Thursday, 29 January 2009

Despacho, dismay and the laws of the land

We were welcomed with bravado to the Dominican Republic. It too exactly 2 minutes for the naval commander to spot us from wherever his vantage view was. As we made the final adjustments on the anchoring manouvre, a skiff with three men pulled along side, and a man in an interesting mixture of English and Spanish announced the arrival of the anticipated commander. They summarily jumped onto our boat, polite enough to ask if they could be allowed to keep their boots on, and requested boat papers. After filling in a long document in many duplicates, the commander via his non-english speaking second in commander who then looked at the translator, asked for a present. I laughed and I was reminded of the Congo. Cadeux. That word I had not heard in a year. Ha, welcome to the third world Pamela.
There was also a litany of papers waiting for us to be signed at the immigration, customs, agriculture, tourism and whatever else office the Dominicans could dream up. This was all starting to sound familiar. I swear, were it not for the Spanish, I would have thought I was in central Africa. IAs I was the one checking us in, I got my pen, all our papers, my charm and patience ready for the hours ahead. And the commander had made it clear that we could not wait longer, no time for another cup of coffee, he adamantly expressed. "You have to check in immediately," after which he departed our boat with a smiling translator who was trying to sell us a Dominican Marine Courtesy Flag. I doubt he, the translator, would get anything of the 'present'. Ergo, he had to push his own businness. As they say in South Africa, i-job yi-job. Viva la vida. I had my own job to do: filling out papers and getting through the authorities with non-existent Spanish.

Wednesday, 07 January 2009

Dominican Republic

Here we come
For me who had never been to a Spanish speaking place, I was delighted to have a chance to see the people of this island Hispaniola. Ingrid and I had been attempting hard at learning some useful Spanish which contained phrases about food, directions etc. The best we could come up with from our several lame tries was 'Animate' with an exaggerated Spanish accent which we thought would be useful to cheer up any reluctant customs officer. Mads left all the linguistical challenges to the female crew. Not to be outdone, we imagined that our African French tinged with a bit of slow Spanish would suffice. How wrong we were. We did not understand anything. NADA baby. Flagrant gestures and wide grins were the saviours of our days.

We had a pleasurable sail from Turks and Caicos due south to Luperon harbour on the north coast of the DR, the amber coast as it is sometimes called. By early morning we found ourselves some 10 miles west of Luperon. We had to quickly make it to the anchorage before the trade winds started piping in at 25 knots. We coasted along the beautiful landscape, which we had seen from a distance. It is an amazing trick to the eye when you set your eyes on DR from a distance. Coming from flat Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, it is awesome to see the towering mountains of this island. You are almost deceived and think that the island is closer that it is, only to realise you are still a good 30 miles out.

We made it into Luperon, a harbour in the mangroves, protected by reefs on each side. Here the water is very murky so we had to slowly make our progress into the western channel. There were more boats than we had anticipated and by the look of things it seemed we could not find any space to anchor. We were also weary to continue further down the channel as we knew there were shallow areas in the middle of the anchorage. We found one spot and decided we would return to it if there was nothing better further down the channel. Not clever. We got stuck in the mud. The depth went from 4 metres to 1 metre in a matter of seconds. We had thought we were quite clever and we could avoid running aground if we sailed really close to big boats. Ah well, that just shows you that you can't always trust your eyes especially when you cannot see the bottom. Though everyone was in the middle of breakfast, lots of dinghies came out to push us out of the mud. We were showered with friendly laughs and were told that we were the third boat to have fallen into the same triap that morning. That made us feel much better. You don't want to be the only clown in the circus.

Tuesday, 06 January 2009

A taste of the Turks and Caicos

Just to show how little fascination we had of the place, Ocean Odyssey's resident photographer, Ingrid, took only about 30 pictures of our entire visit in the Turks and Caicos. And this is a woman who is unstoppable when it comes to clicking on the camera.
The famous slipper lobster caught outside of Ambergris. The day after Mads had speared it, when we were heading for the Dominican Republic, we spent three hairy hours zigzagging between coral heads in the bank before we could exit. Quel horreur. Sailors be aware of the waiting trap (and we are not the only ones to whom this has happened). This was by far the most harrowing sailing experience we had in the 14 months we sailed.

Thyra thinking about boat tennis.

Commercial Harbour

View of amazing mansions from the boat.

Into Provo, not quite

The two most interesting creatures we met in these islands were firstly a cockroach looking crayfish in the Ambergris anchorage. Some months later we found out the creature is called a Slipper Lobster. The second were the massive coral heads outside of Ambergris island. Those I have no immediate desire to encounter again.
When we laid anchor outside the commercial bay in the Providenciales Island (Provo), we had to check in at customs in another bay across the hill from our bay. After parking the dinghy next to some dodgy characters, we started asking the same dodgy persons to give us directions to customs, a bar and a supermarket (in that order). The customs office was a ten minute walk, the bar not findable and a mini market a bit of a distance. At the dusty entrance of the busy Provo harbour, we were duly informed that children are not allowed into the premises. Whilst the children and I were coughing dirt and chatting with the security guard who was more interested in his mobile phone than the trucks that were on business at the harbour, Ingrid and Mads went to check us in. Luckily it took a much shorter period than anticipated.
We had been informed that the minimarket was along the newly paved road. The area was a bit odd, a mixture of tropical paradise mansions next to huge building sites and no life to speak of. The minimarket was as exactly as I expected it; a few selected items on the shelves with gravely expensive tags on them.
Central town was far away and we could only get there by taxi and the fee was purpotedly expensive too. I was getting tired of hearing that word but then I realised that I am just a pompous boat owner who is looking for cheap ways to do things. The people there had to live with those prices, they could not exactly opt out. I for one could always pack up and sail away; which we did as soon as the weather was right. We heard mention of barbecues and all sorts of get togethers for sailors and travellers but I must admit, Provo did not quite charm us. Possibly the only charming element of our anchorage was the hotel on top of the hill, which obviously was ostentatious in its days. After checking out with customs, we took the path that cuts right across the hotel. At first we were sure that it was uninhabited and then as we found ourselves on the main ground, beautiful aromas were wafting across the parched lawn. The whiff was that of food. To our amazement, the place was full of Asian people. On the clothes lines were colourful silk clothes which brightened this erstwhile grand hotel with its magnificent views. We later found out that the Asian people were part of the construction and marine industries. Such are the demands of capitalism and the chase for a better life for one's children: these will move you worlds away from that you love most.
The following day we left not having seen the town of Providenciales.

More blogging coming

I know I promised to tell the Caribbean tales. More is coming. There are stories from Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, St Kitts & Nevis, Antigua, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.
It should be good reading.

old goodies

Her lady Ocean Odyssey awaits guests
The dark burgundy Ocean Odyssey, a Moody 42 sailboat awaits to be traversed over blue waters and to be taken to far shores. The lady, as the American friend Peter calls her, ís resting in the western coast of Florida after we purchased her. The proud skipper, Mads, who spent a month rehaulling her and cleaning out every accessible dark corner from inside the hull is anxious to return to her. We are still in Denmark, scheduled to return to the lady at the end of July.Friends, check your calenders and start booking your visits with us. We anticipate that we will spend a couple of months in the lands of the Carib and the USA so feel free to join us anytime from August 2007.