Saturday, January 26, 2013

La Parguera


IMG_9364After Grandma headed back home, we returned our rental car, and the next morning, pulled up anchor in Boqueron Bay and headed around to the south coast of Puerto Rico.  Our first stop was La Parguera. A beautiful area filled with little mangrove cays.  We spent a few days in the area exploring.  To get there we left Boqueron Bay early in the morning, before the sun was up.  Three of the kids had been sick with sore throats and fevers for a few days, so it was a quiet trip with every one lazing around.  It only took about 3 hours to get there.  As we were setting our anchor the Police boat came around and circled us a couple of times before heading back towards town.IMG_9380

IMG_9371IMG_9384The town and water came alive with locals over the weekend.  Boats and water toys were running around everywhere.  Boats would line up off a little mangrove island, music blaring, everyone having a good time hanging out on their boats.  There is no beach at these little islands, but rocky reefs and snorkeling in shallow waters.IMG_9477IMG_9454IMG_9460

The town has these cute waterfront houses, painted with cute themes.  It really looks like a great town to visit on the weekends and over holidays.  I didn’t care much for the town of Boqueron, which also was a weekend party spot for the locals, but this town seemed much nicer, maybe better taken care of.IMG_9464



Nearby thru a few of the larger islands were mangrove channels.  Barely wide enough to let our small dinghy thru the canals, we had a great time exploring.  Limbs would sometimes hang low across the water and we’d have to duck and pull the dinghy under them. These narrow channels ran for a couple of miles.  We passes kayakers at one point, it is a beautiful area to enjoy. We had to go twice, the first time we took the larger tender and barely made it thru one section.  The second time, we went back in the smaller dinghy to do the find the other channels, and a good thing we took the smaller dinghy, because the other one would not have made it. It was a fun time.  IMG_9537



Also nearby is one of Puerto Rico’s famed bioluminescent bays.  Unfortunately we were there during a full moon cycle, which makes it not a great time to go see these glow in the dark micro organisms in the bay.  The moon was set to rise a little after 7pm, so we decided we should head to the bay right after dinner, while it was still darker out.  IMG_9504

IMG_9517The kids had all been sick during out time here, so we had forgone the snorkeling in the area, but we didn’t want to miss the bay.  So we loaded everyone up in the tender and headed off to the bay, a little over 1 mile away from our anchored boat. 

IMG_9434As we entered the bay we could barely see another boat in the dark further in looking for the bioluminescence.  Bioluminescence is made up of teeny tiny micro organisms living in the water.  When they are moved in the water they glow.  We have seen them out in the big blue ocean occasionally as we have traveled overnight, but just in little amounts.  Here in Puerto Rico there are 3 bays packed full of these micro organisms.  IMG_9492

I thought as the boat moved thru the water into the bay that we would see the glow, I even looked back thinking the engine would surely make it glow, but all I could see was a cloud of white water.  What I didn’t realize was the “white water” was a whole lot of glowing water.  It was just hard to tell.  Once we stopped moving I reached over the boat and swirled my hand thru the water, and wow, it was awesome, like tinkerbells fairy dust.  A trail of sparkle.  Calvin and I jumped in for a swim in the fairy dust.  Savannah, Isabel, and Benjamin soon joined us to swim and sparkle.  It was a fun experience! Hopefully when we reach the next bioluminescent bay on the east side of Puerto Rico, it won’t be a full moon, and we can see it even brighter! IMG_9612 IMG_9487IMG_9571

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Exploring Puerto Rico, pt 1

I have taken to posting sunsets and the occasional sunrise, we see so many beautiful ones, that I think I will continue this trend…

IMG_9321After clearing in with Customs and Immigration at the port of Mayaguez, I went into town to rent a car, while David and the kids and Grandma moved the boat 10 miles south to the Bay of Boqueron.  I had Matthew with me for company.  We headed to Walmart to stock up on some much needed items—the big one being cereal.  Cereal is just not eaten around the world like it is in our home, and it is hard to find for a good price and in the quantity we eat it.  IMG_9218

IMG_9179We often use google Maps to find stores or our way around by car, but here in Puerto Rico, the maps are missing a lot.  It was a good thing I asked at the car rental how far Walmart was, because it would not show up on my map at all.  The car rental guy told me how to get there.  It is located in a shopping area.  In the parking lots were parking security towers with security guards up high watching over the parking lot.  About every 20 rows there was another tower.  Made me wonder if theft is a problem here.

