Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lazing in Luperon

Luperon is a small rural village well off the beaten tourist track, and would likely hold little interest to cruisers if it wasn't for its beautiful protected harbor, a hurricane hole and just about the only all-weather anchorage that exists on the DR's north coast. In recent years Luperon's popularity with cruisers has waned, partly due a somewhat undeserved reputation for dirtiness and minor corruption among officials but also because a large, modern and fairly cheap marina (Ocean World) was built only 7nm east. Overall, we've come to rather like Luperon. The town is authentically DR, which is to say fairly poor, somewhat dirty, loud, down to party, and always exceedingly friendly. We haven't seen any hint of crime; few cruisers here bother to lock their dinghy. Though it's a small town, you can get a lot done here. It has some amenities that cater to cruisers and there are several people who make their full-time living helping boaters. Though kinda out in the sticks, Luperon is only 60 minutes by road from Puerto Plata and 90 from Santiago, making it a decent base from which to explore the western DR. And like much of the DR, things are really, really cheap here. We've eaten out far more than we ever did in the Bahamas or TCI simply because it's almost as cheap as eating on the boat. Overall we're glad we came to Luperon and recommend it to other cruisers with one caveat. Here are some of the things we've done & businesses we've patronized in our first ten days in Luperon:

-- Papo. He is the cruisers' main go-to guy in the harbor, along with Handy Andy who offers similar services. We've used Papo to buy bottled water and dinghy gas and rent motorcycles and a Jeep. Along with his son Francis, he stands by on Channel 68 in the mornings and sporadically throughout the rest of the day. They both speak good English, and we've found them fairly reliable. However, a big warning: Papo owns and "maintains" most of the moorings in the harbor. They're a good deal at $2/day, which lets you avoid fouling your ground tackle in the rich water and thick goopy mangrove mud here. We took one of Papo's moorings for this reason. On Monday afternoon, we came back to the boat after a 4-hour absence to find that the mooring had dragged roughly 150 feet in 25-30 knot winds, putting Windbird very close to another boat (whose owner was fortunately aboard to fend our boat off). We moved to another mooring, which seemed to hold fine in the strong afternoon winds. However, two nights later we woke at 5am to the sound of Windbird gently bouncing off another boat in the night calm. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves in an entirely different area of the bay than we had moored! Our docklines were still in perfect shape, hanging limply from the bow. After inspection, it appears that the mooring's pendant parted under load during one of the squalls in the night, none of which were particularly strong. We are rather lucky Windbird didn't sustain any damage or run aground in our nighttime drift through an anchorage filled with cruising boats, a fishing fleet, shoals and mangroves. It turns out another boat about our size also came loose on the same night ours did, also due to a parted pendant. We're now anchored and feel much more secure using our own ground tackle, even though we'll have to clean it up when we go. Papo was very apologetic and refunded our money. If you use one of his moorings, take a good hard look at its condition and perhaps back down on it.

-- Puerto Blanco Marina & Las Velas Restaurant. Right near the outer mooring field, very convenient. A single dock with fairly cheap dockage rates, has been fully occupied our entire time here, looks like long-term tenants. Also offers a dinghy dock with showers and laundry facilities for $1/day for cruisers. Super nice restaurant, slightly higher-than-local prices but still reasonable. Daily specials announced on Channel 68. Manager Anna is very helpful to cruisers, a good resource (she arranged Brad's taxi to Santiago Airport for late Sunday). Somewhat spotty wifi, may be able to receive if you're fairly close in the outer mooring field.

-- Putulas Restaurant and Bar. Walk out of the Puerto Blanco gates, Putulas is ahead on the left. They also have a dinghy dock on the "Love Canal." Operated by Cathy and her husband Putula, basically a scenic balcony at the back of their house. Super inviting to cruisers. Good food, great happy hour 2-4pm daily with 50 peso ($1) mixed drinks. Had a birthday party for our friend Mak here, Cathy and Putula went out of their way to make it special. Fairly fast wifi.

--Wendy's Bar. On the left just after you walk into town from the government dock. Cheap cold beer, 100 pesos ($2) for a large Bohemia or 125 pesos ($2.50) for a large Presidente. Fast free wifi. Primary in-town cruiser and gringo expat hangout, now that both Lazy Ass Bistro and Upper Deck have closed. Super friendly, great advice to be had. Movie nights on Monday & Tuesday, Karaoke on Friday night.

