Sargassum at sea (image by Tam Warner Minton/Flickr)
Sargassum grass is a type of brown algae that floats in small patches or gathers into large masses and can be found in every ocean except the Antarctic. The first written report of sargassum dates back to 1492 by Christopher Columbus (don’t get me started on the different names I have encountered for this famous explorer!).
Like every living force, sargassum has some great properties and some that we could do without. Here in The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, the big negative is the smell emitted by the algae as it dies on the shore line and releases sulphur compounds that smell like rotten eggs on steroids!
But this floating grass also has benefits for the ocean. As many as 52 varieties of fish were found to take shelter and find food within this floating algae off of North Carolina. Sargassum grass offers a moving habitat for fish in parts of the ocean where no other is available.
Interestingly, a study by the North Carolina National Estuarine Reserve states, “The Sargassum community occupies such a large dimension of the upper water column (up to 3 m depth) and is typically so diverse that one gear or collection method cannot effectively sample it all.”
In studying the algae columns, researchers found that there is something of a layering habitat within the sargassum where smaller fish live in the algae, slightly larger juvenile fish live below the grass and larger predators such as dolphins swim further down in the water.
Small gas-filled spheres that look like berries keep the seaweed afloat. (naturetime.worpress.com)
In recent years, sargassum has become so prolific that it has caused issues along some beaches, creating foul smells as it rots on the shore, deterring vacationers from visiting popular resort destinations. Additionally, the grass can be so dense in places that it inhibits the movement of hatching sea turtles on their way to the water, causing them to die before reaching the ocean. But once in the water, small turtles also find food and shelter within the sargassum algae.
The benefits of sargassum are not limited to fish and turtles.
Since the eighth century, traditional Chinese medicine has used sargassum as a natural diuretic and for treating goiters and thyroid deficiencies. Additionally, the algae is nutrient dense and contains carbon, making it an excellent fertilizer. The government of Tobago is encouraging farmers to use this algae as fertilizer on crops.
Experts believe these main factors are causing the increase in sargassum grass;
- higher ocean temperatures which allows this tropical plant to thrive
- polluted waters carrying higher nutrients that act like a fertilizer for the sargassum
- changing “liquid boundaries” in the ocean caused by storms and high winds help spread sargassum throughout the oceans
Sargassum drift near The Yacht Club only two weeks after a clean up.
Most days as I head out for my walk here at Palmas del Mar, I hold my breath as I pass one area ripe with rotting sargassum grass. Even though the marina is doing all it can to collect and remove the plant, I gag a little on days when the smell is strong.
So I’m glad I researched sargassum and can at least appreciate the benefits it offers instead thinking it is just a “smelly weed.” Perhaps the next time you are confronted with the obnoxious odor of this algae as it decomposes, you will be able to consider its’ benefits like I am now and both of us will resent the smell a little less.
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Recently I was reading Third Time Lucky’s blog post titled, “Do you prefer to be at anchor, or in a harbour?” and I was pretty amazed at how different our perspectives are.
The author, Georgie Moon, takes fabulous photos, enjoys writing and writes very well, lives part-time on a boat and is probably close to my age. All these similarities led me to think Georgie Moon and I might also share our love of anchorages. But her recent blog post relieved me of that misconception.
In contrast to Georgie Moon, I love being on the hook.
LIB hooked in an isolated, narrow bit of water.
I feel much more connected to God, nature and the natural cycle of day and night when I am on anchor and somehow those connections make me happy.
A sunset I wouldn’t want to miss.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy our marina stops and the convenience of nearby bathrooms, laundry, groceries and other land amenities. I like having access to other people, restaurants and the occasional swimming pool; especially in this Puerto Rican heat.
Who wouldn’t find views like this uplifting?
But I can tell you that once we have untied the dock lines and begun motoring out of a marina and into a wide expanse of open water, with the wind in our faces and the sun dancing off the water, I feel a lifting of my heart and my soul seems to quicken with joy.
One thing I love is that there are no fences in the water! I never know what might might swim into view below our keels as LIB splashes along or gently sways on anchor.
Dolphins? Starfish? Turtles?
Or I can jump in the water and swim to shore to explore whatever beach or little town beckons. And each time I do, the scenery and marine life as I swim present an ever changing kaleidoscope.
Frank and Al look like they are paddling in liquid gold.
As for seeing other people, I have found the cruising community to be open and welcoming. It is pretty easy to hop in the dinghy or jump on the SUP and pop over to say hello to someone sharing the anchorage.
A butterscotch sky.
Often we invite new acquaintances to share a drink on our boat and watch the sun tuck itself into the horizon.
So, sorry Georgie, life in a marina offers much, but for me…. I guess I’m secretly a hooker at heart. 😉
I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below: Marina Maven? or more of a Hooker?
A special thank you to Georgie Moon of Third Time Lucky for allowing me to link to her blog. Georgie writes often about a myriad of topics and her pictures are stunning. I hope some day our wakes cross, because I do think we could find plenty of common interests!
The information for this blog post has been heavily taken from a Business BVI article written by Todd VanSickle and published July 24, 2015.
We are still in Puerto Rico but I thought I would share this interesting bit of information about Puerto Rico and the BVIs since both have been important places in our lives with Let It Be.
In July the charter companies in the BVIs have a bit of a slow down as hurricane season becomes a factor in decisions about visiting the area. Of course the reduced number of charters and tourists have a negative affect on BVI businesses. However, the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico is a mere 90 miles from the BVIs and it is from this island that the BVIs receives an economic boost each year.
