Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo, Cayo Caracoles(La Parguera)

(Puerto Rico - means rich port)

Wow! I can't imagine that we are in Puerto Rico(PR), sometimes I wake up to look around and it seems so surreal, just like its a dream and am going to wake up and find myself back in Jacksonville. So far we are all liking PR, people are very friendly, we can buy in dollars and we obviously cannot complain about the cheaper gas prices compared to the Bahamas, nor about the availability of US chain stores...

In Mayaguez, we did a lot of walking, we went to the city center and saw the stature of Christopher Colombus, then we went to a USDA research center and saw lots of trees and learnt about the research they were conducting there. We met a few locals that we interacted with, everyone was very polite. We also walked to walmart, some auto store for glue, shoe carnival to get crocs for Jordan and JC Penny, I was looking for shorts.

We have been practicing our Spanish language, on one of the days that we had gone to the city, on our way back Jordan,he is so cute boldly waved at some people that were sitting on the dock, "hasta luego," lol children they are so courageous! I was so impressed that he knew when to use the new words he'd just learnt.

At Cabo Rojo, we stayed one night and visited a light house, I was having a migraine so I stayed on board and slept but the boys had fun on land finding rocks and "gems".

Cayo Caracoles was my absolute favorite anchorage, we got to tie on a mooring ball in completely empty anchorage, we met many people from the main land(US) vacationing here. The water was clear and just peaceful it was a wonderful place to visit. The boys enjoyed snorkeling and swimming, Jordan was even more thrilled that he got to swim because he has not been able to swim for almost 4 weeks from a serious cut he had on his index finger. The finger looks awesome but we are still keeping an eye on it we don't want any infections.

At Cayo Carocoles, we were treated to a wonderful nature preserve with mangroves, picnic tables, bathrooms etc We were able to stretch our restless legs, we however, did not venture to town. In the evening, the boys took the dingy and went to Bahia Fosforesente, they said it was an amazing sight, the water was glowing with all those creatures that make the water turn blue. Mirek even jumped in(what a brave man!)

Today, we left Cayo Carocoles, heading to Salinas but had to stop at Ponce because the seas were quite rough and it was getting late so we decided to tuck into Ponce.  We will see what tomorrow brings. We look forward to arriving in Salinas as we hopefully will get a chance to rent a car for a few days and go visit the dry mountain and the wet mountain(more on that to follow, it could also be the dry mountain and the wet). Right now there are a few boats anchored here, we noticed one boat that had two kids, the boys are watching some movies.

We are grateful to be here and wish we could see our friends on Lady J again and maybe we will. We are also grateful that everyone is well, boat is behaving and everything is ok.

Buenas noches mis amigos!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

We work 24/7 - That’s 24/7 Island Time!

We arrived in Mayaquez, Puerto Rico around 10:00 pm at night. We really were not sure whether we should attempt a night approach, but since this is also a port for big ships, we decided to chance it. After all we already spent 5 nights on the sea and really wanted to get some uninterrupted rest tonight. 
Also the forecast was that the nice weather window was closing fast and from the evening the winds were going to build up.

We anchored and knew we were somewhere else. A loud latin music was being echoed across the bay and every now and then an announcer would announce through a loud speaker something really good and the whole city would erupt in loud cheer. These people love to party! 
Take some caribbean flavor, mix in some Spanish, add some american economy, stir it up - and you get Puerto Ricans - I think I am going to like this island a lot.

In the morning I had to disembark my vessel and clear in to the country. Until then everyone has to stay on the boat. The town was dead. In a distance I found a small USCG patrol boat so I dinghied over and asked them where the Customs and Immigration office would be. They thought I best to call them on the phone, so I went back to the boat. I called the main station in San Jose, about 150 miles away on the other side of island. A nice guy answered it and would take my name and said “I have to start my computer I will call you right back”. OK. And so he would take a little bit of info, and then called me back. 4 times! No problem. 
He said that I have to see the customs in Mayaguez as he was not able to finish checking me in over the phone.
I asked him whether the office in Mayaguez would be opened today as it was Saturday, to which he replied. "Off course, we work 24/7, but let me call them and I will call you right back”.
Ok then, and again a few minutes later my phone rings. “The Mayaquez officer is far away, so it’s best I stop by the office on Monday morning”. I guess 24/7 has different meaning when it comes to island time. 
So we are stuck here for couple of days until the "always on duty" officer shows up in the office on Monday. At least we don’t have any schedule to follow.

