What’s been happening?

rusty-and-taunyaTime passes and plans change.  SV On the Bright Side will be located in the Cayman Islands for the next few years, while she works off some of the debt she’s incurred in repairs and breakdowns.  She’s going to be working doing chartered day-sails with some friends who have been running a successful business there for some time.

For me, I had enough when we had to turn back to Jamaica.  It was an amazing trip, but it helped me to realize that I had left my best crew at home.  I don’t want to cruise without my partner and husband, Rusty. Being apart for so long made it clear to me that there is no other I want to be with.  We were married this last December and are finishing up business in Portland for the next few years.

We are hopeful that under the wonderful care and business acumen of our partners, the boat will flourish and produce enough income to repay the loans we’ve had to take out to pay for her problems.  And ultimately, we hope to continue our cruising dream, together, in about 4 years time.

While we wait, I’ve just started a graduate program to get my master’s in counseling and Rusty is completing his last few years before retirement.  Annika is planning to start community college this fall, and the little girls are just getting bigger and bigger.  We all miss the boat, but we’re glad this option happened our way.  The finances had pushed us toward having to sell her with no way to recuperate our losses.  This opportunity makes sense and potentially gives us the chance to visit Cuba on holiday in the next year or two.

Thank you for following our adventures… they’re not over just transitioning into a different direction for the time being.

Good Help

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If only their motto was genuine

One of my biggest struggles since I started this voyage is that I’m not a McGyver sort of gal.  I have this persistent daydream where I whip out the manual and work through whatever problem I’m facing until I patiently resolve it and am rewarded with the heady rush of successfully making my own repair.

The reality has been more like opening a can of spaghetti and trying to ascertain which strand is broken and making my thingamajig stop working.  I stare at it in confusion, poke at it with my finger and frown in distaste at the disgusting sauce. I then decide there is *no way* I can figure this out, feel overwhelmed and guilty that I didn’t try harder and beg Rusty to help me find someone to repair it.

I think the larger problem for me is that I tackled this journey with less “know how” than is ideal.  Rusty holds the intensity of interest to do the studying necessary to tackle these projects and he’s not here.  I know it’s important that I learn these things too, but I realize I am the sort who learns by watching and doing…  So I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been aboard, but not enough to keep me from feeling inadequate.

The other problem I’ve been facing is the number of opportunistic, inept and plain con artists there are working in the marine industry.  My experience in Ft Lauderdale and Puerto Rico was devastating.  I paid multiple people for work I found out later (often during during key crisis) was never actually done.

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St Martin was a huge improvement because the guys at Custom Fit Marine work with a great deal of integrity.  It was wonderful to team up with them and have people charge a fair price for top quality work. But even they can miss things, and they did.

I left St Martin with my starboard engine supposedly working, but on arrival to St Croix found that it was still having a huge problem.  It ran very rough and was vibrating horribly.  So I came to get help at St Croix Marina.  They put me in touch with Norman, who is an amazing mechanic.  He immediately determined that it was a fuel supply issue, went through my lines and determine that Dr. Diesel, the independent mechanic (before I had Custom Fit marine look at it) had installed the wrong grade of fuel filter, so it was choking my engine.  I also asked them to check a clamp that had seemed wet and they were to go with me on a test drive.

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Starboard engine humming along like it's supposed to.

They never showed up for the test drive, but the engine sounded so good, I thought they had it all resolved. Meanwhile, I blew up our whole electronic system. I forgot to check how CFM had rewired my plug before I plugged it in, didn’t realize the outlet was higher amperage than we needed…  I plugged in to shore power and shocked the whole system with undiluted power through the wrong wire.  It destroyed my invertor charger.

Rusty said he could get me a new one by Tuesday, but the electrician, Glenn, said he had one he’d bought for himself, new in the box, been sitting around for 2 years because he’d never used it.  He said he’d bought it new for 2k, but he’d let it go for $1500. This was a little more than a new one but it got us out of here quickly, so we agreed.

