Friday, February 28, 2014

Dominican Republic-Not Bike Friendly!

My parents are staying at the resort that's a 10 mins bike ride from us at the marina, which is amazing. We went to the resort and tried to find them, but couldn't, so we asked the Bell Hop how far the city centre was. He said, not far, about 20 mins on bike. So we thought, let's do it. The problem was that the Dominican is not exactly bike friendly, people were shocked to see us biking, we are literally the only people in Puerto Plata with bicycles, and I was shocked we didn't get hit. No bike lanes of course, so we had to share the road with the cars piled high with people and the many motor bikes zipping around us (far too close for comfort!). We later found out that the Dominican has one of the highest fatalities from car/motor bike accidents-we even passed one on the way back! 

After a good half hr of biking, and not seeing the city centre, I asked someone again where it was. He said, about another 20 mins. Okay, we made it this far, why not? 20 minutes later, I ask someone else. I asked if it was far, and he said it was pretty far, at least another 20-30 minutes! The first guys I asked, told me it wasn't very far, an hour of biking later and now it's far?! Needless to say, we decided not to keep going, we were pretty exhausted and hungry.

The actual town of Puerto Plata is quite poor, and it's easy not to see it if you never leave the luxury of your resort. There is a lot of garbage, there are kids playing with garbage, and there are many street dogs. There were many people on the streets, but it didn't seem like many stores or restaurants were open. Also, the men assume that I don't speak Spanish and so they think I don't understand what they're saying to me. One guys passing said under his breath "linda" which means pretty in Spanish, John was very confused as to why the guy thought my name was Linda. That I don't mind, but when they hiss at you, that creeps me out-even the men in the military are doing it!

Aside from that, the people here are very nice and friendly. We finally found a shop that was open, and John was very happy to get his "pollo" which he had been looking everywhere for, while I was very happy to find some ice cream (it's been so long!). And it's quite a change from the sparse islands of the Bahamas with towns of 50 or so people. Time to embrace the

Latin culture!

Coco loco?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Puerto Plata

We left for Puerto Plata at 4am, expecting it would take us around 25 hrs to do 90 miles, and we would arrive at day break. It ended up taking us 7 hrs less, having what has probably been our best sail yet. We stayed on one tack the whole way, we were flying, going between 4.5-6 knots, with the engine off, using only the power of the wind. The only downside to this was that we had to enter into the marina we were staying at (there are no anchorages there) in the middle of the night.

Luckily the marina was well marked, and besides a very close call with a guy snorkeling in the marina (who goes snorkeling in a marina-in the middle if the night?!), we managed to safely tie up to the dock by ourselves.

We are staying at the Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata, where there are also another couple of québécois boats here as well (they're everywhere!). The marina is kind of like a resort, with a casino, pool, restaurants, club, dolphin show and marine park (we can hear the show from our boat), showers (finally!) and had pretty good prices. It's the first real marina we've seen since Nassau. It is also the only place that we have found with a pump out since Florida, which we are sooooo happy about.

In the morning we had 4 people come to our boat from the marina and navy etc to check in with immigration. It was so easy and they didn't even acknowledge Dexter (which was good since I'm not sure I had everything needed to bring him in!). I would definitely recommend going to the marina, if only for a night to have a quick and easy check in.

So now it's time to brush up on my Spanish. I used to be completely fluent when I lived in Mexico, but that was 5 yrs ago, and now I keep mixing it up with French. But hopefully after a few cocktails it will all come back to me!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Passing Through the Turks and Caicos

We have made it in good time to Puerto Plata in the DR, though it was a long journey. We went from Mayaguana in the Bahamas to Providenciales in TCI, then to another anchorage 60 miles away called Six Hills Cay, then another 60 miles to Big Sand Cay, where we decided to take a short break before making the run to Puerto Plata.

Several boats that we met along the way were making one run from Providenciales to Puerto Plata straight. That's about 220 miles. That's a lot. We're trying to be leisurely sailors, so that went against our beliefs, so we opted to take a bit more time, especially since we were still tired from the run from Bahamas to Turks.

