Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

HURRICANE MARIA (SEPTEMBER 2017)

Hurricane season has arrived in full force. As cruisers, we spend an inordinate amount of time monitoring weather systems. The latest shows Hurricane Maria intensified into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph), as it surged toward islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Hurricane warnings have been posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat.

A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia (where Pilots’ Discretion is currently located), Martinique and Anguilla. Many of these islands are still recovering from direct hits from hurricane Irma. (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/cat-5-hurricane-maria-threatens-storm-battered-caribbean/ar-AAs6sKy?ocid=spartandhp.) We are continuing to keep all those affected in our thoughts and prayers. We will post additional updates after this storm passes.

Hurricane Irma (photo from Marine Weather Center's post)

HURRICANE IRMA – 2017

First, thank you, to everyone, for reaching out to see how Pilots’ Discretion, and her crew, fared as Hurricane Irma tracked through the Caribbean. In preparation for the storm and in accordance with our hurricane plan, we spider tied Pilots’ Discretion, with doubled lines, in a double slip, on a floating dock, alone with no other boats, in St. Lucia. Irma was set to track north of St. Lucia, however, to be on the safe side, we left the boat in St. Lucia and flew to Florida to stay out of harms way!

As predicted, Hurricane Irma passed north of St. Lucia. We were incredibly grateful to learn that our pre-hurricane preparations were sufficient, and that St. Lucia was spared from the ferocity of the storm. The island received some rain and wind from the outer bands of the storm, but on the whole, the island and our boat, weathered the storm and are fine.

Having flown to Florida, we then holed up with family in Spring Hill, just north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. Having just gone through the hurricane preparations drill in St. Lucia our crew was ready and able to  assist with preparations for the “high impact” potential hit headed for our relatives in Spring Hill.

We listened to reports, and observed, painfully, the pictures of the devastation from the direct hits on Barbuda, St. Barthélemy (St. Bart), St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We have travelled to all of these islands in previous cruising seasons, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the storm.

Paraquita Bay, British Virgin Islands (Before and After)

Nanny Cay Marina, British Virgin Islands, post hurricane Irma, 2017

Isleta Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, post hurricane Irma, Sept. 2017

Foxy’s before (2016) and after (2017)

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma originally had her skirting up the east coast of Florida, Sept. 7, 2017

In Florida, the original forecasts had the storm tracking up the east coast. Slowly, the storm edged west with the later predictions indicating she would run up the middle of the Florida peninsula. Finally, within the last day prior to Florida landfall, the forecast consensus had Irma tracking up the west coast of Florida. We weathered the storm just north of Tampa. The eye passed just to our east during the middle of the night. We were extremely fortunate that a slight variation in the actual track of the storm placed us on the weak side of the circulation at the same time the storm was beginning to fall apart. We had a few hours of heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds mostly in the 40 knot range. Like most, we lost power and had a few downed trees to deal with but for the most part we came through the storm wiser for the experience but without taking any direct hits. We are all very aware of the potential devastation that just barely sidestepped us.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all those affected by the storm. Florida, the islands, and those living and cruising in Florida and the Caribbean islands, are a resilient bunch. Communities have already banded together to address immediate needs and start the lengthy rebuilding process. Click here for additional photos, and to see several prominent business owners (including the infamous Soggy Dollar, Foxy’s, Corsairs, Willie T’s) who have already vowed to rebuild!

Patton, Loblolly Beach, Anegada, BVI

Happy 15th Birthday Patton! (by Randy)

imageYesterday was a pretty important day aboard the Pilots’ Discretion. Patton, our intrepid, world traveling Cocker Spaniel turned fifteen (15) years old. Way back when we initially left the comfort zone of our home marina in Tarpon Springs, Florida (2 and 1/2 years ago) we had some concerns with how well our then 12 year old buddy would adapt to a life at sea. Our concerns were completely unfounded. Patton is the first one up every morning and the last one to turn in each night after surveying the boat to assure himself that the entire crew is accounted for.Patton Kindle

Patton crew

Patton crew

He loves excursions in the dinghy and he has his favorite spot picked out under the Captain’s helm chair for long passages.

