Puerto Plata including going up
Isabel de Torres mountain by cable car, the Amber Museum and the Brugal Rum
bottling plant (they produce 360,000 bottles of rum a day and only
export 3% - maybe that explains why the Dominicans are all so
happy and friendly). Sugar cane, while once a primary source of
income, is still seen and is used for rum making.
During our stay, we, along with many other cruisers,
assisted with rescuing a sailboat that had lost it's rudder at night in very
heavy sea conditions 25 miles from Luperon. Without a rudder, a
sailboat cannot steer, and is at the total mercy of the winds/seas.
ARGO, having the only radio that could strongly transmit and receive over
the Luperon mountains coordinated rescue efforts between a tanker (that was
standing by the sailboat but could not tow) and the catamaran from our
anchorage that went out with fellow cruisers. Fifteen hours later the
rescuers pulled the helpless sailboat back into Luperon, everybody safe and
sound after a harrowing experience.
While in Luperon, we saw the land effects first hand that
we had only read about up to that point: The high mountains and the
daytime warming of the land mass create strong winds that start in the
morning and increase. The night time cooling has the opposite effect
of laying down the winds substantially. In addition to this, when
transiting the north coast, the winds are accelerated coming around the
capes. Thus, one does their traveling along the coast at night, being
tucked in by mid morning at the latest. After a week in Luperon, we
began watching for a weather window to cross the north coast of Dominican
Republic, across the dreaded Mona Passage and to the southwest coast of
Puerto Rico - about 240 nautical miles. A week later it came in the
form of a cold front. This cold front would hopefully offset the
effects of the strong easterly trade winds. Crossing the Mona Passage
is considered by many cruisers as one of their worst, if not the worst, of
their passages. It is suggested to do night hops along the coast, and
we were prepared for that strategy.
Staged to cross the Mona Passage at the Luperon
Channel, one evening 8 boats from Luperon napped, and then took off at 11:00
p.m. Due to some planning, and a lot of luck, we ended up going
straight through to Boqueron, Puerto Rico making it in 42 hours in
unbelievably calm (0-3 ft. seas, 5-15 knot winds) "picnic-like" conditions.
Bahia Luperon: ARGO became "member" at a favorite cruiser
hangout in town
Mamon: Parrot and grouper fish ready for
Isabel de Torres mountain: View from cable
Isabel de Torres mountain: Botanical
gardens at top
Brugal Rum bottling plant
Anchored in Boqueron
Artist painting ARGO's
picture on t-shirt
Steve sporting jewelry
acquired in Key West
PUERTO RICO (P.R.) - May
21 - June 2: We arrived in Boqueron, Puerto Rico.
This is a small town located on the southwest corner of the island, with a
couple dozen cruisers anchored in the large bay. Over Memorial
weekend, it really got crazy with lots of college-age kids and families
hanging out, with lots of shops, street vendors and food carts.
Particularly popular are the numerous carts with fresh clams and oysters
piled high, shucked to order and eaten right there with fresh lime; grilled
mussels with the works; and grilled chicken or pork on a stick. And of
course bars all over the place. A Puerto Rican specialty food is
"mofongos", which are smashed plantains served in a bowl with seafood and
spices. Very, very good.
While there, Jose's brother, Danny, and Danny's son Erick, visited us
bringing our forwarded mail and several boat parts that had been shipped to
them. They took us around the island for the day, and brought us fresh
sweet pineapple, casitas and an English newspaper (what's that?). A very nice treat.
We once again waited for a weather
window to cross the exposed and unprotected south coasts of P.R., Vieques
and St. Thomas (USVI). We took 3 days, making a rest stop at
Isla Caja de Muertos, P.R., and Sun Bay, Vieques, P.R., and
leaving around midnight both nights. Our 3rd day was the toughest as
we were headed directly into the wind and waves, and finally fell off to
ease the ride. We arrived in
Roadtown, Tortola, BVI
late afternoon in time to clear into Customs and Immigration.
Clams, oysters stands
Danny (looks just like brother Jose) &
Erick on ARGO
Isla Caja de Muertos
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