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He came by Saturday morning and spent all day trying to get a machine (that looked a lot dirtier than new in the box) to work… But it wouldn’t invert.  Unfortunately, it was a holiday weekend so he wanted to talk to tech support on Tuesday.  There were a few things suspicious to me about him, some things he’d said that didn’t add up, so I wasn’t shocked when Ken looked at the invertor and found it had been manufactured in 2008. Glenn was lying about what he was selling me, and trying to cheat me. It was clearly an old used machine, in no way worth $1500, and it didn’t even work.

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Of course now I can’t get the new machine until Thursday, so we tried to get off the dock to avoid very high dockage fees, only to find that our starboard engine sounds terrible again.  I checked the clamp I’d asked Norman to look at and find it’s wet with diesel.  So Ken takes off the hose and sure enough, the clamp is broken.  We replace it and now, we can’t seem to get the engine primed.

We spent several hours trying.  I feel kinda useless that we were unable to master something so basic.  I suspect there may be an additional problem, like a failed washer or the set screw…  But I don’t know and I have that sinking overwhelming sensation of opening that can of spaghetti.

This morning I talked to Judd, the yard manager about Glenn and Norman.  I found his attitude about Glenn pretty lacking.  “I’ve had him service 130 boats and never a complaint until you.”  He said he had no one else to offer for electrical service and said he’d get Norman in for us.

I saw Glenn on my way back to my boat and told him we’d seen the date of manufacturing on the machine. He didn’t deny his perfidity, he merely asked me what I wanted to do.  I told him we were ordering a new one and would install it ourselves… He took my pronouncement with aplumb and made no effort to defend himself when I said he’d lied to me.

It really bothers me that there is so much chicanery going on in this industry.  I had no idea how difficult it would be to find trustworthy help on the boat.  It’s been demoralizing how often people have tried (and often succeeded) to cheat us.  I just wish I was less inept and Rusty was here with me.

And while I am writing this Norman showed up.  I’m happy to note his assistant *had* examined that line, they had cut out a split but he should have replaced the clamp.  They got the engine going in 5 minutes.  I think the only thing they did different was continue to pump fuel while they set the bolt loosened to release air from the system.  But I learned more today… And I was close to resolving the problem myself.  Given time, I may learn these engines yet.

Catching Up

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted and a lot has happened.  I have some more detailed blogs written that I’ll try to backpost at a later date, but for now I’ll briefly catch you up to date.

We cruised from Puerto Rico to US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands. It was lovely and as usual we had a few boat problems crop up that were difficult to resolve.

Unfortunately, in BVI, Jay got seriously ill with an acute case of Diverticulitis. He had to leave the ship. I brought on Khalil and Ryon to help Laura and I and we took off for St Martin.  Once there, Laura decided to continue on with a friend on his boat, Kahlil got a job offer and Ryon didn’t want to hang around while we got engine repairs.

So sitting in Marigot Bay for a month while the port engine was dealt with (it had some major issues with leaking due to electrolysis.) I eventually decided we’d be better off hauling out in St Martin instead of doing so in Curaçao.

Once the port engine was running again, we moved to Time Out Boat Yard and I took a break from the boat, visiting Portland with Fiona and Annika. Unfortunately, the new crew I left in charge during my absence turned out to be a con artist. I don’t like to say anything ill of crew, but it turns out this guy has a rep for finding people to take advantage of and doing so. I’m pretty sure I paid him for work he didn’t do and that he sold my dinghy engine claiming it had been stolen, in addition to completely trashing the boat.

On the positive side, the team I hired after him at Custom Fit Marine did an outstanding job refitting the boat.  They spent two months on her because the rigging job done in Ft Lauderdale was very incomplete, and they found and resolved some other serious problems that needed treatment and would have been dangerous in the Pacific.

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Linnea rescues a lizard

This was also the time that our new mascot joined us.  Andrea was watching a boat be hauled out by the yard crane, when out wanders this bit of orange fluff. 

