Cruising Columbia

THIS IS AN ARTICLE I WROTE LAST YEAR THAT I”VE JUST GOT AROUND TO POSTING

After two seasons cruising the Eastern Caribbean aboard La Mischief, our Lagoon 421 catamaran, it was time to look westwards and check out the “other” side of the Caribbean. When we heard about the Ocean Cruising Club’s Suzie Too Rally from some of our cruising friends, we jumped at the chance to explore this part of the world in the company of both old and new friends.

Suzie and David

The Suzie Too OCC Rally is the brainchild of Suzanne and David Chappell, who first ran the rally in 2016. Our rally started in November 2018 from Curaçao, visiting Aruba, Colombia, San Blas, Panama, San Andres, Providencia, Roatan, and Utila before finishing in Belize in April.

The first major leg of the rally was the passage from Aruba to Santa Marta in Colombia, which has the reputation of being very challenging. Trade Winds funnel across the top of Colombia and the waves have a very long fetch in which to build up size. Folklore has it as being one of the five worst passages in the world. But having researched and now done it, I believe that the Rally got it right; and you can dramatically improve your chances of a pleasant non-eventful passage by planning to go at the right time of the year – before the Christmas winds kick in;  penciling in an optional rest stop at Cabo De La Vela; staying close to the coast to make use of the beneficial land effects; and applying a little patience to wait for a good weather window.  

Setting off from Aruba at 5pm with my partner DeAnne, and our crew of Richard and Christy, we ended up having rather benign conditions all the way to Cabo De La Vela (the Cape of the Wind), with an annoying one knot current against us, instead of with us as advertised. Progress was slow but okay, made worse by our overly conservative sail plan, choosing not to deploy our parasailer when conditions were perfect. The folklore had got the better of us! 

As we left Cabo De La Vela, we pulled out the light wind gennaker for a few hours until the wind built to 20-25 knots as dusk approached. Down the gennaker came and in went a reef into the mainsail. Around midnight the wind completely died and on went the motors so that we could see the sunrise over the Sierra Nevada mountains, which run down to the sea and are very spectacular. These are the only mountains in the Caribbean where you can see snow on the mountain tops. 

The approach to Santa Marta is stunningly spectacular. As we approached the headland, distracted by the snowcapped mountains, the wind picked up and the waves grew in size. We were having a great downwind sail, but we needed to reef. As we were close to Santa Marta, we decided to drop the mainsail instead of going through the rigmarole of reefing. We turned into the wind to lower the main, just as a large wave broke over us thoroughly soaking DeAnne as she stood on the coach roof to help with the sail drop. 

Santa Marta Marina was fantastic. Kelly, who manages the office, is awesome. Colombia requires that you use an agent to clear into each port, and Santa Marta Marina provided us with an agent free of charge because of our extended booking. We soon discovered the famous Santa Marta katabatic winds that appear every afternoon and blow around 40kts. A good reason to be tucked up in the marina rather than out at anchor with reputedly dubious holding. 

We spent two weeks soaking up the sites, culture and food in Santa Marta, which was celebrating its 500-year anniversary. We hired a car and drove the countryside. We spent two days exploring Tayrona National Park, which has some great walks and beaches. We checked out the Caiman crocodile floating in the river just behind the Park’s most popular swimming beach. Yikes. The marina also arranged three complimentary buses for the rally to go to another part of Tayrona for a wonderful beach day. We spend the night up at Minca in the mountains and did a wonderful motorbike tour to several waterfalls; an old coffee plantation; and Casa Elemente for lunch, complete with giant hammocks, a swimming pool and a view to die for. We went river tubing on Rio Don Diego and visited the bohemian hangout of Palomino. 

Rally members organized regular rubbish cleanups to do our bit to try and clean up the ocean; Spanish lessons were organized; we had some OpenCPN sessions in readiness for the San Blas; and Suzanne had organized for the rally to donate heaps of children’s clothes, toys and school equipment to a local charity. 

We also took the opportunity to do some provisioning. We found the supermarkets to be very good, with the exception of canned fruit and vegetables that some cruisers wanted for the San Blas, which they had to get in Curaçao beforehand. This was entirely understandable as the fresh produce in Colombia was extensive and of high quality. 

But by far and away the best part of Colombia was its super friendly people. They loved helping, even if they couldn’t speak any English and I couldn’t speak any Spanish. Luckily, DeAnne was fluent in Spanish and loved practicing with the locals. 

