Journal entries


November 25/2007

Our First Year

Hello to all our friends and family, from the beautiful bay of Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Saturday October11/08

I can’t believe it is a year since we sailed out of Toronto Harbour!
Ernie and I were talking about our journey the other day. We have had some absolutely spectacular and some downright dangerous moments and memories that we will cherish forever. We have met many wonderful friends along the way. We have watched sunsets and sunrises over the open ocean. Beautiful white sand beaches, towering mountain sides and the scenes below the waters have all been breathtaking, visual treats for us. We have learned much, made many mistakes and managed so far. The boat has no extra holes, all scrapes and dents are repairable; thanks to Ernie, our relationship is still a go and the bank account is still in the black Life is good!

Here in Puerto Rico we have been enjoying the snorkeling, walks through town, visiting with other cruisers, renting cars to explore the island and basically waiting out hurricane season since we dropped anchor June 12th. Checking the weather is a daily “job” during hurricane season.

A couple miles to the east of us is Jobos, a gorgeous bay surrounded with mangroves and creaks which is said to be one of the best hurricane “holes” in the Caribbean.. We plan to take the boat into that area and tie up in the small mangrove creaks if need be. Last month we anchored in the Jobos bay, checked out all the creaks with our dinghy and also cleaned all the growth off the bottom of the boat It was a very beautiful and serene place, the dolphins and manatee frolicking in the water added to the experience.

. Time fly’s by when you are having fun…

We have taken many pictures along the way trying to capture our experiences.
Back in the first week of Jan, we were enjoying our stay at Warderwick Wells Park in the Exuma’s. When I look back at our pictures…it’s amazing… I can still feel the little feet of 5 Bananaquit birds eating sugar out of the palm of my hand. . Ernie’s’ favorite pic is titled “rush hour at the wifi”, a picture of many boaters with their lap tops, all gathered around the deck at the Ranger station taking turns trying to Skype their families “a happy new year phone call” On Tues Jan 6/08 we left Warderwick Wells and continued south following the Exuma chain of islands. We had a great day trip sailing all the way to Black Point. Anchored in a quiet bay, went ashore for laundry, very expensive at about $7 to wash and dry for 1 load but it was very clean with friendly people and had a small variety store attached to it .Also went for lovely walk and stopped in for dinner at the local restaurant; good food, good company. The town catered to visiting cruisers providing free garbage disposal and RO drinking water which is very high on the list of cruising needs.. Ernie would also add, diesel for Stonecutter and gasoline for the dinghy on that all important cruiser necessities list. Actually, now that I am thinking about it… what’s for dinner seems to be a big deal too…and weather! That’s always a big deal…and “how deep is the water, what does the chart say? What is the depth sounder showing?...that’s also a very big deal…and so it goes…

Well anyways… to continue our travels…

We had a wonderful sail to Galliot Cut! Most of the trip had been motor sailing close to the wind; not usually much fun so when we get enough wind to fill the sails yeh! that’s my kind of sailing… the boat feels alive, very powerful and also feels very “able” …the bow cuts the water with ease…our boat has served us well.
The view from our cockpit was outstanding, beautiful blue water, sand beaches and rocky out crops. I must pinch myself often to remind myself NOT to take this new life and its opportunities and experiences for granted.
Remembering Galliot Cut brings up memories, some I cherish others I could have done without…. I had met a local, older gentleman in Black Point. We began talking and he gave me some “inside” information, He told me we could catch lobster by gently twisting a cotton rag mop in front of them; they get twisted up in the cotton fibers and get “stuck” by their spiny shells.
So, I bought one. Ernie pointed out to me that it was $7 but I said Ha-ha we are having lobster for dinner. So off we went with our new mop.
Snorkeling was amazing at Galliot Cut, best so far. We saw a huge variety of coral and reef fish, the area was teaming with life... I discovered a ledge on the face of the wall full of lobster. My mouth was watering, I motioned over for Ernie to have a look … well one look from Ernie and off we went, back to the boat for my “snorkeling pull rope”, gloves, net and our new, trusty mop. You know, finding that ledge the first time was a lot easier than the second time. Finally spotted it again using the tow rope and in we went, mop, gloves and net. Guess what folks, you can laugh under water! Ernie suddenly began jabbing the mop at the lobsters with gusto completely forgetting about the slow and gentle tickling discussion… he complained later that the mop was just not sharp enough, (well, I had told him about the tickling part). They all ran in different directions trying to hide, but with so much of the bottom getting stirred up it was hard for any of us to see. I spotted one coming toward me, it was absolutely huge, looked like a giant cockroach from one of those thrillers on TV in the middle of the night. I tried to snap my net over him to pin it on the bottom but I just could not move fast enough under water. There goes dinner…We loved it... we laughed and laughed about that poor mop not being sharp enough. Luckily I found a couple big conch and Ernie prepared a wonderful cracked conch dinner We have not had any luck catching fish but conching has been great fun.
We were lucky coming through the Bahamas this year because it was the first year in a while they have allowed visitors to catch conch. They were getting very scarce and there has been a ban on their catch, but numbers are improving so we get to benefit. We attempted to leave Galliot Cut twice without success. First time, we took a quick look at the cut and thought it a little too rough so we decided to anchor and wait for another day when it would be calmer. A few minutes later friends of ours sailed in behind us and continued on out the cut. If they can do it?…I called them on the vhf radio asking how rough the cut was, they said a little rough the tide was starting to “run”. Ernie and I looked at each other and said ok lets go, in a flash, up comes the anchor and out we go. It was quite rough, very high short waves, the bow was buried wave after wave, it was very slow going against the current running into the narrow cut. Ernie turned the boat around half way out, concerned about the short, steep waves. Boy oh boy the trip in was much faster. The half hour difference in departure, (because of the tide coming in), made the cut much rougher than our earlier” peak”. I swore I would be smarter next time…next time came and it was much worse…