Here are some more images from our passage down here.

How do you bring in a big fish with no Gaff Hook?

So here we are 90 nautical miles north of the Dominican Republic, 180 miles west of the Puerto Rico, two days out from Turks and Caicos, well pretty much deep in the North Atlantic Ocean plowing the seas. 
Last night when we were wrestling a fish aboard, our gaff hook (big hook on a stick, which you use to pull big fish out of the water) disappeared overboard. 
No problem. We devised a plan that we would pull the fish on the bottom steps with the line and then someone would scoop it up with a dip net. The plan kind of works but still needs to be perfected.
So I am about to fillet a Wahoo that we caught earlier when two lines get a hit. Anthony is reeling in one rod, I am “reeling” in the other rod, and by “reeling in” I mean I am holding the rod watching how my line is being completely reeled out  by a fish that decided to go somewhere deep into the ocean. A few last turns on the reel, the fish decided it was deep enough and just stops. I pumped the rod each time cranking in a few turns just to watch the fish take all  those turns back. 
So we played this game of "Who can get exhausted quicker” for about 40 minutes - one fish on the bottom vs Anthony, Phyllis and I switching the rod between us since we were all exhausted and the fish seemed to completely ignoring that it was hooked. 
The whole time we were guessing as what it could be - A Shark!, or a big Grouper! Or (I wish) - a yellow fin tuna!

Then the fish decided to just swim up to the surface, and like a nice doggy came right up to the boat and swam next to the boat with us.

Suddenly we saw it - a large Mahi Mahi! Really large!
It decided to swim on the other side of the boat and no matter what we tried to do we could not get it to come closer. We knew that our plan of “Just pull up the fish on the bottom step and someone will scoop it up with a dip net is not going to work with this one”. 

We started brainstorming ideas how to get the fish to come closer to the boat. In the end we decided to use a spear gun, and 2 pole spears to try to kill the fish in the water and drag it onto steps.
I fired the spear gun (direct hit) with which we were able to bring the fish closer to the boat, and then tried and spear the fish with pole spears. I fired a spear point blank straight into it’s head just to see the spear bounce off the head and permanently bend like a bow. (We have aluminum spears). That really got the fish mad, but I was able to get the second spear into it and with a line, the speargun and pole spear we were finally able to wrestle it into the cockpit.

Big MahiMahi - 5 ft long,  weighing 36 pounds (16.5 kg)

I guess getting a new gaff hook is going to be high on our priority list when we get to Puerto Rico!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Moving On to Puerto Rico!

Well, it looks like we are heading EAST after all. After long discussions we decided to do some cruising in the Eastern Caribbean first to learn passage making and other skills.

Sooo. . . we are heading to Puerto Rico. We are about half way there after a 3 day, 2 night voyage and decided to take a rest for the night at Grant Turk (Turks and Caicos) - but just for the night. We are heading out shortly for another 3 day voyage that may take us directly to Puerto Rico.
The winds are very low for the next 3 days and we are seising the opportunity and skipping the Dominican Republic all together. We are already in the trade wind zone so the winds mostly blow from one direction - east - so going east is always the most challenging direction to go. The winds are going to be really strong next week, so we are trying to make the most of this weather window opportunity that we have this week.

