Virgin Islands

Well, our blog posts are getting slightly out of sync – with Pete throwing in a couple of posts about our time in the DR and his solo crossing of the Mona passage to Puerto Rico.  Hope we haven’t got you all confused! Continue reading

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Spanish Virgin Islands

Our last days in Puerto Rico were spent madly cleaning, repairing and restocking – a seemingly endless task.  Pete had multiple trips to hardware stores, marine stores and one day carried two propane gas tanks a total of 9 kms to get refilled (unsuccessfully as it turned out!).

I always enjoy a restock at Costco’s – not as large as our first time in Fort Lauderdale, but definitely enough dry goods to keep us going for the rest of the year.

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I also managed a first – the first crew member to fall off the boat into a marina.  Fortunately for me it was one of the cleaner harbours!

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Dripping wet – I was carrying a hand held vacuum cleaner at the time, not any tech gear thankfully, as only the filter of the vaccuum remained!

We had an enjoyable farewell dinner at a local restaurant over looking the water with the other boaties we had been spending time with in the marina. We are all heading different directions as the weather settles.  It has been great to share knowledge and learn where everyone gets their weather information from , particularly with the hurricane season now commenced. All week we had been watching a couple of tropical storms gather and turn into hurricanes down near Granada and off the coast of Mexico. Whilst they are predicting a higher than normal level of hurricanes, the El Nino effect will apparently dull their effect – or so we are all hoping.
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We left Salinas marina at 5am on Friday, heading along the coast a few hours to another pretty seaside town, where we had a short walk and drink at the beach with Abbey and Ben off Wind Machine late in the afternoon after having had a bit of a recovery day on the boat.

After talking with them we decided to change plans and buddy boat with them that night, changing our  route to skip a short visit to Vieques, and instead make a direct run to Calebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  We are all a bit sick of the easterly trade winds, and the short hops in the early hours of the morning.

So, last night, I hit bed at 8pm, and Pete set sail at 10 pm for our night crossing.  Pete looked super tired when I took over my shift just after 1pm, having been awake since 4.30 that morning for our pre-dawn run from Salinas. Our trip was pretty smooth, and it was definitely a wise decision.  By about 7am we were off the coast of Calebra, and the wind and waves picked up substantially, bumping us around a bit for the last couple of hours.  I’m so glad we didn’t try this crossing during the daytime hours.

We are now settled in at the Dinghy Dock restaurant, after a tapas lunch, and feeling ready to try some snorkeling for the afternoon to hopefully make us all a little bit less tired and crabby!  Overnight trips definitely take their toll on all the crew, not just those awake all night.

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Although hard to see, that’s Pete and the boys on the left side of the restaurant.  In the water huge tarpon are swimming!




Spanish Virgin Islands (although both US territories).  We had left in tandem with Abbey and Ben from Wind Machine, and after listening to their plans, we also decided to skip Vieques join them on an overnight sail direct to Calebra.


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San Juan

A visit to Puerto Rico is not complete unless San Juan, the capital is explored.  We hired a car for the day, and headed straight to the old town, about an hour away from the boat.  With forts and castles built in the 1500’s, and much of it restored, it was certainly a highlight of our trip.  Also, for a capitol city, we have never paid so little for underground parking – $3.00 for the entire DAY.  Continue reading

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Puerto Rico

The boys and I arrived safely, although not happily into San Juan after a quick, uneventful flight. Continue reading

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The Dreaded Mona Passage

The Mona passage lies between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, maybe 70 miles of open sea, with a bad reputation. It is interesting because the Atlantic Ocean is 8 Km (8000m) deep at this point, the Puerto Rican Trench, but shallows rapidly to about 100 metres in the passage, which means that some humongous waves can occur. It causes a lot of anxiety among the cruisers, and endless conversations at the bar about when to try it. Continue reading

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Santo Domingo

As Pete finalised his visa and then returned to the boat to set sail that afternoon for Puerto Rico, the boys and I made our way to the accommodation we had booked in the Zona Colonial – the old town of Santo Domingo, in a small hotel 50 meters from the main square and cathedral.  Continue reading

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Trying to get to Puerto Rico

