Tuesday, April 29, 2014

We Officially Chose the Best Winter to Miss!

Everytime we speak to friends and family back home all we hear is how bad the winter is, how it is never going to end (not sure that it has yet, so this might not be funny for those of you still suffering!). For me winter is always brutal, whether I'm living in Winnipeg (definitely a bit worse though) or Montreal. In Montreal people will say- but you're from Winnipeg, you should be used to this-no, I don't think I will ever get used to it! Point is, I am meant for more tropical climates, and while people always complain about winter, this year was actually the worst. It has actually been proven that this has been the worst winter from 1898 in Winnipeg!!! Even my grandmother wasn't around to see that. So, in the end, I've never been happier to be away from home. Enjoy this hilarious video-and stay warm!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dinghy disaster

In Clarence Town we decided to go visit Dean's Blue Hole, the deepest blue hole in the world at 663 feet, home of many free diving competitions (and unfortunately also many fatalities). John figured we could dinghy over to it, so we hopped in the dinghy, leaving Dexter behind (I didn't want him falling down the hole did I?!), and were off.

All was going well, it was a pretty calm day, and about 20 mins later we were almost there. The problem was a big reef that we had to get over where waves were crashing hard over. We had to build speed and then shut the motor down and pull her up in order to make it over the shallow reef without hitting the bottom. So we sped up, shut the engine down and got it up, but were at a bad angle, and a huge crashing wave came over us, smacking us broad sided, flipping the dinghy, with us in it over onto the reef.

It really happened so fast I'm not really sure what happened. I remember my feet hitting the reef, getting myself out from under the dinghy and pushing up to the surface, seeing the dinghy with all our stuff (and we had a lot of stuff!) floating (mostly floating...) and seeing that John was ok. We piled all the stuff that we could on top of the flipped over dinghy. I took the tow rope and swam it to shore while John looked for any stuff that had sunk.

That has got to have been the longest swim of my life. We were really quite far from shore, and the water was too deep for me to touch until we were about 10 ft to land. This reference might be lost on some of you, but I felt like Flounder in The Little Mermaid when he had to tow Ariel after she'd gotten her legs and couldn't swim, he had his tow rope around his waist, which I thought would really help me swim faster with the use of both hands, but also thought that if the dinghy goes down, so do I, and decided against it. 

We finally made it to shore, flipped the dinghy back over and dragged it up onto the beach. We checked each other over, making sure there were no major injuries, and we were lucky to just come away with some scratches and bruises. We opened the engine, trying to dry it out, hoping it wasn't done for after being submerged in salt water for so long. Thank god for dry bags! I had my camera and both our iPhones in there, and miraculously they all came out unscathed! Unfortunately Johns iPad was in its own mini dry bag thing as we were using it for navigation, and it has not recovered so well. Also, our sunglasses will make for some nice treasure for some lucky diver.

Since we're troupers, and didn't go through all that for nothing, we walked over to the blue hole and swam through it. It is pretty neat, and I probably would have been more freaked out over the intense drop into the abyss that I was swimming over if I wasn't still so shocked about our recent debacle. But it was really neat, and I would've liked to have climbed up the cliff and jumped off into it, but I was so exhausted, I don't think I would have had the strength to swim back up out of the hole.

We walked back to the dinghy (which never seemed so far, my legs felt like they were made of lead), got the dinghy back in the water, I treaded water to keep it pointed into the waves while John tried to get the engine to start. No luck. We tried calling for help on the VHF but we were too far from anyone, and the phone was dead. We dragged the dinghy back onto shore, and up as high as we could to get it out of the way of the rising tide, anchored it and took what we could with us and walked.

We walked for what seemed like ages, on the sandy road with no sign of anyone. It also happened to be a crazy hot day, without a cloud in sight, my skin felt like it was on fire, oh and we also had ran out of water long ago. I have never felt so thirsty, I was knocking on people's door to ask for water but no one answered. We walked up a very steep hill, I think the only thing that got me up there was because I was so distracted and fascinated by all the crabs rustling in the bushes (apparently it's their mating season). I was having a real Castaway moment and right when I thought that we were totally screwed and would have to walk the whole hr and a half back, a guy on a motor bike stopped, and called his wife who came and brought us water. I kid you not, the most expensive poached lobster would not have tasted as good as this water. We were so grateful!

Up on the hill we were able to get reception with the VHF and contacted our friends on the boat Pendana that we had met the other day. We were so lucky that we were able to get ahold of them, and that they had a car, and they came to our rescue, and drove us back. Wow that air conditioned car felt good.

We thought our engine was toast, but got ahold of a magician named Francis who took us back to our dinghy that we had left on the beach, and worked his magic and the engine was amazingly up and running again. We tentatively went back out over the reef, I was so nervous, but we made it through safely and made it back to our boat, which had never looked so beautiful, and I had never felt so tired.

All in all, we survived yet another adventure, and came out of it pretty lucky, it could've been worse, we could've flipped over the blue hole!. Needless to say I no longer felt guilty for leaving Dexter on the boat, he was definitely better off! And next time, I think we'll rent a car!
All our stuff drying out on the beach
Not a happy camper
See those crashing waves? Thats where we flipped and where I had to swim the dinghy back from-not close
Dean's blue hole

The drop off-I was tempted to bring my water wings!

fixin' her up

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Dominican Republic to the Bahamas: Our Longest Passage

We have arrived safe and sound in the Bahamas after doing our longest passage yet. The plan was to go from Samana in the DR to Mayaguana, Bahamas, not stopping in the Turks and Caicos, which would have been somewhere around 330 miles. 

