Thursday, April 22, 2010

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

We had a great sail from Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands west, at first we thought, to the Bahamas. It was overcast in the beginning with light showers and limited visability. As a result we changed our plans to exit through the reefs and waited to take the well marked channel off the tip of Puerto Rico. We had enough wind to shut off the motor and sail. There was however some wind chop and the swell direction caused the boat to rock and roll some. Still later when the skies cleared and the full moon came out, it felt good to be underway again.
Not for long! First our back up computer stopped working. Our main computer had been on the fritz for weeks now. We use our computer for navigation. We have a chart plotter but with no charts on it (other than big land masses) and we have paper charts. So of course we could navigate the old fashioned way, on paper, and then transfer the coordinates to the chart plotter. We also have GPS coordinates from both the charts and our guide books, so we weren't in any danger.
But this would be a lot of work and concern going through the Bahamas. Our computer is also necessary for accessing email, especially our weather information. We decided we wanted to buy another computer. At this point we could either back track to Fajardo, go out of our way quite a bit to Boqueron (both in the PR), or less out of our way to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. We decided on the latter and entered the new GPS coordinate to our route.
Now two more problems emerged. Scott had been concerned about our alternator for some time. This charges the battery when the engine is running and the charge appeared low. Then it wasn't working at all. The auto pilot uses a lot of power when underway so he turned on the generator to charge the batteries. During the night it went off by itself twice. Then stopped.
We haven't done much hand steering other than in the Intercoastal or in tight situations, certainly not on long passages. I went to the wheel and Scott went in the engine room to see if he could figure out what was happening with the alternator. The upshot was that the batteries were registering too hot and the alternator was shutting down in response. They weren't too hot. So Scott disconnected the temperature sensor and we had power again. I was glad to turn AUTO.
So we had three repairs/purchases on our check list;alternator, generator and new computer. We decided to go into the Ocean World Marina just past Puerto Plata. Scott was visited at this point by a rare bout of depression. It started over the problems with Customs and Immigration and then the boat repairs. Recently it seems the boat has been falling apart. It is 20 years old now. And of course my recent health problems haven't helped. We're all getting old!
The weather helped. It was a beautiful day and second night underway. We did have to turn the engine on as the wind decreased but were still able to keep the sails up. We averaged 7.5 knots the whole way! So that helped our mood. And I was feeling better after a week of the medication. We approached the marina around 9 AM in bright sunshine with good instructions from the dockmaster. It's a tight entrance with crashing waves on either side. I'd be very nervous in bad weather here!
This is a very elaborate facility and expensive for this island - $1.64 a foot, but the personnel were very friendly and helpful. Roberto the dockmaster quickly helped Scott check into the country and marina, set up repairmen for right after lunch, and gave Scott pointers on buying a computer. The two repairmen were very friendly and efficient. We had blown the impeller on the generator by using it the same time as the engine (they share a sea water intake). That repair took a lot longer than expected as they blew the new one by turning on the generator while the sea cock was closed (we should have caught that but at this point weren't thinking too quickly due to lack of sleep), but they had a new one in quickly.
They decided to come back the next morning to look at the alternator. Then suddenly one of us noticed the bees. There were a lot of them flying outside the boat. Roberto was inside with us and cautioned us not to leave. He called an exterminator after looking at our stern - the whole swarm was there. Wow - that's a new one! It took only 15 minutes (and a few beers and cokes) for our hero to arrive. We were all able to leave the boat while he worked. The bees had completely covered our stern lights in a huge black pulsating ball.
The marina includes a casino, hotel, Dolphin Swim, Aquarium type Sea World show and of course, huge lovely pool. So we weren't suffering while we waited in the pool. Still it was a shock when we returned to see the huge mound of dead bees on and off our stern. We barely saw the sun set that night before we were in bed and asleep.
The next morning was lovely. We took a long walk and had a big breakfast. Our now workmen friends fixed the alternator with many aside jokes on terminator bees.

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