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Randy & Patton in front of Tthe Indians, B.V.I.

Randy & Patton in front of the Indians, B.V.I.

The story would not be complete without acknowledging there have been some concessions made due to the decision to cruise with Patton. We do not patronize places along the way that are not dog friendly. We have on rare occasions had more difficulty clearing immigration as a result of declaring Patton as part of our crew but all in all, he has been a very positive addition to our crew and we would not consider having it any other way.

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Reupblic

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic

 

For those of you following our blog who are not dog people, I am sure you just scratch your head when you see me acting like a very proud papa when talking about Patton. To the dog people following us, I know that I need to say no more.

Happy birthday Patton, the crew of the Pilots’ Discretion loves you❤️

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

 

The South Coast of Puerto Rico: Puerto Real, Gilligan’s Island, Salinas & Palmas del Mar (18° 4.746″ N, 65° 47.743″ W)

South coast of Puerto Rico
South coast of Puerto Rico

We have been on the move quite a bit over the past 10 days. Part of that has been driven by our desire to take advantage of favorable weather windows and part of it is that we would like to be in the British Virgin Islands by mid March so that we can meet friends and family that are planning on visiting while we are in the BVI.

We had a wonderful time at the Cap Cana Marina in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic but at the risk of sounding like the boys, our newest favorite spot will likely be replaced at the top of the list by our next stop.

Cruising past Mona Island

Cruising past Mona Island

The day we left Cap Cana was a big one for us as it was the day we would transit the infamous Mona Passage. The 80+ mile trip from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to Puerto Real, Puerto Rico was at times challenging with large seas and little comfort to be found for the first few hours. Once we had moved sufficiently south and east of the Hour Glass shoals, the ride became much more civilized and we settled in for our transit. We were treated to natures wonder time and again, first by flying fish by the hundreds all around Pilot’s Discretion, then dolphin, and ulitmately by a massive hump back whale breaching less than a hundred yards off the Pilots’ Discretion starboard beam.

By the end of the passage, we had seen things in one day that many people will not see in a lifetime. We successfully navigated our boat across the Mona Passage, left one country for another and arrived feeling very much like we had grown both as a family and a functioning crew.

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Our first port of call in Puerto Rico was a charming little fishing village by the name of Puerto Real. The marina is an excellent facility in a well protected harbor. The town has a very quaint, small town feel with excellent re-provisioning stores nearby. The weekend we arrived was the Marina Pescadería Sailing Rally and the associated festivities at the marina were an added enjoyable bonus for all. Everyone we met were very helpful and understanding of our B+ attempts to communicate in Spanish.

Anchored off Cayos de Cana Gorda (a.k.a. Gilligan's Island), Puerto Rico
Anchored off Cayos de Cana Gorda (a.k.a. Gilligan’s Island), Puerto Rico

After enjoying a couple of days in Puerto Real, we moved south and east around Cabo Rojo to Cayos de Cana Gorda, also know by the locals as Gilligans Island (a not so subltle reference to the islands resemblence to the island in the Bob Denver comedy sitcom of the same name). We anchored off the island and spent a quiet evening in company with three sailboats.

At sunrise we were underway again, this time headed for Salinas, Puerto Rico. Salinas is another one of those spots the cruisers love. There were probably 50 boats in the harbor when we arrived.

Wind farm, Salinas, Puerto Rico

Wind farm, Salinas, Puerto Rico

It was rewarding to listen to the boys discussing the wind farms we saw along the coast  excited that they had just recently read and learned about them in homeschool.

We would have liked to stay and explore a bit but we are feeling the need to keep the odometer rolling to be in position for our soon to arrive guests. Hence, another sunrise and another day underway finds us now tucked into the marina at Palmas del Mar, on the east coast of Puerto Rico, just south of Fajardo.

It is here that we celebrated another birthday aboard the Pilot’s Discretion when Patton turned 13!

Patton's 13th birthday

Patton’s 13th birthday

The next leg of our journey  will take us to the Spanish Virgin Islands. It really does at times feel like this must be a dream. We have been blessed to have an opportunity to experience this trip. Stay tuned, we love sharing our journey with all of you.

 

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.