Finally a few days later we sailed out the cut with calm seas, no problem at all. We are certainly learning as we go…trying to make as few mistakes as possible…and hopefully each one only once.
I think we are to the point in our cruising life that we know (most of the time anyway) what we don’t know and have the sense to seek out the information.

We sailed into the harbour at Georgetown on Jan 12th and anchored off Stocking Island. Wow, beautiful, crystal clear water, sand beaches and a thriving cruising community all waiting for us to explore.
It’s like showing up for summer camp, except we are all adults! Every day at 8 am on vfh channel 68 we tuned in for information and the days events. So many things to do we needed a day timer. Snorkeling was great, lots of conch and shells and sharks and reefs and also trails throughout Stocking Island to explore. Various cruising folks with info offered classes/informal seminars in sea bean jewelry, painting, swimming, fishing, etc. …we had pot luck dinner and drinks on the beach at least twice a week…parties at the local bar…games night…fabulous social life…

My daughter Jan came for a 2 week holiday…I had so much fun with her. We snorkeled together and had a great time with Ernie’s snorkel tow rope. We shopped the local markets, visited the town, the library…had a fabulous lunch at the Peace and Plenty …I miss her. We finally managed to leave Georgetown on Feb 18. It is a difficult place to leave because it is so much fun. Lots of cruisers spend the whole winter there.

On down the rest of the Bahamas Islands we go…We had a great sail to Conception Island, reaching the speed of 7.3 knots; our highest speed ever is 7.6 (back in Lake Ontario).

We spent a few days at Conception Island, the waters were full of life, and we had a fantastic time. Most evenings we enjoyed potluck with other cruisers and during the day we walked the sand beaches, snorkeled, and visited inland waters using our dingy. The anchorage was beautiful but quite rolly. Ernie used a bridle to reposition the boat into the waves, which helped to reduce the roll. I have great memories of our time at this fabulous island. ..The first day we were there I was talking to another woman on her boat as she was throwing dog food to this huge, funny looking trunk fish. I commented on the big fish and she very sternly told me” please don’t eat my fish”. She was leaving that day and said it was very friendly and may come over to our boat looking for hand outs. Michelin has been well entertained throughout the trip staring into the water below watching all the fish swim by. She wasn’t too sure about her own food going overboard but she did enjoy the view from the deck. .Well, the day before we left I showed off “my fish” to the newly arrived cruisers and sternly told them “please don’t eat my fish” and added, it likes dog or cat food.

