March 23, 2017

I slept hard last night and the fact that it rained was largely unnoticed by the captain. In the morning I remembered that although I had thought to replace the drain plug in the dinghy, I had neglected to remove it again after our neighbors kindly used their dinghy to attach our mooring line. Today the dinghy seemed to contain about 10 inches of rainwater but I must have been mistaken, since the implied weight of water should have broken the davit lines. Nevertheless, it was a lot and took a while to drain. We called the marina by cell phone, moved back to the same slip we had departed from, 12 days ago and waited for the Quarantine, Customs and Immigration officials. The clearance procedure was much smoother this time and by 1100 hours we were all done and legally here.

The rain continued throughout the day and we took the opportunity to catch up on e-mails, pay bills and the like, assisted by a reasonably fast wireless internet connection to the marina.

March 24, 2017

The first priority was to get the boat washed in order to get rid of the orange stains from the Santiago de Cuba cement plant. This took most of the day with a crew using a power washer, muriatic acid etc. Ed babysat this operation while Annette went on a photographic walkabout with “Edgar”, one of the men who perpetually hovers around the marina looking for work as a “guide”. John, the pressure washer man admitted that Edgar was an OK guy, just didn’t like to work much.

When we had been in Santiago, one of the crews mentioned a tragedy that a fellow sailor had just discovered their daughter had fallen from the rigging on a schooner and had been killed. We were surprised to learn that the schooner involved was the “Germania Nova”, a replica of a 1920’s ocean racing yacht, that was moored next to us. We had watched this vessel arrive on the day we had taken on fuel for our trip to Cuba and the marina had even asked us to move mooring balls, in order to give the 200 feet of the Germania Nova more room to maneuver for docking. The girl who had died was 16 years old and had fallen whilst the boat was tied to the dock. The Jamaican police were holding the vessel at the marina whilst they completed their investigations. Annette had taken photographs of the docking operation and left a copy of her pictures, in case the young girl appeared in any of these and her family wanted such. Such a terrible event, emphasized to us by the proximity of the vessel. We don’t know what happened and can only speculate at the chance that snatches away the existence of a young life and provides crushing tragedy for the parents.

That night we were again invited to Nino’s soiree for an evening of music and conversation. Nino operates a sort of private club and they meet every two weeks or so. Tonight there were six musicians and the conversation a little difficult but again, a most enjoyable event.

March 25, 2017

There is a weather system forming to the NE of Jamaica, forming a tropical depression and will likely disrupt the trade winds for a couple of days. This changed our travel plans, in that we had planned to spend a leisurely week here doing tourist stuff. Instead, our schedule was accelerated and we hired a taxi to take us west, along the coast to the town of St. Anne. Our intent was to visit Fitzroy Symister, a local painter www.soulartistjamaica.com who lives near the Robin’s Bay community, supposedly a favorite haunt of Bob Marley. The resort that he and the Beatles hung around at, jamming and smoking dope was “Strawberry Fields” and as we passed the freshly painted sign, Annette took a picture so that she will have it “forever”.

Fitzroy had only three pieces for sale at his studio. It was good work but Annette did not want to pay top gallery prices for essentially an unknown artist. On our return, we stopped at multiple beaches to collect sand samples and also stopped at a roadside café to collect jerk chicken and beer, much more satisfying to March, the taxi driver and me.

I asked March if there was any kind of government assistance if you become unemployed (we have seen several offices signed “Social Security”) and he explained that there is no welfare in Jamaica. If you get sick, or lose your job, you have to rely on family or perhaps a church to help out.

That evening we visited with Mark and Clovis (met at Nino’s) in their mansion overlooking the bay east of Folly Point. The evening view across the Caribbean waters was fabulous and we went out for supper to a local restaurant called “The Best Kept Secret”. This was an eccentric establishment but the food was excellent and a good send off for our Jamaican adventure.

March 26, 2017

The usual “rush” then “wait” procedure. We filled our tanks with drinking water, checked the engines and filled up with diesel. The marina needed to be paid of course, we collected our exit documents and made the final critical run to the supermarket to buy a couple of cases of beer in “cans”. Once the fridge was restocked, we were ready to go.

Dominican Republic

March 27, 2017

At 0520 hours we dropped our mooring and carefully eased out into the darkness. This was a high adrenalin moment, it is so easy to become disoriented at night. We needed to miss the mooring we are dropping, miss the mooring behind us, plus as an aside, any moored boats. Then there were multiple unlit buoys and moorings in the harbor, fishing buoys in the exit channel and finally, it is a good idea not to run aground. It is always a relief to have deep water ahead and the radar showing no obstacles when we set our course and increased the engine RPM’s to cruising speed.

This morning’s cruising speed was set slightly faster than usual as there is a major depression just north of Haiti and this is disrupting the regular flow of trade winds in our latitude, giving us a 48 hour weather window of light winds and low seas.