Two weeks was not nearly long enough and before we knew it, we were at the farewell party put on by the Marina and on our way at first light the next morning. 

The leg from Santa Marta to Puerto Velero was more like what we had heard about. Very lively with big following seas. We got caught out when a big breaking wave came over the back-starboard steps and into our cockpit, before proceeding through our open door into our saloon.  From there we watched in stunned silence as it went down both sets of steps and into each of our hulls before we were able to pull up the floor boards for our bilge pumps to do their thing. We spent the next 30 minutes mopping up and rinsing everything with fresh water. Needless to say, the saloon door was pulled shut to avoid any repeat performance.  

Once we got close to the mouth of the Rio Magdalena, we had a new potential problem to contend with. Rio Magdalena is the biggest river in Colombia and spits out large logs, whole trees and all sorts of large debris. As the water color dramatically changed, we were on the lookout for anything big that could ruin our day. On the plus side, the river water seemed to dampen the waves, making for a more comfortable ride. 

Turning the corner shortly after passing the river mouth provided further relief from the large seas and we had a wonderful sail down to Puerto Velero, where we anchored for the night, under the watchful eye of our friends from the Colombian Coast Guard, who were escorting us right through Colombia, with their boats patrolling our various anchorages night and day. We felt very honored and safe in their presence.

We were off again at first light and this time the wind was nowhere to be seen. We motor sailed in calm seas, with winds less than 10kts towards the Rosario Islands, instead of heading directly to Cartagena, where you normally have to go first, as the Rally had got special dispensation for a three day stay in these islands, something that is not normally allowed. 

The Colombian Islands aren’t to be missed and we were allocated an anchorage off Isla Grande in the Rosario group. We had a pleasant three days, swimming in crystal clear waters and exploring the island with its interesting pathways and beach bars. It felt good to get back to a bit of island life between city stops. 

Refreshed and relaxed, we all set off together, proceeding in single file into Cartagena. It was quite a sight with 38 boats following Suzie Too past the forts and into the inner harbor. We felt like Sir Francis Drake as we lay siege to the city. We had a choice of two marinas (Club De Pesca and Club Nautico) or an anchorage that the coast guard had set aside for the Rally, just outside the old city walls. Colombia has a great attitude towards cruisers and is trying really hard to realize the potential that visiting cruisers represent.  

Cartagena itself is one of the great cruising destinations in the world.  It’s a must see with its old city, its magnificent fort and its wonderful architecture. And it does Christmas incredibly well with its many beautiful churches, its great decorations and a festive atmosphere unlike anywhere else.  The Rally celebrated Christmas at Club De Pesca with a Pot Luck lunch and a bit of fun with a Secret Santa session, where fishing lures seemed to be the catch of the day.  

New Year’s Eve in Cartagena is also an event not to be missed. Half of Colombia seems to descend on Cartagena for the festivities. To accommodate the crowds, all the restaurants spill out into the streets, and pop-up restaurants appear across the city. The Rally booked various restaurants around the town, before spilling out onto the streets to watch the fireworks at midnight. DeAnne and I then spent several hours walking the streets listening to the music and soaking up the festivities.  

Colombia certainly impressed us, and we wished we could have stayed a little longer. But with the New Year upon us and the San Blas Islands calling, it was time to head West.   

Ten Tips for Colombia

  1. Try and make it to Cartagena by Christmas to avoid the Christmas Winds.
  2. Christmas in Colombia is awesome. New Year’s Eve in Cartagena is also an experience not to be missed. 
  3. Brush up on your Spanish. Not many locals speak English. 
  4. Don’t go too shallow. The charts don’t have all the rocks. Locals suggest staying 5nm off the coast on approach to Cartagena. 
  5. Visit Colombia’s Islands – Isla Rosario, San Bernardo Group and Isla Fuerte before departing for the San Blas.
  6. Take advantage of the cheap airfares and accommodation to fly to some of Colombia’s amazing inland cities and attractions. Medellin, Bogotá, and the Amazon Jungle are all worth considering. 
  7. Hire a Car in Santa Marta. There’s so much to see and do. Do a Motor Bike tour in Minca, go river tubing on Rio Don Diego or Palomino, and visit The Tayrona National Park, staying overnight in small hotels. Or take a four-day hike to the Lost City. 
  8. Soak up the culture in Santa Marta and Cartagena. These places are full of history.  
  9. Get a 10USD steak dinner at 13 Reses in Santa Marta. Eat out at many fantastic restaurants in Santa Marta and Cartagena. 
  10. Look at joining the next Suzie Too OCC Rally, you won’t regret it!