Have we been caching fish or what??? Since the last post we have been tearing it up. At one time I had 3 rods get fish at the same time (probably all Mahi Mahis). I was the only one in the cockpit and so I had to abandon the two rods and reel in only one rod. It took me about 20 minutes fighting this fish, but we finally pulled in another mahi, so we are definitely stocking up our freezer with some delicious fish.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Day of Many Firsts and Lasts

Today was a special day. Many things happened that we will remember.
  • We crossed the Tropic of Cancer (located at 23 degrees and 30 minutes). This is the highest point where sun comes (earth tilts) before it goes back south. This is the first time that we sailed into a true “tropics”. From now on the weather will remain pretty much constant. (and tropical). 
  • Today we have done our first true ocean overnight passage. We travelled around 150 miles, had watch schedule, did our offshore night readiness gear etc . . . 
  • We are getting the feel of real offshore cruising for the first time. The huge swells that pick the boat up and then take her down. The hour after hour of dealing with boat motion, which does not seem to stop soon enough - cooking, showering, studying - all under way - no more waiting a few hours until we are safely at anchor.
  • Today for the first time we caught a Mahi-mahi fish. 2 of them ! ! ! It was fun fighting them. They would leap into the air as we were reeling them in. We started the grill and ate one fillet of one fish (there is enough for 4 meals). It was delicious! I always wanted to catch a mahi as they look so awesome and taste awesome too.

  • We also have some sad news. Our friends from Jacksonville on another Manta catamaran, that travelled with us ("Lady J”) decided to abandon traveling south due to some issues they are having with their boat. For many months we dreamed how we are going to plow the oceans together, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. We really miss their guidance and wish them the best on their coastal adventures in the Bahamas and US. In light of this event we spent a lot of time discussing our plans “solo” and what we want to accomplish and where we can go. One thing we all agree - we don’t feel like we are done cruising and exploring new worlds, so stay tuned to see where the journey takes us.
  • Also today we have reached the “End of Bahamas”. This place is amazing, and it is with mixed feelings that we will bid adieu to the Bahamas in order to explore other countries. I wish that we will have many future opportunities to explore these beautiful islands again and again.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Long Island

We have spent the last few days in Georgetown provisioning, relaxing, nursing a wound, studying and socializing. We met a few more cruisers and  caught up with some of the others that we had met during our first time visit to Georgetown. Jimmy from Axion helped splice the lines that make  our bridle so now we have  a spanking brand new bridle, thank you Jimmy! We were also able to fix our engines so they can start now without running below to wiggle the connectors, we hope the connectors behave continue behaving. Our leaking hatches were also fixed and hope everything stays dry going forward.

We had a great sail from Georgetown, the winds were blowing 15-20 knots from the Northwest which set us up for a nice down wind run. We were hoping to make it to Rum Cay but because we left a bit late from Georgetown we had to tuck in at Long Island for the night since we did not want to be arriving in the dark.  On the way we saw the most amazing clouds, they had sort of a green color to them it was amazing.

We are currently anchored in a very rolly anchorage, there is some surge but the winds are supposed to change and die down early morning so we should be able to enjoy the anchorage once the conditions mellow down. One very positive point about the anchorage is that there seems to be decent internet so we have been able to respond to emails and take care of some "stuff" while we have internet.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Georgetown - 2nd time around

Right before christmas we had made our way here to await the arrival of my brother-in-law who was arriving from Europe. After his arrival we made our way back up North to sight see some of the islands we had missed on our way to pick him up. Now we are back to Georgetown to see him off, whaaaa! We miss him already:)

SO yesterday was an interesting day at Lee stocking island to say the least…I will spare you the gory details but our youngest crew member’s hand came in contact with a machete and he sustained a cut on his left index finger…Our poor booboo it must have been such a shock and am sure it hurt like crazy. Lucky for us while exploring the island we had met up with the crew of Sailing Vessel(S/V) MOMO and S/V Sheila and the 1st mates Amie and Tracy respectively, happened to have experience in the medical field and they sure did save the day. Amie and Tracy came over to our boat and calmly told us what to do and helped us bring the situation under control. We are so grateful that they were around and appreciate all that they did to help us. We hope to cross paths soon with them.  