The sun rose over an empty sea. Haiti lay somewhere over the horizon, while Jamaica brooded in the dusk behind us. The waves were in the 3 foot range, choppy and off the port beam, producing a short, jerky motion as were moved closer to the middle of the Jamaica Channel. By mid afternoon, we were beginning to feel the effects of Cap Tiburon, Haiti blocking the waves coming from the storm to the northeast.

As seems to happen at sea, three freighters approached us from three different directions, converging on our position within minutes. As it was, we had “right of way” over all three and they in turn changed course to pass us by a margin of at least a mile – the wonders of AIS (the ship identification transmitter we use) in action!

Shortly after the sun dipped below the horizon behind us, the tropical darkness became near complete. The “Dipper” glittered brightly off our port, pointing the way to Polaris, clear in the sky. On the starboard beam, the Southern Cross stood well above the horizon.

By 2200 hours we were off Port a Nannette, Haiti and could see a scattering of lights ashore. It was to be a moonless night, great for star gazing (Annette spotted a “double shooting star”) as we motored on to the east with light winds and waves in the 2 to 3 foot range.

March 28, 2017

Our second dawn at sea and we were alone, with light winds and seas of less than 2 feet. Not quite a dead calm but not far from it. Last night’s pollution haze to the north was still there and we could still smell the woodsmoke of Haiti but of the land itself, no sign.

The day was clear and sunny and we continued east at around 9 knots, sometimes hitting 10 to 11 knots when the tidal current was in our favor. Our plan was to anchor (illegally of course) at Isla Beata, Dominican Republic and in early afternoon we were fast approaching this point. Conditions were favorable for anchoring but a revised satellite weather forecast predicted stronger headwinds and bigger seas for our run to the northeast tomorrow, to our destination of Las Salinas, on the eastern side of Cape Beata.

We decided that with the present conditions we could continue on without stopping and be at Las Salinas anchorage an hour or so after sunset.

The passage through “Canal Beata” separating the island from the cape of the same name was more exciting than last time. Although I tried to follow the exact course as before, we found heart stopping water depth of 6 feet at the west end of the channel and the channel itself was near choked with fishing buoys that we had to weave between. Upon our exit into the Caribbean Sea once more, a fishing dory paralleled our course as though to ensure that we didn’t hit any of their equipment or steal their catch. We headed out offshore and saw several lines of buoys ahead of us. We changed course to go between them and when not more than a boat length from the line, spotted that they were roped together with a line just at the surface of the water. We went to full reverse on the engines, the only time I have ever done such a “crash stop” and DoodleBug came to a dead halt with the bow extending over the line. We backed away from this obstacle, turned and went around the end. How unfriendly! Our first DoodleBug had a line cutter built into the propeller shaft but we lack such useful devices.

The balance of the passage was uneventful until we approached the entrance to Punta Calderas at Las Salinas. We had been warned of fishing operations in Canal Beata and were especially watchful as we came into shallow water in the darkness of a still moonless night, after a tropical sunset. Our radar was on a 3/4 mile setting when we spotted two obstacles directly in our path. We changed course to leave them to starboard and the previously unlit obstacles began to show the lights of small fishing dories. There was some glimmer on the water from the sodium arc lights of the salt mining operation and at the entrance to the bay, we found an unlit buoy next to a large unlit navigation marker that the radar had spotted. We were close enough to both that Annette was able to put a light on them and declare the navigation marker “green”, thus we backed down for the second time and turned into the enclosed water beyond, using the radar to find the other unlit navigation markers and weave between the several reefs near the harbor entrance. Then we were clear and set a slow course for the Hotel Las Salinas and anchored near the several unlit vessels, whose presence was announced by our radar.

We are here! Arriving at 2009 hours at 18 12.93 N 070 32.77 W, Las Salinas, Dominican Republic after a passage of 355 miles in 39 hours.

March 29, 2017

The sun was above the horizon when we awoke but what time is it? Our longitude (70 west) gives us 5 hours west of Greenwich time but do they adjust for “daylight savings” here? The reason this is significant is that we have been ignored by authorities since we arrived last night and were trying to work out when their respective offices might open. We decided that by 0830 hours Jamaica time, we would try hailing the “Marina de Guerra de Las Salinas” on our VHF radio and also try hailing the local hotel / marina. This was unlikely to produce results since we had already tried this when we were here a month ago and were pretty certain that neither party has a working radio, or if they do, would not answer because they don’t speak English. Sure enough there was no response. The instruction letter we had received from the marina at Casa de Campo a month ago stressed in large capital letters, “DO NOT DISEMBARK” without the authorities permission.

We then spotted a man swimming towards us snorkeling as he went. We waved a greeting and wished him good morning. He waved back and showed us the large slimy octopus he had just caught. Interesting but not particularly useful, since I am pretty sure I would die of hunger before I ate something that looked like that.