Before i left Australia, there was a podcast I enjoyed listening to – it was called Preppers Podcast. It was aimed at the American phenomenon called preppers. These are people preparing for the end of the world, or rather, the end of government and the beginning of a chaos that would require them to fend for themselves. The podcast covered all areas of self-sufficiency, from making your own hunting rifle more powerful, to making drinking water from wee. The unifying theme was a hatred of interference from the various government bodies in the USA, and many of these people probably voted for Trump.
I now think I understand why.
The country is a basket case. Particularly it’s overbearing and inefficient beaurocracies.
If you’ve ever been through LAX airport, you will know what I am talking about.
Although as an Australian I have a visa waiver (the ESTA), and I can enter the USA and any of its territories, but it turns out that if I enter on my private yacht, I have to have an old fashioned visa. To get this B1-2 tourist visa I have to sell my first and second children, spend two weeks filling out forms, talk to two thousand un-interested and uninformed officials, and use four different antique websites.
Puerto Rico, east of the Dominican Republic across the Mona Passage, is a USA territory, almost the 51st state. To sail there we would have to get 5 separate B1/2 visas at a cost of USD 1000. After 10 days of trying to get their website working, we decided that we might try the uncertain loophole of catching a commercial flight to San Juan in PR, and asking to get our passports stamped and then returning and jumping on the boat and sail across. This mutated into a brilliant plan whereupon Janine and the Kids would catch a one-way flight, and I would sail the passage solo and meet them in Boqueron, both of us pleasantly rested (me from the kids, and the others avoiding a testing sail). This would require just me to apply for the visa, and worked out a lot cheaper. I thought it would be easier.


Unfortunately the ordeal of applying for and attending the visa fingerprinting and interviews in person in Santo Domingo was not quick or easy. I did three trips to Santo Domingo with a child each time. The buses were fast, cheap and very very cold. Apart from hypothermia the trips were a treat, as Santo Domingo’s old colonial town is very pretty and has a great feel. Finally found some great food that was not fried, saw some museums, got some t-shirts for the boys, and walked a lot. It feels like a town in Italy or Spain. As soon as one was out of the Colonial Zone, it got seedy and run down and third world. There were a couple of shopping plazas that were like air conditioned islands of luxury in a sea of broken cement. They put Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore to shame, looking more like Dubai or Singapore shopping experiences. I just pressed my face against the cold glass and dreamed of getting a cup of real tea.


On the last drive home alone, I experienced my first negative vibe of the country. Americans had already warned me that the DR was very corrupt, they were very down on the way officials expected a little present at every encounter. (We found exactly the same extortion events in Florida, but they call it tipping there, where even the non-officials expect a whacking 20% present for any interaction – and get nasty if it doesn’t cross their palm). At least here in the Dominican Republic the bribes/tips are more affordable and the officials very smiley.
I got stung three times by traffic policemen while driving the rental car back from the US embassy. They start by pointing out an imaginary defect on the car, then talk rapidly and loudly in Spanish, ignoring my Spanglish attempts, and sounding like they are either going to call a tow truck or gun me down. Then they hand me a piece of paper and hint that the problem is going to cause a lot of paperwork and the fine is normally 5000 peso, but 1000 folded up in the paper and returned will sort it all out. Because I was on a deadline to get to my visa interview I rolled over quickly. The last time on the way home, the cop on the motorbike had a junior colleague with him, so he was even more formal in his bribe taking than usual. The conversation, and my helpless gestures of incomprehension went on for twenty minutes till he signalled he was at an end by saying very loudly, “aha, I give you directions, yes, yes” and waving his arms to the north south east and west while muttering under his breath ” one thousand pesos”. Every time I tried to get into my hip pocket, he became even more animated, signalling me to stop being so obvious, and nervously looking around. At least they have a sense of shame about their requests for tips.

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Samana – what’s not to love about Samana

The resort complex associated with the Bahia Marina has everything a grotty yachty dreams of – showers, laundry, pools, a gym, and for kids, a playground and a very tolerant staff, who never once made comment as the kids spread out their school work in their beautiful lobby each morning. Continue reading

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Sailing Thornlessly

Janine: Well, it’s hard to believe that over a month has passed since my last post.  I blame lack of hardware (my laptop charger died), strong willed children competing aggressively for available devices (now limited to Pete’s laptop), and so much to do during the days that after the ritual sundown drink, jumping on a lap top to blog is really the last thing on my mind (and with dinner and kids bedtimes still keeping us on the go!).  Continue reading

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