Category Archives: Turks & Caicos and the Dominican Republic

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.

Pilot's Discretion Route, Bahamas to The Domincan Republic

Southern Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, and the Dominican Republic

ACKLINS ISLANDS , BAHAMAS

Since we last posted, we have covered some significant territory. We left Clarence Town, Long Island on January 20 to continue our voyage south. The route we elected to follow took us through a fairly remote section of the Bahamas so we really did not expect to see many other boats along the way. Our first day out we stopped to anchor in Atwood Harbor, Acklins Island. The harbor is fairly small with a beautiful white sand beach, protected from weather in all but a northerly swell. Since we had been underway for 10 hours without seeing another vessel either visually or on the radar, you can imagine our surprise when two sailboats showed up to anchor just after our arrival. The good news is the harbor had plenty of room and we all settled in for a good nights rest.

MAYAGUANA, BAHAMAS

The next day, we were underway at first light, our destination, Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana. Mayaguana is one of the southernmost Bahamian islands known primarily for the role it played during the heyday of the United States manned space missions. At one point the US had an extensive missile tracking complex on the island. That complex has long since been shut down and the only reminders of it’s past existence are an 11,000 ft runway, a dilapidated and unusable cargo ship dock and a decaying series of fuel tanks. On our trip in we spent most of the day motoring in company with the 177′ Megayacht “Bacchus”. Bacchus continued on non stop to the Turks and Caicos but given that we had left our professional crew behind in Safety Harbor, we elected to stop for a good nights rest before pressing on to our next country.

Our arrival into Abraham’s Bay was uneventful and we spent the night in our 5 mile long harbor completely alone.

PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS & CAICOS

After one night in Mayaguana we were off to the second foreign country on our itinerary. As we approached the Turks and Caicos we found a great deal more traffic in the area than we had seen in the southern Bahamas. The radar and AIS were both lighting up with constant targets as we approached the Caicos bank from the north.

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Upon entering Turks & Caicos waters, Ryan hoisted the quarantine flag. We pulled into the South Side Marina in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos at about 4pm. After arriving, I proceeded to meet with the customs and immigration officials to handle the clearing in procedures.

R&R on flag duty hoisting the Turks & Caicos courtesy flag

R&R on flag duty hoisting the Turks & Caicos courtesy flag

All of the officials were extremely professional and pleasant and although at times it can feel like things are in slow motion in the islands, we were cleared in and the Turks and Caicos courtesy flag was flying from our jack staff in time for dinner.

Given the distances we had travelled the previous couple of days and the length of the trip from the Turks and Caicos to the Dominican Republic,  we elected to spend a couple of days resting up in Providenciales.

PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

On Saturday, January 24th, we got underway for what would be our third country in one week.The trip from Providenciales to our next stop, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic took us across an area known as the Caicos bank. As the name implies, we had to run about 50 miles across an area where the average depth was 8′ or less and there are numerous coral heads scattered throughout the area that reduce that depth even more. As we exited the Caicos bank into the North Atlantic the depths go from the aforementioned 8′ to more than 6000′ in the distance of less than a mile. That kind of sudden change to the shape and depth of the sea creates an extensive area of strong currents and square waves that provided us the roughest ride we have experienced to date on this trip. Although we had seen larger seas when we crossed from the Abacos to Eleuthera, the waves had a much longer period, making them much easier to traverse. For a distance of about 20 miles we were constantly burying the bow of the Pilot’s Discretion into the oncoming waves. Once sufficiently clear of the Caicos Bank, the ride in the Atlantic became much more pleasant and we settled in for the next 90 miles of our journey. Approaching the Dominican Republic, it is clear that both the topography and the climate are far different from the Bahamas.

The mountains of Hispaniola become visible both on radar and to the naked eye about 40 miles out. The mountains in conjunction with the abundant moisture from the Atlantic create towering cumulous clouds that usually result in afternoon thunderstorms.

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R&R on flag duty hoisting the Domincan Republic flag

R&R on flag duty hoisting the Domincan Republic flag

After clearing customs and immigration at Ocean World Marina in Puerta Plata, Domincan Republic, the boys manned their flag duty station once again to fly the Domincan Republic courtesy flag. The current weather forecasts indicate that we will have a few days to explore Puerto Plata before we have a sufficient weather window to embark on the next leg of our journey. We intend to use that time to explore the Dominican countryside and culture. We will report what we find in our next post.