About thirty minutes later, a small fishing boat came by and one of the occupants was in uniform. He asked where we had come from and we said, “Jamaica”. Once we had confirmed that this was our first stop, he indicated that we would need to clear Immigration and Customs and should stay on the boat. OK then. We had connected with the authorities and could wait upon their eventual arrival.

At around 1100 hours Jamaica time (our ship’s clock is still set to this), another fishing boat approached that was crammed with humanity. We had the Harbor master, the Navy, Customs, Immigration and Drugs, about seven in all plus the boat driver (“El Lobo”). I had printed out a “crew list”, signed, dated and stamped it with our boat seal and had two copies available. This was pored over in great detail but today’s authorities, even in the remotest parts of the world, just photograph everything with their cell phones. The Customs, Navy and “Drugs” guy wandered off with Annette to tour the boat but as usual, seemed just curious as to how we live. Finally the process was drawing to a close. They had consumed all of the candy that Annette had set out, the Immigration man had stamped our passports and he then ponderously asked for 4,000 pesos, which is the correct amount. This we paid from our stash of DR cash. Then a debate started amongst the rest of the crew. It was obvious they were discussing how much to charge us for their “services” and this went on for a minute or so before they came up with the final number of US$65. An amount close to what we paid when we left, so we handed over the cash and everyone departed smiling. We are now legally here and took down the yellow quarantine flag.

The checking in process had also educated us to the fact that it is two hours later here than our ship’s time (he was wrong, it was actually only one hour difference). We were somehow at UTM/GMT minus 3 hours, the same time zone as Puerto Rico and it was now early afternoon. The owner of the nearby hotel, in a most unfriendly act had changed the password of his $5 per day internet connection from what it was a month ago, so our immediate task was to dinghy ashore and re-connect to the world.

While we were solving the world’s problems on the internet, another catamaran arrived, S/V Kefi, a 48 foot Leopard last seen in Cuba. We stopped by to visit and chatted for a while before heading back ashore to wander the village of Las Salinas and find a restaurant for supper. At the “far end of town”, where the local fishermen draw up their boats and unload their catch and right opposite the spot where we are anchored, was a restaurant with an upstairs balcony overlooking the bay. We decided that even if the food sucked, we would have a great view. While we sipped our cervezas and waited for the food to arrive, the crew of Kefi showed up. Of all the bars and gin-joints in Las Salinas..........

March 30, 2017

Today we needed to take care of some real estate matters, as well as a few minor family issues, all of which required internet access. We have become thoroughly spoiled and fumed over our lack of usable internet connection from aboard DoodleBug. The only way we could reliably connect to the world was to dinghy our laptops over to the nearby hotel, order some drinks in the bar and connect to their internet. We had vaguely intended to take the local bus to the nearby town of Bani but the actual reason for doing this was eluding us as the wind blew harder, producing a steep chop in the anchorage, thereby guaranteeing we would get wet riding around in dinghies. Instead we made popcorn and watched movies, punctuated by a couple more onshore runs for internet exchanges requiring signed documents. The weather forecast showed the strong winds we have been experiencing, continuing through tomorrow and then we will have a weather window for proceeding east.

March 31, 2017

This morning’s pilgrimage to the hotel bar for internet use was followed by a hike to the nearby sand dunes national park. Annette had already collected sand from the dunes but had failed to collect sand from the beach on the Caribbean side of the peninsula. This was our goal this morning and we enjoyed the entire park to ourselves, that is until a large motor coach discharged its cargo of schoolkids. They should really ban kids from having fun!

This afternoon we followed the instructions we had been given to track down the Dominican Republic Navy for a “despacho” or departure document. This is for a “domestic” movement between ports, not for an international departure. The landing onto the Navy’s sand beach was not too bad, although the waves promised excitement when would try to leave. The Navy office had a rope across where the gate might be if they had one and we ducked under this and called out at the entrance to their building. A lone soldier gazed at us in dismay. He did not speak English. We explained that we needed a despacho for the morning and would leave at 0600 hours. He said that we could leave today or we could return tomorrow morning at 0500 hours for the despacho. We thought he was just stalling because he didn’t want to fill out the paperwork, so we attempted to explain that 0500 hours was dark; the waves were beating onto the beach and it would be dangerous, “muy peligrosa” for old people like us to attempt a dinghy landing at night. He called someone on his cell phone and handed me the phone. For the next twenty minutes, I found myself talking to a female person, “somewhere” and explained that we needed a “despacho” to go to Boca Chica, dinghy landing in dark etc. She asked me when we would return to Las Salinas. I painfully detailed about our continuing voyage to Casa de Campos and subsequently onwards to Puerto Rico. She again asked when we would return to Las Salinas and I said maybe next year. After the sixth time she had asked the same question about when we would return to Las Salinas, she suggested that we instead take the bus to Boca Chica tomorrow. We gave up.

