Blog Archives

Boat Dog Boarding. What Is a Pet Owner To Do?

While living on Let It Be full time, it is sometimes necessary to fly back to The States for family events or doctor appointments and such. Are you making reservations again?

Flying with a dog is difficult and even with the proper paperwork, once landed, additional questions about which hotels accept dogs and are clean, where to leave the dog while taking care of many errands or appointments, makes travel and use of time a bit more complicated. 

This year we have had to leave Captain behind three times and twice were for extended trips. Finding a place where Captain can be well cared for, get some attention and a decent amount of exercise, has been a challenge but the effort has been worthwhile. 

I thought some pet owners might find it useful to know how we have managed this year, so here is the rundown for our three trips. 

In May, Frank and I were in the Dominican Republic and we had a visit to Florida planned. We would leave together, conduct our meetings over the course of five days, then I would fly back to the DR and Frank would leave for his Atlantic crossing. 

For this trip, we hired a delightful guy named Nelson who works at the Samana Marina. Captain remained on LIB, Nelson came by to feed and walk Cappy twice a day and Cap was able to be ‘at home’ while we were away. 

One of our walks in Samana. 

Also, our dock neighbors, Andre and Josee, were simply awesome and kept an eye out for Captain. They decided Captain needed more activity, so when they walked their dog, Roxy, they brought Captain along. 

How awesome is that?!!!

Captain rides shotgun with Natalia. 

The second trip we took was from Puerto Rico and we planned to be traveling to multiple locations over a three week period. Fortunately I looked up rover.com, a U.S. internet based company where you enter your zip code and the bios for pet sitters near your location pop up.

 Captain with Natalia’s dogs. 

It is through rover.com that I found Natalia, who took excellent care of Captain. Natalia’s home was very well set up for dogs and she really loved Cappy. 

Natalia has two dogs for Cappy to play with and daily walks were a given. While Cappy was with Natalia, Hurricane Irma was heading toward PR and Natalia was very communicative about her plans should evacuation become necessary. 

Captain chillin’ at Natalia’s. 

We were extremely happy with Natalia’s care for Captain and had planned on leaving Cap with her again for our October trip to the States, but our escape from Hurricane Maria rendered that impossible. 

Our final trip this year we had to scramble and find last minute accommodations for Captain in Aruba!

Fortunately we found the Dog Hotel Aruba where a young couple boards dogs in their yard. Rose and her husband are clearly dog lovers and assured me they would take great care of Captain. 

Captain says “pick me.”

The Dog Hotel Aruba has several kennels and two large fenced areas on site. The dogs are outside pretty much all day and large dogs are separated from small dogs. The dogs are also taken to the beach to swim once or twice a week. Not a bad way for Captain to spend her time when we have to be away. 

That is a pretty little swimming hole!

I consider each of the dog stays successful though obviously very different. I think Captain was most comfortable when she stayed on the boat and was at home in our absence. I am sure in that situation Captain felt the least ‘abandoned ‘ but she was probably a bit lonely. Still, this is similar to dogs who stay home while their owners are away. 

Staying with Natalia was where I think Captain received the most amount of human attention and love. This was a very good fit for Captain and us. Plus it was easy to find a sitter with good reviews and paying online was convenient. 

I’m fine up here. 

The dog hotel in Aruba was a good find. I doubt this is Cappy’s favorite stay because she usually prefers to be with people more than dogs. But like a child who has to play with others, this is probably a good experience for Captain. 

Even though finding a place to leave our dog takes a little time, so far it has worked out well for us. Plus, there is the added comfort of being able to receive pictures and updates to make sure our furry loved one is doing well. 

Cap is pretty relaxed in LIB. 

I acknowledge that we have been fortunate in finding great options for Captain, but I still feel a little guilty leaving her behind. I have really enjoyed our travels and visits with friends and family but I am glad we don’t have any other time off the boat planned for a while!

And I am confident Captain will agree completely when we get back and I tell her. 

Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Please share your thoughts on pet care while away from home. 

Arial Photos of Places We’ve Seen

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LIB stripped and prepared for Irma. (SUP was inside while away.)

Well, we are finally back on our boat in Puerto Rico and we are SO fortunate that we suffered NO damage from Hurricane Irma.  At the very last minute, this horrific storm decided to go just a bit north and the island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit.