We stopped for a couple days in Big Sand Cay to recuperate, and we were very happy we did. It is currently humpback mating season, and on the way there John got excited because he thought he saw a dolphin. I looked over and realized that was either a dolphin with a serious obesity problem, or it was a whale. Then as we were sitting outside at anchor, enjoying the sunset, we saw whales breaching beneath the sun. Does it get any better than that?
Not the best pic of the whale, but you get the idea
One of the many amazing sunsets
A beautiful full moon
After traveling with other boats for the past few months, meeting lots of new and amazing people, and doing a lot of socializing, it was nice to have some time alone (especially before the hoopla of the Dominican and my parents!). We were completely alone in the beautiful anchorage of Big Sand Cay. No one in sight-except the whales! The water was so blue, and so clear, even more so than the Bahamas. And the bottom was only sand. We could see our anchor chain as clearly as if there was no water. And we saw some of the most beautiful sunsets. 

The last day however, John went to dive on the anchor and had a run in with a barracuda, which I could see crystal clear in the water. But he was the only sea life there, so I think that maybe he was lost.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Goodbye Bahamas

My parents have been wanting to take a vacation, and wanted to go somewhere we might be so we could see each other. But our plans are never set in stone, and having a schedule on a boat is dangerous as John says, and we had no idea whether we would venture further than the Bahamas or not, so it was hard to tell me parents where to meet us. So they booked a last minute trip to the Dominican Republic, while we were still in the Bahamas. So basically we've had to book it over there. 

In Mayaguana, we looked at our calendar and the distance we needed to travel and realized that we should leave ASAP in order to make it all the way to the DR in time. Thus we left the Knotty Bouys and were flying solo again for the first time since November.

Since we left last minute, I did not have time to put the sea-sickness patch on (it needs to be put on 12 hrs in advance). I thought I would be fine, and was actually starting to think that maybe the patch wasn't that affective, and maybe the side affects from it were worse than the sea-sickness. I was so so terribly wrong. That day (or rather those 17 hrs that it took us from Mayaguana to Providenciales) was the worst I have ever felt. It was essentially like having the stomach flu. So the patch it is from now on, at least now I know.

Stopping in the Turks and Caicos requires that you pay $100 at immigration for 7 days. Since we didn't have much time to actually stop and visit the Turks, we decided it was not worth our while to check in. And so we did not put up the quarantine flag (in order not to be noticed, because they would most likely come to our boat), and so we are doing our best to fly under the radar and will hopefully have time to stop on our way back up.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mac & Cheese Casserole

Prep Time: 20 mins Bake Time: 20 mins Serves: 4-6 (depending how hungry you are!)

I love pasta, and I love cheese. I also love Kraft Dinner (I know I know, but it's a guilty pleasure), and never thought I would get sick of eating it, but I have consumed over 20 boxes of it on this trip (this is unfortunately true, actually that's probably a huge understatement, it was probably more like 30-40), so I'm slightly sick of it. So I've gotten into making homemade Mac n cheese, which I also love, maybe even more than KD!

3-4 cups elbow pasta (I like to make extra)
2 onions (optional) 
1 can of mushroom soup (gives it a different, but delicious flavor) or 1 can of condensed/evaporated milk or 1 1/2 cups of milk
2 tbsp flour
8 oz velveeta or other shredded cheese (mixing different cheese is delicious, I put a bit of smoked Gouda in!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Tsp minced garlic (optional)
3 tbsp butter or margarine 
4 tbsp bread crumbs

Boil the water with a bit if salt (helps the pasta not stick to the bottom) and cook pasta until 'al dente', being careful not to over cook it because it will go in the oven after. While the pasta is cooking dice the onions and sauté them with the mixed garlic.  Add butter to the onions and add the flour after the butter has melted and mix well. Then add the mushroom soup/milk and bring to a boil and cook for another couple minutes before adding the cheese. Add the spices and cook for another couple minutes. Drain the pasta and mix the cheese sauce into the pasta. Then pour it into a 2 qt. greased casserole dish (or if you're me and don't have one, a rectangular cake pan). Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and any left over cheese and bake in the oven for 20 mins, or until the cheese on top starts to bubble and brown. And now you have a delicious meal, which often provides a lot of leftovers (I made one big casserole and one mini). You can also try different add-ins like tuna, mushrooms or any other vegetable.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Road to Mayaguana

