Mary Christine is scheduled for haul out tomorrow morning for some fresh paint and a few minor repairs to be made over the next few days before we begin heading North, up island.
Before we go, we wanted to make sure we are totally prepared. We knew our good friends at Commuter Cruiser would have JUST WHAT WE NEEDED! Jan and David have put together a very helpful checklist of all the things we need to remember to do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER our time on the hard. The process may seem like a no-brainer for some, but Peter and I both found some very helpful things in this article that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise during our first time hauling out.
With many of our cruiser friends also getting hauled out this time of year, we urge you to take a peek at the wisdom Commuter Cruiser has shared.
Soper’s Hole is a quaint little Marina tucked inside the West End of Tortola. It is also a regular ferry stop between USVI and BVI. We brought Mom and Bean to the ferry dock where they caught a ride back to the airport on St. Thomas during the first week of June.
It was a sad day filled with many tears. I didn’t want them to leave, and they didn’t want to go home. We are all grateful, however, that we had the opportunity to spend so much time together in paradise and it will be a trip remembered forever.
We pulled into the marina shortly after the ferry left to make some minor repairs, fill up our water and fuel tanks, and get a little rest. It amazes me more and more how lucky we are to be living this lifestyle. There’s nowhere we need to be at any particular time. We can stay up late watching movies on the laptop and sleep in as long as we want. There is always work to be done, but its on our schedule.
One morning Peter noticed a younger guy arriving at shore in his dinghy with a surfboard. He asked where he had just come from and we learned that just around the point is a surf spot called Apple Bay. It just so happened to be 3-5′ that day so Peter quickly grabbed the foam board off the deck and we hopped in our dinghy to go check it out.
Nothing spectacular, but Peter sure had fun checking out the local point break. He’s been itching for some big waves ever since we left San Diego. The conditions haven’t been right to break out one of his SIX epoxy boards in any of the places we’ve been so far. We’re hoping to find some good surf in Tobago or maybe even Barbados in the next few months!
Our next surprise was finding out that our slip was right next to some of the coolest guys we’ve met on our whole trip!
Tied up next to us was Indigo, a 61′ Fishing Charter boat owned and operated by Ocean Surfari out of USVI. The charter business is top notch and the crew members were incredibly friendly. Despite their busy preparations, we made fast friends with the crew talking about all-things-fishing into the late hours of the evening.
After all chores were done several days later, we had checked out of the Marina and prepared the boat for leaving. We had only intended on staying in Soper’s Hole for about a week but when we tried to leave, Peter discovered a major problem. We turned on the engine and Peter did a quick inspection in the engine room only to discover that our muffler had a significant leak. This was very discouraging since we thought our exhaust hose woes were behind us.
Realizing we were stuck, we let the Marina office know we would be there for at least a few more days. We picked up more shower tokens and a new WIFI password.
The Co-Founder of Ocean Surfari, Curt Richardson, happened to be visiting BVI with his family at the same time we were visiting Soper’s Hole Marina. His two sons, JC and Josh, arrived to stay aboard Indigo for a week and invited us out fishing with them several times. What a magnificent boat! Such a different feel to be out on the water on a boat like that after so many months of sailing around on our little boat that can only go 6 knots. Josh and JC are some of the kindest, most genuine, respectful, generous and fun people we have ever met. Despite the fact that we were stuck at the marina, we made some incredible memories that week!
Josh even hooked a 300lb shark on one of the fishing trips!
The enormous engines on Indigo made it easy for them to buzz over to the USVI to go lobster hunting. The guys returned with a monster catch…
We spent hours watching the bait fish swim by the bright Indigo-colored lights. Dozens of huge tarpon would circle around pushing the bait back and forth under the docks.
Mr. Richardson is also the Founder and Chairman of Otterbox. JC and Josh introduced us to one of their newest products – The Preserver. When Otterbox bought out Lifeproof, the technology was combined to create an unbelievably waterproof design. After sharing our Lifeproof success story and subsequent failures, we were thrilled to be able to sample these new cases that were so generously donated to our cause! The new Preserver case has allowed us to take some pretty great underwater pictures with our last remaining iPhone. We are looking forward to putting more Otterbox products to the test as we continue our adventures in the harsh marine environment.