For the last 30 plus years, each July huge numbers of boaters take off from Puerto Rico and set off to visit, shop, swim and party in the BVIs. According to an article published in Business BVI in July of 2015, it is estimated that 2,000 boats from PR visit the BVIs in July! According to Javier Lopez, organizer of Christmas in July (as of 2015), at least 800 Puerto Rican boats visited the BVIs during the week long Christmas in July event in 2015.
Having traveled by boat in Puerto Rico, I can tell you from our own observations that the boaters here in PR know how to have fun! Gatherings are numerous for any occasion and for no occasion at all. Along with our friends, we agree you can identify a PR party boat because it will have; 1. loud music on an excellent stereo system, 2. some sort of flag(s) will be prominently displayed, 3. plenty of people will be on board, 4. magically the boats will be drawn together like magnets.
I say all this with the greatest of respect. I love the way people here in PR include family members of all ages and how much laughter is shared. This is a fun-loving, happy and welcoming community and we have enjoyed observing it and on occasion being involved in it.
Let this picture prove the numbers are not exaggerated! (Internet photo)
In the article referenced, Mr. Lopez says that the boaters who participate in Christmas in July refer to themselves as the “Puerto Rican Navy” and we have heard this term for years. It is a bit confusing until you understand that it is simply an affectionate term used because the boaters travel in groups and support one another.
Amazingly, Mr. Lopez states that this is a very affluent group of boaters with an average income of $600k to $1.5M annually! With that sort of financial means, you can understand why this flotilla has become such an important and encouraged group among the BVI businesses.
So, if you have the opportunity to travel to the BVIs in July, be aware that the Puerto Rican Navy sort of take over during Christmas in July! The usual beat of the islands will be replaced by some loud and catchy latin music and the number of boaters might be overwhelming. But the BVIs are so large that you have the opportunity to embrace the Puerto Rican Navy and join in their parties or you can observe where they are heading and go the other way. Beautiful beaches and perfect anchorages are so plentiful in the BVI that you can find serenity or parties any time of year.
So how about you? Does Christmas in July, partying with a huge number of power boaters and the feel of the base resonating in your chest sound like fun? Or do you prefer the quieter anchorages where the sound of nature and waves upon the shore are the melodies that surround you?
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
As I mentioned previously, we have been following the advice of Bruce Van Sant’s book, “Passages South” in which he shares his thoughts on how to move east against easterly winds. Van Sant believes it is best to take advantage of lower wind speeds which occur during the night and motor a few hours each morning from one anchorage to another. Per his suggestions, we awaken around 4 a.m., raise anchor, and move east along the southern shore of Puerto Rico for a few hours.
Sunrise is filled with pastel colors and soft breezes.
Although it is difficult to get out of bed when it is dark, we were rewarded with watching the day come alive and with calm seas, so the effort is definitely worth it! But getting up early means the days feel long and the evenings feel short since we go to bed earlier than usual.
Boqueron has a long, inviting shore.
After completing the Mona Passage and a good night of sleep at anchor in Mayaguez, we moved to Boqueron and anchored in a bay of flat water.
We strolled the waterfront town and had lunch in Boqueron.
Kelsey and Lauren relaxing in the park.
Next we meandered through the park along the water where we met three young ladies from the US who were on vacation. After a brief conversation, we invited Kelsey, Lauren and Shaye to come out to LIB and relax on our boat for the afternoon.
Captain had to join in the fun!
Shaye, Lauren and Kelsey are close in age to our own children and we were happy to share our “home” with them for a bit; very much like others have done for our sons as they travel. We enjoyed getting to know these young ladies and hearing about their plans. Their energy and enthusiasm were contagious and we are so happy they spent the afternoon with us. Safe travels, girls. Keep in touch!
We actually had to turn left here, not go straight toward town.
Our next stop was La Parguera. Finding our way into this small fishing village with crops of mangroves growing into small islands in front of the town made our initial entry a little challenging. It is necessary to watch the chart and keep a close eye out for shallow water but we managed to work LIB into a nice anchoring spot behind one of those mangrove “islands.”
La Parguera is a sleepy town during daylight hours with deserted streets and most businesses closed.
The same area of town after nightfall.
But once night falls, this little town is a jumble of people where families, teens and couples stroll the pedestrian area, live bands play loudly, food stands compete with restaurants and vendors hawk jewelry and trinkets from small stands.
Puerto Rico night life.
There was even a tent with a mechanical horse race where bets were taken and money changed hands for winning numbers. We placed a couple of big $1 bets, but walked away without winning.
After enjoying the bustling nightlife in La Parguera, we upped anchor around 4:30 a.m. and motored to Balnearia de Cana Gorda, a bay about 20 miles away. By 8 o’clock our anchor was down and we were happily floating in front of a very pretty little resort called Copa Marina Resort, though there really wasn’t a marina there.
LIB can be seen in the background.
We launched Day Tripper, our dinghy, and went to check out the Resort. As luck would have it, there was a yummy breakfast buffet being served and cruisers were welcome. So we had a very nice breakfast, then spent a bit of time relaxing at the pool. What a nice reward after our early morning departure.
Copa Resort has a nicely manicured beach and a few water toys for rent. We decided to rent a Hobie Wave (because when does Frank ever want to sit still?) and spend a little time sailing around the bay. We may or may not have had a little trouble tacking this little boat and I am certain we went further than we were “supposed” to go, but no one told us any limits when we started!
We may have gone out further than allowed???