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She brought him for Linnea to see and immediately lose her heart.  She named him Toby (in honor of the Time Out Boat Yard where he was found.)

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So at the middle of May I’m back on my boat and in the water. Annika and Fiona let me take Linnea for a turn while they stayed in Portland. My lifelong friend Andrea joined me and we have a new crew member, Ken from Colorado.

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We left St Martin on Saturday, arriving in st croix on Sunday. Unfortunately, the engines sounded terrible so we pulled into St Croix marina to have them gone over, one more time. While here we almost blew up our invertor/charger because the cord was wired back together wrong in St Martin.  It blew a fuse which we replaced and it worked.

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Our beautiful new sails

Turns out we’d put a gasoline filter in our deisel fuel filter… That resolved most of the engine problems. But when we were reassembling the invertor/charger, we dropped a drill bit that hit just the wrong spot and fried the whole shebang.

So now, we have to get that resolved before we can continue on. Seems like it’s always something… But St Croix is a nice change of pace after 3 months in St Martin .

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Guest Post (Fiona) Isla de Mona

The pretty blue water was amazing, that’s why blue is now my favorite color.  When we got to Puerto rico we found a lovely island, called Isla Mona.  The trees are beautiful!  The colors of the trees and the trunks,

20151211_100208.jpgI love the island so much that I don’t  think anyone could appreciate it as much as I do.  There are cacti, beautiful white sand beaches, and the mountain was so strikingly tall.  The water was pretty too.  It had spontaneous corals everywhere, and we saw two cowfish, stingrays, beautiful black trigger fish with electric blue stripes on their back around all their fins.  I also saw a very very small fish with these electric blue spots.  It was amazing!pic 2

Jay Laura and Pat went scuba diving and saw a shark , I’m kinda jealous about that.  Scuba diving scares me though, so I don’t really want to do that.  But I love snorkeling and I see so many cool things!

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My favorite part of the trip so far, is Puerto Rico.  I loved Mona Island, it was amazing.  I wish we could have stayed another night.  We also got to go to food booths in Ponce, which were so neat and full of interesting things, including a santa!  I tried a new thing, octopus, and it was kinda chewy, but the flavor was pretty good.

My worst part of the trip so far, was the passage from the Bahamas to Turks and Caicos.  It seemed like everything broke.  Jay got seasick and we ate so much curry that it feels ruined for me now.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/X3CRbCwjGdI“>Video of Isla de Mona

 

Don’t Regret the Egret

tree.jpgWhile we lived at the Ponce Marina, we noticed that there were a large number of egrets, pelicans and other large water birds around us.  We noticed quite a few dead egrets in the water, and we could see as we walked down the dock – a large mangrove tree filled with water birds that sat in the middle of the water, not far from a dock across the way.  It was dotted with splashes of white, as though it were some sort of unique Caribbean Christmas tree, or perhaps a delicate fruit.  The squawks and squeaks from the various balls made it very clear that the splashes of color were avian in nature.

We really enjoyed the loud and expressive splash of nature so close to us, contrasted by the very well manicured and maintained marina.  I wondered at the dead birds, but assumed that it was probably babies who wouldn’t have made it.

chick.jpgOne day, as I was walking back to the boat from my rental car, I noticed a white shivering mass sitting along side the dock.  I looked at it closer and realized it was one of the birds that I usually see dead in the water, a small egret.  It was very very wet, and shivering as the 15 knot wind whistled past.  I knew that birds get their warmth from the mass of air that the fluffy feathers keep on their skin, separated from the cold air outside.  With the feathers all being very wet, that bird was getting chilled beyond what the drenching had done.

fiona egretI went back to the boat and grabbed a couple of fluffy dry rags and Fiona, then we went back and found the bird sitting placidly where I’d left it.  It had no energy to evade or fight me off, so it let me pick it up and hold it in the warm towel.  I stood there, with the bird in my arms and worked and worked little by little to dry and fluff out it’s feathers.