During our stay in Soper’s Hole we took several trips over to St. John to experience some of the exceptional snorkeling on the North Coast. Watermelon Cay was one of our favorite spots and proved to be a great place to take some underwater photos with our new Otterbox iPhone cases!
Tarpon lurking in the distance…
After a bit of research, a new muffler was on order from Parts and Power on Tortola. When it arrived, Peter had to saw off the old exhaust hose to get the old muffler out. The old hose was completely disintegrated from the inside out. Apparently this is what 35 year old exhaust hose looks like… YUK!
Within an hour, we were back up and running good as new. We prepared the boat for leaving the dock and set off for Peter Island just in time for Fathers Day :)
Stay tuned for more adventures in the BVI’s! We are currently enjoying Island Time in Grenada while we wait out the rest of Hurricane Season. Leave us a comment, we would love to hear from you!!
We said farewell to Punta Rocia/Ensenada around 9pm on the 25th of April. Garmin guided us back out to our course due east in the dark of the night. By then, we were so used to night passages and navigating by our instruments alone that this felt pretty routine. With plenty of time to arrive in Luperón by 8am, we passed by Cabo Isabela and motored around to the next waypoint listed in Van Sant’s guide. From this point forward in our travels along the DR coast, his book became our bible feeding us with local knowledge that proved to be priceless. We took turns reading and rereading the dog-eared pages, underlining and highlighting the parts that coincided with our course.
Who else remembers “making a range with the cliff face and a tree on the ridge in the background”? This was the fool-proof method described in the guide for avoiding the fishing floats and shoals upon entering the harbor. We had no trouble at all and the scenery coming in was stunning. We were still in awe of the beauty of the DR coast after seeing such flat and desert-like land on the islands of the Bahamas.
In the early hours of the morning the only movement in the harbor was from local fishermen. Most of the mooring balls were occupied and carefully placed around the various mud shoals. The charts showed them well, corresponding to the empty spots where no boats laid to rest. We anchored toward the back against the mangroves in a nice place that would allow us to swing without bumping anything or anyone.
Peter and I lowered the dinghy off the bow with the halyard and used our pulley to move the outboard motor from the stern to the dinghy. Each time, the process gets a little easier, a little faster and we get a little stronger. The gas can was hooked up and Peter was off to the Comandancia. We had heard they may come out to visit us, but after listening in on the VHF, that was not the case.
After tying up at the dinghy dock, Peter made his way down a small road from the harbor’s edge into town. There is a vehicle gate guarded by men sitting in the shade. Adjacent are three small structures, one each for the Ports Authority, Immigration and Agriculture. The Navy has a separate facility across a bridge and up the hill to the left. As for the dogs, they just wanted to know that we had a health certificate and rabies certificate. No extra fees or restrictions with pets. The Customs and Immigration fees were around $90-something total, cash only. The Navy then sent three men to follow him back out to the boat. They wanted to take a look around to make sure we weren’t smuggling in any people from Haiti, then they asked for a tip. It was not mandatory, but it was worth $20 to us to give the men a little cash if it meant they weren’t going to tear our boat apart on a “routine” search. We were still tired from our recent passages and didn’t feel like having every locker emptied as if we had just broached the boat.
Within a few minutes the men sped off in their little boat. They had asked a local man, Rafael, to take them in his boat since they didn’t have one of their own. Little did we know, we would soon need Rafael’s help later that day.
A few minutes later we went to town together to explore and grab some lunch. Up the road we saw the popular spots – JR’s and Wendy’s. Both have good food and free wifi. While enjoying a bite to eat at JR’s, Peter heard someone hailing our boat on the radio… “Mary Christine, Mary Christine…”
The winds had picked up and clocked around and our boat was dragging!! We thought for sure the anchor was set well to the direction the of the Trades, and the thick mangrove mud had it’s hold on us. Wrong. Peter left me at the restaurant and RAN back to the dinghy as fast as he could go (in flip-flops of course). Rafael had heard what was going on from his handheld VHF and raced over to meet Peter at the dinghy dock to see if he could help. Together they blasted over to the boat. Peter made record time from the restaurant to the boat in 3 minutes flat!!