Frank and I spent couple of wet hours sailing that Hobie and we had plenty of laughs in the process!
We ended up staying in this bay for two nights because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. The Resort was welcoming, there was a popular public beach near the Resort where families gathered and played all day and just around the corner was the fairly famous “Gilligan’s Island.”
Gilligan’s Island (Image taken from internet)
So this island is actually called Cayo Aurora and even though I don’t see the likeness to the one in the TV show, many people call this place Gilligan’s Island. The picture above does not show how crowded this area is usually, but it does show you how pretty it is. Trust me, usually there are boats, kayaks, floats, people and plenty of music throughout this island.
Frank and I took Day Tripper over and hung out in the water, avoiding the land where the mosquitos were happily feasting on slightly inebriated humans too oblivious to notice. It was a great place to people watch and the current through the inlet kept the water moving and cool. Truly a pretty island and a fun place to while away a bit of time.
Our next stop is Ponce, then on to Salinas where we will catch up to s/v Mauna Kea!
Colorful homes in La Parguera.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
Lush growth and conical hills of Los Haitises.
From our slip in Puerto Bahia Marina, I can see the other side of Samana Bay where the Haitises National Park resides. The park, established in 1976, was originally 80 square miles but was expanded to 319 square miles in 1996. Los Haitises has very little road access and includes a protected virgin forest and home to a variety of birds. The park is a fairly popular spot for ecotourism and the number of visitor each year is supposedly limited, although we did not have any trouble getting permission to take LIB across the bay for a visit.
Birds in the air and in the trees.
Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and Laura and Chris of s/v Temerity agreed to join us on LIB and head across the bay for an overnight visit to Los Haitises. Ken and Laurie had already visited once so they were our resident experts for the trip.
Laura and Laurie relaxing on the trampoline.
After a relaxing sail across Samana Bay, we anchored near an inlet that Ken told us led to a large ecolodge with beautiful surroundings and fair vittles. Once anchored, we hopped into the dinghy and motored through one of the most beautiful creeks we have explored to date.
I wish I could share the sounds with you as well!
While the water was not the gin clear color we experienced in the Bahamas, the overhanging trees and lush surroundings were breathtaking.
Village Weaver nests.
Nestled among many branches were groups of round bird nests. I later learned that these nests are woven from leaves by the males of the “Village Weaver” species (Ploceus cucullatus). The males weave a nest in the hope that a female will come along, appreciate his handiwork and choose him as a mate. Once she chooses her mate, the female lays 4-6 small blue-green eggs. Village Weavers are not indigenous to the Dominican Republic but rather were brought from Africa on slave ships around 1796. Originally the birds were only found in Los Haitises but recently some have been seen in the capital of Santa Domingo.
This looks more triangular than round… wonder if some female found it exciting?
A short walk past horses, cows, chickens and other livestock roaming in fields was the promised ecolodge. I am not sure what qualifies this as an ecolodge, but I can tell you it is beautiful. We had to pay a small fee per person to enter the grounds and this allowed us to explore the area, have lunch and get in the water. Pictures will do far more justice than my words…
A water feature at the entrance to the lodge.
The sound of waterfalls added to the ambiance of lunch.
Los Haitises has an average annual rainfall of 79 inches. In contrast, Dallas, TX has an annual rainfall of 37 inches. I believe all of the water features are fed from fresh water mountain springs and runoff.
The stonework reminded me of WPA projects from the 1930s.
Laura speaks Spanish very well and struck up a conversation with the gentleman in charge of construction of a new hotel being completed as part of the lodge. All number of US agencies would have slapped fines on the builder for showing us around the construction site but we were thrilled to have a first hand view and he was equally pleased to show off the hotel.
Numerous rooms and additional water features for the lodge.
I must admit that the way these accommodations have been incorporated into the hillside and how the rooms include natural features of the land is truly remarkable. We toured for about 40 minutes and were allowed to see every room and planned space.
Stairways that seem to belong within the hillside.
Use of indigenous materials made the hotel feel more like it “belongs” here.
The view from the upper rooms.
In the picture above, the left side shows a water feature and to the right, the bare areas are the future home of a PuttPutt course. I’m not sure how that fits into an ecolodge but I am sure it will be well liked by visitors.
The construction tour was truly a treat made even more delicious because we knew back home laws would have prevented us from having strolling through this construction site.
Next up was a visit to the caves used by the Tiano Indians way back before Columbus landed! There are two areas for viewing caves on Los Haitises; one is very obvious and is actually a little lame compared to the cave tour we had back in Thompson Bay. But the second option is to hire a local guide who takes you to a more remote cave. Our guide rode in the dinghy and took us through a meandering creek where we stopped at a nicely built wooden dock. From there a quick walk along a path through dense trees led us to a cave used more than 500 years ago by the Tiano Indians.
I just liked the light in this picture.
I was not supposed to take pictures of the hieroglyphics painted by the Tianos and I honored that request. The images were painted with sap from a local tree and the only color used was black. Still, it is interesting to see the “recordings” these people left behind.
Hard to believe all this light is in the caves.
Somehow this makes me think of the resurrection of Jesus.
We were told that the Tianos used the caves to hide and escape from Columbus. Legend has it that they had a few entrances to the caves and the Tianos walked backwards from various directions to confuse their trails, then they escaped through a hidden opening. Very clever!
Looking out from the first caves.
A special thank you to Ken and Laurie who decided to skip the second cave and held on to Captain so I could explore the cave.