La Mischief is For Sale

Featured

The Admiral has decided she wants an even bigger boat than a Lagoon 421 and we have recently put a deposit down on a new 50 foot catamaran. As a result, the Captain has reluctantly put La Mischief on the market, pending the move to our new catamaran. 

If you are after a world cruising catamaran, it would be rare indeed to find a boat better equipped than La Mischief. We purchased her new from the Factory in March 2013 and she has never been chartered. With twin upgraded 75HP engines, twin Autopilots, 2000W of solar and Victron Lithium batteries, you can step on board and head straight out to the Bahamas, the Caribbean or indeed around the world. We have set her up with everything needed to cruise as a couple off the grid with a circumnavigation in mind.
 
The Lagoon 421 is a highly sought after model, with limited stock available. It is a strongly built world cruiser, designed for the liveaboards to sail fulltime, with unbelievable storage for a 42 foot catamaran. She is the popular 3 bedroom version with the port hull totally dedicated to the owners, with a large luxury bathroom and outstanding living areas. She was built just before the catamaran market shifted its focus to the charter market, where the requirements for full time living aboard are largely reduced.
 
As you can read below, La Mischief has a host of aftermarket improvements and additions not typically found on other boats, that add safety, maintainability and comfort to your cruising experience. 

Accommodation

With a spacious cockpit that can comfortably sit 8 around a custom-built mahogany dining table, that also converts into a cocktail table, this boat is the ultimate entertainer. The teak floor adds a nice touch. As well as full all around cockpit enclosure, La Mischief has a full set of sunshades for the cockpit. There’s the obligatory cockpit fridge as well as a custom-made sunbed. Being an Australian boat, there’s a large Galleymate 2000 Gas BBQ with own fiberglass propane tank.


 
The saloon has standing room of 6’ 7” and is extremely well appointed, with special blue leather seating for 8 around a large saloon table. There are a separate set of blue leather Cushions that can be used to convert the Saloon Table to a bed. There is a forward facing Navigation Station, with  a Fusion stereo system with  4 speakers in the saloon, 2 speakers in the cockpit and 2 speakers with separate Fusion amplifier for the front deck.  There is also a Bose Lifestyle V35 Home Cinema with sub woofer and a Bluray DVD Player hooked up to a 37” TV for movie nights.


 
The owners version has the entire port hull dedicated to the owners with a semi – island type berth with front and lateral access, together with its own 22” TV, a leather sofa, two large mirrors and a luxurious bathroom with a walk in shower and fresh water quiet flush electric marine head. There is also a 3kg Washing Machine in its own separate cupboard.
 
Guest accommodation is generous with two large staterooms in the Starboard Hull, each with its own separate shower and separate bathroom with quiet flush electric marine head.

Galley Equipment

The galley is a chef’s delight, with good communication to the cockpit and the helm station via a sliding bay window. There’s a 3 burner stove and a separate oven with grill (broiler), all protected with a propane gas detection and shutoff system.  There’s a 130L (34 US gal) fridge (plus an additional fridge in the cockpit),  a 110L (29US Gal) freezer and a unique 3 sink arrangement, with a dish drainer in the 3rd sink. There’s also an additional storage area designed for a Microwave.

Galley

There’s a sea water foot pump, and a fresh water foot pump with a drinking water filter.

Mechanical Equipment

The large 75 HP Yanmar engines are an important safety feature when operating in large adverse sea conditions. Engine hours are 2402 and 2351. The SD50 sail drives have been modified with an optional kit to eliminate the cone clutch slippage problems that typically happen every 600 hours. Folding propellers provide extra speed whilst sailing.  Aftermarket automatic fire extinguishers were added in each engine bay, as were secondary fuel filters with clear bowl water separators.


 
The 100L (26Gal) per Hour Dessalator Watermaker runs both on 12V and 220V and typically runs off the solar panels providing free fresh water.  
 
There are four separate CRUISAIR airconditioning systems that provides separate cooling and heating in all the staterooms as well as the saloon.
 