IMG_9160IMG_9168With a car we were able to get a shore and tour the area.  We anchored in Boqueron Bay off of the beach.  We rented a small boat slip from the local yacht club to leave our tender while gone during the day, plus we could park our car at the yacht club.  IMG_9211IMG_9189

We drove south to the light house and beach on the southwest tip of the island.  We had a nice hike up to the lighthouse and the surrounding area.  We drove around viewing the pretty towns in the hills.  We stopped in San German, a colonial town.  We walked thru the old area, that reminded us of Northern California with its narrow hilly streets.  We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach near the boat.  IMG_9196

IMG_9224The next day Grandma was flying home in the afternoon, so we decided to leave in the morning and make a few stops of sight seeing along the way.  We choose a small road route that went thru the middle of Puerto Rico, small winding roads going up and over the mountains.  It was beautiful… at one point we were driving along a stretch of road that had thick stands of Bamboo, and they would cross over the road creating a Bamboo tunnel.  We had to turn around and drive back thru it twice.  Matthew loved it too.  He kept telling us to go back to the Bamboo tunnel.  IMG_9236

IMG_9313This beautiful route took way longer than we had planned, so our 2 stops turned into just one.  We stopped at the site of some Taino Ruins.  The Taino’s were Indians that lived on Puerto Rico when the Spanish came.  They also lived in the Dominican Republic area, and we saw ruins and pictographs left by the Taino’s there.  It was interesting to see more of the same kinds of drawings on Puerto Rico, this shows that these people were in large numbers and spread out.   The ruins here at this spot, they believe were sacred grounds for the Taino’s.  There are several cleared areas with stones set about them in rectangles.  They believe they were ball courts, similar to the Mayans, but played a little differently.  It was very interesting to see.  While there we had sandwichs for lunch.  The wild chickens and roosters gathered around us of course hoping for a nibble.  Matthew was so worried they were going to get his sandwich, he had to hold it high over his head to keep it out of their short reach while he cried at them to get away.  He made us laugh.  The roosters had such beautiful colors.IMG_9253IMG_9250

From the Ruins, we had hoped to go to the nearby Arecibo Observatory, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t get caught in traffic taking Grandma to the airport, we didn’t want her to have to rush to make her plane, so we decided we’d have to see the Observatory another time and head straight to the airport.  IMG_9270IMG_9271

IMG_9281After dropping Grandma off, we went for a little “home cooking”  at COSTCO.  We were excited to be able to restock at our favorite shopping place and eat dinner in the food court, we are big Costco fans.  We have been to Costco in Mexico and Honduras, where instead of relish with your hotdog, you can get hot peppers.  Here in Puerto Rico, they serve Hamburgers and fries at Costco.  Different.  The combo was $5, so we stuck to our usual Pizza and hot dogs, but it is always interesting to see what differences the local culture can bring. I guess they like Hamburgers here—unless it’s a new item all over the US and I just don’t know it.



My little Alexander is growing so fast!  He has been such a good little sailor. The Cutie!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

the Mona Passage

Time had come to move on. We really enjoyed our time in the Dominican Republic, especially in the Samana Bay area, but it was time to head South East again.  We had been watching the weather and waiting to head on to Puerto Rico.  The time came to move while Grandma was visiting.  We hoped she would handle it well.  We considered going at night with everyone sleeping, but the weather was suppose to be nice enough to make the passage during the day.

The Mona Passage is not for wimps though.  All that we had read considered the Mona Passage to be a difficult journey.  This is the passage of ocean between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  It is about 70 miles across and has frequent storms.  It is often subject to turbulent waters.  A lot of boats make the passage at night and hope for lighter winds and smaller waves.  The forecast was calling for light winds and smallish waves.  We really hoped it would go well.

IMG_9143The first 4 hours were a little iffy.  The waves were small, but from all directions which sort of has this washing machine effect on the boat.  It makes it a little icky.  Grandma had been up the night before reading the possible side effects of all the sea sick meds she had brought and now didn’t want to take anything.  The first couple of hours she felt okay—and then it hit and she threw up, once.  We moved her up to the fly bridge, to the Captains chair, to look out over the water.  She took some meds, and did great after that. She sat up top, cooled off eating otter pops, and enjoyed the day. 

