Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Take the good with the bad...Cockroaches to 62 foot Catamarans...Cheers to new friends

THE BAD: Before we left Crown Bay we hit the local supermarket to stock up on fresh fruit, beer, pasta and of course Kraft Dinner. Now remember how I mentioned that cockroaches lay their eggs in the glue between cardboard seams? Well, we carefully took all the contents within the cardboard boxes out and dumped them into ziplock bags. We threw the cardboard out on land and headed on our journey down wind to anchor in the next town over. We had an easy 20 minute sail downwind and anchored off a beautiful beach right beside St Thomas's airport. Evan took a look in the galley to check out what was for lunch. As he pulled out one the Kraft Dinner ziplock bags he noticed a few small black/brown bugs crawling around on the inside. OH YEAH, baby cockroaches. He tossed it my way and we packed up everything that was originally in a box and bagged it in black garbage bags. I can handle the heavy seas but I cannot deal with cockroaches. I believe we got lucky because they were trapped inside the ziplock bags. I'm thankful that someone told me about the eggs in the glue long before this.
Evan taking care of the business...
Frying up some onions for our Filet Mignon Steaks... yeah right, we mix that stuff with corned beef and chuck them into tacos. THE GOOD: Meet our new friends! Mike, Mike, Mike, Maxi and John. These guys are true legends. Not only were they great company but they took us on cruises around the harbour on their 62 foot Catamaran. They fed us, drank with us and gave us missions to keep ourselves busy. Mike who owns Tiger Lady ( The Catamaran ) was looking to dig up some old moorings. We strapped on the snorkel gear and dove right in. After spending at least 2 hours in the water we decided that the gear on the bottom wasn't worth it and abandoned the mission. Mike provided the beer and took us on a tour around Charlotte Amelie Harbour. We pulled up beside giant cruise ships, had float planes land directly behind us and learned all about Blackbeard's Castle ( for real! ). Thank you to our friends at the Beachcomber Resort and Bar, it was a pleasure to meet you and we will be back to share your company once again.
Absolutely a beautiful boat built by Mike's Dad originally.
Mike also let us use his Zodiac to bomb back and forth between Lizzy Belle and the beach. What a guy!
Last nights sunset at Christmas Cove... We snorkelled for days here. The tropical fish danced around us as we explored coral reefs, swam with giant sting rays and spotted our first set of sea turtles. Spending time in the water seems to be as adventurous as each day's sail. We pulled into Cruz Bay today to shower, do laundry and clear out of customs tomorrow. Before we entered the harbour we were greeted by two Dolphins who hung out with Lizzy Belle for 10 minutes or so bouncing around her bow and occasionally showing us their bellies. One turned on it's side and looked directly up at us of LB's starboard side, we couldn't do anything but smile and gently say, "hello".

Keep in the loop my friends...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Far beyond fifty five miles...

Evan and Dacia working on repairs to LB's deck and engine.

January 26th, 2012

I looked back at the last two weeks and couldn't believe that we only travelled fifty five miles. Our time actually sailing on the open ocean was probably only around 15 hours in total. Looking back at what we accomplished as a team of friends travelling together in two weeks, we had been around the world and back again.

Tears came to my eyes when I first laid eyes on my friends way back in Viques, PR. They had taken two single engine planes to meet me on the island 20 miles of the east coast of Puerto Rico. I had only slept two hours that night when I set anchor off of a town called Esperandez. You get into a routine where you automatically wake up to check the anchor and lines. I was exhausted and relieved to have a helping hand and far more the morale support.

We celebrated and rested up for our journey up the southern coast of Viques. Our first day sail was rough and hard on both Lizzy Belle and the crew. We only travelled three miles and called it a day. We showered, ate, drank and laughed all day in the sun. Our next mission was to head to the very eastern edge of the Island. I'm not sure what got into these guys but no one felt sick and despite being super wet we all loved life.

From here on in, it was a piece of cake. We visited beaches without spotting another human being for days. We snorkelled a shipwreck, watched a manta ray jump at least three feet out of the water after it's prey, found unexploded bombs under water, ran from barracudas, and despite the spanish "No Pase" signs under military authority, collected beautiful sea shells on white sand beaches. Nothing beats being completely alone and only relying on the boat and each other for survival.