The electrical system is fed by four 90AH Victron LiFePO4 Batteries together with Victron  BMS, Li-Charge and Li-Load units. Charging these batteries is performed by:

  • 3 Sunpower SPR-X22-360 Solar panels on an Aluminum and Stainless Steel Frame connected to a large Victron 150/70 MPPT Solar Panel Controller
  • 10 Stick on solar panels on the roof (1000W) connected to separate Victron MPPT Solar Panel Controller
  • D400 Wind Generator
  • A Victron Quattro 3000VA/120A Invertor Charger providing 230V alternating current,
  • Two 40Amp Cristec battery chargers,
  • Two Alpha Pro  Smart Charger regulators for each Alternator
  • A 9.5Kva Onan Generator (1300 engine hours)
Solar Panels and Wind Gen

Battery Monitoring is achieved using VICTRON BMV 602 and a Victron Colour Controller.
 
Shore power supply is protected by a 360W 115 / 230 V Galvanic Isolator, that accepts both 110V and 230V and is rated for lightening.

Navigation Systems

La Mischief has a comprehensive set of Navigational equipment, accessable from both the helmstation and the safety of the forward facing Navigation station in the comfort of the Saloon. 

  • AIS 650 RAYMARINE TRANSCEIVER WITH ANTENNA
  • RAYMARINE REMOTE SMART CONTROL
  • RAYMARINE E125W DISPLAY AT HELM STATION
  • RAYMARINE E125W DISPLAY AT NAV. STATION
  • Raymarine I70 Displays (2 at Helmstation, 1 at Nav Station)
  • RAYMARINEHD DIGITAL 18″ 48 NM 4 Kw RADAR
  • RAYMARINE 55 E VHF RADIO WITH DSC
  • 2nd HANDSET AT HELM STATION FOR VHF RAYMARINE 55E
  • Two independent autopilots with full redundancy – one in each engine bay (L&S and Raymarine)

Deck and Hull Equipment

La Mischief has an extensive list of optional, upgraded and aftermarket equipment, and is fully equipped and ready to sail around the world. 

  • Lofrans 1500W Windlass new in November 2019.   
  • Three Harken 46.2STAEH electric winches at helm station
  • Forth Harken Winch on Port Side for Spinnaker and Geneker use. 
  • 66m2 Square Top Mainsail
  • 36m2 Furling genoa with UV protective band 
  • 69 m2 Gennaker (blue / white), together with Genaker rig, including optional bowsprit
  • Backing Plates for Parasailor attachment points
  • Foldable mast steps to spreaders
  • Deck wash pump with both sea water and  fresh water.
  • Freshwater dock inlet
  • Four Underwater LED lights on Stern (LEDS hybrid Serie 30i 9-32vDC  Midnight Blue)
  • Ground Plate for HF Radio
  • 4 Stainless steel dive tank holders (new in 2017)
  • Aftermarket Stainless steel reinforcing to protect fibreglass during anchor retrieval
  • Waterproof loudspeakers under coach roof with additional Fusion amplifier to drive these and provide music for front deck.
  • Quick Chain Counter 
  • Upgraded 33Kg Rocna Anchor and 100m Chain
  • Spare Fortress anchor
  • Aftermarket stainless steel handrail on sub and port transoms
  • Ultrasonic Antifouling Units in each hull.
  • Pirate Lights Security Alarm System with front and rear sensors
  • Badboy WiFI Booster (Antenna  plus router)
  • Hypalon Ulta Light 340 Dinghy with Honda BF20HP Engine
  • Dinghy Davits with Harken 40.2STAEH electric winch.
  • OUTBOARD ENGINE BRACKET ON PUSHPIT
  • Viking 8 person Rescu You Liferaft  in canister
  • Folding Carbon Gangplank 2.6m (8.53ft) with cover and handrail
Helmstation

PRICE $429,000 USD

Contact us on +1 401 855 5217 or email us at steve@lamischief.com

To give you an idea of the additional value that has been added to La Mischief, here is a list of the optional and after market items that have been added.