Annette had scoured the nearby buildings and found a totally innocent individual having lunch with his family at the restaurant next door. She dragged him over to the Navy office and he translated for us. We called the Navy Comandante to explain the situation but he would not budge - we could leave today before 1730 hours, or after 0530 hours tomorrow and they would not issue the despacho until the moment before we left. If there had been any nearby shelter we would have taken the former option and then anchored out for the night but unfortunately the coast here is exposed and lacks convenient anchorages.

We struggled mightily to launch our dinghy into the waves and it was only after our third or fourth attempt that we got off the beach, with Annette thoroughly soaked having been standing in waist deep water while I got the engine started. We were not about to attempt this in darkness. Tomorrow morning I would dinghy to the nearby hotel and then hike the road about a mile and a half each direction, around the bay to the Naval building. Then we would have to lift and stow the dinghy, making for a much later departure than originally planned.

Late that evening, after Annette had retired and I was just closing down the boat, when I heard yelling from outside. It was the crew of Kefi returning from dinner ashore. They told us that the Navy had retuned to their boat that evening and repossessed their “despacho” for the morrow. They too would have to make the 0500 hours pilgrimage back to the Navy building. Mark, the captain of Kefi offered to pick me up in his lighter dinghy and we would share a ride for the nighttime beach assault.

April 1, 2017

We set our alarm for 0430 hours and while drinking that first cup of coffee, saw no sign of similar life activity aboard nearby S/V Kefi. At 0520 hours, I prepared to take off in our dinghy over to Kefi and stir them up, when Annette called out in horror, “The cell phone shows 0420 hours!”.

Oops! The boarding crew from our arrival had given us the wrong time. Without a working internet, we had no means to verify the actual time but determined to wait at least for another hour to raise Kefi’s crew.

An hour later Mark and I were in his dinghy, heading for the beach in total darkness. By now the wind had died down as forecast and the waves on the beach had similarly died away making for an easy landing. The Navy building was blackened and lifeless but we had no qualms about hammering on the door and demanding our despaco’s from the sleepy, tousled and disgruntled occupants. It took three officers and thirty minutes to fill out the simple form, sign it and stamp it. We cheerily thanked them and did not offer a tip.

At 0620 hours we raised anchor and although it was still dark enough to require us to show navigation lights, we could see Kefi as she motored away just minutes ahead of us.

Once in open water, we enjoyed clears skies with light winds and waves in the 2 foot range.

At 1400 hours Annette lassoed a mooring ball outside the Boca Chica marina and by yelling at a nearby vessel, we learned the VHF channel that might be monitored by the authorities here. We were told to come alongside their dock and they would then move us to where they needed. The wind was blowing from the beam when we drifted into the dock we had selected. We scoffed at their alternate suggestions as to where to move and they agreed we could stay where we already were roosting. Kefi had been sailing versus motoring and arrived a few hours later, also tying up to our selected dock. Kefi similarly rejected the ludicrous alternate dock suggestions. We are here in Boca Chica with working internet, dock power, water and marina restaurant. Back in boater civilization!

April 2, 2017

A new dawn in Boca Chica and there was a loud thump on the hull. I heard Annette outside talking to someone and upon investigation, discovered a marina security guard in a boat, asking Annette for a cup coffee. We were not in a particularly generous mood but nevertheless made him a cup of coffee. An hour later, Mike from S/V Kefi told us that they had heard someone board their yacht in the wee hours of the morning and following a splash, found a man covering his face and trying to hide in the water below their boat. The marina people were roused, the surrounding waters searched but the interloper had made good his escape. We now feel some remorse that we were not more gracious about the coffee this morning.

Annette then attacked our accumulated laundry. I personally never get too concerned as long as I have one pair of clean undies but Annette gets antsy when the laundry bin growls as she walks by. My chore for the day would be to attempt to locate a ceiling leak that has been plaguing us since we purchased DoodleBug. The leak occurs during heavy rains in the form of a drip in the starboard stern cabin, above the book-shelf. We had replaced the window seals and tried all sorts of tests such as taping plastic garbage sacks over the roof hatch, all to no avail. I decided that however unlikely, the water had to be coming from the flybridge deck and the water was somehow running down the inside of the flybridge supports. The flybridge floor is like a huge plastic tub but is penetrated by some number of drains. To gain access to the rearmost drain, I had to remove the stereo speaker from the ceiling of the rear deck. When I did this, I found the drain pipe connected to the drain was loose and its hose clamp dangling free. Whoever had worked on this last just couldn’t be bothered to complete the job and I cursed his miserable hide. It has now been thoroughly tightened and we will await the next heavy rain to see if we were successful.

Our chores completed, we walked the beach a mile or so into the town of Boca Chica, past all of the beachgoers, bars, restaurants and vendors. The folks here really seem to love the water and there was a mass of cars, buses and motorcycles with a corresponding mass of people playing in the shallow waters. Competing stereos hammered out Latin music at ear-shattering volume. The restaurants with the loudest music were also the emptiest and unless you were stone deaf, I don’t see how anyone could survive in that environment. Even the mosquitos would suffer tissue damage.