Since I’ve worked with birds, I know that they enjoy having their feathers preened.  As even as it would start to struggle and become scared, stroking and digging my fingers into the feathers around her cheeks brought calm and reassurance.  As I fluffed all her feathers, I realized that she was indeed, a very young bird.  I could see that the tips of her feathers were still had down from when she was a chick.

annika egret.jpgAnnika and Fiona helped me dry her – and then, we let her down.  She was very unsteady on her feet and we couldn’t get her to eat any egg yolk.  We had no fish to offer her.  They tried to return her to the tree we knew she came from, but were unable to do so as it actually had no where that it was close enough to land that they could access it.  They released her back in the marina – to struggle to continue her young life.  We hope she made it and didn’t end up back in the water.  She’d escaped it once, by marina staff, who had washed her throughly and left her where I found her.

We don’t know if she lived but we do know we warmed her and gave her a better chance than she’d had before we encountered her.

egret.jpgThis post is dedicated to our fluffy little egret and we have no regrets about helping her.

Ponce – Puerto Rico

ponce harbor.jpgI’ve been pretty quiet the last couple weeks, not because I was sailing the far seas and seeing exotic places, but because I was driving a rental car all over Puerto Rico running errands.  That’s not to say that Puerto Rico doesn’t count as an exotic place, because in my book, it definitely does!  But when the water is the gross stuff that surrounds most marinas – so you’re not swimming, and when the biggest entertainment is a chance to go see the new Star Wars movie… it just doesn’t seem like that interesting of material to blog about.

That being said, we did get a TON of things done while we were in Ponce, with a rental car.  We stayed at a marina, where we were able to have unlimited electricity.  We needed this so that Jay could get out his sail rite sewing machine and do some HUGE repairs on the boat main sail.  In order to protect it until we get a new one, we needed to apply some sticky stuff to it and sew that in on the seam.  Jay and Lara did most of this work – and the marina kindly let us use their big ballroom, which had electricity and a large floorspace for setting out the sail.

T20151215_095241.jpghe electricity also allowed Jay to finish sewing our hatch covers, and even better… make us a dodger!  He 2/3 finished a new dodger for our boat, which we have already found makes for a much drier passage.  We’re greatly appreciating the dodger!

broken alternator.jpgWhile Jay and Laura were working hard on the boat in port… I was driving all over the island.  I took the broken water maker up to Fajardo and asked them to work on it before we arrived with the boat.  I went to Caguas multiple times for Costco runs and getting our alternators repaired.  I drove to Bayamon to buy this special foam we need for when we haul out the boat in St. Kitts.  In any case, a lot of the time was spent waiting for items to arrive to us.

christmas tree.jpgChristmas was also spent aboard the boat – with our little fabric tree made by Fiona and small gifts exchanged between everyone.  Fiona really enjoyed some gifts from Pat – who had left us to rejoin his family on arrival to Ponce.  He will really be missed, he was a wonderful addition to our crew and we have yet to find a replacement.

It was a really long two week stay.  The music from the vendors across the street was most often played loud.  But the people were so kind and helpful, everywhere we went.  The marina was so nice, I left a SIYC courtesy flag with them, and they reciprocated by giving me one of theirs.  There was a cool adventure with an egret too – I’ll write about that next.  Merry Late Christmas everyone!

Luperon

Our departure from Ensenada was amazingly beautiful.  We departed at 2:00 am and the night had calmed the winds.  The anchor (which I had worried would be difficult to pull because it was embedded deeply into a grass bank) pulled up very easily with no problem.  We stayed to the deep side of the harbor and well away from the coral we knew was behind where we’d anchored… and glided out in dark tranquility.  The rest of the night passage followed that beautiful start.  We took no water over the bow and simply glided along.  There wasn’t enough wind to sail, but the engines worked flawlessly – and purred like kittens after all the work Jay had put in, changing filters and bleeding lines.