  1. Upgraded 75HP Engines (an important safety feature)
  2. Two independent autopilots with full redundancy – one in each engine bay (L&S and Raymarine). Losing an autopilot mid ocean is not a good scenario and is too common to ignore.
  3. Four 90AH Victron LiFePO4 Batteries together with Victron  BMS, Li-Charge and Li-Load units. Lithium batteries are great at keeping the voltage up and the beer cold.
  4. Square Top Mainsail (for extra performance)
  5. Custom-built mahogany dining table in cockpit (folds into a cocktail table, which also allows easy access to the lockers)
  6. Teak floor in cockpit
  7. Lofrans 1500W Windlass new in November 2019 (standard Windlass is underpowered).   
  8. Three Harken 46.2STAEH electric winches at helm station (makes sailing a big cat easier).
  9. 100L (26Gal) per Hour Dessalator Watermaker runs both on 12V and 220V and typically runs off the solar panels providing free fresh water.  
  10. There are four separate CRUISAIR airconditioning systems that provides separate cooling and heating in all the staterooms as well as the saloon.
  11. AIS 650 RAYMARINE TRANSCEIVER WITH ANTENNA
  12. RAYMARINE REMOTE SMART CONTROL (Can hang around your neck and control the boat from anywhere on board).
  13. RAYMARINE E125W DISPLAY AT NAV. STATION (great redundancy)
  14. RAYMARINE HD DIGITAL 18″ 48 NM 4 Kw RADAR (RADAR is great for night passages, fog and for spotting and avoiding squalls)
  15. 2nd HANDSET AT HELM STATION FOR VHF RAYMARINE 55E (where the watch keeper is)
  16. VICTRON BMV 602 Battery Monitor and a Victron Colour Controller.
  17. Victron Digital Multi Control for remote management of Victron Quattro (no more going under the bed to switch the invertor on and off)
  18. 3 Sunpower SPR-X22-360 Solar panels on an Aluminum and Stainless Steel Frame connected to a large Victron 150/70 MPPT Solar Panel Controller (these are the best panels going around and provide an amazing amount of free electricity)
  19. 10 Stick on solar panels on the roof (1000W) connected to separate Victron MPPT Solar Panel Controller (not as good as the Sunpower panels, but still provide extra battery charging)
  20. D400 Wind Generator (great at night in the trade winds or when the sun doesn’t shine)
  21. Victron Quattro 3000VA/120A Inverter/Charger providing 230V alternating current (the Quattro provides a passthrough capability for when the genset or mains is connected. Victron’s high end inverter/charger.
  22. Two Alpha Pro Smart Charger regulators for each Alternator (provide more charging capability and better for the batteries)
  23. A 9.5Kva Onan Generator (1300 engine hours)
  24. 360W 115 / 230V Galvanic Isolator (to protect against faulty shore power)
  25. 3kg Washing Machine in its own separate cupboard (we run this off the inverter on sunny days)
  26. Special blue leather seating in saloon and master
  27. Separate set of blue leather Cushions that can be used to convert the Saloon Table to a bed
  28. Owners quiet flush electric marine head converted to fresh water (reduces possibility of odours and blocked pipes).
  29. Other two heads upgraded to quiet flush electric.
  30. Forth Harken Winch on Port Side for Spinnaker and Geneker use. 
  31. 69 m2 Gennaker (blue / white), together with Genaker rig, including optional bowsprit (every Cat needs one of these)
  32. Backing Plates for Parasailor attachment points (Parasailor being sold separately)
  33. Foldable mast steps to spreaders
  34. Deck wash pump with both sea water and  fresh water.
  35. Four Underwater LED lights on Stern (LEDS hybrid Serie 30i 9-32vDC  Midnight Blue) – great for diving and showing off the boat at night
  36. Ground Plate for HF Radio
  37. 4 Stainless steel dive tank holders (new in 2017) – at the back of the boat where they are easily accessed.
  38. Very large Galleymate 2000 Gas BBQ with own fiberglass propane tank. Every Australian boat must have a big BBQ.
  39. Cockpit fridge
  40. Aftermarket Stainless steel reinforcing to protect fibreglass during anchor retrieval – that swinging anchor can make a mess of the fibreglass at the front of a Lagoon 421.
  41. Waterproof loudspeakers under coach roof with additional Fusion amplifier to drive these and provide music for front deck.
  42. Full all around cockpit enclosure – we hardly used these as we were hardly in any cold weather areas.
  43. Full set of sunshades for the cockpit – we used these instead.
  44. Fusion stereo system with  4 speakers in the saloon, 2 speakers in the cockpit and 2 speakers with separate Fusion amplifier for the front deck.  
  45. Bose Lifestyle V35 Home Cinema with sub woofer and a Bluray DVD Player hooked up to a 37” TV for movie nights.
  46. 110L (29US Gal) freezer
  47. A unique 3 sink arrangement, with a dish drainer in the 3rd sink – never seen this on any other cat.
  48. Quick Chain Counter – can drop the anchor from the helm. More redundancy.  
  49. Upgraded 33Kg Rocna Anchor and 100m Chain (standard is 20KG Delta and 70m of chain and this is woefully inadequate)
  50. Spare Fortress anchor
  51. Aftermarket stainless steel handrail on sub and port transoms
  52. Ultrasonic Antifouling Units in each hull.
  53. Electric winch for Dinghy Davits
  54. Outboard Engine Bracket on Pushpit
  55. The SD50 sail drives have been modified with an optional kit to eliminate the cone clutch slippage problems that typically happen every 600 hours.
  56. Folding propellers provide extra speed whilst sailing.  
  57. Aftermarket automatic fire extinguishers were added in each engine bay,
  58. Secondary fuel filters with clear bowl water separators for each Engine, Genset and Dinghy.
  59. Viking 8 person Rescu You Liferaft in canister
  60. Folding Carbon Gangplank 2.6m (8.53ft) with Cover and Handrail
  61. Pirate Lights Security Alarm System with front and rear sensors
  62. Badboy WiFI Booster (Antenna plus router)
  63. Hypalon Ulta Light 340 Dinghy with Honda BF20HP Engine – our car

