Category Archives: Dominican Republic

2017 Hurricane Affected Areas in the Caribbean

Season 4: Cruising the Caribbean Post Irma & Maria – December 1, 2017 (Latitude 14° 4.505″ N, Longitude 60° 56.959″ W)

2017 Hurricane Summary

2017 Hurricane Summary

Yesterday was the last day of the 2017 hurricane season, and so it is that we now contemplate our fourth (4th) season cruising plans! We have previously communicated with you about the devastation that this past hurricane season has left behind throughout the northeastern Caribbean. The damage has been vast, but the strong will of the people on the affected islands has proven impossible to suppress. Things are not yet back to normal but the strides that have been taken by the international community and the locals has been incredible.

PROGRESS OF RECOVERY

We have been monitoring the progress of the recovery efforts on a daily basis. In addition to our general concern for the well being of our Caribbean friends and their economies, we also have been paying close attention to the recovery of the yachting infrastructure. Obviously, we need circumstances that will allow us to adequately provision with food and fuel in a safe environment for the Pilots’ Discretion and her crew if we are to turn her north towards the United States this cruising season. Additional concerns include the ability to leave the Pilots’ Discretion in a safe and suitable environment should we need to fly back home for any reason, which necessarily requires  access to operational airports with flights. Access to competent medical care, and dockside electricity and water are also logistical concerns as we plot our course north. We have found the following sites helpful in monitoring Caribbean wide recovery efforts:

  • Sailors Helping Sailors providing up-to-date information on port status and opportunities to volunteer in rebuilding efforts across the Caribbean;
  • Sailors Unite – Caribbean Comeback A guide to what is open and available in British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Marteen/St. Martin, including airports, transportation, restaurants, hotels, provisioning, marketing and shops;
  • ExplorerChartbooks – includes Turks and Caicos Marinas Report;
  • Noonsite – provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behavior and precautions wherever they decide to go; and
  • Caribbean Safety and Security Net: “Know before you go” safety and security updates throughout the Caribbean.

We will continue to update the above list and our blog as we obtain additional information when we proceed north. If anyone viewing this has additional resources that will keep mariners updated, please send them to us in the comments section below and we will add them to this list or include in future updates.

Our current evaluation is that the islands require a little more time to deal with the lingering devastation but they are getting closer everyday. We do believe that they will be in a strong position to welcome cruisers this coming cruising season. In fact, this may represent an opportunity to see what a jewel the Caribbean islands can be when not overrun with crowds. We are confident that our Caribbean friends will have the welcome mat out for all cruisers that choose to make this season the one that they cast off and set a course for the trip of their dreams.

PREPARATIONS

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia - Aerial

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia – Aerial

As for the preparations to get underway for the Pilots’ Discretion, we are reporting good progress. There are a significant number of details that have to be addressed prior to getting underway. The good news for us is that we are currently located at the IGY Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia where we have all of the services we require to ready our vessel. We would be remiss if we did not publicly thank Mr. Sean Devaux, General Manager of the Rodney Bay Marina for all of the assistance he has provided us as we prepare to head north. Our initial commitment to him was that we would be staying at his facility through September 2017. As the hurricane season devastation to our north became clear, it was initially impossible to determine when it would be prudent to depart. Sean has been great, he has told us that we can stay as long as necessary without a long term commitment. Additionally, he has worked hard to provide us will real time status updates of all of the marina facilities along our route north, even if those facilities are not a part of his organization (Rodney Bay Marina is part of the international marina group known as IGY). We are currently coordinating our annual engine and systems maintenance and that should be complete shortly.

EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) Maintenance

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

One component of our systems preparation is ensuring that our life vests, life raft and all of our emergency signaling systems are current and fully functional. This is normally a routine inspection but this year we got quite a surprise. We have an ACR EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon – a device that includes a GPS to determine our exact location and a satellite communication system to notify rescue personnel in the event we need assistance). We bought the unit new just before we left on our trip. Each time we get underway, we run the unit through a self test program to ensure it is fully operational. It has always past each of those tests without fail. On our most recent trip back to Florida we elected to have the unit recertified due to calendar age.

EPIRB

EPIRB

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

After researching facilities that are certified to service maritime rescue equipment, we elected to have the folks at Solution One Maritime, LLC in Tampa look over our unit. Expecting nothing much more than an administrative paperwork exercise, we were left very surprised when we got a call from Yusri Jadallah, the Managing Director for Solution One. He  explained to me that he had found a very small leak in the case that protects the electronics and that he was certain that had the unit been deployed in an actual emergency at sea, the electronics would have likely failed due to exposure to salt water. He went further to explain that ACR would repair the unit under warranty but their estimated turn time would likely be 4-6 weeks. Yusri told me that he understood that the long turn time would create scheduling problems for our crew and as a result he offered us a brand new unit to utilize for as long as it takes to get our own unit back. As far as we are concerned, the folks at Solution One have gone way above and beyond to ensure that our family is safe and our trip uninterrupted. We have utilized other sources in the past for our emergency equipment needs but from now on, Solution One is our vendor of choice for our life raft, life vest and emergency electronics needs.