Once the cave tour was completed, we motored back to Puerto Bahia as the wind was in our faces. The trip to Los Haitises was quick but it was also interesting and fun to share with friends.
A peaceful bend in the creek leading to the Tiano Caves.
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Well Hunter has flown back to the States, so once again I am away from my sons. It is always so hard to say goodbye, but I am fortunate that my children are self sufficient and making their own ways in life. So maybe I shed a few tears, but I have no complaints.
The open air lobby at Marina Bahia.
LIB has been in Marina Bahia in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic this week. I have to say, this marina is very nice! The people are friendly and happy and the facilities are great. It feels pretty upscale yet the fees are very reasonable.
Our friends on s/v Mauna Kea and s/v Temerity are in this marina as well, so we have gathered for cocktails and pizza a few times in the lobby, then met in the gym to work off the calories. We are all waiting for a good weather window to cross to Puerto Rico, but this is such a comfortable place that we are not in a big hurry.
These pretty buildings in Las Terrenas back up to the beach.
Hunter, Frank and I explored Las Terrenas, a town about 45 minutes away by car. Las Terrenas, with a population of about 40,000, is a visual blend of tourist and local areas. There are not any apparent building or zoning restrictions in the DR like you would find in the U.S., so streets often switch between clean and well maintained to much less so.
A board walk along one of several beaches in Las Terrenas.
Although this is a fairly popular area for kite boarding, the wind was insufficient for us to ride. Instead we strolled along the streets absorbing the ambiance of the area, which was aided by Hunter’s ability to communicate and read in Spanish.
Lunch in Las Terrenas
The weather was overcast and mild so we found an outdoor spot for lunch. The owner was originally from Spain and Hunter was able to order some of the foods he ate routinely while living there this past year. It was pretty neat to get to taste some of the food he loved while living abroad.
Frank has decided that having his hair cut in random places by unknown barbers is part of the adventure of cruising life, so we were on the search for a hairstylist in Las Terrenas.
I love the name of the shop.
We hit the jackpot with La Matematica De Dios, the mathematician of God? Not only was the haircut meticulous, the location was quite unique…
Frank and Hunter up on the roof where the barber shop is located.
The international airport on the DR is near the capital city of Santa Domingo. Santa Domingo is the first city of the Americas and the third stop for Christopher Columbus. Since we were going to take Hunter to the airport, we decided to go a few days early and learn a bit about the history of Santa Domingo.
A typical street in Zona Colonial.
You might remember that we took our own self-guided tour of Charleston, NC way back on the ICW and “Tour Guide, Frank” decided to stop at a brewery after only three stops on our tour. Well we decided to self guide again in Santa Domingo, but there just wasn’t enough information available on the web to learn much. We ended up hiring a private guide named Juan Sanchez who took us on a walking tour of the old city of Santa Domingo. Juan actually does tours for the US Embassy in Santa Domingo and he really knows his history. If you have the opportunity to hire a guide, I strongly recommend Juan.
Zona Colonial is the oldest city of the New World and many building remain. The influence of the Catholic Church is visible because many of the old city buildings related to the church. Juan told us that even today the majority of the Santa Domingo’s 4 million residents are Catholic.
Franciscan Monastery built around 1508.
Notice the rope design above the door to the left in the picture above. This rope was symbolic of the rope used to tie the waist of a Franciscan Priest’s tunic and identified the building as belonging to a religious order. If you look in Zona Colonial, you will find other buildings with the same rope design above the door.
The ruins of a private chapel.
It was a fairly common practice in the 1500s for wealthy families to have private chapels and perhaps even their own priest. Even before Juan told us this had been a private chapel, it was easily identifiable as a church by it’s three bells on top.
Each candle holder is the shape of a kneeling priest.
There is a stunning building in Zona Colonial called the National Pantheon that was originally a Jesuit Church constructed between 1714- 1746. The building has a varied history but today it is a national symbol for the Dominican Republic and houses the remains of the countries most honored citizens.
A view from the highest point of Ozama Fortress.
Construction of Ozama Fortress began in 1502 and is the oldest military fortress in the Americas. The castle, built to protect the City of Santa Domingo, faces the Ozama River after which it was named.
Town Hall, another first in the Americas.
This pretty building, built in the early 1500s was remodeled in the early 1900s to restore it’s original elegance. The ironwork and plants give it a Spanish or European flair.
These pictures represent only a fraction of the historic buildings in the old city. To my grave disappointment, we were unable to tour the Basilica Cathedral of Saint Maria la Menor because I was wearing shorts. Ladies must wear a skirt or long pants to enter the cathedral. The Basilica was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1504 and Mass is still celebrated daily! I am certain we will visit the DR again and I will NOT miss Mass the next time we visit.
Ojo, Spanish for eye or hole.
After a thorough tour of the old city, Juan drove us to Three Caves, Los Tres Ojos, a natural and beautiful area right in the middle of the city! The Taino Indians, who were the first inhabitants of Hispaniola, lived in these caves although I did not see any information about their history or lifestyle.
Refrigerator Lake was not really cold.
In actuality, there are four lakes in the area but only three have names: Sulphur, Ladies and Refrigerator. “Ladies Lake” received that name because only ladies were allowed to swim there, but I don’t know the reason for the other two names or why the fourth lake isn’t named. Juan remembers swimming in the lakes up until the mid 1970s when swimming was prohibited.
Guides pull the boats along with ropes to visit the fourth ojo.
Los Ojos are truly beautiful and I could imagine all sorts of long ago scenarios with Taino Indians living here or kids sneaking away for a swim to escape the heat or perhaps young lovers meeting in secret!
