Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Post: DR to PR

Fishing on Rasmus!
Sometimes, one has to act without plans, even if it is into the unknown. As a frequent reader of Windtraveler, I noticed on April 29th that Brittany and Scott were about to leave Luperon, DR for staging for the Mona Crossing to Puerto Rico. Having read their description of traversing the north shore of the DR and the Mona Crossing, and then looking elsewhere at what they faced, I sent them a short email - Subject: "Wild Idea".

Having been on the Rasmus for an earlier "exciting" night at sea going from Hilton Head to ST. Augustine back in December, I thought - well, why not the Mona? I also thought I might be a little help as the Mona crossing was going to be a two-night trip. Much to my delight, back came a message - "we'll meet you in Samana - day after tomorrow". A couple of hours later, I bought a ticket to Santa Domingo, DR and got a hotel reservation in Samana to await Scott and Brittany's arrival from Luperon.

As you read in the post "The Thorny Path" - while they had a challenging trip along the North Coast of the DR to Samana, they did it with only one five hour stop thereby arriving in Samana ahead of me by a half day. Upon check-in, there were Scott and Brittany, in the lobby relaxing, and both on their computers - Windtraveler does not hot happen by accident.

Scott and Brittany had read the books on how to best do the Mona Crossing, and Scott, with guidance from the weather guru, Chris Parker, plotted the weather, particularly how to play the night lees of the coastline of Samana Bay and eastern DR concluding we should leave after nightfall on Tuesday, May 3rd - which we did.

My first watch was the second watch of the trip - midnight to 3 am. I was fully instructed by Scott (aka Captain Bligh and my God son) and Brittany, that: a) no one leaves the cockpit without another person present, b) one must wear a PFD unless below deck, and most important, c) if the watch person sees, feels, hears or otherwise senses anything strange, wake someone up. I took these "orders" to heart, when at about 2 am, I woke Scott to the sight of very unusual light - out there in the water ahead of us. After our conversation about what it was, Brittany woke too and joined us, promptly dubbing it a UFO - Unidentified Floating Object . For more on the UFO, this post on Windtraveler.

I also enjoyed a "Columbus" experience when, 23 hours later while on watch at 5 am Thursday morning, I sited "land ho" - the first sighting of Puerto Rico - 33 hours after leaving Samana.

The conditions going across were almost exactly as predicted by Chris Parker. Seas were 4-6 with a few higher waves, and winds were mostly 15-20 except for a couple of squalls that came off the Puerto Rican coast which Brittany steered us around.

Having crossed fairly quickly, rather than stopping in Mayaguez or Boquerón as planned, we continued around the southwest coast of Puerto Rico rounding Cabo Rojo, and sailed another dozen miles or so on the southern coast to a fishing village - La Parguara. We anchored in the lagoon in front of the village, ready to go ashore - in my case for a burger and a cold beer. However, we were not permitted to check in with Customs there, and thus, were confined to the boat. I settled for a warm beer and one of Brittany's wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches - followed by wine and cheese as we had movie night on the Rasmus. I also experienced my first harbor/deck shower where you jump in the salt water, suds up with soap - and get a fresh water rinse.  Different, but good.

Because of the fast crossing, I then got to sail the entire south coast of Puerto Rico stopping at Ponce, Salinas and finally at Palma del Mar on the eastern Puerto Rico coast, where I unfortunately had to depart. Some of the highlights of the trip for me included:

  • Seeing Scott and Brittany already there when I arrived. 
  • Eating goat for the first time. 
  • Almost killing my horse on the visit to the El Limón waterfalls. 
  • Al on a Moto-taxi!  Does he look scared?
  • Almost killing myself when Brittany insisted on returning to the marina during a rainstorm in a motor scooter pulled rickshaw, rather than a real taxi, on rain slickened streets in a place with no traffic rules and of course, they have never heard of seat belts (pictures on Facebook). 
Mona Passage
  • Getting across without getting sick - aided by a diet of saltines and lollipops. 
  • The Unidentified Floating Object in the middle of the first night. 
  • Sighting a beautiful double-tailed comet, but when I said "WOW", the sound brought Scott out of a deep sleep in three seconds to see what was the matter with the boat. 
  • Being on watch for the first land sighting. 
Puerto Rico south coast
  • My first "harbor/boat deck" shower. 
  • Guavete- where I was offered a taste of a roasting pig, only to be given a large piece of pig skin. I tasted it, then not knowing it was the best part, gave the rest to a street dog, hoping I did not offend anyone. For more details, see the Windtraveler blog post "Puerto Rican Pig Roasts". 
  • Al eating fried pig skin!  YUMMY!
  • Salinas - a wonderful town with lots of cruisers and truly warm and welcoming local people. It was here where one evening, that Brittany fell in love with a dog, a local 3 year old boy and Scott beat all the locals at the pool table. 
All in all, a great 260 nm trip on the Rasmus with two great people. If anyone out there in Windtraveler land ever has a chance to sail with Scott and Brittany, do everything you can to do so. Do not wait for it to fit your schedule (they essentially have none), and while it might not be luxurious, a trip with them on the Rasmus is far better than luxury - it will be a trip to remember forever.

Uncle Al

Now known as "Juan Valdez. "


Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Great post "Uncle Al"! I would agree that if anyone is lucky enough to be invited to cruise on a friend's boat ... take the opportunity! Sounds like a wonderful time.

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The pristine sandy shores, crystal-clear waters, and serene ambiance make it a perfect tropical getaway. kenya holidays

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