3-20 Cave tour, Long Island

While walking the beach at Sandy Point on Strachan Cay, we met Leonard Cartwright, the caretaker of the sole house on the island. He told us he gave tours of the Hamilton Caves which, conveniently, were on his property and owned by himself (a 6th generation Long Islander) and his cousin. This morning he picked us up at the marina, brought flashlights for everyone, and led us to an incredibly complex and extensive cave system. Stalagtites and stalagmites were everywhere, and we marveled at the salt as well as fresh water underground pools. He told us many anecdotal stories, as well as indicated that the local population took shelter in the caves during hurricane weather conditions. Five species of bats inhabit the caves, the smallest being about 2 inches in length. Several university groups have done research studies of the cave system, including the University of Florida (go Gators!). The cave tour took about 1 1/2 hours and afterwards, Leonard stopped by the local grocery store so we could stock up on a few fresh items, then stopped at the blue hole, another local tourist attraction nearby. It was an enjoyable morning and we recommend contacting Leonard at 242-472-1796 (cell) or 242-337-0236 (home). Cave entry fee $10pp; transportation and guide service $30. Btw, wouldn't try to walk the caves yourself without a guide; it's much too easy to get lost.

3-19 Strachan Cay, Clarence Town, Long Island

Pos: N23deg06.22min /W074deg56.93min. We left Man of War Bay in NE winds 20-25 and it was a wet ride across the Crooked Island Passage to Castle Island, which is at the south end of Acklins Island. Leaving the island to starboard, we went through the Mira Por Vos Passage where things got a bit ugly for a bit. The waves were square and stopped us dead in our tracks. From 6-7 knots to zero with a huge bash; all the while one of us was trying to get some sleep below...right. Also, the current is moving SW, so we ended up 20 degrees south of our rhumbline off Castle Island. However, as we shouldered through those seas and slowly increased the distance away from Acklins, the current wrapped around and began to go NW, lifting our heading and actually tracking us 10 degrees NE of our layline to Long Island. Now, that was a very good thing indeed. We didn't have to adjust the autopilot until 8 miles outside Clarence Town, when the wind came too much from the north to allow us to continue our 330T heading, so the engine went on and we motor-sailed the rest of the way in. Piloting skills have to be top notch here as the rollers going over the adjacent reefs are impressive. We found the C-Map 93 charts and the Navionics in agreement, and, of course, we rely on the Explorer Chartbooks as our primary source of reference. The anchor went down in 8.5' sand 24 hours after departure. Average speed 6.42 knots; distance sailed 154 nm; sails: 2nd reef in the main, staysail, 1/2-2/3 yankee. All's well aboard.

3-11 Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island, Bahamas

Pos: N20deg57.17min/ W073deg40.83min. Passage stats: from Boqueron, Puerto Rico to Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island, Bahamas was 422 nm and took us 69 hours; average speed (anchor up to anchor down, including about 4 hours of motoring) was 6.12 knots. The Mona Passage was, as we expected, boisterous; we departed in 25-30 knots of wind and experienced gusts in the low 30's. However, the north coast of the Dominican Republic was calmer as we headed west, and this last 24 hours or so was picture perfect; a steady 15 knots from the ENE with little to no seas. We're anchored at 0445 under a bright moon in 14' water just in front of town, and will go in to check in with Officaldom in a few hours. We also need to buy a Batelco SIM for our phone, so we'll go exploring as well. All's well aboard.
Pic: 'The Basin' where our dinghy is tied to a Haitian sailboat. The island has been ravaged by hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew the last two summers, but the welcome and friendliness of the people cannot be surpassed. Batelco was closed until Monday, but there's free wifi at the library 24/7. Morton Salt is the big industry here; the second largest saline operation in North America. Ships go to Man o War harbor just north of us to load. We hear the flamingo colony is worth a visit.

3-5 Puerto Real

We went aboard Akun along with Joe, Candy and Yvette, and motored north about 5 miles to Puerto Real so Isra and Cora could fill up Akun with water. The entrance there now has green and red entry channel buoys, which were not on the CM 93 or Navionics charts Isra had. No matter, entry is straight-forward but very shallow. I doubt our 6' draft would get in without pushing thru mud. We pulled into the marina dock, tied up, and immediately went to find cold beer. Are you seeing a trend here? (Got to say, Sue and I stuck with ginger ale the entire day). Unlike some fuel docks, there was no rush. About an hour later, we filled up the tanks and jerry jugs; about 1000 liters of fresh water. Cost?...Sit down cruisers...$5. That is CHEAP! Many places we've been charge a whole lot more for FW. We then motored back to Boqueron, arriving in a heavy rain shower, but that passed in about 30 minutes and we dinghied back to town to meet up for dinner. We had met Jodi and Daniel of sv Champagne Moment, and the 4 of us met up with the 5 others to eat at The Copy, a hamburger place just across from the food stalls. The burgers were gigantic. I took one look, asked for a take-away box, and Sue and I split hers. Highly recommend this place if you're in a burger mood. After dinner, we enjoyed a great band at the Bohemian, and salsa danced although, I've got to say, the locals looked a lot better than we did. I think we'll be classified as "amateurs" a while longer.
Pic: Yvette's turn at Akun's helm.