In the face of this near miss, the folks here on PR have stepped up and contributed to the efforts to help neighboring islands which have been decimated.  There are people taking tangible supplies to PR, others have picked up people stranded on the island and brought them to PR and still others have taken friends or strangers into their boats and homes here in Puerto Rico.

On LIB, we have not contributed physically to the efforts, but we have tried to offer emotional and some financial support.  Our intention is to give trained personnel time to reinstate order, then actually go and help rebuild.  Admittedly Frank is much better with tools than I, but I have learned a lot since moving onto LIB and I am sure will be able to help in some way.

In the mean time, on our flight back to Puerto Rico, we saw from the air some of the islands we played on while cruising the Bahamas this year.  I have not always been a student of geography, but living on a boat has taught me a lot and it was fun to recognize the islands we had visited from an arial perspective.

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We spent several days anchored off Normans Cay.

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Enjoying the shallows while paddling to “The Pond” on Normans

We stopped on Normans twice this season; once alone and once with some of our Sail to the Sun Rally friends on board LIB with us.

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Captain found the soft, deserted beaches perfect for playing chase!

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The second great picture from the plane was of Cambridge and Compass Cays.  The cut between them is where we met up with s/v Radiance in an amazing feat of timing.  We had texted with Radiance crew, Susan and Kevin, who were heading toward the Exumas from Florida while we were returning to the Exumas from Eluethera.  Our plan was to anchor near Compass Cay and contact each other upon arrival, but just as we were getting close to the cut and were dousing our spinnaker, we spotted Radiance also approaching the cut! LIB fell into line right behind Radiance and we followed them into the anchorage!

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Susan demos the arduous skill of floating about on Compass Cay!

Cambridge Cay is where we first met Kristen and James of s/v Tatiana and Laurie and Chris of s/v Temerity.  This area is also the location of another Sail to the Sun meeting where about 10 of us did a float snorkel near the Rocky Dundas in water so clear that Tom and Louise on s/v Blue Lady appeared to be suspended in air in the picture below.

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Blue Lady lifts anchor near Cambridge Cay.

Traveling in a plane nearly 100 times faster than LIB sails, we quickly covered the area we sailed this season. But it was fun to look out the window and recall the islands we visited and see again the amazing blues unique to the Bahamas.

For now, we are keeping an eye on the weather here in Puerto Rico and hoping this nasty 2017 hurricane season ends without any more storms anywhere! We look forward to putting LIB back into working shape and once again exploring the Caribbean.

As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We would love to hear from you. If you want to see what we are up to more often, please see our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

Life Onboard; Comparing Year 1 and Year 2

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The unparalleled waters of the Bahamas.

September marks the second completed year of full time living on our sailboat and it is amazing how different the two years have been.

Our first year we spent the first months working hard to get Let It Be ready for us to live on her.  Although we bought our boat new, we had several items we wanted to add to make life on our boat just a bit easier.

Probably the three biggest changes we made during the first year that have made LIB more functional for us were:

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Adding a Cruise RO Water Maker which frees us from looking for places to buy water as we travel.

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Adding these two upper windows to our salon which allow us to have airflow into the boat even if it rains outside.

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Our new cushions which are so much more comfortable than our original ones and add a very nice pop of color and individuality to LIB.

As far as our actual travel during the first season, we spent our time in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and loved moving from one country to the next.  The majority of our time was spent on anchor; we spent three nights in a dock on Antigua celebrating the New Year, then did not use a marina again until June.

We thoroughly enjoyed being on the hook, swimming and snorkeling almost every day and living that first season very much in tune with nature.

At the end of our first season, we left the Caribbean and sailed north all the way to Annapolis, MD to get in position for my personal “wish” which was to join a rally and work our way south through the Intracoastal Waterway.

Prior to the start of our second season aboard LIB, we made three additional changes to LIB that have made a significant difference for her in a positive way.

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We invested in brand new 3di sails by North Sails.  These sails are higher performance than our original sails and have gained us the ability to point higher and sail a bit faster. Definitely a win for LIB and us.

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We replaced all of our electronic equipment with B&G and we added radar to LIB.  We are very happy with our new equipment and find the autopilot to be excellent. The B&G equipment has some features that our previous system did not have and we find the whole system more user friendly.

