Where is YOLO?

...Off to the Sea for Adventure

...Off to the Sea for Adventure

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mona Schmona.

The before photo of the YOLO crew. Taken just prior to weighing anchor and attempting the Mona Passage

The preparations were made and the routes were planned for the big bad mona passage and on Saturday the 12th we set out for Puerto Rico. We figured it to be around 36 hours to cross from Cayo Levantado in the NE end of Bahia de Samana, Dominican Republic to Boqueron on the SW coast of Puerto Rico. During the day Saturday we did some daysailing/fishing in the bay on our way to have a quick rest at Cayo Levantado for the late afternoon to wait for the tradewinds to calm down. As we approached Cayo Levantado, we saw Eventide already anchored and waiting to leave. While at anchor next to Eventide, Andy and Chris decided it to be necessary to swim to shore to buy OJ for YOLO. Once they made landfall with drybag in tow, much to their surprise, they realized they had marooned onto a beach on the property of an all inclusive resort. Needless to say, their expedition took a bit longer than anticipated (for several reasons) which left the other two crew on YOLO a bit perplexed. Meanwhile Amy and I had dinghyed over to Eventide to discuss the latest weather reports, which looked good, and started getting anxious to get going as the sun was setting by this point.

Andy and Chris returned around mid dusk with a 2-liter pepsi bottle full of Orange Juice... Dont ask... Eventide weighed anchor and set off for the mona. We decided to stay back and let them schlog into the chop that had yet to fully settle in the early evening and then radio back to let us know how they were doing in it. We passed the time by playing another rousing game of Farkel then set off across the infamous Mona Passage about 8:30pm.

Before we set out I had promised our visiting crew at least 4 fish along our crossing. Luckily my promise was kept and we landed exactly 4 fish. Amy was the 1st to strike. She reeled in a nice 6 lb Mackerel on Sunday around dawn. Later that day, Chris discovered a flying fish that landed on our deck (which normally wouldn't count, but at this point I was getting nervous about fulfilling my promise). Then in the late hours of Sunday night, while on their watch, Chris and Andy had caught two more very suspicious looking fish. We never even tried to eat these things, but it was good to hear when I woke up that my quota had been filled!

Trying to gaff Amy's Mackerel.

Cero Mackerel courtesy of Amy!

Flying fish discovered on deck by Captain Chris

Chris and Andy caught two of these funky looking fish... not sure what they are

Overall the passage went very smoothly. We motored about 30% of the time, motorsailed about 40% and sailed about 30%. We would have liked to sail more of it but were just happy to have this leg completed safely. We made landfall right on time as the sun was rising in front of us for our approach into Boqueron Harbor (SW Puerto Rico). We were all awake on the approach and we winded our way through the landmine of sailing vessels already anchored in the harbor. We snuck in and found a nice spot near the beach to drop the hook by around 8AM on Monday morning. The crew was exhausted but excited to explore this strange new land called America. For Andy and I, this was the 1st time we've been on US soil since we left Key Largo on November 27th. Once settled in the anchorage, we dinghied to shore and took a taxi to customs as there was no one to come to our boat. After clearing, the cabby was nice enough to take us to wal-mart and wait for us to do a provisioning run! It was a weird feeling being in a wal-mart. Seeing all the taco bells, McDonalds, Best Buys, etc... was interesting to Andy and I as we've been away from it for some time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

            It was midnight on February 7th, Lance and I were at the Santo Domingo airport waiting for Chris and Amy to touch down after their air voyage from the frigid north.  At the same time we were also waiting on a friend named Sual, whom I had met on the bus ride to Santo Domingo the first time I took the trip to meet my dad.  It was Saul’s 20th birthday and via facebook he offered us a place to stay for the night sparing us the cost of a hotel room.  With a birthday cake in hand, everyone arrived at the same time and he drove us to Boca Chica where the new arrivals crashed hard on bed in the empty apartment.  They were good sports about sleeping in an unfamiliar environment and trusted us that Saul was legit while Lance and I left them alone.  We went to explore the nightlife of Boca Chica and to help Saul celebrate his birthday.  The next morning we all woke early to start our journey toward Samana.  After many bus transfers we finally arrived at the beautiful Puerto Bahia Marina with plenty of time left for pool relaxation and meeting/saying goodbye to several of our cruising friends.  Eclipse and Eventide were heading back to anchor in the national park and we wanted to join, so at 5pm the Dominican navy came and issued us a despacho without having to pay any Pesos!  Our new guests long day of travel continued and we had a glorious downwind night sail across Samana bay to a secluded anchorage next to eclipse.  After seeing the slums of Santo Domingo, the Bus ride through the Dominican countryside, the 5 star marina with infinity pools, and now the remote anchorage with a steep cliff ridden island in the national park Chris commented on how this was a day of extremes which I think was the perfect way to describe it. 