I would need a wide angle to get the whole building!
Our final stop with Juan was the Columbus Light House erected in 1992 to honor the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival. This was a huge structure, built in the shape of a cross.
The remains of Columbus are in this mausoleum.
In addition to being the resting place for Columbus, the lighthouse is a museum which houses display rooms for each country that donated to the building. The exhibits are well done and as varied as the countries represented. I could easily have spent several hours here instead of the 90 minutes we stayed. (I am embarrassed to report that there is not a display for the U.S. because we did not contribute.)
Juan told us the lighthouse is only lit for special occasions, but when it is, the light forms the shape of a cross. I would have liked to see that shining in the night sky!
The courtyard at Dona Elvira Hotel
After a very long and informative day, we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed sitting in the courtyard outside of our room. We covered a lot of territory in just two days!
Sunday morning we drove Hunter to the airport so he could fly back to The States. I am very lucky to have had my sons visit us together and to have Hunter stay a bit longer. I’m incredibly thankful that they are willing to travel to varied destinations to visit “home.”
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
This is as close as I got to a “family photo.”
Considering there are only four in our family, we sure cover a lot of the globe! Our eldest son, Hunter, has been living in Spain for a year. Our youngest, Clayton, has been living in California and traveling any weekend he can manage to be away from work. We, of course, have been moving about on LIB.
As a result of being far apart, it is rare for all of us to be together; but when we are, we have a great time and we get along very well. In fact, although we are miles apart physically, we are a very close family and we miss being together.
So obviously, the apples didn’t fall far from the travel tree and being active is another trait the kids have inherited from us. That means that when we are together, we generally stay very busy. This visit to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, was no exception. Although Hunter and Clayton dislike my posting pictures, and I catch grief when I post a photo of them on any social media, I’m posting these pictures anyway. Here is a glimpse into the week Clayton and Hunter were with us and the following week while Hunter was still on board.
Returning from a kite trip.
Hunter and Frank launching a kite from LIB.
Clayton and Captain off to explore a bit.
One of the pretty beaches we found while exploring Provo.
It seems like after I had moved away from my parents home, anytime I would return to visit, the absolute feeling of “home” and being completely relaxed often translated into a nap on the couch. Apparently our kids feel the same tranquility when they are here. I was especially happy to see them feel so comfortable in our boat since that is now our “home.”
Nothing like a nap at your parents “house.”
I didn’t get a good picture, but Clayton went scuba diving with us off the western coast of Providenciales. This is the first time we were able to go diving with Clayton since he and Hunter were certified back in 2014. We saw a decent number of fish but it was not a particularly clear dive. Still it was good to explore with him. (Hunter had a sinus infection and couldn’t go.)
After Clayton flew back to California, we had an excellent weather window to go to the Dominican Republic. We thought it would be especially nice to be in the DR while Hunter was with us so he could act as our interpreter!
The passage was fabulous! We sailed most of the way with favorable winds and seas.
A visual display of just how comfortable the passage was to the DR.
The topography of the DR is completely different from the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. The lush, mountainous land is a rich and an interesting change from what we have seen for the last five months.
A double rainbow met us at the entrance to Ocean World Marina.
Ocean World Marina
The name Ocean World made me think of an amusement park and indeed there is an amusement park right there at the marina. The marina was clean and the people were really nice, but to me it felt too much like being in a very developed area.
However, Ocean World was an excellent place to use for exploring and, with Hunter fluent in Spanish, we were able to communicate well with the locals and we really enjoyed having that extra insight into the people here.
Let’s go catch some waves!
Although there is a world renown kite beach called Cabarete here, the wind was not very cooperative. So Frank and Hunter went surfing and I walked the beach. Check out those super cool, rubber loafers Hunter rented from the surf guy!
Even along the beach there are many trees.
I enjoyed peaking into the trees and seeing the little areas where benches and huts were hidden. Many of the benches were made from discarded surf boards and other recycled items.
Colorful huts right near the beach.
Enjoying an afternoon snack along the beach.
The area where we surfed was pretty sparse with the huts and surf rental huts built under the trees, but we also found beaches that totally catered to tourists. Even though it was nice to have plenty of options for drinks and snacks along the touristy beach, vendors approached often trying to sell us jewelry or cigars or pralines or lunch, etc. They weren’t offensive, but it makes me uncomfortable to say no. I could do without so many people asking me to buy things.
Fortunately the wind did kick in one day and Hunter and Frank went to Cabarete to kite-board. They said the scene was great for kiting and that there were many really excellent local kiters. Cabarete was a crowded kite area and probably not the best place for beginners so I was glad I had chosen to stay at LIB and have some quiet time.
Hunter jumps from on of the falls.
Twenty-seven Falls is a must do event when visiting the northern part of the DR. We spent one afternoon hiking up a mountain, then sliding, jumping and swimming our way back down. This was a hugely fun day and I highly recommend it! A guide is required and I would not have wanted to try to do this without one. After all, we were jumping into pools of water and we would not have known their depth without a guide to help us.
In addition to getting a little exercise, the scenery was beautiful!
We look stunning in our protective gear!
Moving east along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic can be a challenge because of the easterly trade winds. We wanted to move east to Marina Bahia in Samana and the weather forecast showed that we had to move quickly or we would have to stay in Ocean World for another 7-10 days. There was definitely more to see near Ocean World, but we had to move.
Sunset at anchor near Rio San Juan.