We left Samana in the morning and as the sun set we decided to bring the front sail in during the night since the wind was quite strong. Unfortunately since the wind was so strong we had trouble bringing it in and ended up with the same problem as last time where it wrapped around itself with the top of it loose and flapping about.

We decided we would have to stop and fix it (we still had a good 275 miles to go after all), and stopped at the nearest place (which was Rio San Juan, still in the DR) at 2am, slept for a couple hrs and then I winched John up the fore stay and we managed a pretty quick fix and were off again.

The wind was strong (up to 25 knots) and we had some majorly rolly seas, roller-coaster style, but we were going pretty fast (I saw 8.9!) and after many hours, the seas and winds calmed down. We were lucky to have a beautiful bright full moon every night to help light the way. We crossed the Turks bank (which is shallow and full of coral heads), didn't see or hear any other boats, and 242 miles and 48 hrs later we were back in the beautiful blue turquoise waters of the Bahamas.

The water was so clear we could see rays swimming 15 ft under the boat. We arrived in the morning, spent the day recuperating before heading out again, this time doing 137 miles in 29 hrs to Clarence Town. The weather was great, it was calm enough to have a movie night in the cockpit! We got to Clarence Town, got the dinghy in the water, and went to shore for the first time in 6 days (Dexter has never been happier!).

So in total we did 473 miles in 96 hrs, took a lot of naps, and I read 2 entire novels. We were able to have the engine off the entire time, only turning it on briefly in idle during the night to recharge the batteries to power the autopilot, talk about a cheap way to travel! Imagine if we could power our cars using the wind! And I am very happy to say that I was not seasick at all! Maybe it means I'm finally getting used to it (only 8 months later!), all I know is it makes traveling a lot more enjoyable, I think this was the most enjoyable passage for me, even though it was also the longest.

Always impossible to capture how big the waves are in photos!
Maybe this gives a better idea of how rolly it was-we were heeled over 40 degrees!
Someones comfy!
The end of the rainbow!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Saying Goodbye to the DR

I'm a bit behind in my posts since we were without internet for a while, and we are currently back in the Bahamas, but here's my last post about the DR!

Back at the beautiful Puerto Bahia Marina in Samana, making our way north, but we had to stop and fix our sail. On our way here we got pretty beat up by the wind and waves, and while trying to furl in the front sail it folded back over itself and couldn't all go in. We tried many times to unfurl and the pull it in again, but it wouldn't work, it was all knotted and messed up. Luckily we met Dana and Jeff on a beautiful catamaran, who had a lot of experience. She's been sailing (often solo-Jeff was just visiting), for about 20 years, probably more. So we winched John up the fore stay (what the front sail is wrapped around), and he unwrapped it. But something was also messed up with the furling line (the line that you pull to bring the sail in), and we had to manually wrap it around the furler (31 times by the way), and we did this at 2am, because the wind was too strong to do it earlier. So that was super fun, but needed to be done.

Drinks Jeff and Dana
up he goes!
We also met a young French couple Pauline & Vincent on a 33' boat called Cricket. We were incredibly impressed with them, they're even younger than us and they did a 16 day passage to cross the Atlantic. That really made our passages look wimpy!
Me, Dex and Pauline

Vincent & John
We went into town with Jeff and Dana, Dexter bolted out of the bus when he saw a dog and ran across two streets, narrowly missing death several times, giving me a heart attack and shortening my life by a few years, all because he wanted to see another dog. That was our excitement for the day. Also when we went into the market there was a man sitting at the entrance. What I didn't see was the rooster sitting at his feet, and when I walked by with Dexter, he nearly lost an eye, but the man stepped on him to stop him just in time. So many near-fatal experiences for Dexter, sometimes I worry that I'm shaving 10 years off his life with this trip, he's seen more in the past 8 months than most dogs see in their lifetime!
Mini van?


Motoconcho ride
We enjoyed a few more swims, a few more happy hours and soaked up as much of the Latin culture as we could before making the big jump back to the Bahamas. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Los Haitises

Back in Samana in the DR, the one thing we didn't get to do, that I really wanted to do was go to their parque nacional Los Haitises. It's a protected, ecological paradise, with caves with pictographs from the Taino (indigenous) people. It's only 10 miles from the Puerto Bahia Marina that we were back at in Samana, and we went and anchored there for the night.

We anchored in a quiet little anchorage surrounded by big rock/caves and quite simply, nature. We were the only sign of human life, it was unbelievably peaceful and pristine. 

We took the dinghy through the watery trails of mangroves, that made a canopy over us. It was amazing and impossible to describe, but I'll try. It was a winding swampy trail, lined on either side of us with mangroves, with their endless roots, reflecting in the water, and so many different kinds of birds chirping and buzzing around. I think I probably took about 300 pictures just of these trees.
Lovin' it!

We went into the caves, still no sign of life, Dexter did his best to keep up and climb to the top. He really looked like a little lion cub! We then took the dinghy further down the island, through another trail of mangroves and found what life lived on the island. We walked down a trail to a lodge (after declining a ride on a motorcycle, the thought I could hold Dexter in one arm and hold on with the other, they obviously think I'm far more coordinated than I am). 

We had a bite to eat at the restaurant at the lodge, with horses, ducks, cows and many other animals leisurely walking around. And I jumped into one of the fresh water pools, which was such a relief, the Caribbean weather is really starting to kick in.
Im not sure what these guys were, but they were really loud!

I really enjoy the horses grazing in the background
On the walk back, John had to pick Dexter up to save him from a bull that appeared to get quite aggravated from his presence (I think Dexter was flirting with the lady cows), and he made quite a fuss and a lot of mooing. Luckily we made it out safely, and enjoyed a quiet night anchored with a beautiful moon.
True love
Phew! Made it out ok!