You will find other Lagoon 421 Catamarans on the market with some of these items but you won’t find any with all of them.

  • 2013 Lagoon 421 For Sale

 

Bongo School Project

One of the joys of cruising the world is that we visit places where we can make a difference to a community by pitching in and helping the locals. Steven Elliott at Catamaran Island is an all round good guy, and he rounded up the cruisers at not only Catamaran Island Marina but elsewhere as well to help out with a 300 pupil school over an hours drive away with a few projects that desperately needed doing,

They had managed to fund raise some money to buy a water pump and some piping and lumber to get water from the public service down the hill to a tank higher up to gravity feed the toilets and the kitchen. Previously, water has to be carried up to do this manually. Everyone got busy building stands, wiring the pump and connecting up the plumbing.

A second work group  set about a playground upgrade.

It turned out to be a big day and the beers did taste really good when we made it back to Catamarans.

 

Diving in Bonaire

Bonaire is dive heaven. Its so easy to dive here, either from the shore or from the back of La Mischief. We’ve done both, having hired a car for a week. The beauty of Bonaire is that you could be lazy and just dive off the back of the boat without even leaving the mooring.

Dominican Republic – Back in the Real World

After 5 days and 4 nights we finally made it to Marina Puerto Bahia, just around the corner from Samana in the Dominican Republic. Follow Me and Vela kept us company the whole way, with Follow Me getting the prize for sighting the most whales. The trip was largely motoring into light winds, sometimes getting a little bit of wind angle to lighten the load on the engines. In the end we still had 2/3 of a tank of diesel for each engine and no breakages – a good trip.

28795469_10210485974258541_1121787340447245257_n

Marina Puerto Bahia was a great find. At $1 a foot, it was one of the cheapest marinas I’d stayed at and it was right next to a 5 star resort with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Our slip was pretty challenging, with La Mischief just fitting between the pylons with the fenders on both sides getting a good work out. Backing into a small slip with a current pushing us sideways and Jamie and Ashley in learning mode pumped the heart rate up a bit. Took us 3 goes to finally get in.

28577081_10210485973058511_6764931224627389890_n

Customs and Immigration was straightforward and reasonable, $106 for the 3 of us with no “tips” required.

28619628_10210485973258516_2689660504078066893_o.jpg

That night we hosted all the other boats on the back of La Mischief and made some new friends. Which was a good thing as Sam and Erin had hired a car that turned into a 9 seater van and we spent the next few days touring the north east of DR.

Our first stop was an ATM in Samana to get some pesos. Samana was lively, jam-packed with locals riding motor cycles, but being a Sunday a lot of shops were closed. Cashed up, we headed off to Las Galeras, an old fishing village that has been given over to tourism. By now the huge northerly swells that we were racing to beat had hit and it was pretty awesome looking out on the Atlantic. Piper, Sam and Dawn’s dog was also pretty impressed with chasing coconuts down the beach.  Finally we settled on a few Pina Coladas at a beach shack and came away saying they were the best Pina Coladas we had tasted with wonderfully fresh pineapple juice.

