Brad, Dan and Scott's Sailing Adventure

"There she is boys! The SS More Powerful than Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the Incredable Hulk combined." This space will be used to post updates of our odyssey.

Friday, February 02, 2007

so much to tell


We traveled to Georgetown on the 19^th to partake in some more
volleyball. The scene was similar but there were many more boats. Of
course we encountered the lovable folks on Aries immediately upon
arrival. Their big news was that Bon had scraped/been stung/been
accosted by sea serpents on his leg. The two incident areas were now
deeply pitted and oozing. We haven't heard if he has gotten better but
we wish him the best. Of course we went in to St. Frances on Sunday to
watch the Pats play. Let's not get into that. By Sunday there were
rumors of boats leaving Georgetown to head south on Monday. We managed
to meet up with one of them, Crux, on Monday morning just as we finished
our provisioning. Their plan was to head out that afternoon to the
Spanish Virgins. Of course, we agreed to leave hours later. The plan was
postponed a day while Kim and Carroll on Crux waited for their mail to
arrive. This gave us a little more time to prepare and say goodbye to
all of our friends in Georgetown, and of course it gave me the chance to
play in one more St. Frances poker tournament. Brad and Dan decided to
stay on Aries which was a good decision for I would have taken their
money too as cruised to victory in the 35 person tournament, leaving the
good name of Kaleidoscope fresh in the minds of the Georgetown cruisers.

We departed on the 23^rd with the hope of being in the Spanish Virgins
in a five or so days. Chris Parker's morning weather report had other
ideas for us. It looked as if the weather would be fine wind wise but
that a large 15-20 foot swell would build towards the end of our trip.
Thus the trip was modified again with the new destination of Luperon in
the Dominican Republic. Shortly into the trip we realized that our ETA
while motoring, which we were forced to do because the wind was slack or
on the nose the entire time, was in the middle of the night. To arrive
in an unfamiliar port in the middle of the night is asking for trouble
thus we decided to make an unscheduled stop at Myaguana for some spear
fishing. Myaguana is the easternmost island in the Bahamas. By this time
we had met up with the other boat Crux was traveling with, Aurora. We
were very fortunate to bag three giant lobsters and one large slipper
lobster. I don't think giant does one of the lobsters brad caught
justice. It was enormous. Dan located a lobster deep under a rock in
which there was no access for a spear. So what does Dan do, he can't
give up, that would be shameful. He proceeded to commence hand to
antenna combat for at least a half an hour. He would dive down reaching
his arm all the way up to his shoulder into the cave, barely reaching
the lobster, struggle for a grip and try to budge the wedged lobster
out. Upon unsuccessfully maneuvering the lobster out he would try again
with the same determination over and over. Finally in a last ditch
effort the lobster succumbed to Dan's persistence.

We continued on from Myaguana hours later with the same poor wind. We
had begun to question our gas supplies especially since it looked like
we would be motoring the rest of the trip. We picked up another boat,
Rosario shortly after leaving Myaguana. The four of us continued
Eastward towards the Turks and Caicos. Along the way Aurora caught a
small tuna and Kim on Crux had an epic battle with a six foot billfish
that he managed to land and capture some photos of. We also had a few
bites but the fish always managed to eluded us. We saw a small pod of
pilot whales of which a few swam right under the boat.

Three nights and 400 miles from Georgetown the Dominican Republic came
into view and we were more than ready for it. It was a spectacular sight
to see the sun rise over the mountains of Luperon after being exposed to
the flat islands of the Bahamas for so long. Entering the harbor in
daylight didn't help our fleet as two of the four boats ran aground in
the harbor. Both were soft groundings but unnerving none the less. We
were met by the commandant of the harbor who received the first of many
small bills to officials. Guarding the public dock is a plain clothed
elderly man welding a shot gun who has no regard to where its aim lies.
Customs and immigrations went smoothly for us because of brads
linguistic prowess. It was not so for the other couples. Brad was called
in to settle a dispute between Paul and Nancy on Aurora and the
immigration official who wanted 300 pessos. Paul and Nancy misheard and
assumed he wanted 300 dollars. Since the exchange rate is 33 pessos per
dollar this was an enormous misunderstanding. After a few moments Brad
was able to defuse the argument.