As we look forward to our fourth cruising season, we also reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for this past year, including time spent with family and friends, good health and ongoing adventures. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the spectacular time we had spending Thanksgiving Day last week in Marigot Bay with dear friends, both old and new.

Post-Thanksgiving Day Lunch Bunch

Post-Thanksgiving Day Lunch Bunch

 

USCG Cutter James Sept 26 San Juan

United States Coast Guard, Semper Paratus – “Always Ready!” – by Randy

Unless you have been in a cave somewhere for the last few months, it would be almost impossible not to be aware of the catastrophic damage that Mother Nature has liberally peppered upon the idyllic Caribbean islands, St. Martin/St. Marteen, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Hati and the Turks and Caicos Islands. As if that wasn’t enough, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana have all had their turn in the barrel. The devastation, and loss of life, in all of the affected areas is hard to comprehend. Obviously there are many people, from many different countries, in dire need of assistance.

We respect that the decision to help, and exactly where to make donations to facilitate aid, is a personal one. Make no mistake, the people in the path of this season’s massive hurricanes definitely need our help. Many in the cruising community have been collecting donations and attempting to travel, by boat, to some of the devastated areas. At present, the U.S. Coast Guard is discouraging private boaters departing the continental U.S. from transiting to ports affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, advising in its 9/27/17 News Release:     

     While volunteers and aid are needed and welcomed, it is recommended that these              efforts be coordinated through FEMA, who has requested volunteers to go through              www.nvoad.org.  Uncoordinated volunteer efforts can hinder the response and                    impede a challenging logistics situation on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S.                Virgin Islands

In the 9/27/17  News Release, Capt. Ladonn Allen, Chief of Prevention for the Coast Guard Seventh District asserted that many affected ports “are still littered with wreckage and debris, particularly outside the federally maintained channels. Individuals entering unfamiliar ports or attempting to bring supplies without coordinating through volunteer organizations that are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its partners are putting themselves in danger.”

Additional safety concerns have arisen in the Eastern Carribean, where there have been reports of piracy attacks, and vessels being swamped by uncoordinated relief efforts. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Emergency Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) are spearheading the hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, and all relief efforts should be coordinated through them.

USCG Southeast working with local agencies

USCG Southeast working with local agencies

One of the common denominators that we all are repeatedly seeing throughout all of the news reports from these devastated areas is the ubiquitous presence of the United States Coast Guard. The smallest branch of the US military is perennially underfunded, and over tasked, but this year is breaking new ground in terms of extended deployments of USCG ships, planes and personnel in what is one of the largest humanitarian efforts in the Coast Guard’s storied 227 year history.  The Coast Guard is often taken for granted, but those of us who live our lives at sea have a special respect for the jobs the men and women of the USCG accomplish every single day. When most mariners were headed to port to seek safe haven from the approaching hurricanes, Coast Guard ships and aircraft were leaving home to preposition in the disaster zones in order to render aid to those most desperately in need. In the interest of full disclosure, long ago, I served in the United States Coast Guard.

USCG Venturous taking on fuel prior to getting under way for hurricane relief effort

USCGC Venturous taking on fuel prior to getting underway for hurricane relief effort

In fact, I was stationed aboard, what was then the new, USCGC Venturous, over 40 years ago (one of the first cutters to arrive in the Caribbean after the destruction of hurricane Maria). With that background, in addition to our other hurricane relief effort contributions, we have decided to make a  donation to the US Coast Guard Foundation. The Coast Guard Foundation is a non profit charity that provides, among other things, financial support to the families of the men and women of the Coast Guard that have been injured or killed in the line of duty. This is our small way to say thank you to the members of America’s smallest service for all that they do each and every day. Semper Paratus.

Click here for link to Coast Guard Sector Key West Incident Command Post (ICP) sharing some of their work and personal  experiences after Hurricane Irma.  (U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

It has been confirmed that many of the Coast Guard crews that were stationed at Coast Guard Sector Key West suffered damage to their homes and personal possessions while  deployed to render assistance to others during Hurricane Irma, they too are on the list of folks that now could use a hand up.

 

 

MOVIE TRAILER – by Ronan(10) and Ryan (11)

Ronan (10) and Ryan (11) made a “movie trailer” for our Caribbean cruising adventures. We added it to our “VIDEOS” page at: https://pilotsdiscretion.com/videos/. We are also sharing it here, below. I think we found our new videographers! They had a lot of fun making it. We hope you enjoy watching it! Click on the below image to play.

We have also created a dedicated YouTube channel  where we have compiled the videos from our blog, and uploaded additional videos from our journey.  To view the videos click on the link below (or copy and paste into browser):

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC94z5hCIrRiEvY8MTJegTbA.

Pet Import Requirements in the Caribbean

Patton driving the dinghy

Patton driving the dinghy

We have been receiving a lot of inquiries through our site recently about the customs and immigration issues associated with bringing our Cocker Spaniel “Patton” along with us as we have cruised throughout the Caribbean. As such, we have updated Patton’s page to include a compilation of helpful contact details and information for various island nations that we have visited in the Caribbean over the last year and a half (2014 – 2016). For those interested in cruising the Caribbean with their four legged friends check out Patton’s page under the “About Us – Patton – Customs and Immigration” on the header above or visit:  https://pilotsdiscretion.com/about/patton/customs-and-immigration-issues-specific-to-bringing-patton-along/ or send us a reply message below.