We found the Banco Popular ATM in Boca Chica but would not give us any cash. Annette had the armed security guard pose with her for a photograph and he then told us that there was no Scotia Bank in Boca Chica, we would have to go to the capital, Santo Domingo for this flavor of bank.

April 3, 2017

Jan and Trevor from S/V Kefi joined us in a taxi ride to Santo Domingo this morning with an initial destination of the “Colonial Zone” branch of the Scotia Bank. We had selected the branch from the internet for its proximity to the various museums and upon arrival, found the building empty and abandoned. Not a good start. The branch looks great with its internet listing and yesterday evening, even showed that it was “closed – after hours”. We were swarmed with “tourist guides” and to brush off a particularly persistent tout, we entered the Cathedral Primada de America, as its name indicates, the oldest standing cathedral in the western hemisphere, with construction commencing in 1514. As we entered, we needed to buy a ticket and in addition we were each handed a woolen wrap-around skirt to cover our exposed legs. I didn’t realize that God was so picky about knees - objections to uncovered female heads are perfectly understandable but knees?

The architecture of the church was interesting in that it was Gothic, the decorations and carvings elaborate but the stained glass windows rather small and plain. As I pondered this it occurred to me that we had seen no white sand in the Dominican Republic – and trust me, we have been monitoring the sand situation closely – therefore no raw materials to manufacture glass. I thought it likely that many of the more elaborate windows had been prefabricated and shipped in from Spain.

We perambulated over to the World Amber Museum and whilst my shipmates toured the exhibits, I walked over to the nearest ATM, another branch of Banco Popular and tried again to extract some cash from the ATM. Another bust.

We found a pleasant restaurant to feed us lunch and wandered through town looking for art galleries and the like. Around 1530 hours we grabbed a taxi back to the marina in order to make a 1600 hour “checkout” meeting at the marina office. As it turned out, we needn’t have rushed back in that our “despacho” expediter never even showed up. Nevertheless we have paid our marina bill and also paid for a service which promises delivery of our “despacho” to our boat tomorrow morning at 0800 hours.

This morning I had sent an e-mail to the marina at Casa de Campo but when I checked for a reply this evening, discovered that the internet had crashed and the all important request for a marina reservation had not been sent.

April 4, 2017

Our departure documents were promised for 0800 hours, thus I walked to the marina office at 0810 hours to be told “five minutes”. At 0830 hours, the officer showed up, made the excuse that he had to walk from the Navy office (a mile or so away) and handed over the “despacho” so we could leave. While we were waiting for him to show, we had passed the witching hour of 0800 hours and I called the Casa de Campos marina to see if they had received my reservation request. The girl on the end of the phone insisted that they had no room, all 314 slips were fully booked but did allow that they would sell us some diesel.

We dropped our lines and headed to sea, the wind on the nose and with 6 foot waves and lots of bashing. The dinghy was not enjoying the violent pitching motion at a cruising speed of 10 knots and the prospect of recovering it if a suspension line broke was positively daunting. Thus we slowed down to around 7 knots and the motion became more tolerable. Even at this speed, we were taking a lot of water over the bows with sheets of spray reaching the flybridge steering position. By mid morning the waves had dropped to around 4 feet and in the distance we could see the faint outlines of our destination for the day, Isla Catalina. At 1323 hours we dropped anchor at 18 21. 459 N 069 01.413 W, tucked into the hook of Punta Perez. We then called the marina at Casa de Campos and told them we were “delayed” and would see them for fuel tomorrow to which they concurred.

April 5, 2017

Our goal was to buy diesel from Marina Casa de Campos this morning, see if they were really full and if so, head over south to the nearby town of Bayahibe (sounds like “buy on eBay”) to check in with the Navy. We would also determine if could perform the international check out of the country from here on Saturday, to leave for Puerto Rico. The back up plan would be to take a taxi to the town of La Romana, on the north side of Casa de Campos to get our international clearance. At least that was the plan. We slid into the fuel dock at Casa de Campos after an irritating radio exchange that went, “We have no room” and “I just want to buy diesel” repeated about a half dozen times.