Next stop: Mayaguana; the last Bahamas Island on our course. We left about 8:30 am and arrived about 2 pm the next day. The night crossing was magical, stars glittered overhead, the moon was only a sliver but the stars were so bright and the water so calm they were reflected in the water. As the bow cut through the water we were also treated to the sparkling glow of dancing phosphorescence. An absolutely magical night I will cherish forever. We anchored in the bay for a few days waiting for good weather to cross over to the Turks and Caicos.
We arrived in the Turks and Caicos on Feb 29th and anchored in Sapodilla Bay to check-in. Before we left on our journey, thinking about the check-in procedures at all the different islands caused me a fair bit of stress. I have been pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the various officials and the ease of the paperwork so far.
We anchored at French Cay, then Six Hills and then spent a few days waiting for weather in the harbour at South Caicos. We had fun afternoons drinking a couple of beers at the village bar and watching the locals play dominoes. Great Sand Cay was the last island on our way out of Turks and Caicos. We beach combed looking for sea beans and other small treasures and enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear water. The day after we left another cruiser who was anchored next to us had a extraordinary experience. They caught up with us in Luperon and told us a baby whale spent hours sleeping right next to their boat. The baby whale would lie on its stomach and when it needed a breath it would roll over a bit with its fin out of the water take a breath then roll back onto its stomach. They could see other larger whales in deeper water, and I guess they let the baby stay their feeling it was in no danger…how cool!

Overnight sail from Great Sand Cay to Luperon, Dominican Republic was our roughest night crossing so far. Seas were about 6 to 7 feet with lots of wind to sail close hauled. Going below decks was very difficult; using the head was quite an experience. Dinner was what ever I could grab with one hand while hanging on with the other. The mountains of Dominican Republic were breathtaking and a welcome sight as they appeared on the horizon rising out of the morning mist. The people of Luperon were very friendly, with easy smiles and laughter. They were always eager to help out with our attempts with Spanish. The kids looked so happy and healthy. It was lovely to walk down the humble little streets calling out “Ola” to everyone we passed. Local bars and small lunch spots were delightful; food was great, our lunch for 2 was usually less then $5 which included a grande bear to share. Down the street and around the corner was the ice-cream store which sold small cups of home made ice-cream for about 50 cents. Often local people and cruisers gathered together to socialize; base ball games, church bazaars.. .a little Spanish, a little English and lots of fun We had great fun in the DR…The Luperon yacht club had 2 pools to swim and cool off in overlooking the beautiful bay with happy hour drinks every day. The local Marina had a Sunday swap meet with baked goods/trinkets/tee-shirts and things/charts etc. Our laundry was washed, dried and folded for $3 a load by “Maria” a very helpful lovely lady who worked at the Marina. Local cruisers provided info at 8 am on Wednesday and Sundays via the VHF radio. Luperon was another stop along the way that was difficult to leave. On one trip a local cruiser and I climbed aboard a gwa-gwa (van/bus) to visit a market in a neighboring town called Imbert. I was amazed to count a total of 25 people in the van at one time, later I was told the record is 27, wow! We’ve climbed up waterfalls, jumped and slid down chutes, went horse back riding, walked trails and visited the city of Santiago where we shopped and visited some sights.

We left the boat in Luperon with friends watching Michelin for 2 weeks while we went back to Ontario. I went for 4 weeks and Ernie came later for 2 weeks. My daughter, Jennifer married Craig McMullen on April 26th. We had a wonderful celebration and reception with friends and family. Shortly thereafter Jennifer announced
“I’m pregnant “, yeh!! Baby is due Jan 20th. I am planning a trip back to Ontario the middle of Jan next year. I am having a grand time shopping and buying little things for the baby that are light and easy to bring with me. Very fun!