--Chicken Shack. Unmarked lime green building on left just before Upper Deck. One of several "Pico Pollos" in town offering good food for cheap. Delicious large lunch (fried chicken, beans, rice, salad) for 150 pesos ($3).

--Pizzeria Frances. On southwest corner of main crossroads in town. Huge excellent pizzas for 300-350 pesos ($6-7). Also known for having good steaks and French food (owner/chef is French). Upstairs patio has nice view of townie action.

--Supermarket. Down main road about 6 blocks from government dock, on right side near Western Union. Both of the ATMs in town are right here as well. Pretty small, somewhat limited selection, but good prices and can certainly get the essentials here. They also have liquor with a good rum selection, as do several mini-markets around town.

--Claro. One of two cell phone companies in town, along with Altice. On main crossroads in town, kitty corner to Pizzeria Frances. We got a SIM card for 100 pesos ($2), month prepaid data package is 1200 pesos ($24) for 3GB. No English spoken but friendly & helpful. Once I ran through the 3GB package I discovered that Claro offers 5 days of unlimited data and voice for only 148 pesos, which is a much better deal (880 pesos / $17 for a month). Their LTE is pretty slow in the anchorage at night, I hear Altice is better.

--Ferreteria, or hardware store. Pretty big selection. Left at Claro, go two blocks east past the main park, turn left (north) - can't miss it.

--Marine Second-Hand Shop. On right just past Wendy's, quite a lot of second-hand gear. A bit expensive for used stuff but I don't see a West Marine anywhere near here! Picked up a snap shackle in good condition for 900 pesos ($18). 

--Laundry. The only place to do it yourself is Puerto Blanco marina. However Papo can pick it up at your boat and reportedly has reasonable charges. We used Gladys, the Agriculture department official; she charged $18 for a large duffel bag that was probably 3 or 4 loads, and 400 pesos ($8) to do another large bag with 2 loads worth.

--Cruisers Net. Sunday and Wednesday at 8am on Channel 72.

--27 Charcos (27 Waterfalls). We rented motorbikes from Papo (600 pesos / $12 each), this is just past Imbert on the highway to Santiago. You can do 7, 12, or all 27 waterfalls. We did all 27 for 700 pesos ($14) each. Wear watersocks or old sneakers. They provide life jacket, helmet, and English-speaking guides. It starts with a long hike with a fair amount of vertical, which makes the water feel all the more refreshing when you get in. You jump and slide down various waterfalls and then tromp through the creekbed to the next ones. Very pretty, and so much fun. We really enjoyed this. It's a pretty 1-hour ride/drive each way, the roads are a bit potholed but better than I expected. Just remember the first rule of driving in the DR: there are no rules!

--Playa Grande. A nice beach outside Luperon though the water is quite rough in afternoon sea breeze conditions. Saw humpback whales just offshore here. Has a cool beach bar in a converted shipping container. Creepy abandoned resort and associated workers apartments looks like it was pretty nice 10 years ago - it closed shortly after the financial crash of 2008 and has changed hands several times since. The quiet roads between here and Puerto Blanco are great for dog-walking.

--Carnival in La Vega. All the major cities in the DR have Carnival celebrations every Sunday in February as well as Independence Day (Feb 27), but La Vega is considered the best one in the country. Starts at 3pm Sundays, parade lasts until about 6pm but the craziness goes much later. We and Sea Otter rented a 4WD through Papo for $35USD/day. Lots of fun, music, drinking and dancing. Be careful about turning your bum to the masked "limping devils" and other merrymakers, you're likely to receive a solid whack from a vejiga, which is an air-filled leather bladder on a tether! La Vega is just over a 2-hour drive from Luperon, parking just off the Carnival route is 200 pesos / $4.

--Reprovisioning in Santiago. We stayed on the north side of town after our return from La Vega and went to a nearby supermercado to reprovision the next day. They had just about as good of a selection as the supurb supermarket in the Turks and Caicos, just less familiar brands at far better prices. We replenished the ship's stores of rum, wine, meat, deli cheese, juices, mixers, dry and canned goods and more for just under $400 for a heaping cartful. Figured it would have been twice that in the Bahamas. There are also reportedly good supermarkets in Puerto Plata, which is a little closer than Santiago (1 hr vs. 90 minutes from Luperon).