We were first met by the dockmaster who wanted to see our “despacho”. He then escorted Annette to the grocery store to buy three cases of beer (we were down to single can aboard – a real marine emergency!) whilst I filled up the diesel tanks. Just as we were to depart, the dockmaster reappeared, said the Navy people needed to see me in their office next door to the Marina office and had a man drive me over there in a golf cart. At the Navy office was a soldier who scowled at me and snapped a word in Spanish that I did not comprehend. All three officers denied being able to speak English. I motioned the first to follow me to the adjacent marina office and asked the girl to translate. I explained our plans and asked if we could check out of Bayahibe. His response was that we could not, we would have to go to La Romana. He further insisted we could not go there by taxi, we would have to take our boat as the authorities needed to “see” it. I then explained that our guidebook said there was but one place to anchor in La Romana, up the river, just below the bridge and that the river current was sufficiently strong we would need to leave someone on board to re-anchor the vessel if we should drag. Since this is a two person operation aboard DoodleBug, we would not be able to get off the boat. I pointed out that it would all be very simple if we could check out from Casa de Campos from the fuel dock or a nearby empty dock. The marina receptionist insisted that this was not possible since it was a private facility. I pointed out that the Navy had an office on this “private facility” and further, they had no problem selling me diesel this morning. The navy man said we had to go to La Romana. I said we can’t anchor there. The receptionist asked him if this was true and he said he didn’t know. The circular argument continued for the next hour until the Casa de Campos folks came up with an amazing solution. We could return on Saturday morning at 0800 hours and the authorities would check us out from here. Why didn’t I think of that?

They would have thrown us out on the spot until I pointed out that we no longer had a “despacho”, the officer had taken it and we needed another one to say we could go the three and a half miles to Bayahibe.

Despacho in hand we arrived at Bayahibe and finally anchored at 1100 hours at 18 22.226 N 068 50.650 W after an exhaustive search for a clear spot between the fixed mooring markers. There are two bays here but both were densely covered with private moorings and the spot we finally picked provided only marginal relief from the wind and waves. To make matters worse, the prevailing wind put us at right angles to the swell, producing an uncomfortable rocking motion on our catamaran (would have been really exciting aboard a monohull!). There wasn’t even room to put out a stern anchor to provide some relief from the motion.

We dinghied ashore, handed in our “despacho” to the regulation “surly” Navy guy and wandered through what the guide book describes as a “quaint fishing village”. The parking lot near the shore was crammed with buses, large and small, certainly on the north side of fifty vehicles. The streets however were near empty, the gift shop, bars and restaurants deserted. We wandered the beach towards the large hotel we had cruised by on the way in and were met by a very large and friendly man who pointed out that we had crossed a boundary that separated the “public” side of the beach from the “private” hotel side. No, we couldn’t use the hotel bar or restaurant.

That afternoon, boats of all shapes and sizes began to arrive and disgorge passengers. Bayahibe is the terminus for a business that gathers tourists from the hotels of La Romana, Casa de Campos and of course Bayahibe itself and takes them on a daytrip to the island of Saona on the southeasternmost tip of The Dominican Republic. The purpose of all the buses was now abundantly clear and some of the arriving boats backed up to the already crowded beach, whilst the bigger catamarans used smaller vessels to ferry their passengers to a landing stage. It was incredibly chaotic and as the larger boats were emptied of human cargo, they would take up a mooring just offshore of the village or within the bay itself. The smaller vessels filled in all the possible gaps until just before sunset, peace again returned to Bayahibe and we found ourselves anchored in the middle of 60 or 70 moored vessels. Thus we headed into a very uncomfortable night, not the worst that we have ever experienced at sea but well up there on the list. Ours was the only vessel showing an anchor light.

April 6, 2017

The first glimmerings of dawn and we no longer had to pretend to sleep. At around 0800 hours we dinghied over to the Navy office and I asked for a “despacho” to Casa de Campos, overnighting at Isla Catalina. The officer looked confused so I showed him a copy of the “despacho” we had turned over yesterday morning as a “go by” and gave him copies of our passports. While he painstakingly transcribed the information, he was interrupted by a constant stream of men taking similar pieces of paper from him. I asked one if it was necessary to obtain a “despacho” for a boatload of tourists for a daytrip to Isla Saona, returning the same day and he nodded and said heavily, “claro” (of course).

At 0850 hours we retrieved our anchor and set sail for Isla Catalina, running downwind for the next hour and anchoring at 1015 hours at 18 21.448 N 069 01.425 W. Within minutes of our arrival, Annette had set barbequed steaks, barbequed green beans, barbequed pineapple and rice pilaf on the table for “brunch”. I don’t see how she does that so quickly. If it were up to me, I would still be looking for the can-opener for the baked beans.

Isla Catalina island is described as “semi-private” and is allegedly populated by 5 marines to fend off whoever, although we only saw one man in uniform. The western beach is white sand and while the northern end of the beach is sparsely used by local tour operators to bring people for beach picnics, the southern end is set up for large groups, such as the occasional cruise ship. We went ashore and wandered through the near empty souvenir shops, declined hair braiding and massage and finally bought a couple of beers at US$5 each. What a price difference a couple of miles of water makes!

By nightfall we were alone and there was not a spark of light to be seen amongst the buildings ashore.

April 7, 2017

We beachcombed along the empty shore on this beautiful deserted island. On our return to the dinghy, we saw that our previously empty landing spot behind a small reef was now filled with swimmers and the boats that had brought them. At around 1600 hours, the last tour boat departed, the beach had been raked clear of footprints, the lounge chairs stacked and again we were left with just the clear waters and white sands.