The weather didn’t look great to head east, but we decided to make a run for it. This was not our best decision and after slogging in to the wind from 9:30 am to 4:40 pm, we decide to take refuge behind a mountain in near Rio San Juan. We had a little trouble finding a good anchor spot but managed to get settled by around 7 pm. We had a good dinner, then climbed in bed for a nap until midnight.
At midnight we upped anchor and again headed east. Our hope was that the winds would be less at night. Frank took the first watch and because it was so windy, he let me sleep until the winds settled – around 5 am!!!! Fortunately, after I took watch the wind fell and was below 10 knots the remainder of the trip.
Marina Bahia is beautiful!
We arrived at the Marina Bahia around 1:30 pm and it was a welcome sight. The trip was not horrible, but it wasn’t our best passage either. The trees surrounding this marina are thick and verdant and I practically expect monkeys or parrots among the branches!
Hunter kindly pointed out that during his 25th year, we only saw each other for a total of maybe three weeks. At least this year we had the chance to celebrate his 26t birthday while he was on LIB! Nothing like a homemade cake to remind you of your childhood.
Creative candles since I didn’t have 26 of them.
We have a few more days before Hunter leaves and we hope to spend a couple of nights in Santa Domingo with him. It is really hard to say goodbye to my kids but at least this time we have plans to see each other again pretty soon!
As always, thank you for visiting our blog! If you want to know what we are doing more often, feel free to visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.
Frank is a lot happier than the tuna is.
We had an excellent passage from Conception Island to Providenciales and we managed to catch some yellow fin tuna on our way!
Beautiful tuna steaks!
And what is the best thing to do when you finish a passage and arrive at a dock with fresh fish? Share it with you dock neighbors!
New neighbors and familiar friends!
I am surprised to report that we have spent nearly three weeks on Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos. While many cruisers stop here just as a layover until they have a good weather window to or from the Dominican Republic, we chose to have our kids fly in to visit us, so we are hanging around a while until they arrive.
Turquoise waters draw many tourists.
Provo is an upscale island with a well established tourist trade for those arriving by airplane or cruise ship. The island has several very cushy, all inclusive resorts on white sand beaches overlooking turquoise water where visitors can lounge all day, play golf or visit nice boutiques.
A view of South Side Marina from a nearby hill.
As easy as this island is to access by air and cruise ship, as cruisers we found it less accessible than other islands we have visited. The people here are very nice and extremely welcoming, but the anchorages tend to be exposed to wind or swell, so cruisers must hunt for quiet waters. Once a protected spot is found, we did not find any support facilities nearby unless we went to an actual marina.
Provo is well developed with many amenities, including beautiful groceries, but a car is necessary to get around unless you are prepared to walk a long way.
The ladies hanging out at Bob’s Bar – Captain too!
Even though access to the island is a challenge, we have enjoyed Provo. When we arrived, we stopped at South Side Marina, owned by a great guy named Bob. South Side is very small with about a dozen slips and Bob’s Bar; a fun place to gather for drinks and Bocce Ball. Plus Bob is super helpful and will arrange to have Customs and Immigration come to the marina, and he offers to take folks to the grocery every day around noon.
Bocce Ball ~ where spectators have a ringside seat!
While we were in South Side, we became friends with the other cruising boats and almost every night we gathered for drinks or bocce ball or pot luck dinners.
We went to the Provo Fish Fry with Ken and Laurie of Mauna Kea.
The social life was in full swing for those first 10 days before our friends took advantage of an excellent weather window to go either to the Dominican Republic or back toward the States. But we stayed behind to await the arrival of our sons.
Captain enjoyed free roaming and a new friend, Maddie, while at South Side!
In addition to the social time, the wind was exceedingly cooperative and we were able to kite board several days! Long Bay is the most perfect place to learn to kite I have ever seen! The water is beautiful and shallow and the floor of the ocean is sand with only an occasional seashell to mar its surface.
Long Bay has miles of shallow water!
Frank kited 6 days in a row! I kited four times and loved that I could be completely self sufficient in this location! That is a huge accomplishment for me as a new kiter.
A bit sad to see this abandoned resort.
When the winds settled and we had had as much marina time as we could take, Frank and I sailed to West Caicos Island, home to an abandoned Ritz Carleton Resort. Apparently the Ritz invested $150 million in this resort, then halted construction. The partially finished buildings remain but those are the only structures on West Caicos.
Love those pictures using a red filter!
However, on the western side of the island are several buoys placed by scuba diving companies and each one is named on the electronic charts of the area, theoretically giving you an idea of what you will find below.
Why does this make me think of Dr. Seuss?
We had a very nice dive along a deep wall in a current free area that allowed us to relax and enjoy the scenery. This dive was not as clear or colorful as the one on Conception Island, but it was definitely worth the effort.
We see you Mr. Ray.
After the dive we needed to move LIB to the east side of West Caicos to protect us from westerly winds. As we rounded the southern end of West Caicos, we saw something in the water and were not sure what it was. We were in about 25 feet of water and wondered if it was an unmarked obstacle…..
Whales in the shallows.
But as we approached, the “obstacle” blew out spray from its’ blow hole – WHALES AHEAD!
We were able to get pretty close to the whales so I drove and Frank jumped into the water to swim with the whales. Once below, he found two humpback whales – a cow and calf!
I didn’t realize that humpback whales have all white flippers! It was very easy to see the solid white appendage in the water even from above. Fun fact – a humpback’s flipper can be up to 1/3 of its body length! I guess that is a good thing as it helps propel their huge bodies.