The closer and closer we got to Puerto Rico, the water just got calmer and smoother. The last few hours were very pleasant.  We made it across and anchored off Mayaguez, PR, just as the sun was setting.  We called Customs and Immigration a few miles offshore to report our presence and to set up a time to report in the morning. 


We reported at the ferry dock first thing in the morning to clear in with Customs and Immigration.  We had submitted applications for the Local Boaters Program and were able to sign off on those at this time.  Next time we come back to the US via boat, we will be able to file a float plan online and just call in to immigration, rather than have to report in person.  That will be nice!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Our time at Cap Cana

After running the boat all night from Samana we arrived ahead of schedule at Marina Cap Cana, in Punta Cana.  Punta Cana is the Cancun of the Dominican Republic.  The shoreline is full of nice all inclusive beach resorts or condo resort areas.  We hired a car at the marina to take us to the airport to pick up Grandma Kate.  After the short drive thru the area and the little village outside the nice airport, David asked me “ Are we in a different country?”  This area is so clean, modern and nice looking—nothing like the rest of the Dominican Republic we had seen.  Not that the other areas were not nice—they were just local and real, this area had none of that.  There was no local village and open market to shop in.  Instead a real grocery store to shop in. Clean, well made streets and clean, modern looking shops.  It had been Americanized. IMG_9130


Cap Cana is a nice resort development and the Marina is beautiful.  Surrounded by nice condo’s, walking paths, a trail to the beach and a pool to use.  The water was always so clam in the Marina since it wrapped thru the condo development.  Most days there, the kids would get their school work done in the morning, then Grandma would take them to the pool or beach for the afternoon.  They met some friends there and were able to meet up and play all afternoon.  We enjoyed meeting a few families living in the area and visiting with them.  One couple gave us some mahi mahi they had caught one day out fishing.  He cleaned the fish and gave it to us ready to grill.  It was delicious.IMG_9126IMG_9081

We had a great time with Grandma visiting us.  The kids love having her help with school.  We also took a day and went to Santo Domingo to tour the colonial zone.  We had arranged to stay overnight, but there was a miscommunication with the private shuttle company we hired to drive us down and bring us back the next day.  We really should learn Spanish—it would help us a lot.  Luckily we were able to cancel our hotel arrangements and just make it a long day trip.  IMG_9008

IMG_9059IMG_9066We spent a few hours walking around looking at history.  This part of the city was built in the 1500s, the oldest city in all of the America’s, founded just after Christopher Columbus arrived.  The remaining parts of the city wall were beautiful. The fort built to protect the city was fun to see. We saw the site of the first established hospital and the first Christian Church in all of the Americas.  We enjoyed lunch nearby and the local food.  They have these little plantain and cheese fritters that are so yummy. 

IMG_9028IMG_9043IMG_9036We enjoyed our visit to Colonial Santo Domingo, except for our tour guide.  When we started at the end of the colonial area we were approached by a tour guide.  We had read that they are all over and will approach to guide you for merely a tip.  We negotiated a price, but he was terrible. One of the things that put me off from the beginning was that when he approached us he said we needed a tour guide so that we didn’t wander outside the colonial area to an unsafe place.  That he would keep us safe.  I think it is terrible to make people think they are unsafe or going to be harmed.  I am sure we missed great parts of the city that we would have seen had we followed our guide book by going with him.   I was sad we didn’t get to stay longer, it would have been fun to spend the night and people watch from the parks and town squares, but we had to move on.  IMG_9101




We didn’t want to leave Santo Domingo without seeing the LDS Temple.  It was closed for maintenance so if we had stayed overnight we wouldn’t have been able to go for a session.  We were glad we could stop with the kids and walk on the grounds.  It is a beautiful temple.  IMG_9094

On the drive back to Punta Cana, we made one last stop at Cueva Miravelle, the Cave of Wonders.  It is a huge cave.  They have a guided tour that takes you down deep to view the impressive formations in the cave.  The cave was Grandma’s favorite part of the trip—it was beautiful AND it had clean, modern bathrooms. The rest of the trip was 3rd world bathrooms, and Grandma did not like them at all.  IMG_9048 

A couple of parrots hiding up the wall.IMG_9013

Matthew was afraid the birds would get him, so he is covering his head.  He is so cute!IMG_9016

Benjamin LOVES chasing birds.  He wants to catch one.  He has loved doing this since he was 2.IMG_9054