To Bermuda

When I returned to the CBP office, I learned that I wouldn’t have had to come by to check out of the country. O well. I took the bus back to Key Biscayne and asked the park ranger about sharks in the area because I needed to clean the bottom of the boat. “There are bull sharks in the bay – and a few weeks ago we spotted a great white in the area, so just don’t make any hectic movements and make sure no one is fishing while you are diving” The hull cleaning went faster than usual and probably less thorough, too.

Anchoring in front of St. George’s, Bermuda
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Miami, CGSC and Key Biscayne

Outside of the canal the wind was still pretty strong and after a few hours we entered the Gulfstream. I had been a bit scared of this stream that flows very fast from west to east in the south of Florida and then turns left towards the north to flow along the coast in the strait of Florida between the US and the Bahamas. I had read and heard a lot abut the waves that develop in the stream and that you should by all means avoid a situation where the wind would blow against the stream. Well, for the first part of the trip where stream flows eastward it couldn’t be avoided. Southeasterly winds just wouldn’t arrive and so be had to beat into easterly winds and very rough waves. Amy and I got hammered. Two large waves made it into the cockpit and down the companionway and flooded the salon. I pumped out the water and tried to dry as much as possible. The water in the stream is very warm and extremely salty. Everywhere the water went there was a white crust afterwards. Fortunately this lasted only for the first night. Then the wind let off bait and we were turning north with the stream and the waves immediately got smaller. 

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I have not written in a long while and it is getting harder and harder to catch up. I am writing this in Miami where I am moored on buoy Nr. 29 in the Coconut Grove Sailing Club.
The morning of my departure from Puerto de Vita all the officials were gathered in the office at 0630 in the morning gave me my despacho (each person had to put their signature) and bade me farewell. I was moved. At 0700 just as planned I left the dock and shortly after got confused in the channel again. I thought I had understood the buoys now but apparently I was wrong. With 20cm under the keel I searched for the deeper water, found it and made it safely out of the lagoon. I had to motor for a few hours because there was no wind and by 1000 it was boiling hot and I didn’t know where to go. In the cockpit the sun was unbearable and down below the heat and the noise from the engine was just as bad. By 1050 we were able to sail and that made a big difference. In the afternoon the wind turned and we had to beat into wind and waves. I noticed a lot of water in the bilge but this time had no intention of tasting it. The waves were uncomfortable and Amy was fighting to stay on course. The bilge was now full and I got a bit nervous and started searching. No sucees. I emptied the bilge and it soon filled up again. I emptied it again but this time it didn’t fill up again. Hmm. After awhile I found out that one of my jerrycans with the drinking water was leaking and it was now empty. Not good but at least the boat didn’t have a hole in it. I would still have enough drinking water to get me to Varadero.

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“Bienvenido a Cuba, Amigo”, the trip to Cuba and Puerto de Vita

I spent a few more days in Luperón to wait out the weather. Hubert had some things for which he needed some help and he invited me and his friend Franck for dinner at the El Bucanero. Afterwards we played a bit of pool which was real fun. Franck’s guitar didn’t need to be recorded but inspected. That had been a misunderstanding and after I had checked out the guitar he gave me three glasses of honey freshly made on his farm. I took a walk to the beach and went swimming and enjoyed myself but was also eager to leave. I still had a lot of miles ahead of me and there was still enough time (Zoe and I were supposed to meet in Varadero on April 12) but more adverse weather would quickly reduce this time to nothing. On Easter Sunday night the waves were finally small enough and from a direction where they wouldn’t break in the entrance to the reef and the Armada gave me permission to leave. Everything went smoothly and we sailed into a great sunset which was only the first of a series of unbelievable sunsets and sunrises.

the Cuban courtesy flag
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The Mona Passage and the trip to Luperón, DR

The Mona Passage is the infamous bit of water between Puerto Rico and the Domican Republic. It is supposedly the roughest place to sail in the Caribbean. This is because the seafloor is very uneven and constantly changes from great depths to very shallow places. And there are strong currents. This makes for rough high and steep waves. It should not be attempted in more than 15 knots of wind. I was going to have no wind for the first ten hours and then around 20 knots but by then I would hopefully be two thirds of the way through.
After the end of three days there would be thunderstorms on the northern Dominican coast so I wanted to go even if it meant motoring for ten hours. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had to motor that long.

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Puerto Real, PR

My last stop in Puerto Rico before going on to the Dominican Republic. I was expecting it to be a bit rough especially around Cabo Rojo, the southwestern Cape. I weighed anchor at 0730. I could sail away from the anchor again. The wind was around force 5-6 gusting to around force 8. A weird combination of wind from astern and waves from abeam made this a very uncomfortable trip. Behind the cape the waves became much smaller but the wind did not let off. 

Cabo Rojo
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Ponce to Gilligan’s Island

Checking in with customs was a breeze with my fabulous US cruising license. I took a 10km walk into the town of Ponce along a highway in the incredible heat. The walk itself wasn’t very nice but Ponce is very beautiful and the effort was definitely worth it. After that I went halfway back to a huge supermarket, went shopping and got a SIM card. I shlepped everything home along the highway to the boat. At the Fishermans Marina I had a beer and watched some pelicans.

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Ponce, PR

I weighed anchor early with just the sails and very little wind. But it was great to glide across this totally still lagoon with a knot and a half. There would be more wind later and I would hopefully arrive early enough after the 25M trip. There should have been manatees again and when I saw some black lumps on the water and heard some snorting sounds I was all excited. But those things were dolphins in the lagoon and they were having fun with Amy and I was enjoying them a lot. Exiting the lagoon the Australians passed me and were soon almost out of sight.

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Bahia de Jobos, PR

I got underway for the 18 mile trip to the Bahia de Jobos. An anchorage that is enclosed by coral reefs and mangroves on all sides and supposed to be very quiet. The wind and waves were much stronger than forecast and I decided against the first entrance to the reef. I could see waves breaking everywhere and it was very scary looking. It was also downwind so there would be no going back. 

the deep water entrance seen from the lagoon the next morning
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