April 8, 2017

Today is the day we start moving again! We raised our anchor at 0700 hours and arrived at the fuel dock at Casa de Campos marina at precisely 0800 hours. We had called ahead on the radio to announce our intentions but there was nobody at the dock to take our lines. Annette easily lassoed the cleat for the bow line but as I backed down, she leaned a little too far when she threw the stern line and toppled over the rail. I rushed down from the steering position to grab her, as an upside down Annette was sliding down the angled stern rail. Fortunately I made it in time and she was hauled back on board with a cut and bruised left hand. Not a good beginning. The 0800 hours committee was still nowhere to be seen so I telephoned the office. Around 0830 hours a lone, uniformed Navy man walked up and I handed him our despacho documents. He indicated that I should walk with him, the half mile or so to the Capitanaria. Upon arrival, he indicated that I should enter and ask for immigration clearance. This provoked a call to the nearby town of Romana for officials. I was able to borrow a cell phone and call Annette to warn her that it would be an hour or more and she in turn was able to get the marina WiFi password from the fuel dock guy. At 1010 hours, the 6 officials had stamped passports, inspected the boat for stowaways, Annette had checked her e-mails and we had dumped all of our bio-hazard trash and dropped our lines. Farewell Dominican Republic! The land is beautiful, the people friendly, the anchorages intoxicating and the bureaucracy diabolical.

We motored down the coast with waves in the 2 to 3 foot range, slowly overhauling a veritable fleet of sailing catamarans. These were the daily “eco-tour” armada heading for Isla Saona. Despite the fact that all had sails deployed, all like us were motoring. At 1300 hours we anchored at 18 09.390 N 068 46.208 W, between two groups of tourist catamarans. Since we have legally checked out of the Dominican Republic, we are not permitted to stop but felt (correctly) that nobody would notice us here. At 1600 hours, the armada loaded their troops and set course back to Bayahibe, leaving us alone, anchored in ten feet of crystal clear water off a white sand beach. The wind died away and a near full moon illuminated the scene as we fired up the barbeque and opened the wine. A memorable anchorage.

Puerto Rico

April 9, 2017

At 0700 hours it was just becoming light when we raised the anchor and set sail for Puerto Rico. The cloud cover was about 2/8 ths with sunny skies as we motored east, the waves in the 3 to 4 foot range until we passed Isla Mona and both wind and waves began to decline. Behind us was the outline of Mona and ahead we could see the mountains of Puerto Rico plus a lone white blimp that was scanning us electronically to see if we were good people or not. They obviously weren't sure because a police launch shot out from the direction of Boqueron and circled us. Our yellow "Q" for quarantine flag was prominent on our bow (meaning that we were either requesting clearance or had "Yellow Jack" on board) and they waved and took a picture of us whilst we waved back. They left.

About 12 miles out, our US cell phones had found signal and we arranged for a slip at the Marina Pescaderia, Puerto Real, tying up at 1630 hours at 18 04.473 N 067 11.352 W. We are back in Puerto Rico.

April 10 - April 16, 2017

Our week in Puerto Rico began pretty much as expected. First we had to make the pilgrimage by taxi from the marina to the nearby town of Mayaguez to check in with Customs and Border Protection. Really they just wanted us to fill out a paper “landing card” and scan our passports. The original Customs house was built in 1838 as a two story building but they lost the upper story to an earthquake in 1918. Six years later it was rebuilt as a single story building, pretty much as it stands today. The metal detector at the entrance also dated from this period and I believe that they are still using the original 1924 computers.

Back at the marina we rented a car and made the necessary hajj to Walmart to render obeisance and gaze at the all of the “stuff”. I did in fact buy some engine oil as the generator needs servicing. As we had approached the coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon, I had noticed that the port exhaust looked “steamy”, even though the engine temperature readout showed normal. Sure enough when I pulled the raw water hose from the outlet of the seawater pump, a piece of the impeller dropped into my hand. The workshop manual recommends that the impellers be checked for wear at 1,000 hours. The starboard impeller failed at 200 hours and the port impeller just failed at 600 hours. I used Sean Phelan’s advice of using a wet / dry vacuum to recover the broken off rubber impeller fins from the heat exchanger and did find all but two fins. I also serviced the generator oil and fuel systems, Annette defrosted the refrigerators and processed all of the accumulated laundry so we are ready to put to sea again.

That afternoon S/V Kefi arrived and I drove their crew back to the Custom’s house in Mayaguez to check in and the following day we headed over to the still operational Cabo Rojo lighthouse that sits on the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico. We were surprised to find that the parking lots were completely filled and the approaches bristled with “No Parking” signs, as though it would somehow make a difference to the lizards that inhabit the dry brush lining the dirt roads. We parked next to a “No Parking” sign and hiked the quarter mile up to the lighthouse to find that almost all of the exhibits in their museum were labeled in Spanish alone. One exhibit indicated that the marina at Puerto Real was the center of the local fishing industry and an important part of Puerto Rico’s economy. Hard to picture this sleepy little village as the center of industrial scale mariculture.