CULEBRA, PR...What a time. We were told Culebra was the place for us by fellow sailors and crew. They didn't let us down! A community completely off the map. Entire cities of tents, dinghy bars, golf cart rides, swim up bars and so much more. We were sad to leave.

Here we are in St Thomas. Back to the real world it seems. I made a reservation on our sail into the harbour to Crown Bay Marina. I asked if they had a slip for a twenty eight foot boat. They laughed at me and mentioned that if my boat was only twenty eight feet than they could accommodate me. We pulled in and were surrounded by mega yachts, cruise ships and styles of boats I had never even dreamed of. The "Hooters" mega yacht is even here. Our goal was to fix LB's exhaust, repair dry rotten wood on her decks and reprovision. We took care of the business and everyone helped out. Dacia sewed sails, stirred epoxy and helped Evan and I by delivering fresh Pina Coladas hourly. She flies home to Mahone Bay tomorrow and there is no doubt in my mind that she will be missed greatly by both Evan and I. Dacia took on a role on the boat that will be hard to replace and I believe that she fully understands now what my dream here in the Caribbean is all about. Her attitude and understanding will keep us going in the worst of times.

As for Evan and I... we are ready for the next set of challenges. Bring it on Virgin Islands!

Talk soon,

We proudly, always fly the Canadian Flag. People seem to really enjoy our story and help out however they can.
Tsunami signs eh? Comforting...
The day Evan and Dacia joined in on the adventure.
The crews first salt water bath...I'm sure there were no crocodiles in this mangrove bay. I was watching though. Hahaha
Happy to be clean!
Something about unexploded bombs from the war. We stuck to the beach but kept finding them in the water while we were snorkelling.
Big fish!
Underwater Dirty Moustache!
Sting Rays!
Evan and LB from the water. She had many bumps and bruises as well.
Evan and I mostly sleep on the deck under a tarp. Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night to an absolute downpour. We scurry below as quickly as possible.
Chilling at the Bar in Culebra. You have to be a close crew if you live on a twenty eight foot boat.
Walking through Tent City.
Random tank...not sure what that was all about
Sailing to Culebra with ZINCK on our noses.
LB in Crown Bay Marina before the repairs.
We had to find Marine Plywood to fix her deck. A local ship repair yard hooked us up for free. Then this dude cut out our template for two Heineken.
Dacia making Pina Colada runs to the grocery store.
LB's Dry Rot, first step is to chizzel out all the rotten wood. Evan took this job on like a hero.
Step two. Clean it up and make a template.
Step three. Fit the wood.
Step Four. Epoxy and fabric.
Step Five. Epoxy filler.

Step six will involve sanding, fairing, and painting.

Alright guys, this is it for me tonight. I'm happy everyone is enjoying the blog and I appreciate the facebook messages. Hope all is well at home!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You don't really need an alternator as long as you have friends!

Alright friends and family. I know it has been a while but the internet has not been handy. I'll start two weeks ago..ish:

I headed out of Ponce, Puerto Rico around 7 am and caught a North wind 20miles east into a harbour called Selina. I quickly dropped the anchor, made lunch for myself, had a few Medalla Gold Light ( Beer ) and slept for the afternoon. As soon as the sun went down I was off. The idea was to go as far as I could towards St Thomas to meet Evan and Dacia. I figure it was around 1pm when I noticed that my engine was no longer charging my battery bank. I quickly threw the autopilot back on and and pulled out my tools and started multi-tasking between working on the engines alternator and jumping up on deck to navigate Lizzy Belle. I fooled around with battery connections, checked my volt meter, etc.... after I decided I am not nearly as awesome as "Macgyver" I started plotting a course for the nearest harbour. Of course it began to rain and the winds picked up. I doused the sails and pulled the throttle. Lizzy Belle and I pushed through the night and ended up in a town called Yubacoa. I putted around the bay as the sunrise began to light up the clouds in the distance. LB began to attract attention very quickly as two police jeeps at 90 degree angles through their high beams directly on us. I waved and pointed to my radio. No reaction. Honestly, I didn't know what to do... so I did what any son would do. I called the "Old Man" and woke him up to fill him in. He asked if I was safe and then we discussed my battery/engine problems. He told me to get some rest and work things out when I was not completely exhausted. Eventually two fishermen curiously drove by Lizzy Belle. Although they didn't speak English we figured out it was ok for me to tie up alongside the dock where the police were waiting for me...
As I brought LB alongside the wharf an officer named Colon was waiting for me. Another lady was on the radio. I pulled my passport out and we agreed that I was David Welsford. Then Colon looked back at his partner and said in broken English, "See, I told you that he was from Canada". Then he laughed and told me she owed him lunch. From here on in everything improved quickly. Colon and his crew of officers told me to take my batteries out and they would run them to town for a charge. Locals began hovering around Lizzy Belle and every so often one of them would ask in English, "So you are alone and from Canada... your crazy man". People began bringing me water, beer, full on Puerto Rican meals, ice and even diesel fuel. One great guy and his kids over heard me mention that I only had ten dollars in my pocket and slipped me a 20 dollar bill. I told him now but he refused to take it back.

On day two in the harbour people were drawn out of town to see Lizzy Belle and the Canadian Sailor. One guys wife said to me, "My husband won't stop talking about you and dragged me down here". They also brought me flags to fly on Lizzy Belle's masts. Finally, a friend named Jesus brought his buddy a diesel mechanic down and took the alternator right off LB. We drove into town and checked it out and took it apart. He brought it back, stuck it back on and everything worked again. A huge stress relief.

All I can say is THANK YOU to the people of Yubacoa! My new friends were part of a fishing club and completely took care of me. They told me in the end that they just wanted to be part of my adventure. I offered them money. They declined. Finally they let me buy some BBQ chicken, french fries and pop. We had a send off party and around 7pm on that Saturday they pulled in my lines and I headed back out to sea. I would have never experienced anything like this if I hadn't had problems with my engine. These people were by far the nicest people I have ever met on my travels. Their final words when I cast off were, "We will remember you"! And trust me, I will always remember them. Thank you to my friend Jesus and the rest of the crew at the Fishing Club! You were my heroes!
My buddy Peter. He was the first dude to show up with water and ice. He also was the first to speak English to me and translate to the locals who I was and why I was here. This got the ball rolling on my repairs.
My police officer friend Colon. He charged my batteries and I offered him a bottle of rum. He said he didn't drink but would put it in his house to remember me by. I also have his address and he asked me to send him a post card wherever I go in the world. Another hero for sure!
As I was taking apart the engine people began hanging out on Lizzy Belle. Soon we were like brother and sister. The kids crawled all over LB like monkeys. It was awesome.
They brought be pepper steak and rice. I cobbled up my infected feet over breakfast.
First fresh water shower rig. I also lost that bag overboard the next night.
These friends brought me flags and we got our picture together!
My hommies. By the end of the weekend my crew and I ran the wharf!
LB's temporary home. I would walk straight on and off her from here.

Substitute for Chicken Wings. It actually tastes just like Boston Pizza Wings.
Finally, I met up with Evan and Dacia. Evan jumped right on the Chicken Wing train.
Medalla Gold and the new crew.
Not Lizzy Belle!!!
Dropped a bottle of rum on my foot.
Dacia and Evan running Lizzy Belle to Culebra.

I apologize but I had to write this blog quickly because once again the Library is closing. I hope the spelling is ok for you guys.

I'll update on Evan, Dacia and my ongoing adventures next week. Trust me. It has been a time full of snorkelling, barracuda's, shipwrecks and more.

Much love to all at home!

Captain Dave, Evan ( Skipper ), Dacia ( Peg girl )... hahahahahaha

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Puerto Rico, Five Days, Great Friends

"Finally! Lizzy Belle is back in the water in full force. Last Friday
we finally got permission from all the government officials in the
Dominican Republic. Many agencies were involved, perhaps a cast of
hundreds in the end, and each required additional fees with the
supporting paperwork and rubber stamps. Working over the Christmas and
New Year holidays made it extra difficult and the provision of a few
"presents" helped the process along. Whatever...it was all worth it.
Our best friend Ruben at Syncro and the whole staff at the Puerto de
Haina Oriental are the heroes for getting us on our way. Gracias por
todo. "....
whatever...it was all worth it!