A neighbor witnessed the whole thing and that’s who hailed us on the radio. They jumped on board our boat and threw out our second anchor in hopes of catching, but we had already hit one of the mud shoals. The boat had drug across half the mooring field, miraculously passing every boat without bumping anyone at all. We knew who was watching out for SV Mary Christine that afternoon…
Usually, Peter always dives our anchor to make sure it’s in good. The water in Luperón is filthy with zero visibility so diving the anchor wasn’t an option here. Our primary anchor is a Delta or plough-style anchor, which turns out does not hold well in the soft DR mud. Had we used the Danforth, we probably would have been fine. Most of the other boats in the harbor were on mooring balls with only a few others at anchor and we just assumed they were all there for long-term. We now know that for only $3 per night, a mooring ball in Luperón is very good insurance.
Peter called me on the radio back at JR’s to let me know Rafael would pick me up on his motorbike and bring me back to the boat. Luckily I had stashed a little cash in my bikini top. I paid the bill and finished my lunch just as Rafael pulled up. I hopped on the back of his motorbike and we rode back to his old fishing boat. He had such a kind smile and his generosity was heartwarming.
As the tide rose, Peter tied a stern line to an adjacent mooring ball and Rafael helped us winch over to it. With each surfacing of the buoy, he heaved the line in a little tighter. Slowly, the boat slid inch by inch off the mud shoal into deeper water. We used Rafael’s boat to carry a bowline over to our newly adopted mooring ball before releasing the stern line. We had brought in both anchors already and finished tying up to the ball properly. It was a close call and an unsettling way to experience our first four hours in Luperón. Rafael wouldn’t accept any money for his help so we offered him several huge filets of fresh caught Mahi Mahi instead. He was so appreciative and excited to bring it back to his family. The people of the Dominican Republic are very kind and just as friendly as we had been told.
Papo runs an excellent service catering to cruisers in the harbor. Pedro answers on the VHF for him and was also very kind and helpful. They own the mooring balls and come around to collect $3 per night. They have wonderful local knowledge, courtesy flags, water and fuel. Papo will bring diesel out to the boat for $5.75/gallon and pump it directly into your tanks. The diesel we got was good and actually much cleaner than the fuel we got in the Bahamas. Papo and Pedro are honest and hardworking. Another wonderful example of the kind and welcoming people of the DR.
The next day we went back into town to explore and visit a local pharmacy. We had heard medicine is cheap there and we needed a few courses of antibiotics on board to keep in our Med Kit. There were several pharmacies in town and Peter managed to speak enough Spanish to get what we needed. It helps to know the Spanish equivalent for what you need ahead of time ;)
On the way back, we ran in to Rafael again. We had mentioned to him earlier that we needed a mechanic to fix a leak in the oil pan for our generator. The previous owner knew there was a leak but hadn’t found exactly where it was coming from. After some rough seas on our passage from the Bahamas, we were tossed around so much that ALL of the oil in the generator leaked out into the bilge. It was a nasty cleanup job… let me tell you. Determined to find the leak, I wriggled my way into the engine room, contorted into some crazy yoga pretzel, and upside-down with a flashlight I told Peter I was sure that the leak was coming from the center of the oil pan where a wood block had been placed.
Rafael sent his mechanic friend Marino out to the boat the next day. He unbolted the Westerbeke, tipped it on its side and removed the oil pan. He took it into town and had a brand new piece welded onto the entire bottom of the pan. Marino and Rafael came back out the next day in Rafael’s boat and braved the hot and sweaty engine room to finish fixing the generator. $300 later, we had a fully functional 5kw generator running beautifully!! Although we don’t run it all the time, it’s nice to have if our batteries get too low.
After a few days on a ball, we checked out the two marinas in the harbor. Puerto Blanco Marina does not answer on the radio and wasn’t exactly open to receiving new boats. It’s really just a dock with a bunch of old boats tied up to it. Marina Luperón looked a little more inviting and had a spot open at the end of the rickety dock. In all its glory, Marina Luperón used to be a pretty happening place. There was a restaurant and bar overlooking the whole bay but it was shut down a few years ago. The government imposed development restrictions and took out all of the existing docks. Over the last two years, Jimmy (the current manager) has slowly rebuilt a few docks and installed power and water. He charges $10 per day and that includes unlimited water, power and internet. For an extra $7 per day, that’s a way better deal than staying on a ball! A definite plus since the water is too dirty to use the watermaker.