On Friday morning we received an e-mail offer on our Santa Fe house. It was sent yesterday but due to the time difference, we were already in bed, thus had plenty of time this morning to discuss the offer and formulate a response. Then we had to wait for New Mexico to wake up and come to work. It was mid-afternoon here by the time we received the electronic version of our counter offer for signature and now we have to wait to see the response........if any..........

In the meantime, we began the process of looking at a weather window for the passage to Puerto del Rey marina on the east coast of Puerto Rico, where we had arranged to have DoodleBug lifted and stored in late May. Of course today (Good Friday) was great, with light winds and low seas but the forecast provided a small craft advisory with high winds and high seas for most of next week.

Saturday morning began with an e-mailed counter, counter-offer and although it was much lower than we had hoped, we decided to take it and move on. Still a downer for the day but we perked up by Sunday and began the process of preparing DoodleBug for both the next leg of the passage east and for storage thereafter.

While Annette gathered, organized and packed all of her gifts, souvenirs and sand samples, I decided to transfer the unused 50 gallons of “spare” diesel from jerry jugs into the fuel tanks. The jerry jugs are all equipped with the latest Federalized, “spill proof” nozzles and I experimented for some time with methods to extract the diesel. The two diesel tanks lack a rim on their fillers and the latter are flush with the deck. This means that the “spill proof” nozzles have nothing to hook onto in order to open their valves. An additional problem is that jerry jugs can become contaminated with water when stored in a locker during passage, as well as accumulating debris. For this reason, we have always filtered the jerry jug fuel using a funnel with a built in water separator and debris screen. This is also impossible to use with the mandated spill proof nozzles. I initially tested a method of using a length of cord to lash the spring loaded nozzles into the open position and this worked, as I could now pour fuel successfully but the catch was that the fuel poured so slowly, it was really tiring to hold a five gallon can of fuel above a flimsy plastic funnel without spilling. After the second five gallon jug and with eight more to go, I decided to just remove the “spill proof” spout from the can and pour directly. This worked much better and it took less time to pour the remaining eight cans by this method than the first two using the “spill proof” spouts. I can honestly say that I have never spilt as much fuel as I have since the government instituted its “spill proof” mandates. We can add this “improvement” to the same category as the triple flush “water saving” toilets.

April 17 - April 25, 2017

We had already committed to a “lift” date at he end of May for DoodleBug to be stored on land for the 2017 hurricane season, thus we needed to be on the east coast of Puerto Rico at the appointed time. We had originally intended a leisurely trip “uphill”, just motoring for a few hours each day and stopping at all of the small anchorages along the south coast of Puerto Rico, however the New Mexico real estate process of selling our home of 20 years was also progressing and began to look like it was really going to happen. It was time to make some fast decisions and adjust our plans, even as the trade winds reasserted themselves and were again blowing strongly from the east.

The weather forecast began to show a possible “window” for travelling eastwards on Thursday with a “one shot” of the 120 miles from the marina at Puerto Real on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, to the marina Puerto del Rey on the northwest coast. For the geographically challenged locals in Puerto Real, I explained, “It’s as far as you can get away from here and still be in Puerto Rico”.

We spent the week tidying, packing, answering New Mexico real estate questions, arranging for septic tank inspections and the like. Annette had packed all of her sand and we made a pilgrimage to the post office to mail an impressive quantity of sand samples to the USA mainland using the, “if it fits, it ships” boxes. The boat is riding noticeably higher in the water now and I am so glad that we won’t be schlepping this stuff with our airline baggage.

The wind blew strongly for the next few days but began to weaken in time for our planned departure and on Wednesday morning we moved off the marina dock to anchor out in the the bay.

In the darkness of Thursday morning we raised anchor and gingerly felt our way out of the bay, using radar, GPS and Annette on the bow with a flashlight. Once in open water we turned south with the main concern being unlit fish traps and buoys moored in the shallow waters. When the depth finder reported deep water, we began to relax and increased speed, increasing again as the dawn approached. The trip along the south coast of Puerto Rico was uneventful with little or no shipping and waves in the 3 foot range for the most part. Still not a comfortable ride but we had done a reasonable job of lashing everything down and 13 hours later, we called on the VHF radio to the Puerto del Rey marina and tied up at their dock at 1630 hours.

The following afternoon we moved to the travel lift and a few hours later, Doodlebug was sitting on wooden blocks, “on the hard” and about to be lashed to the earth by buried hurricane anchors.

DoodleBug is now parked in her land hurricane berth where she will remain until December. Her crew flew out of Puerto Rico to begin the fun task of packing up 20 years of accumulated “stuff” in Santa Fe.