Puerto Plata Habla (credit)

In the early morning hours we arrived at Luperon.  It was time to officially check into this country we’d already been enjoying for several days.  With no sign of the military, we decided to head up to immigration and start the process.  I was sent to multiple people and charged fees that totaled more than the $175 I was told it should not exceed.  But I really don’t know how you can argue with “illegal fees.”  It was unclear to me where they were overcharging.  And the one fee I thought was bogus and I tried to argue, got me absolutely no where.  The people I dealt with were friendly and felt helpful for the most part, but I think the warmth and small town atmosphere we had just left, caused us to be a little jaded for our experience in Luperon.

 

 

We knew the harbor would be dirty, but knowing and experiencing anchoring in the green unfathomable depths are two different things.  And even though the cost was less to check into DR than to Caicos, I kept worrying I was being conned.  In retrospect, I think that worry has negatively tinged my entire experience at Luperon and it just hasn’t felt as warm.  Or maybe it was just that I no longer had Domingo as my protector, to show me where to go with the luxury of a native’s knowledge of how things work.  Or maybe it was the difficulty adjusting to the pollution so clearly evident everywhere in the city streets as well as the harbor.  I don’t know what it is, but I wish we were still at Ensenada, talking and laughing with Niulka, Domingo and Jose Louis.  That was so special and I will always remember my time getting to know them, short as it was.

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We thought we would go ahead and leave Luperon that same evening – but the Navy informed us that the harbor is closed at night and ships are not allowed to depart.  We would need to see them for a “dispatcho” before we left.  They said it would have to be by six, and to give them a call on VHF 68.  At 5:30, we gave them a call… no answer.  We tried calling on VHF 16 – no answer.  Jay and Pat drove down with the boat papers and even talked to the commendant… they said they would fill out our paperwork tomorrow at 2Pm.  So, we stayed another night.  They also said their radio doesn’t work.

The next day, we realized we had a great weather window for getting to Puerto Rico.  We also realized that the difficulty we’d experienced with officials here, was going to be replicated should we try to bounce our way down the coast and check out in Samana… stories of officials fleecing people were abundant.  So we announced that we would be going directly to Puerto Rico and checked out of the country… leaving at 6pm – as late as the officials would let us depart from the harbor.

Restaurant 17 – Niulka and family

 

 

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Jay admiring the fresh crab and lobster on display at Restaurant 17

Because Niulka had spent so much time with me today, and even sent her husband to town with us… and I just felt like it would be wrong to back out from eating at her restaurant.  I did explain the problem to her, as well as I could in my semi-fluent and yet still broken Spanish.  She was very sympathetic and offered the three least expensive lobsters at $8.00 a piece, along with French fries and fried yucca.  I thought about it, and decided that if I had figured the cost of a cab – it was still a reasonable price and just went with it.  We all sat down to await her lobster smothered in a garlicky sauce.

This was an experiment for me.  I have a sensitive stomach and I have to be careful with the meat I eat.  Something on it, especially if it’s older or been left sitting around, and also especially with chicken, will make me very ill.  It isn’t anything that bothers other people, it’s a sensitivity particular to my body – but I am very aware of this when I am at restaurants of any sort.  In order to ensure that I was getting the freshest meat, I ordered the lobster too – because I knew it was alive until just before it was served.  The thing is, last time I tried lobster twenty years ago… I didn’t like it.  I hoped my taste buds had changed… however after eating half of the dinner, I realized they hadn’t.  The girls finished my lobster for me.  I didn’t have the heart to tell Niulka that I didn’t like it – when she came by asking how everything was – I simply stated “Tan bueno!”