Anyway, when it was all said and done. Lb was floating. It took my newest crew members, Kelly and Gracie Walker, along with the Old Man Welsford four hours to rig the boat, get supplies and finally get the "Dispatchio" paperwork cleared. As we started the engine and headed to sea we looked back upon at least 15 men standing on shore wearing government uniforms, camo outfits and customs uniforms... all with smile son their faces. Good luck and good bye Dominican Republic.

From here we headed East on an overnight sail to the tip of the Island where we anchored the next afternoon, swam and had a BBQ. We all fell dead asleep around 7:30 and were super pumped for our next days adventure. Crossing the Mona Passage!

The passage is 98 nautical miles long but is not easily crossed as we are headed straight into the wind. Right away we were joined by a set of huge whales 15 feet off our port side. They hung out for a good five minutes and it kept us all smiling at least until lunch hour. Although it was sunny and hot, we had little wind and began using the engine to pick up some speed.

It took us all night and the next day to get to Puerto Rico. At one point when every one else had gone to bed and the Old Man and I were debating over which course would be more effective we were joined by a school of dolphins jumping off Lizzy Belle's bow. They criss crossed, back and forth with the moonlight shinning on their backs. Once again, their presence lifted our spirits well into the night. Kelly and Gracie had a rocky sleep below deck. Sorry guys!

It took us 5 days to eventually reach Ponce, Puerto Rico and there are too many stories to write on this blog. My Old Man left late last night to try and catch a meeting in Lunenburg, NS by Wednesday night. Gracie and Kelly rented a car and are heading home on friday and are slowly preparing to get back into the real world. I'm mentally preparing for a solo adventure 130 nautical miles east to ST Thomas, USA Thursday morning. It should take me three or four days to get there, mostly sailing at night to avoid the afternoons strengthened trade winds. I'm not going to lie, I'm nervous to head out there on my own...but at the same time, I'm ready for the challenge and am anxious for the experiences. Wish me luck!

A few pics for you guys:

Lizzy Belle drying out after our greatest adventure yet.
Old Man and I looking pretty proud of ourselves.
Old Man at the helm. Don't get greedy now...
Our first breakfast. Fried onions, green peppers, tomatoes, scrambled eggs and cheese on pita bread.
The legend herself! Gracie Walker. The 10 year old that has as much offshore sailing experience as I do. I'm proud to share my time on Lizzy Belle with her. I'll be calling Gracie captain one day!
Gracies accurate drawing of Lizzy Belle and her crew... :)
My current office in the laundromat at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, Puerto Rico. I get to do my laundry while I work.

A few last thoughts about the trip so far:

1. In the last five days I have watched every sunset and sunrise.

2. I haven't touched and ipad, iphone or any electronic device besides my GPS until I stepped onto land. 5 days straight!

3. I do not have a regular sleeping schedule anymore as we were always doing shifts on the helm. I was up last night at 3am doing laundry and emailing friends.

4. Living in the same clothes and not being able to have a fresh water shower leaves you with a sad looking rash. Answer: sail naked and stay dry!

5. No card board is allowed on the boat. Cockroaches lay their eggs in the glue between the seams. No cockroaches on Lizzy Belle yet. Lets hope this doesn't happen.

6. Sleeping under the stars every night on Lizzy Belle's deck leaves me with fresh air in my lungs.

7. My navigation lights are backwards at the moment and I figure it must confuse other vessels. I'll have to work on this one. Thank you Kelly for pointing this one out... and for sharing your wisdom and sailing experiences.

8. I miss my Old Man greatly after living in a hotel with him for three weeks and then being rewarded by sharing the adventure of our lifetime. Thank you to my family for teaching me these skills and guiding me to the place I am today!

A video of LB heading offshore to cross the Mona Passage!

Next Blog...When I get to St Thomas...