Water is trucked in from a well to the cistern at the marina whenever it’s available. Apparently the water company is owned by a local farmer who often hoards the water for her cattle. She cuts off the entire town water supply over bad politics when the local government gets too far behind on their bill. We even witnessed a riot during our stay where the townspeople throw bottles and light tires on fire in the streets out of frustration for their water and power outages. When power is on in town, there is power on the docks at the marina which powers the wifi router too. Jimmy also keeps cold beer and sodas in the marina fridge. It’s the honor system here so you write your name on the board and settle up later.
The streets of Luperón are dirty, the infrastructure is minimal and the standard of living is far from what we were used to in the U.S. On the other hand, everything is inexpensive and the town is full of some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Some absolutely love it here, so much they never leave. It’s a fantastic hurricane hole with all around protection and plenty of mangroves to tie off to. There may not be many anchorages that are both clean and protected but we wish we had more time to see everything the Dominican Republic has to offer. There’s something intriguing about the simplicity of life here in the DR and it’s worth experiencing first hand.
Next up… pictures from our visit to the Waterfalls!!
Before we left the Bahamas, it was imperative that we make a major repair. You may remember we had trouble with the main engine exhaust hose leaking into the engine room. It took awhile to pin point exactly where it was leaking from but we figured out the elbow only accessible from inside the cockpit locker was leaking in several places due to corrosion at the connections.
It took all day and many uncomfortable voyages into the line locker to be sure we had found the culprit. I had to stuff my whole body in there, hang my head over a wood divider upside down practically strangling myself to see what was going on. Bright flashlights and telescoping mirrors help tremendously!
Now, the Exumas are well traveled but very remote when it comes to supplies and marine parts. Virtually non-existent. We determined which parts we would need while in Black Point but there was no way we would find anything useful there. We could either trek back up to Staniel Cay to have parts flown in via Watermaker Air service, or we could scoot down to George Town where we hoped to find a few of the parts we needed.
Our friends on S/V Anneteak (another Whitby 42) helped us make a temporary repair moving the main engine exhaust discharge hose over to where the generator exhaust hose exits the boat on the port side. Although this is NOT recommended and creates quite a bit of exhaust fumes in the cockpit, it was really our only option. The leak was too severe to leave it as-is for the journey south. Although we hoped to sail most of it, we wanted to be prepared in case we had to motor most of the way south. We made the repair with the help of a few borrowed tools and limped down to George Town.
There are really only three stores in George Town that could have carried what we needed. Napa Auto Parts (north of George Town), Top II Bottom near town, and Brown’s Marine which is a pretty far dinghy ride south out of George Town. We tried all three and no one carried 2.5″ marine exhaust hose. Brown’s was the only place that was able to order anything in from the U.S. They would charge a 30% markup on the catalog price (ie. West Marine, Jerry’s Marine, etc.) plus freight charges and customs fees. Duty is free if the parts are essential for the propulsion of the engine. Disposable items such as oil don’t count as duty free.
While it would have been nice to just order the parts we need and be done with it, I couldn’t bring myself to pay 30% on top of all the other fees we would already be paying. Ordering parts from the U.S. and having them shipped to George Town via DHL was another option. We would still be paying freight charges, but atleast there wouldn’t be a 30% markup.
Just before we put in our order, we were told by a few people to try Reggie’s Express Services, Inc. which provides air freight services to and from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and George Town, Exuma. DHL may take up to a week and a half or even more (depending on how long it takes for the shipping of the parts to DHL stateside) to get any parts in since the freight is routed through Nassau for customs. Reggie’s flights leave Florida every Wednesday morning arriving directly in George Town later that day. The freight is cleared through customs at the airport by the next morning.
You can reach Regina at 954-583-8545 or firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate any shipments. She’ll need a pdf of your cruising permit as well as an invoice for the parts that you are having shipped to her in Florida. She charges $1.75/lb with a 5% fuel surcharge. Just make sure your packages are delivered to her by Tuesday morning.