The first night in town we attended fajita night at the local marina.
For four and a half dollars we had a large amount of food buffet style
that was excellent. Beers were around two dollars for 22oz. The price
can't be beat and Presidente is a great beer. We arrived back at the
boat for our first good nights sleep in days. It is very difficult to
sleep while we are at sea. We have two hour shifts so we are forced to
wake up every four hours to take the helm. Moreover, those four hours
are very poor in sleep quality. We are constantly awoken by the vhf or a
rouge wave. Sleep was more than welcome that first night in the calm
harbor of Luperon. The fallowing day we traveled via cab to Puerta Plata
for some provisioning. The nine of us fit easily in the van. The trip
their and back was half the fun. The countryside of the Dominican
Republic is beautiful. The combination of vegetation is unique from
anywhere I have seen. We ate lunch in the oldest building in Puerta
Plata. The fried plantains were delectable. Our next stop was at a small
indoor bizarre that had everything from jewelry to wood carvings to
cigars. The big hit was a drink used for its health benefits. The bottle
contains numerous leaves of many varieties that you add rum, sweet red
wine and a little honey to. The bottle can be used for years. The
supermarket we went to was identical to one you would find in the states.

We had a bountiful dinner on Crux that night. The lobsters we had caught
on our trip were the main course that were complemented by crab legs and
numerous side dishes. We had a wonderful time with the three couples.
The following day we traveled with everyone to a set of waterfalls. They
are commercialized for Dominican Republic standards with guides helmets
and lifejackets. After hiking for 20 minutes we reached the first pool.
Apparently this waterfall system consists of over 25 pools and we
traveled up only the first nine. The water was incredibly refreshing,
partly because we hadn't showered in awhile, and partly because it was
hot out. Immediately upon reaching the top of the first waterfall we
realized the only way to get down is to jump or slide down. Each time we
reached the next level I became more and more excited with the prospect
of going down. The highest level we obtained had a very strong water jet
for a waterfall. The water was flowing so fast it forced you downward
pushing your helmet against the rock. We took a couple photos at the top
but the light was very bad and I don't think they came out well at all.
The way down was more exciting than I anticipated. It was a natural
water park that exceeded Atlantis in enjoyment. The rocks were perfectly
smooth and sliding down them was immensely invigorating. At some falls
the only option was to jump down. The whole group had a blast some even
climbed back up a fall to do it again.

We got back early and decided to rent motorcycles with David and Tni on
Rosario. Now none of us besides David had actually driven a motorcycle
before and looking back on it we were probably crazy but it worked out
well. The owner who rented them to us was very concerned with the
welfare of his bikes. It took us the better part of an hour just to
routinely get them moving with out staling. We had a few hiccups along
the way but for the most part after that first learning hour we were
fine. We traveled to Isabella which was the first town in the new world.
The ruins or a recreation of the ruins of the town where Columbus first
established a town is now a museum. I think everyone would agree that
the highlight of the trip was not actually the town but rather the
motorcycle rides to and from it. I cannot reiterate enough how beautiful
the countryside is. We took a couple detours to get a better flavor for
the DR. We ended up on dirt roads traveling through small villages. What
a trip. Amazingly, we managed to get all the bikes back in one piece. I
don't think we will ever own motorcycles but it was a great learning
experience, and a great place to learn.