We arranged for Niulka’s friend, Jacqueline, to do some of our laundry the next day – and then we headed for our boat.  I was tired after using Spanish that has sat dormant for about 20 years… and glowing from the wonderful day that contrasted from the very low feelings of the previous days.  The next day – after dropping off our laundry in the morning with Jacqueline, I spent the rest of the day on the boat, swimming and relaxing.  Jay, Laura and Pat took a long walk along the beach.  Unfortunately Pat stepped right on a dead sea urchin!  The spines punctured into his foot with a circular pattern.  It was like stepping onto a miniature porcupine except the quills were tiny, didn’t have barbs and would easily break off and fester if not removed.  Laura also got a spine in her toe, even though she was wearing thongs.  Walking on the beach was treacherous here!

When they returned to the boat, they let me know that Niulka had asked for me several times and wanted me to come back the next day.  I was happy to hear she asked for me, and I baked banana bread on our stovetop – the first one for us, and a second for her.  She had asked if I had a kitchen on my boat, so I wanted to share a delicious goody that I had made in my boat kitchen!  It was super lovely having clean sheets and towels to put away that night – and sleeping with the fresh scent of soap was amazing!

The next day, we went to Niulka’s.  I brought the girls and all our computers, because her neighbor restaurant (a friend of Niulka’s) was kind enough to share wifi with us, at no charge.  I thought I might be able to post a few blogs, but it quickly became apparent that my appreciation and interest in Niulka was returned!  She sat her chair next to me and asked to see pictures of my family.  I was very happy – as I really enjoyed her, her husband and was fascinated to learn more about her way of life and her family.  I was able to spend time watching her prepare food, and really look at the surroundings I was in.  I realized that while they did have electricity for several fridges in the back, aside from this, all the preparation was done in ways that have likely been continued for generations.

The cooking was on a raised table where several clay pits had been made.  She kept a small fire going with a few dry branches, and she used very large wok and cast iron kettle for her cooking.  These were placed on grates above the fire – and were very hot!  She worked efficiently, going through motions I’m sure she’s done thousands of time already.  She ground up fresh garlic in a wooden mortar and pestle.  She added packets of seasoning “completo” and “super complete” – though I still don’t know what the difference is between the two.  This was old world cooking, served on Styrofoam plates.  It was truly amazing to watch her at work… and I may have a few different ideas for cooking in DR style.

It was really fun when she brought the banana cake over to her friend with the wifi.  Apparently she shared a little bit and the friend exclaimed and how delicious the cake was – and demanded the entire thing (jokingly I’m sure.)  Niulka had the pleasure of departing with her cake, announcing with glee that it was all hers; as she described her encounter to me.  Then she distributed some of the cake to her adorable nephew, Jose Louis, and her husband.  The friend, meanwhile, came over and I did my very best to explain to her, in Spanish, a recipe that I don’t have written down.  I just throw it together in my head, plus I’d cooked it in my air cooker.  I hope she is able to replicate it to her satisfaction.

It was a wonderful evening.  I got to know Niulka much more after spending the day with her.  I also better knew Domingo, and Jose Luis – they were all very sweet and kind people – we clicked really well together.  Niulka kept jokingly asking if I’d be coming back tomorrow, but I’d already let her know that we intended to be gone in the morning.  I gave her my e-mail and the blog information – but her only access to the internet is when her son comes home from the university for the holidays and brings his computer.  Fortunately – that starts next week!

We paid for the sodas, and a plate of French fries.  I gathered the fruit I’d bought from passing motorcycle vendors (that was what she meant when she said I could just shop here at the restaurants!)  We hugged, took pictures and then Domingo started trying to tell me something I had trouble understanding.  I’m still not sure what his point was, but he seemed to be urging us to go directly to Luperon, and to be careful not to sink the boat.  I hope I didn’t miss his point too badly.  It was another glorious day in Ensenada, but I didn’t get any blogs posted on the internet.

First Day Ensenada

We really were fortunate in landing at Ensenada.  It was beautiful there, and it turned out to be a sort of resort/park that the locals and people in the area would come to when they wanted to get away.  There aren’t too many cruisers or American tourists who come to this area – and we were in fact, the only gringos around.

