1064 Nautical Miles, 3 countries, $545 in customs fees all in 27 days!
It is hard to believe that we are already 1/3 of the way through this years cruising (St. Marys, GA to Grenada). But that is the good and bad news. Good in that we are all the way in the Dominican Republic and the bad is, we have already killed a third of the trip.
We knew that we were going to skip the Exumas this year because we wanted to spend the bulk of our time in the Caribbean but we did not anticipate covering as many miles in such a short time. But as always is the case in sailing, the golden rule is that weather rules. When you have good weather, you take advantage of it. Our journey thus far has us traveling southeast. Guess where the winds usually come from in this area? If you said southeast, then you are a winner. That being the case we turned our sailboat into a powerboat for most of the trip. Not much fun but we can wait for as little wind and waves as possible and high tail it. The other not so good news is that all this motoring cost us $441 in diesel just in the month of March. Not to mention that 5KNOTS is ready for another oil change.
Leaving Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera we stopped for the night at Kemps Point North (31nm) in the southern part of the island where we staged the next leg to Cat Island. The trip to Cat (59nm) was easy and we actually were able to sail most of the way. The next day we took off for Conception Island. However, once we were on the way we saw that the anchorage at Conception wasn’t favorable for the direction of the winds and waves so we decided to push on to Rum Cay. Once at Rum, we decided what the heck lets keep going to Mayaguana and ensure we were below the next weather front that was predicted to come with 25-30 knot winds with gusts up to 50. Needless to say that we did not want any part of this and even though we should have been a safe distance away at either Conception or Rum, why take a chance. So the original short trip turned out to be 152nm. But at least we were further south and a safe distance from the front. Dodged another one!
We could have skipped Mayaguana but we were in need of more fuel and we had to clear out of the Bahamas with customs and immigration. Mayaguana is the last island in the Bahamas heading south and the last place we could clear. You not only have to clear when entering a country but you have to when leaving.
We anchored in Abrahams Bay located in the NW part of the island. Easy in and out but the dingy ride to shore was 4 miles. Since the bay is protected by land on 2 sides and a coral reef the other, it was fairly calm in the bay so the ride was long but enjoyable. Once ashore, the customs office was a short walk from the dock and checking out was simple, just pay more money. Ann, our customs officer offered to take us to the gas station with our 6 diesel cans in order to fill them. It was a 20 mile ride each way. However, the station was currently out of diesel so we came back empty handed. While out, Ann took us around the settlement and showed us the schools, medical clinic and other parts of the island. She also recommended the restaurant just across the street from her office. We took her recommendation and had a great meal of Margaret (or Market) fish, beans and rice and corn on the cob. Ann also hooked us up with Skully who lives in the settlement and takes people Fly Fishing and provides other services. One of which is to bring fuel down to the dock but with a service charge. Needing the fuel for our next leg. We had no choice but to take him up on this service. So while we had our lunch, Skully went to get the diesel. All in all it worked out pretty good.
The Q and courtesy flags are 12”x18” and we had to make sure we have one for each of the countries that we were going to visit. The customs office is located at the Government Dock and shipyard located a short walk from the beach and anchorage. We arrived at the shipyard and were assigned a badge and outfitted with vest and hardhat. We were able to clear customs but had to wait for the Immigrations officer to come from the airport. He would be there in an hour and a half.
We had read about the Las Brisas Resort and Neptune Village again a short walk. Since we were Jones-in for WiFi and something to drink, it seemed like the perfect spot to kill some time. At 2:00 we were back at the customs office and finished the check-in process. Now we were legal and could go anywhere we wanted. Before clearing you are not permitted to go anywhere until you have finished the clearing in procedure.
You should go directly from your boat to the office. Las Brisas is located on a beautiful bay and the staff very friendly so we decided it was time to eat. Renee got the lobster roll and me the grouper, both excellent choices.
The next day we crossed the Caicos Banks to Cockburn Harbor on the east side of Provo to stage our exit to the Dominican Republic (DR). We made this journey at high tide, giving us two additional of feet of water under the keel. The day before we heard other cruisers making this journey and one of the boats bumped on a coral head, ouch. Bumping here in the islands could be bad since the bottom is covered in coral heads and impossible to accurately chart them so we are extremely careful while cruising in shallow areas. The good news is that once a short distance from the islands you quickly find yourself in thousands of feet of water where hitting something is no longer a worry.
Before making the next leg of our journey to the DR, we did as we always do. Load up on diesel, water, a few groceries and water. We were given a ride to the water distribution place where we were able to get our 6 gerry cans filled. However, this time we only paid $1.00 for 36 gallons of water. Hard to believe since on every other island it is $0.50 per gallon. This made up for the laundry where we had to pay the Not From Around Here price of $7.50 per wash and $10.50 for a dryer.
The next day we had the weather window we needed, unfortunately no wind but also moderate seas. The wind and seas usually die down at night and since we had 1a little over 100nm to the DR, it required some amount of night sailing. We left in the morning to anchor for a couple of hours at Big Sand Cay to explore and rest up for the overnighter. Big Sand Cay was definately the most beautiful spot we hit this season. An unspoiled island with large sandy beaches covered with soft sand. We attempted to dingy ashore but the steepness of the beach made it impossible to secure the dingy. So I stayed in the dingy and Renee and Tim went ashore for some exploring. Tim found a sea bean (Horse Eye) for Renee’s collection and Renee’s treasure was a bottle of perfume from Dubai.
The overnighter to the DR was beautiful with an unbelievable number of stars lighting the sky. We had to make sure we arrived in the daylight in order to navigate into the anchorage so we spent the last 12 miles going slower that our usual 6 knots. We arrived into the anchorage at Luperon and called Papo who has the mooring balls in the anchorage. Amazing at just $2 a night it is a bargain from the $25-$35 fees we are accustomed to. Papo also can take care of getting you water, diesel, propane and arranging excursions to some of the attractions in the area. We went through our clearing routine again with customs, immigration, the Navy and two departments I am still not sure what they were for. Now legal, we went into town to explore.
Renee was needing a haircut so she found a shop on what appeared to be the main street. The lady took her right in and it was easy. The cut was 450 pesos which is $9.00 US. We have enjoyed our first two days in Luperon and look forward to the remainder of our stay.