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Our third change was that Frank and I completely revamped the rain water drainage on LIB by enlarging the drain holes and leading the captured water into the drain in the cockpit floor.  Prior to making these alterations, our cockpit floor would get wet when it rained because water ran off of the upstairs sun area and into the cockpit.  Since our modification, our cockpit is dry and usable even during heavy rains.

Our second season of cruising has been great but completely different from our first. We kicked it off with the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally that started in Hampton, Virginia.  In the company of 18 other sailboats, we spent two months working our way south to Florida.  Nearly every evening we were in a different marina and we ate out more often than we ever did while living on land. The social life was amazing and the group of people were like minded and are sure to be friends for a very long time.

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A few STTS Ralliers waiting for a trolley tour.

We spent January through April in the Bahamas, including several stays in marinas.  Next we worked our way over to the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico for this hurricane season.

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This marina in Samana, DR isn’t exactly a hardship!

While in the Turks and Caicos, we spent 95 percent of our time in a marina.  In the Dominican Republic we spent 100 percent of our time in marinas and now that we are settled in Puerto Rico for hurricane season, we are again in a marina.

As you can tell, our second season was all about marinas and much of it was about land activities.

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Kiting in Antigua.

Our first season we ate off of the boat rarely and focused on our water sports. Many hours and anchorages were all about kite boarding in beautiful places and having beaches all to ourselves.

This year we have made a ton of new boat friends, helped considerably by the Sail to the Sun Rally, and we have spent more time exploring on land.

In summary, I would say this year feels more like “land life” while living on a boat but our first year felt more like living on a sailboat.

If I had to choose if I prefer year one or two, I would not be able to do so. Year one I loved being in tune with the sunrises and sunsets while on anchor. I loved swimming to shore nearly every day and daily water activities.  I loved being in somewhat isolated places and feeling out of touch with U.S. news but being able to stay in contact with my family and friends.

This year I loved making so many new friends and reconnecting with friends in different anchorages or marinas. The convenience of restaurants and stores was welcome. It was really nice to be back in the U.S. with everything so familiar and accessible. But because we were in the States, it was easy to get caught up in the “real world” and that was not my favorite aspect of year two.

So now that we have experienced two very different years, what will we do for the upcoming season?

In November, we are once again setting off toward the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. But this year we will also jump over to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and spend time there before the hurricane season of 2018 begins.

My hope is that this season we can somehow manage to blend our last two seasons.  Perhaps we will devise an itinerary that includes remote anchorages intermingled with some more developed areas with conveniences we sometimes crave (think grocery stores with our favorite veggies and fruits).

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It was a great surprise when Starry Horizons was nearby!

And of course, we hope to reconnect with sailing friends because it is a little thrill to drop anchor and suddenly realize that a nearby boat is a friend we didn’t know was in the area.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

Sargassum ~ Floating Habitat with a Big Smell!

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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.

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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;

  1. higher ocean temperatures which allows this tropical plant to thrive
  2. polluted waters carrying higher nutrients that act like a fertilizer for the sargassum
  3. changing “liquid boundaries” in the ocean caused by storms and high winds help spread sargassum throughout the oceans

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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.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

 

I’m More of a Hooker Than a Marina Maven.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

Christmas in July, BVI

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Boquerón, La Parquera, Gilligan’s Island… Ports of Puerto Rico

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.

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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.

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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.

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We strolled the waterfront town and had lunch in Boqueron.

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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.

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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!

La Parguera

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.”

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La Parguera is a sleepy town during daylight hours with deserted streets and most businesses closed.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.”

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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!

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Colorful homes in La Parguera.

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Gratuitous sunrise

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

 

 

 

 

Los Haitises National Park, DR

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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…

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A water feature at the entrance to the lodge.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Stairways that seem to belong within the hillside.

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Use of indigenous materials made the hotel feel more like it “belongs” here.

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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.

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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.

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Hard to believe all this light is in the caves.

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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!

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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.

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A peaceful bend in the creek leading to the Tiano Caves.

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. 

Las Terrenas and Santa Domingo, Sites of the DR

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.)

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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!

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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

All Together ~ First Time In A Year!

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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.

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Clayton kiting.

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Returning from a kite trip.

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Hunter and Frank launching a kite from LIB.

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Clayton and Captain off to explore a bit.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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A double rainbow met us at the entrance to Ocean World Marina.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Colorful huts right near the beach.

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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.

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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.

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In addition to getting a little exercise, the scenery was beautiful!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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