28685776_10210472225554832_8477292292508053030_n

Next we wandered around to a little cove along the coast to a really nice beach and nice beach bar for lunch. DR food is delicious and cheap. I was beginning to really like this place. Jamie managed a swim but was asked to leave the water – the police mentioned sharks (?) but we think they thought it was too rough.

28576297_10210472227274875_5810278659541513135_n

Our final stop of the day was the blowholes on the east coast. The road was borderline 4WD but Sam did really well with only a few bounces on the rear end of the van. The blowholes were working with the swell and Sam almost got blown away at one stage.

By now it was getting late in the afternoon and we’d been told not to drive at night because of the locals penchant for driving without headlights. So we headed back to Samana and did a bit of fruit and vegie shopping.

28619164_10210484213294518_1615556429520494812_o

Next day we decided to hit the waterfalls at El Salto Del Limon National Park. We upgraded to the horse ride and all got on some under slightly nourished horses. Next time, I think we will walk. The waterfalls were a 15 minute ride in on a rough track and were quite spectacular. DR is known for its waterfalls and they didn’t disappoint. Sam being Sam went for a swim but it was too cold for Steve the Wimp.

28698667_10210484216134589_1439877080335039422_o

Having been dropped off, we were asked for a “tip” that was more than what was negotiated and paid for at the start. I think they saw a bunch of Americans and decided they were fair game.

28660412_10210484216014586_7857979807863535685_n

Adventure over, we drove into Las Terrenas in search of the famous Love Shack. We found it on the beach but had to go down the broadwalk to another restaurant for lunch as it was only open at 3pm. The seafood paella wasn’t up to Valentia standard but still yummy.  We then made it back to Love Shack, where we got stuck into pool over a few beers. David from Oceananigans managed to beat us all – obviously able to hold his beer better than us older folk!

Tuesday came and it was our last day at the marina, before we headed off for a night at the National Park across the bay. I organised for the boat’s decks to be waxed and polished and all the stainless to be done for $130USD….a real bargain given the manpower and detail applied. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the resort and catching up on the great internet.

That evening the marina put on some hors d’orves and drinks at the hotel and it was good to catch up with some of the staff as well as a couple of other boats we had not met.

28870299_10210500501381710_5838597379318769814_n

Next morning, we got our dispatchio for Parque Nacional Les Haitises, 10nm across the bay. We dropped anchor in the protected bay right where active captain said to. We only had a day there because of the weather window coming up so we quickly dropped the dinghy and got into exploration mode.  We headed for the narrow creek where all the day boats were going and made our way up a narrow creek with limestone cliffs on one side and mangroves on the other until we got to a jetty with two big tour boats attached, We secured the dinghy and made our way to explore the cave a short walk away. We battled our way past quite a few tourists and enjoyed its beauty.

28685996_10210500508221881_2589629445418701994_n

Back in the dinghy and onto the next cave around a couple of islands and headlands. More tourists. We beach landed and paid our $2 a head fee. This cave was right on the coast with several openings jotting out into the bay.

Our final stop was the Eco Resort, miles up a mangrove lined creek with lots of birdlife and fish jumping in front of us. We finally made it to the end of the creek where the mangroves gave way to open farmland. We had a short walk to the Eco Resort which was very impressive, given it Gaudi like architecture and its elevated location overlooking the bay across to the mountains on the other side.

29066785_10210525603489247_6826664205605666816_n

Also impressive was the fresh water swimming pool that was fed by a mountain stream, which when accompanied by several beers from the resorts bar, provided an idyllic place to spend a relaxing afternoon.

We returned back to the boat in time to enjoy a lovely sunset, over a few more beers. At some stage we thought it a good idea to raid Dee’s sparkling supply and that eventually put us on our respective ears.

28783154_10210500502181730_6609830082441411317_n

Next morning, it proved somewhat difficult to rouse my crew as we needed to take our hangovers from DR to PR, across the notorious Mona Passage. But first we had to call into the marina and pick up our dispatchio to allow us to leave DR and have our passports stamped. Our visit to DR had been all too brief as it turned out to be one of my favourite islands.

29067405_10210525405004285_687869614096384000_o