We left Luperon the following day after receiving our dispatch from
customs and a little more provisioning. We left ahead of the group
knowing that we cannot maintain the same speed as they do. We caught two
fish in those first few hours sailing. The first was a beautiful 3 ft
Mahi Mahi that Brad reeled in. It is a brilliantly colored fish in the
water. The green and blue pop vibrantly as if they are emitting their
own light. Shortly after death the colors fade into a dull
grey-blue-green. The second fish we caught was a sea monster. This fish
was long and skinny like a needle fish but had viscous teeth and was
immensely ugly. To make things stranger it seemed as if our octopus lure
had attacked the fish as it hooked it in the center of its abdomen
gutting it as it did so. We ate the Mahi Mahi for dinner. Dan skillfully
breaded and fried it to perfection. We sailed in moderate winds until 11
that night when the wind died. Around 3 the engine began making loud
noises. We surmised that it was a problem with the belt that runs the
raw water pump. We tightened the belt thinking that it was just too
lose. Quickly it became evident that we had larger issues. The whole
water pump pulley oscillated indicating a problem with the bearings. By
this point we were already 60 miles out of Luperon and it was another 60
miles to the nearest port eastward in the DR, Samana. We weighed our
options which were few and decided eastward was the only thing that made
sense. Heroically, Kim and Carroll decided that they would try towing us
to the entrance of Samana. We agreed and they prepared a line to pass
over. They attached a fender to the end of a long line that they trailed
behind their boat and then circled us trying to bring the line close
enough for us to pick it up with a boat hook. Their first pass left the
line too far away from reach. I was able to hook the line during their
second pass. The line was traveling so fast, however, that it ripped the
boat hook out of my hand. Lost boat hooks on Kaleidoscope=2. Luckily, it
is amazing I'm saying luckily, but it is fortunate that after ripping
the boathook out of my hand the line lodged itself on our rudder. With
Dan pushing it free on one side with a pole spear and me on the other
pulling it from the fender we managed to dislodge the rope and secure it
to our bow. The towing started out great with little noticeable strain
on the boats and only improved when we made the line longer with our
secondary rode. There was one very sketchy moment when Kim tried to
check his oil. We both had our mains up while towing but to check the
oil he needed to turn his engine off leaving both boats sailing slowly
while we were still tied together. In light winds our boat sails faster
than Crux. We quickly closed the gap and began over taking her despite
letting the main out and ultimately dropping it. Kim was able to finish
in time before we encountered any real trouble but it sure was close.

By the time we reached the entrance to Samana we had decided to continue
on to Puerta Rico even with the unfavorable wind. We knew getting the
part in Puerta Rico would be much less of a hassle than it would be in
The Dominican Republic. Kim and Carroll were saints and decided to keep
towing us until we had enough wind to get us going. It turned out that
they towed us for 24 hours and around 120 miles. We could not ask for a
better cruising partner. If only we could repay their unbridled
generosity. We were left with some 60 miles to Boqueron, PR when we cut
the leash. Initially the wind was strong and we were making 7 knots in
the correct direction. This did not last long as the wind turned light
and variable. We were forced to beat towards Boqueron. The wind was so
light at times that we lost steerage and were forced to just sit. We
even set up our canopy and roll up our jib. The wind gained a little
strength as we neared Puerto Rico but it died when we were a couple
miles out from Boqueron. To make matters a little more interesting
around 9 when we were a mile out from Boqueron a speed boat flew out and
circled around behind us with flashing lights on. It was US customs and
Immigrations. They wanted to follow us in but after hearing that our
engine was out of commission and the wind was very light they decided it
would take too long to follow us in and they decided to board us right
there. We hove to and two officers jumped aboard. They instructed us to
stay in the cockpit as one of them searched down below. He looked in our
drawers and under our cushions. After looking at our passports and being
satisfied that we weren't harboring any Dominicans they departed along
with what little wind we had.

We made little to no headway and decided to loosen the belt and see if
our engine could just make it the 2 miles to anchor. Paul and Kim met us
in their dingy on the way in and guided us to anchor. We set the hook
and promptly passed out after a long three days.

The Customs and Immigrations office is not located in Boqueron so we all
took a cab the following morning to Mayaguez. It was immediately obvious
that we were in the US once again. McDonalds and Burger King oppose each
other along the streets as they do in suburbia America. The mall we went
to in Mayaguez could have just as easily been in Albany NY except that
the primary language is Spanish. Sears, Penny's, Wal-Mart and office max
were all present. I can't say I enjoy the mall experience in the US but
knowing we have spread our influence all the way to paradise is painful.
I came down with a cold that night which I have spread to Dan and Kim
since. I missed out on a great meal of tuna and Mahi Mahi on Rosario
with the group.

We ordered a replacement water pump and parts to fix the old pump that
should be here on Tuesday. We will be hanging out in Boqueron until then.