P1000661.JPGFirst we explored the coral reef behind us, which was the first coral reef we’d actually encountered on our trip!  There were many soft corals fluttering in the wave action, including purple fans and sponges of all P1000659shapes and sizes.  We saw two eels, and some beautiful tangs, both large and small.  There were a lot of spiny sea urchin hunting these grounds, and I wondered if they were in part responsible for the deterioration which was also obvious on the reef.  Even as my children and I gloried in the amazing sights we saw, I knew that this was probably only 1/3 of what it used to be.  You could tell because of the dead corals, algal growth, and in some areas, minor bleaching. P1000668.JPG

Still, it was fantastic and I saw soooo many great things that I never saw before!  And the girls were just amazed and thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling and exploring this special area.  After we came back to the boat, we had even more fun beneath the boat!  Some sea urchens have shorter spines and you can handle them – it’s similar to holding a hedgehog.  You P1000670.JPGwouldn’t want to squeeze it… but picked up delicately you can enjoy looking at these beautiful creatures and watching as their many feet reach between the spines to suction onto your hand.  It sort of tickles!  There were contrasting colors and even a few that were solid white!  We also found some beautiful sea urchin shells – some of which held onto the striped coloring.

That afternoon, we went ashore and found that what had appeared to be an open air market, was actually a long long row of restaurants serving various seafood dishes that were caught daily by the owners of the restaurants.  We wandered amongst the stalls, looking at the lobster and crab – still living, laid out on long tables.  Paint proclaimed the number and name of each restaurant.  I stopped and talked to various people as we walked along, asking them about their dishes and when did the party start?  Everyone I spoke to was very nice and welcoming, but there was something that really connected with me when I met Dona Niulka at restaurant number 17.  She took a lot of time to explain to me what the exchange rate was, how much things cost and gave me a card for her restaurant.

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Mi amiga nueva – Nuilka

After we’d wandered some more and realized that the rows of open restaurants continued to the end of the beach – the only difference being a few played very loud music.  There weren’t many people there, and as we observed all the space that seemed to be ready – we wondered what it all meant.  We decided to get some ice cream from a passing motor bike and then headed back to Niulka.

 

The ice cream was deliciously cold and sweet, and a bit more expensive than I’d thought… but we enjoyed it and then sat down at Niulka’s where I proceeded to both practice my Spanish on her and start to learn a little more about the place we were in.  I asked her about how to get to town, where we could buy fruits and vegetables.  At first she told me that we could right here, but I had no idea what she meant by that.  Then she said it was 5 minutes in a car – I pointed out that being as I was from yonder sailboat (which I learned is velero in Spanish.)  She was intrigued that we came from the sailboat and seemed pleased to have our company.  She said we could rent a car, or if we like, her husband, Domingo, would drive us to town.  We assumed he was going anyway and we’d be catching a ride there and back… so we gladly agreed and squeezed into his small, four door truck.

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Town – the view from Domingo’s truck!

It was such an adventure to be going to town with a local, who brought us past his beautiful house and then straight to the grocery.  He told us they

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Domingo shows me the fruits and vegetables

 

would change out money into DR $, however the lady there seemed a little reluctant – so I only changed over $40.  We bought some needed fruits and vegetables and then – since Jay saw the Barber shop, he decided it was time to get a haircut!  Domingo wasn’t able to get us into the first shop – they were too busy.  The second was closed… but the third said no problem!

 

0112aff5-b962-4fbd-8167-9ee50a0b3e28We waited inside a garage, noting the pinup girls on the walls, as our young barber finished the customer ahead of us.  While Jay stepped up to the chair, suddenly I needed to use the toilet and found myself ushered into the house to which the garage was attached.  This was a striking reminder of how different the country I am in, is from where I am from.  The house was similar to an unfinished garage itself.  The bathroom was tiled half way up , but none of the walls were finished and curtains separated the rooms.  There was no sink, I was instructed to wash my hands in the shower, but I wasn’t able to turn it on and used the water in the bucket – which I am not sure was clean or not.  The toilet flushed, which was different than at the restaurant, where I paid a quarter for a cinderblock stall and a bucket of water to pour in when I finished.