After a very peaceful evening anchored off of West Caicos, we sailed to Blue Haven Marina on the northeastern part of Provo where we hung out and prepared for our kids to arrive.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you.
Well I have not had a single minute to spend writing a post on this blog. It has been forever since mom let me sit down and paw out a few words!
I’m listening to something mom’s telling me.
I have been extremely busy here on LIB. When I first became a boat dog, I was unaware of how important it is to look INTO the water and not just monitor the land. Wow, since I figured that out, I realized I have a lot of territory to patrol to ensure my humans are safe.
But just like on land, my humans don’t always understand why I am barking and sometimes I get in trouble because their noses are really weak and they just don’t smell the things I do.
The best example is the dolphins I talked about last time. While we were on that long Intracoastal Waterway trip (2016 Sail to the Sun Rally), there were dolphins galore! But my humans were oblivious until they actually broke the surface of the water…duh!
Not me! I knew they were there and I barked and barked to make sure those dolphins didn’t get too close to my boat. I was so good at spotting those dolphins that other people in the Sail to the Sun Rally would take notice when I barked. Lots of times somebody would come by the boat and thank me for pointing out the dolphins for them. Big tail wag for that!
Trying to catch those dolphins.
One time there were so many dolphins at No Name Harbor in Florida, that MG let me jump in the water and herd them! I worked and worked trying to coral those things, but I never could gather them all together.
Frank let me rest between swims.
Frank finally came out on a paddle board to let me rest for a few minutes. I did not want to give up trying to make the dolphins behave, but my humans said I had to stop…. I was really tired and a little sad I couldn’t coral the dolphins. But it was still a lot of fun trying and I think mom and dad were proud of me! And later people from boats we didn’t even know came over to tell us they had fun watching me. More tail wags for me!
A nice walk on Conception Island
I liked the ICW but it’s really good to get back to the beaches again. We spent January through March in the Bahamas where the water was clear and blue and it’s really easy to see whatever swims under our boat. It sure is nice to be able to roll in the sand and run on the beaches again.
Me snuggling down into the cool sand for a rest.
Mom calls this a refrigerator but I call it a snack drawer!
One thing is hard about living on this boat…. mom keeps my food in this drawer that is right at my level. Every time she opens that drawer wonderful things happen. First off, the drawer is cold and cool air seeps out when it is opened. Secondly, there are excellent smells in that drawer; not the kind you want to roll in but the kind you want to eat! And thirdly, my food is right there and I could just reach in and feed myself!
Don’t tell, I get in trouble if I put my nose in here!
Anyway, every time mom or dad open that drawer, I think they should feed me or at least give me a snack. But nope, humans can be heartless! I don’t get a treat every time they go into the cold drawer ~ in fact, mom and dad eat a lot more out of that drawer than I do!
Mom and I climbed out on this rock.
This year we have been traveling with other boats and that is fun. We don’t always stay with the same boats but lots of people come over to visit me. It’s sad because none of the other boats have dogs to give them licks and keep them safe. But the good thing is I get plenty of extra snuggles and sometimes the visitors even bring me treats! Pretty much everybody thinks I’m a really great dog (I hear them tell MG and Frank) and that makes me feel really happy.
Chillin’ at a concert in George Town – it was loud!
Don’t worry that I’m getting fat with those extra snuggles and treats. I still get plenty of exercise riding in the dinghy and on the paddle board; chasing birds on the beach and flies off the boat; and generally swimming and hiking with my humans.
See how easy it is to see into the water!
I hope you like the pictures I put in here so you can see what I’ve been doing.
I’m helping dad keep an eye out for coral heads in our way.
All in all, life on Let It Be is really good….. but I still won’t use that silly, fake grass mom puts on the back deck unless it’s an emergency! Like that cheap plastic stuff is any kind of replacement for land! Sheesh, I can’t let them get out of the habit of taking me to shore. There are far too many good sniffs there and I don’t want to give that up!
I’m the dinghy lookout when we explore.
At the end of the day I snuggle with my dinosaur while mom cooks.
Oh, hey!…. I just heard my drawer open…. Gotta run!
Oh yeah, remember to come say hi and give me some snuggles if you see us somewhere. Woof woof for now!
Frank caught a beautiful bull Mahi on our way to Emerald Cay Marina.
After our Sail to the Sun Rally friends left from New Providence, Frank and I spent the day provisioning and trying to buy a few things only available from a large city like Nassau. I had thought the ongoing search for the elusive red filter for my GoPro was completed in Nassau when I bought a very nice red lens cover and GoPro adapter from a dive shop.
However, much to my dismay, the adaptor they sold me does not fit my GoPro 4**, so once again I do not have the correct equipment to get beautiful underwater pictures….. which I find very frustrating! Not bringing my GoPro into town was a really dumb move on my part and the result is that I have a beautiful red lens just staring at me, waiting to allow me to share fabulous underwater pictures, and I can’t get it to fit my GoPro!
Gratuitous sunset photo.
Speaking of big cities, Frank and I spent more than 30 years living in Dallas, Texas which is truly a large city with a population of 1.258 million as of 2013. It is a very different experience here in the Bahamas when we visit various Islands and find them sparsely populated yet boasting of many “towns.”
Our visit to Long Island really drove home how incredibly different this new lifestyle is for us.