After a 24 hr passage, we arrive in Atwood harbour, which was a beautiful protected anchorage with a beautiful beach. The Knotty Bouys made it just before the sun set and rafter up their little 26 footer next to us. There we met a few boats we had met a while back in Florida who were continuing as far as they could in the Caribbean. They were leaving the next morning and invited us to join them, but the weather wasn't great and we would be motoring for most of them, which isn't a problem for them since they have bigger boats and 54 horse power engines, but our 27 horsepower wouldn't keep up. 
This was so worth the effort of blowing it up!
John doing his best to relax
They did show us where the best spot for spear fishing was, and it was beautiful coral and lots of colourful fish. We caught three big ones, a grouper, a snapper, and an unknown brown fish. We ate like kings that night!
A smorgasbord of fish
We departed for another night time passage to Mayaguana, but we had to stop and re-anchor because the engine sounded funny and there was no water coming out. Turns out the the impeller for the water filter had broken, but luckily John was able to fix it and we were on our way once more.

On the radio we heard some serious trash talk between 2 boats. The conversation went something like this: 

Boat 1: Boat anchored in Atwood harbour, switch to channel 17?
Boat 2: No
Boat 1: Ok, move to channel 18?
Boat 2: Why? What do you want?
Boat1: Um, just wanted to let you know that it's Bahamian law to have an anchor light on at night
Boat 2: I don't care
Boat 1: You must be French 
Boat 2: You must be stupid
Boat 1: Yep, definitely French 

John and I were shocked! This was broadcast on channel 16, the emergency channel that everyone monitors!

We have arrived safely in Mayaguana, and are briefly exploring the island before we hit the road again.. 
Us and Knotty Bouys anchored in the distance
Checking out the merchandise from the fishermen

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Decision Made-We're Heading Further South!

We have officially decided to go further than the Bahamas, definitely to the Turks and Caicos and Dominican Republic, possibly to Puerto Rico, and then who knows...but we figured we made it this far, and it's really only about 60 miles from the southern most tip of the Bahamas to Turks, so we're going for it!

The next morning we said our goodbyes to Brin de Folie who were heading back to George Town. Within the first 5 minutes we had four dolphins swimming in our bow waves which was amazing. The water was so clear and they were jumping and playing! A good start to our passage.

Angelica were planning on going as far as the Virgin Islands but now were hesitant about continuing further with but decided to at least come to the Turks and Caicos with us. But 10 minutes into the passage they discovered a problem with their bilge pump (the thing that pumps water out of the boat if you have a leak-kind of important), so sadly they didn't continue with us. Unfortunately our fun cruising family has gotten smaller, and now it's us and the Knotty Bouys going further.
Knotty Bouys

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Goodbye Rum Cay

John finally caught a lobster! Well a rock lobster, but still a lobster. We had gone out spear fishing that afternoon and found nothing. Then John went again later with Victor, a man who's been living there on his boat for 12 years-so he knows his stuff. John came back with a rock lobster and a few smaller grouper and snappers. But we finally had a whole meal that we caught ourselves! Now we have to keep on this track!
Catch of the day!
Filleting the fishies
Rock lobster tail
Dexter had a bit of an altercation with the owner of the marinas girlfriends dog. She came by with her pack of wolves (aka 2 big dogs and a goat). Dexter ran to go play with them and one of the dogs grabbed him in his mouth and shook him around. Luckily Dexter made it out okay, poor guy was shaken up though! The owner tells me he's not friendly with other dogs. The kids went running after the goat and the goat freaked out, and she said the goat is scared of children. I'm just wondering why these unfriendly animals are not on a leash when coming to the marina....and also why she has a goat...
The goat running away from Alexia
Dexter was getting pretty hot in the heat so I gave him a serious hair cut on the beach, and I did for John (Johns didn't go as well as Dexters, so I won't put a picture of it!).
Haircut on the beach
A real salty dog
Now he only has half a fur coat
We decided it was time to keep going, especially since everything was closed in town because they ran out of beer (this is no joke, the town becomes a ghost town until the mailboat comes with more beer, and the mailboat hadn't come in 2 weeks!) .Since it was our last night before we all head out, some of us going different ways, we had a big potluck dinner on Brin de Folie.