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Every day Domingo prepares his nets.  Each morning he heads out in a small skiff to hunt crab, lobster and fish that his wife serves in their restaurant.

It was all so interesting, and everywhere I went I took the time to greet people with “Hola” and tell them my name and ask how they were.  The responses were all so warm and often began brief conversations about children or the boat we’d arrived on.  Jay’s hair cut was very precise, with the gentleman using straight razors to achieve a very tidy and short cut.  We talked and laughed and had a good time while we waited and then Domingo – who stayed with us throughout our adventure, ushered us back to his truck.  There was no charge from him – he was just kindly helping us, and apparently he had no reason to go to town other than to please his wife by helping the gringos.  He was more quiet than Niulka, but he was also a kind hearted person that we enjoyed getting to know better.

Welcome to the Dominican Republic

P1000647We hadn’t planned to come to the DR.  I knew it was a possibility, if our cruising path worked that way – but I hadn’t though we would need to when we left Caicos.  I had already spent $400 to check in and out of Caicos for one week – it really hadn’t seemed worth it.  I didn’t want to go to DR and spend another $175 for a couple of nights passage through to Puerto Rico.  When I woke in the morning after our awful passage, I found us anchored in a secluded spot in the DR.

We thought maybe we could just stay there for the day and depart in the evening without checking in.  We wouldn’t go ashore and hopefully it would be no problem.  We weren’t there for more than two hours before a boat bearing a group of men, including a fellow in military gear – motored out to visit us.  “Habla Espaniol?”  It was time to brush up on my rusty Spanish skills.

Three of the fellows spoke Spanish, but the dingy pilot spoke moderate English – and was able to help clarify between us what we were trying to do.  They were very friendly and polite.  They asked for our exit papers from Caicos, and our passports.  They left and said the captain would be back later in the afternoon with some paperwork.

As the day passed, I realized I still felt exhausted after our trip.  We put our wet clothes and sheets out to dry.  We pulled Annika’s foam mattress out – and the carpet… it smelled horrible like a boys locker room.  Jay went to the top of the mast and retrieved the loose halyard from the broken jib.  While he was up there, we realized there was a massive coral reef about 50 feet from the boat.  We looked across the bay and saw a bunch of open air markets and there was periodically Spanish music coming from the shore.  We wanted to join the party.

I thought about it, and I realized that I had NO interest in bashing the rest of the way to Puerto Rico.  I wanted to do the gentleman’s passage and take it easy on us and the boat.  Even repairing the engines would still leave a vulnerable sail and leaks through hatches that needed professional reworking.  Also, I was dying to explore the area around us.  I decided that we would pay the fee to enter DR and just enjoy the country we found ourselves in.

P1000650.JPGImmediately – everything began to feel better and easier.  I knew I’d made the right decision and all the crew felt a weight lift in our boating life.  It was going to get fun again.  It started getting fun that afternoon when the captain returned to the boat.  This time, there was no guy who spoke English to help me, I was on my own.  I had to explain to him that we’d decided to go ahead and enter the country.  We didn’t want to go directly to Puerto Rico, but to make many stops along the coast and visit the towns and cities.  He was very kind and changed the wording on the paperwork he’d brought me to reflect our new plans.  He informed me that what he gave me was temporary for a few days, and when we went to Luperon we would have to do the official check-in at this point.  He seemed pretty comfortable although he said there was no fee for his efforts, I felt that this was the time when an official would expect some sort of bribe.

From what I’d read, it’s better not to go there, and not to be asked for a bribe.  I circumvented the entire thing by expressing my gratitude repeatedly and then I gave him and his friend the last two of Rusty’s beers.  As soon as we offered these, he rose, took them and with many gracias, left the boat.  We were in, and he said it was okay to go to shore.  Yay!!!  The start of some repairs both physical and mental was about to begin.