Physically, Long Island is large island by Bahamian standards. It is approximately 80 miles long and the width ranges from 3/4 of a mile to 4 miles, for a total of 230 square miles; yet Long Island has a total population of only 3,094 as of 2010! The people who live here do not gather into small cities, but are spread among many small villages usually where their ancestors settled long ago. Even well known towns have very few residents, like Clarence Town, the capital, which boasts a population of only 86 folks!
A modest monument to Columbus.
Long Island was originally called Yuma by the indians who settled there and later was named Fernandina by Christopher Columbus. After the American Revolution, many Americans from the Carolinas moved to Long Island and tried to recreate their plantations but the cotton crops didn’t last long and only ruins of those homes remain. Today farming is still important on Long Island but the planting is “pot farming.” My understanding is that soil accumulates in holes in the limestone and it is in these holes that most planting is done. I admire the tenacity of these people and how well they use the resources of their island.
Regardless of the relatively small population, Long Island has a lot to offer, so Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and ourselves, rented a car and set out to explore. Car rentals are on a 24 hour basis and we could pick up the car at any time. We decide to begin our tour at noon and explore the south part of Long Island one day and the north part the next.
Our first stop was right on the road where a local man is in the process of building his sailboat in preparation for the upcoming Long Island Regatta. This regatta is raced by locals who make and sail their Bahamian Sloops.
As soon as we stepped out of the car and began looking at the boat, two residents came over to chat and tell us all about the boat. Apparently their son is building this boat and has been working on it for two weeks. We were amazed by how much he had accomplished in so little time! He must work quickly though as the race is the end of May!
The pool and buildings at Flying Fish Marina are great.
Our next stop was Clarence Town, population 86. There is a very large marina in Clarence Town called Flying Fish. Flying Fish Marina was completely renovated and reopened in October 2016 after damage from hurricane Joaquin.
The exterior of Fr. Jerome’s Catholic Church
Clarence Town also boasts two churches designed and build by Father Jerome. Father Jerome was born in England in 1876. He began studying architecture then changed to theology and was ordained in the Church of England. Father Jerome patterned his approach to religion after St. Francis of Assisi and later converted to Catholicism. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Father Jerome had designed and build an anglican church in Clarence Town. After his conversion, he wanted to build a larger, catholic church and did so on the highest available point in Clarence Town. Though he is best known best for the Hermitage on Cat Island, Father Jerome also built and repaired churches as far away as Australia. All told it is said that Fr. Jerome built five churches on Long Island. We visited the two largest ones in Clarence Town.
Churches seem to be the preponderance of buildings on Long Island behind residences! The one below is said to be the oldest Spanish church on Long Island.
The Spanish influence is visible in the beautiful arches.
Perhaps the most beautiful stop during our exploration of the southern side of Long was Dean’s Blue Hole. This hole, where the world free diving competition is held, is said to be 660 feet deep with a cavern that extends 4,000 feet laterally once you get to the bottom.
Yeah, we don’t have any pictures of the 4,000 foot cavern!! But here is a stunning view from above.
Guana Cay was another pretty stop and Frank was quick to observe the kiting potential of this bay. For you kiters, Frank definitely kept his eye on the wind and later in the week managed to get in a bit of kiting here.
Long Island has many caves that were once used by ancient residents as dwellings or places to hide during hurricanes. We sought out Leonard, an older gentleman whose family has owned Hamilton Cave for many generations, to give us a guided tour. Leonard had many stories about the history of the cave and pointed out five different types of bats that live there…. Laurie and I were NOT thrilled when some of those bats swooped down toward our heads!
Sunset was approaching so we turned toward Chez Pierre, a well known restaurant on Long Island. Like every place we visited off of the main road, Chez Pierre was found down a long, rocky, pot-holed road that meandered several miles without any signage to reassure first time visitors. We did manage to find Chez Pierre and had a fabulous Italian meal?? Yep, Italian at Chez Pierre!
The picture isn’t great but the food was!
Pierre was the waiter, chef and check out person, so he was a busy man. The bar was self serve and on the honor system which was unique and fun. We highly recommend Chez Pierre if ever you visit Long Island.
Locally grown produce and homemade breads.
Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 am to noon. We arrived at 8:30 but already most of the produce was gone.
Sarah displays her woven goods.
Straw and sisal work is common on most islands in the Bahamas. You will find straw markets and stands in front of homes where locals sell everything from purses to placemats to hats and baskets.
Sarah’s sample board.
Sarah, at the Farmer’s Market, had a wonderful display of items and she had a poster of the various plaits available. This is the first time I was able to see all the weaves used and I found it interesting.
The boating community at Thompson Bay, Long Island has to be one of the finest I have encountered. The boaters and the Long Islanders have developed a wonderful relationship in which both recognize the positive skills each brings. The people of Long Island are kind and welcoming and clearly enjoy the boating community. The boaters are very aware of the needs of the islanders and contribute tangibly to those needs.
Most recently, there was a push to bring trees to Long Island to donate to the islanders. After hurricane Joaquin, boaters brought much needed supplies and food to Long Island and helped rebuild many damaged buildings. In fact, the day before we arrived, a group of boaters volunteered and replaced the roof on a home.
The relationship between the boaters and islanders seems unique and wonderful to me. I can certainly understand why so many sailors return to the area every year. This is the first time I have seen island life and boat life completely intertwined and it was truly beautiful to see.
Lest you think we are neglecting Captain, let me assure you that she goes with us on most of our escapades. Here she is enjoying the pool and view at Latitudes on Great Exuma Island.
**For those who own GoPros, apparently their is the standard underwater housing and the “diving” housing. We have the regular underwater housing and the attachment I bought was for a diving housing.