On May 24 we left Luperon and headed east along the coast. We had a difficult time motor sailing into high, choppy seas for most of the night. In the morning the seas calmed and we were able to shut the motor off and have a glorious, quiet sail for a couple hours, Michelin especially appreciated the quiet. She always stays in the cockpit while the motor is running. We think the noise of the engine bothers her.. She is fine when sailing with no engine; actually many times I have hauled her down from the cabin top concerned she may fall overboard with the next tack. The wind died down in Escondido and we were able to top up our diesel tank from our on board jugs, Our original intention was to continue on to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico but due to higher seas then expected and just plain tired out we detoured into Samana, DR.
We anchored in the bay at Samana, stayed there for a week waiting for weather.
We also sailed across and anchored at Haitises a national park on the south side of Samana Bay.. It was a very interesting historical sight where the Taino Indians lived in a huge cave. There are many carvings and paintings on the walls and in the surrounding area.
While anchored we encountered Earwigs crawling up the hull of our boat, NOT GOOD We suffered with a couple hatching of earwigs before we were able to get rid of them, Using bug sprays and boric acid in peanut butter; yummy!
While in Samana we enjoyed riding on a motorcycle carriage vehicle, driving through the country side taking pictures. Our guide was great and led us on a walk through the forest picking mangoes and coconuts for us off the trees as we walked by. He pointed out Spanish names for some plant life and birds we came upon and then the grand finally; a beautiful waterfall. Our time spent in Samana was jaded though by the rough time we had with some of the kids and adults begging for money. We could not walk down the street saying “Ola” to anyone because more times then not their hand would open asking for money. Also the dinghy dock was very difficult to use and we were continually warned to lock our outboard to the dinghy. We have no plans to visit Samana again. On June 7th we picked up our anchor about 6 am and headed south down the coast of Dominican Republic. The weather and seas forecast was not ideal with 3 to 4 foot seas, less than 10 knot wind on the nose and possibility of some squalls but we were confidant we could manage. Life was grand, we were on the way again! At noon just as we were preparing to head east through the Mona Passage we unfortunately caught a rope, tied to a fish trap and wound it around our prop Oh shit! We were less than a mile from the shore lined with reefs, seas 3 to 4 feet and a squall on the horizon. In only a few minutes we had the sails providing up to 1 knot of speed away from shore, Ernie in snorkel gear knife in hand and me trying to keep the boat as steady as possible so as not to knock out my husband as the stern crashes up and down in the 3 to 4 foot waves. Progress was slow as he hacked away at the huge ball of line on the shaft and prop. Wow, I was amazed at how long Ernie could hold his breath. I could tell he was having some success due to the little bits of line floating by. Finally he was back on board bleeding in many places from cuts caused by the barnacles on the hull and very exhausted from his ordeal. As night approached I was admiring the sunset and watched as a very large bale of what looked like straw floated by, a curious sight. We continued on through the Mona Passage. The seas became very confused with short and choppy 4 foot waves and the winds were about 10 knots on the nose. Finally, we arrived in Mayaguez and anchored in the bay. It was a Sunday and we were the only boat there. We checked in Monday morning and continued on arriving in Boqueron about 1 pm. A fun resort town full of vendors, tee shirts, mugs, paintings etc.
We enjoyed mid afternoon lunch at Galloways. Early Tuesday we headed around the south-west corner of Puerto Rico and came into the bay at Ponce about 330pm. There was no room to anchor in the small bay but we were lucky to pick up someone else’s mooring who was not using it for a few days free of charge. The people at the yacht club were amazing, so very friendly and helpful We were able to stock up food supplies and purchased many boat items. June 12th we continued on to Salinas. We left early morning and motor-sailed to Salinas. We anchored in the beautiful bay. Marina de Salinas provides dinghy docks. Grocery store a bike ride away, many excellent small cafes serving Puerto Rican food, Many cruisers were also waiting for weather to continue and some with plans to stay put for hurricane season.
After waiting over 2 weeks for a decent weather window to continue on south we decided to stay in Salinas’s bay for hurricane season. We felt if we left Puerto Rico too late in the season we would get caught in the middle of the Caribbean without a safe place to hide for a hurricane. So instead we are enjoying great snorkeling on the reefs of the out islands off the south coast of Puerto Rico.. Do you know squid can swim forward and backward and usually swim all in a line; we have seen as many as 16 in one line. They are a beautiful iridescent green/blue in colour. A very bright green Moray Eel with a mouth full of teeth and I came nose to nose while I was getting very close to a beautiful selection of small tropical fish in a coral formation. I guess it was his home too; I think we were equally surprised to see each other but I was the first to turn and run. We now have an under-water digital camera we are trying out and hopefully soon we will post pictures on to our web site. We have rented cars and visited many wonderful sights around the island of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan was fascinating with their cobblestone streets resplendent in Spanish architecture. We toured forts from the Christopher Columbus era enjoying the area steeped with history. Seems like the weather is calming down and regular trade winds are back. We are working to finish up a couple more boat jobs and begin traveling east through the Virgins and then across to St.Martin and down the islands. One of the jobs was taking Michelin to the vet in Salinas for more shots and a certificate of health. It was only $55, good deal!

We are planning to spend a few months in the Leeward and Windward Islands, maybe go east to the ABC’s islands, not sure yet. We will probably stay south for the next hurricane season then renew our plan. I am looking forward to spending a few weeks in Ontario from middle of Jan 09 on to enjoy the birth of our grandchild due Jan 20th. Ernie will be coming for about 2 weeks to visit with friends and family. Please drop as an email letting us know how you are doing, we would love to here from you !

Take care everyone, Safe harbors and fair winds Ernie and Kathy Martin