Saul on his birthday in Santo Domingo

Swimming at the marina pool in Samana

The legendary yellow trimaran, these friends also left the marina and are on their way to Puerto Rico

We were still waiting for the perfect weather that would allow for safe passage across the gap between the D.R. and Puerto Rico, which is only 170 miles but is renowned among cruisers as the most difficult slug into the tradewinds in all of the Caribbean.  This terrifying bit of ocean is ridden with strong headwinds, steep gnarly waves, and unpredictable currents and they call it the “Mona Passage.”  While waiting for the winds to calm down we had the opportunity to explore more of the park and do a hike through the jungle back to the eco-resort.  Along with Eclipse and EvenTide we cruised through a cave and all the lush vegetation whilst harvesting more bananas, grapefruit, and coconuts along the way.  The banana trees are easy to tip over and grab bushels off the tree, coconuts are another story, I had to climb 20 feet up the palm tree and twist off several of the green nuts, it was terrifying but we were all thirsty so I had to do it.  After 9 clicks we arrived at the eco-resort (Cano Hondo) and once again took advantage of their natural waterfalls and swimming pool during the midday heat.  Back at the boats that night we were invited aboard Eclipse for dessert and an induction ceremony.  Michelle had baked us a delicious cake and we officially inducted Eventide into our flotilla “The Constellation Sensation” Their new codename is “Southern Cross” and we finally had buddy boaters that cruise at the same slow pace as YOLO.

Chris's fine Photography. This was a very dark night believe it or not.  

The crew of Eventide onboard YOLO chatting about our route across the Mona

Chris's kite finally flew with a small camera attached!  Took  awesome pictures but eventually was claimed by poseidon as a giant wave swept it overboard

Eclipse and YOLO in formation with kite camera flying high

Chris and Amy finally at the helm after a long journey

This tree was much taller than the picture makes it look

Dessert and Farkle aboard Eclipse

Our last night in the national park we enjoyed a bonfire with the crew of Eventide.  Here Indiana Jones (Chris) is stoking it up.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My old man and the sea

Mi Padre arrived at the aeropuerto in Santo Domingo, a 4 hour bus ride away.  I went down to the capital to meet him, and together we spent one night at a not-so-classy hotel in this large city.  After exploring the colonial district, and several forts rich in history we decided to take the bus back to Puerto Plata where we had a room at an all inclusive resort and lance was miserably waiting for us in the lap of luxury.  At the bus station, the only thing we could understand was that there was a “problema” with the bus.  It turned out the road to Puerto Plata had been barricaded and we had to take the bus to Santiago followed by harrowing taxi ride through the mountains.  After over five hours we arrived at the all-inclusive resort and spent 2 days sipping pina coladas on beach beds!  Not usual for the YOLO crew but they had a special-rate for us that we couldn’t pass up.

Our departure from Luperon was made difficult, not because of the weather, or boat problems, but because of the Comandante.  The Dominican navy has to clear every vessel in and out of every port.  We had to get a piece of paperwork called a “despacho” from the Comandate, every departing cruiser has had trouble getting it without paying extra unofficial fees/tips.  It took some time and over 1000 pesos but eventually we motored out of the harbor with “Despacho” in hand!  It was quite ridiculous considering we were only cruising to Samana and not even leaving the country.

My dad has all the pictures from the beginning of his trip, so hopefully they will follow in another post.

Calm winds most of the way meant motoring, but at least it was very comfy

Look at this giant Mahi my old man reeled in

The passage went very well, 24 hours along the north coast of the D.R. with Mi Padre e mi amigo Lance.  Lot’s of stars, massive cliffs, and Humpback whales surfacing and blowing their spouts around us, it was amazing.  Just before turning into Samana bay one of our fishing reel made that beautiful zipping sound of a fish swimming away with the lure.  My dad hauled in the beautiful Mahi-Mahi and it was recorded as the second largest fish of the trip, 16 lbs.  After we anchored in Samana at the city dock, there was more talk about our “despacho” but we successfully evaded the authorities and got out of there to the marina 2 miles away.  We pulled in and docked right next door to our old friends “Eclipse.”  It was a pleasant surprise for both of us and Miles was chomping at the bit to give us a tour of the Marina.  Fabulous place with 5 swimming pools and a hotel attached.  After the long passage we spent several hours there relaxing and BBQ-ing, then sailing off together for a national park paradise.  However, once again the Navy wanted our “despacho!!!” The system they have for clearing into ports here is just too confusing so we gave up and left without it.  

There was good wind for sailing some of the time

Our friends "Hajira"  were perfect buddy boaters.  We sailed on formation the whole way and they are exactly the same speed as YOLO

In the park Lance, dad and I got to explore miles of narrow mangrove rivers in the dinghy.

One of the many caves in the national park

Dad and Lance pretending to be captain Morgan

The Hufford family was happy to hear about the Mahi-Mahi and offered to cook it and have us aboard “Eclipse” for dinner yet again!  It was absolutely delicious and they even had made a birthday cake for me!  What wonderful friends they are.  We always have a great time with them and make so many memories.  The park was beautiful and my dad got to see huge caves with petroglyphs, an ecoresort built into the cliff with amazing architecture, natural swimming pools, and a zip line through the jungle.  The Hufford family was there and we just had a blast on my dads last day in the D.R.  Today we had to say goodbye as he got on the bus to Santo Domingo. 

Look at the Hufford's nice clean matching hats.  Great sun protection

Dad going Tarzan style

Tying our dinghies together is now the preferred method for traversing mangrove rivers.  The kids got to practice differential steering

A view of the park and our beard progress

Eco-resort built into the cliff, very awesome