It's looking like we'll be moving east from Luperon to SamanĂ¡ in a couple days, as a massive low pressure system to our north will push the mid-Atlantic High south into the Caribbean and utterly kill the eastern trade winds (and even reverse them for a few days). We'll be doing it nonstop since a bit of north swell will likely render the north coast anchorages uncomfortable or even untenable; unfortunately, Dawn won't be available to crew for Sea Otter this time and they're not willing to do a 24-hour nonstop with just Dane and Mak and Isla, so we'll be losing our buddy boat for at least a little while. On the positive side, it looks like our friends Kara and Erin on S/V Vela are about to catch up to us, and should arrive in SamanĂ¡ shortly after we do! Additionally, Windbird's longtime admiral Judy Handley is planning on flying into Santo Domingo on March 7th, and will cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico with us. We're super excited to have her back on board as we move into the Caribbean Sea!

Made It To the Caribbean!

OK, the title is a little overstated; we won't actually arrive in the Caribbean Sea until we cross the Mona Passage, likely in mid-March. But we've arrived in the Dominican Republic, which is definitely a Caribbean nation. It feels like a major milestone. Getting here over the last three months in this unsettled weather year has certainly been an effort. And the DR is completely unlike anywhere we've been on Windbird yet.

A week before we crossed to the DR, I flew from Provo, Turks and Caicos to Atlanta, GA for a 4-day work trip to Santiago, Chile. Normally when I fly during the cruising season (ideally only every 6-8 weeks), I bid or pick up a domestic trip so that I can get three landings to reestablish landing currency. In this case, though, I was going to training immediately afterwards so I treated myself to a nice easy South America trip with an enjoyable 36 hour layover while I refamiliarized myself with the Boeing 767 cockpit in preparation for my checkride. After I got back from Santiago I had an extra day off to hang out with Atlanta friends Kevin & Jeannie, renew my FAA medical certificate, and study for training. Then it was two intense days in the simulator, followed by a frantic rush to the Atlanta airport to barely make the only flight of the day back to Provo. Also on that flight: my close friend and frequent partner in crime, Brad Phillips, who agreed to crew aboard Windbird for this passage so that Dawn could crew for our new friends Dane and Makayla on S/V Sea Otter.

While I was gone, Dawn and Piper stayed on the hook in Sapodilla Bay, a first for them as we've always taken a dock or mooring ball when I'm gone. For this week, though, the winds were constant out of the east and the anchor was well buried; we were confident Windbird would stay put and Dane and Mak were close if Dawn needed help. We had made friends with a vacationing Canadian couple and their children who were renting a villa on shore. Piper had fun playing with the kids on the beach several times a day, and Dawn had the whole family out to the boat.

When Brad and I arrived back to Provo, Dawn and Dane picked us up and then we drove across the island to meet with roving customs agent LeRon so he could check us out of the TCI. After we got back we had happy hour aboard Sea Otter with several other boats in the anchorage, and then we went to Windbird to get a good night's rest before our early morning departure. The alarm went off at 5:30 am; we prepped Windbird for passage in the dark, took Piper to shore, and then dropped Dawn and her bags off at Sea Otter. Brad and I got the anchor up right at sunrise, 7:20am, and headed southeastward with Sea Otter close behind. The wind was quite light at first, and then came up to 12-14 knots; the 2 foot chop only slowed us to an average of 4.5 knots while motorsailing and short-tacking with mainsail up. There weren't many coral patches across the Caicos Bank, and we had good light to easily see and avoid the few that cropped up. By the time we approached the Six Hills Cays in mid-afternoon, Sea Otter had fallen about four miles behind so we stopped to let them catch up. Once they did, we had just enough light to sneak through the reef just south of Long Cay and exit into the Turks Passage. Just as the sun set, I caught a decent (10 lb) Mutton Snapper. Cleaning it on the pitching deck in fading light was a bit challenging but I got it done.

From Long Cay it was only 23nm to Big Sand Cay, but too close to the wind to sail direct. The 5-6 foot seas in the Turks Passage made motorsailing too slow, so we unfurled the yankee, shut off the motor, and settled down into a beat in 15 kt ENE winds. Our first leg was a long, 15nm port tack down to Big Sand's latitude, then we short-tacked between that line and the rhumb line. Sea Otter isn't quite as weatherly as Windbird and fell well off to weather, but as the seas settled down on the east side of the passage they resumed motorsailing straight to Big Sand and ended up catching us. We fired up the engine at 3nm out and made a beeline for the anchorage, where we arrived at 2am, anchored, and fell into bed.

