Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas Vacation

Happy New Year! I am way behind on posting due to an unexpectedly busy holiday season. But, first and foremost, we are in Puerto Rico! Not San Juan as originally planned. We are on the west coast in the small town of Puerto Real. SeaClearly is safely tied up in Marina Pescaderia. Roughly translated that means Fish Market Marina and, indeed, there is one here. The story of how we ended up here on New Year’s Day is a long and twisted tale with several sub-stories woven together.

We had landed, unplanned, in Samana, Dominican Republic on December 15th but resolved to follow through on our last minute arrangements to get to the Richmond, Virginia area for Christmas. That involved a lot of ticket changes, rental cars, bus trips across the DR, more pesos to the government, fumbling our way through transactions in Spanish and, finally, arriving back in the US via Atlanta. We were very happy when the US customs folks handed back our passports and said, “Welcome home.”

Emily and Tyler at home for Christmas. And both actually had
some days off!
We, frankly, had no idea how tired we were. We have been traveling, sailing, moving, checking in and out of islands non-stop for weeks. The last passage that brought us to the DR was a bit stressful. The last minute changes and ‘experiential’ travel adventures drained us down. By the time we reached Emily and Tyler’s home we were beat – but very happy.  The exhaustion set in when we realized that we had nothing to worry about, no chores to attend to, we were safe and we were with family. We were absolutely thrilled to be there and absolutely sure that we had made the right decision to make the trip. 

We had done nothing to recognize Christmas on the boat. Well, actually, we stuck our naked little fake tree on the table a few times. Not one Christmas song had been played aboard. Junie was, clearly, homesick and we had no spirit. We needed to go home for the holidays and we needed a break.  We got everything we could have asked for. A few highlights:
Seafood Gumbo and Sweet Potatoes - a Christmas treat.
  • ·         Sleeping in a bed that didn’t move for the first time in almost three months
  • ·         A wonderful Christmas with Emily and Tyler (and grand-puppies)
  • ·         Traditional (for us) Christmas Seafood Gumbo
  • ·         Another  couple of wonderful days with Dusty, Holly, and grand-daughter Reagan (and more grand-puppies)
  • ·         Holly’s excellent Tortellini soup
  • ·         Christmas Town at Busch Gardens – beautiful light displays
  • ·         Visiting, all too briefly, with Aimee, Lauren and Jared (and cousin puppy). Richard, sorry we missed you.

Holly, Dusty and Reagan
at Christmas Town, Busch Gardens,
Williamsburg, Virginia

A not-so-little girl not-so-wanting her
picture taken.

Reagan, Junie and Duane at the North Pole.
Believe me, it felt like it to us after
several months in the islands. We had not
packed much in the way of winter wear.
The time went by very quickly and we were soon back at the Richmond Airport on Sunday afternoon. Delta did us right. We had no issues with flights. We managed to get seats together on all segments despite our last minute arrangements. We even got exit row seats for 3 out of 4 flights. One minor inconvenience in our plans involved our late arrival back into the DR. Our flight touched down in Santo Domingo at 12:34 am. The first bus back to Samana would not leave until after 8:00 am. We had already spent a gob of cash so we decided to suck it up and hang out in the airport until morning. We had this vision of sitting, two gringos alone, in the corner of the airport, hugging our luggage. 

Not so! The holiday season in the Republica Dominicana is a time for family and travel. Many of them are traveling to the US and bringing home gifts during an extended duty-free holiday period for citizens. There were packed flights arriving throughout the night. There were hundreds of people there. Almost all of the little shops, bars and food stalls were open all night. People came out wheeling stacks of bags on carts and were met by cheering families and friends.  We were jealous. No one, not even the little kids, looked tired at all. We were, indeed, hugging our luggage, but only to use it as pillows to try and catch a little sleep amongst the racket. And, we were two of the few blue-eyed travelers in the Santo Domingo Las Americas Airport that night.

Finally, at about 7:00 am, we approached the taxi stand, babbled the right Spanish words and grabbed a 15 minute ride to the Parada Samana (bus stop near the airport). After a brief time in an open-air waiting area overlooking the Caribbean Sea (not bad) the bus showed up. This time, there were no seats together so Junie and I sat next to strangers for the 2 hour ride ‘home’ to SeaClearly. I may have fallen asleep and leaned over on my seat-mate.

We reached Samana,got off of the bus, into a three-wheel motor cart and were soon back at Marina de Puerto Bahia. As I opened up the big companionway hatch on SeaClearly, I said, “Wow. Doesn’t smell so good in here.”  Then a quick glance around gathered the facts that told the sad story. On the Xantrex battery monitor - a big red ‘LO’. The freezer temperature indicator – 51 degrees. The AC line voltage – 80 volts. Our shore power had browned out, our batteries were nearly dead and our refrigerator and freezer full of food was all spoiled. Not a pleasant homecoming. We threw away 3 garbage bags full of food. The most significant loss was the 5 pounds of North Carolina shrimp - already peeled and deveined – that we had been jealously guarding for months. Gone.

After some quick troubleshooting, I started thinking that the problem was not on our boat so I fired up the generator to start recharging our poor batteries. Very thankful that the engine and generator starting battery is separate from the house battery bank.  Our genset had no problem providing 120 volts so we knew the problem was the shorepower. Turns out, about half of the plugs on the dock were only putting out 80 volts. They found us a power pedestal one slip over from us that was still fine. Never trust marina power. Remember that, somewhere in all of those papers you signed at check-in there is one that says, the marina is responsible for nothing, ever.

Our Krogen friends, Ken and Sylvianne, were still in their slip at the next dock. It was sure nice to find that they were still there. We thought they might have found a weather window and taken off. They  immediately offered us dinner and provisions if we needed anything.  How nice is that?

We, actually, recovered pretty quickly from our loss. We had such a wonderful Christmas. There were many aspects of the trip that could have gone wrong – canceled flights, bus station robberies, inappropriate comments accidently made in Spanish. This, after all, was only food. It could have been much worse. Say, a through-hull failure after the batteries died and the pumps wouldn’t work. That would have been worse. And, there is no time to dally about. We see a weather window opening up on New Year’s Eve to cross the Mona Passage and make it to Puerto Rico. Ken and Sylvianne, on Sylken Sea, are thinking to make the run then, as well. Let the planning begin! I will have to tell the tale of the Mona Passage later. Oh, yeah - we still don't have radar.


  1. Duane, I love reading about your adventures and studies. Oh My Goodness! So much to prepare. Glad you are having such a positive attitude. That has to help with the small pit falls. But that said, I can understand the sorrow of the loss of 5 pounds of shrimp. I would shed a few tears over that. Keep having a great but safe time. :) Leslie

  2. Leslie, so nice to hear from you! We did observe a moment of silence for the shrimp. In fact, for several minutes we wondered, "Just how spoiled do you think they are?". Better judgement prevailed and we let them go.