Pool at Cap Cana Marina, DR

The North Coast of the Dominican Republic, Samana and Punta Cana

Pilot's Discretion DR North Coast track

Pilot’s Discretion DR North Coast track

As I write this we are tucked in a slip at the Cap Cana Marina in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We have travelled the approximately 200 nautical miles from Ocean World, Puerto Plata to position ourselves at the southeastern edge of the Dominican Republic so that we will be in a favorable location to initiate our crossing to Puerto Rico via the Mona Passage next week. The journey across the north coast of the Dominican Republic, including stops at Marina Puerto Bahia de Samana and Punta Cana, has been spectacular.

Northern coastline of the Dominican Republic

Northern coastline of the Dominican Republic

We left Ocean World before dawn on February 4. As the sun rose, we were underway, enjoying our morning coffee as the light revealed a truly amazing coastline off our starboard beam. The Dominican mountains come to the waters edge, terminating in sheer cliffs that the Atlantic breakers continuously pummel in a spectacular display of natures might. It was quite awe inspiring being able to watch from the comfort of the Pilots’ Discretion as we cruised a couple of miles offshore.

Once around Cabo Samana, we entered the calm waters of Samana Bay which is a very large, protected bay on the east coast of the D.R. We pulled into Marina Puerto Bahia de Samana for fuel and a couple nights rest. We have been very surprised by the quality of the marine facilities that we have found in a country that in many areas lacks the basic necessities of life. The marina infrastructure is second to none and in many cases, far nicer than most marinas that you would find in Florida or other boating centers in the United States.

While in Samana we took the opportunity to hire a couple of very hard working “boat boys” to wash the Pilots’ Discretion and polish her stainless steel. We also had a diver clean the hull and running gear in preparation for our crossing of the Mona Passage.

On February 6th, we were once again underway at dawn, this time we were leaving in company with six sailboats who were all going in the same general direction as us. The sight of the sailboats off our beam and stern as the sun rose was really beautiful and reminded us why we love our time at sea so much.

It wasn’t long after departure that it became evident that we would not be running in company with our new sailing friends for long. We were operating at our slowest idle speed and it was clear that we were still pulling away from the gaggle of sailboats. As we watched the sailboats disappear off our stern, we set up for a 10 knot cruise and made the turn southeast to round Cabo Engano and make our way to Punta Cana.

Whale breaching the surface just off our port side

Whale breaching the surface just off our port side

About an hour into our day we began to see what this area is famous for; dozens of migrating humpback whales were visable all around us. Some we could only see the moisture rising as they were breathing through their blowholes off in the distance but on a few occasions, a whale would breach the surface and put on a show within a few hundred yards of the Pilots’ Discretion. In the words of the boys, “that was awesome!”

The videos of the whales do not come close to capturing the magnificence of the spectacle that they provided us; it truly was one of those “you had to be there” moments.

We are going to spend a few days here in Cap Cana as we attend to some routine maintenance items before heading off for Puerto Rico. The good news for  us is that Frank Castillo, the Cap Cana Marina Dockmaster has gone way out of his way to help us in any way that he can as we prepare for the next leg of our journey. We will post next from Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

 

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

We arrived in the Dominican Republic (DR) on the eve of “Natalicio Juan Pablo Duarte,” a DR national holiday celebrating the birthday of the country’s founder. As such, we were treated to local fireworks displays, parades and festivities.

Dominican Republic countryside

Dominican Republic countryside

In addition to enjoying the local cultural celebrations, we have all been putting our Rosetta Stone lessons into practice. Earlier this week, Ronan impressed the marina concierge when he communicated, in Spanish, our need for a rental car for the following day. When the car arrived, we headed off to explore the island, first to Puerto Plato, a medium sized metropolitan area, and then to Luperón, which is more rural. We opted not to pull the boat into port in Luperón, however, we used the rental car opportunity to visually survey the port as it is a well known hurricane hole should the need for such protection present itself.

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Reupblic

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Reupblic

We next headed to Isabel de Torres which is famous for a cable car that takes you to the summit of a 760 meter mountain. In the National Park, atop the mountain, is a 16 meter high Christ the Redeemer statue, similar to the one found in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The National Park also has botanical gardens, hiking trails and caves that we all enjoyed exploring.

Christ the Redeemer, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic

Christ the Redeemer, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic

As is typical in the Dominican Republic, the heat of the day pushes the warm, moist marine layer of air up the mountain slopes where it cools and condenses, creating clouds and rain that enveloped the mountain top. We rode the cable car down the mountainside, through the clouds, and returned to the boat just before the afternoon thundershowers.

The next leg(s) of our journey will have us traversing the north coast of the Dominican Republic eastward towards Puerto Rico. Since there is significant northern exposure, we are continuing to wait for an appropriate weather window that will allow us to continue our journey.