I got up at 7:30am to talk to Chris Parker on the SSB. His forecast for the day's leg to Luperon wasn't nearly as rosy as it had been before, so after thinking through the options Brad and I launched the dink and went over to Sea Otter to discuss our strategy. I was concerned Sea Otter wouldn't be able to lay Luperon, especially if the wind and seas picked up. We decided Windbird would still go to Luperon and they would bear off for La Isabella or Punta Rucia if necessary, coming up to Luperon in the following night's lee. If neither of us could lay Luperon, we'd both sail down to Montecristi and check in there. Back on Windbird, Brad and I had breakfast and got the boat ready to go. Sea Otter hoisted anchor at 11am, and we followed suit at 11:30.

As it turned out, the wind was initially a bit lighter and more northerly than forecast, and though it turned more easterly during the day it never got as windy as Chris had said. Brad and I beat to weather for the first 30nm, gaining easting just in cast the winds shifted markedly. Sea Otter wasn't able to sail as high as us but was able to lay a line that would put them about 10nm east of Luperon. They were faster than us in that direction and soon disappeared over the horizon, but at sunset we bore off to a close (almost beam) reach and romped along at 6 to 7 knots, passing them in the early morning. At 40nm out we could see the lights of Puerto Plata; at 25nm the wind was already starting to fade. At 12nm the wind was down to 10 knots and shifted SE, and we could strongly smell land. It was ok since we were quite early and looking to waste time. Finally, at 6nm out, the wind was only 6 knots and too far SE to make headway so out we started the engine and motorsailed for Luperon, arriving there at 4:30am and heaving to for the next 3 hours. The stillness of the night calm, after what had been a relatively brisk sail in 6' seas, was a nice preview of the night coasting strategies one uses to make easting on the north shore of the DR.

At 7:30am there was enough light to head in through the entrance to Luperon harbor. The lushness of the scenery and the hills and mountains surrounding the bay were a beautiful shock to the senses after months in the Bahamas and TCI. We took a mooring ball just before the first of about a thousand little squalls this week came through the anchorage. After showering and straightening the boat a bit, I picked up Dane from Sea Otter and headed to shore to check in. This is a somewhat complicated procedure in the DR - made more complicated by the fact that not all officials speak English and my little knowledge of Spanish is quite rusty - but everyone was super friendly and pointed us in the right direction. I thought there might be a problem that Dawn had done the passage on Sea Otter and then was joining my boat, while Brad was on my boat but was subsequently flying out, but a simple explanation satisfied the officials. The order of check in was as follows:

--Immigration. Paid 3000 Dominican Pesos ($60) for the boat plus 500 Pesos ($10) for each crew, valid 30 days. American dollars accepted with going exchange rate. Filled out immigration cards, official scanned passports and entered ship and crew into his log. About 20 minutes.
--Customs ("Aduana"). Filled out paperwork, but no charge. About 10 minutes.
--Agriculture. Not much paperwork, just a $10USD charge. She was very happy with Piper's paperwork.
--Commandante, Navy, Anti-Drug official. All done up the hill at the Navy outpost, some paperwork but no charge. Very friendly, though it's obvious that these are the guys paid to be suspicious.
--Port Authority (next day, closed on weekends). $10USD charge for up to 7 days.
--Tourist Card (next day, closed on weekends). $27.50USD per crew/passenger.

All in all we paid $155 in fees. All fees were clearly posted and the officials made a point to explain them, and at no point was there any attempt to extort or even ask for bribes or tips (as has happened in the past in Luperon). The first four steps took roughly 2 hours, and the final two perhaps 15 minutes.

In our next post, I'll cover some of the things we've done our first week in Luperon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Turks & Staycos

Well, we got quite lucky indeed on that Tuesday weather window I alluded to in my last post (Tues, Jan 30th). The high winds eased a little more and a little earlier than previously forecast, and the following cold front weakened and slowed more than previously forecast, giving us a nice little window to motorsail the 50nm from Mayaguana to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos ("Provo"). We had a beautiful full-moon night in decently big but wide-spaced rollers. We arrived at the Sandbore Channel onto Caicos Bank around midnight, Atlantic Standard Time - yep, we got to spring forward an hour on this passage. Normally you try to arrive at Sandbore Channel at daybreak, but because of the approaching front we decided to just go all the way to the Sapodilla Bay anchorage in the dark. The Sandbore Channel is not particularly shallow for most of its length and the few coral heads are said to be deep and accurately charted. I presume that was actually the case, or perhaps we just got lucky. In any event we were very happy to arrive safely and anchor by 2am.

