Friday, August 01, 2014

Mona Passage, Ponce and Isla Vieques, Puerto Rico. March 2014

 

Dear friends,

Prepared for the worse, hoping for the best....

The so dreaded Mona Passage was kind to us… There was a stiff breeze and some seas, but at least the winds came from a rather Northerly side and so we could kind of easily motor sail towards Puerto Rico.

We go straight to Ponce on the south side of the Island. At around 07 oclock we entered the canal towards the yacht club. Anchored out in front of the club and I went to the office of the club to learn about the check in formalities (you are supposed to call a 1-800 number to get the custom guys to your boat), however we don’t have a local sim card (yet) so that is not realy a practical thing to ask new arrivals, if you ask me). In the office they pointed to a phone I should use which I did and a stern voiced clerck told me to tie up the boat to a designated area and that the officials would show up soon and that I was not to leave the boat, nor dump garbage….

So, dingied back to Onda Boa, weighed the anchor and we were able to tie up on the specific border protection area on the fuel dock.

Soon in enough two officers showed up, with a kick ass attitude. They wanted us to be sure that we knew we were now in USofA territory. Which we weren’t as PR is well…PR.. anyway got the questions out of the way, and NO we are not going to dump our garbage, nor flush the toilet and so on and so forth.

The Yacht club was going to charge a descent amount of money to use their infra structure, so instead, we just dinghied over to the small fisher warf, and took a taxi to the customs building to finalize the red tape (Brazilian flagged vessels are charged with additional fees for entering and leaving the country, as for instance US flagged are equally charged when they would move into Brazilian waters..). Then we went to check out the Ponce historical town centre. Nice, but nothing outstanding. On our way back we stopped at a large shopping centre (coffee and wifi), not before checking out a supermarket… From the taxi driver we learned a thing or two abt the relation between the UsA and PR (for instance didn’t know that only US originated cargo vessels are allowed to berth at PR ports, and so the PR only can get US (controlled)products.

After two days around and about in Ponce, we headed for Isla Vieques (Spanish Virgin Islands). We left Ponce in the afternoon, amidst a building up of thunderstorms, but were able to stay clear of those. A non eventfull overnight sail to Isla Vieques. Most lovely anchorage. Went to check out how and where to do the official clearing in. To learn quickly that there wasn’t such a thing. No office, no sign no nothing. Very un American actually. Not to worry, found a beach front pub, cold beer and wifi. The next day we went to rent a scooter, and totally easy rider style we crossed around the island. It dawned on us that, we could have anchored out in Ponce, without any of the clearing in redtape. Nobody would have noticed. Ofcourse it is not the best thing to do, but after all the effort (both time and money) to get the visum, it feels like a bit of anticlimax. Anyway, not to worry. Isla Vieques is a nice little island and used to be used by the USA military (bombing target practice etc). Also it has a mega super radar antenna in order to catch Colombian drug smugglers amongst others.

It was time for us to leave for the BVI.s…

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         Mona Island                                                Excellent anchorage in Isla Vieques

 

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       Beach front street, Isla Vieques                                    Easy Rider

 

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           Speedy Gonzalez                                              .. Thanks for the advice…

 

Best regards,

Pieter

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Isla Catalina, Casa de Campo and Isla Saona. March 2014

 

Dear friends,

We left Boca Chica in the afternoon, with a stiff breeze on the nose, but managed to get out the harbour and motorsailed towards La Romana. At day break, we were close to Isla Catalina, and decided to anchor out at this beautiful location.

Lucky for us there were no cruise ships so we wondered around the island and just enjoyed a sunny afternoon. The next day was almost without wind and before we went to Casa de Campo Marina, we stopped at the NE side of the Island as we were told it was good diving there.

Tied up on a mooring and geared up. We both came to the conclusion that once you have experienced diving in Bonaire, the next place needs to be really special and something different from the norm. This was not the case…. Actually on the shallow before arriving to the drop of the coral wall it appeared to be a dumping site for all kinds of rubbish. Such a pitty. Again, we can only hope that the local governments will help to educate and improving waste management.

On our way to Casa de Campo. Indeed a very posh and exclusive yacht club. Basically for high end motor yachts and certainly not geared up for sailing boats. During the manouvre in getting Onda Boa stern to, between two fingers the gear cable of the Starboard enginge broke so that was kind of complicated. Anyway managed to tie off, but was immediately told that I could not undertake any maintenance work whilst at the dock. With the help of a kind stranger, I arranged some sturdy wire and was able to repair the gear cable.

On the yacht club grounds is also a supermarket (high end prices as well), but ofcourse very convenient.

The next day we left early to go to Isla Saona. It was a marvelous short trip and arriving at the Island, mouthwatering scenes of pristine blue water, palm tree beaches, paradise in short.

This island is visited by hundreds of day trip guests from nearby resorts. Checked out the crowds and had a nice day. Mentally preparing for the so dreaded Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. On the north side of the DR and PR runs a tremendous deep trench and on the passage between the islands the depth are a couple of hundred meters. This, depending on the winds can create a savage sea (and current)… Hiho, of we go…

 

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Isla Catalina…. eye candy..                                               A day at the beach

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It is just too much                                                              The good life

 

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Isla Saona                                                          Just awesome

 

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Why not stay somewhat longer?                        Never enough

 

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   The captain                                     …and ready to flow…

 

Later

Pieter

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic.March 2014

 

Dear friends,

After a quiet overnight sail(we did stop in Salinas, but was an uneventful stay, we took in fresh water, and used the internet connection of the only hotel in the bay) , we arrived in Boca Chica and decided to anchor at the Zarpar Marina. Tip top class out fit. Great and helpful staff. As the free cruising guide author Frank Virgintino has this as his base marina, he actually threw a great party for all cruisers at the marina. Great local food and drinks… a big thanks to Frank and his staff.

We endulged in going to a real supermarket, so that was awesome and restocked. We went and explored (using our bikes) the surroundings and found that here the population should educate themselves on proper waste management because garbage was flying around everywhere.

We also visited the capital Santo Domingo. We walked around a lot in the hussle and bussle of the town. Needed to get new fuel filters so that took us basically all day. We also visited a modern shopping… It was already dark, when we caught the bus back to Boca Chica. We were able to cram our selves in the last seats in the back of the bus. More passengers entered, and a funny situation occurred as two more rather heavy built guys, according to the instructions of the bus driver, were suppose to take seat next to me… except there wasn’t a seat available. Our friend insisted however, because the bus driver told him so. And so he tried to squeeze himself in, and as the first law of Sir Isaac Newton tells us… two bodies cannot occupy the same space… this wasn’t going to work. In fact I invited the guy to sit on my knee, but that was harsly denied, and all of sudden it turned into a rather tense discussion on race, color etc.. spiked by a drunk passenger as well. So, we were glad we arrived back in Boca Chica.

After months of not having seen a hair salon from the inside, it was Dora`s treat to go to hairdresser/nail salon… I used that time to bike around town and check out the location.

It was time to leave Boca Chica, and head for La Romana, Marina Casa de Campo.

 

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Zarpar Marina in Boca Chica..1st class                Designed and managed by a sailor.. Good stuff

 

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Franks Party                                     Zarpar Marina                     Happy Dora

 

Warm Regards,

Pieter