Because of the issue with Jordan’s finger, we decided to leave for Georgetown so we could see a doctor as well as get my brother in-law closer to the airport.  Our sail to Georgetown was rough! and I mean rouuugh!! As we approached the cut I secretly hoped Mirek would suggest to turn around but to my dismay he plunged right ahead, as we left the cut(Rat Cay Cut) we all thought the waves would dissipate but OMG! some of them were humongous.  We saw 7-8 swells and one big one went over our salon hatches and we got sea water into our salon yikes! I would say I hope I never see that again but it would be false hope but for now I do hope I don't see another one like that one.  Jordan slept all the way to Georgetown which was good because we need him to move less for the sake of his finger.

 Right now we are anchored in a quiet bay at Georgetown no winds no swells, just peaceful surroundings,we are grateful to be here and to be safe. 

See you on the next blog...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Greetings from Lee Stocking Island

We took of yesterday from Blackpoint and sailed about 25 nautical miles to Lee stocking Island. Blackpoint was a wonderful place to stay, we enjoyed conch at Lorraine's restaurant and bread from her mom's house...

Our passage from Blackpoint to Lee stocking was good, the seas weren't flat so there was a lot of rolling which lead to Jordan getting sea sick and loosing his breakfast, but he was a great sport and finished his math work. Anthony struggled with nausea all the way but handled it like a man while studying math and Latin, and I amazingly did not get sea sick and am the one who has always been sea sick, needless to say I was very happy.

We arrived at Lee stocking Island at around 2PM to find about 10 other boats  anchored here. As we were anchoring, one of the cruisers came and told us that there was going to be a get together on the island and that we were welcome to join them. We told them we'd stop by. In the meantime, Mirek and my brother in-law got on the dingy(dingy is to us as a car is to someone living on land, that's what we use to get to land) and went lobster hunting.  A couple hours later they showed up with conch, lobster and fish, it therefore suffices to say we are going to be enjoying some sea food today.

We did make it to go ashore to socialize, we met cruisers from the US and some from Canada. There were two families with kids, one family had two girls and the other had one girl. They were adorable.

The one interesting thing about Lee stocking Island is that it used to be a marine research center that was in full force operation but due to lack of funding was shut down and now no one lives here. The grounds are well taken care off so we are assuming there is a caretaker that comes once in while to make sure things are clean. The boys love it because they can climb trees, run and do the things that boys do...

I think our next destination is Georgetown but we will keep you posted...Have a wonderful Sunday...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year!

Wow! Can you believe that is is the 8th day of the new year already? Where did 2014 go? I hope it did not go to the dogs but rather that it was a year of great accomplishments and that 2015 will be a year of even greater accomplishments.

So where have we been? I think the last post made was on the 20th of December, yikes! Talk of absenteeism:((( We are hoping to pick up where we stopped so we can stay in touch with friends and family.

So the past few weeks have found us enjoying the company of my husband's brother who is visiting us from the Czech republic.

He arrived on December 22nd and is staying with us till January 14th. (I think he is the reason we haven't been posting we've spent all our time with him...poor thing he is our scapegoat lol) It has been nice having him here the kids have definitely enjoyed his company as we have, he has helped catch some lobsters, fish, and conch and has been helpful around the boat, anchoring, raising the surely has been nice to have some extra muscles around.

With my brother in law visiting, we have travelled to different Cays, snorkeled in amazing corals, harvested some delicious coconuts, and walked on some of the most white sanded beaches we've only seen in magazines. It has been fantastic! We even managed to see some islands that are owned by country music legends, film actors like Johnny Depp, Oprah and the like.

Currently we are anchored at Blackpoint Cay, it is blowing like crazy gusts of up to 25 knots, feels like we are surfing even though we are anchored. We hope the winds will die down. Blackpoint is a small island that hosts a very popular restaurant called Lorraine's restaurant, so if you are ever down here stop here for some real island fare. Behind Lorraine's restaurant, her mom makes the most scrumptious breads, the favorite one is the coconut bread one, the stuff just melts in your mouth.

We will keep you posted as soon as we know what our next destination will be. May you have great success this new year!