Frontal passage the next morning brought high winds and some persistently rainy weather, which drenched us when we dinghied around the point to the South Dock customs house. Checking in was fairly painless, though we had to wait a few minutes for the official vet to show up. She was nice but businesslike, we were happy we had Piper's paperwork in order. As a newly minted expert in bringing a dog to the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic, I'll do a "how to" post on that subject soon. We visited Sea Otter to use their 3G internet to book a rental car, then I dinghied to shore and started walking down the nearby road in the vague direction of the airport - just as the skies opened up again, of course! I thumbed a ride and thankfully the fourth or fifth car stopped for me - I later learned that hitching is not nearly as prevalent on Provo as in the Bahamas. The tiny Daihatsu car was a pretty good deal, we booked a whole week for $127 plus taxes. This is a pretty big and populous island that really requires a car to get around - services are scattered and taxis are expensive. Everything's pretty expensive, for that matter, except apparently rental cars!

On Thursday morning we were called to rescue Sea Otter after their dinghy's outboard pull start cord snapped. That was my first time repairing one, it was pretty straightforward. Afterward Dane, Mack and Isla piled into the rental car with us and we drove six or seven miles east to the IGA Graceway grocery store. Wow, what a place! It's bigger and better than any grocery store we've seen in the Bahamas, even Maxwells in Marsh Harbor. Fantastic selection, super fresh produce. The prices are pretty similar to Maxwells, which is to say maybe 20-30% higher than the States but lower than the Bahamas' Out Islands. We did a shopping-cart load of reprovisioning as did Dane & Mack; we could have bought more but we'll be in the Dominican Republic soon, with far better prices. It was amazing we were able to stuff two shopping carts worth of groceries in our tiny clown car!

Right inside the entrance to Graceway is a Flow Wireless store, where I purchased a SIM card for our Wirie router. Only $5 for the SIM but $50 for 1 month/5 gigs of data - ouch! Suffice it to say we aren't downloading any movies on it.

Thursday night the five of us went to the weekly Fish Fry at the Bight Childrens Park on Grace Bay. Fantastic street food, flowing beer and cocktails, live music and dancing - it was a fun scene that had Isla staying up wayyy past her usual 5:30pm bed time. Of course, it rained briefly but heavily, chasing all under the shelter of the food tents.

Friday was a laundry, liquor reprovisioning, island exploring and boat cleaning day. It was really beautiful weather; Safara and several other boats in the anchorage took off for Luperon and I rather wished we could follow them. Chris Parker was warning it would be the last few days of good weather off the north coast of the DR for a long time - potentially the whole month of February! But our good cruiser friends Dan & Isabelle had already bought tickets to fly in the next day to spend Dawn's birthday with us, and it would have been a real jerk move to ditch them and head off to the DR. On Friday afternoon we had lunch at Da Conch Shack, in Blue Hills on the NW corner of the island. Good food and a really cool place. In the evening we worked on cleaning Windbird and giving our empty center diesel tank a really good scrubbing. We now have one completely guaranteed sludge-free tank and will be working on cleaning the other two soon.

Saturday morning was more boatwork, then picking up Dan & Isabelle from the airport in the afternoon. We got there a little early and stopped at Da Snack Spot on Old Airport Road for some amazingly good ribs, a full order with sides (enough food for two people) for only $14. Highly recommended, we just took Dane and Mack there today and they loved it. After we got Dan & Isabelle back to the boat, Sea Otter came over for happy hour. Somehow it was the first time in over a week of hanging out with them that they were on board Windbird, mainly due to the stormy weather and the difficulties of packing up a 9-month old with assorted accoutrements and ferrying all to a neighboring boat. Dane and Mack got on well with fellow Canadians Dan & Isabelle. Dawn made a fantastic dinner of Indian Butter Chicken and we talked and drank and laughed pretty late into the night. We sure enjoy being around Dan & Isabelle, and are quickly becoming friends with Dane, Mack & Isla as well.

Sunday, Feb 4th was Dawn's 40th birthday! We began the day with Mimosas and Mexican Breakfast, then packed up the car and headed up to Grace Beach. We found a nice little spot to snorkel off the beach at Coral Gardens, hung out on the beach for a bit, then convinced Dawn to go parasailing for her first time - a birthday present from me. Isabelle went with her (it was one that can handle up to 3 people at a time) and they both really loved it despite initial nerves. Afterward we had a light lunch at "Somewhere...", a beach bar and restaurant with really tasty food. Later in the afternoon we hung out for a bit on Sapodilla Beach and then on board Windbird, and piled all seven of us (!!!) into our tiny car for a short and uproarious ride to Bugaloo Restaurant in the nearby settlement of Five Cays. It's a really cool place on the water with a pretty and atmospheric patio with live trees growing right through the tables! There was a rake and scrape band playing, and Dawn thought it was a perfect evening to cap a pretty special birthday.