3-3 Best laundry day ever

Well, whodathunk? A Norwegian single-hander flagged us down to ask about any laundromat in town nearby. We didn't know of any, but were discussing it with a few other folks at the head of the dinghy dock and organized a trip. Our new friends Joe and Candy, from Houston, Texas, drove their rental jeep, taking Cora and Isra (sv Akun) and Yvette, a local here, drove the Norwegian, Lars (sv Pomona) and us to the laundromat in Cabo Rojo. Prior, we had stopped and met Yvette's parents and 17 year old cockatoo, enjoying their lovely hospitality as well as the talking and singing of the cockatoo. After, we went to the nearby laundromat, where the immediate choice was doing it ourselves or letting the laundromat owner gal do it at $1/lb. She carried the day, and we left en masse and I spotted a bakery across the street. In we went for a late morning snack. After that, we went to a local bar, where we salsa danced to great music from an old juke box, played pool, ate yet more local food, and yes, had a bit to imbibe. We learned all about the local PR liquor shots here; don't think I've seen that much beer consumed in ages (not by the author, of course. He had to have a steady hand to film all the goings on. That's believable, right?). This went on until 6:30 pm, when we finally left to pick up our laundry (the laundromat closed at 7 pm) and return to Boqueron. We put ours in the dinghy and were ready to continue our adventures in paradise. The street scene here picks up Thursday thru Sunday, with live bands playing in many of the local bar/restaurants and dancing in the streets. Joe introduced us to bacalaitos, which are flat codfish fritters: salted codfish in flour and spices, then deep fried. A cardiologist's nightmare, but oh, so good. They're about 15"-16" diameter, and we were fine sharing one, but where one is good enough, two must be better? A bit much at that point, as we then turned around and went into the BBQ place for a chicken dinner. When that was done, we had our choice of bars and music and I've got to say, the Admiral has improved her salsa dancing quite a bit.... See what can happen when you've got a bit of laundry to do? We all agreed this was "the best damn laundry day ever!"

3-1 Update

We're still in Boqueron and it appears that our departure will be delayed for a few days. The issue is weather. There's a strong cold front that should reach the northern Bahamas today and travel E-ESE. If we left tomorrow across the Mona passage for the approximate 415 nm run to Great Inagua Island, that front would greet us on arrival with 35-40 knot winds and high seas. No thank you; we'll wait a bit. At this time of year, fronts are a cyclical occurrence, some stronger than others. For passage planning, the trick is to try to time departure and arrival to avoid the peak wind conditions and allow enough time to anchor some place that affords protection from the prevailing wind direction, especially in the low lying islands like the Bahamas. The challenge is that those fronts often don't behave the way the forecast predicts them to, hence a margin of safety is also called for. Since we have internet (slow but, hey...), we pull our weather forecasts from a variety of sources, including SSB and VHF as well. One day at a time...patience. The good news is that it's been raining every day and our water tanks are full; the rain catchment system works beautifully. Sue's been cooking up a storm, and we also are walking around quite a bit. This is a weekend town. Most places are closed Monday through Thursday so it's quiet at night as everyone prepares for another long party weekend.
Pic: anchorage as seen from shoreline

2-24 Boqueron

Pos: N18deg01.31min / W067deg10.57min. We had a lovely sail in S-SE winds 10-15 knots and anchored in 12' just off the beach. It's been a while since we've had a nice sail without the motor on, and we'll stage here for our run across the Mona passage to the Bahamas. From east to west, we've really enjoyed this south coast of PR, and highly recommend it to anyone considering coming this way. There are dozens of places to explore; busy towns or isolated anchorages, and lots of hidey holes should the weather change. It'd be easy to spend a lot of time here.
Movie: entering Boqueron anchorage

2-23 Isla Maygueyes, La Parguera

Pos: N17deg58.23min/ W067deg03.00min. Well, winds aren't forecast to return for a few more days, so we burnt more diesel and motored to La Parguera, a small community named after a type of snapper. Colorful houses line the mangroves, and there are many small cays and reefs just offshore. We anchored in 14' after going down the 2.5 nm channel between cays to approach the town. Of note, the #4 red channel markers on our Navionics chart had been mis-charted; it was correctly shown on the CM-93 charts. Read the water; it's amazingly crystal clear coming in. There is no public dinghy dock in town so we tied up to a pole found in the mangroves near a small public boat launch area we were told the locals used and threw a stern anchor out. The first few blocks off the water had many bars, restaurants and shops, including the M & M supermarket which did have a nice, but very limited, selection of goods. We eventually found our way to the Puerto Parguera Cafe Restaurant for a late afternoon snack.
Pic: The mangrove shoreline is built up with houses and business over the water.