Once the packages arrive in George Town, contact Dejuan at 242.544.9090 that Thursday morning. His office is at Doeboi Unlimited just across from the dinghy dock to the right. He is a customs broker who will handle all the paperwork for you on the Bahamas side of things. He charges $20 for delivery from the airport and $30 for his paperwork fees.
We had quite a few items shipped from Parker/Racor, Jamestown Distributors and a specialty store to get the exhaust tubing in time so it was much easier for us to have Dejuan bring it all back from the airport instead of us renting a car to go get everything. (p.s. if your iPhone cable breaks while you’re in the Bahamas, Doeboi carries some great knockoff cell phone accessories that have a flat cord which is way more durable than the regular round cords and he sells them for only $12. He’s got all kinds of other accessories like 12v plugs too.)
After our special-order fiberglass connector, fiberglass 90-degree exhaust elbow, 6′ of marine wet exhaust hose, a few extra hose clamps and some other miscellaneous parts arrived it was time to put it all back together the right way.
New friends on SV Dream Ketcher (another Whitby 42) came over to help with this major project. It’s always a puzzle trying to figure out the best way to pry off 30-some year old parts and replace them with new ones.
All Fixed! We connected new hose to old hose inside the lockers in the aft head with a straight fiberglass tube. The generator exhaust hose was fastened back to where we took it off inside the cockpit locker. Hose clamps were secured and we are BACK IN BUSINESS!!
Two weeks ago we made our way down the Central Exumas to Black Point Settlement. It can be a little tedious to pack up our entire home and stow away all loose belongings when traveling to a new anchorage but we find it more exciting than anything. Travel days are when the trolling lines come out! Peter can hardly resist throwing in a line, despite how rough the seas may be. We’ve done fairly well in the fishing department which makes me and the dogs happy campers! I think Peter has more interest in catching fish than he does eating them :)
Each new place we travel to is an adventure. You could easily spend several years exploring all of the islands of the Bahamas and still not see everything, which is why many cruisers return season after season to their favorite anchorages in the Bahamas, exploring new areas along the way.
Peter and I are traveling through the Bahamas for the first time and there is much that we’ll miss. Knowing this, we make the best of the areas we do get to see and we enjoy seeing all of the blog posts and pictures from our friends that are exploring the rest. Be sure to check out some of the great blogs we’ve listed on our website.
Black Point was recommended as a “must-see” anchorage. Even though we didn’t need to do laundry, we were told this is THE place to get it done! There are a ton of machines. We attempted taking some bedding to the laundry facility during our stay but our Island Time brains didn’t realize it was Sunday until we got to shore. The machines take tokens only and you can only purchase them Monday through Saturday. Most of the local stores all through the Bahamas are closed on Sunday. We still keep forgetting though.
Black Point also has free garbage at the city dock (although a small donation is recommended) and across the main road is a faucet for RO (reverse osmosis) water. It’s the local water supply for the whole island so they prefer if the cruisers don’t use it to fill their water tanks, but it’s perfectly fine to take some jerry jugs there to fill up your drinking water. If you have a wifi booster it’s pretty easy to pick up an open signal from anywhere in the anchorage as well :)
We spent a few days in Black Point until the weather clocked around and another westerly was going to be upon us. It’s the only direction you do not want wind coming from here. The chop and swells become pretty uncomfortable to say the least.
Before continuing south, our leaking engine exhaust problem had become much more critical than before. The leaking hose and elbow for our main engine exhaust was now seeping at an alarming rate, pouring salt water into our engine room on top of the port fuel tank, over the ledge and down beneath the generator. Swapping out sopping-wet towels had worked for a while but we were afraid we wouldn’t make it all the way to Georgetown the way it was.
Amazingly, we met 4 or 5 other Whitby 42s and a Brewer 12.8 while we were anchored at Black Point. They had all just traveled up from Georgetown. Anne and Brad on S/V Anneteak (Whitby 42) were so helpful! We had been in communication with them via Facebook before they arrived and it was so nice to finally meet them. Brad helped Peter disconnect the generator exhaust hose where it discharges overboard on the port side, and then reconnect the main engine exhaust hose in its place. This is by no means a “good” fix, but it was necessary to get us to Georgetown to find a new exhaust elbow and new exhaust hose to fix the job properly.
Black Point was a nice quiet little town but there were no marine parts available and that means it was time to keep moving south.