Monday and Tuesday were originally forecast to be pretty calm days (and a potential window to the DR if we left Dan & Isabelle early). Monday actually would have been doable but Tuesday was fairly windy and would have been even moreso along the north coast of the DR, a trend that will continue and intensify for the remainder of the week and next weekend. It was becoming apparent we wouldn't make it to the DR before I had to fly to Atlanta for training on Feb 13-15. So I ended up picking up a 4-day Santiago Chile trip on the 9th-12th to make a little extra money and get some currency before heading to the simulator for training. Chris Parker thinks there's a pretty promising window developing for the Feb 16-17 timeframe; hopefully we can make that. We really didn't want to stay in the Turks and Caicos for three weeks - Luperon is where we wanted to idle the boat a while and travel by land. Essentially we got "behind schedule" and eventually weather-bound thanks to our two-week delay leaving the Bahamas to get Piper's paperwork in order.

Monday we took Windbird into South Side Marina which required going in just before high tide. It's a skinny route but the water was easily readable and the shallowest bit we saw was 6.9' (we touch at exactly 6.0' on our depth sounder). We used our one night stay at the marina (only $50) to give the batteries a really good charge, top off on good RO water, put 65 gallons of diesel in our now-sparkling-clean center fuel tank, download a bunch of movies on their fast wifi, and play a few rousing rounds of Bocce at Bob's Bar. After exiting at high tide on Tuesday we stopped at the Five Cays area for snorkeling, but the water vis turned out to be absolutely horrible - like less than six feet. Apparently visibility improves markedly around the world-famous dive sites where the Caicos Bank falls away into the depths of the Atlantic. Oh well - up anchor and back to Sapodilla Bay, which has really grown on us. It's not a terribly protected anchorage unless you have a shoal-draft boat, but it's comfortable enough in prevailing NE-E and rolly but safe in southeasterlies. The beach is a really nice one with lots of room for Piper to run and play; it's public but not terribly crowded, with really friendly people  (most of it is lined by private vacation villas rented out by the week). We've made friends with a couple of the local vendors, especially an older lady named Anna, and Piper has been playing with two remarkably good-natured stray dogs that local residents look after. I suggested that we put the boat back in South Side Marina during my absence, but Dawn has decided she'd rather stay on the hook in Sapodilla Bay, close to the Sea Otter crew. The winds are supposed to be steady and NE through ESE the entire time.

Today Dan & Isabelle flew out to Fort Lauderdale, where they'll be test-sailing the new Leopard 45 and 50 catamarans that they are considering buying in the near future. The rest of the day was an exercise in bureaucratic shuffling to get immigration extentions for Dawn, Dane, Mack and Isla (I don't need one since I'm flying out before my stay expires). When we originally checked in, we were only given 10 days. To secure an extension we went to one office to get the forms, another office a mile away to get approval, back to the original office to get an invoice for the $50/person fee, then to the Treasury Department to pay, and finally back to the second office to get the actual extension. In the middle of all that we had lunch at The Snack Spot with a roving customs official to get cruising permits ($300) to replace our original 7-day Temporary Import. Staying in Provo was stacking up to be pretty expensive! But in a really happy turn of events, the customs official was really cool and understood our situation completely; he apparently has leeway to not require a cruising permit in cases where boaters aren't actually cruising but are just waiting for weather or repairs to leave. So that saved Dane and I $300 each.

After all that bureaucracy we were all quite thirsty, so we headed over to Turks Head Brewery for a brewery tour and to sample some of their tasty beers - highly recommended. After that I dropped everyone off at Sapodilla Bay, returned the rental car to Dollar, and got a ride back. Dawn and I had a quiet evening alone on Windbird, and tomorrow I'll be preparing to leave. My flight out is on Friday afternoon; my flight to Santiago leaves that evening. I haven't been at work since Dec 28th, and as always it'll be a little strange going from my shaggy carefree sailor role to my well-groomed airline pilot role. After this, though, I hopefully won't have to go back to work until sometime in April.